Langston Hughes wrote a poem that eloquently and profoundly mused about what would happen if we deferred our dreams, stopped being creative, and allowed our imaginations to wither. Unfortunately, Americans did not heed his warnings. Judging by the lack of production in America, the cessation of our space program with the shelving of NASA, the fact that our colleges and universities are brimming with foreign students, and a whole host of other tell-tale signs, it seems that the American Dream has morphed into the search for the Next American Dancing Apprentice Jersey Bachelor Real World Biggest Losing Survivor. No one wants to do anything other than be rich and famous without having to do anything to get there. We have lost our passion to create. We have lost our ability to dream. And much to John Lennon’s chagrin, we have given up our desire to imagine. We have in essence deferred our dreams much to the angst of Hughes.
Sure, people still dream. They dream of a world where they can get the maximum amount of benefits, while exuding the minimal amount of effort. They want all the advantages of wealth and none of the work associated with earning it. That is what they dream about.
I had a dream once. I wanted to be a marine biologist. But I was talked out of it, quite easily I might add, when I found out that there was no money to be made in that profession. I let go of my dream because I couldn’t cash in on it. I equated success in life with monetary compensation. Little did I know then that the two are mutually exclusive. And not only is it not wise, but it is pretty much detrimental to measure your happiness with a monetary ruler. I traded in my dreams so I could make money, and then wound up eventually getting into a career where there was even less money associated with it than marine biology. I allowed my dreams to be compromised, because of the allure of wealth and fame.
America used to be a bastion of creativity. You were encouraged to be different, to make something new, to (and I hate this phrase) think “outside the box.” Now everyone is all about conformity. Individuality and personal expression are seen as a detriment. No one wants to stray to far from the flock. The act of being creative is not valued.
I went to a movie a few days back, and no less than half of the movies playing and movies “coming soon” were remakes of earlier movies. I see the attack on creativity in the standardized testing that goes on in schools, the elimination of art, theater, and musical departments, and uniform way society expects everyone to look and act.
How are kids supposed to be creative if you take away all the venues where creation happens? I see it when I look at the cookie cutter houses that are popping up all over the once gorgeous landscape of southern California like acne on the face of 13-year old boy hitting puberty. Creativity is on the back of milk cartoons like so many missing kids.
I imagine a world where we can all get along. Where Blacks, Whites, Asians, Hispanics, and Middle Easterners can all come together despite their differing views on outward appearance, religion, and culture.
But it can’t happen.
It will never happen because of our intrinsic human desires to want to dominate one another. It’s because of our desire to want to impress and show off to others. Our fear that people will see our inadequacies, so in order to compensate we put others down to feel better about ourselves. It is due to our greed, our gluttony, and our inability to share resources that now because of technology allows everyone on the planet to enjoy equally. But it will never happen, because no one wants to share.
Sure people will sit around in a hazy apartment with Bob Marley playing in the background talking about how they want equality, justice, and system where all can benefit. But see what happens when the doorbell rings and the Domino’s guy is looking for payment. See how much “equality” of payment happens then. In theory everything works, but in practice our human nature corrupts it. But if we could hold on to that idealized world, imagine a place where we can all get along, then maybe we would have a chance.
I remember a time in my life when the most beautiful things worth seeing were the most incredible creations that man could imagine. Where people told them it was impossible, their responses were, “You are only saying that, because no one had ever done it.” The reason why skateboarding, punk music, hip-hop, and everything that used to be counter culture were so beautiful was because they were one of the last stimulating arenas being pushed by creativity and innovation. I still sometimes catch glimpses of it in restaurants I eat in, artistic creations I view in exhibits I attend, and architecture I see. But viewing and tasting these things are out of reach of most Americans because they are so expensive.
Author Chuck Palahniuk said it best when he intimated, “On a long enough time line, the survival rate for everyone drops down to zero.”
So no matter what happens to us, we are all eventually going to die. We have a choice as to what we are going to do with the time we have between birth and our impending death. If we stop dreaming, if we give up our goals and desires, then we are like that sore that is festering. We are giving up our chance to truly live. And I, for one, will not make that mistake again. Live your dreams, imagine, create, and fill your life with love, so that you will love your life.