I’ve been reading entries from Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans. The entry on Alexander the Great will make you regret having read any other printed words first. So very interesting.
One aspect that makes it especially intriguing is how Plutarch, with the stated aim of capturing what moved these giants of history, references over and over again how dreams, bird signs, and other non-duplicatable, often mystical, pre-scientific experiences (and their interpretations) drove Alexander.
Whether to fight the battle today or tomorrow, Plutarch tells us, Alexander might decide based on a flock of birds having appeared. If Alexander found himself in a stretch of mourning after he killed someone in a fit of violent passion, he might have allowed his priestly oracles to interpret a dream and the interpretation was then used to stir him back to life.
This is on my mind today because I had a bizarre dream early this morning. Quick backstory: I have a checkride coming up. If the weather held, it would’ve been today. (Weather didn’t hold.) In any case, last night I went to bed around eleven. I awoke at four to use the restroom. I couldn’t fall back asleep.
Next thing I know, I was in some kind of building—like a cabin in a dense forrest or jungle—and my wife, stepson, and baby daughter were also around in the dreamscape. I can’t remember the beginning of the dream, but the drama grew when I saw a vividly green—off-white underbelly—and huge lizard (think something between Komodo dragon and the thing Obi Wan rides in Episode III). Like all dreams the exact sequence and details are hazy, but I know for certain that I was afraid of it and wanted to protect my family from it. It wasn’t on the attack, but I knew that it—by nature—would try to bite anything that got close enough for it to grab hold of.
My wife wasn’t as afraid as I was, and actually was, herself, in the process of removing two smaller lizards that had climbed onto her, as if it was no big thing.
The rest of the dream was basically of the theme that I was very worried and fearful of the big lizard, while nobody else’s demeanor matched my concern. It was uncomfortable, but in the end I awoke.
My interpretation? In my rookie days of contemplating the meaning of my dreams, I would’ve overlooked the first and major point of this dream, being, despite the general theme of fear, I was not eaten or fatally attacked. This leads me to acknowledge that the dream means I have nothing to fear. I will prevail.
Secondly, the fact that my wife was there and almost carelessly removing small lizards—while I was fearing the big one—means that I had something to do with the size of the lizard after me, means that I didn’t handle business when the lizard was small. This, then, I interpret to mean that I am the cause of the fear. I let my anxiety (likely over the pending checkride) grow disproportionately. How to fix that? Daily preparation. Fight small, winnable battles as they come rather than feeding the beast the fruits of procrastination.
Now let me ask you, dear reader, a question. Hasn’t this little blog post made me more likable? Isn’t it more relatable? President Trump is so anti-authority as it stands, I can’t see why this type of thing wouldn’t help him achieve the immortality that he seems to desire. I’m serious. None of us have a real understanding of just exactly what makes him wake up in the morning. And even if we believe it’s “love of America”, that still doesn’t really tell us much. But through dreams and bird signs etc, and how he responds, we’d be sure to see a fuller picture—maybe even one we like.
“That’s it. That’s my dream,” Ryan concluded. “What do you think it means?”
“So before your walk-off, World Series winning, grand slam home run landed on the other side of the wall, the baseball hit a naked Scarlett Johansson in the vagina?”
“I think it’s pretty clear that you want to have sex with Scarlett Johansson.”
Ryan chuckled and sheepishly added, “You’re probably right.”
“Here’s one for you. This dream is the most vivid dream I’ve ever dreamt. To me, that makes it the most important as well.”
“I’m all ears.”
“The setting was right out of the latest Rambo movie–the one in Burma. Do you remember it?”
“Well there was a part where the bad guys were torturing the civilians. They made them walk across this ankle-deep rice paddy pool of muddy water in the jungle. Picture a square pond thingy. The bad guys had thrown in a bunch of landmines and then were forcing the folks to cross it at gunpoint. It was kind of a variation of Russian roulette. The bad guys were all betting in the background.”
“I think I’m with ya.”
“Okay. So in my dream, the water was deeper, but only like thigh-deep, and roped off in lanes like a lap pool would be. There were no good guys or bad guys, just people. And there were bleachers on the sides, where everyone sat waiting for their turn. It was some sort of military training thing-”
“Wait. Did you have this dream while you were still in?”
“-No. This was after I got out. But not too much after.”
“Back to the pool. In my dream, there were no landmines. Instead, there were anacondas or boa constrictors or something. Whatever their name, they were huge snakes that wrap around their prey to kill it. What the people who were running the training wanted us to do was feel what it was like to be wrapped up by the snakes. But obviously they didn’t want us dead, so they would kill the snake before the snake killed us.”
“No thank you.”
“Right? Anyhow, what was supposed to happen was we would climb into a lane and start wading across to the other side. Then the snake attacks, and then, not a moment too soon, the staff jumps in to cut us free.”
“Well, here’s the kicker. A buddy from work was in the dream. He was also a veteran. He was sitting beside me on the bleacher, towel-drying off. He had already done it. I was waffling back and forth unable to decide whether I wanted to or not. I knew it would be probably the coolest man-card hole-punch ever to be able to say that I was wrapped up by a thirty foot long killer snake, but I’m not terribly fond of snakes as it is, nor did I really want to trust my life to the hope that other men would time their rescue just right. So I was trying to tell him that I didn’t want to do it. He began to kid me about being afraid and I got angry and serious and began to tell him how I was done with all this “prove myself” nonsense. But then, right as I was sure I was leaving, I began to think about the glory and nearly decided to just do it.”
“So what’d you do?”
“I don’t know. I woke up before I had made up my mind.”
An odd group, certainly. The worst men make ritual disembowelment seem like the only sensible thing to do, while the best men…well the best men inspire us to become better men.
Like hitch hikers just dropped at a truck stop, we look around and evaluate the passing scene. Too often we are surrounded by mediocre men.
As constant evaluators, we sometimes forget to report our findings. This is undesirable and unproductive. We can forge a better life through regular highlighting of qualities the best men put into practice.
To begin, they are flawed. More to the point, they recognize they are flawed, and they do not hide it.
Next, they possess a humility that my own awesomeness seems unlikely to ever achieve.
They are genuine, or perhaps authentic works better. You cannot catch them off guard. They are who they are, no apologies, and who they are is worth noting.
They are well-read. Life has seasons, of that there is no doubt. But these men and television divorced a long time ago.
Lastly, for today, they are ready and willing to help, if we’ll only just ask. By help, we mean nothing more than them choosing to spend their limited time on us.
Let us not forget, then, that even great men need encouragement. Let us not forget that these men still exist in this world, feel its pressures, and are pulled daily by the temptation to give up. Let us not forget to say thank you when their life enhances ours.
David: Thank you.
If you’re on your computer, it’s best to set the tone with a little mood music: open in new tab.
Dear Mars One applicant,
Did you know US astronaut Clayton Anderson was rejected by NASA for its astronaut training program 15 times, yet in 2007 he boarded the Space Shuttle Atlantis for a trip to the International Space Station. He proved anything can happen and no door is ever completely closed.
You, and just over 200,000 other aspiring astronauts around the world, took a bold step in applying to be one of our first heroes to leave Earth permanently for a new life on another planet. We cannot thank you enough for your daring effort.
At this time, we’ve made the decision to reduce our applicant pool down to just over 1000 and your application has been declined. Let’s talk about what that means.
This is not the end of your dream. We will be reopening the application process for you at a date to be determined in 2014. We want you to seriously consider re-applying. Each and every applicant, including yourself, who was not chosen in in this initial round, will have many other chances to re-enter the selection pool and try again. Don’t give up.
If you’re wondering why you’re applicant was put on hold, please review the selection criteria here. This is the criteria we used when considering your application.
Our goals are the same – human life on Mars and advancing humankind’s evolution as a multiplanetary species. Let’s continue our mission together!
Mars One Selection Committee
What do you say? Should I keep applying? I say…Yes!
Terrified, he found himself surrounded by his familiar bedding. He had made it out alive. He was convinced that with each nightmare he was coming closer and closer to not waking up. But each nightmare revealed a truth, so he knew he must persevere. Upon wake-up, the truth was never immediately clear, and this morning was no different. He remembered bits and pieces. He remembered an enormous building. He remembered doors twice a man’s size. He remembered enormous symmetrical staircases.
The lighting was particularly notable. From the outside of the castle, he believed he must have been in the dark ages, but the interior was lit up like a Christmas tree. Oddly, there were no light fixtures, just floating candles emanating tremendous amounts of purifying light. Nearly blinded, he had to hold his hand up to look toward the flames.
“What is this place?” he thoughtlessly wondered aloud.
“Right this way, Peter,” said a voice, startling him out of rationality. He followed a women whose appearance was that of a nurse, though her genuine warmness caused him to doubt his senses. She led him down a corridor. He followed her silent lead and soon began noticing the muffled sounds of whimpering. He was so focused on not losing sight of his guide that he failed to perceive that along either side of the corridor were doors. The whimpering was coming from behind those doors.
“Hey, do you think you can slow down?” he questioned. She only turned her head slightly, letting him know she heard him. “Fine,” he thought to himself. He resolved to jog a bit to catch up and then pause to open one of the doors. The jog took longer than he expected, but he finally was nearly to her, when he again heard a whimper. Twisting the door handle, he braced for anything. It was a couple. They looked at him with an uncommon determination. He could tell they were there by choice, and that the whimpering was simply their conviction manifested.
A loud cry caused him to look back to the corridor and realize the nurse was barely visible any more. It sounded like a child. He ran and he ran to catch her. The faster he ran, the louder the cry became. Soon, he heard many cries. Soon, the cries became familiar. Soon, he made sense of the scene and could guess where he was. Until this moment, he had only heard about the practice he believed he was witnessing. As he finally caught up to the nurse, she slowed to a stop and pointed overhead. The sign read, “Parents, thank you for your courage. You’ve done great so far, and we’re here to help with the rest of the process. Please leave your baby here and find yourself a comfortable room to wait in. When the process is complete, we’ll bring your baby back to you.”
Recalling the delightful smile she gave as she told him the inside joke, he finally stumbled upon this nightmare’s truth. She said, “Don’t tell anyone, but among the staff, we call this corridor the ‘Hall o’ Wean.’ Tee-hee!” In that instant it all became clear. Today’s witches were clearly descended from the nursing staff. The rarely seen doctors come to us, surely, as ghosts. But most certain was the development of trick-or-treating. A smirk formed as he pictured all those poor babies being carried from door to door in search of their parents.
In the end, with medical science’s resounding defense of weaning, he could finally see that this holiday, which he previously thought to be ridiculous, was well-founded and rightly deserved memorialization.
He was Top Cadet, Top Friend, Top Suburban Son, Top Forrest Boy, Top Gun, Top Bartender, Top Brother, Top Veteran, Top Car, Top Immigrant, Top Lawyer, Top Informant, Top Vampire, Top Spy, Top Spy 2, Top Spy 3, Top Spy 4, Top Spy with a Sense of Humor, Top Sports Agent, Top Freak, Top Motivational Speaker, Top Crazy Man, Top Future Cop, Top Samurai, Top Hit Man, Top Normal Guy, Top Politician, Top Director, Top Nazi Traitor, Top Rock Star, Top Ex-Cop, and most recently Top Astronaut. I can be talking about none other than the Top Actor of the World, Tom – T.C. to me – Cruise!
Just the facts: I saw Top Gun when I was 8 and went on to become a military pilot. My first anniversary out of the military occurred last year, and I figured it would be a good time to watch the movie again. It had been about 7 years since I last saw it. So much had happened in my time in the military that I was curious what I would think as I watched it again. You know what? As the movie ended, I felt like I was 8 again. I thought to myself, “Man, I can’t wait to grow-up so I can be a military pilot.” Then I realized, “Wait a minute, I’ve already done that!”
The moment that followed was singular. I realized that I don’t think I ever actually wanted to be a military pilot. I realized that all these years I actually wanted to be Tom Cruise. Or at least like him, Top Actor.
This thought terrified me. You see, recently I joined a Toastmasters public speaking club. Toastmasters is an organization that pushes people to follow their dreams. The club I am a part of is no different. Besides being overly encouraging, they are time keepers. If you tell them your goal, they will help keep you accountable. I knew that if I told any of them that I wanted to be Top Actor, they would literally start encouraging me to follow my dream to Hollywood.
Thus, I was faced with a dilemma. I joined Toastmasters to challenge myself. This was the perfect topic for a speech. However, there was no way I could share this dream of mine with this particular group of people.
Then it hit me! What if I just told them the truth?
Of all the people who make excuses for not following their dreams, I think I have the best excuse ever. I thought that maybe I could convince them that some people just shouldn’t follow their dreams. And I was one of those people.
Think about it. As a pilot, I spent 8 years perfecting my radio-call voice. You know what I’m talking about. The very monotone, betraying no emotion, professional way of speaking. Besides being monotone, a radio-call is also a strictly formatted four-part way of communicating. There is not much room for deviation from the monotone four-part format.
My thesis: I argue that even Tom Cruise himself couldn’t become Top Actor if, like me, he had to overcome 8 years of speaking in a radio-call voice and format.
And I can prove it. In order to do so, I need to take you through a few examples of how his movies would’ve sounded if he made them in a monotone, four-part radio call format.
To begin, allow me to take you back to the living room at the end of Top Sports Agent. In the movie he says, “…We live in a cynical world. A cynical world. And we work in a business of tough competitors. I love you. You… complete me.” To which Dorothy interrupts, “Shut up. (Sniff) Just shut up. You had me at hello.” Pretty powerful stuff, no? Well, let’s see what that would look like if a T.C. would’ve had my restrictions. Here goes.
*Pshh* Ahh Dorothy…This is Jerry…I’m standing in your living room and ahhh…We live in a cynical world. BREAK *Pshh* … *Pshh* …A cynical world. And we work in a business of tough competitors. BREAK *Pshh* … *Pshh* …Ahhh…I love you. You complete me. *Pshh*
*Pshh* Ahh Jerry…Dorothy here…Standing in the same room…Shut up. Just shut up. You had me at hello. *Pshh*
I mean come on! There is NO WAY anyone would have identified with those characters or that sentiment.
I can hear some of you already. You’re saying, “Hey, wait a minute. You picked an easy one, a chick flick. I bet some of his other movies would have sounded alright.” Okay, I’ll take that bet. And I’ll raise you. Let’s jump right to a military movie. Top Lawyer. You remember it. Lt. Caffy thundering away while leading Colonel Nathan R. Jessup expertly toward admitting he ordered the CODE RED. Let’s pick it up with Colonel Jessup. He asks, “You want answers?” Lt. Caffy replies, “I think I’m entitled them.” “Yawan’answers!” “I want the TRUTH!” “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!..” And then the great speech about walls begins. Now, here’s how the scene would have played out if T.C. was a pilot.
*Pshh* Ahh Lt. Caffy…Colonel Jessup here…sitting in the witness stand…Do you want answers? *Pshh*
*Pshh* Ahh Colonel Jessup…Lt. Caffy speaking…I’m at your 11…I think I’m entitled them. *Pshh*
*Pshh* Ahh Lt. Caffy…Colonel Jessup again…still in the witness stand…Do you want answers? *Pshh*
*Pshh* Ahh Colonel Jessup…Lt. Caffy here…I’ve haven’t moved…I want the truth. *Pshh*
*Pshh* Ahh Lt. Caffy…Colonel Jessup here…once again from the witness stand…You can’t handle the truth. *Pshh*
See? No drama. It would have been annoying. No one would have told their friends to go see Top Lawyer.
At this point, I think I’ve done enough to prove I’m right; and I should not follow my dreams. In all fairness, though, we need to come full-circle. Some of you are thinking, “Well, he seems to have a good point. Maybe he couldn’t become Top Actor. …Except that Top Gun is the movie that really put T.C. on the map, and in it he made radio-calls. So, no, I won’t let him off the hook, his theory is destroyed by Top Gun.” I respond, “Is it?” Do you really believe that the radio calls are what made that movie? We all know what made that movie and transformed Tom Cruise from Top Forrest Boy into Top Actor. The bar scene. “You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your li-i-ips.” Goose takes over, “There’s no tenderness like before in your feeengerrti-i-ips.” Back to TC, “You’re trying hard not to show it…” Entire bar. (It’s appropriate to join in wherever you are right now, too.) “BAYYY-BEE!” “But baby! Believe me, I knoooow i-it…” And on and on. A scene like that spawns a career. Here’s how it would look radio-call style.
*Pshh* Ahh Pretty blonde woman…Maverick here…at your six…you never close your eyes anymore… BREAK *Pshh* … *Pshh* …when I kiss your lips. *Pshh*
*Pshh* Ahh Blondie…Goose speaking…at your eleven…There’s no tenderness like before…BREAK *Pshh* … *Pshh* …In your fingertips. *Pshh*
*Pshh* Ahh Blonde woman… Maverick again…I’m the one at your 12 o’clock…You’re trying hard not to show it…BREAK *Pshh* … *Pshh* …baby. BREAK *Pshh* … *Pshh* …But baby, believe me I know it. *Pshh*
Whew! Need I say more? Need-I-Say-More? Terrible. I’m bored writing this. “Tom who?” That’s what you would say to me if he had made his movies the way I have had to speak for the last 8 years.
There you have it, proof positive that some people shouldn’t follow their dreams. I am one of those people. Are you? Are you you holding on to any dreams that need to be given up? I find my answers in the movies. Maybe you will to. It’s like in the movie Lion King when Rafiki tells adult Simba that to discover his destiny he needs to, “Look hahhhder.”