“I have a dream…” One of the most powerful phrases uttered in the 20th century.
Uttered by someone who, according to the prevailing powers of the day, wasn’t supposed to have a voice.
Spoken to people who were not supposed to be there. But who were drawn, not by mass organisation or slick communications, but by a sense that they had to be. And it cost them, far more than most of us today will ever realise.
And the phrase wasn’t even in the speech that Dr Martin Luther King, Jr had prepared for the March on Washington.
From deep within
As we read the 1963 speech, we do get a sense of the occasion. Dr King lays out the case of freedom, for equal citizenship, and the belief that the “bank of justice“ is not bankrupt. It’s compelling and powerful.
But then he reaches deep inside and starts to pour out his soul. Not in accusation but in a vision. A story of how things could be.
“I have a dream…“ is not a catchphrase, it has emotional depth and visceral dimensions.
It erupts because it can’t be contained. It is reality on a different plane.
He cannot not say it. The occasion calls it forth and it’s there, already formed. Whilst the detailed expression may not have been drafted word-for-word previously, the images are powerfully present in the six versions of “I have a dream…” during the speech.
He had nurtured, lived and breathed this dream until it was fully formed. And in taking the risk of sharing it, he opened the door for others to enter into his emotional labour and be party to the dream.
This was not the language of the early 1960s. People might share their anger, but not their tender, inmost being. And certainly not in a way that would connect with all people – black and white, young and old, male and female. It offered hope and compassion – a platform for everyone who wanted a better world. And for those who resisted change, who wanted the residual power of the status quo, it was a dark mirror.
Clearly, we are not there yet… But without this dream, I wonder where we would be now. Or how many more would have lost their lives and their dignity?
So what about our dreams? Do we even give ourselves permission to go there?
My sense is that we have to be prepared to clear away the clutter that fills our hearts, minds and lives, in order to allow ourselves to breathe. This is the quiet space where seeds that may have been dormant for years, germinate and grow.
We are not alone when we dream, because our dreams are not just for us. The day will come when we need to find our voice and speak them out. Because that’s the day we find that others share the dream too. And together we can make the kind of difference we were created for. Whatever that looks like.
Like Dr Martin Luther King, Jr – who had a dream that changed the world.
Thanks for reading – take care of your dreams
I didn’t start out to write a whole week of posts on dreams and dreaming. But felt compelled to work with it… I’m glad I did and hope you find these short posts stimulating too.
- Monday: Where do dreams come from?
- Tuesday: Call to dreamers
- Wednesday: Dreaming and thinking
- Thursday: Clearing out the Clutter
- Friday: Space for our imagination
I’ve also been enjoying the Lent 40 Podcasts from Martin Wroe and Malcolm Doney based on their new book Lifelines: Notes on Life and Love, Faith and Doubt