They Who Dream By Day
I consider myself to be a dreamer, and I find myself drawn to others of like mind. To many, the label “dreamer” is considered to be an insult, meaning that one makes unachievable and fanciful plans that fly in the face of “reality” at the expense of using their time and energy on more practical pursuits.
In this context, “reality” is used as another word for limitations. I am not trying to say there are no limitations, because clearly there are. Rather, I think the limits we perceive are not where we think they are, they are mirages of barriers that may be somewhere over the horizon. Limitations need to be challenged. Barriers must be tested.
Like most things, dreams come in various sizes and shapes. Some dream of solving the problems and puzzles that confront humanity, while some dream of simpler things that are more personal. While I appreciate the big dreamers and am grateful for the fruits of their pursuits, I feel more of a kinship with the “day dreamers”.
I remember a study I learned of in Psych 101. As I recall, in this study there were two sets of subjects. They subjected both groups to an increasing level of pain, supplied by an electric shock. They were instructed to continuously rate their level of pain. One group had a big red button in front of them. This group was told that they could press the button at any time and the pain would stop. The other group had no button and was told they had no control over the pain. Both groups received identical electric shocks, which gradually increased in severity. The group that thought they could make the pain stop whenever they chose to rated their level of pain as being significantly less than that reported by the group that thought they had no control.
I think our dreams serve the same purpose as that red button, they offer a way out.
Whether or not we push the button is up to us. It takes courage to dream. In addition to exposing yourself to ridicule and sideways glances, many fear that allowing yourself to dream can expose you to regrets if the dreams go unfulfilled. What true dreamers know, however, is to just have the dream is liberating. The pursuit of the dream may never be necessary. It is only required that the dreamer intends to pursue the dream “someday”. The mere existence of the dream has a healing effect on the life of the dreamer. It is the concept of the dream that can keep us alive.
“They Who Dream By Day” was inspired by something I saw while on patrol one day. I stumbled upon a scene very similar to what is depicted in this painting. There was an old and neglected sailboat on a rusted trailer parked next to a dilapidated barn; weeds and grass were growing around and through the trailer and boat. The boat was in a condition of general disrepair. Birds and critters of all descriptions had set up housekeeping in the boat. It was a veritable “Barnyard Ark”. It was obvious that the boat had not been moved or received any attention for quite some time.
I wondered what circumstances caused this vessel, clearly intended for the freedom of open water, to be abandoned next to a barn in the middle of an ocean of corn and soybeans. I imagined it must have been placed there by a fellow dreamer, one that intended to repair it and use it someday as a gateway to maritime adventure.
I hoped that the dream was still alive.
In many ways the actual creation of this painting reflects the challenges and struggles that confront dreamers. When I started I had the inspiration (dream), but the composition and technical details regarding the creation process were unresolved. Usually I will work out all or most of these details before I start. In this instance, I wanted so badly to express this idea that I started it before I knew exactly how I was going to proceed. This created the risk that I was going to waste time, energy, and expensive materials.
I knew that if I waited to have all of the answers before I asked the questions, I would never begin. Consequently, this piece was very challenging to complete and I nearly abandoned it in progress several times – the artistic equivalent of parking it next to the barn and letting the weeds consume it…
In the end, it turned out exactly as I had envisioned it.
I was going to title it “Someday”, but in the end I decided to base the title on a quote that I love from “Eleonora”, a short story by Edgar Allen Poe.
“They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night. In their gray visions they obtain glimpses of eternity; and thrill; in waking; to find they have been upon the verge of the great secret.”
Happy New Year, and dream big in 2019.
Image and text © 2018 James Golaszewski