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  • Curriculum and the Dream Paradigm

    [09.29.06]
    - Stephen Schafer

  •  Who am I, where am I, and why am I here?

    Who am I, where am I, and why am I here? People have always wanted answers to these questions, and any teacher worth his/her salt has tried to throw some light on the subject of knowing self. Now it is even more important to know ourselves, because the reality we build upon this foundation (future or any other direction) is entirely dependent on the responsibility we take for who, where, and why we are. The answers to these questions define our very reality. In order to know or attempt to understand our increasingly subtle reality we must first define ourselves. We must ask ourselves, "Who am I?" Am I my body? My thoughts? My feelings? My memories? My dreams? My plans? My job? My race, religion, family, history, sexual orientation, taste, likes, attitudes, sensibilities? Finally, we must transcend all these limitations and learn to encompass all.

    We cannot find the answer without the medium of words. We are what we think we are, but who we think we are depends on words. An idea, our perception of our self, our self itself is constantly changing--constantly fluctuating to encompass, correlate, and understand new experiences. Yet, no matter how smart we think we are, most of us cannot help but think of our self as our body. It is a long-standing habit; but, of course, an erroneous and misleading perspective on reality.  Who we are resides in the emotional, psychological, and spiritual realms and includes insubstantial things like dreams and memories or dreams and memories of emotions. Such things are hard to locate, so we still tend to pretend they are not real. But simultaneously, we recognize that without plans, dreams, objectives, love, a sense of value, etc. we cannot be real human beings. The significance of our new scientific understanding of our personal reality is that it is subjective and non-local-even mental. Up 'till now we have simply assumed we were real because we seemed solid; but, as Attanasio says, our spells have changed the world we once knew into a world of dreams we don't recognize.

    A new millennium curriculum needs to inform students with the skills of the psyche. We need to begin thinking of ourselves as ideas (heavily colored by emotion) rather than physical bodies. This suggests that we must change our primary perspective on the personal self from a focus on the physical body to a focus on the mental body. We are insubstantial abstractions, and had best get used to the truth. We have always been insubstantial abstractions, but most of us have simply not appreciated it. We didn't realize it (make it real). Others, like Plato, did appreciate it. In addition to his axiom that thoughts are things, he said that, "Thought finds its way into action." Jesus said, "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." Emerson said, "Thoughts rule the world." Thoreau said, "Our thoughts are epochs in our lives." Disraeli said, "Nurture your minds with great thoughts; to believe in the heroic makes heroes." Pythagoras discovered the key to the mental reality in number and symbol, and any philosopher, saint, genius, or bard before or since, who has employed figurative language in the form of analogy, parable, or metaphor has understood the power of symbolic language to turn dreams into reality--to focus and mold human consciousness.

    More recently, Einstein, with the formula E=Mc² proved the "reality of dreams." Accordingly, during the last fifty years our reality has changed drastically. It is an entertaining irony that our quintessentially materialistic, modern science has proven beyond a doubt that nothing material exists. Conversely, previously non-existent thoughts are now easy to perceive as things-"The stuff of the world is mind stuff." Physics is become metaphysics.  Certainly, if thoughts are things, words are also things. Using this perspective of mind and employing number and symbol, scientists have been steadily transforming our concrete global culture into a virtual reality. Now that we have a basic language of dreams, everyone on the street can accept its possibilities and get involved with the mystery-television, computers, omnipresent telephones, electronic dictionaries-love, justice, honor, and so forth. The transition probably began with the invention of printing, but we took a quantum leap when electricity was captured in the vacuum tube. After the splitting of the atom, we jumped to the development of the transistor, and then progressed rapidly to cyberspace, genetics, and a tenuous physical exploration of cosmos. Because of these rapid leaps and expansions of reality, knowing ourselves and deciding why we are here have become the human imperative.  Our educational curriculum has something to do with the process, and serious games may be the only medium that is up to the job.

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