While sitting with friends, listening to live music, and having a drink, I began talking to a man who had just graduated and started his first business job. He described how he went in with high hopes of what he could offer the company. He had various ideas and proposals, and desired to share them with his business. He had just spent four years immersing himself in studies and was ready and eager for that time to be fruitful. As he began working, he saw many rejected proposals from new employees. His idealized business dreams were now coming face to face with the real world and they were begging to survive. His dreams are in need of a transformation, a transformation in love.
The dreamer becoming the lover is the possibility offered to man. He grows and dreams and encounters more suffering and he either throws away his dreams or discovers how to bring them into the context of love. For example, the newly graduated business man comes to his first job dreaming of affecting change and bringing progress. He is shut down many times. He can choose to halt his attentiveness to his business and stimulating ideas, or he can seek to purify his motives so that they can be received in love. With the later, he finds creative ways to give himself. Maybe this means postponing presenting ideas, being patient as he gets to know his business and saving the best parking spot for another co-worker. In the first example, his passivity or blind obedience suffocates his heart. In the second, he remains engaged, flourishes, and his heart is strengthened.
In The Dietrich Von Hildebrand LifeGuide, Dietrich Von Hildebrand compares love with the tendency to idealize. In the example of the businessman, central to his dreams is “a need to experience delight and to have contact with admirable and extraordinary people” (56). Dreams are an occasion for one’s pleasure, rather than a meaningful relationship with another. In the delusion of dreams, satisfaction is uncovered and man finds himself isolated. It is here the possibility of love is offered. Love purifies dreams and puts them into a meaningful relationship with others. For example, at the first taste of a rejected proposal the businessman is put into relationship with his company. His dreams centered on personal satisfaction find themselves needing to be shaped according to his own gifts and weaknesses and those of his company. The moment he looks outside of himself to the people involved, his dreams begin transforming into love.
As I continued talking to this man, I began to reflect on my dreams at the beginning of a school year. I come in dreaming of organized study times, being engaged and receptive in class, having fruitful relationships with my professors, and constructing beautiful and persuasive papers. I pick up my books for class dreaming of having the pages all read through and hours of meditated study under my belt. My dreams promise prestige, fulfillment, and an ability to give the fruit of my studies to others. The semester starts rolling and about a month in I’m sliding behind in my books and I’ve talked to my professors, but I’m afraid to ask them for help again. My reality is beginning to rub against the pleasure my dreams seemed to promise. Am I here only for pleasure, accomplishments, and even knowledge? No! I am here for love. Just like the businessman, I am faced with my dreams needing to be refined in order for them to survive. First, I can ask myself how can studying relate to love? Who do I love by studying? What practical things can I do to help me have time to study? Going through these questions my ideals are being purified and preserved. They don’t look as perfect as I hoped, but for the lover this can be a source of joy. The time with the book I almost finished reading is filled with a personal response of love for the mission set before me and love for my future students. The pages unfinished are filled with memories of putting my work aside to be with my roommate or help a classmate. In these choices I, the dreamer, am being transformed into a lover.
The phenomenon of the dreamer turned lover is true of mothers too. I was talking to a mom about balancing home life. This balancing act consists of; her children, full of spontaneous needs and a the desire to be accompanied, and then there are the tasks around the house, cooking, cleaning, and laundry. On top of all that, there is her desire to nourish her prayer life, as well as her companionship with her husband and friends. She described getting to the end of the day frustrated at not having finished the laundry. It seemed to me the basket of unfolded clothes could be a sign of virtue, of having the freedom to not finish in order to love the family by attending to more pressing needs. Her dreams might have included neatly folded laundry on the edge of the children’s beds every other day, but love drew her outside of herself to the people and circumstances in front of her. Maybe Aunt Betty thought she was a lazy mother when she came to drop something off and saw the unfinished laundry, but we can see that Aunt Betty shouldn’t judge without seeing the whole picture, and neither should we.
We have come to see that the dreamer is fixated solely on their own pleasure and the externals (what they produce for other’s admiration). And that the lover does not dismiss the laundry out of laziness, but rather they are concerned first with being the heart of their family. When you ask yourself, “Why didn’t I get to the laundry today?” If it is because the kids needed a little extra help, a neighbor stopped by needing someone to talk to, or love drew you to other things, let your heart be filled with gratitude. Even if it is due to weakness, fatigue, or stubbornness for one’s own pleasure, you are being welcomed to acknowledge your humanity. I invite you to discover how even this moment can be part of your transformation from a dreamer to a lover.