Making Connections, Part 1: A Little Owl, a Big Bug and a Long Detour



There are two kinds of free associations:  those that make sense and those that don’t. Your own associations belong to the first kind, and everybody else’s belong to the second.

“Muffins,” you say.

“Leibniz,” I reply.

See? This is what happens when you let the mind run free and loose. Sheer, unadulterated randomness. How else could you get from A to B in a single step?

But wait, I say. There’s a story here. Just hear me out.

Muffins – I made muffins a few days ago. While I was looking through the cupboard for a mix that would bake at the same temperature as the cheese tart I was making for dinner, I was explaining the philosophy of Leibniz to my aunt, who bore it patiently. After some searching, I found a muffin mix that not only cooked at the same temperature as the cheese tart, but in exactly the same amount of time. “I guess we really are living in the best of all possible worlds,” I said, more than a little sarcastically.

It may not be an airtight proof for pre-established harmony, but it does rescue the association from the charge of randomness. Muffins and Leibniz are linked in my mind for a reason:  not so long ago, they were both there at the same time. They were contiguous, you might say— if you wanted to drag another philosopher into this. That’s all it takes to create an association.

Even better:  now they’re linked in your mind, too. The beginning of this essay was only half a joke:  the moment an association makes sense to you, it becomes your association as well. It may even have happened before it made sense, without your noticing. Someday, if the circumstances are right, you might just answer the same way I did.

Now suppose this train of thought arose in response to this dream:

Something about going in and out of buildings aimlessly. Then I was sitting on a bed, talking with a woman. We seemed to live in the same house, which was like my aunt and uncle’s house in some ways. She wanted me to cook something. She said she had a few mixes out in the infirmary, and went to bring them in. I hadn’t known there was an infirmary there, much less that she kept food in it. I figured it must be through a certain doorway in the garage, since it was the only place in the house I had never been. She soon came back with a few mixes. I chose a muffin mix that made four muffins. (March, 2016)

Supposing it did arise in response to it, you would already be a good ways towards interpreting it. It might also help to know that my aunt likes to buy muffins in batches of four at the local farmer’s market from a man I find irritating, that while I don’t actually dislike muffins, there are any number of foods I find more appealing, that I feel the same way about cooking in general, and that the previous day, I had spent a couple hours looking at apartments for rent, convinced that I couldn’t stand living in that house for any longer. Thinking about the dream leads to any number of things—but in every case, it seems to be to be pointing me towards things I wouldn’t choose of my own accord—things that may be annoyances, but aren’t serious problems. It raises the question:  are things really so bad?

Funny, how often dreams get you to ask that kind of question. It’s almost as if – but maybe I’d better leave that one for another time.

-To Be Continued-


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