Thursday, October 18, 2007

Dreams by Langston Hughes


Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
--Langston Hughes

I'm fascinated by dreams. I have so many very odd ones, and they all seem so important at the time. Yet when I wake up, or soon after, the details all quickly disappear, leaving only the feeling of an urgent need to do something that I can never accomplish while asleep. I entirely understand how the King in Daniel chapter 2 felt when he demanded that the wise men tell him not only what his dream meant, but what exactly it was that he had dreamed in the first place. "The thing is gone from me," he said.

Last night, among other things, I dreamed that I was trying to sell some postage stamps to somebody, and I couldn't add up what they were worth -- the math part of my brain that I knew needed to count up how many there were of each denomination and multiply that by the value simply wouldn't do it. I couldn't multiply, I couldn't count, and most of the time I couldn't even read the numbers on the stamps (they kept shrinking when I looked at them). I finally realized that I was dreaming, and so gave the stamps away since it didn't matter anyway, but in the meantime, it was very odd not to be able to do simple math. Of course, that was only the last part of the dream, and I only remember it because I told Peter about it while I was still half asleep. There was a lot more to the situation that is gone from me.

At the same time, there's an entirely different definition of dreams. These dreams are not what you experience while you're sleeping. They're the hopes and aspirations that fill up waking daydreams and plans. These are the dreams that this poem is talking about. I certainly wouldn't want my actual nighttime dreams to come true--even the ones I remember.

1 comment:

  1. Just a reminder that Langston Hughes is the grandson of Oberlin graduate John Mercer Langston, who studied law in Elyria and became the first African American elected to the US Congress.. At times Hughes lived with his grandmother and he attended high school in Cleveland. So, a little local history.