Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Dreams are for sleeping
I have Casino Royale playing in the background (and may I say, THANK YOU, Daniel Craig, for the awesomeness of your James Bond). One of the previews is for “The Pursuit of Happyness” with Will Smith. Now, I’ve never seen it, and probably never will. I’m enough of a grammar fascist that the misspelling of “happiness” turns me off badly enough to give the whole film a miss. Among the many heart-wrenching and yet uplifting scenes in the preview is one where Smith’s telling his faux-kid to never give up on his dreams, no matter what. “You want something, go get it. Period.”
Man, do I hate that sentiment. Goals are important. Dreams are stupid. For example, it’s my goal to one day be a published writer. It’s my dream to one day be bitten by a radioactive spider and get superpowers. I dream of winning the lottery; it’s my goal to pay off the house in fifteen years. See the subtle but crucial difference? Even the dictionary says a dream is “a conception or image created by the imagination and having no objective reality.” (Yes, one of the later definitions is the more prosaic “something you intend to do,” but the first one I’ve quoted really sums it up.)
Goals are changeable. They are malleable. You can adapt them to your changing circumstances and desires. Goals can be accomplished. You can have many of them at the same time, and failing in one doesn’t mean you have to re-evaluate your whole life. Some dreams are really just goals dressed up in more dramatic language (“It’s my dream to get into Harvard”) and that’s fine, just don’t pretend otherwise. A goal is something you can make to happen by your own efforts. A dream may happen, but the achievement of it is pretty much out of your hands.
Which leads to my REAL problem with what Smith says. “You want something, go get it. Period.” How is that advice for a kid? It belongs in the exact same category as “Never give up,” a phrase commonly thrown around on Facebook and motivational posters. How are those words to live by? “Learn to compromise” would be wiser. “Never give up” results in a world of tyrants with no capacity to be reasonable. “I want ice cream, Mom - you said to never give up. It’s my dream to have two scoops, by the way. My DREAM. You don’t want to deny me my DREAM, do you?” Or “Well, Officer, I know I stole that Macbook, but my dad always said ‘if you want something, go get it. Period.’ It’s important to never give up, don’t you think?” Imagine seven billion people all with the “never give up” attitude. Seven billion little psychos all convinced their wants are paramount, and damn the torpedoes!
Of course I realize a reasonable person hears “Never give up” and understands “Try really hard,” so why don’t we just say that, then? “Hey, make sure you try really hard.” Maybe add “But sometimes you’re going to fail no matter what, because either someone else tried harder, or is better, or the world just doesn’t like you this time, so be prepared for it.” Why are we so committed to this idea that surrendering is wrong? I hear people I would normally count as rational, thinking individuals quote this “never surrender” drivel. Surely they aren’t convinced that’s a realistic way to live, are they?
Or do we suppose kids and adults are incapable of understanding a lesson unless it’s couched in black-and-white “sound-bite” format with a catchy little expression? If so, it’s certainly our own fault for filling the world with this stupid little tidbits of pseudo-wisdom.
“If you can dream it, you can do it.” Nope, nope, nope, unless you have absolute CRAP for imagination, cause I have to tell you, I can dream a helluva lot bigger than any human can accomplish.
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Wrong again. What doesn’t kill us either weakens us to the point where we WISH for death, or it leaves us mentally scarred enough to think watching Dr. Phil is a smart move.
“Live as if it’s your last day on Earth.” So don’t do to work, sleep with a hot stranger, give your house to that homeless wierdo on the corner, blow your life savings at the race-track, and eat nothing but bacon and poutine? Smart plan, genius.
I could go on forever. But what’s your favourite idiotic piece of advice?