Are You Paying Attention?

... your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Acts 2:17

I don't know if I am "old" by biblical standards. If Methuselah is on the scale at his purported age of 969, then I'm a Spring Chicken whatever the heck that is. Still, I do feel like I've moved from any possibility of being a young visionary to being an old dreamer. The fact is--I've always been a bit of a dreamer. Not in a grand Martin Luther King-I Have A Dream way, just the mind-wandering kind.

During my formative years (the 50s & 60s), daydreaming was discouraged by the mental health community and educators calling it a failure of mental discipline which could lead to psychosis. Freud labeled it infantile and neurotic.

I can remember teachers telling students (me) to "stop daydreaming." Then one day it happened--I brought home a report card where a teacher had branded me, "David is a daydreamer!" It seemed so ominous, as if I were stricken and there was no cure.

Imagine the horror and embarrassment for my family. In hushed tones, they would tell people: "Our son is a daydreamer." I could imagine scenarios like this: "He had a promising career on the assembly line at the Almond Joy factory, with the prestigious job of placing the almonds on each bar. But alas, he was a daydreamer. He would drift off to that place in his troubled little head and bar after bar would pass him, missing their nuts. Now he works at the Mounds factory because, as you know: while 'Almond Joy's got nuts--Mounds don't.'" Which, from my perspective, is a good thing because, as a daydreamer, "sometimes you feel like a nut--sometimes you don't."

Apparently there is some connection between the Industrial Revolution and the view of daydreaming as being dangerous and a waste of time and resources. People "went to work", making goods. So we needed to be more utilitarian. The arts, writing, composing--the stuff of dreamers, became like so much extravagance.

Today I am happy to tell you that my chronic daydreaming has not been cured. And lucky for me, mental health experts now agree that daydreaming is not only healthy, but an essential part of a creative mind.

One of my favorite lines on the "Big Bang Theory" is when someone calls Sheldon crazy. He replies, "I am not crazy. My mother had me tested."

I have been tested too. Don't over-read this; I'm not building the case for a genius IQ here. Too many people are still living who can attest otherwise. The test I'm referring to here is something called the Pearson-Marr Archetype Indicator®. It's a real thing, look it up.

The results of the test explained me this way:

At your best, when you fulfill your potential, you are highly imaginative and even inspired, and your skill-level allows you to create with ease. You have moments when the ideas just flow and creativity seems effortless. You have a wonderfully developed aesthetic sense and surround yourself with things that reflect your taste. You have the potential, moreover, to create your own life as a work of art, so that you avoid the ordinary, the shallow, and the mundane, opting for more satisfying ways of life, even if this means that others do not always understand why you live the way you do.

I was feeling pretty good about myself until I got to the "needs to improve" section, then it took on the air of those comments teachers used to write on my report card--things like: 

  • Tame the inner critic so that you become less critical of others, undermining their confidence.
  • Move from an ego-centric focus to an attitude of service.
  • Balance artistry with being a responsible, thoughtful person.
  • Avoid the trap of self-indulgence.
Odin the Wanderer   (1896) by  Georg von Rosen (Wikipedia)

Odin the Wanderer (1896) by Georg von Rosen (Wikipedia)

I know I am and probably have always been a mental vagabond.
As it turns out, daydreaming does not necessarily mean you are not "paying attention." It's just from a different perspective with a different focal point.

One of my favorite authors is G.K. Chesterton and one of my favorite quotes of his is this: 

The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.

I prefer to travel--to see what I see, to ponder it, to maybe write about it or talk it about it with other travelers.

Speaking of great writers and "travelers" J.R.R. Tolkien is one of the greatest. A line of his I use often is this one:

Not all those who wander are lost.

I might add that not all those who dream are lazy, listless or lost. Oh, and that line of Tolkien's is from a poem he wrote for his fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings.

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

I wish you sweet dreams!