“Synchronicity Can Happen at Any Time”

I’ve been rereading C. S. Lewis’ An Experiment in Criticism for the first time in at least ten years, and I have been struck (as I often am when reading Lewis) how insightful and how dim he can be. He’s always dividing the world up into Us and Them, and about Them (the people with whom he has no sympathy) he can be quite thickheaded. My favorite instance is when he contrasts readers of H. Rider Haggard with readers of John Buchan, the latter being obviously inferior for some reason.

But when he’s not UsAgainstThemming he can say things that are remarkably shrewd. In particular I was thinking of his chapter “On the Meaning of Fantasies,” which is mostly about daydreaming and its relationship to writing and reading. From this, and from something in Surprised by Joy, I gather that he was a little scared by his propensity to daydream, perhaps not realizing how universal it is. But he doesn’t let this prevent him from tracing fantasies in the psychological sense to fantasy in the literary sense and why it appeals to some and not others. (Those dread Others who bedevil his nonfiction. Still, he may have a point here.)

As TychĂȘ would have it, yesterday I saw this story about daydreaming at Scientific American’s website. Researchers have found that “a default network of regions in the brain’s cortex–a grouping known to be active when the mind is completely unoccupied–is firing away as a person is engaged in routine activities,” suggesting that this “default network” is the daydreaming mind, which becomes less active as a person’s activities become less routine.

I wondered (and still wonder) if the daydreaming mind can remain active while the more alert on-task mind is operating. It seems to me that sometimes when I’m telling a story (out loud in a lecture or while pounding out a piece of fiction) my thinking changes and becomes a trancelike state where I can both dream and act.

On the other hand, that may just be caffeine intoxication.

About JE

James Enge is the author of the World-Fantasy-Award-nominated novel Blood of Ambrose (Pyr, April 2009). His latest book is The Wide World's End. His short fiction has appeared in Swords and Dark Magic (Harper Collins, 2010), Black Gate, the Stabby-Award-winning anthology Blackguards and elsewhere.
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3 Responses to “Synchronicity Can Happen at Any Time”

  1. sartorias says:

    I do think one can dream and act, if I can judge human experience from my own; it takes a level of habitual movement that has become routine, if not comfortable. For example, I used to be able to slip into dream mode for times during the endless hours of waitressing, as long as no one broke the dream boundary. I will find myself slipping even while reading aloud to the kids from texts I have read for years–and I discover myself reading, even hear my voice for a heartbeat or two, infusing the words with expression, but practiced expression. I read once that some actors could dream away an entire performance…of course one wonders if one becomes boring, if others sense on some level that one is not quite all there.

    • JE says:

      Your comment reminds me of the old joke about the old prof who said, “The other night I dreamed I was lecturing to my students and when I woke up, by Gad sir, I was.” I’ve come close to that: thinking about what I’m going to say to my students and then realize with a start that I’m actually saying it. Someday this intermittently inactive speech-governor is going to get me in trouble…

      But I never reached the dream state while I was waiting on tables, for the week or so I did it. Of course, I was the worst waitron in the history of the world: forgetting orders, arguing with customers… Security guard was my ideal service-industry job, as I am insomniac, slightly paranoid and not easily bored.

      • sartorias says:

        I hated table-waiting with a passion, but in my day, that was pretty much it for young women. (I also bar-kept, which was even worse, until I got fired for refusing to sleep with the boss. It was that long ago.) I still have occasional anxiety/tension dreams of coming to the end of a shift in a glare-bright restaurant, just to be told by the owner that we have to stay on for the bar crowd, as they open another room and it fills with noisy, drunk customers…

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