Monday, November 15, 2010


What is the American dream?

Is it still what it was in the fifties, the sixties? A house in the suburbs on a green acre, gleaming possessions -- appliances, furnishings, cars, bathrooms, swimming pool, gym, recreation area-- and easy days? Good food, clothes, and fun with sports, theater, parties, vacations -- and success -- power, position, ranking, and someone who loves, admires, and shares all that with you?

Does the dream of all that stuff make you feel sort of weary, sad, a bit bedraggled because ... well ... privately, inside you, that dream no longer fits where you are heading?

I just read "How to Restore the American Dream," an article by Fareed Zakaria, the new Editor-at-large of Time Magazine. His essay is packed with figures -- billions, millions, percentages, median incomes, wages, profits, losses -- big numbers, big issues that relate to money-money-money. Zakaria says, "Americans are strikingly fatalistic about their prospects. The can-do country is convinced that it can't."

I say all that money-money stuff is why we don't have the American dream anymore. Movies, TV, the Internet -- everywhere we look -- store windows, signs, ads tell us MONEY IS IT.

Furthermore, I think it's a harmful, wrong vision, a bound-to-fail dream.

I say you need to DO. Dreaming is DOING something. It's an action (hey, it's an Aristotelian concept) -- teaching, cooking sewing, writing, painting, gardening, hunting, cleaning, inventing, engineering -- add to my list whatever you like to do. "Action" usually involves bodily movement (philosophers argue about this), but in-active doings -- studying, learning, listening, thinking are also actions.

Let the wise men discuss and diagnose the world's economic problems and translate them into solutions. If you fog out, blot out, ignore the money problem, you maybe can find in your thoughts a dream, a focus that will inspire you to DO something.

If your dream sounds or seems ridiculous, impractical, impossible, silly, too big or too little, just hold onto it -- let it build into something you can maybe, possibly, sooner or later try to do.

Just the possibility is beyond money, more than the gleaming house ... it's gold in your mind that you own.
Post a Comment