Dismantling the American Dream


Dreams made of other people’s ideas need dismantling.

This is the thought I woke with. So struck, am I, by how captive we are held by the American Dream. A concept few of us will ever truly live, and yet which most of us are working to pursue – an illusive security, stability, structure. I understand and hold no one guilty for wanting house, car, job, yard, fireplace, bathtub, washer and dryer and daisies in ceramic pots, not plastic, on the front porch. With a porch light that turns on when you walk up.

Having rarely had this kind of ‘normalcy’ growing up, I sought it all the more. But have found how, as an artist, how the design has never quite fit the reality of me. I was raised on deep love and creativity, which is far more valuable then normalcy. Those of us who are part gypsy learn to bring our colored rugs, beaded red lamps, billowing plooms of too many pillows, candles in colored glass and paintings of lounging ladies, books of poetry and guitars to strum into any small humble space or borrowed room and make it sacred. And still I wonder about this endless craving for a certain kind of American-concept-comfort. I understand that it has come to mean – if this structure is in place, the children are safe. But are we? Are we safe if the water in the faucet is not fit to drink and the corn in our cupboard is poisoned by profit? No. We are not safe anymore, can you believe our air is questionable to breath?

And so I wonder. If we are brave enough to strip off the illusion of the American Dream of  ‘having’ – what would the be dream instead? This is the temptation of humans, to believe we can have what we want, and in all the spaces where we don’t have it, wonder what is wrong with us and our lives. We have taken on a strange belief that ‘not having’ means there is something wrong with us and our lives when in reality we are surrounded by a world of mostly ‘not having.

We have learned to cultivate gratitude to navigate a life of disappointment because things did not turn out as we had thought or wished when we first began to yearn for the territory of the American Dream. The Dream we were told we could have a part of if we just worked hard enough and were good and honest. We quickly learn how rare it is to live a life free of addiction, filled with a good education and true love and jobs with benefits for good companies and children who don’t need drugs to concentrate. It is in the thinking there is something wrong with us for what we cannot manifest for ourselves that the damage is done by our own psyche to ourselves. Oh the blame of not creating a beautiful enough life is the self tyranny that runs our personal worlds. The work I choose to create in the world counters this pattern in us by offering another possible design to live from than self blame based on fallacies.

Today my inquiry is not about blaming us for wanting the dream being sold. This inquiry is about dreaming a brave new unhindered dream.

What would we truly long for if we gave up thinking there was something we didn’t have, that we thought we needed. Something in the future that is almost here, but not yet. If we allow ourselves to be honest, truly about where we are and how things have turned out – what is the dream we would want then? I am interested in stripping concepts down that came from the over-culture, until they are naked enough to see. I want to see what remains if I give up wanting ‘normal’ and safe – even though I know I could never survive normal. We all have stories we have lived by – and stories of things we want that we will never have. There are stories beneath the stories that speak to true longing. I want to talk about those stories. I want to know what the dream would be that we would dream if all the stories sold to us, could disappear even just during morning tea. Like today.

Today at the Red Thread Cafe it is time to venture out and consider a different kind of dream. And I know just the man to take a journey with to discover this kind of thinking. So off we go into the brave new dream, the unadorned dream. I want to see that. To dream the dream I haven’t yet dreamed. Since I am an artist and a poet, this is my work. For me it comes down to that. How do I want to live my precious life? How would I live if I lived like I was living instead of living like I am dying?

Artist. Poet. Teacher. Lover of life is where I shall begin.

And you?

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. Helen Keller