In the aftermath of the 1989 Earthquake in the SF Bay Area three friends came together to investigate new technological and artistic possibilities just beginning to be proposed: Dan Duncan, Diane Varsi, and Jack (Jacques) Kelly. Each had professional experience in a variety of traditional and modern discplines:
Dan Duncan, soon to be known in the West Coast VR community as "The Poet Laureate of Virtual Reality," penned a monthly Poet's Corner" on the back page of VR World, was also Publications Manager at Logitech.
Diane Varsi, Academy Award nominee, poet and playwright, had studied acting under with famed acting coach Jeff Corey. From 1984 she was recovering from a decades-long struggle with Lymes Disease and Conjestive Heart Failure.
Jacques Kelly, Psychiatric nurse and explorer of various models of consciousness transformation. Jacques had also studied cosmology under Arthur Young.
This interview of Dan Duncan by Richard Whittaker in 1992, was published in his magazine, The Secret Alameda, currently Works & Conversations
Long ago the animals could speak to each other, or rather they could understand each other's speech, for that is the same thing. All communication begins with listening.
One day the Creator decided to make a new experiment and created what he called "Adam," breathing into him some of his own celestial breath composed of equal measures of light and shadow. The result pleased him. It seemed almost like having a son, almost like one of the animals.
But speech is also important. So, a few days later, to make things more interesting, he suggested that Adam give names to all the animals. Of course, the Creator knew their names since he had created them, but he thought that, if the breath he had given Adam were effective, Adam might also be able to command the animals through the names that he, Adam, would give them.
The animals took no notice until they began to realize that with the names that he had given them, they must now obey Adam as well as the Creator. But also, with these new names, each animal could now begin to refine both their speech and their listening, so that they learned the speech of the rain and of the wind, the speech of the night silences even the speech of the stars, the moon, and the sun. Adam could now speak to them, and they could also speak to Adam.
One day a great earthquake destroyed their garden paradise, and they were forced out into a very different world. In this new world they began to notice the reality of sickness, death and decay. And although they had accepted the names Adam used to command them, they became unable to communicate among themselves. Outside the garden the speech that they had formerly understood now seemed like a series of snarls and cries. Sometimes in their despair they no longer even understood themselves. But some still remembered how to speak to the Creator, and how to listen.
They then tried to command each other as Adam had, but since they could no longer hear each other, and they also lost their ability to understand Adam or his offspring. And since he also lost the ability to listen beyond the names he had given them, Adam seemed to them like another animal.
Many animals thought that if they could speak like Adam, they might be able to communicate among themselves once more. But after each new generation, they increasingly forgot that their true power was not in speaking but in listening. They then passed on this hope of powerful speaking to their offspring. And now, with many animals today, the loudest voice is most feared and clears a path for its speaker.
As generations were born and died, the souls of some who wished to be like Adam were reborn into human bodies where they lived alongside the human souls. As gradually they began to speak like humans, the humans now also lost the ability to listen.
At the same time, they began to be attracted to what they sensed was their own kind, their own animal double lost in a human form. As they gathered in groups, some primordial instinct turned them to regard not the entire natural world, but instead to value representations of their animal sensibilities. Gradually the first totems appeared.
Some, like horses skilled in carrying or racing, began to worship these activities, these reminders of a more basic self. Likewise wolves in their packs, and lions in their prides. All the while they told each other that they were the exemplars of humanity. Fish in their schools, birds in their flocks, spiders in their webs, and sheep and cattle in their herds all gave what they felt was a basic identity to these new Adams. After some generations these gathered into villages and cities.
Then came the year of the building. Previously they had helped each other build houses and shelters, and all had benefited. As each had helped the other to build, communities had been born. Now something new had occurred, something like when the garden had disappeared. No one understood its purpose, only its necessity, as is the way with animals.
It was decided somewhere by someone (perhaps someone with a loud voice), that all the nations would build a tower that would reach "to heaven," as they expressed it. And no one dared ask what this actually meant for this might throw the entire economy into chaos and collapse.
They began to build. The foundations seemed true enough, and also the first stages. But successive stages had to be carefully considered since height was also more and more dangerous. Of course there was the foundation to be considered, but this was only begun after the tower had begun to take shape above ground. Then various tribes began to work only "on their own section." If nothing stopped them, they would take over another’s unfinished or abandoned work. And each group found fault with the others.
Gradually their disputes grew loud enough to attract the attention of the Creator who then looked down through space and time to understand the cause of the disharmony. Having seen the cause imbedded in speech that merely defined boundaries, and even that insufficient to create a structure that might endure the elements, the Creator plucked a string of his celestial harp that deafened each group of men to the speech of the other groups. Some of them lost the ability to listen to their own group, or even to themselves. Some in desperation began to devise new rules of speaking, which further deafened them even to the sound of their own voices, and even then it was attention not to what they were saying, but to the apparent effect that it had on others.
Now all they could do was talk, but without being able to listen, they lost interest in all plans for a common future and eventually the tower fell into ruin, the various tribes rushed off to new lands, where they might forget what they had lost before the great project, and eventually the whole edifice fell into a hole that might have been a foundation, and the desert winds covered it all with the sands of forgetfulness.
But where anyone dares to listen, if only to listen to the wind in empty spaces, there is still hope.