We Dream, So We Are

Pita Okute

© Copyright 2005 by Pita Okute


Cartoon image of Tom and Jerry.

We Dream...It seems to me that only human beings are capable of this 'feat'. This essay tries to show that the ability to dream derives from the will of God,to "create man in our own image". The dreams of mankind are poor replicates of the divine example. God dreams and so we must! The world is much the better for this, I believe. We can only make progress to the extent that we are able to envision a better tomorrow and take appropriate steps to achieve the dream...

 There is an episode of Tom and Jerry, the comic cartoon series, in which the cat has a vision of hell. He is dead, he dreams, and must go to the fiery pit for all his transgressions against the mouse he loves to hate. On one condition alone can Tom escape his well-deserved punishment. He must get Jerry to forgive him all his misdeeds. It is not easy by any means and Tom is in a real torment while the story lasts.

 Chickens snore. Dogs whine and growl in their sleep. So, a dreamland for the lower species may not be as rummy as it sounds. Yet, the ability to remember our sleep time adventures and rationalize them as we may, separates the human mind from that of animals.

This is the platform, one makes bold to suggest, from which is derived that other meaning of ‘vision’- as a goal, set objective or potent desire. This is to acknowledge that we can dream not only behind shut eyes but in the waking state as well, all senses alert and working.

 In calling to mind the dramatic film scenes of our dozing eyes and interpreting them to suit our fancy, we set the stage for the conscious production of live dreams. One script is wild and uncensored; the other-purpose built and controlled- is just as creative and no less engaging to our critical senses. Both currents spring from the mysterious depths of our being. This ability to define our visions at both levels of awareness is perhaps, the first foundation of our humanity. The lower species cannot boast of it.

 This capacity to dream, that is, take hold of a fleeting notion, give it flesh, mould it to shape and bring it to life is a god-like quality, which borrows its power from that sacred eternal dream, “let us make man in our image”. By this dream, Divinity set the creative pace on the sixth day of creation. The instinctive desire to walk down this beaten sacred trail is what marks the man and woman of purpose from lesser mortals.

 It says a lot also about the Divine example that Adam and Eve, the first products of that heavenly project proved to be defective. Ironically, they succumbed to their own base dreams, which did not quite tally with God’s own plans.

 I suppose we could blame Him for that. Having been created in His image, it was only natural that Adam and Eve should acquire some sparks of divinity. More than all the other creatures in Eden, they collaborated with Him in the programme, by giving names to all the other creatures. In exercising this office, they would have had occasion certainly to question their own judgment. We can say this because, when the serpent told Eve she would become wiser from eating the forbidden fruit, she bit down on the apple without hesitation. Adam did not need much prompting either. From this, we can tell that a certain inadequacy had been gnawing at their souls all along.

 We are then caught between two dreams, or purposes, if you prefer. The first is God’s, to make man in His image. Sadly, these creatures of His are not satisfied with their station. They want to be more than mere resemblances. Their dream is to be as all knowing as their Creator. We may add a third purpose, the devil’s, although his agenda is not so clearly stated but implied. For overreaching themselves, Adam and Eve are ejected from their treasured home. Nonetheless, God did not abandon His dream but set up a programme of redemption to reconcile the disobedient creatures to Him.

 The first important lesson of this Biblical narrative is that disappointment is so often the stuff of dreams; even the Almighty is not immune to it. We may further observe that the challenge of the dream is to overcome the disappointment and pursue the purpose to its final conclusion. Ordinarily, therefore, disappointments should fire our resolve because, it is in our nature as humans to constantly seek improvement. We would not be human otherwise. It is the urge that gives meaning and direction to our being.

 Life on earth is an endless catalogue of challenges that describe the various generations in every society. Though the travails of every era are peculiar to it, the restless pull of the human spirit to rise above its station is a common denominator to them all. Adam and Eve caught this malady from the snake and passed it down the line.

 Perhaps, to show that this restlessness may not be such a bad trait, every society has a repertoire of folktales and myths to fortify the zeal of the young ones for a better society. Alive, also, to the darkness of the human soul, these tales and myths are open-ended sermons on the virtues of temperance, courage, justice, selflessness, etc.

 Every hero in folklore has the uncanny ability to get through difficulties. Each has a wily determination that strikes sympathetic chords in the pounding hearts of children who follow their escapades with keen interest. It does not matter whether the story is told them orally or relayed on a comic strip like Tom & Jerry.

 The point being made here is that even children recognize and appreciate the positive value of these tales. Ever so often therefore, the lessons fall on good soil and a hero springs up the giant beanstalk of the day’s social problem to slay the monster of the era. It stands to reason then that the world would never lack champions at every turn, in every trade, to meet the challenges of the day.

Back to Eden and the ringing sentence of an angry Judge: “By the sweat of thy brow…”

Condemned to a life of labour and hardship, Adam and Eve, and their descendants through the ages, became builders in their own right; creators too of a post-Eden reality in which, every building block of progress has been lifted into place by a purposeful dream to make a success of harsh existence.

 It goes without saying too, that the challenge of living has become more complex over the long span of human history. As a result, it is easy to ignore the landmark achievements of ages gone by and imagine that the progress of humankind has been one phenomenal leap. The stark truth however, is that the great social, political, economic and technological advancements of modern society are the results of several little progressive steps, taken throughout the ages by men and women of purpose in all spheres of life. Their cumulative effort has brought us to this modern pass

Smallpox, typhoid fever, tuberculosis, leprosy and several other diseases have been eradicated in many parts of the world, but we have AIDS to contend with. Slavery is history, yet the reality of under development has made a majority of third world countries the virtual slaves of the industrialized nations. Decades ago, it appeared as if the world had seen the last of global conflict. A worse threat exists today; international terrorism. Drug addition, global warming, environmental pollution and degradation are very modern concerns that trouble the common sleep of the world’s people. More worrying though is a general feeling of despondency that the solution of these problems will elude us for a long while to come.

 My view is that we have every cause to be optimistic about the future of our world. History may sometimes be written in superlative victories; little David against mighty Goliath, eleven apostles confronting the power of the great Roman Empire and the simple camel driver, Muhammad, taking on the influential princes and priests of Arabia. But every one of these world-changing tides began in a trickling pool of quaint dreams…

 We only need to look back at the vast distances that the human race has covered in its long journey through the ages and have cause for hope. If human experience is anything to go by, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, the Parkinson syndrome, cancer and all the other medical trials of our time will go the way of typhoid, tuberculosis, etc.

Currents still run strong which create giant divides among the peoples of the world. Yet, a greater harmony of purpose pervades the globe than was the case during the larger part of the last millennium. This harmony springs from the common dreams of homo sapiens for a better, more peaceful world. The same sense is still at work that wrecked the mad schemes of the Third Reich, tore the Iron Curtain to shreds and brought the false religion of Marxism and communism to a riotous halt! This is the impulsive, slow burning anger of a peace-loving world. It will consume Al-Queida in due time, sweep away in its fiery wake all those who crouch behind intolerant principles to terrorize the rest of the world. This is the flame that fires the will of people everywhere to make poverty history and democracy the only way to power all over the world.

 The spiritual component of this energy is derived from the persistent dream of the Almighty, who created humankind in His image and when the creatures proved unsuitable for His grand design did not despair, but laid out a programme of salvation for them. This hope is sustained by the irrepressible love that the children of Ancient Israel enjoyed on the journey to the Promised Land and their long sojourn in it. Though they betrayed this love, time and time again, our hope is nurtured to full bloom by the eternal sacrifice on the Cross-, in which we have become heirs to a shared inheritance, children of that New Israel with no physical boundaries; a global village of the redeemed human spirit! This is what greatly assures us that the march of history is not just a material excursion from hunting and gathering in the wild to surfing and browsing on the web

. We are not merely flesh and bones but spirit as well. We are never more human than when we are united in thought and action with our spirit, the godlike quality of our being which sets us apart from the rest of creation. We are indeed at our worst whenever we are separated from that spirit. At such times, we loose our freely given capacity to envision a better world. When this occurs, our purpose for being is corrupted because, human beings exist to constantly recreate themselves.

 So, when he invites us to bear our crosses and tag along, Jesus is indicating that the great prize which Adam and Eve greatly desired, “to be as the gods’, can not be had without pain. When thrice he falls on the way to Golgotha, he demonstrates as he rises each time that it is possible to waive aside every distraction and keep our sights on the treasured goal. In truth, this is the way; the salvation of the human race is assured only in its struggle for a better life on earth.

The seed of success lies in the dreams of human kind: small visions of many millions around the globe. Each is a tiny step in the unhurried pace of the universe. All together they make a significant jump in the progress of humanity. We dream… and so we are.

Poet, free lance writer, has been a reporter, features writer, magazine editor and news paper columnist in his home country, Nigeria. His poems have appeared in two anthologies of Nigerian poetry, Voices from the Fringe (ANA/Malthouse, 1987) , Und eine das Straat ein Peste (Horlemann, 1987) and several Nigerian journals. He is currently working on his first collection of poems and a full length novel among other creative writing projects.

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