Wikipedia can be so dry sometimes, to whit:

Dreamtime (also dream time, dream-time) is a term for the animist framework and symbol system of Australian Aboriginal mythology, introduced by anthropologist A. P. Elkin in 1938 and popularised by anthropologist William Edward Hanley Stanner and others from the 1970s for a concept of “time out of time”, or “everywhen”, inhabited by ancestral figures, often of heroic proportions or with supernatural abilities, but not considered “gods” as they do not control the material world and are not worshipped.

The term is based on a rendition of the indigenous (Arandic) word alcheringa, used by the Aranda (Arunta, Arrernte) people of Central Australia, although it appears that it is based on a misunderstanding or mistranslation, and the word has a meaning closer to “eternal, uncreated”. However, “Dreamtime” and “the Dreaming” has acquired its own currency in 1980s popular culture based on idealised or fictionalised conceptions of Australian mythology. Since the 1970s, “Dreaming” and “Dream time” has also returned from academic usage via popular culture and tourism, and is now ubiquitous in the English vocabulary of indigenous Australians in a kind of “self-fulfilling academic prophecy”.

I like to think that story and myth enrich our lives and our understanding of the cosmos. So, with apologies to indigenous Australians, and in full recognition that spatial terminology like “across” has no meaning when applied to “formless void” (this is story and myth after all), let us suppose that…

Creation is the work of the eternal, uncreated Dreaming, who sent spirit beings across the formless void. As the spirit beings traversed the void, sacred sites and significant places of interest and all natural phenomena became reality. The Dreaming and travelling trails established songlines snaking across the land. They have not been forgotten by the people. The songlines exist in memory and oral tradition. They are recorded in songs, stories, dance, and painting. And by repeating the words of the song, which describe the location of landmarks, waterholes, and other natural phenomena, the people can navigate throughout the land. The people have a deep knowledge and understanding of the land. They know the land’s needs, and how the land cares for them. They are kin to the land, their kith.

Some individuals have forgotten the songlines. They have become alienated from the land and cannot bear too much reality. They travel too quickly and their attention is on other things. They have stopped noticing the sacred sites, and wondering at natural phenomena. They have stopped singing of the land, stopped caring for it, and stopped letting it care for them. But not all is lost. The Dreaming is still with them. They can re-learn the songlines from the stories, dance and painting. They can let the land teach them. They can still themselves, and wait and look and listen for the songs. They can move slowly, and as they listen re-make the songlines. They can share their songlines with others who have forgotten. They can sing once more.


Free tickets to TEDxExeter livestreams are available now

Press release

More people will be able to watch TEDxExeter and discuss the talks they are hearing, thanks to three new public livestreams. The main event, which takes place at the Northcott Theatre on 15 April, sold out in a record 22 minutes in December last year, and tickets for a simultaneous broadcast to Exeter University’s Alumni Auditorium sold in a day. There is a now a chance to watch the Livestream at Exeter Library, Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery (RAMM) and The Pavilions, Teignmouth.

An additional 80 people who missed out on tickets can watch it free of charge in Exeter Library’s Rougemont Room. Tickets, with unreserved seating, are available via Eventbrite from Thursday 24 March. Food is available from the café during lunch and the morning and afternoon breaks. Doors open at 8.45am.

The Livestream will also be showing in Gallery 21 at RAMM on a drop-in, first-come first-served basis. Staff will click visitors in and out, so if you don’t get a ticket first thing, it may be worth trying again later. Refreshments will be available from the Museum’s café. Doors open at 9am.

Councillor Rosie Denham, lead Councillor for economy and culture at Exeter City Council, said: “We are delighted to be streaming the TEDxExeter talks into RAMM. This will allow the museum to showcase the talks to people who haven’t yet come across them as well as bringing in new audiences. It’s a real coup to be part of such an exceptional event and to allow people, unable to get a ticket, to connect to the inspirational TEDx Talks.”

The newly-refurbished Pavilions Teignmouth will show the TEDxExeter Livestream as one of its first performances in its new guise. It is also one of its first livestream events. Tickets will be sold for two sessions, morning and afternoon. The theatre will charge £5 for each session to cover its costs. Contact the box office by email: boxoffice@pavilionsteignmouth.org.uk or ring 01626 249049 for tickets.

These public sessions are in addition to an ever expanding list of schools, businesses and other organisations holding private livestream events so their staff, pupils, customers and more can benefit from everything that TEDxExeter 2016 offers. Click here to find out how to organise a private viewing party.

“I am delighted that hundreds more people will be able to watch the speakers live and get together with others to discuss what they’ve heard,” said Claire Kennedy, TEDxExeter licensee and curator. “Even though all the talks are freely available online after the event, there’s something special about viewing them with like-minded people who are passionate and positive.

“We know that there is massive public demand for our event at the Northcott Theatre and that it continues to grow. Even though we added 450 more spaces for a simultaneous broadcast at Exeter University’s Alumni Auditorium this year, it still hasn’t been sated. These additional livestream events will enable more people to be inspired, share their responses and feel the buzz.”

This year’s theme is Dreams to Reality and includes a packed lineup of international speakers and inspirational guests. Speakers will explore themes of identity and radicalisation, re-imagine the world using a new set of maps and challenge how data is used. Human rights runs as a theme behind many of the talks, and speakers will also examine compassion and communication.

Notes to editors

TEDxExeter is organised by a team of local volunteers. It is made possible by the generosity of the following local companies who support the event.

University of Exeter
Stephens Scown
Egremont Group
SunGift Energy
Wilkinson Grant
Websites Ahoy
Dacors Design
First Sight Media
Luscombe Drinks
Exeter College
Exeter Northcott Theatre
Exeter City Council
Matt Round Photography

All TEDxExeter talks are filmed and made freely available on the internet. The TED translation project means ideas from Exeter reach a truly global audience. So far TEDxExeter speakers’ talks have been viewed more than 5.25 million times. Four of them have been featured on TED.com: Karima Bennoune sharing stories of real people fighting against fundamentalism in their own communities; Scilla Elworthy speaking on non violence; Bandi Mbubi calling for fair trade phones; and slam poet Harry Baker‘s love poem for lonely prime numbers… Michelle Ryan’s talk on work-life balance tops a TEDx YouTube list on the way we work.

About TEDx x = independently organized event

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TED Talks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized. (Subject to certain rules and regulations.)

Follow TEDxExeter on Twitter at twitter.com/TEDxExeter. For more information and to watch our talks visit our website: www.tedxexeter.com where you can also sign up to receive our newsletter.

About TED

TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or fewer) delivered by today’s leading thinkers and doers. Many of these talks are given at TED’s annual conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, and made available, free, on TED.com. TED speakers have included Bill Gates, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sir Richard Branson, Nandan Nilekani, Philippe Starck, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Sal Khan and Daniel Kahneman.

TED’s open and free initiatives for spreading ideas include TED.com, where new TED Talk videos are posted daily; the Open Translation Project, which provides subtitles and interactive transcripts as well as translations from thousands of volunteers worldwide; the educational initiative TED-Ed; the annual million-dollar TED Prize, which funds exceptional individuals with a “wish,” or idea, to create change in the world; TEDx, which provides licenses to thousands of individuals and groups who host local, self-organized TED-style events around the world; and the TED Fellows program, which selects innovators from around the globe to amplify the impact of their remarkable projects and activities.

Follow TED on Twitter at http://twitter.com/TEDTalks, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/TED or Instagram at https://instagram.com/ted.

Technicolor Dreamcoats

First to recap, in this short series of blogs on our TEDxExeter theme:

  • Dreams can… slip us into imaginary realities and illuminate our own
  • Dreams can… get tangled with wishful thinking
  • Dreams can… push us further than our fear
  • Dreams can… be our fragile futures
  • Dreams can… show us ourselves
  • Dreams can… create new and better realities

Dreams can also… completely upend our expectations, especially when they are God’s communications device. (God skyped all sorts in dreams: bit players like Abimelech the Philistine king and Pontius Pilate’s wife, as well as many major characters.)

So Jacob was on the run from his brother Esau when he dreamed of a ladder between earth and heaven, and God promised land and stability to his descendants. But for Joseph his penultimate son, dreams provoked his jealous brothers (because who wouldn’t want a coat of many colours?) to sell him into slavery; they became his Get Out of Jail Free card; and they set events in motion that brought Jacob and the rest of his family as climate refugees to Egypt. And then some time later, another Joseph was warned in a dream to escape to Egypt from the murderous rage of an insecure Roman puppet-king, and so the young Jesus became a political refugee. All unexpected, all upending.

A world full of dreams is not black and white and shades of grey. A world full of dreams is in glorious technicolor.

In one of my early posts, I asked: What is your dream? Are you willing to let it upend your reality?

“Einstein’s Dreams”

Happy 137th birthday to Albert Einstein!* Here’s the Google doodle from back in 2003 which celebrated his 124th.

Yes, there is a connection with dreams, as I happen to have a book called “Einstein’s Dreams” by Alan Lightman on my bookshelves. It is billed as a novel, but its structure is a collage of short stories as dreamed by Einstein between 14 April and 28 June 1905. He is employed by the Swiss Patent Office, his office a “room full of practical ideas”, but he is also working on his theory of relativity and a new concept of time.

In his dreams, Einstein imagines many possible worlds, set in the towns of his homeland, in the valleys of the Alps, on the banks of the River Aare:

24 April 1905: “In this world, there are two times. There is mechanical time and there is body time… Many are convinced that mechanical time does not exist… They feel the rhythms of their moods and desires… Then there are those who think their bodies don’t exist. They live by mechanical time… Each time is true, but the truths are not the same.”

3 May 1905: “Consider a world in which cause and effect are erratic. Sometimes the first precedes the second, sometimes the second the first… In this world, scientists are helpless… In this world, artists are joyous… Most people have learned how to live in the moment.”

10 May 1905: “Hypothetically, time might be smooth or rough, prickly or silky, hard or soft. But in this world, the texture of time happens to be sticky. Portions of towns become stuck in some moment in history and do not get out. So, too, individual people become stuck in some point of their lives and do not get free.”

22 June 1905: “In a world of fixed future, there can be no right or wrong. Right and wrong demand freedom of choice, but if each action is already chosen, there can be no freedom of choice. In a world of fixed future, no person is responsible.”

It is a work of great beauty and poignancy, the dreams capturing the deep reality of the fragility of human existence and our capacity for creativity and joy.

* Also, Happy Pi Day!

Dream world

Imagine an old-style gramophone playing “When You Wish Upon A Star” from Disney’s Pinocchio…

When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you
If your heart is in your dream
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do
Fate is kind
She brings to those to love
The sweet fulfillment of
Their secret longing
Like a bolt out of the blue
Fate steps in and sees you through
When you wish upon a star
Your dreams come true……….

…and now imagine the needle scratching across the record as it abruptly comes to a halt.

deadstarWhen you wish upon a star, you’re a few million lightyears late. That star is dead. Just like your dreams.

Because, laws of astrophysics aside, this sort of dreaming is unlikely to come true. It’s living in a dream world, not the real world.

Fate is not just going to step in and see you through to getting anything your heart desires. For example, my heart desires more compassion, empathy and integrity in government, business and the media, but I couldn’t be serious wishing upon the Dog Star for that.

As I wrote in my previous post, you can effectively kill your dreams by believing someone else has the answers, that the fault is someone else’s, and by believing in overnight success.

You can also kill your dreams by wishing upon a star, and sitting back and believing that fate will deliver, that the universe owes you. Turning your dreams into reality involves effort, doing stuff instead of just thinking about it. As as has been attributed to St Ignatius: “Pray as if everything depends on God, work as if everything depends on you.” And as Thomas Edison put it: “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

Killing dreams

In an earlier post on the subject of dreams, I quoted Yeats: 

“I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”

I applied it to myself and to our TEDxExeter speakers as we offer our writings and ideas to the wider world, but it could apply to anyone with an idea or creativity or love to give.

In the spirit of the Golden Rule

“Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.” — Confucius

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” — Matthew 7:12

…do our responses to others consider that they might be offering us their dreams? Tread softly because you might be treading on others’ dreams. If we don’t want them to trample on our dreams, we need to be attentive so we don’t trample on their dreams either. It is so easy to kill dreams.

We don’t even need others to kill our dreams. In a humourous take on the inspirational self-help talk, Bel Pesce describes five ways we can kill our own dream projects.

Two of the ways are about others: believe someone else has the answers for you; or believe the fault is someone else’s.

Believe someone else has the answers for you:

“Constantly, people want to help out, right? All sorts of people: your family, your friends, your business partners, they all have opinions on which path you should take… But… No one else has the perfect answers for your life. And you need to keep picking those decisions, right?”

Believe the fault is someone else’s:

“If you have dreams, it’s your responsibility to make them happen. Yes, it may be hard to find talent. Yes, the market may be bad. But if no one invested in your idea, if no one bought your product, for sure, there is something there that is your fault… no one achieved their goals alone. But if you didn’t make them happen, it’s your fault and no one else’s. Be responsible for your dreams.”

The other three ways Pesce suggests we trample and kill our own dreams are: believe in overnight success; believe that when growth is guaranteed, you should settle down; believe that only the goals themselves matter.

The last is especially important:

“Life is never about the goals themselves. Life is about the journey. Yes, you should enjoy the goals themselves… But achieving a dream is a momentary sensation, and your life is not. The only way to really achieve all of your dreams is to fully enjoy every step of your journey.”

Tread softly, and happy dreaming.


TEDxExeter’s Twitter account is the place to go for the latest news about our previous and upcoming speakers and performers. And here are a few bonus snippets.

Tomorrow, Karima Bennoune is giving the Edward Said memorial lecture at Warwick University. Her first report as UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights was recently released; click on “LATEST REPORT”.

Jenny Sealey’s theatre company Graeae and the Central Illustration Agency (CIA!) recently collaborated on a wide-ranging exhibition at The Guardian. “Reframing the Myth” celebrated 35 years of placing Deaf and disabled artists centre stage.

Deeyah Khan and Manwar Ali (Abu Muntasir) both featured in this BBC interview about the lure of ISIS. Deeyah Khan wrote in the HuffPost last June about how “We Must Tackle Extremism Without Compromising Freedom of Speech”.

Carmel McConnell was awarded her MBE on 19 February for services to school food. A slide from her TEDxExeter talk was featured at the TED conference in Vancouver, as Jay Herratti celebrated ideas coming through TEDx events around the world with a particular focus on food.

Patrick Holden was featured in a Guardian article about urban farming and equality.

And finally… Last week, Mike Dickson released a new book! “Our Generous Gene” is “A call to action illustrated with stories from ordinary people who are, to their surprise, already changing the world and seeing small actions ripple outwards for good… For a future of happiness and meaning we just need to develop the naturing, caring instincts we are born with and focus on creating a world, not acquiring it.”