NOTICE: This article is protected by copyright and may not be reproduced in any form without the express, written consent of the author. Contact the Author

Once I Had a Dream...

by Bill O'Donnell
Copyright 2000, All Rights Reserved.

Many cultures, such as those of the Native Americans and the Australian aborigine, regard dreams as messages from the gods or the spirit world. They believe they are given to people to reveal divine truths or to guide their lives. In our Western society we tend to reject such beliefs as superstitious nonsense. Our Western traditions of science and Judeo-Christian thought insists on such a dismissal. We forget that many of the Biblical prophets connected to the Almighty through dreams and visions and more than one scientific breakthrough was inspired by a dream.

I once had such a dream. A dream that revealed a universal truth, a dream whose images didn’t fade with wakefulness but still haunt my consciousness a decade later, like a watermark behind my thoughts. It was a vision I knew in my heart to be true. Perhaps it was generated as my mind’s symbolic rendering of what I already believed, perhaps it was something more. I cannot say.

A fiery sphere dominates the vision. It is like the sun, and yet it isn’t the sun. A red and orange glow covers its surface like a bed of embers, bursting into flames of many wondrous colors sporadically and at various places. Fountains of fire erupt here and there, swirling and dancing, leaping and falling back into the embers sending sparks flying outward in all directions.

This is life. Life on our seemingly cool green and blue sphere. There is only one spark, one flame, permeating all living things, creating a veneer of life around the world that scientists call the biosphere. Each of us on this fragile world, you, me, the majestic eagle and the humble bacterium share the same spark, the same burning ember that animates the cold chemistry of our cells. We are all part of the flame. None of us can take credit for the spark. We do not "give life" to our children, we pass life on, just as it was passed on to us by our parents and their parents before them for centuries.

Life grows, reproduces and dies, yet the spark goes on. Any log rotting in a forest is passing on the torch to the fungi, sowbugs, millipedes and myriad plants and animals that take sustenance from its decay. The spark is never extinguished, only changed in shape, multiplied or divided, spread as glowing embers spread through a bed of coals.

This vision has given me joy and hope for the future. It has showed me that while death comes and is a necessary part of living, life goes on. It has also shown me that the other creatures that carry the spark of life are part of the same fabric as myself. It is not my right to idly extinguish this light in a fellow creature. For no matter how insignificant its life seems to me, I did not light its spark and I have no place taking it away. Only if it nourishes my own life, as an ear of corn or filet of trout, may I take their spark into me. The spark continues, merged to mine. Otherwise, I believe that my own light is diminished by each I may darken in another.

There is hope in this for me. We may wound the Earth, but I don’t believe we are fated to destroy it. The thin veneer of flame, of life, that shrouds our world is resilient. Put the fire out here, it erupts anew over there. My dream brings me sorrow as well. I am afraid that we may limit the wondrous variety of flames we share the planet with. Will we extinguish the bright burning eyes of the wolf, the smoldering power of the falcon, and the sparkling scarlet embers of the hummingbird’s breast to create a world teaming with only the drab smudge pots of the rats, pigeons, starlings, and houseflies? From a kaleidoscope of warmth and dancing flame, we may bequeath to our children a smoldering field of ashes and oily smoke.

Yet, I have seen into a child’s eyes as they explore the wonders of nature, and I have seen the spark of curiosity and the growing love of the nature they instinctively know they too are a part of. No, I am not afraid of the future, for the future lies with such children. In my old age I will warm myself by their fire...

Back to O'Donnell Photography - Environmental Issues

Back Home


Bill's Bookshelf

Help put my son through college and buy any book from!