December 24, 2010 § 32 Comments
“We are the music-makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.”
We were born into a world built on dead men’s dreams.
Our reality, the society that has been conditioning our perception from the day of our birth, is a construction built on a construction built on ideas from minds long dead. Their creations compose our world and make up the maps of our psyches, a collective human inheritance.
Today, staring at a red traffic signal in the shape of an arrow, waiting to get on the freeway, I was struck by my—and everyone’s—trance-like acceptance of the symbol.
I noted how automatic my responses to the direction had been. I stopped calmly and waited for the light to turn green. A perfectly reasonable thing to do. Except, in that moment, I felt unusually aware of the lab-rat-like nature of my obedience. Stranger still, I realized I had never noticed the phenomenon before, because it had always been that way.
Green light, go. Red light, stop. Yellow, slow.
It’s as if we are placed on a motorized conveyor belt at birth, with an endless array of arrows telling us where to go.
Apart from the occasional miscalculation, our roads, our cities, our skies, run like the inside of a well-oiled machine. Stop. Go. Cogs and wheels. The machine of the city, like the inside of a clock.
Our education starts young. We are groomed for the world: sit quietly, yield to authority and accept the consensus reality. Anything that falls outside of this perimeter is systematically dismissed.
We aren’t taught to ask questions but to regurgitate articulately. We go to school and learn the rules. Then, when we’re of age, we get a job and try to play the learned rules as good as or better than our peers, to make money to survive.
In a basic sense, this rule-playing to survive is the only option given us. The alternative is homelessness, insanity, exile.
There are other options, of course, and many brave souls live the unfettered life of the irrepressible spirit within the thinly populated margins of the cultural fringe.
But it’s damn hard, against the grain, and the majority of us get funneled into the general conveyor belt of The System–because our survival depends on it.
Spending all day at work to afford the house or apartment we leave empty five days a week to go to work.
As we all know—but rarely stop to consider the wild absurdity of—part of The Education involves some very highly regarded paper notes printed by The System to represent worth.
We are told that some of these notes are worth more than others. Some are worth enough to exchange for a yacht and others are worth enough for only a cup of coffee. The only difference between these two notes is a symbol.
Despite our Education, I think everyone has had the passing thought that we’ve been duped. As we all know, this Monopoly money isn’t even backed by its worth in gold anymore.
And gold has its own hollow ring—you can’t eat it. It provides no information, functioning solely as a signifier—at least it has a tangibility. But the System ran out of gold years ago, and just kept printing bills. So, after spending all day at work we are given a handful of Monopoly money for our trouble.
“Here ya go!” says The System, patting Its worker bee on the head. “Some nice, crisp, colored paper. Don’t spend it all at once! Or do…”
Once we are equipped with our colored paper symbols, we are bombarded by advertisers who seek to steal our image of ourselves as we exist without their product and sell it back to us, “upgraded,” in exchange for the paper notes we have earned with our labor.
We are encouraged by media everywhere to overeat bad food and shop our cares away. It’s not personal, it’s marketing. And yet how many commercials does an average American watch in a lifetime? Billions. It would be impossible to be unaffected by such a bombardment.
MBG recently underwent some criticism for creating a commercial that literally burned the image of their logo onto the inside of movie-goers retinas. Utilizing the phenomenon that happens when you look at the sun and close your eyes, the effect left an after-image on the inside of the viewers’ eyelids for several moments after they had stopped viewing the advertisement.
But how different is this from what regular commercials are doing every day? In this world of advertisers who steal our images of ourselves, this time of speedy soundbites and cheap entertainment, a newer, bigger, faster culture of diversion has taken us hostage on its runaway train.
Writer Nicholas Carr speculates that our constant Internet trolling is remodeling our brains, making it nearly impossible for us to give sustained attention to a long piece of writing. He posits that modern humans’ addiction to technology may be weakening our ability to engage in deep thought.
Tests show that internet perusal activates the “seeker” instinct in humans, leftover from foraging days, so that when a quest for online information is initiated, the promise of obtaining a new nugget of social interaction or trivia sets the dopamine flowing in our brains.
But research suggest that, chemically, the payoff is less exciting than anticipated. An obsessive loop can be activated, leaving us continually pressing the lever for another crumb.
In our tick-tock world we are encouraged to function like clockwork, prescribed medication when we aren’t integrating well with society [See “The Politics of Normalcy”] and given our mollifying diversions in many forms. As Jim Morrison said:
“We have been metamorphosised from a mad body dancing on hillsides to a pair of eyes staring in the dark.”
For centuries, the medicine men and women of indigenous cultures have utilized disassociative substances to step outside the hive mind & brush with other dimensions of reality. They have taken psychotropic plants to travel through inner space, bringing back dreams & stories to stimulate the imagination of the tribe.
It’s noteworthy and suspicious that substances which might open up new ways of thinking are illegal in our culture, but consumption of the cancer-causing distraction of cigarettes and the numbing agent of alcohol is legal and actively encouraged (shades of “1984‘s” Victory Gin.)
What is to be done then, once it becomes clear that we are living in a reality inherited by long dead others?
The first thing is to step outside of the consensus spell, as much as possible. Awareness is key.
And then what, after deconstruction? Endless analysis? What really can be done? Society will not disappear.
Enter, the Dreamer. ..
The role of the Dreamer is the same as the philosopher, the artist, the mystic, the shaman, the monk, the poet, the sage, the writer, the dancer.
The Dreamer has the same noble destiny throughout the ages: to stimulate the imagination of society. To act as a bridge between consensus reality and the greater mystery of existence.
During times when philosophical complacency runs high and value for the arts and the humanities runs low, it is the moral and spiritual obligation of every Dreamer to speak their truth as best they can in whatever medium most excites them.
It is the destiny of every Dreamer to bring aliveness to the mechanized time, provocation to the complacent culture.
In order to engage in the original thinking necessary to provide the world with stimulating observations, the Dreamer must effectively step outside of the mental framework of society and perceive the world from a bird’s eye view.
We must question everything we have been taught and hereto assumed. We must seek new information of worth and be on a constant mission to set the imagination on fire.
There is so much beauty available, so many notes left behind by Dreamers before us who have questioned the way we live.
To combat the alienation and emptiness produced by the mechanized, disposable, consumeristic, materialistic worldview infiltrating our minds everyday from the outside world, we must consciously cultivate contact with our inner spirit and feed our soul.
We must give ourselves time to dream, to exist in undisturbed silence and nature, to ruminate on our lives and question reality.
As the advertisement-driven Western World slowly succeeds in covering the globe with McDonald arches and brand name blurbs—as people become more and more addicted to the instant gratification of pop technology—we are increasingly in danger of losing the impulse to dream.
Without vision, without self-questioning, we lose our way.
Dreamers are in high demand these days. This is a call to arms. Can you be a professional dreamer? I, for one, am certainly going to try.