11 Jan Life is But a Dream
Row row row your boat, gently down the stream. Merrily merrily merrily merrily, life is but a dream.
As children, we sang this song. Hands uplifted. Voices raised. We danced around and joyfully sang. One would start and another would follow. Before long this chorus escalated into harmonious expression that reverberated through the air. But something happened. The harmony of many diminished as one by one, each person sang the last line, “life is but a dream.” Then it was over. We grew up. We stopped singing. We stopped playing. We stopped living. Instead, our way of life became work and more work.
Everyday, we go to jobs that we hate and live unsatisfying lives. Sadly, it is becoming normal for people to work 60 – 80 hours a week. Bosses are beginning to expect it! It’s the workaholics that get promoted. It’s the people climbing the corporate ladder, talking on their cell phones excessively, bringing work home nightly and working on their laptops until the wee hours of the morning. If you were to ask these persons why they work, they’d enumerate the pay offs or what they have as a result. They’d show off the car they drive, the house they live in and the elite circle of haves that they rub elbows with. After all, we all want the American Dream.
The media has helped to shape our dream. Images like a Rolls Royce, a yacht, a mansion, a private jet all epitomize the American Dream. Travel to exotic places, champagne, caviar and special treatment is what we dream about. Bunches of dollar bills in a person’s hands being tossed gleefully into the air is symbolic of wealth and abundance. The vision is a house with a white picket fence; an attractive spouse; two children, a boy and a girl; two vehicles in the driveway…oh excuse me, in the garage; and a manicured yard. It’s the “good life.” It’s a couple confidently strolling down the sidewalk with a baby carriage and a well-groomed canine, politely nodding at passers by.
However, there are no smiles when we repeatedly tell our child(ren), “Go play. Daddy’s working.” Or we explain to our significant other, “The reason I’m doing this is for you.” Or we miss the game-winning shot our son or daughter made because we were talking on our cell phones instead of being present in the moment. We tell ourselves that we work hard to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. We tell ourselves that a good life requires hard work and perseverance. But the underlying truth that drives us is the fear of not having or not getting ahead. Our constant working isolates us from the very things we desire. And the isolation creates a void inside. Loss is perpetual as we give up more and more of ourselves in pursuit of the dream.
How do we have the life we envision without alienating or compromising what is most meaningful to us? The answer is as simple as the song we sang as children. “Row…your boat” suggests to me being fully involved in your life. Take your boat–your gifts, your talents, your skills, your resources, your abilities–and work them over and over again. However, work honorably and cooperatively with your life flow. Hence, “gently down the stream” suggests movement that is not forced, abusive or intrusive. It is not ridden with struggle or toil. You are not rowing against the current neither are you rowing competitively but “merrily.” Joy is a byproduct of doing what you love to do. Merriment attracts. It doesn’t isolate. There is an exuberance that is perpetual and proportionate with the rowing. There is a synchronized rhythm between Being, Doing and Having.
So, in honor of the American Dream, I propose a different definition. The American Dream is wealth of spirit that flows to everyone you love, through everything that you do and ultimately is reflected in the abundance of your achievements. It is a celebration, a return to the merry heart of a child who laughs uncontrollably, plays heartily and dances freely. It is the freedom to be all that you are. It is a BIG life reflective of a BIG you. It is the life that you dream.