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Dreamed on my birthday, 1998/9/19 by Chris Wayan

The future. Genetic engineering is now a home art. We all sculpt ourselves. Most people can fly, and digest anything, live off the land. The great cities slowly empty, now that people don't need centralized services. The price is that too many settle formerly unlivable, inaccessable but scenic spots: national parks, monuments, wilderness. Oh well. Yosemite and Shasta may be crowded but they're vibrant cliff-cities. And parks aren't token little enclaves now--everyone wants to keep the whole biosphere fertile: after all, they eat it. Still, the Mohave is flooded with refugees from LA wanting scenic elbow room--too many for the local water supply, though it's true they need far less per capita than unimproved humans. Still, they bring some of that LA crassness with them. A mixed blessing.

Yet over all, I think the world's healthier.

I live on Mount Shasta. I'm tinkering with alternate models for the mountain's future development: once a holy mountain, then (briefly) a national park, now a great Ecotopian city. Several variants are possible. They all seem to work, and I have trouble choosing. Though I grumble a lot, I keep forgetting how far my standards have risen--I'm seeking the optimal mode, not looking through horrendous scenarios to find the least awful, the way (in the bad old days before gengineering) we all did, all the time, and never hoped for better.

Sketch of Mt Shasta: twin snowcapped volcanic cones, crowned in lenticular clouds


I do think the dream portrays a viable, even likely future; in which genetic engineering on us lets humans live more simply--better night vision instead of more lights, tougher digestion instead of more food, seasonal fur instead of more heating and cooling, wings instead of cars... And really, isn't that the one kind of genetic engineering we do have a moral right to dabble in? Tinkering with other species' genes is like playing the stock market with other people's money.

My friend Dawn and my sister Miriel both called to wish me happy birthday, and asked me how I'd sum up this school year. I found myself saying "Peaceful but unambitious. I know why: I'm not being tortured as in childhood and adolescence. Peace and quiet are so much better than the past, I'm not too motivated to change further, even though there are things I really want." Dream confirms this but says I AM working on improvements... but sensing and fine-tuning deeper goals are inherently slower than crisis-response!

The vast volcanic cone of Shasta, with its sequence of cooler and wetter climate zones and steadily expanding views as you rise, resembles Maslow's famous pyramid of needs. Once the crises of safety and food are met, then we can slow down and look at higher matters...

And Shasta has a long history as a portal to the other world, perhaps the best-known power place in California. Mystical cults ring the mountain, and legends of doors and gates abound. As a result, my dreams often use Shasta to symbolize issues of spirituality and shamanism.

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