This is a piece David Martin put together back in 1999. Still great to read today.
“In dreams begins responsibility.”
-William Butler Yeats, Irish poet, 1865-1939
Some of my high school English classes were concentration camps of pain. The boring grammar and punctuation drills seemed to never end, and I knew my case of “senioritis” was terminal.
One day, my teacher methodically reviewed Shakespeare’s writing, again. To protect myself, I entered “dreamland.” Right then, she stopped talking and asked me a question about one of the bard’s sonnets the class just finished reading.
Embarrassed because I could not answer the question and did not know or care what page we were on in the text, I resented her intrusion into my reverie. I planned to build my own “epiphany.”
The other students laughed vigorously, but I saw a calmness and peace in her eyes that made me feel warm inside. She was sincere. She knew my mind was somewhere else important, and I wanted to go back there.
I would have paid more attention if she looked like Gwyneth Paltrow in “Shakespeare in Love,” but she didn’t. This grandmotherish-looking teacher smiled and said with all the tenderness in her heart, “That’s all right, David, dreaming is allowed in English class.”
Her show of support and trust in me as an individual remains after all these years. I loved her for that simple act. She believed in me. I felt she understood the importance of sudden insight and the rarity of intuitive understanding.
I owned my seat in that class. My voice was heard. I belonged in that room. I had freedom and presence. It was a safe place. It was a strong place. I could bring my fragile dreams into her classroom and share them with this adult who knew where I hid my heart.
I regret I never told her any of this before she died. Somehow, I think she sensed my feelings. Years later, I was able to bring this memory to my consciousness, deal with it, and put the emotions into words.
If anything happens in life, first there must be a dream. We are a “dream deprived” people. We don’t dream enough because we don’t see enough. To be truly happy and successful, our dreams must come true.
Creative people revolt against the world as they see it and develop a world of their dreams. They revolt to find a principle of existence. These are metaphysical revolts, people against the conditions of life, aspirations toward clarity and unity of thought. Artists in any field explore their souls, try to discover who and what they are, create meaning out of chaos, and search for their own inner compasses. Joseph Campbell said happiness comes from recognizing one’s soul and following one’s bliss.
“To thine own self be true, then as night follows day, though canst be false to any man” (Polonius, Hamlet). This is life’s mission and the purest form of love. It equates into spiritual growth, courage, irreplaceable character, and the strongest bond imaginable.
What we feel emotionally is more important than what we sense physically. Newton’s Third Law of Motion states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Theologically, this translates into Karma and The Golden Rule. Intention causes effect. Angry people draw angry people. Hell is not a place where we are assigned. It is a place of our own choosing.
We spend our lives seeking our fate. Where we were born, what station in life we entered this world, what gifts we have now, none of these things prevent us from crossing paths with our destiny. We work hard not to hear messages sent to us in life, and we ignore signs in our dreams which show us the way to our future.
If my dreams could come true, I would write of wisdom and how to succeed in life. I would tell about the steps I must take to maximize the opportunity given to me at birth, the chance to taste happiness and experience a few raptures on my journey. I would illuminate the occasions when mankind becomes entirely alive. I would remember to look into the void of space on the darkest night of the year and see the brightest lights in the sky.
Like Curly (Jack Palance) in “City Slickers,” I would look for that “one thing” in life, the one thing that makes a difference, our reason for living. Our choice won’t work for anyone else, and no one can tell us what our one thing is, but our dreams will.
My daughter, Erin, 14, an eighth grader, dreams of finding anyway possible to reach home plate and score for her softball team. Returning from practice one day, she said:
“Dad, I knew you’d like to know you aren’t the oldest father of an eighth grader at our school anymore. A new student entered our class today, and her dad is older than you are. He doesn’t have any hair at all.” Dreams are egotistical, too.
After babysitting all evening for the two boys next door, she came home at 11:00 PM, feeling very mature and authoritarian. She saw Mom and Dad watching television and eating popcorn, waiting for the ball to drop in Times Square to signal the start of a new year.
She said, “What’s going on here? Where is the party? Are you two dreaming? Get up, Dad. I want to dance.”
She dragged me out of my chair in the living room and onto the kitchen floor. We danced for 20 minutes until I was laughing so hard tears ran down my cheeks. She tore off a green leaf from one of the indoor plants, held it over my head, and yelled, “Mistletoe!” so I would kiss her on the cheek. We twirled and hugged. When she was done, I knew this year would be filled with wonder and dreams.
I hope to find a doctor of dreams, a healer to those with hidden scars acquired from the well-fought war, one who breathes life into the lost and malcontent, one who provides hope for broken hearts and puts wind beneath their wings.
This dream doctor would carry me to the unknown and back, over the bridges of understanding. I would become a professional pilgrim. Travelers learn the most by telling their own stories. I would become observant and tell my own.
With my dreams, I invent myself. I sense a new vision that allows me to see through the fog of life. I observe a new dose of reality that documents the pain but is also a healthy vitamin. I learn to dream, create, and heal.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
-Albert Einstein, 1879-1955.