Monday, June 2, 2014

Week of 06/02/2014

Stop Lying!  Dreams Can And Do Die
There’s a commercial by an insurance company that really pisses me off.
Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks narrates it as we see him getting ready for practice.  He’s talking about dreams and how they are supposedly powerful.
“They cannot be beaten, broken, or taken,” he says.  “Dreams fight, they persevere, they go on.”
“Dreams,” he says, “will always prevail.”
Sorry to disagree with you, Mister Wilson, but you’re dead wrong about that.
I’m sure that it must be great for you to be able to live out your dream of not only playing professional football, but to also be one of an elite few in that already elite group who also get to wear a Super Bowl Championship ring.  That is a great achievement in and of itself that you should be very proud of.
But that does not mean that dreams are as strong or as resilient as you believe them to be in your commercial.
Dreams do not prevail.
Dreams do not persevere.
Dreams do not fight.
Dreams can be taken, broken, beaten… and, yes, Russell Wilson, dreams can and do die!
For every dream that is realized, an untold number of other dreams die.
Sometimes they’re left to wither like unpicked fruit.  Whole fields of dreams that are left to rot.  Potential that goes unrealized, unappreciated, unused, or simply unable to come to be.
Think about all the people that had the same dream that you did, Mister Wilson.  All the ones that grew up watching football on TV, playing Pop Warner football as kids, having that same dream of one day being a pro player and then going on to win the Super Bowl.  How many of them never got past those Pop Warner days?  How many of those dreams died in those small town fields?
Think of all the ones that went on to play football in high school.  I know from experience that not everyone with a dream of playing in high school sports are allowed to see them become real.  And it’s not for a lack of trying or a lack of determination.  It is because someone else consciously decided to take that dream away from them.
Of that group, think of the smaller number of high school athletes that were allowed to take that dream and move it up to the world of college sports.  What about all those other young kids with dreams?  Or did you think they didn’t have the same kind of dreams you did?  And of that group, how many of those don’t make it past college to go professional?
A whole lot of people with the same kind of dream that you had, Russell Wilson.  A whole lot of people with ideas in their head that they can one day play professional football and make it to the Super Bowl and then win it and get one of those rings that you are so proudly wearing. 
Those dreams did not fight to become real.  Those dreams did not persevere.  Those dreams did not prevail.  They were battered down by reality, broken into little pieces, reduced to being nothing more than fleeting fantasies that are mildly sustained by watching the game on TV instead of actually playing in it.
How about the people who dream of being actors and actresses?
You know the story, right?  Young person leaves Small Town America looking to make it in Hollywood, only to find that he or she is one of millions with the same dream, and none of them have even a remote chance of making it real.  They wait tables or bag groceries while going to acting courses and auditions.  Maybe they can get some work on some independent project, or they decide to do porn.  But for most of them, their dreams die withered on the vine. 
Their dreams don’t step up.  Their dreams don’t fight to continue.  Their dreams don’t prevail.
How about something a little more ordinary?  Something that more people can relate to?
Millions of Americans have a dream of owning their own home.  You know, that good old fashioned “American Dream” that the politicians love to boast about.  The dream that you see in those commercials by realtors and home improvement stores.  The ones you see on cable TV channels like HGTV and DIY.
And they managed to make that dream happen, didn’t they?  Oh there were plenty of people willing to give those millions loans on top of loans to make that dream happen.  They supposedly made the numbers work so people would get those homes and keep the economy going.
Only the numbers really didn’t work.  Not for the people that couldn’t afford the balloon payments they found themselves in.  Not for the people that found out that they were “underwater” financially, paying for a home that was no longer what it was worth.  Not for the people that suddenly found themselves out of work, unable to make the payments, and were forced out on the street.
Those dreams did not fight for the homeowners.  They did not persevere.  They did not endure.  They didn’t stand up for the homeowners.  They were battered down by collection agencies and tossed out into the street by court-ordered foreclosures.  And all so the criminals in the banking industry can make their profit margins.
No, I have learned that dreams never put up a fight.  They expect you to chase them.  They expect you to do all of the hard work and shoulder the burden, and there’s absolutely no guarantee whatsoever that you’ll be able to achieve them, much less enjoy them for any length of time.
Let’s get brutally honest here… a dream is really nothing more than fantasy.  If you are lucky, if the fates and fortunes of the universe allow it, if you can afford to and are allowed to pursue them and make them real, then it does seem rather magical.  It is almost like it is destiny for you to have these things or to do these things.
But, in fact, it is just a luxury.  It is something that can only be pursued if the fates and fortunes of the universe and those with power will allow it.  Otherwise it is just a tease, a tempter, a siren steering you towards nothing but endless misery and heartache.  A tormentor; continually reminding you of what you could have if only you were allowed it.
The football player who can only watch the game from his TV set.  The actress who can only give her best performance in front of a webcam.  The would-be homeowner burdened by meticulously engineered graft, watching as others profit from their pain.  The struggling writer churning out articles week after week, year after year, with hardly a word and certainly not a penny for his troubles.
And therein lies the twist.  Every dream that I have tried to pursue… every single one… required the permission of others.  Working the dream job requires the permission of others.  Getting the dream car requires the permission of others.  Having the dream spouse obviously requires the permission of at least the person in question.  It’s hard to believe that a dream can have any kind of power if it can be denied or revoked at the whims of others.  No amount of dime-store inspirational posters or motivational poetry can change that.  And certainly no insurance company with an overplayed pop jingle can truly protect something that is as ultimately impotent as a dream.
I’m glad that you are able to live out your dream, Russell Wilson.  Not only that, but you were also able to make some extra money on the side talking about it.  But don’t think for a moment that this is something anyone can do.

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