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The Need For Dreams and Passion
Chua Mui Hoong

Four of us sat by the wharf the other day, and drank to life as the night glided past.

We could have drunk to material success, as we had two years or so ago.

Since then, each of us had taken faltering steps down that well-trodden path towards material well-being: Each had poured savings and contracted massive debts in pursuit of "property"; two had started modest business ventures; one had bought a new, bigger car.

But the other day, we drank to life, and the pursuit of dreams.

It gave us a pleasant glow in the heart. Even if, two years down the road, we return to teasing each other about the smart career moves we were not savvy enough to make, the wise investments we overlooked; even if we decide, two years down the road that our goal in life would be (an unattainable dream) to make more money than we can ever spend - at least for one balmy, star-studded night, we decided, if only half in jest, that we should chase our dreams.

Dreams are funny, gossamer-like things. They thrive in the darkness of the night when no one except your innermost self is around to hold them up to the harsh light of reality.

They are easy to brush aside like so many irritating cobwebs that get in the way of your daylight pursuit of wealth and significance. But the truth is that we all, whether larks or owls, live half our lives in darkness, when dreams swamp us.

There is a song in the immensely popular and profitable musical Les Miserables, which has haunted my mind since I first heard it several years ago.

A rich student revolutionary from the French Revolution (in today's terms, he would be one of those rich kids who thinks poverty is glamorous, and who wears torn jeans as a fashion statement) returns to the café where he and his friends had plotted to overturn tyranny to establish a new world order.

His friends are dead and gone and he remains and he sings the song called Empty Chairs And Empty Tables:

Oh my friends, my friends
Don't ask me what your sacrifice was for . . .
Here we sang about tomorrow, but tomorrow never came.

The song celebrates the fervour of youth and also questions if the passion spent and the blood shed were worthwhile.

Never mind that few of those they were seeking to liberate supported their cause initially.

Now, in the past-modern 20th century, it is chic to be cynical and to believe in nothing, except maybe oneself. In this kind of culture, enthusiasm is ridiculed, dreams are blasé and passion is deadly.

Those with dreams and the courage to follow the, have what I call passion.

Passion is a much maligned word. It is used to dignify that brand of sexual frenzy better described as lust.

Many have forgotten that the Passion also refers to the sufferings of Christ on the cross, when he showed his agonised love for flawed humanity by choosing to die in its place.

Passion also refers simply to a strong love for anything - a zest for life, perhaps, and passion for collecting things, or a passion for one's land.

Lifelong dreams are the stuff of passion.

I know people who dream of creating something - a work of art, a piece of musical composition, a volume of poetry - that lasts, or finding a love that lasts into the forever.

A friend of mine goes through phases in life: trying to learn ancient Greek and Hebrew to read the Bible; then a fascination with anything Russian that ended only after an impressive library of Russian history and political thought had been amassed, together with Russian T-shirts and badges; and now, it is a passion for golf.

A hobby or an interest becomes a passion when it has made inroads into your heart and changed the way you think and view things,

Passionate people dare to dream.

In life, there are the believers who have strong convictions and try to act them out, even if they seem ridiculous to others.

There are those who hate life and find it mundane and worthless.

I have no quarrel with heretics. They have come to a position, and stick to it.

The agnostics, the middle-of-the-fencers still unsure about their beliefs, whether in politics, or in religion, I can understand, and sympathise with.

But I fail to understand those who profess no beliefs, who do not care about anything beyond their immediate, small circle of family, work, friends.

Surely life must be salted with the tang of passionate beliefs and passionate doing?

Most people have dreams. Some pursue some of them some part of the way. Most give up in the end.

I, too, have my dreams, many too private to tell. Others do not touch the quick of the soul.

I have a dream of spending long, dark winters in a spray-tossed stone cottage somewhere in a cold country, with a warm fire and many good books, with the muse and a laptop, and preferably also a human companion, in attendance.

It is better, I submit, to believe in something passionately even if it is wrong, than to believe in nothing at all.

Today, all too often, the cynic is seen as the world-weary, jaded sophisticate who has seen it all before.

But in truth, the cynic is mean of spirit and destroys the passions of other with his own inability to be passionate.

For cynicism is a canker of the soul, that eats away at the largess of spirit in us.

Instead, dreams nourish the soul, and passion feeds the spirit.

The Straits Times

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