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I had a movie-dream this morning, you know the kind I mean? It's the kind of dream that feels like you are watching a movie unfold. You're not a character in the dream, you're just watching. And it seems even more real than real.

This one featured a protagonist who was a poor Black woman living in a small town in the South. She was trying to mail a package containing something so oddly shaped that it was very hard to attach a label to it. It was a medium-small package, and in this movie-dream I vaguely knew what was inside. (That's how these movie dreams work. You know things in them that would have been made explicit earlier in a real movie, only you don't have to dream all those boring parts where they show you what's in the package, or show her struggling to wrap it. In the movie-dream you just know all that already- it saves a lot of time)

So, she needs help getting a label on this package, and she's from a time and place where she doesn't know the details about sending one. She goes to a local teacher that she considers to be smart and who she thinks will help her out. He's white, and you know the movies, he helps her but of course he has to belittle her while he's doing it, make her feel stupid and beneath him. So he shows her some nice square packages, shows her how the labels are stuck on, how they are addressed, but still she struggles to understand, because he never explains that she needs to put the contents into a box. She thinks that the packages he shows her just happen to be all squared-off and easy to wrap.

At this point in the dream my viewpoint changes. I identify with her, become her. Although the waking me knows all about putting things in boxes for shipping, in the dream I see things through her eyes, and feel what she feels. But unlike the movies, and most other dreams, I also feel that I have agency, the ability to change things that are happening. So it's really me who tries turning the stick-on label sideways, who tries to smooth it down over some underlying wires, tries to get it to stick to the paper that I used to wrap the contents, paper with a gloss to it like waxed paper. It was the nicest paper I could find to wrap with, but it is unsuitable for labeling. It's me who succeeds somewhat in getting the label to stay on, but then I have to try to write an address on it (something that I didn't know enough to do beforehand) over the odd shape under the paper, which is ribbed like a wire dish-rack. Suddenly, I'm back to watching a movie in my dream, and wondering what is in there, and where is it going, and why?
My non-conscious mind supplies the answer. It isn't a dish rack, but it's something that this woman and her two friends have made that they are trying to send to some people who they feel will appreciate it, three college professors who had visited their town years ago and praised the work they were doing. In the many years since that visit these women have struggled to keep working at their craft (whatever that is, it might be some kind of sculpture, or a loosely-bound manuscript, it doesn't matter in the dream-movie)  but they have received neither money nor notice from the people in their town. Perhaps one of the three is dying now, and her friends are trying to find some way to comfort her, or to raise money for treatment. It's just a movie plot, you can fill in a reason for the action yourself.
And that's it- that's where my dream ended. And just like some movies, the message isn't clear. What was clear was the feeling that it left me with. It left me with the feeling of struggling to achieve recognition for my work, and even more deeply than that, to find a reason for my existence. That's a theme that runs through a lot of movies. It must be a powerful message to be so popular.
In the movies, if this plot were to continue, the label would fall off, or the package would somehow be delivered but the intended recipient would have died in the meantime, or they would still be alive but wouldn't remember anything about the three women they had praised for their work long ago. That would be tragic, and we can't have that in American movies, so to give it a Hollywood ending the woman and her friends would find comfort in what they've done together even without finding a wider audience. Seen that one?
But my dream didn't end like that. If I know anything about my dreams, after years of paying attention to them, it's that they are really direct. At bottom, the message here is: the packaging is wrong. In order to accomplish what she is trying to have happen, her package must conform to the standards of the postal service. There isn't any predjudice here, or intent to exclude her, it's just the way things are, how they work. Sending a package isn't magic. But in fact, the package she has created is as much an expression of herself as the contents. Her package doesn't conform to standards, and what's inside is valuable because it doesn't conform to standards either- it is art. The oddness of the package prepares whoever is getting it to expect something unique.
Packaging in songwriting extends to the sentence forms we use, the meanings attached to words, their relationships to each other. I am reminded of one of my favorite word-packages spoken by Groucho Marx: Time flies like an arrow; Fruit flies like bananas. You hear that and just go, "wha?"
As we approach death, we find that being a mummy makes a lot of sense somehow. The tight linen wrappings hide unevenness and discoloration. Plus, they are super warm! We can look down on our bodies and feel that there is something regal about them.

And moving around? Over-rated. Within a pyramid of sufficient size and weight our minds can move freely across vast distances. From within them, our all-seeing eye reaches out, even beyond time. Fruit flies like papyrus.
packaging