When will we wake up
to our dreams?
When will we wake up
to our dreams?
If you were to be living out your dreams, at this very moment—
Where would you be?
In Louisa Alcott’s novel, “Little Women,” there is a very sentimental scene where the four sisters and their friend are describing their personal ‘castles.’ By ‘castles,’ they meant their greatest aspirations—where they hoped to be in the future, and what they most dreamed of doing. Most of them were far-fetched, seeing as they were ‘poor’ folk. Nonetheless, they dreamed of it, and…
I don’t know.
I just can’t help wondering, every day, what the world would be like if everybody were living in their castles? The world would be a better place, one would assume. Well—if I were living in my castle, I would be stopping to talk to anyone who feels unsatisfied or dejected, no matter their outward appearance. I would not let the sight of rags stop me, nor the flash of tear-shielding screens. I would be on the road, delivering letters anonymously in hopes of cheering strangers up. I would be cleaning streets, parks, and lawns of all trash, and spreading words of kindness, educating others—especially children—on how precious this Earth of ours is. I would be in so many places in this one castle of mine.
But now and again, I also wonder; what exactly is holding me back?
What is holding me back from living in my castle, this very moment? I know, many would say that the only thing keeping me from my castle is myself. Though, I really do wonder; if I didn’t have to worry about going to school every day in order to get into a good college, to get a good job, to earn money to ‘live,’ then I would be chasing my castle right now. I believe I really would. Or, at the very least, I’d be living some more alternative, hippie lifestyle. A freer lifestyle.
After analyzing these aspirations of mine, I’ve come to the conclusion that what I wish for with all my head, heart, and soul, is to be—that’s right.
It’s such a loose term, I know. So, I have crafted a personal working definition on what it means to be free:
“The ability to pursue one’s dreams without fear of consequence, or hindrance of self-despising spirit.”
Perhaps that ‘freedom’ is roosted in the tallest tower of my castle, yet. Not because I am consciously holding myself back, or because ‘society’ is holding me back—but because it is ourselves who hold the world back.
It is inevitable that the words and actions of one person affects another, and can ultimately contribute in dictating the outcome of that person’s life. The effects are not always direct, of course—but nothing can be undone. A choice is forever.
We all know that the students currently attending grade-school did not make the laws. I’m sure that half of them would opt for alternative learning methods, if going through the system was not ingrained in national policy. A policy that was created by politicians at least two centuries ago, a choice stamped into eternity.
Having an income. Acquiring a diploma, promotion, whatever it may be—these are only things we desire because it further secures us of ‘life’; of survival, comfortability. Laws, custom, society, mentality—they may interfere with our freedom, but they’re also an attempt to guarantee us security.
Legislations created by people of the past, prosperity for people of the future. For us. Monarchs, dictators, prime ministers, and popes—even the nicest leader of the bunch—will never be able to grant us freedom. Liberty is a humble synonym, and is available to us as long as we function within the realm of society’s rubric of legality. It is people who make our lives spin round, not any one individual. Whether it was that Massachusetts governor, or your boss’s twice-removed step-cousin, their existence is inevitably intertwined with not only yours, but everyone else’s, existence.
It does not matter if someone made a choice ten minutes ago, or ten centuries down the line. Everyone’s decisions impact the world we live in (and even beyond). Sure, I didn’t ask to attend school, and perhaps you didn’t especially desire that desk job with the expectations that it would make you happy, or free. But somehow, some way, each one of us has been ushered into a situation that we feel is holding us back from something more—and substituting that ‘something’ with a lesser reward.
Our castles are fleshed out in moats, soldiers, iron gates, the works—and with all our security, of course it is difficult to reach that very precious room on the top floor without being told to, “Please take a walk down this staircase, first.” Or, “If you want to reach that room, you’ll have to please go down this hallway.”
It is only in the name of your security, of course. The world wants us all to be content. So, it is only rational that we all follow the same customs. Customs which were created by—yes. By people, like you and me, as consequences of the choices they made.
Us. Society. The world.
We hold ourselves back for the sake of saving ourselves. Rules and custom are tactics of defense against uncertainty. There is no security in a world without custom. Chaos is the consequence of disregarding our constructions, so we tell each other. We are so daunted to climb up to that tallest tower, where our aspirations reside. Where our dreams, freedoms, risks, await.
We point each other in different directions; I choose to save you from uncertain expeditions, so I point towards the plasticine yard. You feel my aspired heights are outlandish—and beckon me to first landing, instead of the third.
We hold the world back. We do it all with our best intentions, but fear of failure has tugged us into a treacherous circle of dependence on those who know so little of our lives. Think about it—how many life choices have you made where you weren’t pressured from those who didn’t know you? Are you living with the choices you were forced to make, or choices you truly desired to make? If you had no fear of others’ opinions, or the societal consequences your dreams might entail, would you have chosen differently?
You, yes, you—put it down.
I don’t care how important that text message is. I don’t care how hilarious that photo-shopped picture of a demonized infant is. I don’t care if you need to check your grades right now. It’s not important.
As a matter of fact, I’m tired of coming to eat lunch with you every day. I’m tired of that look on your face when you scroll through trash on some website. I can leave right now, if I wanted to. You know, I think I will. I think I’ll just pack up my stuff and leave this table. It’s not like we were talking about anything, anyways.
No, you don’t look aloof. Yes, everyone can see right through that “I’m so preoccupied with my email that I can’t make eye-contact” expression. No matter what it is you’re doing on that screen, I can’t tell you how ridiculous you look to me. Please, just drop it. Look at me. Say something, anything, to me.
I miss you, so dearly much, my friend.
I’m tired of this.”
A couple weeks ago, I was scrolling through the miscellaneous documents in my Finder, and stumbled across a page captioned, “Write a letter.”
I clicked on the document, and found myself reading through what appeared to be a single-sentence writing prompt. After reading it over a couple more times, I concluded that it was not something I had written. To be honest, I don’t remember who wrote the prompt, where I’d found it, or why I’d decided to type it up on a blank Word document some time ago. But whoever wrote it had an amazing point; so I thought, “Hey—why not do it?”
This is what the prompt says:
“Write a simple letter in your own words, to all world leaders, stating that you would like to see that person respect ALL human rights, and that you want to hear a simple yes or no from them. (imagine the effect if lots of people send this kind of letter?…)”
And so, between hectic bursts of speed-studying and grocery shopping, I’ve been spending the past week drafting letters to six of our world’s most powerful leading politicians.
Here is what one of my letters looks like.
“Dear Mr. President,
As I am writing this, you are living your fifth day in as President of the United States of America. Already, I am sure you are receiving a lot of mail filled with relief, loathing, joy, praise, disapproval, uncertainty, despair, anger, etc. Yes, the people are very, very angry with you and your supporters. But, please, do not be quick to ridicule us—I am sure you know that some of us refuse to admit that we, the people, are the only ones to blame for this. Thousands of us have rallied behind you, though thousands more would rather spit at your feet in disgust than have to look you in the eye. I hope you will adjust to this, and come to expect it even more so than in the past few months. You are a politician, now—politics and emotion go hand-in-hand, which inevitably leads to vehement controversy.
I am writing to you to make one request: please, Mr. President, I urge you to respect all human rights. I am doing my best to put all the terrible things the world has been saying about you behind me, for it is only the fair thing to do. You are no longer Donald Trump the businessman, but President Donald Trump of the United States of America. You deserve a chance to sustain this title in a positive light.
Like I’ve said, I will view you with an open mind, and a cleared vision—but only if you do the same for the rest of us. You say you will listen to the people? Then prove it. When you talk about us, take care to mention the good, not just the “nasty,” or the unchanging. We are past Hillary scandals. We are through with all of the trash on the media, whether it be about you, or any other politician. It is time for the concerns of the humble individual to be taken into account. You, as President, have the extraordinary ability to make that happen.
You must realize that, by becoming President, you have given yourself up for the largest, most impactful cause in the world, as we know it. Screw it up, and you better prepare a substantially-long apology letter. But, if you succeed in bringing more happiness and security—happiness, not greatness—to this country, then you will feel a thousand times more fulfilled than any self-indulgent act could ever reward you with. All we, the people, ask of you is this:
Listen to us, the American people. Even if it is just a few moments throughout your day, forget all that your Vice President has advised you—forget the media, your relatives’ opinions, the ultra-powerful figures you work with daily. Reflect on the people. Never forget us, for if you do, we will know it instantly.
Listen to the Democrats, the Republicans, the Libertarians, the Anarchists, the Constitutions, the Greens, the Socialists, the Whigs—listen to anyone and everyone. If none of their concerns can alter your decisions or beliefs towards individuals, then please, at best, respect all of our human rights.
I imagine this letter will either get lost among the many arbitrary government documents and praise-hate letters of others like me. But, if anyone at all ends up reading this, I would much appreciate it if you would take these thoughts into consideration, and perhaps, to heart. Give us an open mind, respect all of our rights and humanity—and we will do the same for you.”
While I did not write letters to all world leaders, I am going to do my best to send out my message either through postal mail, or through email to a select few. The six politicians I have chosen to write are President Donald Trump (U.S.A.), Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (Japan), Chancellor Angela Merkel (Germany), President Jacob Zuma (South Africa), Prime Minister Theresa May (U.K.), and Prime Minister Narendra Modi (India).
The chances of my letters being read personally by all six of these politicians are slim to none, but my hope is still aimed towards at least one other human being intercepting my message. I think it would be absolutely amazing if everyone reading this could write at least one letter, however brief it may be, and sent it out to their own country’s leader asking to respect all human rights.
Who knows? That prompt may lead to something, indeed. If I get a response from any of the six politicians, I will be sure to briefly post their reaction (‘briefly,’ for their own privacy, of course).
On a final note, wishing everyone a good weekend, and thank you for reading! Good luck to whoever decides to have a go at this prompt, and feel free to ask me any questions about the structure of my letters, or mailing process. I am open to any prompt suggestions, as well!
“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” — Dalai Lama
“Will you make a contribution to our cause?”
Staring at this string of words, I wouldn’t expect any waves of passion, let alone sympathy, to surge through me. Almost no emotion at all comes to mind. But I skim it over once more.
It’s a positive statement, for sure. Whoever it is that asks for aid, I know they mean well. Of course, after writing this, I realize that the cause could have been something potentially ill-meaning. But without any context, I automatically feel that someone out there is saying these words with a smile, and an amiably-outstretched hand.
A cause is not something that everyone possesses, but almost all warm to the idea of having one. We are guilty after refusing to make a donation, and we cherish the idea of assuming the role of a faithful volunteer. So, what is a ‘cause,’ exactly? And why does anyone even care?
A cause is the result of when an individual is no longer just existing, but impacting. It is when you give yourself to others and the world, expecting nothing in return. A cause is simply the desire to make a difference—not just in your own world, but in the worlds of those who surround you.
One’s job, usually, is not one’s cause. We work in order to gain money, to ‘make a living’—a resource that is used solely for our own benefit, our own survival. A job, or career, only becomes a true cause when you realize that you would persist with it, even if there was no immediate reward.
We all have our cause. Some of us have it tangled deep within the cobwebs of dreams, or swiped from vision with the shadow of procrastination. Causes change, just as we always do, and obstructions vary in degrees of a thousand. But no matter the obstacles, the reason for why we strive towards a cause always remains constant. Whether it is large or small in impact, contributing to our cause is what brings the life back into reality. It keeps us grounded within ourselves, while at the same time, lifts us higher, and closer, to each other.
Without purpose, reality is fractured. Whether we make a contribution, lend a hand in tending to the pieces life has left in our wake, is purely our own decision to make. Of course, one thing remains certain; no action will ever go ignored. So, let us make an effort to keep the positive actions on the forefront of the choices we make. Soon, it may be you who will be voicing this very same request.
“Will you make a contribution to our cause?”
“We need a leader, not a creepy tweeter!”
This was one of the many chants that roared throughout New York City streets, just one day after President Trump’s inauguration. I remember laughing as I shouted this along with fifty other pink-capped men and women, wondering how the world could’ve possibly gotten to this point in time. I signed up for the march expecting a chorus over Trump’s insults, pay wages, and women’s rights—and got a whole lot more. There in the city, signs were hoisted into the air bashing Trump’s environmental beliefs, misogyny, racism, heterosexism, tax issues, and of course, his tendency to spew all this out through his Twitter feed.
The atmosphere was warm and energetic, despite the cold nipping at our feet as we inched along the streets. In all honesty, I absolutely abhor going into the city—I belong in an isolated patch of forest, or a quiet country lane. But standing shoulder-to-shoulder amongst masses of passionate, smiling activists made me swell with pride. This really was America, I realized; to the right of me, a mother nudging her daughter’s stroller into the crowd while chanting a slogan, a father lifting his son onto his shoulders, the boy thrusting his poster into the sky with sheer triumph. I’ve never felt more included, or more in harmony with my surroundings.
Out of all these millions of people marching around the world, I have high hopes that some of them will take a step further, and continue to show up at upcoming rallies, and pitch in with their cause. That said, it is true that the majority of us shouting through the streets were working-class Americans, and life demands us to return to our daily work routines. Some may fall back into pattern, feeling that their single act of resistance was all that they could muster. But, simply put, I doubt that many are going to do this. By coming together, voicing our emotions and opinions, we’ve gathered courage and inspiration for more to be done.
Slowly, but surely, the world has been waking up. Donald Trump’s presidency will crack the fog of indifference, of apprehension that has taken hold of so many of us in recent years. The Women’s March was not just about women, or about Trump—it was the start of a revolution for all. It was about breaking past the narrow focuses on labels and numbers, to be replaced by the worldly concerns of all individuals. This was an emotional experience more than a political one. This was for the climate change activist chanting in unison with the feminist, the child screaming for peace alongside the couple calling out for love. This event brought the world to a moment of clarity; that division has been made necessary for unity to occur, and where it only takes one man to spur a world-wide revolution of millions for change.
Thomas Jefferson, one of America’s Founding Fathers, believed that the Constitution should be rewritten every nineteen years.
In a letter to James Madison concerning the subject, Jefferson had said, “I set out on this ground which I suppose to be self evident, ‘that the earth belongs in usufruct to the living.'” By this, he’d meant that only those alive are entitled to receiving the rights granted by nature and society. This seems to be a sensible notion; our generation may choose to switch up the ground rules, without being dragged down by boundaries set by generations long dead.
Though the Constitution has been amended almost thirty times since, it has not been completely scrapped and rewritten a single time. A solid Constitution enables a country to follow a secure, predictable path; so it is a preserving facet. Ruled by the dead could be an exaggeration, but new generations living by a Constitution drafted nearly two centuries ago is, in theory, just that.
While We the People being replaced with We the Living is no guarantee, it is certain to say that, yes—we are ruled by the dead. Is this a good thing, or a bad thing? I cannot say, except that it is an eerie notion to wrap my mind around, however truthful it is.
My first post of the New Year; a blend of dreamy synths and liberating sentiments. Indeed, if revolutions were to morph into a series of musical notes, what Saxon Shore has created is precisely how one would expect it to sound.
I am no soothsayer, but I hope that by sharing this song 2017 will be full of those aspiring to create little revolutions of their own—changes to be a little kinder, wiser, and more open-minded. For me, 2017 will be the year of change, of hope. This song just may inspire the same beliefs in you.
This is not the proper place to argue.
Politics is not a good conversation starter.
Not now, at least.
I’d avoid bringing up the election in public.
Someone might get offended.
Bring your voice down to a whisper.
Teachers aren’t supposed to say such things.
Don’t ask your uncle who he’s voting for—it might be Trump.
…don’t even mention it.
Mr. R loves history. Loves discussing it. He loves politics. Loves discussing it. But what is his one fault? His greatest, undoing attribute?
He loves, just loves…to digress.
After the U.S. election, kids came to school crying. A girl sitting a few seats ahead of me had mascara smeared across her cheeks. I’m sure we’re all familiar with Mr. Trump, and I’m sure we’re all familiar with the fact that sobbing people were to be expected on that fateful day. School was dismal. Even the clouds were packed across the sky with shadows.
Every class was a drag. Another sniffling kid. Some huffy teachers. Everyone was emotional. No one was talking. That is, until Mr. R’s class rolled around.
“So. Who here is happy that Trump got elected?”
Our class sat silent. No hands were raised.
“Who isn’t happy that Trump was elected?”
All twenty hands in the room crept hesitatingly into the air. Mr. R took in a long breath. His face was twisting red. We all knew what was coming.
Here began the forty-minute political rant from our beloved history teacher, a jolly little Italian man who wore striped sweaters and rosy cheeks to work five days a week. He was intimidating, now. We froze before him, too shocked to say a word.
This is not the proper place to argue.
In school? I didn’t think it would happen.
Teachers aren’t supposed to say such things.
According to who? He obviously didn’t care about the rules. Trump seemed to break every law of presidential etiquette, according to Mr. R. Quite frankly, we didn’t care, either. It was invigorating to hear our teacher rant. It was something fresh. We’d kept it bottled in long enough.
After a good thirty minutes of his organized spiel, Mr. R stood before us. A long pause. “Anyway,” he said, slowly scanning the sea of wide-eyed faces. “I digress.”
Did I learn a lesson that day? Yes.
Don’t keep it in. Don’t shy away from a political discussion because the atmosphere isn’t right, or you think a person in your group is a Libertarian. If your whole family is made up of Hillary fans, and you’re leaning towards the more conservative, don’t shy away when your sister sparks a debate over dinner.
Stand by your beliefs—and talk about them. This is not just about the presidential election. This applies to religion, philosophy, literature, education, industry—you name it. Before we take action, before we lash out in anger, let’s use our words.
Be open-minded. Listen to others. Learn from them. People have their reasons, they really do. And you have your’s. So, don’t hide your opinions. Share them, toss them out into the open to be praised, to be criticized, and appreciated.
It fills me with disgust when my family members refer to Republicans with a sneer. “I feel a bit holier, having voted for Hillary,” my grandmother told me recently. I had to bite back a laugh.
Let’s stop with this egotistic mindset. Let’s view each other as people, first, not members of any political party. We are not followers, we are individuals with our own opinions. Don’t shun that Trump supporter who lives down the street. Invite him over for lunch, break it down with him, nice and sweet. Let your voice be heard. And then listen, think, then process, in return.
See that list of rules above? Yeah. Don’t follow that. People will tell you to quiet down, say that someone will feel uneasy, that this is not a dinner-time discussion. Be respectful, be courteous. But don’t shut your mouth.
Let’s all learn to digress a little bit more. Small talk can shield your racing thoughts for a hundred years, but if you feel there’s something more to be said—just say it. Listening to the debate flashing across your screen can rile you, but a thorough conversation with a stranger will enlighten you.
It’ll be risky, of course. People will get offended. Someone always will. But you cannot let that fact keep you from expressing your opinions. Let’s talk politics, and not feel restrained. Every interaction is an opportunity for learning, and you can choose to miss these opportunities—or not.
There are wise words waiting within us all. If the chance to unleash them comes, don’t back away. Take the risk. Digression is not just an excuse—it is a tool. Take advantage of it. Listen, and express. Judgment without discussion will lead us nowhere.
“If you’re not careful,” Mr. R once said, “you’ll learn something new every day. That is for certain.”
So, don’t be cautious with your knowledge. Do not be afraid.
Listen, learn, and share with us all.
We’ve all seen him.
Standing there, pleading in the ice.
The cars inch forward, creeping past his dark figure. Together, all fifty of us are trapped in this void of tar and frost-studded smoke. We peek out the window, squinting past the traffic.
Yes, it is him. With trembling hands, he clutches the piece of cardboard like a life preserver, for he is alone amongst a whirlpool of crimson tail lights, of squirming black glares. He stands broken. Without fear.
Your car approaches.
Something kicks in your gut. It is so hard—so hard—not to look at his pallid cheeks. His tattered scarf. The cardboard, scribbled over in neon marker, reads, “Homeless. Anything helps.”
We can do two things. We can keep our music flowing into our ears at top volume, and stare blankly at the license plate illuminated before us. We can ignore him. We can save our souls from a moment of inherent unease. We can keep a locked heart.
Or, we can quickly unplug our headphones, and rifle through the glove compartment for a mere dollar. Maybe two. We can roll down the window. Feel our hearts glow with swirling anxiety, with love, as our eyes meet.
“Happy holidays,” he says, beaming as we hand him the crumpled dollar bill.
“Happy holidays, sir.” Shy grins.
“Yeah, I’m just trying to keep my hands warm, you know?” he continues. A broad smile is still sunny across his cracked lips. His eyes, though shadowed, are a brilliant, milky blue. His laugh is warm.
It’s all within five seconds. Before we know it, our car is yards past him. Our hearts are pulsing a mile a minute. Something wonderful has happened. Something strange.
Tears well in our eyes. How can this be right? How could a dollar be all we had to give? How could we not have let him in, brought him to our home, even for just an hour? For a good meal? For some kind words? How could a slip of paper ever help—at all?
We are not so different. One is male, one is female. One is starving. One is depressed. One is living the dream. The other is dying. You are existing. But we are all here, and we are all human.
Why are we afraid to spare a moment? Why are we afraid to give?
He has laughed, just like us. He has cried, just like us. He has sworn and gorged on dreams and lies, just like us. He has a family, somewhere. He has a past. He is human.
And yet, I have seen him on every street corner of New York City. I have seen him begging before the bookshops of little ram-shackled beach towns. I have seen him cowering, spindle-boned, beneath a sari. I have seen him hobbling along crowded cobblestone streets. I have seen him outside my very own home.
Yes, we’ve all seen him. We’ve all had to make that split-second decision. That choice that sends a us wake-up call—forcing us past the glow of our screens, the traffic of our thoughts.
The choice that seems simple enough.
But, tell me.
Is it, really?