“What if the dreamer and the dream are the same?”
– Star Trek, Deep Space Nine
What is dreaming, anyway?
There are several definitions for dreaming. The first, and the most common, is a series of thoughts, images and sensations occurring in a person’s mind during sleep. But it is this second definition that I am referring to right now: A cherished ambition or ideal.
What if we stopped having these types of dreams?
Children have all kinds of fantasies, ambitions, ideals. As I watch my grandchildren they engage in “dreaming” often and with tremendous ease; it is second nature to them. When they play, they imagine themselves in infinite ways. Their imaginations take them far beyond their everyday world; all they might need are a few props to open a magical universe in which to exist.
When I was a child, I would seek out these worlds, savoring the infinite possibilities my creative mind would conjure up. To the outside observer, all they could see was me moving around rapidly, talking to myself, arms flailing, legs jumping or dipping low. I recall vividly this one time, in the middle of winter, the snow lay heavy in our yard. I had this wonderful red metal sled but we had only little bumps in our yard to call hills. There was one of these ‘hills” near the side of the front yard, where the peonies grew in the summer. It is in this area, up and down this hill, that I imagined a village. There were streets that ran up and down, lined with all kinds of shops: a bakery where they made the best jelly donuts; a candy shop full of chocolate and root beer hard candies; an ice cream shop, a library, a park with a huge playground, and a clothing store with only the perfect blue polka shirt, blue jeans and “Beatle” boots, just for me. And of course, a house. My home was complete with an indoor swimming pool and a movie theater, surrounded by an ancient forest. I would cruise around town in my red aero car (red sled) stopping at the various shops, talking with the people I met. And did I mention, everything was free! At the end of the day, I would go back to my house to “sleep”. None of these buildings were made of snow – there was no need. They were all right there in my imagination.
As I grew older, the dreams changed. My imagination shifted to more “adult” themes. The ubiquitous questions of ” What do you want to be when you grow up” changed to “What are you going to do when you get out of school?” From my still young eyes I dreamed of big things: a guitarist in a rock band; a zoologist studying cheetahs in the wilds of Africa; a voice in the wilderness that would change the world.
Then something happened: I encountered life head on….
Life was tough and full of perils that my younger self only saw in nightmares. I became disillusioned, hardened. I learned to dismiss any impulse to dream before they even could start, restating what the adults in my life proclaimed; dreams were only for children and do-nothings.
These things DO NOT EXIST, THEY ARE NOT REAL!
What happened as a result was I did not get better at being an adult, I got much worse at it. By short circuiting my dreams I became rigid, ineffective, dull…
No dreams…No inspiration… No hope.….
I had lost any clarity in my life. I was out of focus and could no longer see a future, as if I could not get my lens to focus and see the image that was my life. It could have been, it almost was, deadly.
We cannot stop dreaming….
When the daily demands on our beings cause us to stop taking the time to have aspirations, we fall into a type of fog. Life stops being exciting, stimulating, full of depth and meaning, like a camera set to only see what is directly in front of us, blurring out the rest of the world. Our daily activities become mundane as we respond in an almost robotic fashion.
What is the antidote?
I find being around my grandchildren to be a great remedy. And if they are not readily available, then I turn to some of my favorite activities I had as a child: music, art, observing nature, photography, museums, zoos. I have no doubt that the proliferation of adult coloring books is just for this reason. At some time in our lives, we all lost ourselves in the pages and hues of a book and a box of crayons. If I close my eyes I can even smell the scent of my 64 pack of Crayolas. The gift of growing older is that we can revisit our younger ways with the hard-earned wisdom gained from experience, coupled with a disinclination to care what others think. Freedom from disillusionment is just one dream away; just close your eyes and follow where your heart leads you.
It is never too late to start again….