The Grapevine Art Salon
In this room of our virtual inn, look for intimations of parallel worlds and experiences in journeying among them.
Dreaming and Dreamtime
Most people who remember their dreams are aware of shifting in the night to another place that seems to exist simultaneously with waking reality. There is, in some cultures, a collective vision of a parallel world. Here is a description of one:
Traditional Aboriginal life only makes sense in the context of the time when the Ancestors first arose out of the original mud or sea or sky and brought the first sunrise with them. In English it is articulated as the Dreaming or Dreamtime –a dream in the sense that it is not set in the past, but in a kind of parallel present universe, rather like the one we operate in while we are asleep. In Aboriginal lore, the Dreaming is the reason for everything that has ever existed and ever will exist. And its stories are often told in layers, depending on how ready, or authorized, the listener is to understand them. It is said that your personal Dreaming depends on where your mother was when she first felt you in the womb. The Ancestors who live in that place have given you anima–they have animated you–and when you grow up their stories and songs will be in your trust, and you in theirs.
Victoria Finlay, Color (2004), 35-6.
When we read fiction that truly engages us, we enter a world that also has, for the time we are in it, a simultaneity, and where we apprehend eternal moments captured first by the writer and now by the reader.
The O’Brian Novels
Patrick O’Brian’s series of twenty novels (or one novel of some 6,600 pages) about British sea captain Jack Aubrey and Irish/Catalan ship’s surgeon Stephen Maturin during the Napoleonic era is a fully rendered parallel world. Synchronously, the inn in London where Stephen Maturin keeps a place to live when he is not at sea and where he often meets his friends to dine, converse, and exchange intelligence information, is called The Grapes. To entertain those who have already read the books and to entice new readers, The Grapevine will offer a series of glimpses into that world.
Here is our first peek.
Jack and Stephen have just met and weathered a comical set-to at a concert. Jack reveals that he needs a surgeon. Stephen admits that he needs a position, his last patient having departed this life without paying him. He continues, “...the war has cut me off from my little patrimony in Spain; and when I told you, some time ago, that I had not eaten so well for a great while, I did not speak figuratively.”
Jack responds, “I am heartily sorry for your embarrassment, Doctor ..., and I am almost ashamed to profit by it. But my Sophie must have a medical man – apart from anything else, you have no notion of what a hypochondriac your seaman is: they love to be physicked, and a ship’s company without someone to look after them ... is not a happy ship’s company – and then again it is the direct answer to your immediate difficulties.”
The two men continue settling “trifles.” Finally, Jack offers the piece de resistance:
“And I am sure you will like it [life at sea], for it is amazingly philosophical.”
“Certainly,” said Stephen. “For a philosopher, a student of human nature, what could be better? The subjects of his inquiry shut up together, unable to escape his gaze . . . a ship must be a most instructive theatre for an inquiring mind.”
“Prodigiously instructive, I do assure you, Doctor,” said Jack.
Patrick O’Brian, Master and Commander (1970)
Copyright ©2004 Barbara Knott · All Rights Reserved
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