The Dream Before the Awakening

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

Note:  This diary relies heavily on three brilliant videos from the TED conferences.  They’re a little longer than your average music video but they present what I consider to be some very important ideas as well as being very interesting and entertaining.  I urge you to watch them all in their entirety.  I think you’ll be pleased that you did.  Gracias.

Our entire improbable existence is the outcome of a long chain of bizarre circumstances, happenstances, accidents and experiments.  Human society has never been anything more than a jackleg improvised house of cards – the rise and fall of civilizations themselves something of a mirage in motion, houses of smoke and mirrors, patchwork quilts comprised of dreams, hallucinations, insight and insanity, traditions and superstitions.  We’ve been making it up as we went all along.  Human society is an organism unto itself and subject with any certainty only to natural laws.  It is understood poorly at best and nothing at all about it has ever been guaranteed.  As Lithium Cola says, “what made you think any of this was ever going to work out anyway?”


For all of our hubris and vanity, we are little more than clever monkeys.  More importantly, we are clever monkeys confined to the surface of a decidedly finite planet…and we are, in so many ways, bumping up against the edges of what our finite planet can withstand.  Knowing this is enough to make you wonder whether our kind may be coming to an end.  

“We look back through countless millions of years and see the great will to live struggling out of the intertidal slime, struggling from shape to shape and from power to power, crawling and then walking confidently upon the land, struggling generation after generation to master the air, creeping down the darkness of the deep; we see it turn upon itself in rage and hunger and reshape itself anew, we watch it draw nearer and more akin to us, expanding, elaborating itself, pursuing its relentless inconceivable purpose, until at last it reaches us and its being beats through our brains and arteries…It is possible to believe that all the past is but the beginning of a beginning, and that all that is and has been is but the twilight of the dawn. It is possible to believe that all that the human mind has accomplished is but the dream before the awakening; out of our lineage, minds will spring that will reach back to us in our littleness to know us better than we know ourselves. A day will come, one day in the unending succession of days, when beings, beings who are now latent in our thoughts and hidden in our loins, shall stand upon this earth as one stands upon a footstool, and shall laugh and reach out their hands amidst the stars.”

H.G. Wells


It serves no purpose to contemplate doom, so no matter how bad things may look we need to remain focused on our continued journey…and maybe by doing so we will help to dream the future into being, as the shamans might say, or maybe the dreaming is done and it is now time for the awakening, as Mr. Wells might say.

There is seemingly no end to the problems that plague us.  From the collapsing economy to the persistent and destructive machinery of war and torture, from ill-fated notions of bipartisanship to excuse making for war profiteers and uber-thieves, from empty-headed consumerism to religious intolerance, from homophobia to racism, from ethical waivers for lobbyists to the unrestrained rape of the earth…I think it’s safe to say our new president has his work cut out for him.  We’re all going to have to pitch in and help.  In addition to meeting our most pressing needs, we are going to need to prepare for all that is coming our way.  But in order to do that, we need to see our problems in context, and we need to have our priorities straight, and environmental sustainability has to be our first concern.

With that in mind, let’s listen to Alex Steffen talk about inspired ideas for a sustainable future at the TED conference:


Nearly 30 years ago I became involved with the Huntsville, Alabama chapter of the World Future Society.  It was an interesting bunch as Huntsville is home to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and was said to have the highest population of PhD’s per capita of any city in the world.  Oddly enough one of the great concerns of futurists of that time was the matter of renewable energy.  I remember much discussion of Buckminster Fuller‘s prediction that we would resolve the energy conundrum via technological innovation.  His position, IIRC, was that we’d always save ourselves through our inventiveness, more or less no matter what.

I don’t know if it’s as easy to hold that position now as it was back then.  OTOH, the personal computer and the Internet just may prove to be the innovations by which we manage to save ourselves.  I always did sort of figure old Bucky for a prophet.

On that note, let’s have a listen to Bob Thurman, the first American to be ordained a Tibetan Monk by the Dalai Lama.  He is a scholar, author and tireless proponent of peace and his presentation here is quite brilliant and appropo (IMHO).  You can stop watching at 12:15.  Otherwise please forgive the ad.

Bob Thurman: Becoming Buddha – on the Web


According to Bob Thurman, the perfect song, the perfect teaching, written by George Harrison, I me mine.

So we can all become Buddhas, wise and all knowing by plugging ourselves into this little thing called the World Wide Web.  I think we’ve all had a glimpse of how that might happen.  By educating, informing, inspiring, and stimulating each other, and by harnessing the synergies of the millions we become something much greater than the sum of our parts.  We become a deep running well of big ideas – and there is nothing we need worse at this point in our history than big ideas.

Let me wind up this little meditation with another genius from TED.  You can stop watching this one at 4:10.

Rives: “If I controlled the Internet” (a poem)




Skip to comment form

    • OPOL on January 25, 2009 at 17:16
    • Edger on January 25, 2009 at 17:26

    Can’t you think of a bigger topic?

    It’s early and I need more coffee for this! 😉

  1. Now all he needs is a complete overthrow of the profits system and he’ll be home free!

    • kj on January 25, 2009 at 19:31

    to carry the big ideas.

  2. go beyond our petty world here in the US of A. All the human concepts of reality are just a culmination of the moment, the moment we in our hubris create. A second in the heartbeat of the real. Strange that we so threaten our very existence with our lopsided view. I watch history unfold, the politics , the geopolitics and sometimes in the darkness of our history I root for extinction. I know somewhere essential not really social that we the human race are connected to the spirit part but we are afraid and have egos that will not accept the whole. Sometimes the time itself dictates our heroic stances self serving as they are. This seems to be one of those times we will either get a grip or self destroy. Mother nature will shake us off like the parasites we are, on the other hand there is symbiosis, where in we live and use our connections and needs without destruction.    

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