Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Note About Perchance to Dream

My studies of Dalí and his art first inspired me to write Perchance to Dream. I am so intrigued by the notion of the subconscious mind and its role in our life. Dalí’s art was called “Surreal” (as if anyone didn’t already know), meaning it is an unedited rendering of the images seen in the mind’s eye. There were many Surrealists in Dalí’s day. However, Dalí distinguished himself by creating art on a greater and deeper level; he himself was the piece of art. Dalí lived his life around fulfilling his desires, the desires we all have, deep from the subconscious. He had the modest goals of achieving nothing more than worldwide fame, unending sex, and fabulous wealth. In his youth, Dalí as a personality was as infamous as his art, for, really, they had deliberately become one and the same. The ingenious thing about Dalí—the reason I call him the greatest artist ever to live—was because he was wholly (and I mean wholly) devoted to his art, so much so that he had crafted a complex, swirling universe with its own physical laws and logic, a universe he expressed onto the canvas. To put it simply, the art pieces Dalí created did not comprise their own world, but instead were reflections of the actual—though, necessarily, imaginary—worlds he lived. There is a difference. Dalí’s paintings do not exist as some other thing, something separate from reality. Instead, they depict a reality quite unfamiliar to us, though it is a reality that is importantly all the more real precisely because we cannot see it: it exists only in the subconscious mind, which is indeed more real than the series of patterns that our conscious mind fabricates and we take for granted as existing in front of us. You see, Dalí tapped into something that to my knowledge has yet to be tapped in to, being the true nature of things. True art, he would say, is that which is uniquely human, that does not imitate nature but enacts nature. And getting in touch with our subconscious mind is the path to true self-knowledge and self-actualization, and the only way to become mentally-healthy. Dalí was in touch with his subconscious—so I say—but his life would certainly dissuade anyone to argue that he was healthy.

The interesting thing about Dalí’s life is that he died an unhappy, yet he had achieved that worldwide fame and fabulous wealth. Did his life prove his art to be meaningless?

The Neo-Freudian psychoanalyst C. G. Jung hypothesized that all humans throughout all of time were/are connected by a sort of universal, primal memory that manifests itself in similar ways in art and literature. His called this theory the “collective unconscious.” It is a theory to which I prescribe. In terms of Dalí, then, his reality is our reality, which if you’re familiar with his art is a scary thought. This, though, would be essentialist and gloss over the truly unknowable nature of the subconscious. Dalí’s reality was uniquely his; because he was a human individual, his version of reality is different that anyone else’s. What we can gain from Dalí’s example, though, is how complicated accurately portraying the contents of the subconscious mind is. But, if we examine the theories of Jung and Dalí, and combine them together, we get a sort of beautiful perspective on the nature of the world, culture, and history. It is beautiful in how it gives us a panoramic vista of the human mind. But, like all sublime visions, it is impossible to describe using language and futile to portray logically.

This all has a point, I promise, for this is where Perchance to Dream comes in. Obviously, there are many intellectual ideas and many intellectual people behind the play’s provenance. But ultimately, it is the feeling the individual gets after watching Perchance to Dream that matters. Emotion is human, and art that produces emotion is human. The great American poet Wallace Stevens said in “Man Carrying Thing” that a “poem must resist the intelligence.” I agree with him, and I translate his statement to drama. Just like a Stevens poem, Perchance to Dream can be independently felt, and thought about. Enjoy.
-Jason Sebacher, Playwright of Perchance to Dream

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