Those whom heaven helps we call the sons of heaven. They do not learn this by learning. They do not work it by working. They do not reason it by using reason. To let understanding stop at what cannot be understood is a high attainment. Those who cannot do it will be destroyed on the lathe of heaven.
George Orr left work at 3:30 and walked to the subway station; he had no car. By saving, he might have afforded a VW Steamer and the mileage tax on it, but what for? Downtown was closed to automobiles, and he lived downtown. He had learned to drive, back in the eighties, but had never owned a car. He rode the Vancouver subway back into Portland. The trains were already jam-packed; he stood out of reach of strap or stanchion, supported solely by the equalizing pressure of bodies on all sides, occasionally lifted right off his feet and floating as the force of crowding (c) exceeded the force of gravity ( g). A man next to him holding a newspaper had never been able to lower his arms, but stood with his face muffled in the sports section. The headline, “BIG A-l STRIKE NEAR AFGHAN BORDER,” and the subhead, “Threat of Afghan Intervention,” stared Orr eye to I for six stops. The newspaper-holder fought his way off and was replaced by a couple of tomatoes on a green plastic plate, beneath which was an old lady in a green plastic coat, who stood on Orr’s left foot for three more stops.
He struggled off at the East Broadway stop, and shoved along for four blocks through the ever-thickening off-work crowd to Willamette East Tower, a great, showy, shoddy shaft of concrete and glass competing with vegetable obstinacy for light and air with the jungle of similar buildings all around it. Very little light and air got down to street level; what there was was warm and full of fine rain. Rain was an old Portland tradition, but the warmth—70° F. on the second of March—was modern, a result of air pollution. Urban and industrial effluvia had not been controlled soon enough to reverse the cumulative trends already at work in the mid-Twentieth Century; it would take several centuries for the CO2 to clear out of the air, if it ever did. New York was going to be one of the larger casualties of the Greenhouse Effect, as the polar ice kept melting and the sea kept rising; indeed all Boswash was imperiled. There were some compensations. San Francisco Bay was already on the rise, and would end up covering all the hundreds of square miles of landfill and garbage dumped into it since 1848. As for Portland, with eighty miles and the Coast Range between it and the sea, it was not threatened by rising water: only by falling water.
It had always rained in western Oregon, but now it rained ceaselessly, steadily, tepidly. It was like living in a downpour of warm soup, forever.
The New Cities—Umatilla, John Day, French Glen— were east of the Cascades, in what had been desert thirty years before. It was fiercely hot there still in summer, but it rained only 45 inches a year, compared with Portland’s 114 inches. Intensive farming was possible: the desert blossomed. French Glen now had a population of 7 million. Portland, with only 3 million and no growth potential, had been left far behind in the March of Progress. That was nothing new for Portland. And what difference did it make? Undernourishment, overcrowding, and pervading foulness of the environment were the norm. There was more scurvy, typhus, and hepatitis in the Old Cities, more gang violence, crime, and murder in the New Cities. The rats ran one and the Mafia ran the other. George Orr stayed in Portland because he had always lived there and because he had no reason to believe that life anywhere else would be better, or different.
Miss Crouch, smiling uninterestedly, showed him right in. Orr had thought that psychiatrists’ offices, like rabbit holes, always had a front and a back door. This one didn’t, but he doubled that patients were likely to run into one another coming and going, here. Up at the Medical School they had said that Dr. Haber had only a small psychiatric practice, being essentially a research man. That had given him the notion of someone successful and exclusive, and the doctor’s jovial, masterful manner had confirmed it. But today, less nervous, he saw more. The office didn’t have the platinum-and-leather assurance of financial success, nor the rag-and-bottle assurance of scientific disinterest. The chairs and couch were vinyl, the desk was metal plasticoated with a wood finish. Nothing whatever was genuine. Dr. Haber, white-toothed, bay-maned, huge, boomed out, “Good afternoon!”
That geniality was not faked, but it was exaggerated. There was a warmth to the man, an outgoingness, which was real; but it had got plasticoated with professional mannerisms, distorted by the doctor’s unspontaneous use of himself. Orr felt in him a wish to be liked and a desire to be helpful; the doctor was not, he thought, really sure that anyone else existed, and wanted to prove they did by helping them. He boomed “Good afternoon!” so loud because he was never sure he would get an answer. Orr wanted to say something friendly, but nothing personal seemed suitable; he said, “It looks as if Afghanistan might get into the war.”
“Mhm, that’s been in the cards since last August.” He should have known that the doctor would be better informed on world affairs than himself; he was generally semi-informed and three weeks out of date. “I don’t think that’ll shake the Allies,” Haber went on, “unless it pulls Pakistan in on the Iranian side. Then India may have to send in more than token support to the Isragypts.” That was teleglot for the New Arab Republic/Israel alliance. “I think Gupta’s speech in Delhi shows that he’s preparing for that eventuality.”
“It keeps spreading,” Orr said, feeling inadequate and despondent. “The war, I mean.”
“Does it worry you?”
“Doesn’t it worry you?”
“Irrelevant,” said the doctor, smiling his broad, hairy, bear’s smile, like a big bear-god; but he was still wary, since yesterday.
“Yes, it worries me.” But Haber had not earned that answer; the questioner cannot withdraw himself from the question, assuming objectivity—as if the answers were an object. Orr did not speak these thoughts, however; he was in a doctor’s hands, and surely the doctor knew what he was doing.
Orr had a tendency to assume that people knew what they were doing, perhaps because he generally assumed that he did not.
“Sleep well?” Haber inquired, sitting down under the left rear hoof of Tammany Hall.
“How do you feel about another go in the Palace of Dreams?” He was watching keenly.
“Sure, that’s what I’m here for, I guess.”
He saw Haber rise and come around the desk, he saw the large hand come out toward his neck, and then nothing happened.
“. . . George...”
His name. Who called? No voice he know. Dry land, dry air, the crash of a strange voice in his ear. Daylight, and no direction. No way back. He woke.
The half-familiar room; the half-familiar, big man, in his voluminous russet gernreich, with his red-brown beard, and white smile, and opaque dark eyes. “It looked like a short dream but a lively one, on the EEG,” said the deep voice. “Let’s have it. Sooner the recall, the completer it is.”
Orr sat up, feeling rather dizzy. He was on the couch, how had he got there? “Let’s see. It wasn’t much. The horse again. Did you tell me to dream of the horse again, when I was hypnotized?”
Haber shook his head, meaning neither yes nor no, and listened.
“Well, this was a stable. This room. Straw and a manger and a pitchfork in the corner, and so on. The horse was in it. He...”
Haber’s expectant silence permitted no evasion.
“He did this tremendous pile of shit. Brown, steaming. Horseshit. It looked kind of like Mount Hood, with that little hump on the north side and everything. It was all over the rug, and sort of encroaching on me, so I said, ‘It’s only the picture of the mountain.’ Then I guess I started to wake up.”
Orr raised his face, looking past Dr. Haber at the mural behind him, the wall-sized photograph of Mount Hood.
It was a serene picture in rather muted, arty tones: the sky gray, the mountain a soft brown or reddish-brown, with speckles of white near the summit, and the foreground all dusky, formless treetops.
The doctor was not looking at the mural. He was watching Orr with those keen, opaque eyes. He laughed when Orr was done, not long or loudly, but perhaps a little excitedly.
“We’re getting somewhere, George!”
Orr felt rumpled and foolish, sitting on the couch still giddy from sleep, having lain asleep there, probably with his mouth open and snoring, helpless, while Haber watched the secret jigs and prancings of his brain, and told him what to dream. He felt exposed, used. And to what end?
Evidently the doctor had no memory at all of the horse-mural, nor of the conversation they had had concerning it; he was altogether in this new present, and all his memories led to it. So he could not do any good at all. But be was striding up and down the office now, talking even louder than usual. “Well! (a) you can and do dream to order, you follow the hypnosuggestions; (b) you respond splendidly to the Augmentor. Therefore we can work together, fast and efficiently, without narcosis. I’d rather work without drugs. What the brain does by itself is infinitely more fascinating and complex than any response it can make to chemical stimulation; that’s why I developed the Augmentor, to provide the brain a means of self -stimulation. The creative and therapeutic resources of the brain—whether waking or sleeping or dreaming—are practically infinite. If we can just find the keys to all the locks. The power of dreaming alone is quite undreamt of!” He laughed his big laugh, he had made that little joke many times. Orr smiled uncomfortably, it struck a bit close to home. “I am sure now that your therapy lies in this direction, to use your dreams, not to evade and avoid them. To face your fear and, with my help, see it through. You’re afraid of your own mind, George, That’s a fear no man can live with. But you don’t have to. You haven’t seen the help your own mind can give you, the ways you can use it, employ it creatively. All you need to do is not to hide from your own mental powers, not to suppress them, but to release them. This we can do together. Now, doesn’t that strike you as right, as the right thing to do?”
“I don’t know,” Orr said.
When Haber spoke of using, employing his mental powers, he had thought for a moment that the doctor must mean his power of changing reality by dreaming; but surely if he’d meant that he would have said it clearly? Knowing that Orr desperately needed confirmation, he would not causelessly withhold it if he could give it.
Orr’s heart sank. The use of narcotics and pep pills had left him emotionally off-balance; he knew that, and therefore kept trying to combat and control his feelings. But this disappointment was beyond his control. He had, he now realized, allowed himself a little hope. He had been sure, yesterday, that the doctor was aware of the change from mountain to horse. It hadn’t surprised or alarmed him that Haber tried to hide his awareness, in the first shock; no doubt he had been unable to admit it even to himself, to encompass it. It had taken Orr himself a long time to bring himself to face the fact that he was doing something impossible. Yet he had let himself hope that Haber, knowing the dream, and being there as it was dreamed, at the center, might see the change, might remember and confirm.
No good. No way out. Orr was where he had been for months—alone: knowing he was insane and knowing he was not insane, simultaneously and intensely. It was enough to drive him insane.
“Would it be possible,” he said diffidently, “for you to give me a posthypnotic suggestion not to dream effectively? Since you can suggest that I do.... That way I could get off drugs, at least for a while.”
Haber settled down behind his desk, hunched like a bear. “I very much doubt it would work, even through one night,” he said quite simply. And then suddenly booming again, “Isn’t that the same fruitless direction you’ve been trying to go, George? Drugs or hypnosis, it’s still suppression. You can’t run away from your own mind. You see that, but you’re not quite willing yet to face it. That’s all right. Look at it this way: twice now you’ve dreamed, right here, on that couch. Was it so bad? Did it do any harm?”
Orr shook his head, too low-spirited to answer. Haber went on talking, and Orr tried to give him his attention. He was talking now about daydreams, about their relationship to the hour-and-a-half dreaming cycles of the night, about their uses and value. He asked Orr if any particular type of daydream was congenial to him. “For example,” he said, “I frequently daydream heroics. I am the hero. I’m saving a girl, or a fellow astronaut, or a besieged city, or a whole damn planet. Messiah dreams, do-gooder dreams. Haber saves the world! They’re a hell of a lot of fun—so long as I keep ‘em where they belong. We all need that ego boost we get from daydreams, but when we start relying on it, then our reality-parameters are getting a bit shaky.... Then there’s the South Sea Island type daydreams—a lot of middle-aged executives go in for them. And the noble-suffering-martyr type, and the various romantic fantasies of adolescence, and the sado-masochist daydream, and so on. Most people recognize most types. We’ve almost all been in the arena facing the lions, at least once, or thrown a bomb and destroyed our enemies, or rescued the pneumatic virgin from the sinking ship, or written Beethoven’s Tenth Symphony for him. Which style do you favor?”
“Oh—escape,” Orr said. He really had to pull himself together and answer this man, who was trying to help him. “Getting away. Getting out from under.”
“Out from under the job, the daily grind?” Haber seemed to refuse to believe that he was contented with his job. No doubt Haber had a lot of ambition and found it hard to believe that a man could be without it.
“Well, it’s more the city, the crowding, I mean. Too , many people everywhere. The headlines. Everything.”
“South Seas?” Haber inquired with his bear’s grin. “No. Here. I’m not very imaginative. I daydream about having a cabin somewhere outside the cities, maybe over in the Coast Range where there’s still some of the old forests.”
“Ever considered actually buying one?” “Recreation land is about thirty-eight thousand dollars an acre in the cheapest areas, down in the South Oregon Wilderness. Goes up to about four hundred thousand for a lot with a beach view.”
Haber whistled, “I see you have considered—and so returned to your daydreams. Thank God they’re free, eh! Well, are you game for another go? We’ve got nearly half an hour left.”
“Let me keep recall.”
Haber began one of his elaborate refusals. “Now as you know, what is experienced during hypnosis, including all directions given, is normally blocked to waking recall by a mechanism similar to that which blocks recall of 99 per cent of our dreams. To lower that block would be to give you too many conflicting directions concerning what is a fairly delicate matter, the content of a dream you haven’t yet dreamed. That—the dream—I can direct you to recall. But I don’t want your recall of my suggestions all mixed up with your recall of the dream you actually dream. I want to keep ‘em separate, to get a clear report of what you did dream, not what you think you ought to have dreamed. Right? You can trust me, you know. I’m in this game to help you. I won’t ask too much of you. I’ll push you, but not too hard or too fast I won’t give you any nightmares! Believe me, I want to see this through, and understand it, as much as you do. You’re an intelligent and cooperative subject, and a courageous man to have borne so much anxiety alone so long. We’ll see this through, George. Believe me.”
Orr did not entirely believe him, but he was an uncontradictable as a preacher; and besides, he wished he could believe him,
He said nothing, but lay back on the couch and submitted to the touch of the great hand on his throat.
“O.K.! There you are! What did you dream, George? Let’s have it, hot off the griddle.”
He felt sick and stupid.
“Something about the South Seas... coconuts .... Can’t remember.” He rubbed his head, scratched under his short beard, took a deep breath. He longed for a drink of cold water. “Then I ... dreamed that you were walking with John Kennedy, the president, down Alder Street I think it was. I was sort of coming along behind, I think I was carrying something for one of you. Kennedy had his umbrella up—I saw him in profile, like the old fifty-cent pieces—and you said, ‘You won’t be needing that any more, Mr. President,’ and took it out of his hand. He seemed to get annoyed over it, he said something I couldn’t understand. But it had stopped raining, the sun came out, and so he said, ‘I suppose you’re right, now.’... It has stopped raining.”
“How do you know?”
Orr sighed. “You’ll see when you go out. Is that all for this afternoon?”
“I’m ready for more. Bill’s on the Government, you know!”
“I’m very tired.”
“Well, all right then, that wraps it up for today. Listen, what if we had our sessions at night? Let you go to sleep normally, use the hypnosis only to suggest dream content. It’d leave your working days clear, and my working day is night, half the time; one thing sleep researchers seldom do is sleep! It would speed us up tremendously, and save your having to use any dream-suppressant drugs. You want to give it a try? How about Friday night?”
“I’ve got a date,” Orr said and was startled at his lie.
He left, carrying his damp raincoat over his arm. There was no need to wear it. The Kennedy dream had been a strong effective. He was sure of them now, when he had them. No matter how bland their content, he woke from them recalling them with intense clarity, and feeling broken and abraded, as one might after making an enormous physical effort to resist an overwhelming, battering force. On his own, he had not had one oftener than once a month or once in six weeks; it had been the fear of having one that had obsessed him. Now, with the Augmentor keeping him in dreaming-sleep, and the hypnotic suggestions insisting that he dream effectively, he had had three effective dreams out of four in two days; or, discounting the coconut dream, which had been rather what Haber called a mere muttering of images, three out of three. He was exhausted.
It was not raining. When he came out of the portals of Willamette East Tower, the March sky was high and clear above the street canyons. The wind had come round to blow from the east, the dry desert wind that from time to time enlivened the wet, hot, sad, gray weather of the Valley of the Willamette.
The clearer air roused his spirits a bit. He straightened his shoulders and set off, trying to ignore a fault dizziness that was probably the combined result of fatigue, anxiety, two brief naps at an unusual time of day, and a sixty-two-story descent by elevator.
Had the doctor told him to dream that it had stopped raining? Or had the suggestion been to dream about Kennedy (who had, now that he thought about it again, had Abraham Lincoln’s beard)? Or about Haber himself? He had no way of telling. The effective part of the dream had been the stopping of the rain, the change of weather; but that proved nothing. Often it was not the apparently striking or salient element of a dream which was the effective one. He suspected that Kennedy, for reasons known only to his subconscious mind, had been his own addition, but he could not be sure.
He went down into the East Broadway subway station with the endless others. He dropped his five-dollar piece in the ticket machine, got his ticket, got his train, entered darkness under the river.
The dizziness increased in his body and in his mind. To go under a river: there’s a strange thing to do, a really weird idea.
To cross a river, ford it, wade it, swim it, use boat, ferry, bridge, airplane, to go upriver, to go downriver in the ceaseless renewal and beginning of current: all that makes sense. But in going under a river, something is involved which is, in the central meaning of the word, perverse. There are roads in the mind and outside it the mere elaborateness of which shows plainly that, to have got into this, a wrong turning must have been taken way back.
There were nine train and truck tunnels under the Willamette, sixteen bridges across it, and concrete banks along it for twenty-seven miles. Flood control on both it and its great confluent the Columbia, a few miles downstream from central Portland, was so highly developed that neither river could rise more than five inches even after the most prolonged torrential rains. The Willamette was a useful element of the environment, like a very large, docile draft animal harnessed with straps, chains, shafts, saddles, bits, girths, hobbles. If it hadn’t been useful of course it would have been concreted over, like the hundreds of little creeks and streams that ran in darkness down from the hills of the city under the streets and buildings. But without it, Portland would not have been a port; the ships, the long strings of barges, the big rafts of lumber still came up and down it. So the trucks and trains and the few private cars had to go over the river or under it. Above the heads of those now riding the GPRT train in the Broadway Tunnel were tons of rock and gravel, tons of water running, the piles of wharves and the keels of ocean-going ships, the huge concrete supports of elevated freeway bridges and approaches, a convoy of steamer trucks laden with frozen battery-produced chickens, one jet plane at 34,000 feet, the stars at 4.3+ light-years. George Orr, pale in the flickering fluorescent glare of the train car in the infrafluvial dark, swayed as he stood holding a swaying steel handle on a strap among a thousand other souls. He felt the heaviness upon him, the weight bearing down endlessly. He thought, I am living in a nightmare, from which from time to time I wake in sleep.
The smash and jostle of people getting off at the Union Station stop knocked this sententious notion out of his mind; he concentrated wholly on keeping hold of the handle on the strap. Still feeling giddy, he was afraid that if he lost hold and had to submit entirely to force (c), he might get sick.
The train started up again with a noise evenly compounded of deep abrasive roars and high piercing screams.
The whole GPRT system was only fifteen years old, but it had been built late and hastily, with inferior materials, during, not before, the crack-up of the private car economy. In fact the train cars had been built in Detroit; and they lasted like it, and sounded like it. A city man and subway rider, Orr did not even hear the appalling noise. His aural nerve endings were in fact considerably dulled in sensitivity though he was only thirty, and La any case the noise was merely the usual background of the nightmare. He was thinking again, having established his claim to the handle of the strap.
Ever since he had got interested in the subject perforce, the mind’s lack of recall of most dreams had puzzled him. Nonconscious thinking, whether in infancy or in dream, apparently is not available to conscious recall. But was he unconscious during hypnosis? Not at all: wide awake, until told to sleep. Why could he not remember, then? It worried him. He wanted to know what Haber was doing. The first dream this afternoon, for example: Had the doctor merely told him to dream about the horse again? And he himself had added the horseshit, which was embarrassing. Or, if the doctor had specified the horseshit, that was embarrassing in a different way. And perhaps Haber was lucky that he hadn’t ended up with a big brown steaming pile of manure on the office carpeting. In a sense, of course, he had: the picture of the mountain.
Orr stood upright as if he had been goosed, as the train screamed into Alder Street Station. The mountain, he thought, as sixty-eight people pushed and shoved and scraped past him to the doors. The mountain. He told me to put back the mountain in my dream. So I had the horse put back the mountain. But if he told me to put back the mountain then he knew it had been there before the horse. He knew. He did see the first dream change reality. He saw the change. He believes me. I am not insane!
So great a joy filled Orr that, among the forty-two persons who had been jamming into the car as he thought these things, the seven or eight pressed closest to him felt a slight but definite glow of benevolence or relief. The woman who had failed to get his strap handle away from him felt a blessed surcease of the sharp pain in her corn; the man squashed against him on the left thought suddenly of sunlight; the old man sitting crouched directly in front of him forgot, for a little, that he was hungry.
Orr was not a fast reasoner. In fact, he was not a reasoner. He arrived at ideas the slow way, never skating over the clear, hard ice of logic, nor soaring on the slipstreams of imagination, but slogging, plodding along on the heavy ground of existence. He did not see connections, which is said to be the hallmark of intellect. He felt connections—like a plumber. He was not really a stupid man, but he did not use his brains half as much as he might have done, or half as fast. It was not until he had got off the subway at Ross Island Bridge West, and had walked up the hill several blocks and taken the elevator eighteen floors to his one-room 8-1/2 X 11 flat in the twenty-story independent-income steel-and-sleazy-concrete Corbett Condominium (Budget Living in Style Down Town!), and had put a soybean loaf slice in the infrabake, and had taken a beer out of the wallfridge, and had stood some while at his window—he paid double for an outside room— looking up at the West Hills of Portland crammed with huge glittering towers, heavy with lights and life, that he thought at last: Why didn’t Dr. Haber tell me that he knows I dream effectively?
He mulled over this a while. He slogged around it, tried to lift it, found it very bulky.
He thought: Haber knows, now, that the mural has changed twice. Why didn’t he say anything? He must know I was afraid of being insane. He says he’s helping me. It would have helped a lot if he’d told me that he can see what I see, told me that it’s not just delusion.
He knows now, Orr thought after a long slow swallow of beer, that it’s stopped raining. He didn’t go to see, though, when I told him it had. Maybe he was afraid to. That’s probably it. He’s scared by this whole thing and wants to find out more before he tells me what he really thinks about it. Well, I can’t blame him. If he weren’t scared of it, that would be the odd thing.
But I wonder, once he gets used to the idea, what he’ll do ... I wonder how he’ll stop my dreams, how he’ll keep me from changing things. I’ve got to stop; this is far enough, far enough…
He shook his head and turned away from the bright, life-encrusted hills.