Monday, July 1, 2019

Life is a Dream

"The Nostalgia of the Infinite " by Giorgio de Chiriico (1911)
Life is a Dream is the title of the 17thcentury play by Pedro Calderon de la Barca. The theme of solipsism is belied by the oedipal nature of the plot. Midsummer Night’s Dream poses a similar question since it traffics in the question of alternate realities--in effect demonstrating the mending quality that some dreams display. Perhaps not all of life, but all of art is a dream! Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author, literally all the paintings Dali, Magritte and de Chirico are dreamscapes and even a great realist masterpiece, Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch” has the stop-time almost Polaroid quality, the mixture of stasis and motion that dreams often render. But where does so-called reality end and dreams begin? “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities” is a famous short story by Delmore Schwartz and the title would indicate a closer connection between dreams and reality than one might usually expect. Do dreams, in this context, actual provide an executive function, not so much mirroring or regurgitating reality, but driving it? Is it possible to navigate into a recurring dream in order to make adjustments to an on-going exigency or is the dream perhaps the reality and the so-called reality the illusion? Waking life commands one’s attention since it takes up so much space, but are dreams the repository of truths, the chink in time that allows us to briefly achieve awareness of an elusive world, the ideal forms that Plato talked about in his “allegory of the cave.”

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