“I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”

Edward Everett Hale

Friday, 6 March 2015

The Power of Dreams

Human beings are born with a great capacity for belief. Small children believe everything their parents say, which is how they construct a meaningful picture of the world they live in. In our particular culture, this also usually involves belief in what Terry Pratchett calls "anthropomorphic personifications" such as Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy. How many of you went to see Peter Pan in pantomime as a small child and clapped to save Tinkerbell's life? - I certainly did.

But as you get older, your parents start to introduce you to "the real world", in which money is not in infinite supply "D'you think money grows on trees?" and someone in the playground will tell you that "Father Christmas is your parents really." This evolution of belief is necessary in order to fit into our complicated modern society - it is generally accepted that if you believe in too many things, you are bound to become disillusioned in the end.

I find this widespread cynicism quite sad, and ask myself the question "Whatever happened to people who believed in things?" I think that there are very many people who used to be idealistic and believed that the world could be made a better place, but there are also many who have become disillusioned over the years, and who dare not believe in anything much any longer, in case they are let down.

Leonard Nimoy, whose recent passing saddened me, once wrote "I am an incurable romantic:I believe in hope, dreams and decency. I believe in love, tenderness and kindness. I believe in mankind." He proved this with his life.

Daring to believe that way involves trust and faith. If you have those, anything is possible. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. "I've decided that I'm going to do battle for my philosophy. You ought to believe something in life, believe that thing so fervently that you will stand up with it till the end of your days." Fifty years ago, we saw how far that philosophy took him, as a champion of human rights, whose leadership changed the whole course of history, brought a new dimension of dignity to human life, new hope for freedom and the community of man. Such people are inspirational, because they have dared to dream, and then spent their whole lives working to make their dreams come true.

This weekend, friends and colleagues from the Unitarian Universalist Association will be marching from Selma to Montgomery, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the marches in 1965 which led to the passage that year of the Voting Rights Act, an important achievement of the American Civil Rights Movement. To quote Wikipaedia: "Activists publicized the three protest marches to walk the 54-mile highway from Selma to the Alabama state capital of Montgomery, as showing the desire of black American citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote, in defiance of segregationist repression." Very many white Unitarian Universalists and other activists joined their black brothers and sisters on the march.

The dream, or the vision, or the ideal, is only the beginning of the process. To turn that dream into something concrete and real involves a lot of hard work. It is very easy to lose sight of the dream, and to give up half way. But if your belief in your cause or vision is strong enough, then anything is possible.

People need something to believe in , something to strive for, something to give life a deeper meaning. Fifty years ago, on the road from Selma to Montgomery, that became real.

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