Note – This was written by the Noble and Admirable Kurt Luchs
“What a piece of work is a man!” said Shakespeare; and while it’s possible he was merely gazing into the mirror and feeling his own biceps, he was probably referring to the human mind. A mysterious thing, the mind. One man discovers the principle of electromagnetic anti-gravitational polarity, and wins a Nobel Prize. Another one owns and operates a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise. Perhaps it is the same man wearing a different suit, but in that case he is moonlighting and should declare his second source of income (the Nobel Committee).
The point is, few students of the mind have any inkling of its innermost workings, particularly at the subconscious, or street-level. One who did during the first half of the 20th century was Dr. Aloysius Gilbert, dream researcher and founder of the Gilbert Institute for Advanced and Gruesome Studies, which has given hope to so many. Dr. Gilbert was originally a follower of Freud, till one day Freud noticed he was being followed, and spun around suddenly to confront him.
“Just what are you looking at, eh?”
“The back of your head,” replied Gilbert, with the candor that was his genius. Freud was so moved by his frankness that he immediately rubbed out a lit cigar on the young man’s bald spot. The two became fast friends, remaining inseparable throughout the next 30 minutes, until they broke intellectually over who would pay for the cigar. Afterward, Gilbert credited Freud with teaching him “everything there is to know about eczema, and then some,” and how to get big laughs at parties by impersonating a meerkat.
He soon had a flourishing psychoanalytic practice in Vienna — one so lucrative, in fact, that his wife Grimelda could never comprehend why he persisted in renting himself out as a cuspidor on weekends (poverty had been his close companion during childhood, although when the two met later at a class reunion they hardly recognized each other).
But in treating thousands of refried psyches he sometimes resorted to methods that were, like those of Colonel Kurtz, “unsound.” One former patient charged that, under hypnosis, he had made her don a little sailor suit to “do the hokey pokey.” Worse, none of the respectable journals would publish his papers on dreams, forcing him to send his feverish theories to the only outlet open to him, Scatology Today, where the following cases and comments by Dr. Gilbert first appeared. These are the pivotal works which, in their collective unconsciousness and their intuitive grasp of dream symbology, Carl Jung declared “every bit as profound as the lyrics to ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat.’”
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CASE OF ANNA S. My new patient, a typical bourgeosie, will not lie down on the couch without first compulsively sweeping it clean of imaginary insects. Even then I have to sit on her chest to keep her there. All this because one little silverfish happened to explore her underthings at our initial session. Will I never understand the id? This morning she related an important dream:
“I am in my apartment, which is the same as usual except that it has been repainted a cheerful shade of black and a new wing has been added to accommodate the wax museum exhibit of my family. A surprise party is being thrown in my honor, and I am delighted to no end until I realize I was not invited. Suddenly depressed, I sit down on a miniature schnauzer I used to play with as a child, and begin to weep. But the dog accuses me of being a sentimentalist and of putting on weight besides. I become suicidal, and am just about to end it all by eating my mother’s cooking when my own voice, coming from the clock radio, announces that I have won the Joseph Goebbels Look-alike Contest. Overcome with joy, I awake and slit my wrists.”
What a lucid expression of wish fulfillment! Clearly, Anna S. is less concerned with the normal childhood traumas than with the fact that she was never given a last name, and has had to make do all her life with a middle initial. Even becoming a high-ranking Nazi would be preferable, though it would require a complete change of wardrobe. When I pointed this out to her she seemed very grateful and kissed my hand, then bit down as hard as she could on my ring finger, an obvious display of jealousy which nearly caused me to achieve escape velocity.
CASE OF ERNST A. This afternoon as I was mopping up my office (with my receptionist) I spotted a small boy fondling the cushions on the couch. After cuffing him soundly, I asked him how it was possible for a child his age to grow a full-length Vandyke. He explained that he was not a child at all but an adult whose growth had been stunted by guilt, and that the couch had reminded him of his mother.
“Oh? And when did you last have your mother reupholstered?” I asked.
“Only yesterday,” he replied. I knew he had come to me in the nick of time. In a fearful sweat, he told me his recurring nightmare:
“I am strolling alongside the Danube admiring the view and trying to work up enough courage to throw myself in, when I see a beautiful rainbow arching over the river and ending somewhere in the Vienna Woods. Suddenly I am in the heart of the forest, and it occurs to me that I have forgotten to bring any insect repellent. This strikes me as very funny at the time, but when I try to laugh the only thing that emerges from my lips is a tiny flag reading ‘Ha ha.’ I become alarmed, and decide to hide under an oak leaf until spring comes. Before I can touch it, the leaf turns into a leprechaun standing by a pot of gold. The leprechaun confides that he is merely waiting for the gold market to hit a new high before he liquidates his assets, but that if I give him the magic acorn I can have the whole pot for practically nothing. Just as I am about to ask, ‘What acorn?’ he disappears, and I wake up under the bed.” He sighed as he concluded his story.
“Where, exactly, did you say this pot of gold could be found?”
“Nowhere,” he answered, pretending to look confused. “It was just a dream.”
“Don’t play games,” I warned, backing him against the wall.
“No, please!” he begged as he tried to edge out the door. He was about to run for it when I snatched him up by the scruff of the neck and thrashed him back into his dream world. Then I lifted the magic acorn from his shirt pocket, loaded my Luger, and went for a walk in the Vienna Woods.
Kurt Luchs has written for some of the most respected publications on the planet, including but not limited to The Onion, The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, and The Talking Mirror. He currently edits www.thebigjewel.com and is exploring a new career as a Nebraskan Freedom Fighter.