Monday, January 3, 2022

Trickster as Guide: In Praise of Marty


The other night, drifting in that liminal state between sleep and awake, I heard a car horn, honking several times. I was quite irritated. Who thought it was okay to beep for someone in a neighboring house in the middle of the night? Then I recollected that sounds from the street rarely reach my bedroom at the back of the house. And then realized that the sounds were coming from inside, not outside, my head.

I closed my eyes again and a vivid scene immediately appeared. The centerpiece was a blue Cadillac convertible, with the fins of a previous era but in shiny new condition. At the wheel was a fellow sporting a loud plaid suit and a felt hat, and brandishing a fat cigar.

I knew him, of course. I have met him in dreams and dreamlike states over quarter of a century. I know him as Marty, pronounced in a distinctive New York way, as Morty. I suppose it could be spelled that way but I have always recorded it as Marty and he has never corrected me, so that's how it will stay.

"Put on a good suit," Marty instructed me. He was inviting me out for a night on the town. The blurred shapes behind him resolved into the facades of restaurants and bars and nightclubs, with a Cajun flavor.

Well, why not? I found my way to a wardrobe - not my regular one. When I opened it I saw that the clothes on the hangers were more than sets of jackets and pants. They were whole body suits. If I stepped into one, I would alter my physique accordingly. Nice kind of dress-up for an outing on the astral plane. I chose a body with strong broad shoulders and a trim waist, an idealized version of my younger, fitter self.. It came encased in a midnight blue double-breasted suit. Yes, this would do nicely.

What followed was simply a fun night out in a body that works better than my current one, fun for its own sake. This is one of Marty's specialities. Let me go back to the start of our relationship.

Marty first visited me when I set an intention for dreaming. The fancy name for this is dream incubation and in some traditions it is approached with great reverence, with ritual and purifications and offerings to deities and priests. I generally find it sufficient to just frame a clear intention and repeat it in my mind as I approach the night.

I really needed guidance from a wiser source that night. I was in the midst of writing the book that was published as Conscious Dreaming, the book that introduced the original blend of dreamwork and shamanic journeying that I call Active Dreaming. I had an enthusiastic publisher, but my editor had pointed out that "dream books don't sell many copies". I wanted to reach as many people as possible, not for fame and money, but to help break the dream drought that had become so pervasive in modern culture.

So I set this intention: Show me how to bring the gifts of dreaming to many more people.

In the dream that followed, I found myself under the big top in a circus. The bleachers were packed. In the center of the ring, a man in a loud plaid suit, with a pork pie hat, a mustache and a huge cigar, was doing acrobatics. He turned cartwheels then somehow managed to bounce from the ground up to the very top of the tent. As he repeated these unlikely maneuvers, I became fully aware that I was dreaming. I remembered that I had asked for guidance.

I stared, incredulous, at the clownish acrobat performing impossible feats. I knew, in that instant, that his name was Marty, pronounced the New York way. Was he supposed to be my guide?

Marty vaulted into the bleachers, grabbed an attractive blonde, and started cuddling and smooching. As I watched this new performance, shocked. he blew out a great cloud of smoke. He gave me a wink and said, round the edge of his stogie, "It's about entertainment, kid. It's about entertainment."

I came back from the dream laughing. I recognized I had received exactly the guidance I needed. Keep people turning the pages. Give them stories they can live in for a while. Never forget that a story may be the shortest route between a human being and the truth. And that the deepest truths may "in laughing guise be dress'd".

So I'm always grateful when Marty shows up. His hat style changes, and he's not always in a suit that might be most appropriate for a racetrack tout. He sometimes appears in a top hat and a tuxedo, even full tails. Still there is always something a little louche about his appearance. Last year he turned up riding a bike around a circus ring. His attire was Edwardian-formal until you looked below the waist.

Marty confirmed my long-standing opinion that there is a Cosmic Costume Department for inner guides. They present themselves in the forms appropriate to our levels of perception and understanding, and the messages they intend to convey. 

It's about entertainment, kid.

Drawings (c) Robert Moss


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