All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up to find that it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day… they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom
The known universe has no appeal. I am American and I speak English but I have no idea what everyone is talking about. At this time time, such a long time ago, I’m in my early 20s and it simply hasn’t dawned on me but the reality was and still is that 90% of conversation in America is based on either cliches or television and visual media. Art mimics one man and the other 319,999,999 people mimic art… Stars that emitted light existed outside the box of the suburban foothills of Americana and to they I was drawn.
A teacher succeeds as he or she plants a seed that grows and forms a tree and a life. A book and a story, Lonely Planet and the tale of a young man travelling to the southern tip of the world, Tierra Del Fuego. Land of Fire; how could you not want to go? The best of dreams will remain in a realm between consciousness and subconsciousness, like a leaf in a stream just large enough to keep from floating over the edge, into the infinity of the subconscious, ready and waiting for the time it is needed to be collected…
A young woman from Los Angeles models in Japan and this sounds so strange and fascinating; why would a model go to Japan? Perhaps I would too, but what a dream it was! How exciting at the time, how incredible to think about such an opportunity. To hold onto a thought for such a long time and then one day you are in Tokyo, 20 years old, drinking for free while girls are dancing on top of a bar. The Cult, I am a moralistic ass, someone has written ‘The United States of Shit’ across a map of the USA, how dare they! Why did they though? I am drinking Nescafe on a billboard and kneeling with my head in a womans’ crotch in another one. Agent: “Don’t you want to come home?” Me: “No, I want to go to Paris”. Tokyo to Paris, are these the Pyrenees mountains? How did we get to Alaska? Perhaps I am on the wrong flight! Milano and Roxy Music, the Enrico Coveri show, American girl, sex and venereal disease, now that’s living. Luigi, he is famous in this world. Agency: Why Not? I should stay, he will work with me. I am overwhelmed. At that time. At that age. Yes, I want to come home.
Once it is in motion, in the affirmative or not, you are on a trajectory that could only be stopped with the strong backbone of upbringing infused with the concept of career. Otherwise, if you were like me, floating and in the world of ether and space, which has no boundaries and extends into the infinity, authority to tether me down non- existent, those dreams of the day would become central to where you ended up next. But perhaps the vanity belonged to the daydreamers… One day back in Japan, I met two young women who had been backpacking through Southeast Asia and were now teaching English in Japan. But what does all that actually mean…
Backpacking: in 1987 and where I grew up, who could know? Though more ubiquitous now, we’re talking about another time, another era. And we’re not talking about walking across a mountain, though you can certainly do that too. Backpacking: mobile, self-sufficient, like a leaf in the wind…
Three trips to Japan and one year of your life living there then you awake one day to the reality that the 80s are over and there is no more work for you. The subconscious mind hits the default button because your conscious mind can’t figure out what to do next. You go back to school, you find a job. What are you going to do? I will become something that I don’t want to be, but, wait, there is something there, teetering on the brink between reality and the abyss. What if? Why not? Instead of taking buses to the land of fire, why don’t you just drive a car? The perception of freedom is everything. Yes, omg, the ultimate road trip, that will be the dream, I will be a backpacker, but not really. I will backpack out of my own vehicle. And why stop there? Afterall, cars are confining, bulky, there are limits on the roads you can take. What if I do it on a motorcycle? I will grow my hair long, I will put Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson and Che Guevara all to shame, although I have absolutely no idea who they all are at that time. I will drive my motorcycle to Ushuaia, Tierra Del Fuego. It is the dream of dreams.
Now, I have to be honest, what I learned then and what has consistently proven itself to be true each and every time is that the concept, the idea, the dream and its planning and preparation; in short the daydreaming, is always the most fascinating part. The execution of the dream, though potentially amazing, is invariably fraught with real life problems; the lightness of the dream contrasts severely with the weight of living it. Thus I proceeded with planning one of the most amazing adventures I could have come up with. Afterall, there is no greater reason to drop out of school than to zigzag 60,000 kilometers across two continents over the course of 14 months.
Freedom or the illusion of it? A metaphor of being born, living and then upon returning, death. To live the cycle of life within a life, is it extraordinary? If it only means something to me, then it is only important to me. Who will pay attention to me for what I’ve done now? I rise, then fall within the vastness of I.
It is a fact that one day, a long time in the future, the universe will end. That doesn’t mean that another one, a parallel one, won’t fill in the void, but every known and unknown star, planet, all physical existence as we know it, will one day be gone. So if you think your dreams will never die you are vastly mistaken… The only question of course, is how to replace the universe. And so it is born anew.
If I had to grow up and work then I wanted to build and run a backpackers by the beach, like one of those magical places I stayed at myriad times along the beaches of Mexico, Colombia, Brazil and so many other countries in the region. Now, here is where our story reaches a crucial point. Seemingly a choice. How will I fund this new endeavor? What should the next step be in attaining this new dream? Though, I hate to disappoint you: There was never any choice, it is all just illusion. I am and was only me. It is possible to say, I wish I had finished University and learned how to do this or that, learned some sense that I lacked, learned to be organized, learned the tools of life (because, let’s face it, what did I know how to do?). But there is no ‘I wish I had’, because I did not. Perhaps you would have, but not me. So I went to Alaska.
I mean no disrespect to fish, but a shortcut in life leads to a whole slew of decisions that like a stone thrown in a pond, though you never would have thought, end up effecting people whom you still hadn’t met yet. May we all share in the blame.
Two young women, backpacking in Southeast Asia and teaching English in Japan becomes not such a young man anymore but young enough to backpack across the Middle East, write a book about riding a motorcycle through Latin America that no one will read and begin to teach English in Turkey. Why Turkey, why Turkey, why Turkey? I just mentioned it stupid, I was backpacking across the Middle East and though I met so many lovely people there, especially Ghada from Palestine who learned how to shoot a bazooka in a Palestinian military camp in Tunisia when she was a kid, who, really, would want to stay in the Middle East for very long? I know, but I wasn’t one of them…
Turkey, on the other hand… Sadly, it is not my purpose here to talk about the pleasures of Turkey and why one would want to stay. Afterall, a new dream had already formed. I would open a backpackers on the shores of Central America; perhaps Panama or Costa Rica. Dreams and passions, however, like ideas, morph. They change shape constantly because they are in fact, shapeless ideas ruminating in that pool of leaves with the soft sounds of water trickling down moss covered stones. If it wasn’t so, how could you go to work in Alaska?
All it takes is a few angry people from that very place already mentioned to fly a few airplanes into the heart of America and almost everybody’s plans, hopes and dreams will have changed. How could they not? There are those Americans who must have fled back home, tails between their legs, hightailing it out of the murderous clutches of the Islamic world. I doubled down and stayed. I was in another space altogether. I wanted to neither be here nor there. We could call it Istanbul, but it wasn’t a physical place. A very lonely place to be.
I went to Assos. A young woman took my hand while we lay on a pier over a dark Aegean Sea underneath a universe of darkness and light, of weightlessness and extraordinary mass. I wanted to find a place between here and there, somewhere between the two. A place I did not have the directions of how to get to.
What did I know how to do? What did I know how to be?
Kabak Valley, 2001. If you had thought that the worlds most beautiful places would have all been discovered pre-2001, you’d have been wrong. To my eternal surprise, one day I found myself standing above such a place and it wasn’t that no one else had come to this very point and marvelled at the same beauty that I was now looking at, but I realized then, that what I ‘knew’, what I had learned because I had up to that point travelled so extensively is that where I was, was either illusory, or else, I thought, I have just ‘discovered’ the next most beautiful place in the world. Imagine a place where not even the villagers really understood what they were sitting on top of.
Reflections Camp, Kabak Valley; the tangents we could go on.
The dream disappoints. I am not that guy. I am good at being that guy but I am not him. I need to dream again and so I do. I dream of taking my architectural and design ideas from Reflections and developing them into something more professional, grander. Something that will be talked about because it is so truly unique and special. Here, however, is where we must go back to the crucial divergence in our story of how to proceed: investment in yourself, acquiring the skills needed to fulfil the dreams you have in the most effective way possible. Again though, we cannot go back because he, I never was.
So I designed and eventually built what I had dreamed of. I built The Mandala House. This ‘dream’ seemed to be so because it was bigger than me, bigger than what I should have been capable of doing. I realized that one definition of a dream was something that was so much more than you could ever have previously thought yourself capable of doing. It was so much bigger than you and if you weren’t careful, it could easily overwhelm you. And it did.
A dream is where your ego aspires to be. As long as the tools at your disposal are commensurate with the size of your ego, this is fine. If they are not, sadly, your ego will propel you towards the sun, your wings will burn and disintegrate and though you thought your ego was like the universe, vast and all encompassing, you will find that it is not; that without wings you will fall back to earth in an ignominious fireball and everything you had known would forever be changed. If only it had been as quick as reading this paragraph! It was not though. It was slow and painful and it destroyed so much. When you awake, from what was not a dream, but a nightmare, it is empty. The fireball has created a crater that you cannot climb out of easily. Even once you do you find that within a certain radius everything is burned, trees are down, houses have been destroyed, all life has been extinguished. There are many ‘worst parts about it’, but certainly one of them is that there are simply no more dreams. There are only wishes and hopes and the despair of emptiness.
I assume that we all have reached or will in the future, this place that is like a desert and where we must wander many lonely days and nights because there are no dreams apparent, seemingly no life. Certainly, we will not arrive here all in the same way. For me, this is a brief outline of how I found myself here. For you, it could be vastly different. But where do we go now? I see no road. I summit a berm and it is even more expansive and answerless than before, this expanse before me. Finally, though, after so much time, perhaps there is a way. Though it won’t be celebrated (but who cared before?) it is actually a path forward.
Like the grains in the sand we are infinitely small. I have only lived so as to give definition to that life. A paradox, that to find meaning in life we must live it. It is all so small and if it is relevant then to who and for how long? If you have a child, as I do, then it is only for him and those moments when he will reflect on me. Then perhaps some stories for the grandkids whether you make it or not to tell them yourself. If you do not have a child, then it is for those loved ones around you, when they listen to you and when, alone, they think about you. And if you have no one, then it is yours, only yours, but still yours. Either way, the story and the dream will survive for only so long, a blip as opposed to the life of the universe, but as we have already seen, even that will come to an end…