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  • Curriculum and the Dream Paradigm

    - Stephen Schafer

     In the new paradigm, understanding of the media is of priority importance.  The power of the media and research relative to its creative influence on human reality is amply documented.  Among the modern proponents of this message was Marshall McLuhan who stated the principle that the medium is the message which, paraphrased, can be understood to mean, "Humans create within the limitations of the medium with which they communicate."  This is the reason why video games will be the medium of the twenty-first century curriculum-not for any of the reason we might suppose, but for the reason that they are the most efficient expression of media principles yet produced within the scientific-psychological context of the new paradigm.

    In addition to understanding the dream and the media, we must begin to know ourselves.  Mythically, philosophically, and practically the purpose of life and education is and always has been to "know thyself."  Psychologically, knowing ourselves is accomplished by expanding our personal point of reference to include more and more of the unknown part of the self-that part we call the Shadow archetype.  This psychological growth process can be understood as the maturation which attends the experience of life.  This maturation process is the plot underlying Joseph Campbell's Journey of the Hero who, in myth, represents the role model for a culture.  Through trial and error, the Hero learns to know his/her true self as the psyche (soul) rather than the limited, self-centered personality.  Until Americans have a more mature understanding of their cultural persona and its responsibilities in an expanded reality, they will fail the tests of this game level.

    The metaphor, "life as game," is of ancient origin, and it is very current today.  Principles of the Journey of the Hero are pervasive in role playing games.  Their efficacy in the development of plot sequence (levels) and for deep characterization in avatars and sprites (artificial intelligences) is well known in the game industry.  The journey is a symbol of the game of life, and the successful hero achieves a degree of integration called by Campbell at-one-ment

    From the symbolist perspective, the three primary forms of the communications media (the game, life, and the dream) share the narrative structure of the Journey of the Hero.  The objective of the journey is the expansion of consciousness by the translation and integration of experience from the unconscious to the conscious awareness.

    "Wholeness of the personality is achieved when the main pairs of opposites are relatively differentiated, that is, when both parts of the total psyche, consciousness and the unconscious, are linked together in a living relation.  But the dynamic gradient, the flow of psychic life, is not endangered, for the unconscious can never be made wholly conscious and always has the greater store of energy.  The wholeness is always relative and gives us something to work on as long as we live.  ‘Personality, as the complete realization of our whole being, is an unattainable ideal.  But un-attainability is no argument against the ideal, for ideals are only signposts, never the goal,'" (Jacobi, 1973, from Jung's The Development of Personality).

    "Jung found that most dreams show a certain similarity of structure...they form a self-contained whole, a dramatic action which can meaningfully be broken down into the elements of a Greek play," [1) place/time 2) Exposition 3) Peripety 4) Lysis] (Jacobi, 1973, p. 82).

    This shared narrative structure and symbolist content is significant because the rhetorical patterns provide a programmable framework within which connections can be made and from which synchronicity of insight can emerge.  In a meaningful narrative framework, one can identify with self and integrate information and insight from multiple domains.  Among the three domains mentioned, the medium of the game is easiest to understand, and the medium of the dream the most difficult to understand.  Learning the fundamental language of each domain and how they are related should constitute a major objective of curriculum.  When the fundamental languages are assimilated through game play, higher levels of integrated insight become accessible.  Moreover, the mythic structure of the Hero's journey provides ample opportunity for the learning of virtually any material covered by a classical curriculum.  Most important, the Journey has an inherent validity; the purpose of the Hero's journey is to "know thyself" by achieving a harmonization of personality with the unified field of psyche.

    Such psychic harmonization can be realized by playing games.  Synchronization requires a rapid and continuous change of perspective which is consistent with the relative, non-local aspects of the Psyche.  Seen as process, harmonization requires continuous alteration of perspective that is consistent with game play.  In this process as in the medium of the "movies" single frames of content are enlightened in rapid succession.  One might say that light adds a dimension to consciousness so that discreet images appear to be alive and to move.  This added dimension may be an illusion, but it is an important illusion that allows us to identify or interact with the medium in a revolutionary way.  The successive focus of light on relatively static images creates an added dimension of conscious awareness.  This process may be analogous to the projection of light upon some aspect of self that is un-conscious-like breathing life into dust. 

    When dealing with light and shadow, usually the Shadow principle is interpreted in pejorative terms that include fears, doubts, blocks, and wounds.  We tend to repress the Shadow, and we reject its proffer of help, for there is a positive aspect of the Shadow.  It encompasses all our most exalted hopes, dreams, and potentials.  According to Carl Jung, these unrecognized aspects of self, both positive and negative, employ the principle of compensation to bring themselves to our attention, and these compensatory messages are communicated through the media of dreams-both sleeping and waking.  It is by use of the media that we learn, evolve, and grow-that we gradually change our perspective with more light.


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