I used to live my life amidst a morass of dreams, phantasies, hopes, fears and half-conceived, half-baked expectations. At least, I think I did. I vaguely recollect that I did. Somehow, however, I feel that I cannot entirely trust my memories in this regard. It’s as if these memories no longer seem quite real to me – or perhaps it would be better to say, not real at all…
I’m not one hundred per cent sure about this, but I can’t help thinking from time to time that I might be suffering from what I have heard called a ‘pseudo-memory’ – a memory of something that never happened, a sort of clinging sadness or nostalgia for a world that never existed. This world – the world I dimly remember – manages, in my head at least, to be at the same time both deeply familiar and yet laughably implausible. I find at times that I harbour within me a ache of sorrow for a past that I cannot help knowing to be unreal, a past that I never had – a past that no one had, in fact.
“What sort of crap is that?” you might wonder. The answer is simple – it is the sort of crap that goes through my mind every day. It is my sort of crap, in other words. This is not to say I understand it because I don’t – I can’t get my head around it at all. It drives me up the wall, it upsets me and infuriates me. It actually makes me feel quite ill, but there you are. Or rather, there I am.
“What”, I think to myself, “is the use or worth of a memory of something that never even happened? What kind of a dumb pointless jack-ass thing is that? Who would bother about it for a minute, let alone spend years ruminating over it like some kind of witless freak? Who would be that stupid – if stupid is even the word here?” The answer, again, is of course quite simple. I would be that stupid. I am that stupid, and I shall in all probability carry on being that stupid. I have done pretty well up until now, after all. Why would I stop?
The problem is that I have changed so much, so drastically, that I just can’t own those memories. And if I can’t own them sure as hell no one else can. There’s a part of me that knows this sounds ridiculous. After all, I know very well that we all change, that none of us are ‘who we used to be’. That’s life, as people often say. Life is change. Life is always moving on. But when people say that sort of thing to me, as they sometimes do, I get very frustrated. I know that they don’t understand. How can they? If it hadn’t happened to me I would believe it either.
It is true that everything changes but it is also true that in another sense people don’t change. If I changed then I would be me! It is the thread of unbroken memory stretching through our lives that keeps us from changing and it is because we don’t want to change that we don’t like losing the thread. Above all else, we don’t want to lose who we are.
In me, however that thread is broken, it is lost and I cannot follow it back. I just come to a ragged end, waving about in the wind. What I am trying to say is that something happened to me, something that doesn’t generally seem to happen to people, as far as I can tell. If it did happen to people then they would talk about it and they don’t. I’ve never heard people talking about this sort of thing, no matter what else they might talk about – which is generally plenty. People never get tired of talking about stuff, do they?
I have lost my thread in life. Something happened to sever the thread that kept me being me. To be blunt, what happened to me is that I died. Something happened and I was killed stone dead. Something put an end to me. And yet despite being put an end to, I carried on living, like a chicken that keeps on running because it doesn’t yet know that its head has been chopped off. I am dead, yet I go to work in the morning. I am dead, but I still go shopping in Tesco. I am dead, yet I watch TV.
The dreams, hopes, fantasies, and all the rest of it belonged to the person who was killed. And yet that isn’t the really spooky thing. The really spooky thing is that that person never existed anyway – he just thought he did! That person was the product of his own fantasies. He dreamed himself. He somehow hoped himself into existence. He was both dream and dreamer, joined up together in a seamless circle of thought, a continuous loop of expectation and regret. If this sounds somewhat harsh, I don’t mean it to be so. I am simply stating matters as they are, without judgement, without blame. After all, who can blame a dream for being a dream, an illusion for being an illusion? Things are what they are, and all we can do is observe them. Only a fool says that things should not be so, that they should not be the way that they are. But it is a fool’s nature to blame in this way, and I cannot blame him for doing so, for otherwise I would be the very same type of fool that I am looking down on for being a blamer. I would be the exact same sort of fool that I am trying to distance myself from. That is a particularly terrible form of stupidity and I find it unbearable even to think about.
I can’t blame myself because to blame means to stand above, and how can I stand above myself? But if I do not blame, am I not still that same old fool? Am I not then just a content fool, a lazy fool? Surely I cannot seek to escape my terrible stupidity simply by refraining from condemnation of myself? Surely that would be too easy a way out!
And yet it isn’t an easy way out because it is the one who condemns, the one who regrets, who tries to find a way out. And instead of finding a way out, he just gets caught up in repeating the farce that he hopes to escape. He perpetuates the very idiocy that sickens him, the very idiocy that he is reacting against. If I blame I am a fool, and if I go on to blame myself for being a fool then I am a double-fool, and so on. There is no way out like this. But if I see that a dream is simply a dream, that an illusion is simply an illusion, that things simply are what they are, then I am no fool.
If I see that I am a fool then at the same time as being a fool I am not a fool, for I see true. And so as I carry on in my tirelessly stupid way, feeling sad about things that never happened, tasting again and again the doomed hopes of a person who never existed, lost in an endless morass of nostalgic regrets for a life I never had, I am also in my observing free from this foolishness, for my observation is free from what it observes.
What I think I am perhaps trying to say here, is that whilst I cannot give up feeling sad for that person who never was, I also cannot help seeing that the person who feels sad, the person who cannot give up being sad, also doesn’t exist, and in this closed or self-negating circle of illusion, in this ‘dream that took place within a dream’, there is somehow peace.