For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
that cannot fly
Hold fast to dreams
for when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow
|A dreamless landscape|
So I was scanning Facebook this morning and came across this short post on my news feed by a friend of a friend. It was just a few paragraphs, but contained a direct challenge to what the author, Sarah Matthews Asaftei, views as a creeping complacency in our culture. It was mini-manifesto of sorts, and sparked a energetic debate that was as thought-provoking as the original post. You can read the entire post and ensuing discussion on her public Facebook profile.
(For more information about Sarah Matthews Asaftei and the work she does check out her website at skaMEDIA Productions).
Asaftei's musings struck a chord with me. I'd been contemplating a blog on the topic of dreams and their pursuit recently, and her post moved me to tackle this topic without further delay.
At one point she asked the following series of questions:
Where is the wanderlust? The yearning? The desire to be constantly transforming into a stronger, wiser version of ourselves? Where is the insatiable zest for a life of deeper meaning, of fuller wholeness? When did youthful appetite for the unknown evaporate into mundane routine? At what point do people stop dreaming of what they want to become? When do we get jaded enough to reject opportunities that would (albeit perhaps painfully) spark healthy growth?
The answer to these questions that came immediately to mind was one word:
You see, in my view, these questions are the questions of the privileged. Only the wealthy have the luxury of dreaming big, or alternatively abandoning those dreams in favor of a comfortable life and a full TV viewing schedule. For the vast majority of the world, the goal is simply to stay alive. To feed your children. Dreams might be small but impossibly out of reach-- simply to send your kid to school, to have a safe and secure source of water, to preserve a vanishing way of life.
Indeed, even those burdened by bills are among the wealthy elite compared to most of the world. For these people the practical realities of life still leave very little opportunity for exploring growth, even if survival is not at stake: Single parents, those working multiple jobs just to pay the bills, the poor in America: As with the desperately poor, dreams here are also deferred to the next generation. Your dreams are wrapped in your children, in the hope that they can have a better life than you have had.
This disconnect sparked much of the objection to Sarah's original post, but I think Sarah and her detractors were actually on the same page, if not on the same paragraph (well, except for that anti-Europe guy; I'm not sure where he was coming from). While Asaftei's post might seem frivolous to much of the world, it has very real and serious implications for some of us. Her observations, intentionally or not, were aimed at a very specific subset of humanity, and for that subset it's message and it's challenge is absolutely appropriate. As it happens, I'm one of the lucky few who get to ponder these kinds of rich folk conundrums.
I'm bothered my own lack of passion. We are told to go after our dreams. But what happens if you're not sure what your dream is? We are told to pursue what you are passionate about. But what if, pushing forty years of age, you're still not sure where your passion lies? We are told to do what we love--oh, the privilege! But what if you like a lot of things, but consistently find love too strong a word?
I've had dreams, but it seems their luster has faded some what. To do anything well requires hard work. Nothing, no matter how rewarding, is always fun. For awhile I thought my passion was to write a novel. Well, I did that, but found that once it was done I no longer felt the burning need to write the Great American Novel. The unpublished draft has languished for the past four and half years for a variety of reasons, but largely because I haven't felt motivated to do anything further with it.
Another once-upon-a-dream was the idea of making my own movies--being able to create a story and see it come to life. I had that amazing opportunity when, Journeys, the television series I co-wrote in Saipan became a reality. We filmed a pilot that actually aired on TV and filmed 13 episodes of a first season. But the project ran out of money and died a quiet death. Though, I continued to be involved in the island's nascent film and television for several years working as production manager on a documentary of the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Saipan, and acting in my friend Dan Shor's project, State of Liberty, I found my passion to pursue this line of work cooled as well.
When have I felt the most alive? I loved working on the set of Journeys. It was work I could see myself waking up every morning excited to do. I loved being on tour with my drama troupe. My accomplishments as a founding director of REAL Christian Theater, a team that toured for close to decade was source of tremendous pride for me. On those days--during the golden age of REAL--when a student theater project came to life on stage for hundreds, even a thousand elementary school kids; when I watched God work miracles as we did our little part to share His love with others I felt there could be no better life. But my work in drama has been hiatus for almost a year now and I'm not sure when or how I'll get back into it. It turns out that working full-time as a teacher and having two young kids isn't compatible with the time and commitment needed for top-notch theater troupe.
Living in Saipan was amazing. I've spoken many times in this blog about how blessed I felt to have the life we had on Saipan. I rarely took for granted how lucky I was to live in a tropical island paradise. Yet even there, it was easy to get caught up in the humdrum of daily life. No matter where you live the bills still have to be paid, the paperwork has to be filled out, the bathroom needs to be cleaned. And now the island life is an increasingly distant memory. Yet, now that we live in Ohio, I don't feel a sense of hollowness or emptiness at all. My life is as rich as it's ever been (if not richer with the wealth that my two boys bring), if not as glamorous as it once was.
I take great satisfaction in the company of good friends. A stimulating conversation can be thing of great joy. I am easily moved by the beauty found in the changing of the seasons--stark trees and moonlight on a snowy night, a warm spring morning, the thick greenery of summer, the brilliant autumn foliage. "There's so much beauty around us and just two eyes to see, but I'm looking." It is deeply rewarding to watch my students grow and develop. I'm inspired almost on a daily basis by the strides they make, and not just those that are long gone from my classroom and making their own mark on the world, but the ones I've got right now, progressing in fits and starts, doing more, being more, and becoming more than I ever did at their age.
|Moments in life don't come much more beautiful than this: A group of our students gather for impromptu prayer, without any adult prodding, after one of their friends got hurt while playing.|
Despite my lack of one defining passion, I have a lot optimism for the future. I guess it's because the one thing I've always tried to do in my life is let God lead. One advantage to not having found that single driving motivator is that I'm less inclined to fight where God leads. The most rewarding things I've experienced in my life thus far were things I would never had the sense to dream of in advance. So, based on how God has led in the past, I have no doubt that the future that will continue to bring a life less ordinary, a dream come true.
They said boy you just follow your heart
But my heart just led me into my chest
They said follow your nose
But the direction changed every time I went and turned my head
And they said boy you just follow your dreams
But my dreams were just misty notions
But the Father hearts and the Maker of noses
And the Giver of Dreams, He's the one I've chosen
And I will follow Him.
--Rich Mullins, "The Maker of Noses"