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hands and peace

Keep Dreaming

If someone said to you that you were a dreamer, how would you take it? Probably negatively. These days it’s a pejorative saying to call someone a dreamer.  It means you’re not in touch with reality, or they think that what you’re dreaming is impossible. It’s like saying, “Come back down to earth, don’t be ridiculous, get your head out of the clouds.”

But where would we be without the dreamers. After all,  it’s the dreamers who have changed the world.

(For the full video version, click here.)

Think of all the inventors and researchers who have made the world a better place with the things they’ve created: electricity, the light bulb, cars, planes, medical technology, vaccinations, sliced bread! The list is endless!

What about all the activists who’ve changed the world through their dreams and actions?

  • Harriet Tubman – imagined a world without slavery
  • Susan B. Anthony & Elizabeth Cady Stanton – dreamed of a time when women could vote
  • Caesar Chavez & Dorothy Huerta – began the Farmworkers Labor Movement and dreamed of a time when farm workers made a decent wage and worked in safe conditions
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. – dreamed of a world where black and white people were treated equally
  • Gloria Steinem was a force in the women’s movement – imagined a world where men and women were treated equally
  • Harvey Milk a champion for LGBT rights – dreamed of a time when lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender folks were accepted, and homosexual relationships were considered equal to heterosexual relationships
  • Nelson Mandela, a leader in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa – imagined a world where people of all different colors lived together equally, side-by-side, in harmony

Yesterday the choir sang John Lennon’s Imagine.  Lennon was a dreamer, an activist, one who wanted to see the world at peace. These are his words:

Imagine there's no heaven, it's easy if you try
No hell below us, above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there's no countries, it isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for and no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace.

You may say I'm a dreamer but I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us and the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger; a brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world, you

You may say I'm a dreamer but I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us and the world will be as one

Jesus, too, was a dreamer.  He preached about a world that seemed impossible. A world where people were free from oppression (political and religious), and lived with compassion, acceptance, love, forgiveness, and kindness.

We can go all the way back to the prophet in Isaiah (65: 17-25) who was a voice of hope for the people coming out of exile in Babylon. Speaking for Yahweh, the prophet dreamed of a new age that would come, one where there would be no weeping or mourning, where babies wouldn’t die and old people would live to at least 100! He dreamed seemingly simple things - of houses and food and meaningful work. He dreamed of a time when enemies became friends, and there would be no injury or destruction in the land.

Dreaming is not a ridiculous, superfluous, frivolous pastime. We need the dreamers to have a better world.

Our children may be our best dreamers.  A pastor shared that once he had asked some kids to describe heaven. What they described wasn’t a place of gold streets, pearly gates, clouds, and angels with harps. They described a place where people got along, where people shared, and everyone was happy.

When my son, Sam, was in 6th grade, SC Johnson had an “I Have a Dream” essay contest. One teacher at Walden had all the kids write and submit essays. Sam’s dream began by saying that peace was more than not being at war. It was about caring for and loving everyone. His dream included no bullying and acceptance of all people. Solving problems by talking, not fighting. All kids would have a good education, parents who didn’t hurt them, health care, food, a home, a bed, clothes, shoes, pillows and blankets. And his dream included living in harmony with the environment.

When do the dreams of our children change? Why does this change? Who teaches us to start disliking people who are different? Who teaches us to be greedy? Who shows us that the best thing to be is powerful and to lord that power over others? That bad-mouthing is an acceptable way of dealing with conflict? And that might and wealth is right?

John Lennon’s song asks us to imagine things that may sound extreme and even impossible. But he’s simply asking us to get rid of some of the things that divide us and start wars.

Imagine there’s no countries… and remember that we are all just people living on one planet. Can people give up their patriotism? Their need to think they live in the best place? The desire to have all the resources and power? Can we stop saying God Bless the USA, and start saying God Bless the world?

Imagine no religion… that almost sounds more impossible than no countries. Many people are very attached to their religion, their churches and their version of God.  But this has caused more wars than anything else. Still, I don’t think Lennon was suggesting we give up God, just the structures and doctrine that divide us. Can we give up the concepts of heaven and hell and the belief that only certain people get to go to heaven? Can we stop worrying about trying to reach some place after death and focus on today – being the best person we can be today.

Perhaps it is time to be more spiritual than religious. Perhaps it is time to understand that each person’s relationship with the Divine is their own and that’s ok. I don’t honestly think that Jesus was promoting “religion.” I think he was trying to bring people back into a mystical, experiential relationship with the Divine which would result in living a life of compassion, kindness, peace, and joy.

Imagine no possessions… how do we get rid of the greed? How can we all live so that everyone has enough, each life is valued, and there is not a huge gap between the wealthy and everyone else?

Sadly too many of the dreamers have been threatened or killed for their dreams.

Does that mean we stop dreaming? No.

If they tell us we’re naïve and foolish, do we stop dreaming? No.

If they tell us it’s impossible, do we stop dreaming? No.

They want us to believe it is impossible and ridiculous so that we give up. The powers that be want us to stop trying to hold back the darkness of disparity, preferential treatment of the wealthy, inequality, racism, sexism, exploitation, war, environmental destruction.

And up against all of it, we wonder what us little people, what us dreamers, can do.

What we can do is keep dreaming and trying to make these dreams of a better world come true. In Gandhi’s words, we must be the change we want to see in the world. Be peace. Be equality. Vote and march and call our representatives. Serve food. Donate clothes. Adopt a rescue animal. Adopt a child in Africa. Pray. Be light.

We must be like the sparrow in the old story, lying on its back in the street, grimacing, its legs straight up in the air, when a war horse lumbers up.

“What on earth do you think you are doing?” the huge horse asks.

“I’m helping to hold back the darkness,” the sparrow replies, bracing its feet against the sky.

The war horse sneers. “What do you weigh, about seven ounces or so?”

The sparrow clenches its jaw against the weight of the descending darkness, and replies, more determined than ever, "One does what one can."

Love & Light!