Last night I dreamt of someone I knew at school. He has not entered my conscious mind in nearly twenty years, probably because before that I didn’t like him very much. In the dream he offered me a bite of a roast potato, while my car was burgled. Hmm. But the potato, the car and the burglary are not the point of this excursus (thanks for that word, Nadia; perhaps blogs should rather be called excursions).
For on waking I remembered how very different people seemed to me as a child. When I was six, in a school in Johannesburg, bathed in the (then) comfortingly bright light of fluorescent tubes as the deep gloom of thunderstorms battered around us, as beans grew behind blotting paper in glass jars and potatoes surrendered to the hands of early Gutenbergs, the forms of people around me shifted immensely. If children of 11 or 12 entered the classroom, there seemed to my eyes to be very little difference between them and the teacher. All were huge, infinitely wise and worldly, inhabiting a remote domain I could only dream of entering. Of my peers, who to adult eyes would have seemed then almost uniformly innocent, some were saints and some literally almost as threatening as trolls; and indeed, some would waylay me on the road home.
It seems possible then, given these huge variations in perception, that the realm of fairy tales is perhaps not so much one originally conjured by those who wished to spin tales for the entertainment of the young, but a function of the medieval tribal mind boggled by encounters with merchants and nobles; encounters which for many, isolated by geography, must have been far, far more occasional than we imagine. And if I, as a medieval peasant remote even from the feudal system, somehow entered the world of these “elves and fairies”, and for a few years lived a vastly different and more prosperous life away from my people, then on my return to those left behind, they would indeed have been aged by grueling lives, while I in turn would feel comparatively untouched by time.
We do not know how dark are the depths from which we have sometimes clambered. (I say sometimes, for I do not believe the minds of all pre-feudal peasants were dark; while many of us remain in the dark.) These fixed forms, our bodies, are more instantly mutable than we imagine; they shift and change in the minds of others. The shape of the world we see is far more a function of our minds than we imagine. The gloomy insistence of science that there is an objective, “standard” reality to which we should shape our perceptions and conform, is rather totalitarian. Sure it’s helpful, when we’re conducting open-heart surgery, or casually obliterating children and their mind-cloud-blossoms of light and thought with high-tech weaponry, but it’s totalitarian.
Reality is a language we speak to each other.
(Or shout at each other. Or broadcast with stadium-scale speakers. So blogging, the willingness, most often, to speak only to the few – or none – is many times an advance.)
[There are a number of retrospective postings on this blog.]