However, I've also found that I can't exactly just grab that verse and leap into the blue with it, as if I were hang gliding off the Hawai'ian cliffs, or like Wile E. Coyote test-flying a new contraption designed to give him the latest advantage over the Roadrunner. Hope and inspiration lifting your heart are one thing; grabbing hope and insisting that it transport you above the clouds is a taller order. A few years ago, millions of hearts in this country soared on the idea of "the audacity of hope", and on the promise of fresh, positive change; fast-forward to recent times, and more and more of those same people are more or less clicking the teevee remote in growing exasperation, hoping they can change a lot of the disillusionment and frustration they're experiencing from those hopes being repeatedly dashed or frustrated.
Or betrayed. Talk about slamming down to earth, like the coyote inevitably does when his contraption fails or backfires. I won't use this space to slog through the quagmire of political moves, countermoves, inability to move, or failures-to-move that the nation has been mired in over the last couple of years and more: I'm sure you've heard and read enough about it already to spoil your appetite for any more. (But wait ... there's more! Yay, we can't wait.) And this column really isn't about politics anyway, but about us, what we do when our wings fold up under us.
So what do we do, give up? Nah, people's nature is usually not to give up. (That's how we've made it these 100,000 years or more as a species, and is why certain teams go on forever even if they never win the World Series.) What then? Lean over the back fence (read: post on any Facebook page, or news story, or blog we come across) and gripe back and forth with our neighbors, maybe getting into a spat about how It wouldn't be nearly so bad if ... or We could get ourselves out of this mess if ... or We wouldn't have gotten into this in the first place if ... ? Sure, why not, it's a national pastime, though it's better over a real fence, and even better if you invite your neighbor over and there's BBQ involved. But aside from blowing off steam and maybe having some good BBQ and beer, what does that accomplish? (Okay, I know that BBQ and beer can be worthwhile ends in themselves, but that's also another matter.)
I know, vote! send petitions! start whole new blogs or Facebook pages! dream up ways to rally people in genuine grassroots movements, not like, you know, those Astroturf tea party things, but real grassroots movements! ... Wait, you might be onto something. What was that last thing you said? Grassroots. Yeah, but what was that other word you used ...? "Tea party"? Eww, no! Something starting with "d". .... Dream ...?
THAT'S IT!!! ... sorry for shouting. Dream. Dream up ways. Look at what people in this country have put their hopes in, and what they've been frustrated by: hopes for change that someone else presented to them. And of course, look at what's happened: people beating futilely against an invisible barrier to try to make those dreams become reality, like a bird on a window; or else feeling it's all just dropped right out from under them, like ... well, you know who.
Am I just drifting off into unrealistic idealisticspeak? I'm not meaning to; actually, anything begins with a dream, vision, or idea, that someone just did something about. The computer you're reading this on; the chair or sofa or bed you're sitting on; those cartoon pics in this article; everything you see around you, including who you see in the mirror and what you see out the window. It was either some human's idea, or God's idea, or both. So dreams and visions aren't unrealistic; that's how life actually happens all the time.
Start dreaming up ways to change the world. Don't wait for someone else to dish up hope or change (although, obviously, appreciate and make the most of it if they do!); take examples from other people you've seen actually do something ... start a cause, get a group going, find out who to focus on with any articles or letters or petitions, start asking around to find out about people who might be interested in helping (and especially if they have the connections or resources to add to the mix). Dream up ways to bring your dream to reality.
And whatever you do, don't let anyone dump on your dream with something like this:
It's not that it "can't" happen; it's just that we were counting on someone else doing the soaring, when it really always happens from us. Hey, wait a minute ... I remember something about a guy being commended (or sometimes poked fun at) for having been a community organizer. Look at what that actually is: did "he" do any of the changing in any community? Maybe helped draw them together ... but it's always the community that does the real changing, no one does it for them. They catch a dream, a vision, and they do the soaring.
Well, that's who is waiting to do the changing, to bring the hope, this time, today, now. No dream has died, or fallen flat out of the sky, or in any other way been squashed. It's actually still as alive as we are, as alive as we want it to be, and it can stretch its wings and head toward takeoff any time we're ready for it to.
Dream up what you can, talk with other people who dream, watch the examples of people who have brought their dreams into reality (or are still in the process), join ranks with likeminded dreamers, join hands and link arms and band a lot of those dreams together to make a broader dream for more people. Nobody changes the whole world at once, of course; they just keep figuring out a step at a time. Nobody sees a whole plan or vision at once, or draws up plans for a building at one sitting, or plans anything else in one step, let alone does or builds it in one step; every dream is a kind of construction project. The world has always changed ... for better or worse ... on the power of ideas and dreams, and every dream is a process, not a sudden event. But don't let someone else do the dreaming ... unless you catch it yourself, spread those wings, and really make that dream yours now. You know what the real difference is between Martin Luther King, jr., or Gandhi, or Mother Teresa, and you?
Nothing. Yes, of course every person's circumstances and resources are different; but different, that's the point. It's not as if there's some magic formula, where life has to line up in a certain way for some vision or dream to unfold; people, whoever they are, with whatever is at hand, speak out, stand up, draw others together, make their dream contagious, and in whatever way they can dream up, they do something about it. And keep doing it, and learning how to do it as they go. That's really all.
The rest is called flying.
(Post submitted by featured blogger, Roger Smith, who also blogs at Roger's Shrubbery)