Dreams: From Death to Life

Jenny Schroedel is one of my favorite writers. You should Google her. She has great nuggets of wisdom to share.

I discovered her work through the Boundless webzine a few years ago and find her insights to be evergreen and über deep. I have been thinking a lot lately about a topic she once wrote about: dreams. Not the dreams of slumber, but the dreams of our hearts. We each have our own, though I suspect most of us would have dreams that in some way are rooted in our desire to love and be loved, to have value and purpose and meaning. Our dreams take up a lot of space in our lives. We work toward and look forward to them. We build our lives around them. But not every dream comes true. Or if they do, they may not be what we expected. Or they may not last as long as we had hoped.

In her article “On the Death of Dreams,” Schroedel writes: “Sometimes you can exert great effort to overcome obstacles only to realize that the reality on the other side wasn’t worth the struggle to get there…Sometimes we stay on the path long after we realize that it is’t leading us where we want to go.

Schroedel’s own struggles and those of people she knew led her to realize “people experience the deaths of several dreams over the course of a lifetime.”

Isn’t it interesting that she equates a broken or unrealized dream with death?

And with death, we must walk through a period of grieving, a time during which we acknowledge and allow ourselves to experience the loss, for death of any kind is that — a loss. If a man’s wife dies, we would not expect that he immediately find himself a new wife. No. In fact, quite the opposite. We would expect a time of mourning and healing before a second marriage could conceivably take place. So why not allow ourselves to follow the same course for other losses?

“At the temple there is a poem called ‘Loss’ carved into the stone. It has three words, but the poet has scratched them out. You cannot read loss, only feel it.” — Arthur Golden, “Memoirs of a Geisha”

The good news, Schroedel learned, is that the death of one dream opens a space for a new one.

One of my seminary mentors used to say, “Whatever happens, just try to do the next best thing.” By this he didn’t mean, “Do the other thing,” so much as, find the next good thing to do, whatever it is. Sometimes when you are grieving death of one dream, it can be hard to see other possibilities.

Jenny quotes the Japanese poet Masahide: “My barn having burned to the ground, I can now see the moon.”

Hear this, dear child: the Kingdom of Heaven

is like a sleeping maple, its branches bare.

No buds nor leaves its splendor to adorn

Through chilly months and darker days, it seems

a hollow log, a vessel to provide

cheap shelter for the well-worn traveler.

And so it does. And travelers come and go.

Dead it looks, so families of three

and four lock their minivan doors.

They watch the naked maple stir and rattle

near chugging trains  marked by rogue-ish art.

“Let us leave this God-forsaken place,”

they say, “for here’s no charms, no wealth — just crime.”

But in their haste, they miss the blooms to come.

Though speeding sports cars are blind to streaked sites,

the wealthy man intending to invest

stops to see children kicking, crunching leaves,

Their mother near, with swollen belly, smiles.

He hears the train and foreign dialects;

he sees crumbling sidewalks, a leafless tree.

Yet barren log he does not see, but rather

fertile ground by which to feed his family.

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