November 27, 2008

Faith and Dreams

My son, Aaron, wants to be a musician. Notions of rhythm and harmony, lyric and tempo invade his every thought. Knowing something about the lives of most musicians, I find myself hoping that he’ll enjoy his future poverty. Yet, even as I consider his long-term prospects, I'm awed by his desire and dedication. The upshot is this: While children invest in dreams, most adults have already spent theirs.

Dreams, by the way, are closely akin to faith. I’m not referring to our day-time musings or even our night-time fantasies. I’m talking about our sense for who we can become. This sense is important, because the alternatives to righteous dreams are horrific. In fact, it’s difficult to imagine anything as frightening as a human being with evil intent—unless it’s the mass of humanity with no intent at all.

We often think of good and evil as being various points on the same continuum—that the less evil we commit, the more good we are—but this is a subtle deception. Good and evil are wholly separate and only by making a conscious choice for good do we place ourselves on its continuum. People who refuse to take any stance at all fall into a state of spiritual limbo. The Lord calls them lukewarm and “spews them out of his mouth.”

People without dreams are slaves to popular opinion and as shifting as the tide. Some of the greatest atrocities of this world were aided and abetted—in fact, rendered possible—by individuals whose greatest sin was arguably their resistance to ponder the morality of their acts. Think of Pontius Pilate, who could see no reason to condemn our Savior, but allowed him to be crucified anyway.

So we must be on constant vigil to ensure our dreams don’t go stale, that we retain our childhood craving for growth and rise above the plateaus we reach as adults. Occasionally, we discover that a past dream had been wrong. We may have started out searching for objects of value, but gained only money and position instead. So we must backtrack, take inventory of ourselves and begin a new journey over uncertain paths.

This is clearly within our grasp. As William Faulkner said when he accepted the Nobel Prize for literature:

I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure, that when the last ding dong of doom has clanged and sounded on the last worthless rock hanging tide-less in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice still talking. But I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not simply endure, he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul: a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.

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