Dear Karl Jung,
Each week in ‘What am I meant to do with my time?‘, Christopher Hocking turns to an intellectual figure from the past to see if it can tell him how to live a digitally native life in 2013. Today, it’s the psychotherapist and analytical psychologist Karl Jung.
Ahhh, the grant! It is the dream of artists and film makers. You can travel the world on the back of a grant. You could take all your old friends out for breakfast on a grant and apologise to them individually for the ways in which you’ve neglected them. You can crawl inside a grant and finally get some sleep. You can trade a grant in for a beautiful pawn shop guitar, with change leftover for a haircut. You can open up a tab at the bar on a grant. “I’ll take my old-fashioned on the house – I have the grant money to pay for it, but I’d prefer not to.”
When I was living in Brisbane and studying film, I heard tales of Adelaide; that it was an artist’s paradise – that the streets were paved with grants, littered even. So I moved to Adelaide and now I half-heartedly pursue the grants, between pursuing casual hospitality jobs on Gumtree. Everyone knows that the only way to make it into the film industry is to get a grant and the only way to get a grant is to either make a great pitch of yourself or to have a great script.
“Ah, yes, Christopher Hocking – he has no idea how to network or make anything but a dumb spectacle of himself, but boy can he write a screenplay.”
This is what I imagine them saying. But boy, can he write a screenplay?
I start working on a film about dreams – a new kind of therapy where the patient and the doctor go into the dream landscape together (I haven’t seen Inception or The Matrix so please don’t tell me the ending.) It seemed obvious that to write about dreams I would have to start dreaming myself. In a moment of serendipity, a friend gives a copy of Karl Jung’s The Red Book to me. Everything must converge. This grant is mine.
I do some research by Googling “remembering dreams” and clicking on the first result. Research is easy when you’re an artist. Apparently, the easiest way to recall dreams in the morning is to go to sleep telling yourself you’ll remember them.
DREAM: I’m in a desert. Someone whispers to me that the bones of the ancients/elders rise to the surface here, to communicate their sadness to the living. Two children crouch on the edge of the plane, watching stone tablets jut out of the shifting sands.
So as it turns out you really can just tell yourself you’ll remember your dreams and you will plus they’ll be dark as hell and involve ancient wisdom? The dream seems sort of self-fulfilling – a message that, yes, there is knowledge buried deeper here. Stone tablets made of the bones of my former lives, inscribed with wisdom or ideas that I ignore in day to day life.
The next night, though, I wake at the end of a dream and but decide it is too uninteresting to write down straight away. Later, I can’t remember at all what it was. Idiot. Nights pass and I keep toppling into sleep, forgetting to take on board the lessons learnt. As punishment, the next time I do remember a dream it is dumb as the dickens.
DREAM: I’m looking at photos on an internet forum of a group of metal-heads sitting around on the floor eating pizza. “Black pizza party,” I hear. A blood-red pentagram, candles. Someone says something about a “black sacrifice”. Ugh.
I’m hitting all kinds of road blocks on the way to writing this screenplay. It hangs over me, a grey monolithic thing. I realise how undisciplined I have become at writing, how I’m swimming to find even the most basic phrases and words (see: Dear William S. Burroughs,) The deadline for the application is looming and I am consumed more and more by sleep, less and less by wild productivity.
The grant has taken on grand dimensions – my last chance to ever enter the industry, to live up to my arts degree (Bachler of Film & Screen Media GPA 5.72 thank you)(why not hire me for your next movie?) to make my parents so proud of me and to save my brother from flushing with shame (probably) when people ask him what his brother does for a living.
Because, god, to have an arts degree IS absolutely an embarrassment if you’re not putting it to use – if you’re not at least using it to shovel coal or something. The ultimate shame is opening that cupboard, blowing the dust off the framed certificate, blowing the dust off the website for the production company that never got started outside of the first year of graduation (check us out at http://www.sharkdrivefilms.com). You watch the Facebook feed of university alumni and see some talking about new projects, attachments to productions – some talking about working at sunglass stores, about failing job applications at Apple stores, about inheriting their dad’s paving businesses.
DREAM: Journeying into a field looking for an ancient creator (“The Creator”) A wizened mother god living on a rolling green.
She said when she’d created the earth, she’d been thinking a lot about triangles and we’d note that the world was actually a great pyramid. Waves of shadow begin to wash over the grass. We had to pay $3.50 for the experience, knowing that it was the fee for living.
DREAM: I am overweight. Not immensely, just a kind of middle-aged paunch. I think of Ask The Dust – too many oranges.
REAL LIFE: I’m in a second hand store with my girlfriend. I’m looking disinterestedly at the clothes. A man stands close behind me, so I walk into the next room. She’s in there looking at books and I start looking, too. She hands me two Agatha Christie novels and I stare at them, thinking how I still have a book of hers at home that I haven’t read. I walk with them to another part of the room and find a book by Paul Auster called The Red Book. It seems significant, so I put the Christie novels away and buy The Red Book and On The Beach.
I read Auster’s The Red Book on a park bench near my house. A woman with a mohawk walks around me nearby, smoking a cigarette and talking on the phone. The book doesn’t turn out to be as significant to my life or my writing as I’d hoped – a collection of short non-fiction stories about coincidences/fate/mysteries. I still feel strangled up with my own confusion.
DREAM: I’m Paul Auster. I’m getting up early to begin some work, launching out of bed enthusiastically and beginning writing straight away. At the same time, I know that I’m not Auster, but that I’m myself.
This is a great idea for a story, I thought. Classic Paul Auster.
REAL LIFE: I get up and make some coffee, then go back to bed. I do no work.
DREAM: A bus with a port in the side funneling out into the night air for weekend partiers to vomit into.
REAL LIFE: Somehow the application comes together and is handed to a woman on the other side of a counter.
We don’t win the grant. I stop recording my dreams.
What does it all come to? What has all this pacing and driving and swearing at other drivers and listening to Suicide meant? What is the weight of my dreams, when all the mysterious sands are blown away? Are the tablets just written with my own epitaph – “Christopher Hocking; Reasonable Man, Failed Filmmaker”?
A final dream from long ago that I feel is important now. I’m in an office – my office. I’m interviewing an actor who is interested in starring in a film I’m directing. A section of the room is missing; a hollow space looking out over endless ocean. Salt water comes pouring in, sweeping away all the papers and junk from my desk.
When I’m cast adrift in that dream ocean, will my arts degree serve as a life raft?
Christopher Hocking, Magill, ADL.
You silly man. I can’t even begin to think for this. Frankly? Not interested.
Here, I know a fairly good man who may help you.
Send him an PM and go to bed. Sleep can be full of mysterious but lots of fun. I think you’ll like it.
ps. films about dreams – dreams about films. Google search: “trite”
Christopher Hocking is an Adelaide writer who has been published on Scum Mag and rejected by McSweeneys, Voiceworks, Stilts, Bumf and more. He is not good at marketing himself and sometimes wonders if he should have been a boiler maker.
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(Top photo by Prairie Kitten)