2001: Nothing But Black Space

Jacob Peeter Gowy - The Fall of Icarus (1638)

In a 2001 study, Tim and Virginia Kasser analyzed the dreams of people who had been assessed as either highly materialistic or non-materialistic. They asked the participants to share “the two most meaningful, memorable, or powerful dreams they remembered in their lives”and found three remarkable differences:

First, death played a bigger role in the dreams of highly materialistic individuals. It was mentioned in the dream itself or in associations with the dream in 20.5 percent of high materialists’ dreams, compared with only 3 percent of dreams of people less focused on materialism. To give a couple of examples, people who were dead in waking life appeared in the dreams of two highly materialistic individuals, and another saw “a ghostly lady dressed in black . . . hanging from the cross [of a church] calling my name.” For others who strongly valued materialistic aims, death was mentioned as an important association, even when it did not appear explicitly in the dream.

The second difference…was that 15 percent of dreams of people in the high-materialism group involved falling, in comparison with 3 percent of dreams of those in the low-materialism group. Falling is almost universally interpreted by theorists as representing insecurity, as one is out of control, is headed downward, and has nothing to hold on to. Two people from the high-materialism group reported dreams of falling into fires, a third fell from barn rafters, and a fourth worried about falling from logging equipment. Evocatively, a fifth person in that group dreamed that his father tossed him over the railing of the steps inside his house, but “instead of landing on the floor below, there was nothing but black space into which I was thrown . . . I saw myself fall. While I was falling into the black void, I was circling or spinning and screaming, but my screams were very faint.”

Another difference between the groups was that the dreams of highly materialistic individuals exhibited a very different attitude toward feared objects. Specifically, 18 percent of dreams of the low-materialism group involved reframing an originally feared object so that it was no longer so frightening; no one from the high-materialism group confronted their fears in this way. For example, two dreamers from the low-materialism group were initially afraid of a rhinoceros and a giant purple poodle, respectively, but found that the animals had benign intentions. Others in that group realized that their attacker was actually “a nice, happy guy” or were quite confident that they would not be hurt. One of them even reported that while being chased down cliffs by a boulder, “sometimes it was rather fun to run.” These dreams suggest that people who do not care much for materialistic pursuits may be more able to overcome insecurities than those with a strong materialistic value orientation.

Tim Kasser: The High Price of Materialism (2002)

Jacob Peeter Gowy: The Fall of Icarus (1638)

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2018: The Sky


Yesterday morning. See more here.

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1908: Woodland Pool

Julian Onderdonk - The Woodland Pool (1908)

Julian Onderdonk: The Woodland Pool (1908)

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1562: Namesakes

Anton van den Wyngaerde - Richmond Palace (c.1558-62)The city of Richmond, California is named after the city of Richmond, Virginia, which is named after the English town of Richmond near London, which was named for Richmond Palace, which Henry VII named after his ancestral home in Richmond, Yorkshire, which takes its name from the town of Richemont in Normandy, France.

Antony Wyngaerde: Richmond Palace, west front (1562)

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1936: Then It Will Be Over

Adam Stennett - Mouse on Book 1 (Death on the Installment Plan) (2005)

Here we are, alone again. It’s all so slow, so heavy, so sad … I’ll be old soon. Then at last it will be over. So many people have come into my room. They’ve talked. They haven’t said much. They’ve gone away. They’ve grown old, wretched, sluggish, each in some corner of the world.

Yesterday, at eight o’clock, Madame Bérenge, the concierge, died. A great storm blew up during the night. Way up here where we are, the whole house is shaking. She was a good friend, gentle and faithful. Tomorrow they’re going to bury her in the cemetery on the rue des Saules. She was really old, at the very end of old age. The first day she coughed I said to her: “Whatever you do, don’t stretch out. Sit up in bed.” I was worried. Well, now it’s happened … anyway, it couldn’t be helped …

I haven’t always been a doctor … crummy trade. I’ll write the people who’ve known her, who’ve known me, and tell them that Madame Bérenge is dead. Where are they?

I wish the storm would make even more of a clatter, I wish the roofs would cave in, that spring would never come again, that the house would blow down.

Madame Bérenge knew that grief always comes in the mail. I don’t know whom to write to anymore … Those people are all so far away … They’ve changed their souls, that’s a way to be disloyal, to forget, to keep talking about something else.

Poor old Madame Bérenge; they’ll come and take her cross-eyed dog away.

For almost twenty years all the sadness that comes by mail passed through her hands. It lingers on in the smell of her death, in that awful sour taste. It has burst out … it’s here … it’s skulking through the passageway. It knows us and now we know it. It will never go away. Someone will have to put out the fire in the lodge. Whom will I write to? I’ve nobody left. No one to receive the friendly spirits of the dead … and let me speak more softly to the world … I’ll have to bear it all alone.

Toward the end the old lady was unable to speak. She was suffocating. She clung to my hand … The postman came in. He saw her die. A little hiccup. That’s all. In the old days lots of people used to knock on her door and ask for me. Now they’re gone, far away into forgetfulness, trying to find souls for themselves. The postman took off his cap. I know I could talk about my hatred. I’ll do that later on if they don’t come back. I’d rather tell stories. I’ll tell stories that will make them come back, to kill me, from the ends of the world. Then it will be over and that will be all right with me.

—Louis-Ferdinand Céline: Death on the Installment Plan (1936); trans. Ralph Manheim

Adam Stennett: Mouse on Book 1 (Death on the Installment Plan) (2005)

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2012: Journey

Sol Halabi - Viaje en Bote (2012)

Sol Halabi: Viaje en Bote (2012)

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2010: Runaway

Aubrey Longley-Cook - Runaway (2010)

Aubrey Longley-Cook: Runaway (2010); Longley-Cook’s blog is here.

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