Tell me what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life.
I managed to catch up with two new TV series this weekend and both of them have got me thinking about dreamers. And about being a dreamer.
The first was “Our Zoo” based on the true story of George Mottershead and the founding of what was to become the Cheshire Zoo in England. A quick Google let me know that it’s now rated as one of the Top 6 zoos in the world. And it all began with what, to everyone else, seemed to be the crazy dream of one man. To say that I immediately fell in love with this show would be an understatement. I’m already impatient for this week’s installment.
Here was a man who was left shattered by WW1. Whose brothers had been killed in that same conflict. Perhaps it was his experiences in the war that drove his love of animals and desire to end and prevent their suffering. But whatever it was, he suddenly had a monkey, camel and parrot living in the tiny, concrete back yard of his suburban row house. Until, quite by chance, he stumbled across a neglected manor house with acres of land and the seed of an idea formed. Although, at the time, most people would have thought it “impossible” for him to raise the money to buy such a place, he believed with all his heart that this was his path.
And that’s what dreamers do. They think the crazy thoughts and don’t stop thinking about them until they find the way to make them a reality.
The other series I started watching was the new version of Anne of Green Gables. I’ve always felt a certain kinship with Anne Shirley….perhaps it’s the red hair. Every kid who went through childhood being mercilessly teased for red hair and freckles knows what I mean. I’ve also always been drawn to her independent spirit.
But as I watched Anne with her boundless enthusiasm and unique approach to life, I was once again reminded of the dreamers. The ones who can get lost in rapture at the mere sight of a field of daffodils or trees filled with cherry blossoms. But then, she’s looked upon as “different” and “strange” because of her ways. Her sheer delight in living makes her different.
“I am enraptured by this glorious landscape!”
And I wonder how much has changed since the era of both of these characters. It seems to me that these days a premium is put on being an “individual” and everyone likes to think of themselves as unique. Ad agencies spend millions trying to tell us how “unique” we are. And of course, we have to have their product so we can advertise our uniqueness to the world. Individuality, like most things today, has become commoditised.
But genuine individuality is a very rare thing. And it takes a lot of guts. Because the truth is that those who choose to follow their heart and dreams – who are absolutely authentic to themselves – very often come in for ridicule if not downright hostility. Most people don’t really like those who march to the beat of their own drum. You see this everywhere – from politics to entertainment to the workplace. The paradox of individuality within the confines of conformity. It reminds me of that lyric from Madonna’s song What It Feels Like For A Girl – “when you’re trying hard to be your best could you be a little less”.
I think people love the idea of dreamers, but they also fear them. Because dreamers remind us.
They remind us that we too have dreams but are too afraid to step out of the comfort zone and risk it all.
We’re afraid of failure, or ridicule of being “different”. Of not belonging. Primal fears that are hard to tackle. But if we’re to really be alive we need to find a way to conquer those fears.
Personally, I love dreamers. Dreamers are by far my favourite kinds of people. They remind me that it IS possible to achieve the most extraordinary things when you believe in your dream enough. They also remind me that it is far, far better to risk it all and lose it all than to play it safe. And to be authentic….really true to your own wild heart….is an honourable goal in a world that would like to tame you and make you conform.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t count the number of times I have heard the words ‘stop dreaming’.
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