It says in the bible somewhere - 'And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions' . . .
For forty hours of every week I sit in front of my computer at ESA Publications (NZ) Ltd, the largest educational book publisher in New Zealand, and layout school books. Recently I have been designing the book covers as well, and all our advertising material, but generally I am slowly working my way through the page layout of Year 13 Mathematics with Calculus Study Guide or Year 11 History: New Zealand in the Nineteenth Century Workbook.
I am what is called a typesetter, though I hesitate to use that term because people seem to think it sounds like some sort of typist. More correctly I am a compositor, though I hesitate to use that term . . . because people have no idea what it means. In any other industry I would be called a Mac Operator, but in book publishing, that oldest of all branches of graphic art, we prefer more time-honoured titles.
I love my job. It is creative enough to be stimulating, simple enough not to be excessively demanding. The atmosphere is congenial; the people pleasant; and unlike most people in the graphics industry, who are busy designing chocolate wrappers or advertisements to persuade people to purchase what they do not need, I like to think that I am doing something useful for the world. Maybe some future Nobel Laureate will have gained his or her start in Physics from the Year 11 Physics book which I typeset so attractively, or someone will derive satisfaction from a lifetime of reading having learnt about the parts of speech in the Start Right series of primary school books I created.
And - I think - I am good at what I do. Which helps of course. It is not rocket science, and anyone with a modicum of intelligence and artistic sensibility could do it, but it gives me satisfaction to slither those elements around on a page and create a pleasing book. One gets to the point where one isn’t particularly aware of exactly how one is doing what one is doing – one’s fingers flicker over the keys and deftly push that mouse about and the pixels dance into place.
As I lay on my stretcher in my tent at the ten-day race I muttered to myself, ‘I have to change my job.’
What prompted that is an experience I have had many times.
Running long distances exhausts one. You might think that this would mean one would sleep well after running. The opposite is in fact the case. Following any race of about 100 km or more I find it very difficult to sleep at all. You sink into a shallow slumber disturbed by dreams of dissolution and chaos.
Once, for me, these used to be ill-defined and largely content-less – just nebulous feelings of dis-ease and horror. Now, after seven years of typesetting books, I have . . . typesetter’s nightmares! – still nebulous, still ill-defined and obscure but all somehow dealing with typesetting.
While at Flushing Meadows I had with me a little Dictaphone with which, each day, I recorded a brief account of the day’s events and impressions.
. . .my standard typesetter’s nightmares – questions and answers all mixed up and . . . and it was all about whatever it was I’m doing here . . .and then I suddenly realised these terrible things . . . and that they were actually real and the rest of it was complete and utter rubbish. I woke up. It was quarter of an hour before I had to get out.
. . . This dream about impositions . . . it was so complex and the alarm’s going off and it’s part of the dream . . . it’s all the different pages and whatever . . .
. . . it’s this whole dream thing and I was suddenly terrified of the whole thing and then the alarm goes off, right? And I know I’ve got to change it and it’s all wrong and then . . . I was so upset. The alarm goes off again and it’s like change, the whole thing has changed, I know . . . I know . . . it’s just . . . it’s just . . .it’s not real. I’ve realised, you know, there are no words. It’s just my body here, that’s all. There’s no words involved, I’ve just go to get out of bed. God! It just goes on and on.
. . . you know . . . this whole thing where the time was written on the paper as to when this happened and that happened and I had to get up when it got to such and such . . . which wasn’t yet.
. . . I had to get up, I had to get up, cos there really was type involved this time and it had got to the point where there was like type, but the formatting had to change and like the bullets had to be different and some of the stuff that was in the boxes . . . there were like these boxes right? Umm and some of the stuff had to go outside the boxes but there was a lot of text and it had to change and I like turned over and I was patting down the, trying to find the front of my sleeping bag cos it had got all twisted cos the boxes were there that I had to reformat and they were coming up and there was more that I had to do . . .
I had these terrible dreams . . . ha-ha . . . there was this thing going on how I was three days behind . . .
As well as the to-be-expected typesetter’s nightmares, I did have new experiences as well. Karnayati Morison made, when talking to me one day, some reference to having hallucinations while running. I had heard of people doing so, but - hallucinating?!: it seemed so extreme . . . until, that was, I lay down in my tent one day and started . . . listening to the voices.
This was not the folk in the next tent, nor was it a dream. From then on, every time I tried to sleep, be it at midnight or midday, before I drifted off into my shallow, disturbed, typographically-troubled sleep I would listen to ‘the voices’.
There was a large generator that pounded away beside the tents providing power for the camp. The voices emerged out of the sound of the generator. Generally there were two and they spoke to each other – clearly, precisely, easily followed.
As I refer back now to my little Dictaphone notes, the expression ‘I think I’m going mad’ occurs with quite notable frequency!
Links:The Self-Transcendence Ten Day Race was founded by Sri Chinmoy
Details of the race - results, photo galleries and such like - can be found at the race webpage - 2006 Self-Transcendence 6 & 10 Day Races
The Biblical quote is actually from the book of Joel 2.28
Hey, head down to ESA Publications (NZ) Ltd and buy up large for all your educational book requirements. You won't regret it! Nothing but the best!