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in dreams

photo taken by meIn my dream I could not tell the difference between smoke and clouds. The sky was filled with both, and the columns and wisps of white and gray mingled and danced until one was the other and it didn't matter because either way I was being smothered.

The rest of the dream doesn't matter. It's the same dream I have every so often, the one where it is September 11, 2001 and the sky is falling. My fear brings me here, to the morning after when I wake shaking and catching my breath and for that quick, unreal second I think I dreamed the whole thing. And then I lay in the semi-darkness, listening to the rain pound a beat on the window and I want back that nanosecond when it was all just a product of my imagination and the world is fine.

I laugh at every new color coordinated terror alert. I make jokes at the expense of Homeland security and scoff at the reports of chatter and the news that maybe, just maybe but perhaps not, the target is New York again, and they will come by land or by sea or by plane. It's oh, so easy to laugh in the daylight.

When night comes the haunting comes in the form a a giant gremlin named What If and he brings all of his baggage and hunkers down for the night, refusing to leave.

What if they are right this time? What if the threat is real? What if we are losing the war on terrorism or worse, what if we have already lost and we just won't know that until the sky is on fire and the ground is shaking?

A plane flies over my home, the rumble vibrating my window. It's a huge plane, carrying over 300 people destined for meetings, romance, family reunions. No, no. I am no longer afraid of airplanes. I am afraid of my fear, the fear that comes to me in my dreams in monstrous forms - headless children, bombs, fires, dragons - and strangles me in my sleep.

It brings me here, to the waking world, where I can see the daylight and become distracted by life. I forget the real, deep frights that beckon me at night. War, terror, missing children, loneliness. They all take on a not me, not here form during the day, when life and living is a magical pendant against the nightmares of the night and the thoughts that creep into my dreaming life can be ignored or dismissed or pushed away.

The day is here. Life is for the living, not the dreaming. I have miles to go before I sleep, before I dream and release the fear again.

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Comments

i always suspected
you were a poet at heart

well put

i have dreams too
but mine are always me there
with pieces of concrete and metal falling all around me
and i'm trying to save just one life

if i could only save just one person

i keep my hard hat
and my ventilation masks
from those days
in my closet
they are always there
waiting
for the moment
when i might avenge
my lack of heroism
by charging into the hell fire and
saving
just one life

that terrible helpless feeling
of not being able to stop or alter what happened
seeing it unfold again and again

sigh
what is left
but poetry
dreams
and the prayer
this will not happen again

you're a good lady
with a good heart
just stay with that for a bit

I have always believed that "what if" is the most dangerous phrase in the world. It's closely followed by "if only". Since that day, I have developed more superstitious routines than a major league pitcher. These MUST be performed before I go to sleep, or else no sleep is found.
And the sound of lowflying aircraft freezes me in my tracks for the microsecond it takes to realize it's passing by, not into.
I think that day took not only lives, but ways of living. It took a lot of the carefree feeling out of snuggling down into clean sheets and drifting off, or out of watching the jets zoom by in bemusement of gravity's funny ways.
But it gave us all a renewed sense of our balls. I have to believe this.
It makes the "what if" a little less scary.

Exactly.

Very eloquent.

What really scares me is thinking about the destructive power that coming technological advances will carry with them.

In the past, the amount of violence that a single malevolent person could wreak was limited by practical realities. In the future, all manner of horrors - from destructive self-replicating nanobots to designer viruses to suitcase nuclear bombs - will become possible for a single person to create and deploy. No matter how much progress we make in terms of creating a more just and compassionate society, we'll never be able to eliminate ALL hatred, violence and insanity.

Aside from intentional destruction, though, there will also be a much greater chance of unintended mayhem. Relying too heavily on advanced technology without fully understanding all the possible complications could get us in serious trouble. The possibility that artificial intelligence could eventually supercede human intelligence and take over control of the planet is no longer merely a sci-fi writer's fantasy.

The root problem is that technology is advancing much faster than any human culture can possibly cope with. Cultures evolve over centuries, while technology is now evolving over a matter of years or even months.

And another threat we're already seeing is that the enhanced destructive power of single individuals can cause the state to adopt ever more intrusive and restrictive means of "protecting" us. People who are living in fear are always potentially vulnerable to attempts to convince them to give away their civil rights in exchange for enhanced protection. It's not at all difficult to envision the future possibility of a 1984-type state.

I probably sound like a doomsaying Green Party person here, but I'm not. Technology also has tremendous potential to benefit humanity, and I see no way we can turn away from it.
I just believe that learning to use technology much more wisely than we have up to present is likely to be the fulcrum on which the course of human history from this point forward will turn.