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A description of the boy laying there alone in the shadows

First movement — nocturne Midway in my life. Middle of the night.

I am lying naked and uncovered in the middle of a sweat soaked bed. The heavy heat outside is augmented here by my being in a room directly under the slate roof of a three story cottage. I am looking after the place for a friend and I am alone in the house.

I have been lying here for some time in an uneasy lassitude which prevents movement or sleep. I have to get up and go to the kitchen. The kitchen is on the ground floor, four flights down. Too hot for clothes, I start descending naked in the dark. I reach the second floor, go past the master bedroom and go down the last flight. The final steps lead me to the space by the front door, which opens onto the street.

Turning left away from the door and facing into the house I can see the sitting room.

  • It stretches a short distance to a low step;
  • He had taken the charcoal.

The curtains are open and a dull orange glow from the street lights is filtering through the net drapes on the two windows. I turn further to my left and look across the room. It stretches a short distance to a low step. This leads up into the dining area, framed by the architrave which had been left from when the two rooms had been knocked together. I have no clothes on and I could be seen from the street. But at this time of night? An irrational embarrassment keeps the lights off.

I halt briefly, looking in some wonder at the extraordinary blackness beyond the arch.

A Skinful of Shadows

The dining room is filled with an intense, almost physical darkness. But I know where things are here, stride across the rumpled carpet and step into the void. Immediately there is a sharp intake of breath close to my left ear.

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I can feel his warmth. In the second that passes a rush of thoughts and feelings, fear and wonder. I make a diagonal track fast across the room to the kitchen. Put the light on? If I do I will turn and see him. I somehow find myself by the kitchen light switch and slam it on. I look across the dining room, past the long oval, polished table and the six high backed chairs, across another rucked-up carpet.

I see the old white painted wooden door in the corner that leads down ancient stone steps to the medieval cellar. No — nonsense — no-one there.

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But I am afraid to look. I find a towel and tuck it around my waist. I am in stunned amazement. A strong face, lantern jawed, handsome, rugged. Black hair with greying sides. I think naked, certainly to the waist. Broad chest with dark hairs.

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Moving back past the black point of his presence I pause for a moment, then remount the stairs, putting on all the lights as I go. I have a glass of water with me, the forgotten reason for which I had come down.

Back in my room, lying uncovered on the damp warm bed, I stare at the ceiling. This man was of me, mine, a living being, a complete personality who had been waiting for me in the void. His tangible reality, his apartness from me, his palpable breathing existence, filled me with profound disquiet. What then is the nature of such an experience? I admit immediately to there being no physical presence of another man in the room that night.

  • White Otter's medicine had come to him;
  • All night long he pursued his way, his muscles playing tirelessly to the demands of a mind as taut as bowstring;
  • Ah love, let us be true to one another!
  • I have a glass of water with me, the forgotten reason for which I had come down.

Some would call it a psychological projection. But that would suggest that my psyche had somehow thrown this image onto the material world. As if my brain were acting as a film projector casting a brain-conjured scene onto the screen of the exterior world of matter.

But that cannot be so. We are not looking out of windows in our heads. So if my man is brain-made, he was being projected not onto the outside world, but onto my perception of it.

  1. It is the equivalent of the sort of smiling and nodding that goes on between people who try to converse but who have scant knowledge of a common language. We are not looking out of windows in our heads.
  2. They are all aged thirteen or so.
  3. The daylight brought quiescence to the fasting man, and he sank back, blinking his hollow eyes at his shadow beside him. No one will ever want to sleep with you.
  4. And in the long run entropy will deal with the genes. The watcher at the window lost interest as the small figure disappeared beyond her vision into the blue light beyond the trees.

One transparency sliding over another. A kind of interior slippage. That which we experience as dream is of the same stuff as our experience of the material world. It is no surprise, then, that these experiences can meld, cross wire and conflate.

What then are the conditions conducive to this cerebral slippage? Using both eyes we are not aware of any shortcoming, no blank spot in the centre of our vision. However, using one eye only it is possible to play games with this. Getting the size of the blind spot to match an object in front of you can make the thing disappear. From another angle, consider a story from the ethnologist Leo Frobenius about a professor and his four year-old daughter. The professor is writing and his little girl is running around in his room and disturbing him.

Having nothing else to hand he gives her three matches and tells her that they are Hansel, Gretel and the witch. All is quiet for some time until a cry of terror erupts from the little girl.

We infill these insubstantial playthings with a variety of experiences — from images of utmost terror to benign figures who seem only there to console. Swastika and red cross. Is this the same process as my man appearing in the dark? I think it is. In other circumstances, a cessation or diminution of sensory input is the key. Nothing to trip over. The commonest experience is sleep — the shutting down of the outward facing senses, creating the blank screen, allowing our surrender to the spontaneously constructed dream world.

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Isolation in remote places like high mountains or lone sea voyages allows our brains, remote from societal norms and daily interactions, the freedom to place figures and feelings it considers appropriate into the empty spaces gaping in our sensory and mental experience.

A place where they do not stub their toes on the matter of the material world. The Divine Comedy itself is set as dream.

  • The enemy, the pinch of the shivering famine, and the Bad Gods were absent, for none of these things care to show themselves in the white light of a midsummer's day;
  • The kitchen is on the ground floor, four flights down;
  • A kind of interior slippage;
  • Consciousness And then perhaps the greatest of the human self-inflations, the idea that the whole of the universe is striving towards a general self consciousness and that we are part of this profound maturing of the cosmos and that it is a good thing.

And many of the most powerful and influential imaginative visions in world history have occurred in just such conducive conditions. But all our creations projected onto the the interior blank wall at the end of our knowledge show us not what is out there, but our own fears and desires.

These dream figures, thoughts and ideas were once, still are, believed to be part of the material world. In some sense they are, being part of the material of the brain. But they are mostly seen through the mistaken perception that we are looking out from a window in our heads into the material world — out there — and not experienced as the interior explosions of brain-made creations and conflations which in reality they are.

And these tremendous emanations are only possible because of the perceptual and cognitive spaces which allow their existence. The void, the blank screen at the end of perception and experience.

  1. No — it is more urgent to look at how some contemporary secularists deal with these lacunae, and to show that many of the ideas proposed by them in this post religious world are of the same nature as those ghosts with which those of faith have rounded out their views of the world. Soon he heard the breaking of sticks under the feet of approaching men, and from under the pines a long procession of men appeared--but they were shadows, like water, and he could see the landscape beyond them.
  2. Why this and not nothing? This leads up into the dining area, framed by the architrave which had been left from when the two rooms had been knocked together.
  3. Back in my room, lying uncovered on the damp warm bed, I stare at the ceiling.
  4. I have been lying here for some time in an uneasy lassitude which prevents movement or sleep. They tell us that we are of the same matter as the farthest galaxy known, that we are star dust.
  5. Black hair with greying sides. A wise man visits the Buddha with two gifts, one in each hand.

And they always, even now, in spite of our knowledge of the vastness of our setting and our obvious insignificance in this setting, unsurprisingly are about us, reflect us and picture us as the centre of it all. But had he done so, Moses would of course have remained seated and silent. Had I constructed him in wax, hair and glass eye balls, stood him there on the living room threshold — truly projected him into the material world — would my man have made that intake of breath?

Would he have turned towards me, sighing? No, of course not. I can continue my exploration of him of course — perhaps see him as an ex-sailor, wife dead, children drifted away through some unmentionable rift. Give him a deep history. He might live on further and in greater complexity on this page, in these very words. But in the room? By the cellar door? My man stood in front of a blackness of what should have been a dining room.

And not to my conscious bidding — my brain had decided what was needed at that moment and his appearance was beyond control and comprehension. From here on, a vast landscape opens up filled with speculations about what happens in the gaps, not only in our perceptions but also in our knowledge, in the shapes of our ideas, the material structure of our thoughts. Rather than the concrete attainments of invention, it is the way these voids have been filled that is the key motif in the history of our species.

The ways religions have had of filling in these clouds of unknowing are too well known and obvious to need discussion here. No — it is more urgent to look at how some contemporary secularists deal with these lacunae, and to show that many of the ideas proposed by them in this post religious world are of the same nature as those ghosts with which those of faith have rounded out their views of the world. Second movement — intermezzo mysterioso Three boys are walking along a north London street.

They are all aged thirteen or so.