Saturday 16 February 2008

The American Dream

What exactly was the American Dream all about again? Let's revisit the progress paradox or the purpose-money continuum or the quality-quantity struggle or whatever you wanna call it. Yes, let's think once again about what is important in life if we are to understand what our uncle named Sam had in mind when he spoke of this fantastic dream. One of my hero’s, a spirited and humble man named Tony, once told me that making a living is not as important as making a life. Tony, can’t you have a chat to Sam?

The search for purpose in a pay-cheque will always be an important subject for discussion as more and more people are searching for spiritual upliftment and meaning in life, especially in their working lives. We are all so over-stressed and no one seems to have any spare time on their hands. All technology has ever meant to do is make our lives easier by saving us time – but we never seem to have any spare time these days.

So, what exactly was the American Dream all about? I grew up with American influences, like the rest of us in the Western world, and I used to think that it was all about quality of life and the ability to reach the most of one’s God given potential. But since the dot com gold rush the capitalist world appears to have been brainwashed to believe that almost everything in this world is about money. I said almost.

In the new economy, as it has been described, greed seems to be the main driving force. And there I was thinking that the dream was to make a difference in the world. Well, I have always thought this and always will. I never will be a numbers man. To all you cynics out there, yes, I will be the first to admit that it is great to have money and it is really great to be able to spoil the people you love, and to help people, and to invest in other people and their dreams. But that old expression "money is the root of all evil" really fits the bill these days. And yes, I know my friend Leor said that "But then a man needs roots". But what he said was meant to make us laugh and love life and not strive to squash everyone in our path.

The American dream was about romance. It was about soul. It was about quality. Well, that is what I always thought. I think that the world may have met its quarterlies or something. Now, more than ever before, there is a much needed return to the fundamentals as the world starts to realise that the only true success stories are those that were built as a labour of love. As I sit here, in front of my small Sony laptop, staring out the window of my hotel room, I see snow everywhere. And I mean everywhere. It looks like some of fairy tale land. And I start to dream and ponder. It is about dreaming, isn't it? And it is about following your dreams.

Here is something from one of the most inspiring motion pictures I have seen. "We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business, engineering – these are noble pursuits, and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, art, romance, love – these are the things we stay alive for. You are here and life exists and you have identity. That the powerful play goes on, and that you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?" Watch this film again and again. It is what the real dream is all about.

We all know that dreams can be real, but who ever thought that reality could be a dream. I would like to end off now with a quote from George Bernard Shaw, "You see things that are and say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were and say, ‘Why not?’"

Posted by Ronnie Apteker