Monday, June 06, 2011

Exploded Dreams

When younger," said he, "I believed myself destined for some great enterprise. My feelings are profound; but I possessed a coolness of judgment that fitted me for illustrious achievements. This sentiment of the worth of my nature supported me when others would have been oppressed; for I deemed it criminal to throw away in useless grief those talents that might be useful to my fellow-creatures. When I reflected on the work I had completed, no less a one than the creation of a sensitive and rational animal, I could not rank myself with the herd of common projectors…. My imagination was vivid, yet my powers of analysis and application were intense… My heart was fashioned to be susceptible of love and sympathy; and when wrenched by misery to vice and hatred it did not endure the violence of the change without tone such as you cannot even imagine.
- Mary Shelly, Frankenstein

Langston Hughes once pondered what happened to dreams when they were “deferred”. That’s a nice way of saying when they don’t come true. Rather than the artful raisin in the sun, I like the last line of his poem when he posits that such deferred dreams might just explode.

One fortunate consequence of losing one’s mind with age is that the dreams of youth fade too. So, it’s not like I mourn all the childish dreams that shriveled and dried up. It’s more like I don’t remember them, and thus they don’t sting.

It's more like there’s this empty shelf in the increasingly dusty and disordered cupboard of my mind where the dreams must have once resided. There’s a button, a dessicated and now colorless flower, a mysterious key to some forgotten lock, a pretty rock, a small picture of Dopey, and some blue lint. Luckily, I am educated enough that I still recognize the astonishing breadth of my ignorance; and more fortunate still that I no longer have sufficient imagination to be frightened by the unknown.

The dreams of my youth didn’t so much explode as fizzle. I don't think I was destined for illustrious achievements. I didn’t discover some unknown land, or write a book or stop a war. I didn't posess a sentiment of the worth of nature to support me in tough times. Then again, my sensitive little heart didn't get unimaginably wrenched by misery.

I did forgive instead of holding hate. I learned how to cook. I learned that I like cats. I read of few books and understood fewer.

I loved my family, and knew love in return. I made a garden. I am satisfied.

1 comment:

Martha in Michigan said...

I keep rereading the Frankenstein excerpt. It is so familiar! That kind of excessive self-regard and hubris is evident all over our public stage today. A prime example is former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who was raised to believe himself just such a godlike creature, above the concerns and strictures of ordinary mortals. He and his family are still in denial over his corruption.

The self-destructive, scandal-prone idiots (not all the membership, of course) in Congress are likewise overly enamored of themselves and prone to delusions of invulnerability. What on Earth possesses a man to think that women are as awed at the mere sight of his reproductive equipment as he apparently is? It's bizarre. Do you think there's a relationship between testosterone and delusions?