Where did our dreams go?

Age is a representation of how much our dreams have given way to reality. It is time we changed things.

When we are kids, we are encouraged to dream. As adults, we are encouraged to stop dreaming. We go from being reminded to fly high to being instructed to plant our feet firmly on the ground. We go from who we want to be to who we are supposedly. This transition is measured in a number called ‘age,’ which is mostly non-negotiable.

If we never dreamt, we would not as kids have wanted to be astronauts. Nearly everybody seems to have wanted that at some point. But also, if we never dreamt, we would not as kids have wanted to become anything else at all. Where would that drive to be something come from if we were restricted from dreaming about being anything at all? As kids we never knew what was impossible, what was difficult and what was possible. Everything was the same: if our mind could think of it, we believed it could happen. It was almost as if our minds could will things into existence.

As adults we realise that we have to work towards whatever we dream up and we quickly find ourselves facing two problems. First, the thought of having to work, which our laziness pushes away with every fibre of its being. Second, the thought of having to let go of our comfort zone, which our logical senses question at every turn. Dreaming becomes a conflict within ourselves. As adults we go closer to what is than to what can be. To dream something up and then choose to work on it demands a childlike approach to life. This is also why, at least in part, such measures are viewed as recklessness.

The difference between movers and doers is that the former have not been numbed by the shackles of reality.

But is it reckless to dream? Is it reckless to work on your dream?

In the most practical sense, if one only ever dreams and never works on it, it would be reckless. It would also be tantamount to recklessness if one dreams, works and fails. Both these perspectives call for us to shed our childlike sense of the world and put on an adult glasses: to weigh the risks and act in such a manner as to minimise them is prudent. What we need therefore is a child’s sense of wonder padded by an adult’s ability to hedge against risks.

If the solution is so simple, why do we still not dare to dream at all?

Some of us do. I call them movers. The rest of us are doers. The difference between movers and doers is that the former have not been numbed by the shackles of reality. They incubate in themselves a child’s desire to build, to explore, to create, accompanied by an adult’s penchant for self-preservation. The movers question their world, step out of their comfort zone, build and reap rewards. The doers stick to the status quo, changing it ever so slightly if they must, without ever rocking the boat, and they reap rewards too. As always, the risk (as chosen) and the reward (as potentially received) are proportional.

Arguments can and will always be made in favour of both sides, but the doers cannot explain how or why they have suffocated the child in them. Everything around us was built by someone. Everything was designed by someone who sat and took a call on what material to use, how much of an elevation to provide, what textures work best, what colours, what shapes, what typefaces, what combinations et cetera. And a lot of them got things wrong, so questioning the status quo alone can improve things. We have trained at ourselves to look at finished products as exemplars. Finished products are meant to tell us with certainty where room exists for growth.

When we were kids we dreamt of building flying cars and gaining super powers. Such wild ideas have stereotyped dreams as unrealistic and imprudent. But not all dreams are so far removed from reality. Kids from the late 1960s, for instance, often dreamt up their future year 2000 with perfect realism and deserved sombreness. Today, because we are so unused to the idea of dreaming as anything but a childish, time-consuming activity, we associate it with a complete removal from reality.

A world with doers will simply fizzle away into nothingness. A world with movers will thrive. Our society is thriving because of the movers and its cogs are in motion because of the doers. Only one of these is replaceable by the automation of tomorrow. And dreams are irreplaceable.