I have come to understand the American Dream in a whole new way. It grows out of an INNER struggle in each of us between two conflicting values…views.
I’ve noticed that throughout the history of the United States this inherent human struggle has created an American dream with two very strong and compelling traditions. They have been characterized as two separate and competing dreams and histories. One dream (the dominate dream) is the traditional rags to riches story of pulling oneself up by one’s boot straps. It stresses independence, self responsibility, and an everyone-for-themselves mentality. We all can make it if we work hard enough. This dream feeds our ego and makes us feel confident (perhaps arrogant) that we can do anything we choose, it can bring us exciting delicious and addictive stuff, and also feelings of great accomplishment (and great failure). The first dream is based on the ideas of competition, of striving to be better than others, and of working hard to build wealth for oneself.
When someone asks me for money on the street this dream makes me go through the internal struggle, “why should I give this person money- they should get a job and earn it themselves.”
The second dream makes me feel guilty for not helping them. This second dream recognizes that nothing we have is solely because of our own efforts. It fosters humility, social justice, peace, love, hope, kindness, empathy, generosity, compassion, and openness to other’s ideas. The second dream feeds connection, creates affinity and invites collaboration. It stresses interdependence, mutual responsibility for everyone, and a we’re-all-in- this-together mentality.This dream is based on working together to building wealth for everyone in our community.
In the first dream we struggle to get by, and when we do well we consider ourselves successful We shop to feel better. We feed corporations with our labor and our spending, and in return we have convenience and a lot of stuff.
In the second dream we feel success as our relationships with each other guarantee well being for all. We work together with integrity to feel better, We feed our communities with our attention, our energy and skills and in return have all we need to live an abundant life.
I’ve learned in my travels that the dream that becomes real in my life is the dream to which I give my attention and energy. It is my choices that make that dream come true. Which dream do you choose?