You could call it our dream house – in many ways it is. Now months after moving in, we still wake up almost every day exclaiming how grateful and happy we are to be here. We love its urban energy, the constant flow of pedestrians walking by in front, the kids from across the alley giving our basketball hoop use in the back, the chatter over the fence sometimes in languages we don’t understand and the many neighborly greetings in words and gestures that we do understand.
To be sure, it’s not that we moved onto Easy Street. The house we bought last winter had a hole cut in the bedroom ceiling and a steady flow of water dripping into a bucket below, right where we’d hoped our bed would go. Today, leak and ceiling long patched, an ever growing list of other repairs awaits our limited time and budget, making us keenly aware that the dream house we live in is, and always will be, a work in progress. As is our neighborhood, our city, our nation, our world.
I used to think the phrase “Living the dream,” marked an arrival, a landing in circumstances where goals had been reached and longings were satisfied. But neither our beloved new home with its endless need of patching, nor the state of the world in our troubled times, suggests that dreams can be achieved with such finality. How can any of us be living the dream today, when our world is tragically unraveling into a chaos that seems to deepen daily?
I wonder: What is the role of dreams in a time like this? What do we do with our longings in such chaos? Is it still possible to live them?
I am coming to believe it is imperative that we do. That we inhabit our dreams. That we listen to our longings, especially when things are falling apart; wear them boldly as we march and work for justice. That we practice the compassion we are calling for – even with our opponents. That we do whatever we can to build the world we want by living in it now, wherever and however we can, making it real as we go.
This is the inspiring message of adrienne maree brown’s book, emergent strategy, in which she makes a compelling case for practicing the love and justice we seek in our movements for change. “At the human scale,” brown writes, “in order to create a world that works for more people, for more life, we have to collaborate on the process of dreaming and visioning and implementing that world.” This is the work and the challenge of “transformative justice.”
“What we are all really asking,” she says, “is how do we, who know the world needs to change, begin to practice being different? How do we have to be for justice to truly be transformative?”
If we redefine “living the dream” in this way, are you living it today? What does it look like when you are? Or, if you’re not, what might it look like if you imagine living it tomorrow? What would it be like for all of us, who know the world needs to change, to wake up each day in our broken world so in need of patient and persistent patching and to love it enough to feel grateful to be here. To really belong to our longings, repairing ourselves and our relationships as we do, living out the dream of transformative justice one repair, one day at a time?
If you wish to gather with others exploring this theme, consider attending a weekend retreat I’m leading in October, “Belonging to Our Longings.” This is a seeker’s writing retreat — for writers and non writers alike. We’ll use guided writing, conversation, gentle movement, and other playful and contemplative practices, discovering the transformative power of belonging to our longings in troubled times.
Or to write about it now, think about some moment in the past week, when you have experienced a connection with someone that gave you hope and stirred your gratitude. Imagine nurturing that sense of connection with others. Think of one relationship or situation where you could start, and write about that, beginning with the prompt “With a little practice and repair ….” And follow wherever it leads.