"He Knew The Answer..."

by Bircan ÜNVER

Another interview about FM-2030 with Prof. Gabriel GRAYSON, who has been teaching at New School University for 25 years, was once a student of FM-2030. Prof. Grayson and FM-2030 created a long lasting friendship over the years, shared many ideas as friends as well as colleagues.

With this interview, we are going to comprehend different aspects of FM-2030 in terms of a teacher, a friend, a man and as futurist via Prof. GRAYSON's remembrances, FM's influences on him and his dream about FM since his cryonic-suspension last summer.

Furthermore, these two men had contrasting understanding of religion but Prof. GRAYSON interprets that they had a parallel approaches in the way he believes in the message of Christianity and the way FM-2030 believed in the Future.

Several reports about FM-2030 published last July credit the New School for his pioneering classes on the future. Is that when you first met?

FM founded a Futurism department at the New School in the mid nineteen-seventies. My recollection is that it was successful for a number of semesters before he decided to move to California and teach at the UCLA Extension School.

Today there are people who are doing courses here at the university on Extra-Terrestrials and Science, talking about a number of future-wide topics but it is not futurism persay. I suspect there aren’t many people around who are qualifed to teach an entire semester on the subject.

When you first met FM-2030, what was the name he used at that time?

Well, I knew FM-2030 before when he was FM-2030. He was F.M. Esfandiary. We met here at the New School, when I began teaching in the Fall 1976. Amazingly, someone has pointed out, next year will be 25 years that I have been teaching here at the university. One of the things that you can do, when you are teaching is take a free course. And I happened to look in the bulletin, and FM was beginning a series either called “Futuristics” or “Futurology”.

What attracted you in particular to the description of the seminar in the bulletin?

I have had a lifelong interest in magic, religion, psychology, philosophy and the future. It was just an interestingly worded course that caught my eye. We had a cup of soup after the first class and became instant friends. He really was an extraordinary teacher with great charisma and put together a lot of things had been bits and pieces in my mind about the future. To me, he really opened my mind and thinking about where we will all spend the rest of our lives.

We had a big gulf between us!

From the very first class, what was the most outstanding idea about the future that impressed you?

Well, at time, he was in the process of crating the whole series on TELESPHERES various future senarios in which our world will change dramatically. My particular interest was the personal immortality question. I'm just reading "Ageless Body Timeless Mind" by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books), and there is a very curious way in which Deepak Chopra reminds me of FM. In the final chapters of the book he talks about, "The Science of Longevity and Breaking the Spell of Mortality". These are favorite themes of FM's, and I know they were many people who were inspired by him including Alvin Toffler, in his famous book "Future Shock" which in the 1970's opened the whole field for the public. I recalled FM, telling me that Toffler called him on a number of occasions for information when he was putting his book together. FM had a charisma and presence. It always strikes me as a tremendously arrogant act for a teacher to stand up with a bunch of ideas and expect to hold people's attention week after week. He could do it. And he obviously enjoyed it. Part of what I have learned in my own teaching was from him. In my own teaching I put a lot of humor and funnies. Curiously he used some funnies but he was a much better audience. He loved one liners, play on words and funny stuff. And he loved magic. My mentalism; the levitations, the key bending and mind reading, he found all that very fascinating. We had discussions on major areas.  Part of my background involved studying for the Roman Catholic Priesthood. He was full blown atheist. We had a big gulf in this area between us. I never felt there was a discrepancy whether we live to be a 100, a 150 or beyond in the divine plan of human history.

I don't see any problem with belief in the existence of God, and our human potential intelligent creatures who have demonstrated our ability to accomplish fantastic visions and will continue to do so in the future.

I have been doing tours at the American Museum of Natural History for the past 10 years. A couple years ago, we had a wonderful film on the IMAX 60 foot screen. It was called, "The Cosmic Voyage" and it had to do with the future, going out to space and coming into inner space. He and Flora (Schnall) came as my guests. Yes he had a "nostalgia for the future" but FM was very tuned into the present and the joy and playfulness of being alive at the moment. One learned that from him as well... And also playfulness...  I play all the time. I think we recognized in each other that quality of having fun, being exhuberant during the time we are alive and well.

When you say, "I play all the time", what do you mean?

Well, I play with the ideas, I play with my life, I play with what I enjoy doing...

Can you give an example?

Sure. My kids show; which I just performed at the American Museum of Natural History to an audience about150 children...  Its called; "Dr. Quacksalver T. Can-Do's Super Magic Show." A show of fun, magic, and motivational ideas. When you grow up you can do many things... Anything you can conceive and believe you can achieve.

In the show I just play on words and ideas and with magic as well. I saw in FM the awareness that this playfulness is the basis of all creativity. A synonym for intelligence is creativity and to be playful. And for many reasons most grownups aren't playful. They see it as silliness or a waste of time but to me it is the well stream of beinf a human being. So we often had discussions about that. He also had --I would certainly say--  radical views in terms of relationships. I think for some people that was very difficult to hear it but he believed in it and lived it.

Did you have any difficulty to understand him in terms of his relationship concept?

As a Christian a number of things he talked about would have the Vatican lock him up in 20 minutes, although they reflect a life style which is very much around us in many people' lives. When we talk in America about the family, it is sacrosanct subject. I found very interesting that one of the main themes about the Republican and Democratic convention was the theme of the family. In fact we know that a number of prominent Republicans and Democrats are hardly family-oriented but obviously hypocritical in what they espouse publically.

I think he pointed out things he deeply felt but that shocked many conventional people. I think he was a provocateur, but was a person who did so in a gentle manner. It was question of style and content. This was one of the major features and I came to admire about the guy. We didn't see each other all the time when he moved to Florida or when he was in California but we kept in touch. He always called me when he was in town. We got together and had some of his much loved vegetarian food. Usually after one of these "healthy" dinners I would need a bowl of cereal when I got home to feel I actually had dinner.

What was the most strong impression you can remember reading of his cyronic-suspension?

The moment is still fresh in my memory. I was very touched when I was in my morning ritual, getting the New York Times, having a cup of coffee, and organizing the day  and writing down what I was up to... I just open the paper up and saw his obituary, I was stunned.

This was last July...

After conversations with mutual friends and the celebration of his life at St. Peters Church in mid-town. I had a dream which was incredible vivid which I told to my dear friend Dr. Gerard Sunnen, who is a phychiatrist.

In my dream; I was in my apartment on the upper-west side, was thinking about FM, and decided to go to see him in the capsule in the South West. I was going to visit him as perhaps one would want to visit the grave side of a friend. I got in my car, drove over the George Washington Bridge, and of course there I was. It was a futuristic looking large white building somewhat like Lucent technologies in New Jersey, a building of power and majesty, a cathedral of technology. I went in, identifed myself, asked to see FM's capsule.  I saw an enormous room full with many many capsules. A guy came with a golf-car, picked me up, and we started driving through rows and rows of containers. When we got to the container where FM was there was a little glass cut out in the front of the top and I could see his face. The driver said he would be back, and left in the golf-cart.

He knew the answer...

It is amazing... When you left alone face to face there, what did you feel or did you talk with him?

Yes, we talked. That was the next part of the dream.

There were lights and little bubbles coming up in front of his face... I was looking up and I was saying a prayer for him, a pray to God to the repose of his soul from my tradition as a Christian and suddenly he opened his eyes, similed and looked at me. I was just dumbstruck and couldn't beleve what I was seeing.

And he said: -Well, it's good to see you Gabriel. I am glad you came.

I just was speechless. I was frozen... And I didn't understand how could this be. I think, the first thing I said was:

 -I thought you were dead.

I used that word.  And he said:
 -I am.

And he laughed. In the way we laughed together many times. And I said:
-I don't know what to say, I am overwhelmed. This is weird, crazy, I don't know what to say.

He said:
-You know those discussions we used to have where I felt, there is a beginning, middle and end to life and when we die, that's it. And the idea is to stay alive into the future, my nostalgia for the future, going into the chronic-suspension state until medicine can deal with the physical malfunction, in my case, --you know-- my pancreatic cancer...

He seemed angry about his fate. It was like an accident being hit by a bus. We can now replace vital organs like hearts, lungs and livers but we have not yet solved the healing of the pancreas...

He said:
-You always felt that there was another consciousness sometimes called paradise or heaven. We talked about in different ways from a Christian point of view.

And I always said:
-That was it, at the moment of passing from this life an eternal darkness, never more to have a personal consciousness, or certainly not to be re-incarnated.

And he laughed again and said:
- Guess what? It is neither.

Again, I couldn't talk. I was both shocked and incredibly curious. What was he logically talking about?

He said it again:
 -It is neither, my dear friend.

-Humanity always thought about it as this or that. It is very much like the question of life in outer space. It is or it isn't. But there is a third option which we cannot see or understand in this life. The conciousness we experience after death is a glorious surprise!

I remember I was stumbling for words... being very happy to see him alive as we're talking but still fearful... what is going on here?

And he said to me:
-You see the capsule next to me?

There was another empty capsule about five feet away from his. He said:
-Come join me. You will see exactly what happens. You will love it. No one in life can imagine it.

I said:
-I trust you, you are my friend, I believe you but that means I have to die but I don't want to die right now.

And he laughed again and said:
-You don't understand, just do it. It is more than any one has ever even dreamed about, even the most spiritual and creative of us.

Later when I told this dream to my friend he suggested that, I simply ask FM what it was he saw. You didn't have to die to know... My curiosity was overwhelming but it wasn't enough at the moment to know the answer. I was torn. Fight or flight. I felt that I had to do something.  Then I heard the golf-cart, guy in a gulf-cart coming back. When he said, "You're ready to go?" I said, "Yeah..."

And I just remember sitting in the gulf-cart, not that we said goodbye to eachother, and than simply puttering back to the main office where I first came into the building.

And I woke up. He knew the answer.  He was willing to share it with me. But I wasn't willing to die to find out what he knew.

I can't remember another dream that was that vivid and had that much detail. I've tried to return to the dream again but it's never happened.

This is at least a chance...

You read that he was suspended in the New York Times. What did you recall when reading of his cryonic suspension?

I remember saying to him, at some point, "Look F.M. The vast majority of the scientific community say that while cryonic suspension may be possible in the future it is impossible today. And FM replied,  " I understand that-- , yes, if you die, you will buried six feed under, there is no chance whatsoever. This is at least a chance." These are almost his exact words.

He did not have any illusions about the reality of the process actually working today, but perhaps some new insight would make this vision come true.

I think another aspect of FM was his Renaissance man qualities. Although he wouldn't call it spiritual but he was aware of the other dimensions beyond the material.

He is still in me in many ways I miss him terriblly, he deeply influenced my life in a positive, hopeful sense.

Since you first met F.M., which of his visions/hypothesis have been realized and are accessible today?

A central concept which we gleaned from Thomas Edison, ...telephone, using 'tele' as a prefix.  He took and expanded this into  various areas of ultimate communication. One of the times when he was working on a book I asked him a question and he said that he had a bunch of that material at home. "You must be constantly on top of this, constantly reading, constantly making phone calls... It was a revelation that he didn't just simply sit in his apartment and write. He was drawing in sources and seeing where they could be extended into the future, to make real his impulse as a normative planner.

There have been many people who have made extraordinary predictions of the future. Although  he always tried to base it on what was available now, and project 100 years, 500 years or even beyond. It always intrigued me that, he was always oriented in this direction. To me it was very priestly. He was very passionate about a world that he had never seen yet believed in it and certainly stimulated others to believe in. To me this is a priestly vision that he had. And he laughed when I once called him "Father F.M."

We are all broadcast stations...

Despite this he was an atheist!


There was a spiritual quality about him a man with absolute confidence in a world he never saw, a world of hope, abundance, optimism, the kind of things that he spoke about it and saw in the future. So, to me there was a parallel, he was truly passionate and driven by it.  ...This was part of his legacy and wanting to leave his thoughts and feelings and deep beliefs in about the future. But he certainly helped me as one of the my great teachers in not only as a futurist but as a man, and a way to live and represent ideas. And that's why I try to do here at the New School. I have taught fourteen different subjects not just Sign Language. And I always try to realize, especially with the sign language, my students are going to have an impression of the New School and deaf people and sign language...  It is all up to me to give them a positive view of all these.  We are all broadcast stations. We're speaking verbally and non-verbally all the time. I think, people don't really take in power of the words and influence for good they can have in their worlds.

I've got to get class."Have Fun, Do Good and Be Happy", as Dr. Can-Do would say.

Would you like to add anything?

A final story I must tell... The show I mention to you that I did with the children at the American Museum of Natural History. At the end of the show, a little girl, came down middle of the isle, standing in front of the stage with her hand raised and she said; Dr. Cando, I need help!  I crouched down, seeing she just was so anxious to talk.

Jump cut back a moment.

In the bulletin announcing the show at the museum, I wrote PS: "Please, don't forget to bring your imagination..." She raised her hand and said:
-Dr. Cando, I forgot to bring my imagination but I am very happy with the kazoos that you gave us. I like mine very much. Thank you."

I said:
-Don't worry, I am sure you'll find your imagination and will see each other again there were tears in my eyes.

I mean, she took my words as a fun thing about imagination very seriously and was concerned that she didn't have it with her that day. A Metropolitan Diary moment the New York Times. There is a power that you have as a performer figure, as a teacher, as a lawyer, as a medical figure, as a religious figure that touch people enormously. Dr. Cando closes the show with a chart made up of the three rules for cool life: Have fun, Do good and Be Happy. And I have the kids say that out loud. Lots of times we grownups forget that:  HAVE FUN, DO GOOD and BE HAPPY.

Special Thanks to Prof. Gabriel GRAYSON for his participation.

© Bircan Unver, New York, December 2000.

This issue is dedicated to contemporary Turkish artist Erol AKYAVA┼×.
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