Recapture the Wonder
- Thursday, November 13, 2003
Attaining the Dream
An acquaintance of mine was visiting France's famous art gallery, the Louvre. As he was walking silently from room to room, he saw a group of blind students being led by their teacher. Blind students in an art gallery cannot but draw one's curiosity. But the instructor became their eyes, going to great lengths to describe each painting. Then he led them to a room where the statue of an ancient Greek Olympic athlete stood on a pedestal. The teacher took each student's hand, one by one, and guided it so that the student could feel the muscle-bound figure and the "perfect physique" of this specimen. The young boys were awe-stricken just to touch the powerful body, contoured down to its very veins in stone, all asking if they could feel his muscles once more. Then some of these spindly-legged youngsters started to feel each other's thin arms and giggled and chuckled at the difference. Their faces said it all: "What must it be like to have that physique? That's life the way it was meant to be. You have that and you have everything."
It is here that we grasp the underlying struggle common to both, though in appearance and accomplishment the impoverished old man and the idolized young athlete are worlds apart. No one, for example, would look at the muscular giant and say, "How can there be a God when a man like this looks so good?" No, success and prowess do not logically provoke skepticism about God's existence. But they may lead to an easy delusion-that this well-built champion is a thoroughly fulfilled individual and that life is wonderful for a person so obviously blessed with an enviable physique. Wretchedness and failure understandably breed cynicism. Power and beauty, we assume, bring contentment. One has lost all hope for what he would make of his life; the other has attained the ideal. But the question emerges, Has he really? On the surface it would appear to be true. Yet I have my doubts.
You see, fulfilled dreams are not necessarily fulfilled hopes. Attainment and fulfillment are not the same. Many dream and wish for the attainments that would make us the envy of our world. Careers, positions, possessions, romance . . . these are real goals, pursued by the vast majority who are deluded into believing that succeeding in these areas brings fulfillment. But deep within there is some stronger longing, sometimes even hard to pinpoint. We know there is a vacuum, a space of huge proportions that seeks a state of mind that attainments cannot fill. That dream of ultimate fulfillment is intangible but recognizable, indefinable but felt, verbalized but imprecise, visualized but blurred, inestimable but traded in for something less, something daily. I suggest it is the greatest pursuit of every life, consciously or unconsciously, and it is not mitigated by one's worldly success. That pursuit is the grand theme of this book.
We pity the man at the garbage dump because his impoverishment is stark and his disfigurement is visible. But then we sit in front of our television screens or in movie theaters, or thumb through our fashion magazines eyeing symbols of beauty and success-the icons of our time-and we do not see the scavenging that goes on within them, the searching through every success to find something of transcending worth, the plastic smiles, the contoured shapes, the schizoid hungers for privacy and recognition at the same time. Dreams attained? I think not. They are still looking for "somewhere, over the rainbow."
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