On the Opacity of Compulsions

(HARUKI Murakami) 1Q84. (Image sourced from Google.)

(HARUKI Murakami) 1Q84. (Image sourced from Google.)

I woke up this morning from the tenuous grip of a mild nightmare.

In the dream, I was teaching a yoga class in a brightly-lit conference room. The chairs had all been shunted off to the edges of the room and the students were seated on their mats, staring at me with the bright, expectant looks of the uninitiated. The class started off well enough: I was sure of myself, sure of my cues, confident of my music. After a few minutes though, I found that I had to stop every so often, the train of instructions issuing from my mouth halting at unintended stations, because new students kept entering the room and I had to find space for them, rearrange existing mats, repeat my cues, and apologize to the students who had arrived on time. After a while, I stopped the class entirely and told the students (who by now had filled the entire room): We’ll have to start again from the very beginning.

It was at that point that I woke up. What had constituted the nightmarish quality of the dream? The simple fact that throughout the episode I felt as if, somehow, everything was my fault.

I wonder how much of our lives pass under this vague sense of inexplicable guilt.


I very rarely remember my dreams. The curtains separating my conscious and subconscious worlds have been thick and opaque for as long as I can remember. I have friends though for whom the barriers between the conscious and subconscious are semi-permeable membranes: reality bleeds from one dimension to another through sheer osmosis. I can only live in one reality at a time, however, a victim of some kind of cognitive myopia. This, perhaps, is another reason I write: to gain the perspective necessary to behold that I do, in fact, live in several dimensions all at the same time.


I’m nearly done with a Haruki Murakami book that a client from the studio had inadvertently lent me. The book is, in all likelihood, responsible for my present state of mind. (Of all the dimensions I live in, the fictive is where I feel most at home. I carry the atmosphere of the books I read like the air stored in the tanks of deep sea divers. I may be in the “real” world, but its oxygen is not what sustains my lungs.) This is my first Haruki Murakami (an earlier brush with an anthology of short stories that I merely skimmed through doesn’t count) and my first experience of being kidnapped by a book: of being held against my will. I don’t exactly like this book; I don’t particularly enjoy reading it; I doubt I would recommend it to others. But I’m gripped by it (as if by a mild nightmare) and whether I like it or not, it’s the air I breathe these days.

I wonder how much of our lives are spent under the gravitational pull of these inexplicable compulsions.


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