Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Dreamist

The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed.
-Albert Einstein

A reader pointed out in yesterday’s blogpost about dreams that Albert Einstein used to hold a rock in his hand when he fell asleep. The rock would fall loudly to the ground and wake him so he could immediately write down his problem solving unconscious thoughts while he still remembered. Salvador Dali had a similar method called “slumber with a key”. The surreal artist sat upright in a chair holding a key as he dozed. When the key hit a spatoon below, it clanged loudly. The Spaniard, with the trademark mustache, described this as one of his 50 secrets of magic craftsmanship.

I know a local magician who has devised his own technique for capturing images in his lucid dreams.  I say magician, but 67-year old Frank Lewis is also an artist, scientist, inventor and writer. Those are recent titles since he started referring to himself as "The Dreamist" Raised in the Bronx, Lewis worked as a scientist in chemistry labs in the sixties. In the seventies,  he ran his family’s gourmet cheese shop and fondue restaurant in the Village. He spent another two decades raising kids, working as an indoor air quality environmental engineer and a serial entrepreneur in the field of nutrition, health and wellness.

Lewis remembers as a child having continuous dreams. In other words, picking up the next night where he left off the night before in his unfolding story. In college, he reconnected with that childlike ability to stay aware and direct his dreams when he participated in an NYU study on sensory deprivation. As a test subject, he would be immersed in salt water tank with no light or sound. While that sounds terrifying to me, he believes the life experience helped shape what he is doing today.

“It gave me the understanding that there is more to the world than what you see. There is a whole world going on inside your head.” Lewis added.

While he always doodled for fun, he didn’t get  serious about art until 2004 when he stopped working to earn a living and started working as a passion.

“I don’t see a difference between being an artist and a scientist. They are both the search for truth and beauty.” The Renaissance man explains. 

So how does Lewis search for truth and beauty? He rests in a zero gravity recliner, wears headsets and an eye mask and attaches a stylus to his finger which is resting on a drawing pad attached to his left wrist. Unlike Einstein or Dali, he doesn’t wake himself up. He actually draws while sleeping. His finger contraption moving similarly to a Ouiji board. Check out his Gallery, if I didn’t know him so well, I would be skeptical that these could be done in your sleep.

Also unlike Einstein or Dali, Lewis is far from famous. But he should be. He has created something completely original. I asked him about his goals for his art career. He said his vision is to keep seeking truth. His manifesto published in his books and on his website talks about creating an entirely new art form called "Dreamism". He talks about:  parasomnia limb movement, approximating non- physical reality and accessing higher frequencies of consciousness. I guess none of this should come as a huge surprise. They say you can tell a lot about a person by what is on their book shelf. Frank Lewis has the complete collection of Carl Jung's writing and art in the Red Book series. There is also as an autographed autobiography of Timothy Leary's Flashback. Leary, a psychologist famous for his LSD induced writings, wrote the following inscription:

"Anything you want can happen."

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