Sacrifice Everything to your Dream
I was watching America’s Got Talent with my sisters, and my older sister made a comment which I thought was interesting. There were different variety act performers, and we were talking approximately about weather it was a good idea to sacrifice the “normal” things in ones life in pursuit of success in a variety act. It brought to mind the recent Olympics, and the sacrifices that people make to be a great swimmer or a great diver — accomplishments of at best limited utility.
My sisters comment was that one should be willing to do anything in pursuit of ones dream. Of course one could create endless undergraduate philosophy ethical conundrums out of this — which would be a terribly boring line of conversation — lets be reasonable here and accept that she was saying what a reasonable person might think she was saying. One should be willing to suffer and sacrifice to achieve ones dreams. Whatever those dreams are — if the dream is to go to the Olympics, or to be a great variety performer — whatever it is. That goal is something that one should keep in ones mind, and one should be willing to let go of comfort and convenience and all manner of lesser goods to achieve.
I fervently agree — and I have had different dreams throughout my life which I have sacrificed for to different degrees. But the idea stuck with me because it occurred to me that I have not formulated clearly what my dream is in recent years. I have pursued it, even sacrificed to it. But dreams that I have articulated in the past have all fallen away from me — mostly because I perceived them as being too vain. I wanted to be a great performer, and then as I got further into performing I realized that something was missing in it — that there was something in poetry and writing besides performance. That there was something besides even publishing. I could get published without being good. I could write books without being good — it happens all the time. What I wanted was to be good.
Being good is problematic — because there are multiple standards and opinions. There are multiple kinds of accomplishments. Most of those have come into range at one point or another — and all of the ones that I have seen directly, and all of the ones that I have imagined have failed when considered under a simple test that I learned from Socrates: Do I want to be good or do I want to be perceived as good?
So if it is simple like getting published, or being well thought off. If it is moving a room with a spoken word performance, or getting a good review in the Paris Review. If it is even getting an extraordinary prize like the Nobel or Pulitzer prize — are those experiences motivating to me? Are those things that I could call “the dream?”
I have to say no. In a way I do not even care if I am ever read. In a way, of course, that is absurd — but in a different way it is absolutely true. I do not care if “I” am ever read. I do not care if “my words” survive me. They are as vain as I am — as empty and transitory. What does it matter if some detritus cast of from my existence, be it a poem or a lock of hair, persists for some years along side me, or after my death and is passed around?
But I’ll tell you what I do want — if you will pretend with me for a moment that language is a thing closer to what Plato thought it was than we think it is today, or at least Santayana. Not identical, but closer. It is my dream to know and give voice to the truth. Know is a word with sexual connotations, and truth in my usage is a dynamic — even a living, though not a supernatural, thing. To give voice to is different than to “say” or to “reveal.”
I recognize the truth as being a plural thing — as having multiple levels which are complex and even at times self-contradictory. I recognize the truth as having personal and impersonal elements to it. I recognize it as being something which is partially reached by mathematics, and partially by inspiration. I recognize that at almost no time can one be sure when one is standing in it’s presence, and that any expression of it, however confident one may be at an air-tight conceptualization or wording, will fail in some contexts. But when I experience, in small or large ways, the feeling of extending outside of myself in understanding something — and when I can bring that understanding back into a meaningful expression which others could, if they approached it with good will, find the nature of the understanding which I had in the original moment: that is my dream.
It is my dream to know and give voice to the truth.
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