Cogito Ergo Somnium (I Think Therefore I Dream)
By Jake Block
“Why don’t you tell your dreams to me Fantasy will set you free.” — Magic Carpet Ride (Steppenwolf)
Cogito Ergo Sum is the postulation of Rene Descartes, translating to “I think, therefore I am.” Every philosophy student learns it from day one and it is considered the “gold standard” of philosophical self realization. This, however is a rephrasing of Descartes’ original statement in the French, “Je pense, donc je suis,” (I think, so I am), as stated in his work, Discourse on Method (1637). Descartes reasoned that even if an all-powerful demon tried to deceive him into thinking that he exists when he does not, he would have to exist in order for the demon to deceive him. Therefore, whenever he thinks, he exists. (Encyclopedia Britannica)
Of course Descartes lived long before the current era when those on the left hand path would extrapolate the kernel of thought expressed in “Cogito ergo sum” to the idea of personal deification. And as we’ve learned over the past 50+ years, as Porgy sang to Bess in the American opera by George Gershwin, “It ain’t necessarily so.” We might THINK we are gods, but proving it through demonstrable superiority is another thing altogether.
I think that often disregarded as fantasy or mind manipulations, dreams are also key to man’s exaltation to godhood. One must dream to be a god. Without dreams, a god is nothing… he/she has nothing to strive for and nothing to accomplish to lay claim to superiority over the dull masses who, at the end of their lives, might as well never have lived at all.
Children have dreams. A child has dreams that allow them to fly, to have adventures and do wondrous things. They can see themselves as astronauts or cowboys, doctors or lawyers, baseball players or rockstars on the worldwide stage. They have their entire lives ahead of them and choices to be made. But all too often, they get overly involved in life at a young age, surrendering their youth and innocence to the herd… and there are many herds from which to choose. They might give up their dreams for the fairy tales they are told in church, or they can surrender them to the fairy tale of a career in sports, never realizing that of the millions of others vying for that Monday Night Football career, only a tiny fraction of those who strive ever reach the goal and the rest succumb to daydreams on the sideline where those who couldn’t make the grade are nevertheless on “the team.” And far too many answer the siren call of peer pressure to waste their vital essence in a blur of alcohol and noxious substances that dull the mind while giving the illusion of revelations as gossamer and fleeting as the sands of a time wasted, substance sotted wasteland. There are dream-killing traps at every step along our lives, and even the most well-balanced and potential-filled can find a reason to put their dreams on hold. Dreams have a way of fading away when left on the shelf.
In this world of billions, there are a few who manage the herculean feat of managing life effectively AND maintaining their dreams and goals. In the midst of serious adulthood, they can still see themselves in a less serious and less trapped way where they still feel that they can do anything, as long as they can manage to keep their “soul” from being crushed by the weight of a life surrendered to survival at any means. Through their dreams, they manage to maintain a sense of wonder and joy that marks the dreamer from one who simply sleeps. Their waking dreams are guides “from here to there,” and working becomes less of a drudgery and more of a tool to help them get to where they want to go. They see their jobs and the pay they receive as a means to get just a bit closer to the life they wish to lead, and look for ways to advance within their jobs, gaining promotions and perks to give them more time to dream and then work toward that dream.
Today, while getting gas for my road trip, I glanced over at the mini-mart and saw the Lottery sign. The Powerball game was up to $660 MILLION, and the Mega Millions game was sitting at about $350 MILLION…all tolled, over ONE BILLION DOLLARS for the cost of a ticket. Now, we all know that the chances of winning are slim. I think the odds of winning the jackpot are roughly equivalent to being struck by lightning twelve times while skinny dipping in a vat of chocolate. But SOMEBODY wins. If somebody wins, why can’t it be ME? Why can’t it be YOU? Better us than the guy we’ve all seen on TV who does win, and says, “It won’t change me none, and I’m still going to be on the job Monday at Joe’s Bait Shop.” He’s apparently living his dream, such as it it. You can bet your ass that I have dreams on a far grander scale!
Now, I’m not saying to live in dreams and let your waking life go to hell, but consciously strive to dream of something better. When I was a kid on the streets of East St. Louis, IL, there were times when I saw no way out of that hell hole, but I had dreams that one day I would leave that place far behind and travel, and have a good job, and a nice car and a woman by my side and money in my pocket. I worked my way out of the hole I was in, and as things got better in my life, I maintained my dreams, tweaking them as reality either provided them through my efforts, or kept them from me when I wasn’t YET up to the task of attaining and maintaining them. It was a long time, coming, but eventually I got everything I dreamed of, and more. And as a bonus, I got them while I was still young enough to enjoy those dreams of a broke kid on the streets, come to fruition.
And you know what, I’m still dreaming. Against all odds, I have two tickets in my hand for this week’s lottery drawings. I’ll be waiting for the lightning to strike… but I’ll never stop dreaming! Cogito ergo somnium.