Requiem for Ink
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Requiem for Ink

A Small Container for Cheese.

Photo by NASA

I had a dream where I found the answer to world hunger.

But dreams are weird. The answer revealed to me in my dream was a small plastic container for cheese. Under the slices of cheese was a hidden drawer, which somehow, magically, always refilled itself with more cheese.

So OK, when I have a dream it’s not exactly like when Martin Luther King had a dream.

But still, this cheese container was a sweet industrial design, with a colorful translucent lid. They could sell it at Target for moms to put in their kids’ lunches and the hidden drawer would be a big hit. Who doesn’t like a nice surprise? And who doesn’t like cheese?

At this point I should ask. Do you hate it when people try and tell you their dreams? It’s usually a rambling narrative that fascinates the dreamer, but doesn’t make even a shred of sense to the rest of us. Dreams are a kind of flash visual memory that doesn’t translate well into a linear real-world narrative. Even for the dreamer, the wonder of it all quickly begins to fade. We wake up amazed. It was a strange and wonderful revelation. Then as fast as the clear light of day floods the room, the details unravel.

Some psychologists suggest keeping a dream journal by the side of the bed so you can write your dreams down while they still feel fresh and marvelous. But it’s the very process of trying to describe a dream that lets all the air out of the balloon. So, apologies if you are among those who find the telling of dreams especially tedious.

Martin Luther King’s dream, of course, was different. Maybe he dreamed bigger then the rest of us. Or remembered his dreams better. He certainly knew how to put a kind of biblical cadence into the retelling. It made his dream impossible to ignore.

Dreams drive so much of our lives. The American Dream is the basic social contract of our democracy. We believe that even if things totally suck for us at the present moment, somewhere out there on the horizon we’ll get a shot at the dream. It’s what keeps the whole thing glued together. Or at least it has up to now. If we learn anything from the dismal year just completed, it’s that we have a lot of work to do on the American Dream. And in particular Martin Luther King’s magnificant vision for it.

So I dreamed about an answer to world hunger. I didn’t get details about how the hidden drawer in the cheese container worked. Dreams rarely reveal their mechanism. I tried to sketch out a schematic, but it just looked like a container with two obvious places to put cheese. Then there’s the question of how the extra cheese magically appears in the secret drawer. I wasn’t left with a plan for that.

In reality, the only way my cheese container could actually make a dent in world hunger would be to make a fortune selling the product to Target or Walmart, and then donate the proceeds. Maybe use the profits to create something like the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. If only I’d kept a picture in my head of how the hidden drawer worked.

Such is the fleeting nature of dreams. They keep us believing in magic. Even after we wake up and find that the mundane and intractable are still here waiting for us. Dreams keep us going. It’s why we need them worse than ever right now. Even the dumb ones like mine.

Most of all we need to take a moment to remember the rare individual like Martin Luther King who had the ability and the courage to articulate a dream, and so move a nation.

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