‘ DREAMTIME ‘ VERSUS ‘ LINEAR-TIME ‘

Mythology always relates us to some type of ‘ dreamtime ’, to another world in which the prosaic rules and regulations, the common-sense categories and logical restrictions of this world, simply don’t apply.

‘ Dreamtime ’ is an appropriate term to use because it’s usually only in dreams that we experience this over-riding of the immutable logical laws and categories that govern our daily experience. Everybody knows that dreams don’t have to be logical, that they follow their own type of logic, which is one in which anything can happen…

If a dream did follow the rules of logic then it wouldn’t be much of a dream! If this were the case then it wouldn’t be any different from our everyday experience and so it would offer us no relief or respite from the joyless bureaucracy of the everyday logical mind. The everyday mind has no tolerance at all for this sort of ‘free and easy’ business where ‘anything can happen’. This isn’t the case at all. It most definitely isn’t the case that ‘anything can happen’ within the remit of the logical mind – on the contrary, only those possibilities which it has approved can happen.

Logic is an absolutely cut-and-dried sort of a thing and there is no leeway in it, no flexibility in it whatsoever. Either something is permitted or it isn’t permitted, either a statement is true or it’s false, either an element belongs in a particular category or it doesn’t. This means – quite simply- that the logical (or rational) world which we find ourselves in every day is both a defined world, and a known one – the two being entirely synonymous.

We don’t usually see the everyday mind as being something we would need relief or respite from; we don’t usually see rationality as being a ‘joyless bureaucracy’. If there are problems, if we are feeling agitated or troubled or dissatisfied or pressurized and so on, then we tend to put this down to what is going on in the outside world. Or if it is very obvious that it is our own mind that is causing us the pain (as in the case of anxiety, phobias, anorexia, or OCD) then we assume that this is because our mind is out of kilter and that everything will be fine once it is fixed. This – needless to say – is the rational view of things and obviously it’s never going to happen that the rational mind is going to see that there is some of kind ‘inherent lack of flexibility’ in itself that will never allow us to be truly free or happy. In order to see this it would have to be able to ‘see through itself’; it would have be able to stop taking its own rules so seriously, which it cannot do – this being a freedom that it simply doesn’t have…

The first condition of logic being logic (and not being something else) is that it has to take its own rules, its own assumptions seriously. It has to have a definite starting-off point and the only way it can do this is to take some position or other as being ‘unquestionably true’, and then proceed from this basis. Certainty can only come from certainty, and that original certainty can only come about when we take some position or other and then refuse to ever examine it. This is exactly the same thing as saying that a rule can never question itself, admit to doubt about itself, or in any way cease to be absolute inflexible about whatever it is it is stating or stipulating. A rule only gets to be ‘a rule’ because it never questions its own basis.

The everyday mind can never doubt itself, therefore. It is constitutionally unable to doubt its own constructs, its own categories, its own assumptions. It can’t see why the world that is shows us should not be considered to be the fundamental description of reality – reality as it is in itself. And this world – as we have said – is an entirely rigid one. It is a world in which everything always obeys certain rules, a world in which the essentials are never ever questioned. It is, in other words, a closed world where everything is already known and where there is no possibility of anything happening that does not conform to the basic template of what we implicitly understand as being ‘the sort of things that can happen’. In the world created by the rational mind, everything always conforms to the assumed format…

The idea of a defined world (a world in which nothing radically unknowable can ever happen) seems pretty basic to us. We don’t tend to see anything peculiar about this at all. We don’t see that there is something strangely barren, if not to say downright sterile, about a world where everything is defined. One way to explain why the defined world is a sterile one is to think about life as if it were a story written by a third-rate writer. In this case everything is described in a crude and heavy-handed sort of a way, so that everything in the narrative is ‘what it is described as being’ and nothing more. So for example the bad guy is the bad guy and the good guy is the good guy and there are no shades of grey, no challenges to our taken-for-granted stereotypes. The whole thing is purely formulaic and there is nothing original (and therefore nothing interesting) in it – the elements of the story might be shuffled around in new ways but no individual element ever deviates from the accepted template.

If, on the other hand, the writer is a true artist rather than an indifferent hack (who can only write according to formulaic rules) then there is actual depth to the characterization. ‘Depth’ means that there is more to what is going on than just the surface-level appearance – it means that things aren’t ‘only what they appear to be’. Not only is the story not predicable in terms of where it is going, it is also not ‘predictable’ in terms of who the characters are – what their true nature is. What this comes down to is the fact that our mental categories are being challenged rather than being shamelessly pandered to, and it’s this that makes it art rather than mass-produced pulp. When our stereotypes are being pandered to then the proceedings are all quite sterile – our expectations are exactly mirrored by what actually unfolds in front of us and so there is precisely zero chance of anything genuinely new ever happening. Nothing deviates from ‘what it was always going to be’ – there is only ‘the reiteration of the known’.

‘Depth’ on the other hand means that we are seeing something that we didn’t already know, something that did not previously exist for us. It’s not just that we see details which we didn’t expect to see but rather that we are somehow provided with a totally new angle on the world, so that everything now looks different – including the stuff we thought we already knew. Our viewpoint has been shifted out of its normal position, out of its default position, and so the whole world has changed…

When we look at things in a new way then we are seeing more of the world than our customary conceptualizations usually allow us to and so our perception of reality is enriched. Coming out of our rational-conceptual mind enriches us and so this is what reading a good novel does for us – in direct contrast to the situation where we have to make do with stereotyped or formulaic writing, which unfailingly impoverishes us.

The logical mind – then – is the ‘hack writer’ – it is a hack writer because it always represents reality in a formulaic way. This has to be the case because it operates according to a formula – it operates via fixed or mechanical rules. What could be less ‘creative’ than logic, after all? Logic sticks to its categories – its ‘motivation’ is not to explore the new but to obey the laws that it takes for granted, and thus it ‘sticks to the same old territory’. The logical mind never gets anywhere new; logic isn’t about ‘getting somewhere new’ – instead of dreamtime it manufactures linear time which is like a single, continuous, predictable track for us to run down, a track that never deviates from known territory, no matter how far down it we travel…

Once we understand logic in this way then we can readily see why we would need relief from it, some way of stepping sideways out of it, some way of ‘getting outside the box’. It becomes abundantly clear why we would need respite from it, why we would need some way of ‘jumping the tracks’ to get out of the serial unreality of linear time (which Western culture values so much) and back into the inexhaustible richness and wonder of what the native Australians call dreamtime.
[divider]

By Nick Williams | Staff Writer

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