The Name of The World
It’s been said that great minds think alike and that great artists see or intuit truths about the world long before others can. With that in mind, here is an excerpt from an acclaimed writer, Denis Johnson, winner of the National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize finalist. I believe it contains an uncanny reflection of Dr. Bail’s imprint theory that was beginning to be articulated by Bail at around the same time that Johnson created his artistic image.
This excerpt is the description of a drawing in a museum that the main character goes to view on a daily basis:
This picture was an anonymous work that almost anybody on earth could have made, but as it happened, a Georgia slave had produced it. The work’s owners, the Stone family of Camden County, had found the work in the attic of the family’s old mansion. It was drawn with ink on a large white linen bed sheet and consisted of a tiny single perfect square at the center of the canvas, surrounded by concentric freehand outlines. A draftsman using the right tools would have made thousands of concentric squares with the outlines just four or five millimeters apart. But, as I’ve said, the drawing, except for the central square, had been accomplished freehand: Each unintended imperfection in an outline had been scrupulously reproduced in the next, and since each square was larger, each imperfection grew larger too, until at the outmost edges the shapes were no longer square, but vast chaotic wanderings.
To my way of thinking, this secret project of the nameless slave, whether man or woman we’ll never know, implicated all of us…Though simple and obvious as an act of art, the drawing portrayed the silly, helpless tendency of fundamental things to get way off course and turn into nonsense, illustrated the church’s grotesque pearling around its traditional heart, explained the pernicious extrapolating rules and observances of governments—implicated all of us in a gradual apostasy from every perfect thing we find or make.
Implicated. This wasn’t my reaction only. I talked with lots of people who’d seen the work, and they all felt the same, but in various ways, if that makes sense. They felt uneasy around it, challenged, disturbed. I suppose that’s what made it art, rather than drawing.” – Denis Johnson, The Name of the World (2000)
The imprint passes down through the generations and is essentially the unintended imperfections contained in the mother’s unconscious, both those she was passed by her own mother and those accumulated in her own life experience. These imperfections are the distortions caused by the pain arising from a lack of love in its many forms: cruelty, abuse, neglect, violence, war, etc. They are replicated in the next generation unintentionally because they are unconsciously passed despite all a mother’s best intentions for her baby.
These distortions become so exaggerated over time that it becomes difficult to ascertain the original design, becoming ultimately “vast chaotic wanderings.” Anyone who has observed the broken state of our world has been observing the effect of these distortions passed through the imprint over hundreds of generations. Or as Johnson describes it, the “helpless tendency of fundamental things to get way off course and turn into nonsense…” He writes that this phenomenon of distortion “…illustrated the church’s grotesque pearling around its traditional heart, [and] explained the pernicious extrapolating rules and observances of governments…” In other words, just as individuals become increasingly distorted by their imprints over many generations, the institutions they create and control become grossly distorted as well.