A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes

There are a lot of definitions of the word “dream.”

Dreams are nothing; they are random neurons firing while you sleep, they are the gods communicating to you, they are your super-computer of a brain sorting and dumping events for your memory. Whatever dreams do or are, they only exist in your head. So why do we call our plans and goals “dreams”? Doesn’t that seem a bit defeatist, a bit insulting to our hopes? We might as well be saying that what we plan or desire is just so much nonsense, worthless fantasies that will never happen. We even use the term “In your dreams” to mean that something is never going to happen! Let’s be honest, have you ever been chased by pirates through Macy’s except it turns out to be the house you grew up in and the pirates aren’t chasing you, you’re chasing them and they’re not pirates but your old Math teacher, Mrs. Dorkin? Right, only in your dreams.

So why do we call our aspirations and ambitions such a thing? Could it be that negative aspect of man which tells us that we can’t get there? Could it be an escape hatch, so that if we fail we can just say, “it was only a dream, after all.” Is all the high-blown talk about following your dreams nothing more than an excuse to not follow them? Maybe not. Maybe we call goals dreams not to denigrate them but to embolden them.

Dreams come into our head unbidden. We do not choose them or direct them, usually. When one dreams one is caught in the illogical logic of the dream world and just follows what is happening, carried away by the fate of the unconscious. Maybe it’s just that which we mean when we call our wishes dreams.

We call desires dreams because, deep down, we want them to just happen. We want our boss to walk in to our office and, out-of-the-blue, give us a promotion. We want that girl at the bar to walk over to us, lean forward and kiss us. We want the world to follow the logic of a dream, we want stuff to Just Happen. But we know it doesn’t. We know that stuff like that only happens in sappy movies and the theater of the mind. If you want your boss to give you a raise, you do what it takes, play the game. You want the girl? Do something! In real life, there is no Fairy Godmother to “Bibbity-boppity-boo” things into happening. By assigning the word “dream” to goals or desires you are setting yourself a constant reminder than it will never come true if you view it as only that.

By calling our plans and desires dreams we are reminding ourselves that the world does not work like a dream. We are giving ourselves constant kicks in the pants by telling ourselves that if we don’t act, nothing will happen. If you want to dream, fine. But a dream is just a wispy unformed thing, it is the actions we take that turn those chimeras into realities. Because, despite what the song says, life is not but a dream.

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