What Dream Did You Put Aside?
Reconciling Past, Present, and Future
What dream did you put aside? For me, after twenty years of dreaming, I bought a camper van. What stimulated me out of my sleep? It’s simple to answer: the confrontation with mortality provoked by the pandemic. We forget it nowadays, but there was a time when death lived on our doorstep. Not as something abstract, but as a relentless stalker. Death dresses as a question. He asks: What will we do with our lives? Nothing focuses the mind so acutely. Buying the van didn’t answer the question though, instead, it provided a space to explore it. I spent a winter in the wildest part of Scotland. Not in pursuit of an answer but surrendering to the question. For two months it never stopped raining. Each day, after 6 hours of daylight, I’d retreat into my van for my 18-hour vigil in the dark.
It was the first time in my life I lived in a state of acquiescence. Shivering, never quite dry acquiescence. I asked myself what would happen if I stopped trying to control things. I didn’t give up on the future, I just stopped trying to get there. Here, I am, now.
At the start loneliness bit its teeth in and doubt gnawed. Yet over time, my spirit ceded to a greater narrative. It wasn’t a dispersing of self, but rather a communing with that which surrounded me. At the apex of my isolation arrived an invitation. Was it the gales that rocked the van by night or was it the catatonic inability to ever get dry? I’m not quite sure, but somewhere along the way, the dark started knitting the most unexpected thing; a sense of peace. It was the first time in my life that I experienced a sense of becoming, not as a “going towards” but as a “living in”.
It prompts contemplation of our Western ways of living. We chain ourselves to the future and tie to it the promise of our salvation. Could it be that our aspirations themselves become our enslavers? I’ve found myself in conflict with so many of the assumptions inculcated into us by motivational speakers, self-help experts and internet gurus. I understand the human desire for self-betterment. But distrust an industry that promises the future but never dares to be in the present. No escape is clearer than the refusal to be present. It is not to trash the future or its importance in the context of growth. Yet beware of the rainbow you chase. If you live subservient to the idea it can be reached, you miss your whole dam life. Life is the noticing of it. It is magnificent because it is fleeting. Because it is temporary. And because it can never be attained. Nothing torments like the promise of arrival. Arrival at what? We are only destined for one place. For what all this striving to get there? Chose between validities. The unattainable treasure? Or elevation in the witnessing. Life does not seek to trick or betray you. It asks instead to be reckoned with. And yes, it can be lived fuller; not in the mania of running after it, but through the courage to be in it. I started this reflection with the question: what dream did you put aside? The dream I put aside, and for too long, was to be in my life. During my winter in Scotland my past, my present and my future reconciled with one another. Don’t miss life because you are lost in the spell of the dreamer’s dream.
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