The surrealism of life

  • Posted on February 15, 2015 at 11:03 am

It took an artist, André Breton, to invent surrealism: as a way of representing the unconscious in rational life. The unconscious can seem a rattle bag of impossibilities, misalignments, bizarre-made-ordinary, and vision. It can seem both confusing and enlightening at the same time. A common response to surrealist art is that of course, this is not how it really is, it is just a construct of fragmentary mental images and elements. We can be fascinated by our dreams and by surrealist art, but settle safely back into reality, perhaps with a little added inspiration.

Some things seem closer to realism, because the idea is familiar, and some very ordinary things can turn surreal when they slip sideways out of the normal view. A surrealist piece of art can be disturbing, even frightening, and real life can too … I have lost a sense of reality as I knew it. Where I am now feeds me with surrealist viewpoints all the time, and they challenge my ideas of reality that I used to hold close. If I constantly say to myself ‘Why not?’ in order to break out of my impossibilities, and to open up whole new ones, then I am challenging my reality constructs, the very ones that make the surreal surreal. We are limited only by our minds and what we fill them with. We can never know with these minds and brains how anything really is, unless reality is confined to human experience – and of course it is not.

No, I am not in la-la land, and in an hour I shall be in the supermarket with a list of earthy things. This week, time is on my mind again. Where is the reality of time? The supermarket list represents eating for a week or so. My lover is ten days from her return (hello! I hope you can read this before then!) from thousands of miles and five hours time-shift away, so communication is different and sporadic. Yesterday I had lunch with a friend who is waiting at the point I was a year ago, to progress to her gender surgery. Other friends I know have taken much longer, and the conversations on social media continue to reiterate every conversations I had over the past three years. I often drive past the hospital I was in, on the way to my lover’s flat, and always I think of the six people this week, every week, who have gone through the same surgery as I did. Some things change, many are repeated, some things seem never to change. The sunshine this morning is calling me to walk, the list is calling me to shop before crowds, the washing machine is telling me to wait and hang things up, and this blog is saying, stay, write …

My time is being called on from moment to moment; but it is only flow. It’s the way things are joined together, and they make sense by inviting constructs. It is reality only in terms of perception, and the moment I freeze these perceptions, I lose touch with reality. So where is surrealism? In my reality construct, or in my open subconscious? What does it mean to make sense of anything? Somewhere between the rational shopping I shall do and my response to the washing machine that has just stopped, there needs to be an ability to know the moment, not the experience or the expectation. Is this la-la land? Where, let’s face it, you can’t get on with the practicality of life by meditating about the moment all the time? Is this surreal, where nothing has the same meaning all the time and you can see the back of your head by looking in a mirror? Or is this a way of breaking out of our limitations, seeing possibilities in everything, and recreating our reality differently?

Why not create reality? Why does it have to be pre-fabricated? What will your and my thoughts about reality be when we face our certain moment of dying? A void? A disappointment? A finished achievement? A predicted outcome? A tragedy? Or a triumph of release into a whole new reality to which we belong already, and just need that deconstruction of knowing? So why wait? Maybe our current construct is as surreal as anything is, and maybe taking this day, this moment, and making it, is the richest thing we can do.

Last week I wrote about the reality of life plans, and the ‘normal’ path so many of us expect to fulfil. I wrote how reality doesn’t match the expectation for most people, and yet we hang onto it. When I was fairly newly married, a friend from university, in his 20s, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour. Trained as a medical doctor, he married and within two years he was dead. He was one of the cheeriest and most positive people I knew. Not many years later, a colleague of my wife, a couple who had become friends, had a very rare cancer in her 30s, and despite aggressive treatment, also died. Today another (retired) friend is facing post-surgical treatment for a brain tumour and has been given 12 years; not bad, as things go, at all. The recent film ‘The Theory of Everything’ told the life of Stephen Hawking, his diagnosis with motor neurone disease, given two years to live as a student, and still challenging our physics of reality and everything with humour in his 70s. Grief is a recognition that despite the fact we all die, that relationships end, that life changes our circumstances, we are loved. Grief is unavoidable wherever there is love. Grief is there in the surreality of life when the construct is broken, just as love creates surreality by opening up unforeseen possibilities. If we love, we shall, for certain grieve, and none of us knows why, for whom or when. The important thing in creating our reality here and now, moment by moment, is to love. Is anything as mysterious and surreal as love?

When I say I am aware of surreality in my life, it is a way of recognising that my constructs were challenged in many ways by being born transsexual. Had being trans been part of social reality when I was born, everything would have been different, but it wasn’t. I have enormous gratitude that despite this, my subconscious was able finally to break free of the constructs, and that as a result I have changed my perceptions of life altogether. My ideas of security, of love and of grief have been turned over, and are still turning. I haven’t replaced one hard construct with another, and I hope I won’t be tempted to. I am still inspired by possibilities, and amazed by the gifts of life. As every one of us, my body shall eventually grow old, but I have no intention of ever becoming old. I want the break-out to continue, I want discovery, and to recognise that I am only limited by my mind, and by the constructs I choose to keep.

I have previous blogs that marked Valentine’s day, with grief and loss, exclusion and sadness. This year I have been overwhelmed by not just having someone to love, but in being so loved. We are apart, but we left gifts and cards, and above all, we have the knowing of the togetherness we shall return to. It is a very present love, and so unexpected. What can be more surreal, and more real, that this?


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