November 29, 2006
All Signs Point to Yes
Don’t count on it.
THAT IS PERHAPS THE CRUELEST RESPONSE
you can receive from the Magic 8 Ball: As if, sister! Don’t count on it!
There’s the simple and poignant “No.” The assertive and nonchalant “Yes,” with more forceful variant “Yes definitely.” The noncommittal “Reply hazy try again.” The coy and hopeful “Better not tell you now,” and the cryptic “Cannot predict now.” You’ll have to hang on the hook a little longer, girl.
I’m on that hook. And only I can let myself off it. I have been in a state of suspended anxiety for the past year, trying to decide what direction to take my life and where to live it. I’ve been looking for support and guidance from friends, family, readers, the owner of a second-hand store in Portland, and why of course, the universe. “Hey,” I challenged a friend whom I thought was humoring me, “the universe is a real thing! It’s out there.” It’s out there and it’s talking to us.
LE LANGUE DES RÊVES
But in the language of dreams. Dreams present issues you may be uncomfortable or afraid of dealing with but in the less threatening language of symbols. You may be confused by them (what the hell did that mean?) but believe me you are trying to tell yourself something. When I work to decipher or interpret the language of a dream, I ask myself what some element means to me, what place it has in my life, and what it says about me that I introduced it into my dream.
WHAT DO MONKEYS MEAN TO YOU?
The fabled Pete Emerson, a major running buddy of mine in the 80’s and 90’s in Portland, Oregon, had the following dream in 2003, after he had acquired a house, wife and two children, but before quitting his hated job as a Starbuck’s manager and opening the coolest coffee house in Portland, Bipartisan Cafe. [This was not a paid advertisement. -Ed.]
THE MONKEY SPEAKS HIS MIND….YEEEEEAAAAAH!
The mythology of monkeys is rich, and one would have to mine one’s lifetime of imagery and experience of them to divine the significance of one appearing in a dream, but in Pete’s case I know one of his favorites songs, “The Monkey Speaks His Mind,” no doubt informs his thoughts about monkeys. In this dream the monkey will speak Pete’s mind.
EVERYBODY’S GOT SOMETHING TO HIDE
Hiding and revealing part of oneself figures in the dream, perhaps referencing the Beatles’ song Pete is also familiar with, “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except For Me and My Monkey,” containing in part the lyrics:
This is a song of temptation, a come-on, inviting the listener to go deep and fly high, don’t worry be happy, to liberate the normal stance of the person in society with your inside and outside personas, to abandon the duality of public and private lives, to let go and release your inner self which is nothing to be ashamed of—you and your monkey have nothing to hide—on the contrary, to become at one with oneself is an easy joy. Perhaps it is this oneness Pete is striving for in this dream.
THE DREAM, as told by Pete
I walk into a sparsely furnished room. Probably an apartment. Could be an amalgam of the apartments I lived in in my early twenties. Nothing on the walls, no curtains, bare bad hardwood floors, just a bed and a chair and a cage in the corner with a very small monkey in it. There is no one else in my dream and I am wondering if I can take the monkey out of the cage. The dream would be over if I didn’t take the monkey out of the cage. So of course I take the monkey out of the cage. It is very small. I admire it briefly, but it very quickly jumps out of my hands and begins scurrying around. My dog Frankie and my cat Star have entered the room and are chasing the monkey. I don’t know whose monkey it is but I know I let it out and my dog and my cat are trying to catch it. I chase all of them around hoping that if I catch just one of them I may have a chance to stop all the madness and save the Monkey. I can’t catch even one of them. The Monkey doesn’t see me as someone who will help him. I am just another beast chasing him. I finally give up and sit in the chair. I don’t even know where the animals are any more. Finally Frankie and Star come out from under the bed and jump up on my lap. I don’t know what has happened to the monkey, I hope it is alive. Mostly I am just glad that the madness has stopped. Then out from under the bed comes crawling, a chicken head. Just a head dragging itself towards my chair with its beak. The neck of the chicken is bloody and ragged, trailing a vein behind it. Slowly it drags itself towards my chair. Frankie and Star sit on my lap, trying to look innocent, intently watching the chicken head drag itself towards our chair. Just as the chicken head drags itself up to my chair, Frankie looks down and throws up on it. Covering the chicken in half-digested chicken parts. I never find out what happened to the monkey.
I never find out what happened to the monkey.
MY 2003 READING OF THE DREAM, as told by me
Well! Here’s my mini-Freud interpretation. The monkey represents some primal urge or instinct of yours (monkey as more primitive precursor to man) that is usually kept caged in a prison-like environment (a house or a job or a family, societal pressures)—you are curious about the effect of letting it out and decide to risk it, instantly disrupting your household. The dog and the cat are also acting out aspects of your unconscious, wreaking havoc that once begun is nearly impossible to control. You goad yourself on (the animals chasing the monkey) even though you are simultaneously trying to stop yourself (chasing the animals to stop them from chasing the monkey). It is man’s nature to live with such contradictions. This conflict wears you out. You want to “save” or preserve these aspects of yourself which though they might bring down the house you still respect as part of yourself that must be acknowledged. The monkey disappears, perhaps as a grudging suppression of those urges that would disrupt your settled life, but for it to do so, you have to “swallow” part of yourself and in your eyes this leaves just your head, the intellectualization of the situation, leaving the body tattered and incomplete. The inevitability of all this leaves you rather nauseous.
And this been “Your Living Room Shrink,” brought to you by Alexandra Know-It-All. My feeling is that every element in a dream is representative of aspects of yourself and your feelings about yourself, not about any other creatures or people that also appear in them.
The monkey has spoken her mind.
THREE YEARS AFTER THE FACT
First, it is the real living Pete, the dreamer, who designed the course and outcome of the dream. This chaos and chasing wouldn’t necessarily be the result in real life. His mind concocted this chain of events where his freed impulses threaten the peace of his family—after all, remember, the monkey is a decent sort, who would not leave his wife, build fences, or kill another being.
The setting of the dream is the bare-bones apartments of youth, hearkening back to the simple days before wife, kids, mortgages, possessions took over, when the monkey was still free to come out of its cage. Sometimes Pete wishes he could to return to his youth and reclaim his inner monkey.
There is no one else in my dream and I’m wondering if I can take the monkey out.
Even with no one around, Pete is shy about letting the monkey run free. Will anyone find out? He’s cautious about people’s reactions, hopes for the best. Pete is not afraid of the monkey. It’s small, very small. He has affection for it and stops to admire it before the riot ensues. We all have inner animals and occasionally they come out of their cages—perhaps with disastrous consequences—but they are an innate part of humanity and though we seek to control them, these parts of us must be allowed to speak. To deny them might also risk disastrous consequences, or at least lives of quiet desperation. But Pete has distanced himself from it—it’s not his monkey—at the same time as he wants to “save” the monkey.
The dream would be over if I didn’t take the monkey out of the cage.
Pete feels he owes it to himself to explore this side of himself or his dream (of freedom and what could be) will be over. He needs to know what would happen—but almost as soon as he has freed the monkey, he brings in the cat and dog to police him (pets as guardians of the family, who can be gentle but are also still animals obeying their primal instincts). They are fierce in their pursuit and protection of the family. The result is instant chaos, enough to cure Pete of wondering again—but he will always know he at least gave it a try and decided the consequences were not worth it.
My cat and my dog…know why I am trying to catch them and they don’t care. It is their nature, they can’t help it they have to chase and catch that monkey.
In the movie “The Crying Game,” which I first saw with Pete (and Tom—hi Tom!) a political prisoner, Jody, tells his captor Fergus a story about a scorpion that wants to cross the river but can’t swim, so he asks a frog if he can ride on his back, but the frog fears the scorpion will sting him. “It would not be in my interest to sting you while on your back,” the scorpion tells the frog, “or we both will drown.” Half way across, the frog feels a burning in his side and realizes the scorpion has stung him after all. As they both sink, the frog cries, “Why did you sting me? For now we both will drown.” “I can’t help it,” said the scorpion. “It’s in my nature.” Jody is appealing to what he perceives as the kindness and decency of Fergus.
I am just another beast.
Monkeys are also known to Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil. The rules of society (the cage) keep your inner monkey in check. In reality it wants to hear, see and speak evil—if it wants to—it would like to have the choice, but the cost may be too great to bear. Pete is appealing to his own kindness and decency. He is trying to save the monkey in himself but the monkey thinks he wants to harm it. His “savior” is seen as a beast, another force trying to stop and control him. Saving him means the monkey (Pete’s primal impulses) gets put back in the cage, away from the dog and cat (Pete’s fiercely protective instincts). Because, this I know to be true, it is not in Pete’s nature to let his primal impulses threaten the security of his family.
I never find out what happened to the monkey.
Well, he’s gone. Back to the cage in Pete’s mind, no danger of running free again. It only caused chaos. In the dream the monkey has been diminished into a chicken, the universal taunt used to demean those perceived to be without courage, a harmless creature fated to be eaten anyway. The monkey he was trying to save, in the end became the prey. Pete has given up. Pete is just glad all the madness has stopped. It is better the monkey just disappear. Because the worst outcome happened—Frankie ate the monkey Pete was trying to save. Perhaps he thinks this makes him chicken, but if the monkey must become a chicken to protect what he has, it’s worth the sacrifice. Otherwise Pete might be just another worthless bum who most certainly did not descend from the noble monkey. The chicken head is struggling to get back to Peter trailing its last vein of life, but that is the end of the dream (of complete freedom for Pete).
PETE EMERSON IS NO CHICKEN!
In 2004, Pete Emerson risked everything he had and more to quit his hated job as a manager at Starbucks, sold his stock options, refinanced his house, borrowed, scraped, borrowed some more, got himself into a shitload of debt, rebuilt a dump of a storefront, and opened his dream coffee shop, Bipartisan Cafe, the roaring success of S.E. Stark St. “We’re all about leaps of faith,” he recently reminded me. So whatever else Pete Emerson might be, and this I know to be true, he be no chicken! I have a feeling he is now at one with his inner monkey. Try his wife Hobie’s coconut cream pie!
AND NOW BACK TO THE UNIVERSE
When I try to interpret signs from the universe, I ask myself why a certain object, event or person got my attention and made me sit up and take notice of the here and now. On Halloween, I saw several Borats, a troupe of dancers recreating Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video (and quite well), a guy wearing a blood-stained sheet with a gigantic cleaver embedded in his neck but an indifferent facial expression, like he was unaware of it, and a group wearing shiny bodysuits in all the colors of the Castro flag rainbow—but none of them made me look twice. Nothing much else impressed me enough to remember by now, but I did a double take when I saw those crossed battleaxes, and knew they were talking to me. The very next day, a coworker came over to my desk and presented me with a tiny toy ax, the very same sort of plastic ax I’d seen the night before in the Castro, minus the self-spurting blood:
I asked him quickly, “Did you read my column?” which I had posted and distributed the night before. He said he hadn’t yet. “And you just decided to come over here and give me an ax.” On just that day he just happened to be in possession of a toy ax. I scanned the ax and recreated the image I’d seen. “You’re sure you didn’t read my column?” He claimed he hadn’t. It wouldn’t be so unusual for someone to give me a toy ax if they had one, my nickname being ax, but he had actually created a little scenario which was supposed to represent “burying the hatchet.” So the ax part had nothing to do with it.
That same day, after work, I took out of my mail slot an envelope reading:
ACTUALLY, I DID RECEIVE IT BY ACCIDENT.
It was intended for former occupant Paul Kelso. But he didn’t get it—I did. It was a Sounds True advertisement for a course entitled “Your Unseen Power.” Master Teacher Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki says that phrases you repeatedly hear or images that recur are “trail markers left by the universe” and recommends that we “follow them—investigate the meaning of the words or image. See where they lead you, and what they have to teach you.” One of the images used in the brochure, is that of a dagger. I see the dagger now as an implement of concentrated power, which I must symbolically use to cut away bullshit and expose the heart of what is real to me.
THE THING WITH FEATHERS
Reading signs in the universe is tantamount to having faith—that thing you can’t see but feel to be true—faith that there is a cosmic place for you in the scheme of things, that there are magical connections, supernatural guidance and a mission to your life. Some thoughts from “What the Bleep!? Down the Rabbit Hole”:
When in the “zone,” I can feel myself walking literally through this field, and it flowing through me, propelling me by waves of possibility. Or of course, it could all be a government implant, a “bundle of new-agey smarm,” as my friend Bill put it, transmitted to my brain via the ethylene dibromide, nano-particulates of aluminum and barium and cationic polymer fibers with unidentified bioactive materials I have absorbed by breathing in the military chemtrails dispatched from HAARP by the New World Order. But that wouldn’t be any fun.
O Magic 8 Ball, tell me true
Dream a little dream of me...
copyright Alexandra Jones 2006