My friend and musical collaborator, Dave Amos, slight of stature, mighty of voice, had a dream. He and I and Aretha Franklin were playing a gig together. In a folk club. In Fife. I had gone missing.
‘Where’s Jamie?’ Aretha asked.
‘Away,’ Dave replied. ‘South America. What are we going to sing?’
‘The moment I wake up—’ Aretha began.
‘Sing something we ken,’ shouted someone from the audience.
Dave woke up.
My version of this is duetting on keyboards with Stevie Wonder. I’ve dreamt it several times. I also confess to having had tea at Buckingham Palace, or was it Windsor Castle? Odd, given that I consider myself a republican. Though I guess as archetypes go, a monarch is up there. We all carry one around with us.
Perhaps it was this that led me last night to The Queen’s Gambit, Netflix’s new series about the orphanage girl from Kentucky who becomes an international chess player. I never learned chess, or bridge for that matter, but I can certainly relish the drama of a nine-year-old simultaneously playing, and defeating, all twelve members of a high school chess club.
The little guy, and the satisfaction of seeing him or her win against the odds, has to be another archetypal scenario. Especially when he or she is flawed, as our chess-playing heroine is, addicted to the tranquillisers with which the orphanage kids are daily dosed—a dismal echo of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.
Jo Biden is not exactly Randle McMurphy—though it’s not hard to imagine Trump as Nurse Ratched—but the news of his win came through while I was writing this. In the archetype stakes, a ringside seat at the battle between the light and the dark ranks among the best …
Dear reader, you may by now have guessed that I have no idea where I’m going with this. It’s rather like one of the exercises we gave participants this week on our first ever online Dark Angels Advanced Course: here’s a starting point, now write whatever comes into your mind, don’t stop, and see where it takes you.
And, hey presto—clanking along, here comes Don Quixote, straight out of central casting, the mad knight. The first exercise of the course, an echo of the one we usually run in Spain, was to write the second paragraph of Cervantes’ novel. The results were testament to the fact that the imagination will always deliver, if you trust it.
Archetypes, of course, are the currency of the imagination. The truth is, I guess, we’re surrounded by them. Once we start looking, they’re everywhere, like hitching posts in the desert, places to stop and get our bearings, reminders that there are certain patterns of human behaviour, ways of being in the world, to which we all more or less conform. Once we name things, they lose their hold over us.
On this grey November day, when it seems at last that the world has a chance of settling back into balance again, I find that a more than usually cheering thought.