I want to write like music. I want to write in a sustained sound. I want to write in a loop that goes around, on and on. I want to write with never-ending tension. I want to write like the opening of a door, the scuffle of feet, the distant sound of something coming soon.
I want to write like I dream and see my mother, looking young and sharp, in the car with me to the airport, our bags overflowing out the back, a starship flier picking us up before we even get there, continents vanishing in steam.
I want to write like it was left unsaid, like eyes see. I want to write in a burrow, like roots to rocks. I want to write words that mean something else in their unconscious self.
Brian Greene’s latest book Until the End of Time searches for meaning in our universe by connecting prevalent theories on everything from atoms and astronomy to art and angst. Most interesting of all is his analysis of why we tell stories.
What evolutionary utility could arise from following the exploits of imaginary characters facing make-believe challenges in non-existent worlds? (274) Through borrowed eyes protected by the tempered glass of story, we intimately observe an abundance of exotic worlds. And it is through these simulated episodes that our intuition expands and refines, rendering it sharper and more flexible. Through story we internalize a more nuanced sense of how to respond and why, and that intrinsic knowledge guides our future behavior. (279)
Storytelling is our most powerful means of inhabiting other minds. And as a deeply social species, the ability to momentarily move into the mind of another may have been essential in our survival and our dominance. (283) The stories provide a means for experiencing the universe from a perspective that is otherwise unattainable. (284) Through narrative we explore the range of human behavior, from societal expectations to heinous transgressions. We witness the breadth of human motivation, from lofty ambition to reprehensible brutality. (285)
None of which explains my dream of my cat Popo (who died in 1999) as an evil red-eyed monster driving an open-bed truck, wreaking death and destruction while Allen (a friend who I haven’t seen since 1987) careened off in an outboard boat, almost killing sunbathers and then vanished in pile of gravel as my father (who dies in 1989) accused me of plotting to kill my mother (who died this year) because I had a number of pictures of her on my wall when I was only trying to sleep.
My eyes were closed and I was in this narrow half gap between the back of one thing and the back of another. I thought of the hard dirty sand at the far end and how it looked half round and half hard, each shape sticking out of the other. I didn’t know what that meant, and I remembered this as if I had been here before, half asleep or completely in and then out, in this only the day before and years on. I tried to turn my head out of that, remembering this secret half world that isn’t secret at all but a portal from one thing to the next, the jumping off point of the thing of me here and the thing of me there. It seems that what I’m trying to do is take what I know from each, knowing that isn’t allowed, that it is probably illegal, indeed against the laws of thinking, the rules that keep me human, beyond being stupid, believing this is actually where my head might live. I can only escape for so long and I know I will only come back to here and find that I never left. It seems like that anyway.