In using the word ‘Dreaming,’ I wish to reclaim an activity of unimaginable power from our modern day use of the term, something dismissive, like “day-dreaming.”
Dreaming includes the visionary, but anchors it in what is present here. The Visionary is not anywhere ‘else.’ Dreaming, as I practice it and use the word, is the marriage of the Practical and the Visionary. It is the very real moment-to-moment steps needed to patch up a roof. To mow the lawn. Our Dreaming shows up as the world around us, every environment and every object we live in and which through us lives. Far from simply being “day-dreaming,” Dreaming is the activity of every little action in the life we are.
Dreaming includes the visionary, but anchors it in what is present here.We tend to bias one of two directions, I’ve found. Obviously this is more complex than that — each of us displays a particular way these impulses have intertwined in and as our lives, and when we try to accomplish something with other people, things get exponentially more messy. But for illustration’s sake:
We either become more comfortable with the Practical, or we become more comfortable with the Visionary.
We spend more energy and attention either in “Day-dreaming”, in picturing possible futures, or in the practical, in handling what needs doing. While these modes seem quite different, they arise out of the same move: separating the possible from the present.
Why are they so difficult to bring together?
I am coming to see this separation as a way of dealing with a fundamental sense of human pain. We experience pain as a sense of ‘this is not what I want.’ Pain is, of course, a signal, something that calls us to awareness. Our minds and selves arise as ways of helping us avoid pain. But as our identities get more and more intricate in this, we also lose connection with the reality of our feeling-sense. We lose touch with what we feel — whether painful or not.
In fully rooting both in our capacity to Vision and our capacity to Act, we are Dreaming, and we are Powerful.Visionaries deal with/ avoid this pain by putting attention and energy on future possibility. To face what is present, the Visionary has to face the pain of reality not being what they want — something exacerbated by the flight from pain which has shored up their identity. That is, the more they’ve headed towards and identified with vision, the more painful the present will seem if they actually are able to stop and take it in. The gift of the Visionary, when they are able to be open and equanimous with disappointment, and then embrace the constant change of even their own deepest vision, is the sense of a ‘True-North’ with which they can guide their activities.
Practicals deal with the pain of ‘this is not what I want’ by putting their shoulder to the wheel. Unlike the Visionary, whose sight is focused off and in the distance, the Practical is hardly even aware of what he’s seeing — he’s focused on the effort, the brunt work, and his eyes are in the mud. Faced with the pain of ‘this is not what I want,’ the Practical has decided on some level to ignore the deeper callings of what is possible, and cow himself to the way things are. To face what is possible, the Practical has to face the same pain as the Visionary on the flip side — here it can be a sense of resentment, or of having cut oneself off from one’s own potential, and is exacerbated by the work that has been done. ‘If I didn’t have to do any of this, what’s the point?’ The gift of the Practical is that something tangible gets done.
A short exaggerated illustration: in a mill, without animal labor, the Practical would set to grinding. They would grind, and grind, and grind, and just keep grinding until the work was done. The Visionary would grind for 5 minutes, get bored, or tired, then ask, ‘isn’t there a better way of doing this?’ They would sketch up and test different designs for more efficient mills, think of better ways of doing it, start studying mechanical engineering, visit other mills to see if they did anything any better, perhaps in their pursuit getway off the track and forget entirely about mills.
These are of course sketches, and suggestions, but I have found them helpful in surfacing the knots that we have between truly open possibility and what is present and real — where Creativity lives.
Creativity lives where we are doing the work in our lives as a committed, daily, and fine-tuned experimentation with the work at hand, and connected to a source of Open Curiosity, not afraid of improving, playing, or asking the big questions (what are we after here? Why are we doing this??)
In fully rooting both in our capacity to Vision and our capacity to Act, in allowing our Visions to iterate along with what is Actual, and Acting in alignment with the constantly-receding and re-iterating horizon, we are Dreaming, and we are Powerful.
This is a part of a series on Dreaming. Read the previous article, Dreaming and View, or continue on to Working with Knots.