Dreaming of the School Birthed in Flames

These seeds were activated by fire as the forest around them burned to the ground.

Did you know that there are seeds that lay dormant in a forest until fire sweeps through and activates them. They sit in suspended animation waiting for catastrophe. Only after the grand “nutrient sinks” of forest canopies have been burned to a crisp are they able to crack open their shells, fall to the earth, and begin to grow.

I write these words while dreaming of the future to be inherited by children not yet born. Meditating on what will be needed after this current civilization collapses — for there will be life beyond the horizon of what I see around me today. As I’ve written about elsewhere, universities are failing humanity right now. So this particular dream is about the future of education.

I am dreaming of the school birthed in flames. The work that I do has no place in current universities. It is too holistic, too integrative, and too practically oriented toward the real world. Thus it does not fit into the entrenched pathways carved by academic disciplines. While others see psychology, neuroscience, and anthropology (for example), I see an Integrated School of Living Systems that only makes sense when past dichotomies are transcended.

Click through the link above about failing universities and you will learn how my path has meandered across the physical, biological, and social sciences — while also delving deeply into philosophy, the movement arts, and humanities. Like so many others who reject the structures of antiquated institutions, I chose not to be a square peg or a round hole in the existing structures of knowledge.

When I learned about the global crisis (whether framed as climate change, overpopulation, runaway technology, or a host of other related concerns), I immediately set out to clarify theoretical foundations and dive into the world of social change practice. The paradoxes of choosing both sides of each equation only appear to those still sleepwalking in the boxes of the old system. I knew it was the trappings of our own minds that got in the way of progress, so I adjusted and evolved my own concepts instead of tacitly embracing those which arose in a different context.

After walking this path for more than twenty years, I see now that my job is to prepare the seeds for schools that will come after collapse. These seeds may not take root in my lifetime. But they will be there waiting. Waiting for fire to activate them.

There will come a time when students who seek the knowledge of past elders — great thinkers and scholars of a past age who no longer walk among them — will discover the vaults set aside by people like me. They will learn about the Cultural Evolution Research Library that I set in place for them long ago. And they will rejoice in learning that heirloom seeds of discovery from the past were not lost after all.

This is but one incarnation of what people like me are called now to create. It is the year 2018 and my people have not addressed the climate crisis. We did not figure out how to cooperate globally and grow into our adult roles as stewards of the Earth. So it will be those who come after us…and after our civilization is gone. They will be the ones who learn how to live in harmony with other forms of life around them.

I write these words as a meditation. And as a dedication to those whom I serve. For I serve the future not-yet-born and the children of my children whom I will never see, hear, smell, or touch.

Onward, fellow humans.


Joe Brewer is the executive director of the Center for Applied Cultural Evolution. Get involved by signing up for our newsletter and consider making a donation to support our work.