Unless you are Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., you should avoid using “I have a dream” in your life. Like “fourscore and seven years ago” or anything Churchill ever said, King owns the phrase.
He also had the wit and wisdom to avoid misusing his dreaming. KIng’s goal of racial reconciliation, still not achieved, is difficult, but not impossible. Nature and nature’s God contains a moral law that like the laws of science is not always easy to see, but which teaches the folly of racism. You can be a racist only be defying God. King knows that his fulfilling his dream will be difficult, in fact will only fully occur in the Kingdom of God, but knows that the closer we get to the ideal the happier humanity will be.
The hit movie Frozen contains a different kind of dream, the fulfillment being if not exactly impossible, then much more difficult, and less pleasant, than the singer imagines.* Dreams can go wrong in three ways: you can Quixote and “dream the impossible dream,” you can dream for something not worth the effort, or you can dream for something where the outcome is much less pleasant than you imagine.
The Quixote dream, a form of insanity, is funny in a novel, but dreadful to endure. Whenever I am tempted to “march into hell for a heavenly cause,” then I am either Jesus or delusional. Since I am not Jesus, I am delusional. Worst, my family and the people around me must put up with my desire to do something I cannot do. The most common example in my life is the wish to be twenty when I am sixteen or forty when I am fifty. I cannot be a kid again, only childish.
The Victorians had an expression: “the game is not worth the candle.” In an age when light was expensive, a game needed to be really enjoyable or the cost of lighting the room would not be worth it. My own version of this runs: “the game is not worth the Microsoft points.”
If I were to train continuously, ignoring many of my other responsibilities and most other pleasures, I might run/walk a marathon by year’s end. Would the benefits outweigh the losses? They would not. I must exercise more and eat less, but within a life with many other needs I cannot “do it all.” The game is not worth the candle . . .
This is a subjective test of course when it comes to balancing pleasures, but dreams tempt us to forget. The man who improves his golf game at the cost of his soul has sinned, but the man who improves it at the cost of many other pleasures may have been unwise.
Finally, there is the Zombie Error. A basic fairy tale lesson: what if you get what you want and what you want is no good. The standard version begins with a mother wishing for her child to come back from the dead. The child comes back from the dead as rotting zombie: better dead than undead. The most common version in my life is the wish my heart makes, gets, that then hurts more people than it helps. As Buffy the Vampire Slayer suggested pulling your friend out of heaven because you miss their company is a bad idea.
I don’t like to realize that some of my prayers for healing or wealth would harm the person I wish to bless. A good rule of thumb: When He who can does not, it must be better so.
Worst is to live your life as you wish only to damn your soul for all eternity. Change society to get what you want. Change your life. Change everything in human power to change and God does not change.
What does it profit a man to gain his heart’s desire and damn his soul? Hell is real and many of our dreams, if we fulfill them, risk damnation. And by the way, Plato points out that the damnable also scars the soul, even if society approves. This has been my experience, though of course I cannot tell if Plato is right about anyone else!
Dreams, like anything else, must be measured against goodness, truth, and beauty. “I have a dream” is a prelude to thought not a demand for action.
*Amongst many reasons to have best friends is that they send you such videos. Shout out to the Gs!