We name our pets and call them “fur children.” We submit our creations to public scrutiny and call them our babies and beg others to be gentle with them. You don’t have to be a pet owner or a writer or artist to understand that feeling. Everyone has a dream, and it takes a lot to risk it, to unwrap the blankets it is swaddled in, and let others touch it. Dreams are the children of our soul. And they are fragile things.
Langston Hughes knows. Nothing good comes of a “dream deferred”—it shrivels up, it rots, it is ripped apart by its own unrealized force. But what good comes of a dream shared? Often the same thing—death, in a different form. Take for instance the story of the crabs in the bucket, pulling down their fellow prisoner when that daring crab is just about to escape over the lip into the promise of a better life.
That is why Warsan Shire’s poem “Home” is so poignant—it’s about being torn between two possibilities, leaving all one knows for something far better far away. Staying put, moving on—choices, choices, which to make. Not a drop of security anywhere. For there is risk in both options. There is pain in both options.
But the rewards lie with dreaming.
As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe reminds us, dreams move us. To Leonardo da Vinci, they make us fly. Steve Jobs believes those who have them change the world. Dreams reshape our reality, according to Pablo Picasso. Coupled with a pencil, in the view of Joyce Meyer, dreams take us anywhere.
Those are the rewards. The part that makes the grass greener on the other side, that part that makes us leave old shores behind, the part that goads us to make the long journey over the unknown called life—for life, as Hellen Keller well knew, rests between dream and what we knew.
Doubts are what stirred us up to dream in the first place, and doubts are what make us stare back in worry as we leave the home shore behind.
Yet while dreams are rarely satisfied with the world we live in, they don’t maroon us at sea either. They help us stand up again, like in the Japanese proverb, after falling down a seventh time. They make opportunity of failure, in Henry Ford’s world. They are the 9,999th step toward Thomas Edison’s lightbulb. To John C. Maxell, they are unlocked only by our daily pursuits.
To dream means to act, to take the risk . . . and to be children again, borne away to a better world.
Dreams see the world through the eyes of a child, a wonderland of possibility. Dreams stumble and cry out and are soothed and encouraged to try again. Dreams make us smile and remember despite everything life is worthwhile. Hiding children away from harm won’t work. Harm is everywhere. Life is everywhere. Dreams should be everywhere like air.
It is said we can survive about three weeks without food, three days without water, and three minutes without air. How long can we survive without dreaming? An entire lifetime, perhaps, but that’s not really living.
The children of our soul won’t be denied. Dreams aren’t safe. They are the boat and the land in those poignant lines penned by Shire. When all is risk, then all we can do is jump aboard and make the best of our choice. Our only recourse, when holding a child of our soul in our hands, is to stop dreaming by night, and begin dreaming by day, becoming T. E. Lawrence’s dangerous one. And when that happens, very little can stand in our “children’s” way.