The best of all possible worlds? Dream on

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The human mind is all very well in its way - I'd be at a loose end without mine - but it has its limitations. Let me give you an example. That sentence about the human mind was there for a point, but I can't remember what it was. It was something to do with me going through my old clothes yesterday, which somehow connected up with something else which I have also forgotten. In fact I am in a terrible state, like when you stand there in the kitchen with your mouth hanging open, wondering what you went in there for. But more so. I am standing here in my life, wondering why I'm having it. Freud would say it's something to do with the suppression of unwarrantable desire, but Freud's dead and frankly I don't think we need pay too much attention to what dead people think. That's what has got us into this mess. I blame writing. If it wasn't for writing, people would just bugger off when they died and we wouldn't have to worry about what they had said.

It would be lovely. Someone would say: "Freud", and someone else would say: "What about him?" and the first person would say: "I wonder what he said about the suppression of unwarrantable desires?" And there'd be one of those ruminative pauses, and then the other person would say: "Well, he may not have said anything about them at all, but anyway he's dead and there's no way of finding out," and that would be that. Everyone could get back to quality lifestyle, summer evenings out on the porch with a six-pack of beer and a bug-zapper. "Zzzzzst!" "Hey! Big one!"

It's irrelevant anyway. I may have unwarrantable desires but they're not suppressed. They're right out there in the open, giving me hell while I sleep. I had one last night. Fumbled my way into bed, partially, at 4.30am, awash with whisky, knowing I had to be up at 7am so tossed and turned and couldn't nod off. Eventually everything went suddenly ... not so much blank as different and there I was with this woman, weeping. We were both weeping. We were so happy. You wouldn't believe it. I didn't believe it when I woke up because it was obviously bollocks, but in the dream it was ... well, it was bollocks then, too; I just didn't realise it. We said things to each other. Declarations. Avowals. I took her hand. She smiled. Tears of sheer luminous joy. "I have waited so long for this moment." "I can't believe it's true. I can't believe anything could be so wonderful." Bollocks. Well, you don't, do you? Not in real life. You just don't. Country would grind to a halt. Mister Mandelson would take a dim view. How would it be if everyone did it? Who do you think you are - the Foreign Secretary? Tsk tsk.

Perhaps Freud was wrong. Silly old fool. Had to have his face off in later life. Rather makes you wonder about the rest of his stuff. Maybe I should start suppressing my unwarrantable desires a bit more. It's what you're supposed to do, as time goes on. I'm grown-up now - at least, I've got bigger - and I shouldn't be having dreams like that any more. I should be having dreams about grown-up things. But nobody does, or at least you never hear about it. Has anyone ever said to you: "I had the most wonderful dream last night. I dreamt the mortgage was paid off and the pension fund was maturing nicely"? Of course not.

But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe people have dreams like that all the time. Dirt-repelling carpets that actually repel the dirt. A new bathroom cabinet. The caravan being all nice and clean, even on the roof. Dreams of getting up to date with the taxes, dreams of their athlete's foot clearing up, dreams of everything being in order. Maybe people dream of what they actually do.

In which case something's gone wrong and I want a refund, because I'm missing the boat. My dreams get sillier and more adolescent and sentimentally Wagnerian the further I get away from being able to implement them in real life. Perhaps it's boredom, creeping up as ineluctably as the trouser- waistband tightens: a sort of universal compassion fatigue. There are so many things we know we need to say, but we can't say them because they're so old, so boring, so cliche'd, been said so many times before, by us, by everyone. All men are brothers under the skin. You make me feel like a teenager. I never meant to hurt you. I can't live without you. It's a wonderful world. I need to find out who I really am. Why can't we live in peace and harmony? Things like that, sensible propositions about important and fundamental things. We can't say them because we're bored and embarrassed and we've said them a thousand times before and things have still gone to hell in a handcart.

My taxi driver the other day was a man called Abdul Kamara. Stuck in traffic, he was grumpy about the heatwave. "What's worst," he said, "is I should have been on holiday. I was going to go home. But now I can't."

He was from Sierra Leone. He had plans. He had raised the money to start an auto-repair shop there, was going out to set it up, and then the civil war exploded. "The world doesn't care," he said. "Why should it? It's not their problem. It's something only we can solve, ourselves." He drove his taxi until six o'clock, then worked evenings for the Sierra Leone Concern Group. "We need media exposure but people are just so tired," he said.

I suppose so. Tired and bored. The things that need to be said and said again and again are dismissed as cliches. We know there's no point in saying "Nobody's ever made me feel like this before" because we're too old, our waistband's too tight, it may not be true, it won't help, it won't work out, it's a cliche. We know there's no point in railing against the horrors taking place in Sierra Leone or Senegal or Southern Sudan - 5,000,000 dead, for God's sake, and we don't say a word - or anywhere else, for the same reason. It's a cliche. It won't work. No point. Too late.

So we dream our dreams of bliss and re- conciliation instead, waking up with the tears still wet on our cheeks, and do nothing, say nothing, hope for the best. I blame the mind. I think we should all club together and demand a refund. !