Revisiting: About Dreamtigers and Silent Skies

Every third Saturday of the month I intend to re-post something I wrote for one of my assorted old blogs or tumblogs to help readers get to know me better. This week I am sharing “About Dreamtigers and Silent Skies” for my current reblog tumblr, Dreamtigers and Silent Skies. It had formerly been called The Neglected and the Changed, but for certain reasons I chose a new name and wanted to explain it. If I were to summarize my feelings in this post, it would be with these two lines: “Whatever has captured you about the world, especially the world of childhood, cannot quite be made again by art. Yet we try”; and “I exult in the world’s indifference.”


About Dreamtigers and Silent Skies

Why did I rename this blog Dreamtigers and Silent Skies? I’m glad you asked! Both are references to the writing of Jorge Luis Borges, but it might take a bit of explaining.

Image source: Susanne Nilsson at flic.kr/p/fD9a1N

Image source: Susanne Nilsson at flic.kr/p/fD9a1N

Dreamtigers refers to the poem/short story “Dreamtigers” (the original Spanish poem has this English title). In this piece, Borges describes his childhood fascination with tigers. His love of tigers has faded with age, he writes, but they still prowl his dreams. The story (or poem) ends thus:

As I sleep I am drawn into some dream or other, and suddenly I realize that it’s a dream. At those moments, I often think: This is a dream, a pure diversion of my will, and since I have unlimited power, I am going to bring forth a tiger.
Oh, incompetence! My dreams never seem to engender the creature I so hunger for. The tiger does appear, but it is all dried up, or it’s flimsy-looking, or it has impure vagaries of shape or an unacceptable size, or it’s altogether too ephemeral, or it looks more like a dog or bird than like a tiger.
from Collected Fictions, translated by Andrew Hurley

I take “Dreamtigers” to describe and lament the difficulty of capturing in art the particular enchantment that reality has over you—or, I should say, the particular enchantment that you have draped over some favoured piece of reality. Whatever has captured you about the world, especially the world of childhood, cannot quite be made again by art. Yet we try. Our dreamtigers are our attempts. Continue reading

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An Early Question about Churchpunk

I would like to add a periodic feature to this blog: whenever I have a question for which I would like to know the answer, I will not just ask it in a single post, lost to time; I will also add it to a master list linked in the upper header of the blog. If I ever get an answer to a question, I’ll share the answer in a new post and link from the master list to the new post.

I bring this up because I have a question about what I’m calling churchpunk.

flic_dot_kr_slash_p_slash_sfaEf

Source: Robby D at flic.kr/p/sfaEf

(I am not sure about the name churchpunk, since “church” is a Christian and Christian-derived word. Other contenders might be faithpunk, ritepunk, religionpunk, relspunk, or cultpunk, but these also have problems for me. “Faith” is not an important or meaningful concept in all religions; ritual is only one component of religion; religionpunk sounds awful; not enough people will know that “rels” is shorthand for “religious studies”; the English “cult” has not just connotations but also denotations that the Latin “cultus” does not. Until I settle on another name, I’m going to stick with churchpunk.)

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Collected Selves and Bookshelves’ Identities

In response to my “Collection as Identity” post, I received a few questions.

A woman reads in front of bookshelves, with her book mostly obscuring her face.

Source: LollyKnit at flic.kr/p/4Qb8dX

First, from a fellow graduate from SLAIS: is there any aspect to identity which cannot be imagined as a collection?

Second, from my mother: what about bookshelves or other collections that are put together by a group? Do individual circles intersect in this case? I presume she was thinking about a household or a lineage or a similar set of people here. After all, the photograph for the post was from a bookshelf in her home, with books chosen by various family members (including me).

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Three Daydreams

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At the moment I am picking through Gary L. Comstock’s Religious Autobiographies, an anthology of abridged examples of the eponymous genre. It has made me want to write my own religious memoir, since my own story is one I wish I could have read ten years ago. I therefore wrote a rough draft for NaNoWriMo; I don’t know whether I’ll have an opportunity to publish it anywhere. More than this, however, it has made me want to read other people’s religious autobiographies. I dislike novel-length autobiographies, which I find tend to bog down in details which I cannot link together or tend not to warrant their length, but these briefer and more focused autobiographies are much more revealing. At least, I am better able to make sense of them when they are more specifically curated.

So here is the daydream: I would love to read more collections of shorter autobiographies on a common theme. Religious autobiographies especially appeal to me, but I am sure there are other types which would satisfy me even if I cannot imagine the genre now. A variation or specification on the religious autobiography occurred to me a few days ago as I read Richard Beck’s post on his recent spiritual shift: it might be interesting if autobiographers oriented their pieces towards what they imagine or hope their future might entail, what things they need or want to work on. Let me know if you have any recommendations; let me know, too, if you want to be part of an autobiography project of some kind.

My nine Friends on Facebook.

My nine Friends on Facebook.

Biographical writing in general is on my mind lately. On Facebook, I look at the nine Friends to appear on the side of my Profile page to assess whether those nine people would make good interview subjects for a hypothetical biographer writing about my life; if I could choose nine people myself, which nine would I choose? My friend Jon Wong used to talk about chain-biography projects: Jon would write my biography, I would write Alice’s biography, Alice would write Bob’s biography, and so on, until Eve writes Jon’s biography, and then all of these biographies are published in the same volume. Is there a way to write a biography in a more experimental fashion than is typical: out of order, maybe, switching between the subject’s life and the subject’s precursors, as in Wade Davis’s One River?

I keep coming back to the biography subplot in the third season of House of Cards, where author Tom Yates is fixated on his commission to write President Frank Underwood’s biography. House of Cards’s third season was not a very strong one, but that plot thread fascinated me: I suppose I had somehow believed authorized biographers were mercenary writers, and that might often be the case, but I suppose it is as good a genre as any for authors to push their craft.

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Today my aunt asked where I would live if I somehow came into sixteen million dollars: enough to buy and maintain a house anywhere I wanted, without any worries about work. I am sure she just wanted to know whether I’d prefer to live in Vancouver or Toronto, but sixteen million dollars is a lot of money and I’d have bigger dreams than just one house…

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Monthly Marvel: Mimetic Rivalry

On the first Saturday of each month for at least the next little while I intend to share here one of the Weekly Wonders from that previous project. This week I will be reviewing Mimetic Rivalry, an interesting account of how humans learn to want things.


MIMETIC RIVALRY

This week’s idea is mimetic rivalry. René Girard (b. 1923) argues that all desire is mimetic: that is, we learn to want something by seeing someone else (the model) want it.

Image source: Andy at flic.kr/p/4QZcM3.

Image source: Andy at flic.kr/p/4QZcM3.

I see you eating a nice apple, so I want a nice apple, too. This is called mimetic desire. So long as there is enough of the object of desire to go around, and so long as it is the kind of thing that can be shared, then you and I will be drawn together by our shared desire. If you have a whole bushel of apples, more than you could eat, in sharing those apples we will be friends. (Or, more realistically, in going to the opera together, or going for walks in the woods, or cooking fine Canadian cuisine together.) But if there isn’t enough to around, then we become rivals. Maybe there are three apples, and you have one, and I have one, and we both covet the last one. (Or, more realistically, you love someone, and I learn to love that person from you, and we’re all monogamists, so we become romantic rivals.) This is mimetic rivalry or, sometimes, Girardian rivalry.

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NaNoWriMo

Gripped by some spirit of folly, I have just today decided to take part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). You can follow my progress and misadventures under the username ChristianERH, with the not-quite-a-novel Wood Sheep Miscellany. You will recognize me by this user picture:

Self-portrait.

Self-portrait.

I would appreciate writing buddies, so let me know if you are doing the same.