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VAT: Mar/Apr Volunteerism's Newsletter Vintage: 1996

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Rules for Dreamers

Dr. Ivan Scheier   .  

The role of Dreamcatcher was described earlier in this series, defined generally as "helping people make their dreams come true, where ‘dream' means a goal, purpose, or positive vision for enhancing life in a community."

In five years working as a dreamcatcher at the VOLUNTAS residence in Madrid, I picked up some pointers on attitudes and approaches which seemed to help people achieve their dreams. I shared these thoughts with people who came to the residence in search of their dreams and I share them now with you.

Indeed, maybe we shouldn't get too hung up m "success" in any sense. Most of the winning dreamers I know are not at all afraid to fail. It's not just that they don't let fear of failure intimidate them; it's that they learn from failure, even capitalize on it, in ways which transform setback to success. So, make plenty of mistakes, but try not to repeat the same ones too often. Always look for creative new mistakes.

So cultivate a certain modest tolerance of poverty but don't glory in it. Poverty snobs are prone to get uncomfortable for lack of basics. And you're not usually too effective in a survival mode. (Author's aside,: this is the point at which I usually pass the hat.)

Either as martyr or hero (self-declared), don't take yourself too seriously. I dread the day when I'm no longer able to see myself as just a little bit ridiculous (not always, of course.)

You needn't laugh so hard it hurts. Just be sure that when it hurts too hard, you laugh.

That's a maxim you might need because, typically, pain is the price of dreams. Isolation and frustration have already been mentioned. Then you sometimes beware stake- holders in the status quo. Usually, they vastly outnumber riskers-for-change and are far more powerful. If they see your dream as a threat to their status quo - and it often is - they will do everything possible to block you. In so doing, they can be both fierce and pious (consciously or unconsciously). And until you've had a good friend as one of them, you don't know what pain is.

So, don't calibrate your visions on the applause meter. On the other hand, just because creativity is deviant in its own time, don't be deviant for its own sake, just to shock or gain attention. People will think you're deviant enough without any special effort on your part. And, by the way, people who smile when they call you crazy" are excusing you, not affirming you.

That yearning is the stuff of dreams, and it doesn't work according to formula. So, it may have been a bit catchy to talk about rules for dreamers but it's also probably somewhat of a contradiction in terms. Strictly speaking, there are no rules for dreamers. All we have is information, expectation, hope and passion. Why should we expect more? And how can we accept less?


Earlier versions of this essay appeared some years ago in the Journal of Volunteer Administration and, more recently, in 'Once Volunteering was for Dreamers" (VOLUNTAS, 1993). It, and the essay "On Becoming a Dreamcatcher," which appeared in our last issue form part of a book in preparation, provisionally entitled "The Midwifery of Dreams."