Years ago, volunteering in Sri Lanka with a motley group of people from all over the world, I had my first brush with the concept of Dreamless.
One of the members of our group was a Palestinian. Astute, engaging, young and vibrant. He had a mop of unruly hair like Lasith Malinga and carried money around in his pocket in crumpled balls. He had a love hate relationship with the Sri lankan rickshaws and claimed they were a cheap way of experiencing the thrill of living on the edge. He had odd concepts of life and an even odder way of expressing it.
Sitting in the refugee camps in Jaffna, we told stories and he narrated accounts of a Palestine which we sometimes hear about dispassionately in the news. He spoke of a displaced people. Of children who grew up knowing that they were to merely inherit a legacy of conflict.
But perhaps the most poignant thing he ever said in the two months I knew him was – Do you know what the biggest tragedy of our people is? It is not fighting and poverty and displacement. It is the absence of dreams. We are a generation which does not dream. Because we know that dreaming is pointless. We already know our future. And we are powerless to change it.
Perhaps he was guilty of exaggeration for the sake of drama. Maybe not. Perhaps not everyone in his country lived in a dreamless vacuum. But it got me thinking.
We all dream. The ones that have it bad – dream of making it good. The ones that have it good – dream of making it better. It is in our nature. The simple human concept of dreaming of what we imagine is better.
So if we take away that hope, that power to dream – wouldn’t that be a tragedy of mammoth proportions?
If we have no dreams everything that we have is so permanent. Not that it is bad. Just that it is permanent. Definite.
Maybe the portly irritable postman dreams he is a Bollywood star with two starlets on either arm walking down a scarlet carpet with fans grappling for him on either side. Or your mousy school teacher dreams he is an astronaut floating in cyberspace. Or your local politician dreams she is a cabaret dancer collecting substantial tips from the gullible men ( kinda what these politicians do anyway ;P ).
Dreams are our only true way of living alternative lives. They may be bigger or better or just wilder. We don’t always require them to come true. We just like having that option of closing our eyes and being transported. Like sitting on a carousel and watching the world spin by. We know it will stop eventually but its fun till then, isn’t it?
But the real key to dreams making us happy is hope. Like you are aware that no matter how hard off you are – and no matter how minuscule your chances are – and how ridiculous the dream is – there is still a prospect of it coming true.
Which is why what the boy from Palestine said affected me.
A dreamless state? That spells to me true poverty and true displacement and true hopelessness.
Nobody should be that impoverished that they cannot even afford a trifling dream.