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  • Curriculum and the Dream Paradigm

    [09.29.06]
    - Stephen Schafer

  •  Reality and the Power of Spelling

    "...people wandered the earth and their dreams fitted the contours of the earth perfectly. Whirlwinds of light, the people moved upon the open hand of the earth. When they died, they disappeared completely, vanishing like dreams into the very depths of emptiness. Then the Fire Lords taught the people numbers and alphabets. The people learned spelling--and with these spells, the world changed forever. Dreams became bigger than the contours of the earth. People still died, but they did not disappear completely anymore. Their dreams remained behind... History is their enduring spell, etched in fired clay, chiseled in basalt, inked into parchment, printed across bond paper. We have seen these spells change the earth we once knew into a world of dreams we do not recognize. Why are we here?" (A.A. Attanasio, 1999, p 142).

    The purpose of a twenty-first century curriculum must be consistent with the human imperative to know self and to take mature responsibility for our gift of spelling.  The poet is capable of expressing complex ideas simply. The above passage, replete with meaning, exemplifies this skill. With a few cogent phrases the poet defines the evolution of human consciousness, the source of human creativity, and the millennial evolutionary challenge. Later, Attanasio confronts the dilemma of our current crisis of education: "The more we talk, the less we are. We become nothing but the shadow of words." The media dream and the game curriculum represent potent spells with which we may still recover, at a higher level of development, our appreciation of the dream and our understanding of ourselves as a dream.

    The new millennium holds the potential for the emergence of an elegant poetry of transcendence-an opportunity for humans to overcome the limitations of the vulgar.  Symbolically, the circle and the cross encompass the human condition and the human mandate.  Symbols have served humans well in their effort to understand reality and the part humans play in that reality.  The symbol has been a starting point for grasping the significance of the fundamental paradox of reality.  It is expressed in the Tai chi of Zen Buddhist philosophy where the paradox is expressed as, "Everything is no-thing, and nothing is everything."             

    The symbol of the circle and the cross is a beginning point for studying the parallel myths of reality (including the myth of science), for understanding the human/cosmic reality as a dream (an illusion with purpose based on thought and feeling), and for understanding the human responsibility for lucid dreaming.  From all indications, Logos has a plan and a purpose and human beings have a significant part to play in the plan.  The plan seems to be that we learn to play the game-to use our unique human skills of limitation-the gift of naming-to increase our understanding of wholeness, to expand our sense of responsibility, and to help further cosmic evolution.

    These would be extravagant claims, if they had not been reiterated so frequently by so many of our best human exemplars-both ancient and modern.  Only for a brief time has Western Civilization been retrograde[6] in its adherence to a paradigm of scientific-materialism, but this retrograde is only a necessary illusion that is quickly correcting itself.  The consequence of this retrograde experience has been that collective humanity has discovered a set of important keys for understanding responsible human creativity within the reality of the dream.  Humanity has been the apprentice and is now becoming the sorcerer.  As Marshall McLuhan said, the medium is the message.  In the book, The Medium of Dreams (Stephen Schafer, 2006), I discuss the media as the scientific-sorcery wielded by collective humanity to create their illusion of reality within the paradigm of the dream.  Next, I argue that a unique form of the media, the video game, has the potential to be a twenty-first century curriculum.  Finally, I demonstrate how programming games according to the parameters of Jungian dream interpretation might have the power to heal the cultural persona of the United States.

    Human divinity was proffered by Christ who said, "You shall do greater things than I," Like a god, the literate citizen of the twenty-first century must wield the power of the word.  Like an effective novelist s/he must establish verisimilitude and create her own reality with the compelling power of words.  S/he must create her science fiction worlds with a synthesis of images from mythology, metaphysics, and science. They are worlds where dreams = reality just as E = Mc².  Subsequent to the "dreamtimes" of aboriginal humanity, and progressively into the long age of letters, humans have thought they understood reality.  Somehow reality was a solid dream.  Consequently we have misconstrued many of the messages of our greatest teachers. Only recently as Western civilization has pressed the reality paradox to extremes has humanity made the solid dream real by way of its media.  Within a relatively brief period of time we have discovered that solidity is, at best, relative. Even worse, "In the scientific world the concept of substance is wholly lacking... For this reason the scientific world often shocks us by its appearance of unreality. It offers nothing to satisfy our need for the concrete," (Sir Arthur Eddington).

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