Space and Time Travel

This is rather free association rambling, and has less to do with Dream Dharma as it has to do with letting the mind and pen wonder about.   

When I was a young child, starting at perhaps 4 or 5 years old, and continuing into adolescence, I had a ritual for falling asleep.

More like my mother than my father, I had a natural tendency to be a night owl.  I was forced to bed, rather than to go willingly, much sooner that I would prefer. 

I was convinced that this was so the adults could have their quiet time, but it was a very small house, and my room was right next to the living room, where I could all too easily hear the television and any talking.   My parents taste in television was not like my own, as I did grow older and could stay up later, I would prefer Star Trek and I Dream of Jeannie to Gunsmoke and Bonanza.  My parents generation dwelled in the frontiers of the past, the wild west, filled with saloon girls, sheriffs, cows and horses, and guns, lots of loud, noisy, keep the children awake at night guns.


image from The Light Works

So trying to sleep when not tired was a challenge, what with gunshots and advertisements for cigarettes and pickup trucks from the TV.  I’m sure there were lots of times when I simply refused, and when my mother would check on me, I would of course be wide awake.

Eventually, a compromise of sorts was reached, and I could stay up and read with a flashlight, until I suppose, the fatigue of reading by flashlight and turning pages would wear me down.  Though it rarely did, and “lights out” meant I simply continued reading under the covers as soon as my mother left the room. 

Getting to the point, finally, I did something else to fall asleep.  Night after night, I imagined myself placed at the top of a rocket, in a space capsule, not much unlike the Titan rocket booster and the Gemini spacecraft.    I was the only passenger, however, unlike the pair in Gemini.   But the Mercury capsule was too small for where I was going, and this space capsule was not staying in orbit, but headed deep into space.

(see the Love Note, following this story, for a few changes in life!)

On these many nights, I had found my first meditation, my first Dream and Sleep Yoga of sorts, although at the young age, I would have known nothing formally about dreams, meditation, or yoga.  Like many dreams, that one had its roots in the conscious world of day. The outer space to which I traveled is not the view that most impages of space depict, with large planets or many bright starts and photoshopped nebulae and galaxies so that they stand out as bright and cluttering space, but rather one where there was nothing but emptiness, long stretches of dark void, practically infinite, as my spaceship simply moved along at the speed of my impending sleep. Instead of the fanciful illustrations of the Enterprise above, or Voyager below, this space looked more like the following, an untouched image looking out of the International Space Station.  (True, one might expect something, so aware of illusions, we may find parsimony in the explanation that the lens cap had not been taken off.)


Image from NASA APD

I enjoyed the escape from real life, that for me life in the suburbs, a school kid, tight controls of having either to be at school, in the house, or in the part of the park below the backyard, where I could be seen from the kitchen window.So inspired by both the news of real life, such as the spaceflights of Mercury and Gemini, and TV shows such as Star Trek and Jeannie, I think it was rather simple to convey the aspirations of space travel into my dream world.

Unlike Star Trek and Jeannie however, I was not envisioning a glamorous scene, such as a harem dress revealing the tops of Barbara Eden’s breasts, or the short skirts of the Enterprise’s women crew.

(this was about all the skin we could see in the 1960s, rather a tease than anything gratifying to a pre-pubescent boy; so thank you Hugh Hefner, for giving me the only sex education I had growing up in Suburgatory!)

barbara eden

star trek miniskirt

top:Desilu/Paramount Studios Star Trek; bottom:Fabulous Hollywood Memories

But rather, I was simply going off, alone, and into deep space, and once the rocket engine had shut off, quietly as well.  Sleep would come at this point.  I won’t dwell on what dreams were had then, or how or why, or even if! such things as wet dreams might come about.  That falls clearly in the TMI category, and beyond the adult orientation of these writing. 

However, it does relate to Freud, and his insistence that all problems are related to sexual issues in childhood, as well as to many of the ego or “classical” psychoanalysts following him.  Jung would look at the symbols here, and so, Carl J provides us a nice segue into modern space travel, thinking here of the deep space probe, Voyager.

There are two Voyager deep space probes, Voyager and Voyager 2, both launched in 1977, at which time I was far removed from interests in space technology, having focused on medicine, psychology, and the earth’s environment and marine ecosystems.  That didn’t allow any time to follow satellite launches and astrophysics.

Voyager BBC

Illustration, BBC

Space was reserved in my mind not for science and technology, but as that refuge in which I could still place my mind, in meditation and introspection, free of the reality, a place to think of travel in both space and time.  Einstein’s theory of relativity would be fun to think about, not in formulas, but in concepts, how light and matter can be interchangable and that we could perhaps travel very far and both into the future and the past… at least relatively!  But take out that qualification, and the mind, enhanced by Dharma, can look at concepts such as Tibetan Buddhist Cosmology, and appreciate the wonder of there not being simply a very large number of universes, but an even larger number of Buddhaverses. 

With regards to CJ Jung and his focus on interpreting symbols in dreams, both Voyager spacecraft contain a disk containing a large number of symbols of human life on earth.  This is in the very rare case where an extraterrestrial life form would find the craft, capture it reasonably intact, and then dismantle it, finding the small disk.  A remote chance, and interpreted either optimistically or pessimistically depending on whether the remote life form is benevolent and kind, wishing to embrace Homo Sapiens, or rather more distrusting, intending to eliminate this species before it becomes more of a nuisance to whatever part of the galaxy the find is made. 

Voyager Disc JPL

photo, Jet Propolsion Laboratory (JPL)

Here is a funny story, funny largely because this is work I have left behind to build my new life, with new love, in a new land.  So this is all part of the dreary M T W Th F, get up at 6, work blah blah all day, get home at 6, etc.  Mind numbing is that kind of schedule and towards the end I found I was dumbing down with every hour spent.  Yes, so this funny story is an example.   I was working for a government funded Research Laboratory, and new recruits would be brought in every few weeks or so.  In my group, there were two young scientist-engineers right out of school, bright eyed and bushy tailed, but the other five of us were older, experienced, and yes, largely faded and jaded, and knowing there’s no green grass on the other side of the fence, in that many jobs are the same regardless of where you are.  Indeed, one typically finds no grass at all, let alone green grass, but rather we come to settle for whatever scroungy weeds manage to grow in the cracks of the old concrete, which is government.

So, in the next group of recruits, that would wonder into the “Lab” (in fact, simply one very large room, close to a hundred yards long, by twenty yards wide,  in an old building, in the corner of a mostly abandoned part of the city, unbroken but for the half height walls of two hundred cubicles, and just enough room in the passageways for to squeeze by on entery and exit, with much space occupied by the printers, cabling, and xerox machines), there were more of the bright eyed and bushy tailed young scientist types than were in my group. 

Several were very bright, and I marveled at how smart young people had to take whatever jobs they could get in this very poor economy, where half at best of students graduating from college could find work, any kind of work, whether in their field of interest or not. 

After they came from their week long orientation, they looked rather dazed when confronted with the reality of the Lab.  Small, often broken desks, dirty and old cubicle walls, a small laptop computer that would not be usable until weeks of paperwork and forms had been filled out, authorized, approved, and sent about, until, voila, a miracle, an internet connection!  

They had one expression in common, which read “Whoa. Holy Crap.  Four years at Princeton (or MIT or whatever college), and two years interning and looking for a job, and now this.”  Me, been there, done that look before, many times.  So it was interesting to talk with them, and we did try to make it fun- as much fun as one can have in the summer of Washington DC where the temperature typically goes above 100 degrees with 80-90 percent humidity.   Inside, the temperature ranged from 80  to 90, when the “air conditioner” worked.

To the point once again, for after all, travel in space and time being the topic, one new recruit was a Space Scientist.  Whoa, lofty title, as most of us were Technology Managers or Communication Engineers, something a bit more mundane, or with a positive spin, “down to earth.”  Interesting and smart group, and in a better economy, likely hired into a better Lab, such as the JPL, APL or NASA.   But bad timing, the Space group was being shut down, “merged and acquired” by some another group.  Program cuts beame the price for a decade of wasteful government spending, in what was called “the grey budget of the shadow government.”

So, no one was going to be doing Space Science in this Lab.  What did he end up doing? Facilities management, which in government, because a facility means a managed space, e.g. where to put cubicle walls in big rooms, assigning phone numbers to the cubicles, and setting badge access codes so one could get into the room.  So, welcome Space Scientist to your new career in Facilities Management. 

Too true this, anyone who has been in government will know this kind of thing happens frequently.  I no longer spend  time figuring out how right and appropriate this is, but resigned by experience, simply adopt the  feeling of simple sadness. 

Summing my emotions over the several years spent in government, I went from happiness on my appointment and trying to do things right, to dismay when such efforts were not welcomed, to shock and bewilderment on how it could happen, to dismay and then anger, then on being worn down, habituation (see the paper on ethology),  for a time going along to get along and surviving paycheck to paycheck, and finally resignation and relief.

However, not to impart all doom and gloom, different outcomes may be had!  Such as the Voyager program, which by all measures known must rank as one of the most successful government funded engineering efforts.  Perhaps Apollo may be ranked up there, but both Voyagers are still working, sending out data as they reach the edge of the solar system and just about, almost, and I’d say, practically speaking, past the solar system and into deep space. (yes, some will quibble about the heliosphere, but what the hell, let’s not split on it)  

voyager Physics World

Diagram, Physics World

Launched in 1977, sent out in the same direction, but V1 moving around one planet for a gravity slingshot one way, and V2 moving around the other way, they spin off and out in through the solar system on different paths, to encounter different planets.  So, at 35 years operational, and being useful at that, sending back data.  I listened to a lecture by the Project Scientist of 40 years, Edward Stone, and was amazed to think that yes, there are some better programs and labs out there.

Edward Stone Wash Post

Edward Stone, Washington Post (link below) I think I like this guy so much because he reminds me of my Uncle Ed, a career engineer with Martin,  during the prehistoric time preceding today’s era of mergers and acquisitions .

Space science has always been better funded than earth science in the natural areas.  Geology, particularly oil and gas exploration has received much attention, but the oceans and natural ecosystems of earth have received but a small percentage of the outlays for space and oil.

The bottom line of all of this is that Dr. Stone’s lecture put deep space travel back into my mind.  And what of time travel?  I have BBC and Dr. Who, the longest running creative show on television, to thank for that.

(returning in a bit here, with a review of MacRury & Rustin’s “The Inner Life of Doctor Who,” recently published by Karnac, London.   Tangential to our theme of Dream Dharma, but fun in an academic-geeky sort of way.)

These days, Mahamudra and Dzogcehn mediation, along with NIM, MALA and yogas of dream and sleep, replace the childhood dreams of space travel,  to develop awareness of emptiness, shifted as desired between dream and sleep.  More about these in the other pages, or at this point in the writing, the book in press.


Copyright 2013-2015, by Talmage Carawan.  All writing is my own; brief excerpts may be used, with credit to author and this website,