The simple things in life are free. But, ‘free’ doesn’t always exist in the mind. Trapped in your thoughts can be costly, unless there is the capacity to dream. Lately, there is one pre-advertisement video that’s constantly playing on YouTube. The man is ferociously reading a book and says, “knowledge is power, knowledge is profit. The faster you can learn, the faster you can earn.” I think this perfectly sums up society’s approach to living today – the far reaching echoes of capitalism, with no appreciation for the action of learning in itself. Our focus is on figures and productivity. We prevent the natural manifestation of creativity that channels the ‘invisible’, yet ever present dream realm. To read a book without using your imagination is the equivalent of eating a meal without tasting the multitude of flavours dancing on your tongue.
Daydreaming was always one of my favourite pastimes as a child. Floating away to another dimension, far away from my current reality that failed to retain my attention, typically a traditional classroom environment. My best friend and I were fascinated with spies. We attended a picturesque school in the mountains – lush with greenery and extensive woodland; the perfect place to create the reality we dreamt of obtaining. At lunchtime whilst everyone else was playing ‘mummies and daddies’, we pretended to be spies on an epic adventure into the unknown. Our imagination was alive and our possibilities endless. There was a barbed wire fence that separated us from a golf course. Beyond, the Irish Sea sparkled in the valley below. As a child the fence appeared to be so high and we were trapped. Everything appears so vast and insurmountable when you haven’t entered ‘the real world’. Our daily challenge was to jump the fence and run away from the watchful authority that suppressed our dreams.
I always disliked the structure of formal education – it was creatively stifling. Modern-day educators place the utmost importance on regurgitating random historical dates, obscure mathematical formulas, reeling off every tense of Être on paper. However, we are never given the opportunity to apply this knowledge into our everyday lives and that personally feels absurd – counterproductive even. Living abroad for the past five years, I’m regularly embarrassed to admit that I’m only fluent in ONE language, my mother tongue – English. I cringe to think that I have 13 (superstitiously unlucky) years of formal French education under my belt. But, I cannot speak much, simply the basics to get by. The Dutch are perfectly capable of transitioning from Dutch, to English, conversational French here, fluent Spanish there. It’s very impressive and I find it incredibly captivating. My report cards always said the same thing – “spends too much time daydreaming out the window.” My parents were always furious. I subsequently won a trophy in this school for my storytelling capabilities that I could take from my mind and productively put on paper. An empty bronze cup that symbolised the many hours I accumulated daydreaming out that damn window. My parents were so proud.
Dreaming isn’t always physically tangible and subsequently, it’s viewed as a dubious activity, fruitless to some individuals. I briefly worked as a teacher in the Middle East. The experience in itself was an educational one for me! The focus on education was repetition, repetition and more repetition. At certain moments, even I became uninspired with the litany. Explaining a concept to achieve full insight was insignificant – the structure outweighed the content. The emphasis to stay ahead of the scheduled framework was always a looming concern – a constant crisis to teachers, students and parents. Denying a child the ability to use their critical thinking skills or the pleasure of their individual imagination is a crime. It’s more worrisome to see a child at four years old fail to draw a picture from their own imagination than rattle off a mathematical sequence. A blank sheet of paper should be filled with the colourful dreams inside a child’s head.
As I edge closer towards my 30s and reflect back on these moments, I can both appreciate and oppose certain aspects of my overall educational experience. Slowly but surely, my creativity began to evaporate in my early teens. My mind fell into the unconscious – writing mindless essays to retain useless facts that would hopefully gain me entrance into university. And to do what course? Well, who knew what my passion was anymore since I was already stripped of my impartial desires. All my extra curricular activities came to a halt. For the first time in my life I thought I was dying with a bubbly anxiety. My doctor calmly informed me that it was a panic attack, something I had never even heard of before. I sat in my Leaving Certificate (A Levels/SATS/Baccalaureate) English exam trying to remember anything about King Lear . I forgot everything. I froze. My brain felt like a pound of flesh.
I recently attended a movie night in Amsterdam hosted by the Salwa Foundation. ‘Salwa’ means comfort in Arabic. It’s an organisation established by a group of Syrian creatives, who came to this country without knowing anyone. They used their art to create an inclusive community. The documentary shown was ‘My Love Awaits Me By The Sea’, by the Jordanian Palestinian director, Mais Darwazah. The documentary was filled with beauty, melancholy, hope and dreams.
The premises of this film is centred around the Israeli/Palestinian conflict from an Arabic perspective. Mais Darwazah takes her first trip to Palestine. She talks with many Palestinians living under the occupation. The physical walls that separate the two sides creates a constant simmering tension. The dream of freedom – to tear down the walls and escape from the constant persecution. Then something profound was mentioned. I had never thought about before – the emotional walls between loved ones – a result of the physical walls. The inherent trauma entangled in their souls that would undoubtedly seep into the impending generations. Once famous for its Jaffa oranges, the slow erosion of culture was evident, but spirit remained alive.
I got chatting with an Italian guy at the screening. Afterwards we discussed the film. He was shocked by the Palestinians’ abstract approach to life – as though they weren’t the protagonist in their own story. Maybe a fly on the wall observing the chaos before them – desensitised. Their poetic language meticulously articulated the current situation – beautiful metaphors and certain charming idiosyncrasies. Amongst the physical and psychological pain, deaths, destruction and daily immoral injustices, their dream for freedom remained – unbroken.
This year I’m focused on reviving my dormant dreams. Awake or asleep, the power of dreaming is immeasurable – it gives us hope in darkness and in light.