After a conversation with a family member about the merits of building the Keystone Pipeline, I was inspired to do more research about the U.S. and Saudi Arabian relations. The following is the result of my studies.
What I found did not surprise me, but it does make me wonder why one would think refining more tar sand oil for exports would change our relationship with Saudi Arabia.
The information I found is from the U.S. Department of State. Apparently we not only train the Saudi Arabian National Guard and security forces, but we also sell them aircraft, anti-aircraft weapons, and other military equipment. We have extensive partnerships with Saudi Arabia through Universities and, it seems, many upper levels of federal government.
How would building the Keystone Pipeline change our relationship with Saudi Arabia? We do have a large trade deficit with this country — but it seems we depend on them for much more than oil. Even if we cut our oil imports from Saudi Arabia in half, what about the education partnerships? the military training and supply? the politicians who are mutually indebted? Seems like if we wanted to buy oil elsewhere we could and are — the price of oil is set internationally, so the dollar cost is the same no matter the source. But it seems we are invested in Saudi Arabia for much more than their large energy reserves. We want to be able to use their land to invade other countries and stage our own military operations whether or not we need their oil, so continue to ply them with money and guns we will.
At some point, I accepted that humans are natural. My core beliefs seemed wrapped around Connectivity punctuated by Randomness, and as such, Homo sapiens could not have simply appeared as if summoned Accio-style from another dimension. Homo sapiens emerged as part of interconnected processes vastly more intricate than the five to seven active thoughts our brains can manage could begin to describe.
And yet. Yet. I grapple with this idea that the being I am is connected because, as a species, we seem so utterly other, so unlike our fellow inhabitants of Earth. Certainly the Otherness developed recently, with the advent of excessive energy and food resources that allowed our numbers to swell exponentially. Who’s to say any other Earthling, given the opportunity we had, would not have made exactly the same choices we did? Maybe that’s the point. Are we really so different? Is our current predicament an inevitable outcome of our biology, or is it uniquely human?
More and more, I’ve settled upon the former. Populations rise and fall given the whims of resources, Connectivity punctuated by Randomness. Perhaps our beliefs in the sanctity of Homo sapiens life are hard-wired, reinforced by culture, itself a byproduct of our co-dependence on community, connectivity. Should we blame ourselves, then, for our self-inflicted suffering? At once we are the perpetrators and the victims.
Blame is irrelevant, however, if your goal is survival. Whether a product of or challenger to our biology, the real question is whether we are capable of changing course. Individually, the answer is an obvious: Yes. Perhaps even small communities can exercise self-restraint and strive to live within their means. But the whole world of humans? The systems we’ve created to communicate and make decisions on large scales have thus far proved wholly inadequate, subject as they are to the frailties of individuals’ biological cravings for power.
The question burning deep within me writhes squeamish. What to do? Do we martyr ourselves in attempt to resurrect the ghosts of morality of those with the power to change course? Do we turn inward and seek those small communities that maybe, just maybe will become islands of self-sufficiency? Do we do nothing, proceed onward, with the faint hope that fears are overblown, or that at least the worst to come will pass after we are dead? Somehow these options fail to satisfy.
For those times when dreams leave a bitter aftertaste, I find some comfort in biology. Connectivity punctuated by Randomness has produced innumerable wonders which were and are, however briefly, appreciated by some infinitesimally small part of itself. I may feel the pangs of loss, and great potential for Great loss, of freedom, of wildness, of civilization–yet I acknowledge that even these feelings are part of my biology, my inheritance that has led to the survival of my countless ancestors and ultimately me.
I may be one of countless bodies whose life abruptly ends due to our self-inflicted crises, or I may continue merely as a witness, dying of some smaller ailment. Whatever my role, there’s some comfort in the Grand Scheme of Things, the belief that, yes, even though we are capable of destroying life as WE know it, life will persist. The biology that is Homo sapiens may or may not be part of Earth’s 4.5 billion year future, but the biology that continues will be just as fascinating. And I like to think that somewhere, someone will be around to appreciate it.
One of my friends (also an inspired Friend) Jay O’Hara has listened deeply to the still small voice of his dreams and has pursued its calling with unfettered abandon. He and Ken Ward were led to blockade a ship carrying 40,000 tons of West Virginia coal that sought to unload its cargo at Brayton Point Power Station, and today stand trial for their actions. Why they chose this course of action in their own words:
Our goal in going to trial, and for the original action, is to show to the world that the climate crisis is real and bold action is required to achieve the deep emissions reductions the science says we need for a stable planet. http://lobsterboatblockade.org/the-legal-case/
Today Jay and Ken stand trial where they will argue a “necessity defense,” making the case that there was no viable
legal alternative to achieve the results they sought — which is meaningful action to address climate change.
Reading Jay’s interview with Anna Barnett (another friend/Friend), hearing Jay talk about how he came to the decision to take this courageous action for our future, and seeing his dream unfold has moved me deeply, as I’m sure it will anyone who has felt called to follow a dream but also been overwhelmed or frightened by the magnitude of change doing so might invoke. Jay’s decision was anything but easy. He felt called to let go of organizations he had founded, to cut back on relationships and commitments he had previously made, and to change his lifestyle (traveling exclusively by bike, public transportation, or shared vehicles). Saying “no” and letting go of activities, places, careers, people we’ve invested time and energy into is perhaps one of the most challenging struggles and biggest sources of stress in our lives. Yet, often listening to and following our dreams calls for just this: letting go of what we know.
When we’ve committed to ourselves, however, and chosen to be honest with who we are and what we want, we seek guidance from our dreams, from that still small voice. Once we’ve made that commitment, we feel a shift internally, one that eases the pain of loss and helps us choose our true priorities with greater clarity. If you’ve ever read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, you’ll be familiar with the quote:
This feels true to me, and appears to be true in the dreamers I have watched and cheered. In Jay and Ken’s trial today, the District Attorney Sam Sutter for the coal ship blockade dropped charges “out of concern for the children who will be impacted by climate change.” Of course, the future of our children and climate change will not be solved with one trial, with one small group of people feeling called to take action, but it will not be helped without such dreamers as Jay and Ken. We all have gifts and the ability to make ourselves into the Beings we wish to be, and sometimes we need a little help following our dreams, a little faith in ourselves and our abilities. Today, as he has done for years, Jay inspires me to listen more deeply to my own dreams, to that still small voice, for I see the power and joy created through his doing so. Thank you, Jay! May your work continue to inspire us all.
Sources abound describing how to become a lucid dreamer and how to use your dreams as a source of inspiration and problem solving. Perhaps I will write a few tips I’ve learned from my own research thus another day, but this post will focus on the one piece of practical advice that anyone interested in dreaming will give you: keep a journal.
While recording your dreams in a journal may seem so 13-year-old, I can speak from experience that recording your dreams, even parts of them, helps you to remember your dreams more clearly and consistently. By remembering and writing down your dreams first thing, you are training yourself to remember your dreams, and like any skill you practice, you’ll get better at it the more you do it. You are also practicing a little self-psychology by telling your mind & body through the act of record your dreams that your dreams are important and worth recording, thus your mind will endeavor to help you do this better without you having to think about this consciously.
Anyhow, I’m not really trying to convince you to record your dreams — if you want to remember your dreams better, you’ll be motivated to record your dreams. For those people who are motivated, here are a few simple tips I’ve gleaned from a couple books about dreaming (sources below) that have helped me:
Before your go to bed:
Write the date. (You don’t want to have to think about this when you wake up and send your thoughts away from your dream.)
Write a few blurbs or sentences about your day next to the date — actions, thoughts, feelings, etc. This can help you to take the next step of learning the dream language.
If you want to incubate an idea or question while you dream, write the one sentence or question you have and repeat this phrase to yourself until you fall asleep. (This is so hard for me, but sometimes counting the number of times I’ve repeated a phrase to myself helps me stay focused on that phrase. Of course, I can’t seem to remember how to count past 3 at night, so I just keep counting/phrase repeating to 3 until I am alseep.)
4. Write down anything you remember from your dream(s), or, if you don’t remember anything — write down your first thoughts and feelings upon waking. Try to notice your feelings from a dream and to record those — they are so easy to assume without writing!
I wake up 15 minutes before I have to get up to record my dream — and I don’t record my dream every day. I’ve found even recording a dream twice a week, I have vivid recall of dreams nearly every day. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and have already had a vivid dream (the longest dreams of 40-50 minutes occur after ~6 hours of sleep), I’ll jot a few notes and then repeat my incubating phrase until I fall back asleep.
Have you ever recorded your dreams? What tips do you have for those trying to remember and learn from their dreams? Feel welcome to leave a comment here!
A couple dream books that have inspired me to learn more about dreams:
Delaney, G. (2006) Your Sleeping Genius. Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, LLC.
Sometimes dreamers have to learn a new language — one that their audience understands. Sometimes we have to learn new languages to begin to understand our dreams, sometimes we learn new languages to be able to share them with others. Here’s a dreamer who learned to speak money to get through to those who would sacrifice our planet for profit. Not a solution, but at least a start.