Thoughts about Houses

I’m not sure what the train of thought was, but I was thinking about some of the many books that show unreal or distorted houses. No, wait–I’m reading Mountain of Black Glass at work, and one of the character groups was travelling through a VR world consisting of a single, unending house. Anyway, I made a few mental leaps and ended up here:

Houses are containers of meaning. Certain things can only occur in certain types of houses–luxury, for example, is an idea that will only rarely occur in a hovel, even metaphorically. A house is like a language. You can express certain ideas in some languages better than others. Some ideas, perfectly obvious and rational in one language, become nonsense in another language. Or in another house.

Before writing was such a widespread skill (and paper so affordable), people practiced the art of memory. The art involves changing ideas into symbolic images–for example, changing the idea of “prudence” into the image of a woman with eyes on the back of her head.* The images would be sequenced in a certain order, so one would be able to recall the entire sequence if only one of the images was remembered. And, usually, the images would be placed inside the image of a house, with wings of the house representing general areas of though, and the rooms representing particular subjects, etc.

Many people dream about houses. Often it’s a house they have never seen in their lives–but for the rest of their lives, they will dream about this house and no other. Inside the house are strange doorways, infinite passageways, unknown objects and furniture, and people whose faces they do not know but find familiar. These dreams are often imbued with the sense that something important has been communicated, but, upon waking, their dreamers only say, “I dreamed about that house again last night.”

Lee said the other day, “I hope this house will become a haven.” I agree. It seems like a good place for it.

*This was one of the traditional mnemonic images used. The art is documented back to ancient Greece.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *