Jazz sits at the desk in his home office, and while thinking of something else he stares unseeing at his 3 bookcases across from the desk which are filled with all of his tchotchkes, the mementos of the life that he has lived, his touchstones to memories. Gradually, his gaze turns from inward to outward and he suddenly notices that one of his favorite wooden boxes is covered… absolutely covered… in dust! Alarmed by the discovery of his neglect he goes and gets a duster. While he is dusting the box he notices that all of the objects on that shelf are covered in a thick layer of dust! He glances at the other shelves and all of the objects on all of the shelves are shrouded with his neglect! As if punched in the gut, he plops onto the floor, thinking, “When did that happen? When did I stop living my life? And why didn’t I notice that it was happening?”
From a New Yorker article by Siddhartha Mukherjie: “Long before the fetus’ eyelids open, during the early development of the visual system, waves of spontaneous activity ripple from the retina to the brain, like dancers running through their motions before a performance. This fetal warmup act is crucial to the performance of the visual system: The world has to be dreamed before it is seen.”
Perhaps we adults do not see because we no longer dream? We are so caught up in paying bills, going to work, and fulfilling various duties that , unnoticed, our “real life” gets put on hold as we keep thinking that one day… soon… we will get back to it. And then, one day, to our horror, we discover that our undreamed and un-lived life is shrouded in dust! As discomforting as this realization can be, the questions that arise out of it can be even more so: “Now what do we do? How do we generate a new dream for our now adult life?”
When people come to me for counseling and are mystified as to what they want of their life, I often recommend the following. Take a large pad of paper, draw a vertical line down the middle, and at the head of the left column put a plus sign, and at the top of the right one put a minus sign. Then, get on with your day, but as you do let yourself dream about what you want to do… no matter how impractical… and when you get a chance write what occurs to you into the plus column. Do the same for things you come to realize you do not want to be part of your life. Eventually two things about your life will become clear: what you really want to do, and the life you really do not want! When you realize what your heart wants, you then start playing with imagining the tiny ways in which your current life can steer you in that direction, what do-able baby steps can right now guide you to the fulfillment of that dream!
I find that one thing which holds many of us back from pursuing a dream is the thought, “But will I get there?” Linda Chamberlain is a co-founder of an Arizona-based cryonics company called Alcor. Her husband Fred currently resides frozen in one of the big silver-colored containers in the hope that someday he can be thawed and revived. Linda also plans on joining him when her time comes. Right before his death, Fred’s last words were recorded as, “Gee, I hope this works!”
Like Fred, many of us wonder if the direction in which our life is going will “work.” We may not have the desire to have our body cryogenically frozen, but like Fred we can take the chance to find out… and taking the chance is the only way to find out!