“…and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
– Matthew 28:20
There was this one slideshow-ish video that I used to watch when I was younger. It played to the Forrest Gump soundtrack and it ended with this last line. It used to be a great source of comfort. Those were the days – when every exam felt like Judgment Day, when losing games meant losing friends, when watching simple slideshows could solve all of life’s problems.
We’ve lost our innocence. We lost it, not through war and death (though there are those among us who have gone through these). For our generation, most of us lost it through the sheer attrition of normality and mediocrity. We lost it through the banality of everyday life. The world bombards us with propaganda that we can do anything we want; and when we realize that we are but human, we become disillusioned and cynical.
I watched a video ‘Butterfly Circus’ some time ago. It was one of those classic inspirational stories that you hear in your leadership workshops that teach you that you can ‘be anything that you wish to be’ and ‘go anywhere that you wish to go’. Someone who is pathetically disabled achieved something amazingly wonderful and you are left with such a sense of hope. Such videos work on generation X. They’re the kind of videos that our parents watch and go ‘wow’ and think to themselves: “how can I help these people?” or “I’m going to work harder and be like these people.”
Not our generation though. Our generation has become numb to hope. We watch these things and feel them tug at our heartstrings and we go ‘what a nice story’. 10 minutes later, we go back to facebook-stalking and essay-writing. And blogging too of course.
Because to be idealistic is to risk much. Those of us who try to hold fast to our dreams risk standing up against the world. We risk being seen as fools, naive, immature and inexperienced, condemned by those wizened through loss and grief. Most of all, we risk having the tables turned on us when we ourselves struggle and become bitter. We risk being told smugly and gloatingly – “I told you so.”
We risk this all the more when we are young and inexperienced. And more often than not, we are. We are youths after all, living in the 21st century. We didn’t have to suffer the joys of getting two red eggs on our birthday, or getting to eat chicken only during Chinese New Year. No, too few of us know what true poverty is. Too few of us know what we are truly talking about when we talk about love and death. Too many of us live in ivory towers.
Oh yes, we who try to live according to our ideals see the world through rose-tinted lenses. But here’s the thing. Keep them on anyway. Dream big anyway. Dream, not because one day dreams will come true. Instead, dream, because one day, the truth will become our dreams. Fairy-tales never come to life; but lives do become fairy-tales. Sure, there are witches and curses and evil stepmoms and dragons; but there is also hope of a ‘happily-ever-after’. And when everything is said and done, we can look back and say to ourselves that the wistful hope, the unrealized dream, the naive longing – that, in itself, was a happily-ever-after.
So perhaps, we can realize that although we cannot always live our dreams, we can still dream our lives; although we can’t always do everything we love, we can love everything that we do. Perhaps, we can reclaim our hope, our sense of wonder. Perhaps, we can find a second innocence.
Because the first time we are innocent is a gift. The second time is a choice.