Are you a person who has dreams? Not the odd collages of thoughts that leave us confused or amused when we wake up in the morning, or the sort of dreams that we can put down to the things we ate and drank just before going to bed. I am thinking about ‘real’ dreams, the dreams we have when we are young, the dreams that have us playing top-class sport or performing world-class music or writing that internationally famous novel. When we are younger those dreams fill our minds, but as we get older we re-designate them. Rather than becoming ‘ambitions’ they are re-labelled as ‘pipe dreams’. They become things that we laugh at and look back on as childish nonsense. But … why do we do that?
At some point in our early lives most of us look to the future with hope and enthusiasm. As we become more aware of the world around us we begin to dream. We see others living ‘the dream’. Our imaginations are sparked into life. We map out for ourselves a way of joining our heroes on the world stage. At that moment our dreams are very real.
Of course, those with whom we share our lives may pour scorn on us. Parents and friends do their best to ‘keep our feet on the ground’. There is talk of not having ‘ideas above our station’. There is usually totally ill-informed talk about how such dreams can only get in the way of us making progress, without the word ‘progress’ ever being adequately defined. Eventually we allocate our dreams to the dustbin labelled ‘wild ambition’ or ‘childhood folly’. We soon find ourselves joining the rat-race of life and, too often, living without dreams.
Despite aiming to do the exact opposite, the education system can be used as a weapon in the arsenal of those who would kill our dreams. The purpose of education is to free the mind and to provide a foundation on which we can work to make our dreams a reality. Unfortunately, that is not always how it turns out. Examinations become the goal. We study to gain knowledge and expertise, but what do we then do with them? The great thinkers of our world learn the ‘rules’ in order that they might go on to break them in new and exciting ways. They do not learn the rules just so they can fill a filing cabinet or paper a room with their certificates. What we learn in life, whether in the classroom or in our daily interaction with others is meant to stimulate us, it is meant to feed our dreams.
In the Old Testament we find these famous words: your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. And in the New Testament, the whole Gospel message revolves around Jesus showing us the way to look forward in hope and in joy. This great Christian message is important. It is too easy for us to become encumbered in the ‘real’ world in a way that is, in fact, far from ‘real’. As the world lurches from crisis to crisis we hear politicians and other decision makers being driven by fear and doubt. Very often that doubt is really based in self-doubt. They seem to have lost the ability to dream dreams and to see visions.
I was recently reminded of one of those catchy little phrases that amuse us but that we never totally take to heart. It says: ‘There are seven days in a week, and none of them are called Someday.’ As we grow-up and stifle or lose our ability to dream dreams we run the danger of entering a world where every day turns into Someday. We live our lives in a dutiful way but that can so easily become more and more self-serving. We forget to dream and that means that we stop dreaming how the future might be better for the whole of society and not just for ourselves.
As I write this month’s article the world is gripped in the pandemic of Coronavirus. Some are trying to lead us into lock-down, presumably hoping it will just go away. Others are playing their part in stripping the supermarket shelves of items that have no relevance to handling the virus at all. But, fortunately for those who are weaker and more vulnerable, some are trying to dream of a way in which a support network can be constructed. Others are working very hard to turn the dream of a vaccine into a reality. Some are living in the world of Someday, the world where they feel secure no matter what the consequences. Others are living in the real world and trying to help and save others. I pray that those whose calendars are full of Somedays may recapture the joy of dreaming once more.
Revd Stephen Buckman