If the stars should appear but one night every thousand years how man would marvel and adore.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Several nights ago, I had an interesting dream that struck me for various reasons. First of all, I don’t usually dream. Perhaps it is because of my self-inflicted torturous sleep schedule of less than 5 hours a night, or is due to the fact that my logical brain lacks certain facets of imagination. Second, is because when I do happen to dream (which is, as a matter of a fact, a more recent occurrence over the past five months), they are quite disturbingly morbid dreams who’s details I will not delve into in the hopes that those reading will still allow me to remain on their list of “relatively sane” people.
For my dream.
I was outside on top of a hill, looking out at the countryside that surrounded me. I was standing above several people who were gazing out into the distance, and, rather than viewing the scenery with my own eyes, I was looking through their perspectives. Someone behind me told me to observe the colors that the people were seeing. I noticed the grays, the hazy greens – almost as if the people were looking through a smoggy curtain that made all of the colors dull. The voice then directed me to see through another perspective, and as if a lens were twisted into focus, I saw the true beauty of the landscape in front of me. Vibrant greens and yellows, a deep and joyful blue sky. I was overwhelmed by the difference, and the unseen person behind me told me I needed to teach myself to see this way. They explained how often, people begin to lose touch with the vitality of the colors that are in front of them, as if cataracts slowly invade the eye and create a fog that dulls the beauty. I kept being told to view things in brighter colors – that I needed to be wary of becoming accustomed to the grays that filled the skies from the first perspective, and to train myself to see the context that is so often lost.
Now, I am well aware that dreams are highly analogical and rarely literal, that the pictures and sequences the mind creates are simply a subconscious sorting out of thoughts, observations, and emotions. Even if this dream is nothing but a fantastical escapade of ideas, it made me start to think.
I know that often I am one of those guilty of taking my situation for granted and often find myself comfortable in my own little cocoon of surroundings, sitting ignorantly amidst the world I have always known. Sure, I have traveled a fair amount and have seen situations up and down the spectrum of living, but there is a great difference between sympathizing and empathizing with others. That is to say, the world we live in is secondhand, and the novelty in it is because we are newborn, blind to what has come before, and filled with every human desire to know more. But then, as we grow, these experiences, although having shaped us, become hand-me-downs as we search for the next best thing. This flaw is ingrained in us because of our desire to live in the moment, and this is not how I want to be.
As I walk to school every day, I pass the most spectacular cathedrals and historic buildings, but even after being here for a few weeks I find myself hardly taking a second glance at the striking architecture as I hurry on to class. In Mérida, Extremadura (where I visited this weekend), as we meandered through the tight, hilly cobblestone roads, we came across perfectly preserved ruins from the Roman Empire, surrounded by buildings from the 21st century. There were no fences, no guards – they were just standing here, basking in a residual glory from a younger time. Some buildings were even built on top of them, as not to disturb the marble pillars and handcrafted crumbling statues and friezes.
Are the people who live around these fantastic buildings guilty of the same thing I am as I breeze past the beautiful churches of Alcalá? Do the locals blindly look past the great stone buildings that hold centuries of history within their walls, just because they must pass by them every day? How easy it is to become isolated in one’s own perspective! How frighteningly easy it is to forget what we have and desire more, when really, the beauty and satisfaction we seek is right in front of us, simply waiting for the dust of neglect and ingratitude to be shaken off and abandoned.