Burying the hatchet, 2002, www.carolineallen.com
After writing the blog “It’s not laziness“, I was hit on all sides by emails and personal epiphanies and I knew I’d struck a universal chord.
Afterwards, I felt a heaviness in my body, a familiar black rock of apathy that I hadn’t felt in at least the past year. I thought it had cleared out after I finished my novel and became increasingly active in the visual arts. But there it was again. My walk was heavier. The weight bowed my head down. What was it?
That night, feeling heavy, so heavy, I went to sleep. I had this dream.
I was skydiving over farmland, my useless feet coming closer and closer to a waving sea of lime-lit blades of grass. From above, I saw the top of the farm house, the barn, the low-riding chicken coop. (In my novel Earth, the protagonist Pearl grew up on a farm and goes skydiving. She almost dies in the attempt, and thinks as she’s doing so about the “weight of her indifference to life”. So I knew the dream had something to do with the novel, had something to do with this black heaviness, had something to do with the earlier blog.)
I walked across this wild, shin-high grass, toward the barn. It was an old barn, gorgeous in its decay. I climbed a ladder to the hay loft. A man out of his mind with rage met me. He flung his arms, swung his head, threw spit across the room. I knew to avoid him. There was no talking to him. He was so out of his mind. To the side stood a doctor. He took me to a table. I got up on it, and he operated on me. Inside me, he found three of my siblings. He took them out one by one and stood them in a corner.
It’s OK to let go, he said. Let them go.
I understood what he meant: We all had our darknesses, not just these siblings but me. I had to let go of theirs and just focus on mine. (In Earth, Pearl must let go of the plane’s strut to skydive. She clings to it, riding the plane around and around, while everyone waits with bated breath to see what she will do. We all cling to the familiar when we know we must move on.)
He said: Your darkness is all you need to worry about. Don’t take on other people’s.
I asked who the crazy man was who still paced the hay loft.
That’s universal rage, he said. Rage against the machine, I think you like to call it.
The theme of Earth, my novel, is about how society slams down our unique nature. In Earth, no one will let Pearl be Pearl. They want her to fit in. Be nice. They do not want her to be her quirky, intense, unique, eccentric self.
The doctor said: Everyone all over the world feels a universal rage against this injustice. They are simply not allowed to be themselves and they are FURIOUS.
We decided to put Universal Rage to work guarding me. I didn’t know how this worked, but the doctor asked this tall mad-man to guard the door against society’s rage, so that I continue “being me”, and putting it out there; so that I don’t evoke so much rage from people who have succumbed to the “hide yourself” monster.
As the dream ended, I was leaving the barn, and my body became a fablous cacophony of crimson, aqua and lemon, of line, shape and form, so explosively colorful. I felt such a deep universal relief. (Although, still this morning, the heaviness.)