Dreams are fragile, cobwebby things as long as there is hope for the future, but they can become deadweights as time passes.
Dreams and time have a symbiotic relationship: as long as time looms ahead, dreams are enchanting. When the critical moment passes for realizing one's dream, or the opportunity to fulfill them passes, to idealistically hold them becomes the stuff of discouragement.
How to dream? How to know when a dream is a call to action? How to give up a dream and realize you must not have wanted it as much as you “settled” for?
The day after I was thinking these thoughts I came across a book in Barnes and Noble, Life of the Beloved, by Henri Nouwen. He tells of being interviewed by a journalist who was perfunctory in carrying out his task, and when Nouwen questioned him about liking his work he admitted not liking limited writing assignments (i.e., 750 words of copy) but loving to write and wanting to write a novel. Nouwen pushed this young person to come understand his dreams:
“Quite spontaneously I felt a strong desire rise up in me to liberate him from his imprisonment and to help him discover how to fulfill his own deepest desires.
“What do you really want?” I asked.
“I want to write a novel, but I'll never be able to do it.”
“Is this something you really want?” I asked. He looked at me with surprise on his face and said with a smile, “Yes, it is, ....but I'm also afraid because I've never written a novel, and maybe I don't have what it takes to be a novelist.”
“How will you find out?” I asked.
“Well, I probably won't ever be able to find out. You need time, money, and most of all, talent, and I don't have any.”
By now I had become angry at him, at society, and to some degree, at myself for letting things just be as they are. I felt a strong urge to break down all these walls of fear, convention, social expectations, and self-deprecation, and I blurted out, “Why don't you quit your job and write your novel?”
I can't,” he said....I kept pushing him “If you really want it, you can do it. You don't have to be the victim of time and money.” At this point, I realized that I had become involved in a battle I was determined to win. He sensed my intensity and said, Well, I'm just a simple journalist, and I guess I should be content with that.” “No, you shouldn't,” I said. “You should claim your deepest desire and do what you really want to do...time and money aren't the real issue.” “What is?” he asked. “You are,” I answered. “You have nothing to lose. You are you, full of energy, well trained....Everything is possible for you....Why let the world squeeze you in? Why become a victim? You are free to do what you want—if, that is, you really want it!”
I didn't want to let him go. I realized that my own convictions were at stake. I believe that people can make choices and make them according to their own best aspirations. I also believe that people seldom make these choices. Instead, they blame the world, the society, and others for their “fate” and waste much of their life complaining. But I sensed, after our short verbal skirmish, that Fred was capable of jumping over his own fears and taking the risk of trusting himself. I knew also, however, that I had to jump first before he could, and so I said, “Fred, give up your job, come here for a year, and write your novel. I will get the money somehow.”
So, eventually Fred went to live as a scholar in residence at the University where Nouwen was. Fred worked for a year on his novel but it was never written. Now this is interesting to me: when I first read Nouwen's account I was intrigued that he was pushing someone to follow their dream. Perhaps that spoke loudest because my thoughts are there, on having and pursuing dreams. However, today I am wondering why that book, given every opportunity, did not come to fruition. Was it really Fred's dream? Did it become more Nouwen's dream for Fred than Fred's own? The book doesn't say. The disappointment of that dream may have been agonizing, an embarrassment, or perhaps overshadowed by a new dream. It's curious that we aren't told what happened after the strong impetus Nouwen gave for overcoming obstacles. I believe I will write to him.
Curiously, at a later date Fred asked Nouwen to address the theological questions he and his friends had, and talked Nouwen into writing this book against Nouwen's protestations. Curious, and curiouser.
After that bookstore trip (in which I purchased the book) I came home to help our high school student with editing her poetry paper on Carl Sandburg. Would you believe I was again brought face to face with dreams!
EVERYBODY loved Chick Lorimer in our town.
Everybody loved her.
So we all love a wild girl keeping a hold
On a dream she wants.
Nobody knows now where Chick Lorimer went.
Nobody knows why she packed her trunk. . a few
And is gone,
Gone with her little chin
Thrust ahead of her
And her soft hair blowing careless
From under a wide hat,
Dancer, singer, a laughing passionate lover.
Were there ten men or a hundred hunting Chick?
Were there five men or fifty with aching hearts?
Everybody loved Chick Lorimer.
Nobody knows where she's gone.
LET a joy keep you.
Reach out your hands
And take it when it runs by,
As the Apache dancer
Clutches his woman.
I have seen them
Live long and laugh loud,
Sent on singing, singing,
Smashed to the heart
Under the ribs
With a terrible love.
Let joy kill you!
Keep away from the little deaths.
A few more thoughts on dreams will be on their way later...Meanwhile, grab your joy and live it!