In America today, dreaming is the ticket. It’s the current key to every city and many hearts. For example:
- To sell a product, first sell the dream.
- To run for an office, promise dreams.
- To build a lavish movie-making industry, call it “Dreamworks.”
- To pass a law that enables immigrants to bypass the law, call it the Dream Act.
And so on.
In 1939, a popular fantasy film about following a yellow brick road was really about following your dreams. Dorothy sings;
Somewhere, over the rainbow, way up high;
There’s a land that I heard of once in a lullaby.
Somewhere, over the rainbow, skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.
(E.Y. Harburg and Harold, sung by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz)
The next year, the world’s most famous fictional cricket crooned:
When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you…
Like a bolt out of the blue
Fate steps in and sees you through
When you wish upon a star
Your dream comes true
(Ned Washington and Leigh Harline; introduced in 1940 in the Disney classic; Pinocchio).
Anything your heart desires?
Jiminy Cricket, as narrator and guide, tells of a carpenter named Geppetto who makes a wish that his wooden puppet could become a real boy. A blue fairy grants to Pinocchio the breath of life but he remains a puppet with dreams of his own. The fairy informs Pinocchio that to become real, he must prove himself to be brave, truthful and unselfish–virtues that are by no means automatic. Soon, Pinocchio was diverted from school into a life of chaos, lies, gambling, smoking, drinking and vandalizing. There are consequences, as every reader “nose.” Finally, a brave deed leaves Pinocchio washed up on a beach no longer alive. It’s a conversion by death. The fairy grants him a second chance (like Jonah), this time as a real boy. Clearly, dreaming can be dangerous when separated from honesty, loyalty, study, discipline and sacrificial love.
Hollywood is the consummate dream factory. There have been exceptions (like Pinocchio, perhaps) but romantic dreaming is often Hollywood’s sparkling alternative to such boring realities as faith, family, truth-telling, sacrificial love and courage.
Actually, I am a big fan of dreaming when done in conjunction with faith, family, truth and godly hope. Without these qualities, however, all dreaming has to offer is “empty consolation.” (Zechariah 10:2). I am not a fan of those who appeal to our dreams apart from godly values to seduce us into selfishness and exploitation.
For instance, President Obama appealed to unlimited dreaming to celebrate and encourage legal abortion. Here’s what he said on the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade:
On this anniversary, we must also recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights and opportunities as our sons: the chance to attain a world-class education; to have fulfilling careers in any industry; to be treated fairly and paid equally for their work and to have no limits on their dreams. That is what I want for women everywhere. (January 22, 2009).
In other words, we shouldn’t let human life itself stand in the way of our dreams. This sort of dreaming holds too many Americans in its toxic and deadly clutches.
There is nothing demonic about dreaming unless or until we use it to flee from moral conviction, godly discipline and from the real world filled with real people who need us. In his brilliantly practical book, Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. He does not abandon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream. God is not a God of the emotions but the God of truth.”
There is a better alternative to undisciplined dreaming. Nearly 3,000 years ago, a wise man made this clear: “Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God.” (Ecclesiastes 5:7).
I did not designate it as “Part One,” but here is a previous article titled “Why Not?” on the same topic: