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On the power of dreams On the power of dreams
by Alexander Mikhaylov
2008-11-28 09:56:24
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People underestimate the power of dreams. Of course, taken out of a context, the very word ‘dream’ might be a bit confusing.  Merriam – Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary defines a dream as - ‘a series of thoughts, images or emotions, occurring during sleep’, ‘a visionary creation of imagination’, ‘a strongly desired goal or purpose.’ (Interesting enough that, unlike English, Russian language, for instance, has two different words for images we see during the sleep, and dream as a goal or purpose.)

Cynics tend to dismiss dreams entirely, while the psychologists and the tarot card readers interpret them. Writers, politicians and civil leaders on the other hand, take dreams seriously.

Remember the famous Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’? As to the writers… A few years ago, I came across a nice saying: in fact, it is a quote from Terry Pratchett’s ‘Going postal’, where the very term ‘a dream’ is given quite an interesting interpretation:

‘You think about money in the old-fashioned way. Money is not a thing, it is not even a process. It is a kind of shared dream. We dream that a small disc of common metal is worth the price of a substantial meal. Once you wake up from that dream, you can swim in a sea of money.’ Terry Pratchett,  ‘Going postal.’

Indeed, money is a shared dream, where each of the dreamers more or less wraps his or her imagination around this fascinating vision – a sea of money, or at least a lake of money, or …okay! a puddle!

It was a couple months or so ago when I had read a short article on Yahoo news regarding certain court processes (an unhappy tenant was trying to sue his landlord over the unfair increase of monthly rent for an apartment). What particularly arrested my attention however, was the rental price of an apartment in New York , mentioned in the aforementioned article – 70 thousand dollars a month. I guess American rich do not find this in any way unusual. Hell, you’ve got money and you can afford it, so what? Of course, they are right. I may only add that in the U.S, 60 or 70 thousand dollars constitute a good yearly salary of a solid professional. The question is – how does it affect me? The answer would be – in many ways; not least of them is a feeling of devaluation of my hard-earned cash, my professional achievement, and consequently – devaluation of my personal self-worth. What I had thought of as a nice salary in reality is nothing at all. Does it sound naïve? Well, think again. (Is it not a fact that these so-called economic realities depend on emotionally charged views? Here, I mean emotionally charged views of millions of people, whose willingness to follow or not to follow market policies affects the policies themselves. Isn’t it how the Great Depression had started? People lost faith.) Keeping in mind, how monstrously large the economic gape between rich and poor in US is (and it is growing), would it not be a logical step for me to say that since the value of my money and my earning and spending power are falling drastically, or they have turned into a mere joke, what incentives would I find to do anything at all (except for a fear of homelessness and a slow starvation)?

Nowadays, when mass media loves to concentrate on the lives of the rich and famous and little else beyond that, it often implies such things as - a million dollars is a mere pittance. It is just as a character of one of the trashy American novels (I believe the book’s title was ‘Sex and the city’) says ‘Oh! So you’ve got million and you want to live in New York? Well, if you do not mind to be poor there…’ We might laugh and shrug our shoulders. And come to think of it, what is a million dollars these days, really? But how well do we understand what we are talking about? How many people can visualize big money at all, like a billion dollar in hard cash? Would it fill the room? One truck? Two trucks? And who can say right away, without punching calculator, just how many millions a billion consists of? Thanks to our modern entertainment industry, our realistic perception of wealth, prosperity and happiness became warped beyond belief. If we are so crazy, we might even dream of a glamorous life, that supposedly awaits us around the next corner, but we would have troubles imagining one hundred thousand dollars, laying in our bank account. Even less than that…

But the realities of life are somewhat different. Hell, only this afternoon I had read a headline on those Yahoo ‘news’ – ‘Auto executives still spend $20,000 on private jet flights — even as they plead for a bailout.’ The key word here is – bailout. But, what if they would not have pleaded for it? Would it be still OK? I suppose all those who earn 20 and less thousands a year by ‘fitting in’ their non-secure, stupid and badly paid ‘Mickey Mouse’ part time jobs, have to say something about that.

I recall an old Soviet joke ‘one hundred rubbles is not money.’ Back in those times, one hundred rubles (or slightly more, 120) had been a medium monthly salary of many professionals whereas black market price for a pair of jeans (Levi’s or whatever) had been 150 or 200. How many people could afford it? Lots… How? The answer was simple – they stole.
It is still not cool to be poor. It is great to become rich. Sure, people need to have their dreams. Even if the majority of population are poor and will stay that way till death, people still dream of things such as ‘maybe one day things will change…’ or ‘At least I am earning a good solid salary’, or ‘I am getting good education’ and so on. What happens when people become robbed of their dreams? I think there are plenty of examples in history that might supply the answer to this question.

There is yet another aspect of dreams. Dreams are often closely connected with beliefs. Take any dream and eventually you will come across a certain belief that supports the dream. For instance, take artistic fame. I think this is widely believed even these days that talent and hard work will bring fame, recognition (and money) one day. It has been dream (and consequently a belief) of many striving artists though the centuries. I think none of them could ever imagine this – you are famous simply because you are famous. If you don’t understand what I am talking about – look at Paris Hilton. Why is she so famous? Because she is … eh…famous? No matter what she does or does not, it only adds to her fame. What is it? Devaluation of merit comes to mind. 

Say, when a book-publishing corporation (I say a corporation but in reality, we are talking about oligarchy and monopoly) launches marketing campaign in supporting and promoting a certain book, there is little we can do as readers or buyers, for the aforementioned book will become famous, no matter what.  And how do they convince us that this book (or a movie, or an art work, or anything) is good? It is very simple. ‘Because the author made (place here any number you wish) millions or billions of dollars.’ Wow! So, if the author made all these dough, then it must be really good, huh?
Or you can simply use your name to coin extra money (if, for example, you are a public figure – an actor or a politician). One has only to wonder, how many modern day politicians discover hidden literary talents. And they use them to the fullest extend. Bill Clinton has never even touched the same league as Churchill or Roosevelt but it did not prevent him from writing (or whoever else wrote that book for him) memoirs ‘My life’. Hillary Clinton wrote a book. Even daughter of George W. Bush wrote a book! Did you know? Everybody write books now. (It is a chick thing to do, besides it is a nice addition to the income). Just see and wait. I am sure G.W. Bush will write a book about himself too. That one sure as Hell would be fascinating (I wonder what title he’ll put on it… ‘Easy English grammar for seasoned politicians’?) 

We continue to dream, to hope and to believe. But, one day things might eventually get so bad that we would not know what to dream about, what to hope for and what to believe in any longer.

I am afraid it will be particularly bad when we will start to dream about such things as Great Savior, or Big Brother, who will come to our rescue, who will forgive our sins, who will show us a light at the end of tunnel and sort everything for us. I would like to finish this essay with another quote: (this time it comes from such a modest source as Wikipedia but I still find it rather good):

Generally, personality cults are most common in regimes with totalitarian systems of government, that seek to radically alter or transform society according to revolutionary new ideas. Often, a single leader becomes associated with this revolutionary transformation, and comes to be treated as a benevolent "guide" for the nation, without whom the transformation to a better future cannot occur. This has been generally the justification for personality cults that arose in totalitarian societies of the 20th century, such as those of Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler.


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Emanuel Paparella2008-11-28 15:02:35
Intriguing and thought provoking essay. It bring to mind Jung, who like his mentor Freud, was big on dreams and archetypes and said that man is religious by nature; throw religion out the window and it will come back from the back door. And he might have added; it will come back via a dream. In China they have a dream: to become as rich as America and in order to reach it they have instituted a belief system which declares religion poison as their savior Mao once assured them. What they have failed to recognize, yet, is that the dream will eventually turn into a nightmare as indeed we are beginning to recognize here in America where we have material wealth accompanied by plenty of intellectual and spiritual destitution. Giorgione had a painting he titled “with time.” It is nice to know though that light has no age. Ah, eternity. Another dream?


AP2008-11-29 04:21:43
Dreams should not be mistaken with illusions.


Emanuel Paparella2008-11-29 09:57:39
You may call it an illusion, but it is nevertheless a fact that light has no age and it may explain Giorgione's mysterious painting..., ask your friend Stephen Hussein Hawking. That should at the very least intimate something to all the assorted atheists and birds of a feather (not excluding Hawking himself) gathering together to grind an ax against those who believe in things unseen and unfathomable and in intimations of immortality, the likes of Coleridge and Wordsworth.


AP2008-11-29 14:00:16
I wasn't talking to you, Mr. P.


AP2008-11-29 14:14:50
If you want to be respected in your beliefs, respect the disbelief of others. Either position (and even third ones) is legitimate.
I was talking about Mr. Mikhaylov mixing dreams/illusions, vigil/sleep dreams and even propaganda-personality cult with the need felt by some artists to give a testimony of their times, as well as adopting stereotypes such as "(...) while the psychologists and the tarot card readers interpret them. Writers, politicians and civil leaders on the other hand, take dreams seriously." - we can find many exceptions to both of these sentences; artists other than writers are surprisingly forgotten (together with scientists, who dream too), while conscious and asleep dreams are mixed with demagogic purposes.


Emanuel Paparella2008-11-29 18:24:38
I was under the impression that the comment session is open to all readers. I had no idea that some kind of censorship had been placed on that freedom of speech. In fact I don't believe it and will continue to assume that nobody has a right to monopolize a dialogue or a discussion. I'll believe it when I hear it from its editors.


AP2008-11-30 00:35:37
Yes, it is open but I was commenting the article, not your comments. Far from me to censor you, I will just limit to reserve myself the right not to answer your comments about my comments. Shalom.


AP2008-11-30 00:47:21
Mr. P. go and check your daughters or granddaughters and grandsons in case you have them, ask how they've been doing in your absence, go and have a walk in the park, travel with them, go to the cinema or the opera together, eat popcorns with them... just stop being glued to the internet and the computer screen. You're like those kids addicted to their Playstations - you'll give anything for another combat.


AP2008-11-30 00:55:22
Why can't you just live a happily retired life, with more constructive/positive passions and less corrosive intrigues?


AP2008-11-30 00:57:47
For God's sake. (And he's a friend of yours)


Emanuel Paparella2008-11-30 01:48:36
Ah, the activist advising contemplation? The pot calling the kettle black?


AP2008-11-30 02:56:50
Sure, all of those labels you put on people without even having a clue.

No go and see that film with good company, you'll be a happier person in the end.


ap2008-11-30 02:57:39
now


Emanuel Paparella2008-11-30 03:05:38
P.S. It occurs to me Ms. Alessandra Hussein Pereira that there was another man who many years ago was also given the same kind of advice to retire and go and play with his grandchildren, albeit in another city. You see, he greatly irritated certain people--named sophists. They branded him a gadfly. He did not take their advice to go and so they found another way to “retire” him and shut him up once and for all.

What a horrible bourgeoisie concept is that of “retirement.” As it is, I am still teaching four courses a week: one in aesthetics, one in problems of philosophy and one in biomedical ethics to doctors and nurses, and one in Italian and greatly enjoy. I also manage to play with my granddaughter almost daily and, of course, write for Ovi and Global Spiral magazines, which I also greatly enjoy. I would not want it any other way. Brief moral of the story: without impugning any motives to your advice, I refuse to take it. Sorry.


AP2008-11-30 03:53:00
Alessandra is Italian, Mr. P., as you must know.
As predicted you seem to have no social life and much work. That's not what I meant with joyful retirement. Trouble adapting to it? I hope you don't throw Aristotle, Aquinas, Vico and Epictetus indiscriminately at your granddaughter's dolls or cinema popcorns.


Emanuel Paparella2008-11-30 04:39:50
Ah, "joyful retirement and social life!" But you see, the reason why Socrates did not take the advice to "get a life" some place else is that he already had one in Athens and he could have one in Athenes because in the first place he had an interior life to begin with. Perhaps he did become a stranger in his own society but then the reason for that might have been that a good man can never adapt to a less than just society. Indeed "theoria" always drives praxis even if it be nothing else than the theoria of nihilism. Ah, my granddaughter; her name is Sophia. She has the proper name by which to fulfill her destiny with such a grandfather, wouldn't you say?


AP2008-11-30 13:15:03
You are not Socrates, this is not Athens, I'm not a society. Just someone trying to comment an article and avoid your nitpicking at the same time.
I don't know... what's her destiny?


Emanuel Paparella2008-11-30 13:17:23
P.S. And, by the way Hussein a middle name you conferred on yourself and others, is Islamic, and it is not my middle name, as you must know. Where is the border between caricature and sarcasm, shallowness and depth? As Barthes taught us, the reader does the interpretation and we write ephemeral poems and think of ourselves great poets.


AP2008-11-30 13:33:05
Ahah critic out of context, Mr. P. Don't tell me it offended your personal religious beliefs? Or are you stating that you defend some female polician against unfair personal attacks by being unable to spell my name?
Leave the poems alone. Enjoy what's left of Thanksgiving.


ap2008-11-30 14:16:40
"politician"


Emanuel Paparella2008-11-30 14:20:26
Alexandra or Alessandra is still the same name in different languages. What I was attempting to convey, alas in vain, is that we ought to try to fulfill, in as much as possible the meaning of the names conferred on us or they become meanigless. One either fulfills it or creates a meaning for it with some great deed or one comes up short. I suppose most of us come up short but then once in a while some heroes comes along that fulfill the meaning of their names and inspires us to do likewise. For instance, were you to get on a white horse in front of an army and conquer the world or save your people, you would have fulfilled the meaning of Alexander or Alessandro, or Alexandra or Alessandra which means leader. You can also turn to contemplation a la Plato (which means broad shouldered)and still fulfill it by being a hero of contemplation rather than a hero of mindless praxis without theory,for after all empires have come and have gone ad nauseam since the beginning of human history and it is questionable whether or not they have enhanced what is most precious in human nature.


Sand2008-11-30 15:42:04
The concept that one's given name should demand one to spend a lifetime devoted to justify what is normally taken to be a mere meaningless label is one of the more ludicrous fantasy concepts out of Paparella. Taking current concepts of a name and ignoring archaic connotations someone given the name "John", on Mr.P.'s theory should forever be associated with either toilets or patrons of prostitutes.


Emanuel Paparella2008-11-30 16:18:06
Is that what the visiting projecting voices suggested? Remind them that your own name could be construed as a version of John. People living in glass houses should not be throwing stones...


Sand2008-11-30 17:01:42
Which makes the proposition that the name direct the individual all the more ridiculous.


AP2008-11-30 20:21:24
Actually, it means "defender/protector of mankind".
But if you think, for example, of the sad life and tragic destiny of a famous Alexandra like Alexandra Feodorovna, no, I don't want to fulfill that.


Emanuel Paparella2008-11-30 21:54:36
That is why the Catholic Church in her wisdom suggests that we give names of saints to our children. They are exemplary human beings worthy of imitation.

Of course, those who see the Church with biased glasses, choosing selective events of her history and missing the whole picture, will fail to acknowledge such wisdom. Ultimately though bias and slander only make their practitioner intellectually and spiritually bankrupt. If Socrates taught us anything it is that.


AP2008-11-30 22:51:26
No comments.


AP2008-11-30 23:03:58
Mr. P., not only Fedorovna herself was canonised as Saint by the Orthodox Church in 2000, as there was also another Alexandra Saint, the Christian wife of the Emperor Diocletian.
None of those seem to be very examplary to me... maybe because I'm not a Saint?


AP2008-11-30 23:05:16
"exemplary"

No, not a Saint... I just have a different lifestyle and different convictions.


AP2008-11-30 23:29:32
Alexandra for Alexander, I prefer... no, not the innumerous Popes... the poets like... Pope, or Pushkin, Dumas, William and Jonh Alexander the painters, the designers, Solzhenitsyn, and even the Great.
You see? Our name tells nothing.


AP2008-11-30 23:31:09
errata - "John"

I hope the turkey was tasty.


Emanuel Paparella2008-12-01 00:39:52
Indeed, our names is wholly insignificant until we discover our destiny. Hence the only one who knows our real name is God and he will eventually reveal it to us. You may call such a notion a turkey but it is food for thought nevertheless. You need to taste first though.


Emanuel Paparella2008-12-01 00:56:23
As I remember, you wrote a peroration of one such saintly man: Aristides de Sousa Mendez; a man who like Socrates (no Christian he) was willing to die for his beliefs and honored truth throughout his life. He certainly knew his destiny, even if he might not have known his true name. Perhaps we can agree on that much?


AP2008-12-01 02:43:32
"our names is wholly insignificant until we discover our destiny"
The fact that they don't tell anything about what type of person you are and your character doesn't mean that they are insignificant. They should be significant... at least to oneself and as a practical referral tool for close people or acquaintances.

"You need to taste first though."
Sure, take me to God and show me His revelations, because I seem unable to discover or build my destiny by myself or in relation with other human beings. Very empowering, yes Sir.

Mendes was not a Saint, but a mere man with common sense and ethics. Like many others. His mistake? Not having done everything he could to escape to the States together with his sons and daughters, and escape death at the same time, thanks to the precious ADVICE of a friend Priest who tried his best to "ORIENT" Aristides in God's revelations when he was living the hardest times!! Precious advice: submit to martyrdom like a true Saint, don't struggle because Saints are flawless, don't protest, accept your destiny of living in hell and die in poverty in our Convent, instead of joining your family and your willing Jewish helpers on a peaceful and prosperous exile! Great advices, really, dictated by the blindness of religion and taking advantage of the desperation and social ostracism he was submitted to.


Sand2008-12-01 04:07:42
It is useless but an amusing pastime to argue with a fool and Paparella has demonstrated his outrageous foolishness time and time again. Do not expect any form of sense whatsoever from him.


Emanuel Paparella2008-12-01 14:30:53
Birds of a feather flocking together once again? Is that what the visiting voices told you lately Mr. S.? You really ought to take their slanderous pronouncements with a great grain of salt; they tend to be biased, unable to see beyond their narrow "politically correct" point of view, and have no respect for truth. In fact, that word may not even be in their dictionary.


Sand2008-12-01 17:05:44
With the whole of history to draw on don't you at least have the enterprise to dig up a few different cliche´s instead of those old meaningless ones? You really are a lazy old idiot.


Emanuel Paparella2008-12-01 18:06:31
And now, as usual, you may gather some high five from sycophants and fellow juvenile fools; but only after you place under this comment your last jem of wisdom. For without it, it may be too apparent that the emperor is naked and he may not have won the diatribe; after all "might is right," isn't it?


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