Consciousness is the lens through which we interpret reality. But are we searching subconsciously for a reality that matches our dreams?
“Don’t open that door,” she said. “The hallway is full of difficult dreams.” And I asked her: “How do you know?” And she told me: “Because I was there a moment ago and I had to come back when I discovered I was sleeping on my heart.”
Gabriel García Márquez’s Eyes of a Blue Dog is a short story about a man and a woman who only meet in their dreams. If you aren’t familiar with it, or if you would like to read it again, please do so here.
García Márquez is a giant in the world of literature, famous for his novels One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera. The short story format is an ideal vehicle for his ambiguous, surrealist images which exemplify the genre of magic realism. Professor Matthew Strecher defined that genre as “what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe.”
This pearl of a story, which conveys an intense familiarity and perceptiveness with the world of dreams, seems to be hinting at some universal and profound truth about human consciousness. The most haunting quality of the piece is that the reader, like the dreamer, can’t completely grasp what that truth is.
On the surface the story is beguiling enough: a dreamer encounters the woman of his dreams in his dreams, but is unable to recognize her in the waking world, despite their efforts to find each other. If she is real and is dreaming at the same time that he is, that is a touchingly romantic tale, both delightful and tragic. But it isn’t the only possibility here. Not by a long shot. Whether real or not, does this woman symbolize something else? Or does he?
Their relationship is shaped by the confines and furniture of the dream room and subject to the things that manifest themselves there. Our protagonists spend time looking at each other in a mirror, which may suggest that they are elements of one another. This is foggy. If they are the same self, then why do they not appear face to face in the mirror? He looks away from the mirror to the blank wall and yet he can still see her as if the wall and the mirror were the same. It’s a dream; the rules of logic don’t apply here. But there may yet be some meaning behind it.
Carl Jung spoke of a female identity that was part of the male psyche, called the anima, and a male identity that was part of the female psyche, called the animus. Anima and animus serve as counterweights against our masculine and feminine natures and keep us balanced between a nurturing nature and an aggressive one. Can it be that these characters are related in that fashion?
Note that the most present furnishing in the room is not the mirror, but the lamp. The lamp illuminates and heats the room, and it appears here to be an open flame, conjuring up images of Psyche in the forbidden act of looking upon the face of Cupid. This dream is an act of revelation. Neither of these characters seems to be able to cross by the lamp to get to the side where the other waits. Our dreamer wants to; he desires to touch her. She seems convinced that this will ruin everything and break the spell that keeps them connected.
There is also the matter of temperature; she clearly feels the cold and attempts to warm herself. He forgets that he is cold, just as he forgets that he is smoking. This is his dream world and nothing here is permanent for him. For her, this world seems more concrete. In fact, her stories of her own reality, her waking world, sound implausible and dream like. Is she a graffiti artist, writing “Eyes of a blue dog” everywhere she passes?
In several instances, the man sees his lady as a construction made of copper. At times she almost seems to glow with light and is still not completely warmed or illuminated. Is it possible that she is the lamp of his soul, his anima, sent to spur him to find a better, more balanced self? Perhaps she symbolizes his dream reality, which he cannot realize when he is awake. She may be a nicknack, a precious museum piece, or some sort of clock ticking away the seconds of his life. These indistinct, half-realized images are all metaphors that might describe our attitudes toward our own dreams and aspirations. The visions we see in our minds are unattainable. This romantic dream has become difficult even as it is strangely comforting.
Is it worth hanging on to our dreams when we know we can never realize them as they are in our head? Is it worth trying to realize them at all? The precious relationship between these two characters or identities seems to urge us to keep trying to find balance between our ideal reality and the one we perceive around us. The failure of memory, logic, and reality to fulfill our deepest longings and dreams is both wonderful and terrible at the same moment. It is disappointment that drives us toward our best self.
Do you see something different, or something more? Please lend your eyes and thoughts.