7. MINIATURE CITY
Commentary on the Dream (HRM)
This is a dream about the City and the Self. The dream begins on a busy street where the dreamer keeps running into people on their way to work. Indeed, the theme of work is a persistent motif in all five scenes of this dream. Here, in the first scene, the dreamer is distracted by people who are "going to their offices," thus preventing the dreamer from pursuing what really attracts him: namely, a mysterious store with an exhibit of miniature cities.
The dreamer is in a city yet, more than once, he keeps meeting people on the street who are well known to him-- something that almost never happens in New York City. In this dream, the vast urban landscape of New York has somehow become more human, more accessible. The City has become the Self.
In the second scene of the dream, the dreamer's wife suddenly appears. She, too, is in her way to work, a surprise to the dreamer. Here the world of work is juxtaposed to the world of intimacy and sexuality, symbolized by the female figure. The dreamer immediately follows her, despite his attraction to the store exhibit. In the dream he was "looking through the widow" at the miniature cities: in other words, remaining on the outside with his gaze transfixed by the exhibit inside. He follows his wife only to become separated from her, remembering later their agreement about how they would come back together if they became separated.
In this second scene of the dream, we observe opposing forces pulling on the dreamer: the attraction of the numinous symbol (the miniature city) and the attraction to the spouse. The message of the dream is that the dreamer will follow the spouse but then become separated from her in the busy city (the City of the Self). Their plan to become reunited somehow permits him to catch up with her, a commentary on their relationship. This second scene of the dream unfolds a psychodynamic drama of separation and individuation, which is paramount throughout the dream.
The third scene is the central or axial moment of the dream, when the dreamer actually enters the store and comes into contact with the numinous object, the miniature city. In fact, there are two cities modeled in this exhibit: New York (the cultural and communications capital) and Washington, DC (the political capital). This duality of supreme cities is distinctly American. Instead of a single capital city (London, Paris, Tokyo), the United States has a duality of urban centers, and so does the City-of-the-Self in this dream.
When the dream is able to examine the miniature city, his fascination only increases. He wants to make a model himself and asks the person in charge if this is possible. The master or guide here is apparently a female figure, but perhaps androgynous or of uncertain gender. It turns out that she lives, not in New York (the arena of the exterior self) but in "Tappan," which is the town right next to where the dreamer himself lives. In other words, the guide to the construction of this miniature city is to be found close to where the dreamer lives, not the exterior arena where he goes to work. The dreamer inhabits an exterior self (persona) yet has now become connected to a guiding principle that was always close to where he actually lives. Now it becomes possible for the dreamer to "take lessons" in constructing the ideal self that attracts him so much.
We can think of this miniature city as a version of the Self-made-whole or comprehended as a unity. The model city is carefully crafted and the dreamer is fascinated by its details. The construction of the city is an allegory of psychological development in later life. The project of the second half of life is individuation, or "becoming the person I was meant to be." Hence the powerful attraction of the miniature city for this 58-year old dreamer.
The message of the first half of the dream is that many forces conspire to distract us from what the alchemists called the Great Work (opus magnum) of constructing the Self-as-a-whole. The two forces represented here are love and work: an ironic point, since in psychoanalytic terms it was Freud himself who said that these two ("Lieben und Arbeiten") were the supreme goals of life. Not so, seems to be the message of this dream. Love and work are seductions, distractions that pull us away from gazing at the numinous object.
In the first half of life we live in "the City" (the exterior self) yet are drawn to the task of creating a miniature version of "the City." This task is what Keats meant in describing the life of this world as "the vale of soul-making." By the end of the climactic third scene the dreamer is now more closely connected with his task of lifespan development and this connection is confirmed when he exchanges e-mail addresses with the person in charge of the exhibit.
The first half of life is dominated by tasks of love and work, the motifs of the first half of this dream. It is only after entering into the mysterious shop and coming in contact with the exhibit and with the person in charge that the dreamer can move on to the tasks of the second half of life, as he does in scenes four and five.
In scene four of this dream, the dreamer is suddenly back in his old office, although it is no longer his actual office. The place of work has been transfigured. It is now a scene of containers, filled with files and momentoes from the past, artifacts of a life history. The dreamer's old boss is present, too, representing the authority of the world of work, which the dreamer is now prepared to leave. The dreamer's task is like the hero in "Krapp's Last Tape:" to comb through accumulated papers, dispose of past things and create order from a life story. This is the psychological meaning of retirement from the world of work. From the very beginning of this dream, the dreamer has been trying to fulfill this task of disengagement: first by escaping from the distractions of friends on their way to work, later by gazing through the window into the exhibit shop while his wife pulled him in other directions. Now, in the fourth scene of the dream, he is finally at the point of retirement from the world of work.
Scene five of the dream takes place back on a busy street of the city (the City of the Self). But now the familiar people the dreamer meets are no longer on their way to work. On the contrary, it is rush hour and they are all leaving the world of work, just as the dreamer finally does by retiring. As in the first scene, the dreamer is surprised to see so many people he knows on a busy New York street, but now the surprise is no longer mixed with distraction. The faces he sees are figures from the past, memories of a life lived, passing in life-review. In the final scene of the film "Places in the Heart" Sally Field's character sees people from her past (including the deceased) singing in the church congregation. In the final scene of his autobiographical film "Eight and a Half" Federico Fellini conjures up a carnival image of faces from his past and from the film itself, now reassembled in a reunion.
The five scenes of "Miniature City" represent the entire course of human life. The tasks of love and work belong to the first half of life, while the tasks of retirement and reminiscence belong to the second half of life. The abiding image remains the City itself, normally an anonymous world but in this dream a place where one unexpectedly meets familiar people. Still, the ultimate goal of existence is not to live in this busy urban landscape. No matter how vast, the city remains a multicursal labyrinth where the self is lost in endless possibilities: what Hegel called the "bad infinite." The exterior city stands in contrast to the unity symbolized by the miniature city or the Self-as-wholeness, the timeless goal of the life-course itself.