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Thoughts on “The Sandman, Volume 6: Fables and Reflections” by Neil Gaiman

In his introduction to this volume, Gene Wolfe beautifully sums up why reading Gaiman is so important.

What is important and central is that, time after time, the stories themselves are true. I don’t mean simply that Neil Gaiman’s history is good history and that his myth is good myth – although they are. I mean that you will understand yourself and the world better for having read them, and that you will have been both ennobled and troubled by the experience; that this is not just art – all sorts of ugly and foolish things are art – but great art.

I completely agree. The stories and myths that Gaiman presents in this book convey truths that can only be expressed through symbols and metaphors. And because Gaiman is such a master of his craft, the stories come to life in a way that feels authentic and personal. While I probably connected with the tale of Haroun al Raschid the most, I also found his interpretations of the Orpheus myth and the Adam and Eve myth to be powerful and inspiring.

Not surprising, but the importance of dreams and the subconscious is a theme that runs through all the tales in this volume, so rather than look at the specific tales, I figured I would share some of the dream-related quotes that particularly stood out for me.

Value’s in what people think. Not in what’s real. Value’s in dreams, boy.

While this statement seems paradoxical, the more you think about it, the more truthful it appears. So often, people place value on tangible things and material possessions. But these things are ephemeral. Eventually, all our material stuff turns to dust, or we die and then our material things are useless to us. But our dreams are internal. They make up who we are on a spiritual level. This is what matters in the end, whether we lived our lives in accordance with our dreams. Additionally, it is from dreams that our creativity grows. Without dreams, there can be no imagination.

Ah. Many dreams come through the Gates of Ivory, Lycius, and they lie. A few dreams come through the Gates of Horn, and they speak to us truly.

Have you ever woken from a dream and had the feeling that some deep truth was conveyed to you through the dream? I have. Usually, I wake up and even if I have had a vivid dream, I know it is just my subconscious processing thoughts. But on those rare occasions, the dreams do seem to come through the “Gates of Horn.” It’s like, while in the dream state, your psyche connects with some divine intelligence. I cannot think of any other way to describe it.

Let’s go and find somewhere comfortable to wait until we wake. It’s so rare to realize that you’re dreaming when you are.

I’ve experienced this phenomenon, also, where I was dreaming and somehow knew I was dreaming. It is a very strange feeling. It is almost like the threshold between the dreaming state and the waking state dissolves, and you are essentially embodying both states of consciousness simultaneously. I recall feeling disoriented after waking from this type of dream.

Time at the edge of dreaming is softer than elsewhere, and here in the soft places it loops and whorls on itself. In the soft places where the border between dreams and reality is eroded, or has not yet formed… Time. It’s like throwing a stone into a pool. It casts ripples. Hoom. That’s where we are. Here. In the soft places, where the geographies of dream intrude upon the real.

I am fascinated by the space between the conscious and the subconscious, between ordinary and non-ordinary realities, the threshold between what we assume is real and what we assume is illusion. How can we really know what is real? Our reality is a construct. And time? I think somewhere, deep inside, we all feel that time is an illusion, that there is a deeper reality which exists beyond time and space. Sometimes I think that during states of deep meditation, during profound mystical experiences, or in this case, during certain dream states, we enter the “soft spaces” where the world we perceive dissolves and the ripples of hidden realities flutter across our consciousness.

I am only halfway through this series of books (there are 12 volumes of Sandman, not including the Overture, which I read in serialized form), and already I feel like my life has changed as a result of reading these works. There are some books that you cannot read without having them affect you on a deep level, and I think the Sandman series falls into this category. I highly recommend that you read these books, and be prepared to have your beliefs challenged.

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“The Sandman: Overture – 1” by Neil Gaiman

SandmanOverture_01

The other day I visited the local comic store and discovered the first three issues of Neil Gaiman’s latest Sandman series. I nearly swooned with excitement. I have to say that Gaiman is one of my favorite writers. I have loved everything that I have read by him. I immediately picked up the three issues and my friend at the checkout informed me that it is a short series with only three more issues due out. I plan on reading them all.

The writing and artwork in this first issue is other-worldly. It is like stepping into the surreal realm of dreams, where everything is alien and yet feels familiar, as if tapping into some primordial part of the psyche. As I read the pages and allowed the images to draw me in, I felt like I was slipping into a world of non-ordinary reality.

To briefly sum up the events that transpire, Dream is about to uncreate Corinthian, a bizarre being with sets of teeth instead of eyes who inhabits the subconscious but appears to have taken an interest in inflicting physical harm. I found the character to be very symbolic of using vision to consume images, ultimately digesting what we see around us and what we envision in our subconscious minds. But before Dream can uncreate Corinthian, he is summoned to another dimension at the far side of the universe, where he encounters a most unusual host. Corinthian, meanwhile, escapes with the intention of inflicting harm and then running from Dream to avoid his uncreation.

There is an amazing section where Destiny is depicted holding a large book that contains the secrets to all existence: past, present, and future. The text that accompanies the lush illustration is as evocative as the image itself.

Imagine a book.

Imagine a book that contains everything that is happening, everything that has happened, everything that will happen. There is nothing that exists that is not written in this book.

The book is heavy. It is bound in leather, made from the hide of a beast that has never existed.

The only eyes that read the book are blind. They see only darkness and the contents of the book.

The book is the universe, and only blind Destiny sees how the universe shapes itself into stories. Perhaps he is the only one who reads all the stories the universe forms.

I love the idea of stories shaping our reality. Stories connect us to the past, define our present, and allow us to glimpse our possible futures. The story is eternal and it is the foundation of our existence.

I am really, really excited about this series. As I said earlier, I already have issues 2 and 3, so you can expect my thoughts on those soon. Thanks for stopping by and allowing me to share my thoughts. Read on!!

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