What of DreamsЧNow?


Over a decade and a half has passed since I last spent time with Professor Efremov. He is gone, and so are Ernest and Wade. We still visit the red beds of Oklahoma and Texas, making small discoveries and fitting in the pieces of the ancient course of life on the once great delta near the Permian landmass.

A period of 15 or 20 years is such a short time in history, even in man's written history, that it can hardly be of any great significance. Still, if the studies of the ancient past can be trusted, it would seem that sometimes seeds planted during a very few years become catalysts for major events that follow, often chaotically non-predictable. The effects of some monнstrous cataclysm that may have hastened the extinctions of the great reptiles of the past and paved the way for our own group, the mammals, seems to be one example. The "big bang" origin of the universe is another. But these are dramatic, and much more subtle events, recognizable only in retrospect, may also lie at the base of pervasive change. The early forays of our reнmote ancestors in search of food on the ground, or slight changes in the suspension of the upper jaws in bony fishes, fundamental to the great spread of modern day teleost fishes in the waters of the earth, are of this kind. One cannot presume to know that the decades of the 1970s and early 1980s have spawned such seeds, although there are those who feel this to be true, but so much has happened during this time as we plunge blindly at an accelerating pace into the future that the acceleration itself is at least a cause for concern about the fate of the old ways.

The course through our times seems to travel along two contrary pathways, the one marked by a burgeoning and overнwhelming complexity of human affairs and the other an impelнling roadway to comforting simplicity. The elated hopes and scientific dreamers of yesteryear, once public property, have now carried beyond common comprehension, parcelled out in necessarily simplistic abstractions by willing but handcuffed interpreters. Ideas, for the most part expressible only in matheнmatics, lose their intrinsic sense and mislead in articulate lanнguage. But the language and the world of science is, now more than ever before, mathematics girded by obscure acronyms. Perhaps a new literacy is emerging from the rise of computers. We seem to have made the circle back to the Pythagorean-Platonic world of "idos."

The dreams of the few who extrapolate from the equations into simpler dimensions, and their followers, seem to fight a losing battle, for now at least, against something mysteriously dubbed "nature" and a headlong, sometimes guided, withнdrawal into myth and mysticism. Science, objectively searching for "reality," has been probing once "forbidden" areas, at least in our society, coming closer to the ultimate reduction of all phenomena to a common minutia of particles, ultimate atomism, energy and time, where forces strong and weak merge confusedly and are sensible only mathematically. Reducнtive analysis seems to flaunt holistic concepts both in biology and physics. Do we touch the unanswerable? Or is the very human source of the construct itself a bar to evaluating it? We unravel the mechanistic fabric of life and its origin, and life itself without a subjective sense seems nothing but a particular manнifestation of a special set of molecules and catalysts. By treating, rearranging and putting together foreign fragments we alter old forms of being and create new ones. Yet, at the same time, in science we retreat from mechanisms and causes into a probнabilistic or stochastic world of laws and chance. Is this the stuff of new dreams? Perhaps, but the puppeteer can hardly but conнfuse his audience.

A unity pervades the universe. The same matter-energy complex and the same laws apply throughout, and the lumps of matter and spots of energetic outburst are perturbations in a slowly subsiding burst. The "ultimate" origin of our universe in a "big bang" looms more and more probable. But what in the "instant" before, or what after? Or was there such an "inнstant?" Allegedly, by some, the "big bang" is the equivalent of the Biblical command, "Let there be light," as the struggle to bridge the gap between scientific and revealed knowledge finds it all to be clear in the Bible, the Koran or some other source of ancient interchange between God or gods and mortal interнmediaries. Perhaps this conflict of the two is necessary for comнfort.

None of this, of course, is new. The roots of our present scientific era date back to Copernicus and Galileo, followed by DesCartes, Newton and Darwin and recast anew by Einstein. And they go back to the Ionians through Muslim interнmediaries. Each new surge of ideas has been met by moveнments to retreat into the mold of the past. Only recently, howнever, have moon landings, planetary explorations and radio and X-ray studies of the outer reaches of the universe, with its quasars and black holes, perhaps galactic cores, shown us so graphically how insignificant and possibly alone we may be on a temporary speck of dust in a seething maze of energy and near absolute zero "empty" space, all of which too must cease. Must we dream of other intelligences, even populate our skies with their vessels, and explore extragalactic future homelands to stay sane? Or shall we dream of intelligent robots, succeeding their imaginative but less intelligent creators and penetrating where carbon-based organisms cannot go?

Or shall we say, "Let's stop this, it's false; we live day-to-day and year-to-year and man is better for not knowing." Or again, "Let's remember, it is all filtered through our receptors and transmitters and created out of our own being, just a necessary construct to our existence and not necessarily real at all." The universe, thus seen, is our own creation, to die when man dies. Such strong disillusionment, such alienation, somehow seems to have intensified after the initial elation following the moon landings. The small window to space turned inward to the disнturbingly isolated white and blue sphere of earth. Dreams began to dwindle. Grand space dreamers still existЧRay Bradнbury or A. C. Clarke among the fiction writers, Carl Sagan and John Ball among astronomers, Stephen Gould and Isaac Asimov among biologists. And to me, Professor Efremov, as well, was one of these. But his dream was covered by his own odd dialecнtical blanket and was totally anthropocentric in the sense of universal mission. All intelligence must be in man-form. Now, however, even some of the writers of science fiction and fanнtasy, who form the free, fanciful vanguard of the future, have tended to turn inward, following and even setting the earth-centered, humanity-centered trends. Beyond the few grand dreamers are the religious cults of a thousand sects, meditation, terrorism, scientific creationism, extremes of wealth and povнerty, cultish environmentalism and the flowering of comforting myths of many sorts. Together they form a devastating mix with lines not clearly drawn, but mostly one way or another seeking explanations and reasons for being in semi- or pseudo-scientific sources.

Has all of this, which seems to have intensified during the last two decades and to be heading for a climax, any significance beyond today or tomorrow? Can we find in it any of those vague seeds which will flower either to roses or weeds? The obvious key to significance, which dates somewhat farther back, may lie in the added factor of man's newly acquired capaнcity to unleash immense amounts of energy in great, unconнtrolled blasts. This casts its shadow soberingly over all phases of our life, both physical and social, and likely lies at the base of some of the restless searching for refuge in myths. A present danger to our "speck of dust" which did not exist before now looms as a power to destroy and becomes ever more a common property.

I would dearly love to sit with Professor Efremov, in his booklined little apartment on Gubkine Street in Moscow, with a "few drops" of cognac and talk of these things as we once did. Or, if not to talk, to write and get his reactions in his colorнful, often obscure English. I can't, of course, but I might be permitted to imagine some of his comments, knowing all the time that they reflect my own sense of the words he might use.

"Haven't you know yet," he might have begun, "not to make a drop in the sea a collision of earths? But I agree we head for troubles. Remember my chart? Your leaders have lost their ways, and like confused people, want to go back on old roads. Morals are at a steep decline among the young, too. We too, in Russia, go back to the old destruction of intellectuals and have no value of person or life. But maybe a new wind blows, maybe, but think back to Khruschev. Stalin destroyed the balance, just like your military-economic complex. I think our bad governнments have no way to understanding the use of the damned atomic bomb. Not our countries, but maybe some crazy mass culture like Chinese.

"I like your mixture of cults, terrorism, science, sociobiology and mystics, but don't you read my Edge of the Razor? It's all there, the linear mixup of undigested opposites with nothing of understanding of balance of the two sides. We must merge sciences and the arts and psychology. But I am horrified by your 'scientific creationism.' You wrote earlier, but I hardly beнlieved it could be today, certainly not here. What on earth kind of balancing is this? What is the matter with you there, can't you kill them off dead like old Texas outlaws? What on earth is this sociobiology? You have sent me the book by Wilson. Has it passed now? He is a very wise man, but like you western scientists sees just one side. Maybe he is too much with ants. The twin studies you sent me from Science, how the pairs beнhave so much alike though long separated is puzzlingЧwhat about the others who don't behave alike? Are all these ways built in the genes? Maybe we have got Ardrey and Lysenko mixed together. You can't breed out 'cors serpentis.' It will go away as society not genes is so made over that the need of a person to win in combat is gone. But this is 'heady stuff and you probably can't understand my badly put wanderings.

"You keep talking about retreat to myths. This is very wise, but remember Homo is too young and embryonic in new conнsciousness to exist without them. Your western science and ours, too, is full of the greatest myth, that reality can be exнpressed and explained in mathematical equations. It's going the wrong way, we can pick out anything from the complex and prove it, but alone. The two sides of the equation are not equal explainers, but what I call 'linear tautologies.' It's dangerous, of course, without balance and synthesis. You say we are rushing headlong into the future and I agree, but on one-track rails without merging the parallel tracks of science and technology and arts and psychiatry. To the one end of the material scale, the spirit is missed. Tell me what you think.

"Humanity and spirit you say show in kindness, charity and an effort to make all men equal. Now you retreat to the 'Great American Myth' like we French say egalite. This is a monнstrous falseness. Look back through your 'sociobiology.' Askа your retreaters to nature, our modern Thoreaus, to look to their model. Where is the guide? A horrid dangerЧas I write youЧ is in the growing monoculture, the attainable egalite reduced to the level of the least. No! Spirit, soul if you want, is all life, not just man, and the task of evolution is to accomplish this end of materialistic and dialectical scale. Spirit is the key to the meetнings. Being and awareness balance perfectly the other mechanнistic end and then the goal of homeostasis is reached. Not at a low level. But not yet.

"You drew back or came to ignore,а quite right, your 'mathematical animals' in your Morphological Integration. Stochastics and mathematics only are helpful tools in getting to reality, but what of history? It never went a one-line path. With mathematics you make the universe what you want and the choice is in your bases and rules, mostly man made. We lose ends and aims; homeostasis is not a one-track process.

"You are wrong, I am not one of your dreamers, but a 'turned in' earth dreamer. My stories, dreams if you want, are put in the future or the past, in outworld space, but only in fantasy. The ridiculous space warp must be, but just to make possible the return to earth of travellers with their lessons. Rel-ativistic travellers can't come back like that. There would be no one to share their wisdom. Once, at first, I did write to escape my boring, but later mostly to tell my people things they needed to know and could not hear in our insane destruction by what you call communism. But you are right, man must have grand dreams, even if only of God and Heaven and now we seem to have lost them and even our formal religion is a misleading farce. I came down with the same worry in my Edge of the Razor but showed the way out. This was with some personal worry with me too, but nothing came from it. It will be a long way ahead, but like I have wrote you so many times, it is a dangerous trail and maybe only you of us will see to which way it goes. I think it to be soon, maybe in the 1990s?

"But enough of this, you must be tired of my wandering.

I agree things are changing very fast, too fast. But you are not excited like I know you? Do you work too hard and maybe lose dreams too? Maybe, like I, you get old, too old. Maybe it is just today. But it is good to wonder and dream. Right now, it's a beautiful day out the window, but don't forget reality is only the moment. So let's stop and have just a few more drops and this time I say to hell with the heart and I join you ..."

. . . Old Efraim

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