I am a private citizen, which has always meant that my dreams depict me as a merchant in a vast marketplace, where I am known for my good humor, my trustworthiness, and my authoritative knowledge of rare dyes. On waking, though, I am once again by myself, alone, which in a certain way is an entirely social gesture, because mine is a political and therefore social way of being, especially when alone.

I was to go to MoMA where I would slip past the guards and deface the world’s most valuable—and therefore most famous—work of art, Edvard Munch’s The Scream. I knew that going through with this action would mean a lengthy stay in prison, perhaps for the rest of my life (a fair tradeoff, I felt, for carrying out one of history’s greatest culture atrocities). Then a friend of mine brought to my attention that prison is not where I would be sent—no; I would be sent to Art Prison, a place far worse than generic prison. And, I’m ashamed to admit, after considering the implications of this, I lost morale. 

At the MetroCard machine I was given the choice of adding VALUE or adding TIME to my MetroCard. I paused, which angered the people behind me who were anxiously waiting for me to finish the transaction; but it struck me: there was no difference whatsoever between TIME and VALUE, so I could not understand why the option had been given.

There are vague accounts of a book recorded along the walls of an Assyrian temple built in the shape of a cone. To read it, the worshiper had to enter at the base of the temple and, facing the single, continuous wall, moved along its perimeter, ascending imperceptibly. Thousands of worshipers entered each year, on the High Holy days. Together they chanted—each from a different place in the text—taking over that of the worshiper who went before him as he spiraled upwards, infinitely… or so it seemed. Over time, each grew smaller until he was swallowed by the inevitable nothingness at the apex of the cone.

They decided to torture me. I was not in very good condition, so I did not protest, lacking the strength or the will to do so. When they were done torturing me, I took a nap and dreamed beautiful dreams for the first time in thirty-two years.

When we were at last reunited, after all those years, we saw in each other’s faces—which were like the faces of kin—flickers of a past, whose reality would begin to reconstruct itself little by little. Yet we were too squeamish to ask each other what we had been working on, thinking, over the course of our estrangement; for that information felt, weirdly, too private. And so, very gradually, our curiosity would evolve into suspicion and from suspicion into a ferocious jealousy; and, in a matter of years, we were once again estranged. 

Reflecting on a recurring dream in which a voice had exhorted him to make music, Socrates would decide that music, like philosophical systems, was a means of controlling people. “Philosophy,” said Socrates, “is the highest and noblest form of music.” But Nietzsche, who loved music above all else, would only permit himself to despise Socrates—and with a particular venom.

Throughout Nietzsche’s life he adored mountains, in the very way he adored music. This prejudice was only matched by his fear of the earth, into which he had been, his entire life, afraid of being dragged, in the manner that his father had been. “Philosophers are fond of mountains,” said the sage, “which they have always equated with wisdom.

“Tomorrow’s philosophers will be like moles,” said the sage; “by altering the soil, they shall move mountains. It was Nietzsche’s pathological fear of the ground which would prompt him to take refuge there, high above it.” Thereupon we, the sage and I, began our descent; for the summit’s air had begun to make us feel lightheaded.

Once in a dream I was compelled to end my life. The means by which I was to do this, were imposed on me by a will that was neither mine nor otherwise. I was to end my life by detonating a nuclear bomb—privately, somewhere others could not be harmed by my affairs. I found it curious, both during and after the dream, that the most efficient means of mass destruction known to humankind, should be used for an altogether private affair. But it was my reflection upon the dream itself which marked the boundary between my dream and coming to. And as a bather who realizes she is being spied upon, my dream behaved as though embarrassed of my knowledge of its body, and quickly swam away. Or better, it suffocated as a fish drowning in our air.

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MICHAEL G. DONKIN is a doctoral candidate at the University of Oregon. You can read more of his published work on his website:


MICHAEL G. DONKIN is a doctoral candidate at the University of Oregon. You can read more of his published work on his website:

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