A couple of years ago I was enthralled by the movie A Beautiful Mind, which explored schizophrenia through the medium of film in a way I'd never seen. I wondered why this particular movie was not used as an example of film presenting the unconscious in the book I'm reading, The Power of Movies.
When I reflected on A Beautiful Mind I felt as if I had lived a little piece of time in someone else's mind. I asked myself, how could a mind conjure up a whole universe of unreal people and believe wholly that it was simply part of reality? Then the answer came: I do it myself every night in dreams.
Last night, for instance, I dreamed I was visiting the Mobile library. I was in a place unfamiliar to me, a building with a lot of halls, not unlike the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, and was going through these halls introducing myself. I was treated very warmly, as if I were someone special, and I met a number of people I've never seen before. Two in particular were very vivid to me, and we seemed to be spending a lot of time getting acquainted. They were women; the head librarian and her assistant. They were extremely warm to me. I knew I was going to be working with them on some projects and we all liked each other immensely.
After some discussion with them I was taken to another room -- through the hall -- where I was introducing myself to some of the staff. They wanted to know all about me, and I related my life story as best I could, to good reviews. Then I suddenly said, "Oh, I did do something you'll be interested in -- I wrote a book that was published. It was about Fairhope!" They all looked at each other -- what could be said in a book about Fairhope? I said,"It's about how it used to be, memories from growing up there," and they nodded, sympathetic but clueless. Then I was taken back to the two head librarians, and I was thinking I would offer them some copies of my book that they could sell when they were doing fund-raising. I said, "I forgot to tell you that I wrote a book about Fairhope," and they looked crestfallen, "Oh, Fairhope, there's nothing in Fairhope." And I told them the title of my book and they were thrilled. They had both read it. "It's such a shame about Fairhope," they said, "There's absolutely nothing to do there." I grew defensive. "Nothing to do? Well, if you like to shop, there's all kinds of expensive little stores, and people who love to shop visit there all the time." They were totally puzzled, as if I were speaking a foreign tongue. I kept trying to explain to them that there are lots of people who just love to shop -- but I felt a secret pride that they didn't know what I was talking about. I loved those people.
It was hard for me to believe, as I woke up, that I had made those people up, and the building with the halls; and the attitude about Fairhope as well. Everybody thinks of Fairhope as a shopping mecca and a safe haven, and very few people have even heard of Meet Me at the Butterfly Tree. My waking mind could even identify the source of the dream -- a conversation at lunch with a newcomer to Fairhope whom I had met through this blog. He asked me if I felt that "Old Fairhope" was the same kind of town that Fairhope is today. My dream was at least in part an answer to that question.
The movie A Beautiful Mind peopled the character John Nash's conscious mind with his unconscious imaginings. I felt fortunate, and still do, that mine depart when I awaken, even though sometimes I can recall a certain dream vividly for years. It's my own little movie theater, this mind, in which I hold past dreams, memories, and what is called daydreams, sometimes known as plans for the future. Wherever this mind quality came from, I am very fortunate to have it.