Last week, a 14 year old girl in Pakistan was shot in the head by the Taliban because she dared to dream.
Malala Yousufzai is an outspoken advocate for education for girls in a country where most girls are denied the right to go to school. Malala believes all children have a right to pursue education in order to live their dreams. She originally dreamed of becoming a doctor, and then a politician, so she could improve the lives of girls and women in her home country.
One week ago, three members of the Taliban boarded the bus she rode to school and shot her in the head, along with two of her friends who were also wounded. She remains in stable, but critical condition. It is unknown the extend of damage the bullet did her her brain. The Taliban has vowed to attempt to assasinate her again because she promotes “Western thinking”.
This, then, is the power of dreaming: that a 14-year old girl might draw the attention of one of the world’s most well-organized and well-funded terrorist organizations.
Dreamers create revolutions. Dreaming is a revolutionary act. It is the dreamers, not the pragmatists, who change the course of human history: Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Joan of Arc, the Dalai Lama, Gloria Steinem, Rosa Parks.
Dreaming is also an act of incredible courage and vulnerability. Many of these dreamers died for their dreams, or suffered incredible social consequences, ostracization, and criticism for speaking their dreams out loud.
Like Malala Yousufzai, dreaming activates enormous fear in those who hoard power and aspire to maintain the status quo. Dreaming turns safety on its head, questions conventional social structures, asks the question WHY? Dreaming is heart-felt aspiration. Dreaming is the antidote to racism, sexism, homophobia, and stereotypes. Dreaming is the midwife of liberation.
Last Saturday, I participated in the second design marathon of the Imagination Installations project. We believe in harnessing the collective power of our community’s dreams. Our goal is to create a public art installation capable of collecting and cataloging the dreams of individuals from all walks of life in Winston-Salem.
When I tell people about this project, their first response is typically confusion. As I explain further, I see a light click on in their eyes, and then excitement. People typically express that our project sounds “neat” or “fun”, both of which are true.
But we believe the Imagination Installations project is about more than fun. We believe that by creating a medium by which individuals might verbalize their hopes and dreams, we can create a community where everyone feels valued, connected, and invested. We can create a social movement where dreamers find strength in numbers, more together than alone. And once dreams find a voice, revolutionary things happen.
In the classic movie, Dead Poet’s Society, Robin Williams explains to his class the importance of poetry to dreaming:
We don’t dream because it’s cute. We dream because we’re members of the human race. It is our legacy to dream. Dreaming is our soul’s purpose.
We did not arrive on this earth to play it safe. We came here to grow, evolve, and change. Life demands it. Nature mirrors it. Dreaming is the pathway to evolution, the doorway into becoming the best versions of ourselves. Dreaming is the ultimate adventure, and as human beings, we can’t help but think beyond our current circumstances to a world that might be.
It is in our very DNA to continually expand into something greater than ourselves. Dreaming exacts our greatness.
What am I dreaming of? I dream of a world where every girl who wants an education can attend school. I dream of someday being as brave as that 14 year old girl who stood up against the Taliban for what she believes. I dream of a nation that fully understand the importance of a healthy populace, and invests in universal health care. I dream of a political system that rewards innovation and creativity, so that entrepreneurs might flourish. I dream of a time when everyone can marry the person they love. I dream of creating the kind of society where everyone can contribute their verse to the powerful play that is life.
Most of all, I dream that someday, we’ll fully recognize the power of dreaming, nurture it, cultivate it, and let our dreams have their way.
Tell me now, what are your dreams?