The Third Culture Carlo Rovelli

The End of the Dream of a More Gentle World

This unreported story is not much up to date. It is perhaps not even unreported (everything is reported — does anything exist if it isn't reported?). And I do not know how "important" it is. Importance is determined by what is perceived to be important, and what is perceived important is reported. What remains is what will be viewed as important by our descendants — but let us leave them the burden of the choice — , and what is perceived important by singles or groups.

I have been reading the other "most important unreported stories" in this fascinating collection of answers, and I have been surprised how much the perspective of importance matches the specific of the interests, or of the personal history, of the writer. So, I shall allow myself to be absorbed by the same soft self-indulgence...

The most important under-reported story I want to talk about is the old story of the great dream of a more gentle world. A more just world, not based on the competition of everybody against everybody, but based on sharing, the world as a collective adventure.

The dream is dead.

Killed by the simple fact that most of the times — and this one is no exception — the stronger and aggressive wins and the gentle one looses. Killed by the fears it generated in the privileged. Killed by its own naivete, by horrors its unrealism generated, by its incapacity to defend itself from the thirst of power hidden inside. And killed by the thousand of reported and over-reported stories of its sins.

The new century raises over a dreamless new world, with richer riches and with desperates by the millions. This is reality and we go with it, its imperfections and its promises, which are no small.

But the dream is dead. It has moved generations, it has inspired peoples, made countries, it has filled with light the youth of so many of us, from Prague to San Francisco, from Paris to Beijin, from Mexico City to Bologna. It has lead some to the country, some to take arms, some to let their minds fly, some to Africa, some to join the party, some to fight the party. But it was for the humanity, for a better future for everybody, it was pure, beautiful and generous. And real.

Stories do not get unreported because they are kept hidden. But simply because there are different perceptions of reality and of importance. Perception of reality changes continuously. What was there and big, may then vanish like a strange morning dream, leaving nothing but confused undecoded traces and incomprehensible stories. A strong ideology believes to be realist, and calls its reported stories "reality". The old dreams are transformed in irrational monsters, then they get unreported, then they have never existed.

CARLO ROVELLI is a theoretical physicist, working on quantum gravity and on foundations of spacetime physics. He is professor of physics at the University of Pittsburgh, PA, and at the Centre de Physique Theorique in Marseille, France.

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