Dreams Paperback – 25 Aug 2011
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About the Author
Activist, philosopher, teacher, and leading voice of uncompromising dissent, DERRICK JENSEN holds degrees in creative writing and mineral engineering physics. In 2008, he was named one of the "Utne Reader"'s "50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World," and in 2006 he was named Press Action's Person of the Year for his work on the book "Endgame." He lives in California.
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Top customer reviews
All his works are focused on a central question: why do we allow this culture to continue to destroy the planet? A good place to start is the first book I read "A Language Older Than Words."
"Dreams" concentrates on what the author calls "the other side", i.e. the non-physical, non-material, yet living parts of existence than western science refuses to acknowledge. For all our technological expertise, we blunt our awareness of the richness of life by denying anything our science is unable to validate. This one reason why this culture is rapidly oblitering the world we live in since we believe that only humans (and superior western humans at that) matter. What arrogance.
Dreams is a mixture of the philosophical and the personal, and is a bravely written book. Mind you, as the world burns, what do we have to lose? Read it!
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Jensen's criticisms of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris are well argued, and provide a much needed animist dimension to the atheist/Christian family feud. His forays into mycology and his brief history of the evolution of life on earth are also excellent and worth reading.
The rest of the book, unfortunately, is a strange and random collection of anecdotes that does not hang together very well, let alone convey an urgent or powerful message. Much of this content is about dreams and personal experiences. But instead of artfully weaving conversations, dreams, and encounters into a broader indictment of civilization as Jensen has done so successfully in his previous works, 'Dreams' feels like an inconsistent bunch of ramblings. While the dreams and experiences were undoubtedly meaningful for the author, his recounting of them falls flat.
At other times Jensen attempts to tackle the subject of spirituality, and in my opinion these are the worst sections of the book. In an attempt to avoid cultural imperialism and appropriation of indigenous spiritual traditions, the author attempts to reinvent the wheel and ignores millenia old traditions and practices that offer far more consistent, powerful worldviews. I can't help but feel that a reader interested in anti-civ spirituality would do better to read the introduction to Ellen M. Cheng's translation of the Tao Te Ching. Chen's essay is shorter, her arguments are better constructed and better supported, and best of all, her essay comes attached to a profoundly spiritual document that can open the gates to a millennial old religious tradition which focuses on the integration of consciousness, body, and earth. In 'Dreams', Jensen's best attempts in this vein seem amateurish.
Like other reviewers, I also have to agree that there is also a more hardened, ideological tone in Jensen's writing at play here, which is disappointing, to say the least.
Overall 'Dreams' was a frustrating read. It touches on so many vitally important topics, but doesn't deliver the kind of deep and dangerous analysis of Jensen's other, earlier work. Definitely not recommended if you haven't read his earlier book; I recommend starting with 'Culture of Make Believe' or 'A Language Older Than Words' or even 'Endgame'. Those interested in the intersection of consciousness and ecosophy would do better to check out the work of others, such as David Abram.
Meanwhile, natural communities are destroyed at ever-increasing pace. Meanwhile, government and business are wholly unwilling to make real changes to avert destruction. They can't even manage hollow gestures and window dressing! Meanwhile, many of the smartest and best people I know -- who appear otherwise thoughtful -- say they can't be bothered or hide themselves away in easy nihilism or nauseating New Age vapidity.
People act as if they had someplace else to live. They appear to be waiting for an new iphone application that will save the Earth in just one click.
Now here is Derrick Jensen, every cell in his body radiating outrage, kicking in all directions in his fury. I think Derrick Jensen is wrong about plenty of things. I only wish that he was wrong about the things that matter most. He's not wrong. He's right: there is no reason to believe that the system of which we are a part, and which is destroying the Earth, is going to voluntarily dismantle itself for the good of all. It isn't going to happen.
I groaned aloud when Jensen related yet another zombie nightmare but the zombie metaphor is hideously apt: what are we doing but moving in stunned lockstep toward the destruction of the basis of our own lives and spirits?
Naysayers will find this book effortless to dismiss. On page 9 he talks about how pet dogs communicate with him in dreams after their deaths. And on page 12 he's back calling for the end of civilization as we know it.
I've spent enough time in Cambodia and China for my blood to run cold when I hear someone calling to remake society but - there is no other option that I see. We are headed off a cliff.
Derrick Jensen's style is extremely casual. The chapters invite us to think and fume and dream along with him. Sometimes it seems that he can write about as fast as I can read. At one point in the book he provides times. I often wished that, since I had to spend so much time, he'd spent more time too. Is Jensen so revered that someone is afraid to edit? The strongest chapters are brilliant: Extinction, Fungi, The Bear, Reciprocity, Wisdom. Others could have been condensed or cut entirely. Sometimes he sounds like a visionary, other times like a peevish eighth grader. He is often brilliant. He is often downright snarky.
I am very glad I spent many days reading this book and taking notes. I wrestled and sighed, complained -- and learned a tremendous amount. I hope that portions of the book can be edited and tightened and made available to people who cannot or will not read the entire book.
As for me, I've taken to hauling the book around and begging people, "Could you just read the chapter `Reciprocity'? Please! I'll make you tea. I'll rub your feet. I'll wait. Please, please! Read `Reciprocity'."
Dare to read this book. Scrutinize your life and the culture. Change! Become a fierce ally of life and so open yourself to the guidance of dreams and the intelligence of non-human beings. Commit yourself to the vitality of all the myriad creatures - salmon, bear, caribou, redwood, frog, fungi, bat, bee, waxwing, whale river, ocean, mountain, cloud and stone. Live ardently on behalf of the earth.
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