Thursday, January 29, 2015

Ontological Dream, Metaphysical Nightmare

Last Christmas night I had the ontological dream, the metaphysical nightmare. I dreamed I awoke in the middle of the night and felt my way blindly through the coaldark house to the brightly lighted kitchen. The incongruity of a ceiling light burning sunlike in the middle of the night, while the silent house slept, unsettled my dreamself to the extent of setting off a fit of metaphysical anxiety. Like so many Nabokov characters, I began to suspect the hyper-reality of my seamlessly mimetic world. Maybe I'm not awake, I dreamthought. Maybe this is a dream. To test the oneiric nature of this 'reality,' I reached up to the lightswitch chain, thinking, If this is a dream, the light won't turn off. I pulled the chain. Nothing happened. I pulled again. Nothing happened. The house around me, to the horizon of the light, rested in absolutely convincing mimesis. I pulled the switch yet again. No change. A frenzied panic flowed into me as I repeatedly jerked the chain to no avail. I was trapped in a dream from which I could not awake, even as I madly told myself, This is a dream! This is a dream! and continued pulling the lightchain. My memory of the dream ends here, trapped in terror.

The dream was horrifying in its simplicity, unbearable in its banality, unheimlich in its utter familiarity. As Kafka knew, the familiar is the place from which terror most effectively erupts.

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