We were daydreamers once, weren’t we? Sat at desks with the lids that raised, lunches packed in brown paper sacks, pencils scattered, TrapperKeepers with wide-ruled paper, and felt our minds drift. We dreamed impossible things, saw ourselves with helmets floating through the black bits of space, bracing ourselves at the helm of some research ship on some stormy sea, studying the whales, the dolphins, the sharks below. We daydreamed ourselves making the final shot in the final seconds of some championship basketball game, hitting the final home run with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, playing music to a sold-out stadium, acting on Broadway, or saving the world by curing cancer, or hell, at least the common cold. We were movie stars and astronauts and marine biologists and professional athletes and world travelers and we were nothing but mouth and the world was this peach ripe for the biting. Weren’t we this?
Life sneaks in though, doesn’t it? Sneaks in and whittles the tops off the dreams we dream, tries its very best to dull the sharp point of them, round them down to harmlessness, to ubiquity and sameness that feels safe for the rest of us, grown beyond those silly thoughts in those tiny desks in front of those giant chalkboards with portraits of presidents around the perimeters. Life sneaks in and tells you to aim lower, tells you to trust the negative loops we start going around and around, that it’s the next turn around the next corner that’ll make things right, though it knows it’s a circle, though it knows we’ve been here before and will be here again. Tells us that life isn’t the peach that’s juicy and sweet, it’s the peach that sat too long in the lunch sack in our desk, and is more bruise than fruit nowadays, more rot than ripe.
Then come those who say they have the answers, then come those screeching about positivity and reframing the narrative, those that say that we just have to choose to be positive, to not think about the negative, to find those three little birds on our doorstep, to don’t worry be happy our way through the shit we’re going through. Then comes our deep and slowly boiling blood to the surface of us, then comes our silent wrath, as we’re too kind to lash out. Then comes our unsettled sink into the apathy that arrives when we’ve circled the same loop ten thousand times, the fear of circling it another ten thousand before time runs out.
There’s more to this life than this, isn’t there? There’s always been, hasn't there? We were dreamers once, after all, those beautiful daydreamers who saw nothing but possibility, the hope not the hurdle. We held the moon up in our wishes, believed that all things were truly possible, that we were capable of anything, of great big everythings, and if today didn’t hold it, tomorrow just might. This is different from positivity as we didn’t know then we needed to be positive, this is daydream, this is, above all things, imagination.
That’s what we’ve lost, isn’t it? That’s what goes when life begins its whittling, the imagination, the creative outpouring of our unconscious minds that creates worlds beyond this one, worlds within the dark recesses of our minds, not yet tired by all life has thrown. It’s imagination that’s stolen from us, as we stop noticing the ornate and beautiful buildings in the world we inhabit, but pay close attention to how all those god-awful apartment block buildings that all look eerily the same, have spread like wildfire and consume the landscape. Out goes the acid-trip of our wildest imaginings, in comes the beige mundanity where all things aim at the same place, all roads lead to some retirement home in some year-round-warm place. Gone goes the peach, in comes the bruise, the rot, the waste.
It’s not positivity we need, something I’ve long said on this Signal Fire, it’s not this toxic positivity that we have to wear like a Halloween mask that’s going to set us free, it’s never been this. Half and half this existence is, one part joy, one part sorrow, and giving more weight to the first is a tragedy in and of itself. We need the negativity to keep us alive, we need it to give shine to the gem-like days. We need to appreciate our lows to appreciate our highs, and anyone who tells you otherwise is a snake-oil salesman that needs to be whittled off with the next few swipes of life’s knife. It’s not positivity, it’s never been, it’s good-old-fashioned imagination. It’s reverting back, dammit, it’s being a child again, even if only in our minds, even if only in the quiet moments we can squeeze in amongst the otherwise full hours.
We have to dream again, and afford ourselves the places and spaces to do so. We have to be silly again, childlike and innocent and see things as new. We have to look outside the boxes we’ve made for ourselves, or those that the world keeps constructing all around us. We have to imagine the ornate where there is nothing but brutalism, we have to invent and wish and hope and hold out that there is some wild life still waiting for us. THEN, the work comes, THEN, we have to start making choices based not on the logical progression we think we should be following, but based on the insanity of our most colorful creations.
Call them liars, those who say there’s no other way, those who say to stay the path and end up where they end up, safely stuck behind their Social Security or 401k dividends, safely stuck eating beige food in a beige room wearing beige clothes and memorizing the schedule of Judge Judy reruns on the TV anchored high up in the corner of some one-window room. Call them liars, and show them another way, show them that it’s the good and the bad that shapes our life, but it’s the imagination, the wide-eyed-curiosity that will build something new, something better.
We were dreamers once, tiny hands lifting great big desks to get to the books within. We saw the world and we saw possibility, we saw the endless consequence of choice and chance and luck and love. We can see it again, and it’s not by forcing yourself to be nothing but pleasant, pleasing, and positive, it’s by going backwards, far backwards, to the people we were doodling on our brown-bag book covers we made ourselves on the kitchen tables of our youth. We’re still them, covered by a mountain of nonsense we all felt we had to believe to fit in, we’re still the astronauts, the marine biologists, the stars on the stage, the home run hitters, the world savers, we’ve always been them, we just forgot somewhere along the way.
Remember, dream, imagine. This is why we’re here, this is how we survive.
not forced positivity
is what will save us.