Dreams Live and Die


Another Student, Similar Vision or Lack Thereof. Matt Belin in Iowa. Photographer, Chris Coudron

&copy copyright 2006 Betsy L. Angert

He was young, relatively speaking, and old, so old, he had already given up on his future. Nevertheless, the flame flickered brightly as he shared what he wished it would be with me.  He stood close.  He was turning in his project.  He was not the first to complete his work. Actually, he was among the last. The students had been working on this assignment for days. It was due in ten minutes.  Work not turned in on time, would be considered late.  Grades could drop.  Yet, that was not his deepest concern.  In that moment, he worried about my future.

This gentle man was housed within a class that had been a thorn in their teacher’s side.  I was sitting in for the regular classroom Instructor on that day, the last day to complete the project.  During this final workday, students had  an opportunity to dream.  If the work was done, they could watch a video, an adventure film, and immerse them selves in a world of fantasy.  If the task was not yet finished, work, work, work would be the agenda.  However, the Teacher had said to me, that once most were done, the video could be played.  The others would be required to continue their endeavor while the hum  was heard in the background.

In this group, none of the options was appreciated.  They wanted to walk, to talk, and to play; however, this was not in my plan.  Commotion is not my vision for a classroom.  Nor was chaos what I needed.

I wanted quiet order.  I stated this aloud before class began.  For me, active, productive, and creative minds are as I crave.  I give pupils the time and space to flow, to self-actualize, as Social Scientists’ might say.  they can gel in the inner sanctums of their minds.  I shared with the students, though they personally may not wish to excel, there are those that do.  I want to ensure that they can.  In harmony, the class grumbled.

This crowd voiced no desire to shine.  Should one exist, it was well hidden.

Since these students were not ones I had a lasting relationship with, I felt that I had very little time to influence what was in their minds.  I could only guide behaviors and introduce possibilities.

It was the last period of the day.  As the movie played, I quietly did my own work.  I brought my power-book from home.  I watched the pupils, not the pulp-fiction, as I typed away.  I did interact, though there was little to interact with.  Some students were, finally, working.  Others were indeed viewing.  The room, at last was void of noise, with the exception of the sounds coming from the screen.  Time passed and then it occurred.

The period was coming to a close.  Learners turned their projects in slowly yet surely.

He approached.  He handed me his papers and I offered my thanks.  He stayed close for a while and then said, “I like your computer.”  His words did not seem as envy, as much as understanding.  I told him of how I had wanted this laptop for more than a decade.  I could not spend the money, or would not.  Then circumstances demanded the purchase.  A long distance move had necessitated and my arrival in town after a tumultuous storm had postponed the possibility of my move into a home I purchased months earlier.   I took up occupancy in a hotel and would reside there for two and one-half months.  My life was in boxes, in storage.  Me, without a computer to meet my daily needs was unthinkable, not do-able.

He said that he could relate. We chatted. I shared my dream and why the workstation seemed a must to me.  I told him of my passion for writing and my dream to do this exclusively.  I shared my fears.  He smiled.  Apparently, he had the same.  He told me of how his words could and did bring readers to tears.  He had scored among the best in the writing portion of the Florida’s Comprehensive Assessment Test [FCAT.]  I asked; what was he planning to pursue in college to make his dream come true.

He responded quickly, with little thought. He had already thoroughly assessed this decision.  He said, “I am not college material.”  He continued, “Possibly, I will to attend the community college and learn a trade.”  Then shyly he added, “I may work for the school newspaper.  I would like to do some sports writing  . . . and maybe more.”

Not college material?  I expressed my doubt of that.  There was a quizzical look; it disappeared.  He became animated though still certain that furthering his education was not in the plans.  His eyes lit the room.  His skin sparkled.  His voice reverberated.  He began to tell me how much he loved to read.  He was working on a paper for one of his classes.  He researched much.  He was writing on the career of J.K. Rowlings’.  He recounted her life story, in depth and detail.  He spoke of the hard times she faced, her divorce, her children, and that she had been on welfare, all the time working on her books.  He was joyous for her success.  He read each of her books.

He continued discussing her trials, tribulations, and tales.  The rejection she received, her perseverance, and his thrill that she thrived.  He was living her life as he told her story.  This sweet man was absorbed in his loves, his reading, and his writing.  Yet, he had no hopes, or at least he was told by some older and wiser adults not to.

I was sad and happy.  I attempted to encourage him.  The irony is, earlier, he was cheering me on, telling me to believe in my dream and myself.  He wanted me to pursue my passion; perhaps he wanted this for each of us.  He and I were together, fearful, while willing and wanting to take on the world.  However, we both had been wounded by the words of others.  What people had said to us then and now advanced our uncertainties, quelled, or delayed our desires.  Those doubting statements were once or twice said to us; now, they were the ones we told ourselves.

“Hold fast to your dreams, for without them life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.”~ James Langston Hughes

References for shared realities . . .

I Can’t Get No Satisfaction From Stuff, Or Can I? ©

Interestingly, the topic of ownership has been a frequent conversation in my life, recently.  I moved and am working to create a home.  We all live in dwellings, a house, a condominium, an apartment, a box, or even [the safety of] the streets.  However, few feel their house is a home.  I admittedly love a tame, gracious, and refined life.  I live in my surroundings. I relate to each entity within my environment and because of this, the ambiance within the framework of my abode is important to me.  Some see my work to secure serenity as a waste of time and money.  I see it as survival; I am creating a world in which I can thrive.

Today, while working on a treatise that had nothing to do with this topic, I traveled to the site of a familiar.  I regularly seek wisdom from the Economist View.  Reading the musings of Mark Thoma and his active and thoughtful audience stimulates my mind.  I love that sensation.  Therefore, I journeyed.  I discovered this,

The Quest for More Stuff

Dr. Thoma offered the wisdom of recent research, citing Finding Happiness in the Pursuit, by M. P. Dunleavy, New York Times. [Click on the title and the full text will be displayed in pdf format.] He shared the article, a portion of which I include here.

One of the great puzzles of human nature is why humans strive for more material things” money, jobs, homes, cars, flat-screen televisions” when they do not seem to make them any happier in the long run. … Not only does greater wealth not guarantee happiness” even when you get what you want” research indicates that you will not find it as satisfying as you had hoped, and you will want something else.

Richard A. Easterlin, professor of economics at the University of Southern California, is a seminal researcher in this area. In effect, his work shows that if you think buying a three-bedroom condo and a Honda Element will make you happy, you had better think twice. In a few years, a) you’re not likely to report being any happier, and b) you’re likely to say that, now, finding a good private school for your children and buying a vacation home will really make you happy.

In Dr. Easterlin’s view, this cycle of desire and dissatisfaction tends to keep people on an endless treadmill. … Why not get off the treadmill and pursue a life with fewer material ambitions? You would probably be happier. Or would you? If material achievements tend to leave people only momentarily fulfilled, why do so many keep reaching for that next goal?

Claudia Senik, professor of economics at the Sorbonne, believes that the struggle for a certain achievement may offer a peculiar reward all its own. Although many people seem quite goal-oriented” especially when it comes to money, homes, cars, new kitchens and other goods that have become stand-ins for status” maybe it’s not so much having the stuff that people really enjoy, but the struggle to obtain it. …

I, Betsy, recognize that this research may promote the conventional wisdom; however, it is lacking for me.  I wrote of this in my comment to Mark and his readers.  Now, in my own world of “Be-Think,” I offer my words to you.

Dear Mark . . .

Cosmically, I was just writing of Erich Fromm.  You may have read, “To Have or To Be.” Erich Fromm is also the author of “The Art of Loving.”  For me, these books are companions.  We humans are so busy searching for a connection, a feeling we all crave, that we “spend” much time seeking.  We want to be loved, to feel loved; we hope to have love.  We know not how to bring this about.

We do understand accomplishments and have learned how to achieve.  Acquiring what we [supposedly] want is less risky than working towards the genuine love we truly long for.  Therefore, we seek approval and things that we think will bring this.  We hope these will suffice. We begin acquiring.  People forget what it is to be, or they never learned how to be themselves.  Many doubt this is acceptable.  Few realize that being as they are brings love.

Sadly, few feel loved, know how to express it, or most importantly, are comfortable receiving it.

They work in a whirlwind, seeking stuff, credentials, degrees, possessions, all in an attempt to satisfy their inner need for connectivity.

Yes, there are those such as Ralph Nader that advocate the idea that “Possessions own us.”  I differ.  For me, possessions are such if the “owner” envisions these as only tangible.

I live and experience that substance matters. I believe the manner in which we internalize our relationship with material goods makes the difference.  For those such as my cousin, my father, others, and me objects are stories and a reflection of our history.  They are our associations and life lessons.  These resources are assets, not marketable; however vital.  They fill us with love; they provide for our innate need to be loved and loving.

For the sadly, vast majority, these “Things” are that.  They are only property and provide little joy.

I do not think it is the quest, the conquest, or the achievement that explains what is too often experienced.  It is the perspective of the individual that determines what is true.

If I consider acquiring stuff as essential because consumption, owning more will make me happy, then it is less meaningful that I might expect.  Nothing external can bring joy.  Authentic pleasure comes from within.

If I gather goods in the process of connecting with family, familiars and their stories, then I do feel deep happiness.  I “have” much that is meaningful to me; however, these also “have” me.  We share energy, a presence, and a history.  What appears to be tangible to others is not to me.

An acquaintance recently commented that I have many antiques.  I do not; nor did I go out to find these relics.  My cousin passed down my Grandfather’s diploma. I framed it.  My Mom extended his truck.  I cleaned and re-finished it. Before she physically passed, my Mom offered a reminder of herself. I took the copper teakettle that she used to extinction.  It may not be serviceable to another; yet, for me, it lives large. I can go though my entire home, not a house, and share the stories.  All fill my heart.  Do I look at these and “want” for more.  I, as do we all, want to feel connected.  Fortunately, I do.

May your life be full and fulfilling. May [spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and conjointly, physical] abundance be yours . . . Betsy

Betsy L. Angert Be-Think

Following my entry on Economist View, a comment was made to my own.  Thus, I realized I needed to include this to clarify . . .

The casual reader may hold a belief that I “own” much stuff.  May I state, that in this treatise, I did not quantify my belongings.  I have more than some, and far less than many.

Years ago I was beating myself up for the way I handle my finances.  A friend laughed aloud and reminded me, I not only purchase everything on sale, material goods must be more than 50 percent off before I consider them.  Actually, the discount must be far deeper than that.  I am not an impulsive shopper, though I suspect many wish I were.

My acquaintance reminded me that I even buy my food on sale.  I am extremely frugal; I loathe waste.

I do not eat or buy costly fast food; those that are processed do not enter my body.  I do not pay for packaging.  The “organic” craze for me can be an equally, unnecessary expense.

I disdain clutter.  My closets and drawers are not overflowing.  My rooms remain spacious. Television for me need be no more than a 13-inch screen; that is my preference.  I hide media such as this. I do not want a moving image on a screen to be the focal point in a room or in my house.

The implication or assumption was made that I am the ultimate consumer. This inference, I think amplifies the message I was attempting to stress.  Perception and perspective make the difference.

The manner in which we acquire and relate to our stuff determines satisfaction.  Fulfimment does not come from things or the acquisition of such; it is whether the objects are tangible or intangible.  Are the items you surround yourself with those that connect you to love or those that leave you feeling empty.  My stuff is a reflection of stories, interactions with those I love.  Thus, for me, my “stuff” is more, I have much, and I am grateful.