Friday, October 18, 2013

the fangs of a cherished dream

In other times, the "American Dream" meant something, I guess. Hell, even Wikipedia has an entry that seeks to pin down this "national ethos of the United States, a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility achieved through hard work."

A house, a job, a white picket fence and a requisite average of something like 2.3 children... anyone might hope; anyone might believe; anyone might smile.

Of course a closer look, even in earlier times, tended to cast doubt, but it took a bit of doing for Jacob Riis or Theodore Dreiser or others like them to add dimension and depth to a cherished dream.

Yesterday, on the car radio, I heard an interview with a woman war photographer whose works were about to go or perhaps already had gone on display. She was news. Her work was extolled. She had been in Afghanistan or Iraq or maybe both and now her work was being acclaimed with an exhibit.

The woman spoke with a pleasant gravitas -- she had been to places where the shit hit the fan, where the American Dream played out. And after repeated rejections, she seemed only mildly put out that various American news outlets never, ever, published her photos of dead American soldiers. She had to eat, after all, and if that entailed an enforced side-stepping or reconfiguring the truth, well, I imagine hunger has its impositions. Outrage has its limits. The woman spoke with an even temper.

Funny how cherished dreams will allow questioning and deconstruction ... but only up to a point. And after that point, the claws come out, the fangs are bared and the hammer comes down: Photography, for example, is a wonderful art form and conveyer of truth, but, well, there is "good taste" to consider ... the kind of good taste that keeps the dream intact. You can make an effort to 'balance' the dream, but if you go too far ... duck and cover! -- fucking with a cherished dream is no small matter.

In Portland, Oregon, a young man pissed in a reservoir, according to a news story passed along in email today. He was seen by witnesses and caught on camera and was later apologetic. His action caused the water authority to dispose of 7.8 million gallons of water ... the same water in which deer carcasses had been found in the past without any similar reaction. I don't know about anyone else, but if I were thirsty and someone offered me a cup of water drawn from 7.8 million gallons that someone had pissed in, I'd drink it in a heartbeat.

But cherished dreams are pure. Maybe that's what makes them dreams. Hope is a great purifier of many things that are not exactly pure... and more important, don't need to be pure except for the fact that I need them to be. I demand it and will bring down the hammer on anyone, within or without, who threatens my American Dream too seriously. In my world of dreams, water is pure, American soldiers are never ripped limb from limb, there are 2.3 children in the offing, and spiritual life is limited and full of good taste.

Purities are a delight. They are the stuff of dreams. Later, perhaps, the purity that is saddled with impurities may take on a pure and dignified stature of its own: Surely the impure deserves to be called out. But with practice, I think -- or maybe it's just experience -- pure and impure alike seem to fade away. It's not because they are naughty or off-balance, with each relying on the other for sustenance, but rather that they don't compute very well. They just don't obtain ...

Except in a dream world whose fangs, while sometimes concealed, are nonetheless sharp.

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