Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. Musings from someone who sees stories everywhere.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Dreams and Reality

All great things in the world start with a dream, writes Monideepa Sahu, urging us to dream a little dream, without which we would be mere drudges working to maintain a routine existence that lacks a sense of purpose. DHNSDreams are vital for our survival. If we stopped dreaming, we would be dull, unimaginative drudges living a meaningless existence. But then life is much more complicated than what feel-good aphorisms and self-improvement manuals will have us believe.

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer,” said Harriet Tubman. “Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” Everyone can overcome obstacles and fulfil their dreams if they are dedicated and enthusiastic enough, say great thinkers. Reality, however, doesn’t quite live up to such inspirational wisdom. We are urged from childhood to excel at anything and everything.

... No magic mantra can make everyone flash like a supernova. Even if we think big, have faith in ourselves and try, try again, we might fall flat on our faces. Suc oversimplifications fail to do justice to the complexities of the human condition. Must we all have sky-high goals and noble dreams? What about people who are competent, but not dazzlingly brilliant or fired up with some noble goal in life?

Ordinary people who are content to do their duty faithfully, earn an honest living, support their families, and serve society sincerely, are invaluable because they keep the world running. Are such capable and responsible people inferior beings because they have no overwhelming passion or some lofty aim to change the world?

On the other hand, dreamers who follow their passion by compromising on their normal duties may not be ideal, perfect people. What should we think of a parent who abandons a sick child to go and save lemurs in a remote rainforest? What if all industrialists shut down their factories and offices to chase dreams of becoming bestselling authors or karate champions?

We grow up with ambitions to skyrocket through IIT and IIM, command dozen-digit salaries, vacation on the Riviera, look like supermodels and win the Magsaysay or Booker, if not the Nobel Prize. We struggle to climb every mountain and follow every rainbow. We also stumble and fail to achieve every impossible dream, despite our most heroic efforts.

... The killer instinct might end up killing us if we sacrifice our morals, duties and peace of mind for its cause. A true winner is not one who gets every award and destroys the competition. A true winner respects and learns from others, improves, adapts, is inclusive and turns competitors into collaborators supporting his dream. It is important to introspect, understand our strengths and limitations, and accept who we are.

It’s also better to have a healthy amount of self-doubt, rather than leap blindly to boldly go where no man has gone before. Thoughtful people may appear indecisive or unsure of themselves, but it is because they weigh all sides of an issue before choosing a course of action. As Charles Bukowski rightly said, “The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.”

That doesn’t mean we should give up on our dreams without trying. Many of us are all too conscious of being ordinary. We stifle our dreams for fear of failure. Instead of acting on our dreams, we find excuses not to act. Obstacles will rise on our paths, but we must try to overcome them. “It always seems impossible until it’s done,” said Nelson Mandela. “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.
... We need to accept responsibility for ourselves and our actions. It is defeatist to throw up our hands in despair and leave everything to fate. Humanity will never progress if we do not strive to do our best, and continuously try to improve our condition. We cannot simply sit back and complain, and hope somebody else will improve things for us. Some dreamers sit around idly dreaming of what miracles they could work, if only they had enough money, supporters, education and other resources. Such people waste the opportunities they do have.

All of us have our strengths and weaknesses. Instead of lamenting our shortcomings, we need to identify our strengths and make the most of them to attain our chosen dreams. As Swami Vivekananda rightly said, “We are responsible for what we are, and whatever we wish ourselves to be, we have the power to make ourselves.”
Dreams, hopes and visions, aspirations for a better life, are a vital part of human existence. Without them, we would be mere drudges working to maintain a routine existence. We would be no better than wild animals clawing each other to survive in the urban jungle. Dreams lend a sense of purpose to our humdrum existence. Pursuing a noble goal makes us feel more energetic, alive and better connected to other human beings. Dreams give us something worth sharing with others, and win us new friends.

A selfish life is only half-lived. Even if we only succeed in encouraging and inspiring a handful of others towards realising their dreams, it is an invaluable achievement. Dreams boost our self-esteem when we succeed in even a small way to make this world a better place.

... Sometimes we need to appreciate ourselves and others for their good work, even if it’s just ordinary, everyday work. If we are positive ourselves, and spread good vibes, we can create the right conditions for dreaming, and making those dreams come true. Let’s appreciate what we have. It isn’t essential to have high flown dreams or ambitions.

Often, it’s those small moments of joy that transcend the clutter and drudgery and make life worth living. Sometimes it’s enough to be responsible, kind and connected with one’s inner child. It’s hard work being a good friend, parent, employee and citizen. It isn’t easy to let go of resentment, envy, sorrow and regret, and reach out and help less fortunate souls around us. As poet Emily Dickinson said, if we can revive even one fainting robin and help it back to its nest, we shall not have lived in vain

My complete essay is published in Sunday Herald


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