"Dread of what?" Carl Jung wrote in his memoirs. Reflecting upon his youth, and his fellow students' incapacity to "admit unconventional possibilities," Jung continued, "After all, there was nothing preposterous or world-shaking in the idea that there might be events which overstepped the limited categories of space, time, and causality. Animals were known to sense beforehand storms and earthquakes. There were dreams which foresaw the death of certain persons, clocks which stopped at the moment of death, glasses which shattered at the critical moment. All these things had been taken for granted in the world of my childhood. And now I was apparently the only person who had ever heard of them. In all earnestness I asked myself what kind of world I had stumbled into. Plainly the urban world knew nothing about the country world, the real world of mountains, woods, and rivers, of animals and 'God's thoughts' (plants and crystals). I found this explanation comforting. At all events, it bolstered my self-esteem, for I realized that for all its wealth of learning the urban world was mentally rather limited."
But if the city represented cold, hard, narrow realism to rural mystics, a scientific rationalism which was blind to the stream of rich unconsciousness imbuing everything, it could also be invested with a kind of alchemical magick, a dream-projection of civilization taking the same subversive approach to the functional architecture of the metropolis that urban minds took towards the natural wonders of the countryside. The utilitarian skyline could be transformed into an oneiric dreamscape, a mental correspondence to the byzantine mazes of the imagination. This post, using images from Zhang Ke Jia's film The World (reviewed last week) and Michel Gondry's music videos alongside quotations and my own thoughts, will offer a brief reflection upon this perennial theme.