All the dreams of all the ages

Throughout history, as far as we can tell from ancient literatures and from more recent preliterature societies, humans have dreamed of many of the same magical powers:

Icarus

  • to fly
  • specifically, to fly to the moon
  • to talk with animals and birds and fish
  • to be able to live and breathe underwater
  • to have a magic mirror that lets you see what is happening in distant lands
  • to know the future
  • to go back in time
  • to shrink to the size of a mouse, or grow to a giant
  • to change into a different creature
  • to turn a common substance into gold
  • to turn a large number of small common objects (ants, seeds, teeth) into an army of warriors
  • to heal sickness with a word or a touch
  • to come back from the dead
  • to live forever
  • to climb up and live on the clouds
  • to live in a palace in the sky forever, doing whatever you most enjoy doing.

Some people were said by storytellers to have done these things. Some people claimed to be able to do them. Followers of Jesus thought he rose from the dead, followers of Muhammad thought he went up to Heaven one night, followers of Odin thought that his ravens told him all the doings of the world – and of course many, many religious authorities promise you unverifiable after-death benefits in exchange for a cash contribution in the here-and-now.

But let’s face it: the dreams are cool! We wanted to do these things as kids, and we want to do them still. And better yet: we ARE doing them. Flying, in various ways. Walking on the moon. Looking at distant lands with our “magic mirrors”, whether phones or big-screen TVs.

And we keep working on the rest: trying to talk with dolphins; bringing people back from clinical death; planning for permanent colonies in the sky; and – the big one – trying to figure out how to live forever.

The dreams are the same as the dreams of those old religions. But now we know what we have to do, to make them become reality. (P.S. It involves work, not prayer.)

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Gay marriage is nowhere near the final step

The religious fundies are right to be worried – gay marriage is by no means the last step along the road to personal freedom.

Lea T in Vogue

Lea is the world’s first transsexual supermodel, and she is out on behalf of others

There are plenty of other people who are currently constrained by laws and social norms based on the tribal myths of our Bronze Age ancestors.

Lea, Brazilian-born as Leo, the son of a famous soccer player, struggled with identity issues throughout childhood and adolescence, but was given the personal space to explore her feminine nature through her friendship with Givenchy designer Ricardo Tisci.

He let Leo become Lea, helping explore the changed social role, and providing work opportunities as his assistant, and finally with using her striking looks as a model.

And Lea, despite embarrassments and difficulties including with her traditionalist Roman Catholic family, has made a point of using her position to raise the profile of transsexuals through her own public persona.

She sounds like a brave person, and a noble one. So fundamentalists of all religions are right to be worried that gay marriage in itself is not the end of the road to personal freedom. We are moving into the realms of choice outlined decades ago by SF writer John Varley, whose short story collection “Picnic on Nearside” (originally “The Barbie Murders”) deals with people who change sex every few years at their discretion, and modify their looks (and biology) as they please, yet still have long-term relationships, raise children, and so on.

It’s science fiction. And science fiction is an expression of the same dreams that humanity has always had, to fly, to see and talk with people anywhere in the world, to talk with animals, to go to the moon, to live forever.

Much of that was only on offer through shamans and religions and dreams… until the development of science began to make them all physically possible. Our culture has become rather like that of the Ancient Greeks, with most people following one or another cult of temple-based worship, while a growing number strike out into philosophies that are first speculative, then agnostic, then secular to the point of atheism.

The world of the near future need not be that different from the best aspects of the most cultured civilizations of the past – but with our age-old dreams being increasingly realized as fact, and available to all.