Practical Nature of These Dreams

August 28, 2014

If these terms sound too abstract and unattainable, historian Lewis Mumford clarifies the issue by emphasizing the extremely practical nature of our dreams and distinguishing them from idle fantasy.

a family might idealize a particular way of being charitable...

a family might idealize a particular way of being charitable…

He defines a dream very simply as an ideal vision whereby a social unit conceives “a reconstituted environment which is better adapted to the nature and aims of the human beings who dwell within it than the actual one.”(1)

...another of being prudent...

…another of being prudent…

That is to say, as soon as a family or social unit by consensus begins to conceive its own way of being or doing things that will hopefully make life better or more perfect, it is on its way towards creating its own myth or dream. In fact, Mumford claims with Anatole France that these dreams constitute the very principle of all progress, without which we might still be living as savages in caves.(2)

...another of being austere.

…another of being austere.

Thus, a family might idealize a particular way of being charitable, another of being prudent, still another of being austere. Each seeks to satisfy that deep psychological need to idealize its own dreams and organize its life accordingly, since “the things we dream of tend consciously or unconsciously to work themselves out in the pattern of our daily lives.”(3)

Subscription13

We should not fear that our dreams will not always be completely attainable. Rather, they should serve to guide us in a general direction. Like the magnetic needle of the compass that points us towards an ideal and unreachable “north,” Mumford notes that our dreams serve as guides to help us navigate safely on our way.

A Navy Sailor taking a compass reading whilst the ship was in convoy, during the Second World War.

A Navy Sailor taking a compass reading whilst the ship was in convoy, during the Second World War.

If our age seems culturally impoverished, it is not the fault of our dreams but because we have not dreamed enough. We do not listen to our dreams.

 

(1) Lewis Mumford, The Story of Utopias (New York: Viking Press, 1962), 21.

(2) See ibid., 22.

(3) Ibid., 25.

 

John Horvat, Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society—Where We’ve Been, How We Got Here, and Where We Need to Go (York, Penn.: York Press, 2013), 325.

 

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share

Previous post:

Next post: