Contrary to the second law of thermodynamics, the following axiom applies: utopia remains constant. Utopia knows no entropy. It defies the linear sequence of history. It can be called up any time. The same is true for dreams, which are, after all, private utopias. Fanciful mental images are neither bound by age nor an expiry date. They are available to children and the elderly alike. Their contours never blur. Were it not for this dependability, everybody would go insane.
Making them come true is another matter entirely, however. Perhaps the quixotic utopia might have been feasible at some point. Maybe the possible was once actually possible. But time has passed and with it the conditions that could have brought about actualisation. Some person’s childhood dream was to play the grand piano in a concert hall. But he took on an accounting career and exercised his fingers on another type of keyboard. He only celebrates his success in his sleep. Another person always wanted to be famous. She often dreams of being recognised, photographed and cheered by an enthusiastic crowd on the street. When awake, she has to make do with her 100 Facebook friends liking her cat photos.
You look back on the path you have walked, the crossroads where you had to choose a direction, and ask yourself: was the decision really made of your own volition? Or was it the result of lethargy? Or habit? Perhaps fear? All the same, the dream fell by the wayside.
Is that a reason to listen to the furies of self-denial? We know them well, the lazy excuses. It was all an illusion. I wasn’t made for it. You have to come to terms with reality. Accounting is interesting too. I don’t have a bad life, after all. Old age is a shipwreck, anyway. Other people are even worse off.
No, no, no.
For the Australian Aborigines, the Dreamtime, the constant presence of creation, is the actual reality. But the Dreamtime is not unchangeable. On the contrary, it learns from the events taking place in this world. It is timeless and yet in constant flux. All experiences you gain have a retroactive effect on the Dreamtime. It can therefore give directions concerning your actions, irrespective of the point in your life’s path.
We are not Aborigines, of course. But for us, too, everything depends on the position we take with regard to our dreams. Wear is in the mind of the beholder. Transitoriness is not the enemy. The enemy are the grueling dictates of contemporary life. The cult of physical fitness, the drive to perform, neuroses of efficiency. These can be tackled methodically.
If you lack suppleness, make use of your stiffness. If you have lost your virtuosity, explore the endless potentialities of silence. If you find multifariousness missing, utilise the barren space. If you mourn the vigour of your youth, enjoy concentrated leisure. If you feel overwhelmed, try minimalism. If you can’t keep up with the game, change the rules.
And even if your own body isn’t fully up to the task, even if it is no longer a given condition but an obstacle to self-evolvement, it is not alone in the room. Other bodies that struggle with similar restrictions are also present. And once they stop referring to their ailments and depressions, they can find each other. Reinterpret the small glitches as communication material.
Things aren’t really all that serious. You can also laugh about them. Self-irony is the antidote to resignation. And even if it was a farewell party, the main thing is to celebrate. The deadline is insignificant. It’s never too late.
Guillaume Paoli, German-writing French essayist and philosopher, has been living in Berlin since 1992. Co-founder of the Happy Unemployed, demotivational trainer, former resident philosopher at the Leipzig Centraltheater, author of several books, most recently Die lange Nacht der Metamorphose. Über die Gentrifizierung der Kultur (Berlin 2017) and Soziale Gelbsucht (Berlin 2019).
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