Don’t believe every meme you see or every soundbite you hear. The topic of our OLLI class (retiree learning opportunity at the University of Southern Mississippi) was “Popular Music,” but the leader threw in some homespun wisdom now and then. He attacked the saying, “If you can dream it, you can have it.” He cited outstanding artists and pointed out that the saying omits the need for a musical gift. I agreed with him, mentally expanded this to other endeavors, and added the other need for hard work. Then I made it personal.
Take art. I could dream day and night, add lessons from a great artist, and practice until my fingers were nubs. I would still turn out the kind of work that brought Daddy to suggest that I write beneath my drawing, “This is a cow” – or whatever it was. Like I said, take art. I’ll stick to appreciative viewing.
Or instrumental music. Dreams have scarcely served me better there. With a few music lessons and a lot of practice, I learned to play anything a second grader needs to sing, including a mean version of “Froggie Went a Courtin’.” More lessons and more practice might have made me better but never accorded me a place as a concert pianist.
Vocal music has brought pleasure for many years. On moves to new churches in new communities, my first question has been, “When and where is choir practice?” For all that work under some excellent choir directors, I remain a garden variety second soprano. No amount of dreaming will make me the chosen Sunday morning soloist.
Then we come to the great American novel. I haven’t written it. I’ve written for church publications, children’s magazines, adult anthologies and literary magazines, and of course – this blog. I’ve written a couple of books and dreamed of publicity tours and school visits, but so far rejection letters have come for those – often with words that encourage me to keep the dream alive.
So, am I opposed to dreaming? Not at all, even if I’ve only reached the place where I can see mine from where I stand, the view is not bad, and I love those who have reached theirs and share. I’m only opposed to the supposition that enough determination and work brings automatic assurance that you will land you at the top of your chosen passion. The meme I would choose instead comes from the musical South Pacific and hints at the joy of the endeavor itself. “If you don’t have a dream, how’re you gonna make a dream come true?”