I’m an American and I live in a nation of dreamers.
If you’ve ever heard about the Australian Aboriginal concept of Dreaming, then you may be able to understand the American mindset. We’re a diverse people with different histories, presents, and futures, yet we exist in a cultural dreamtime that connects us to our ancestral heroes and the land in a personal, yet communal way.
That’s a lot of pressure on the individual American, and this is where the American Dream diverges from the concept of the Aboriginal Dreaming into something unique and specific to American culture.
Listening to an Indie Song
The song “For This You Were Born” by UNSECRET and Fleurie is a melodic, watery mantra about making your dreams come true. Listening to it feels like standing on top of a seaside cliff and feeling the majesty of the world around you.
Yet the lyrics use simpler imagery to convey that same emotional state: suburbia.
I remember looking down, rows of tiny white houses
Is there room for me?
I remember when a dream was just a dream
Aching to believe, empty hands, no stone to throw
Growing up, a lot of my friends bemoaned the fact they lived in ordinary neighborhoods with ordinary homes. They wanted more than the tiny boxes they lived in, but they felt as if their dreams would be impossible to reach.
The musicians use an interesting and novel metaphor in this song by making the narrator the person yearning for a stone to throw, bringing to mind the idiom of “people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” This means you shouldn’t be a hypocrite and criticize others for what you’re doing.
But in this song, the narrator yearns to have the power of dreams through the power of their own place in the world. That stone-in-the-hand metaphor gives the dream a concrete feeling in the song which the narrator has yet to grasp.
Dream or Nightmare?
To be an American means to dream, but there is this growing sense that the American dream may end in a nightmare for everyone but those at the top.
Now the fields all levelled out
From the tower looking down
Is there room for me?
When a dream is just a dream
Hard to fathom what it means
Now it finds you on your knees
Empty hands, no stone to throw
We are cognizant that there was a time in American history where a person could buy a wagon and go out West to stake their claim for a piece of the American dream. That dream was to live for yourself, and over time that same dream continued to have a connotation of your own house with a picket fence.
That’s why the concept of suburbia is so powerful. It’s both the fulfillment of that dream on the societal level but also its failure: when everyone’s house looks the same, is it really “yours?”
Not everyone lives in suburbia. Some dreams are more powerful than others, either because of ambition or luck, and they tower over everyone else, making the dream Americans do have, like this narrator, seem insignificant in comparison.
A Time for Lucid Dreaming
However, this is not a mournful song and I think that’s fitting for the mindset of an American. The lyrics were written by Fleurie and Matt Bronleewee, both Americans themselves, and takes on an anthem persona to fight back against the feeling of personal insignificance:
Silence the doubt in your mind
You were by design a victor
Know in your heart, you’re alive
Destiny is on your side
Even though it seems impossible to obtain the American dream, the truth is that the cultural dreamtime was never one of ease, but of the brave pioneer. The legacy of that adventurous ambition is the inheritance of every American, but we have forgotten that in the modern era because we have worked to inadvertently erase the dream from our children.
We promise them easy, banal lives. We assume that our own dreams are theirs, and not that they are part of a larger tradition of radical individualism. It’s why so many of them grow up dreaming to be rich rather than dreaming to create something.
This disconnect is why so many Americans struggle to understand what it means to dream. It’s not having a house of your own, but having a purpose of your own in a land where pioneers are admired for daring to achieve. That’s not an easy road, but it’s a fulfilling one. Everyone has a purpose, and in America, you get to choose the purpose.
Every step and every storm
Light the flame for the torch
When you feel the rain, when you hit the floor
It’s for this you were born
Oh the touchdown pain, when you feel those thorns
When it hurts to stay, you know to leave hurts more
So you light the way cause you know for sure
It’s for this you were born
It can be humbling to realize what the American dream really is. Yes, you’re inspired to be brave, but also warned that with your pioneer spirit comes the adventure behind that ambition: one of struggle. But that struggle is also one of individual bliss, because that is your adventure, your story.
The Inheritance of Dreams
There is a misconception about the Australian Aboriginal Dreaming. People assume that the land and its people are homogenous, and thus the Dreaming is a shared spiritual framework. However, it’s localize and specific to different tribes with great diversity… just like America.
To build a life for yourself is the cultural legacy of the American people, but it’s a long road going in many directions. You’re not alone, you stand in the shadows of ancestral giants and live in a culture of other dreamers, but each path is one you forge in the darkness for yourself.
Americans hold up their dreams among the nation to show to others, like their children, what can be achieved if you recognized for what you were born (or immigrated) for.
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