3. Rain and an early inkling

It’s interesting to consider that a person’s awareness can be influenced in such a way, to carry the perception of observing a dream with you past the front door and out into the world — along the street, on to the bus, in and then out of a shop… But it is also interesting, and vital, to wonder if all perceptions are equally beholden to circumstances.

Just when the idea of a shiftiness to outer solidity establishes a foothold (and the idea takes hold perhaps because of that shiftiness), there can creep over the breathing participant some sort of doubt, as it were, about the validity of it all anyway. Benny considered the perceiver — or at least he thought he considered; it was me at the wheel, remember — and came to a vague sense of recognition. Like he’d remembered finding himself in this sort of position before.

In the time when Benny was a kid, maybe 8 or 10, out the back there used to be an empty scrubby block of land, a big space that was available when he was on his own, which was most of the time, for playing or hanging out in. It was a place for finding stuff, because people were always leaving their rubbish around, or hiding things too. And a great spot for forts and foxholes, tree houses and defensive constructions. A good space to be unaccountable for a time, or to kick around with just himself on his own harebrained capers or with his dog Milo.

One cloudy after-school project of his put to use the tried-and-true method of branches and sticks leaning together teepee style, sort of, but this one time Benny refined the outcome by hanging green branches torn from a nearby pine tree upside down from the top and all around the sides. Well, most of the sides… there was also some small pieces of plastic sheet he found. It was a small construction, but big enough for little him, but it was ‘an ace hut and you can probably sleep in here’, he thought, and the pine branches made it private and will ‘probably even keep out the rain too’.

Seemingly almost to prove his idea, it slowly started to drizzle, in a very light way, and Benny sat under the thickest part of his shelter’s roof, happy and smug that he’d made it all himself. Of course it didn’t take long for small rain drops to gather and make their way through the layer of pine-needled branches — small and occasional droplets at first, and they gradually increased. But Benny sat there, convinced that he was staying dry, and feeling really very proud of himself for it, even though evidence to the contrary was building and starting to drip on his head. Self- complacent, he stuck it out until called in from the house (the drizzle was starting to turn into rain). Although more than just a little dank on his shoulders and back, Benny would go over his adventure in his own mind in such a positive light that his hut became the ultimate survival shelter.

So the feeling was recognisable — that what he rediscovered, or at least vaguely remembered, was the feeling of going along with a willingness to be convinced. In these grown-up times, he knew he had constructed the dreamlike perception that imbued the working world with a provisional solidity, but he knew as well that staying safe behind these eyes also depended on being able to maintain such a view. And the world just didn’t always let this happen.

An inner conviction had been useful — it always was — in order to lend effectiveness to the tool of distanced witnessing. I knew that Benny found being in that observer mind an antidote, a sort-of refuge. And there was an investment of energy and mind in this pursuit that he would be reluctant to relinquish. But an inkling that cracks could appear in that antidotal attitude was a vexing development.

The refuge of viewing all that happened around him like it was occurring as part of a dream started the process of his wondering, behind the scenes, if the person witnessing these phenomena similarly had any independent solidity. He was looking at the looker — and I felt slightly exposed. It was okay when Benny viewed all the rest as being ‘out there’ and fluid, while maintaining the safe place in here from which the viewing took place. But this was unsettling; this was letting the rain in, sort of on purpose.

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