Row Row row your boat, gently down the stream. Joyfully Joyfully Joyfully, life is just a dream.
Children, we sang this song. Hands up. Voices are rising. We danced and sang happily. One would start and another would follow. Soon after, that choir transformed into a harmonious expression that reverberated through the air. But something has happened. The harmony of many diminished as one by one each person sang the last line, "Life is just a dream". Then it was over. We grew up. We stopped singing. We stopped playing. We have stopped living. Instead, our way of life has become work and more work.
Every day we go to jobs we hate and live unsatisfying lives. Unfortunately, it is becoming normal for people to work 60 to 80 hours a week. The bosses are starting to expect it! It is the workaholics who are promoted. These are the people who move up the corporate ladder, talk excessively on their cellphones, bring work home at night, and work on their laptops until the wee hours of the morning. If you asked these people why they work, they would list the benefits or what they have as a result. They were showing the car they drive, the house they live in, and the elite circle of the haves with whom they rub elbows. After all, we all want the American Dream.
The media have helped shape our dream. Images like a Rolls Royce, a yacht, a mansion, a private jet all embody the American dream. Travel to exotic places, champagne, caviar and special treatment, this is what we dream of. Bunches of dollar bills in a person's hands thrown happily into the air symbolize wealth and abundance. The vision is a house with a white picket fence; an attractive spouse; two children, a boy and a girl; two vehicles in the driveway … oh excuse me, in the garage; and a well-kept yard. This is the "good life". It's a couple walking confidently down the sidewalk with a stroller and a well-groomed dog, politely nodding to passers-by.
However, there is no smile when we repeatedly say to our children, 'Go play. Dad works ”. Or we explain to our significant other, "The reason I'm doing this is for you." Or we miss the winning move our son or daughter made because we were talking on our cell phones instead of being present in the moment. We tell ourselves that we are working hard to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. We tell ourselves that a good life takes hard work and persistence. But the underlying truth that drives us is the fear of not having or not moving forward. Our constant work isolates us from the very things we desire. And isolation creates a void within. The loss is perpetual as we increasingly abandon ourselves in pursuit of the dream.
How do we have the life we envision without alienating or compromising what is most meaningful to us? The answer is as simple as the song we sang as children. "Row… your boat" suggests that I get fully involved in your life. Take your boat – your gifts, your talents, your skills, your resources, your abilities – and work them over and over. However, work honorably and cooperatively with your life. Therefore, "gently downstream" suggests a movement that is not forced, abusive, or intrusive. He is not beset with struggle or toil. You don't row against the tide, and neither do you row competitively, but “happily”. Joy is a byproduct of what you love to do. Joy attracts. It doesn't isolate. There is a perpetual and proportionate exuberance in rowing. There is a synchronized rhythm between being, doing, and having.
So, in honor of the American Dream, I come up with a different definition. The American Dream is a wealth of spirit that flows to all you love, through everything you do and is ultimately reflected in the abundance of your accomplishments. It's a party, a return to the joyful heart of a child who laughs uncontrollably, plays heartily and dances freely. It is the freedom to be all you are. This is a BIG life reflecting a BIG you. This is the life you dream of.