Dream of Happyness

Leading into the rather good Casino Royale, we were treated to a number of movie previews. There was The Pursuit of Happyness, We Are Marshall, and Dreamgirls. A tearjerker cute-kid-plus-down-and-out-but-trying-hard-dad film, a college sports movie and a biopic on the Supremes.

No shortage of difference there. But somehow, watching the trailers, these all looked like the same film, just told with different window dressings. And that film is really a piece of propaganda, and a particularly pernicious form thereof. The message of all three films, at least as expressed by the trailer, was "If you believe in your dream strongly enough, if you don't allow anything ti distract you from your dream, you can realise it."

Besides the fact that this ignores the universe's total lack of concern with an individual's attitude towards what they do, this evil little bit of P.T. Barnum hucksterism inflicts a sort of cruelty even towards people who ARE successful: it requires people to HAVE a dream in the first place.

I don't think I have a dream. I don't think I've ever had a dream. Once upon a time I wanted to be a writer. Then I grew up and discovered that being a writer was a more complicated issue than I'd thought. So I guess I am a writer, or I'm not writer, depending on how one chooses to define "writer". But in any event, "being a writer" is either stupidly trivial to accomplish (I write, therefore I am a writer) or so dependent on other people's opinions that my efforts, no matter how Herculean, aren't sufficient to ensure my success (getting published).

And I think I count as a pretty single-minded sort of guy. I can remember folks telling ME that they wished they had a dream like I do, because then their lives would be so much simpler. For most people in the world, sticking to their guns and seeing their dreams through isn't the tough part; the tough part is CHOOSING a dream in the first place. And because most people live in the real world, it isn't even feasible or responsible for them to just pick one thing and put all their effort into making it happen -- they have to juggle all sorts of needs and responsibilities in their everyday life. Why tell people that if they only had ONE desire, and put all else aside, they'd succeed? That just seems unecessarily cruel.

Or at least simple-minded.

Life is complex and sophisticated, and story-telling like this tries to pretend it isn't. It makes you feel like you're being inspired, when in fact you're being encouraged to do nothing substantive -- you're being told that step one is HAVING A DREAM. So those of you without dreams are perfectly justified in sitting around doing nothing until your dream arrives. Or forced to fret and worry because, unlike these heroes, you don't have a dream you feel like you can commit to and give everything to. Which offends me, because I don't think it's very healthy to obsess over ONE THING anyway. I prefer to embrace -- even savour -- the complexity of my life. That I don't know what I'm doing from one day to the next. Sure, there are some landmarks I try to steer by, and some stops along the way I'm looking forward to, but honestly, I'm not trying to accomplish anything other than just... have fun. Be happy. Get a few laughs.

That sounds shallow, but I don't think it is. In one of Dr. Suzuki's books (no, not that Suzuki, the other one) he talks about recognizing wisdom, and how our need for wisdom to come packaged in ancient tomes, or on misty mountaintops, or couched in complex, difficult language, is really a manifestation of pride. Of seeing ourselves as SO WONDERFUL that the only wisdom worthy of our attention is that which has been dressed up and made to look significant, just to please our own egos. When in fact, if I'm being humble (which I almost never am, but I do try), there's wisdom to be found on all sides of me, if only I will let go of that pride that insists I need more.

But it's hard to make a melodramatic trailer about... um... noticing shit. So I get it. But it's not MY Dream of Happyness.