In this modern era knitted of, and in equal amounts – satire and self-help – a humourful combination indeed, there’s much talk entrenched into the collective consciousness’s dialogue about following your dreams.
Everywhere you turn – from Facebook posts, to famous celebrity’s Twitter accounts, to internet memes composed of serene rivers, headed with white, italicised writing from the words of famous poets, physicists, and presidents – you’ll find a message elucidating the importance of following one’s dreams, and shooting for the stars. Why? Because we are all stars, and not just figuratively, but literally, too, you know, because Carl Sagan tells us that we are, in his book, Cosmos, which I’m assuming most of the people who make these memes haven’t actually read, but should, because it’s remarkably brilliant.
You get the idea.
Not that I want to poo-poo on anybody’s parade, but there is a problem with this idea of following your dreams. And that problem is quite simply this:
Dreams have a tendency to reflect a very limited version of the fantasy that they suppose.
Unlike the self-proclaimed, realist-satirists, who shun notions of following your dreams, because they are fanciful and inevitably doomed for failure given the statistical improbability of their coming into life, I don’t take issue with the so-called “reality,” or rather, lack-of-reality, that these hopes and dreams and reams of steam comprise. If you want to be a famous musician even though you can’t play an instrument, or if you want to be an astronaut even though you’ve no idea what i means from a mathematical perspective, then whatever, good for you, why not? Who am I to judge? After all, when I was 6, my dream was to become Captain Planet, even though that would never happen, on account of how I’d never in a million years dye my hair green.
My issue with this notion that demands us to follow our dreams is that, for the most part, our dreams are empty, and rather vague constructions of what our ideals represent. Meaning that our dreams, regardless of how likely it is that they might fall into existence, show only a single morsel of the overall fantasy that they are said to comprise.
For instance, let’s take the common dream of wanting to become famous sports stars.
Yep, being a famous sports person will bring you status, fame, fortune, a great physique, and all that jazz. Superficially, it looks like a really, really appealing sort of lifestyle to live. The bells and whistles alone would make it worth it, let alone being afforded the privilege of playing your sport of choice, day in, day out, and making your ends meat from doing something you love.
Though, there’s a nasty side to the sports industry: the dark matter floating around in the background, making up the milieu from which the industry and its players sprout. And you want to know what that dark matter is made of?
Five am alarm clocks.
Gruelling training regimes.
Supremely strict diet programs.
Zero leisure time.
And next to zero socialising.
If you want to become a famous sports person, this is what your days, on moment-to-moment basis, will be filled with.
It’s not that pretty.
Let’s take my own “dream” for analysis.
I want to be a famous writer/entertainer/philosophical comedian-ish personality. Whatever that means.
Bells and whistles are very much the same as the above; you know, fame, fortune, and all the rest.
But the more probable reality of the situation:
Spending a lot of time on planes. Eww.
Dealing with people on a daily basis. I’m a native loner. Eww.
Waking up at ungodly hours for interviews with obnoxious radio/television hosts. Eww.
And a predefined, unaccommodating, and relentless schedule; I highly value having nothing pressing to do. Double eww.
This line of reveal doesn’t stop at career paths, either.
Typically, when we fantasize, or dream, about a holiday, we think of all the wonderful things that a holiday stands for; the beaches, the sun, the relaxation, the boobs and bikinis (for the guys and lesbians at least), the coconut drinks, the freedom, etcetera, etcetera.
The reality: airports, failed travel plans, overly priced margaritas, obnoxious tourists, and stressful episodes of idly contemplating “what should I do now?” Because after all, how long can you lie on a beach in a state of anxious relaxation before you totally lose your mind?
Our dreams have a tendency to highlight only the “positive,” and conveniently omit the perceived “negative.”
Ultimately, our dreams – a figment of our imagination woven of only a few threads from our day-to-day reality blanket – make for a pretty decent life-guide, for a point of navigation. However, like Buddhism teaches, dreams are flaccid, ever changing bubbles of a not so tangible reality.
Setting aside the social stigma’s attached to following your dreams – good or bad – dreams are a fun way to entertain ourselves. Like watching television, reading a good book, or playing video games, dreams let us escape the mundanity of life, so to experience a chimerical void of utter fantasy, drawn with the pencil that is our mind.
But no matter how hard we try to avoid “reality” (to use the term loosely) it’s always going to be there to bite us in the rear.
And hell, maybe, again, like the Buddhists teach, the ultimate goal in life is to wake up from this collective dream that we all individually inhabit in some capacity, to pierce the distorting bubble of unreality, and live life in this world that so many of us hopelessly and so fervently do our best to avoid?
Can that be a dream?
I don’t know. Whatever.
Humans-are-dreamers. Is all that we see or seem, but a dream, within a dream?