How is our past related to our (waking) dreams, the kind of dream referenced in the admonition to “follow your dreams?” The past creates those dreams, the threads of memory weaving a future that feels continuous, one that we might plausibly own, at least in our imaginations. Yet those threads of memory can be a thicket of constraint, a dense entanglement of fetters, fears, and habits that slow thought and bind the body. Must we, then, leap out of the past to follow a dream?
Dreams are not actual. They haven’t suffered the weight and thickness of matter. The belief that one can leap out of the past seems liberating but is an illusion that fosters glib encounters with possibilities unpromising.
Dreams don’t come with a road map and tools. We can’t follow them without walking into what we cannot see. If we have the courage to do that, the past will take care of itself. We can’t know ahead of time which parts of the past the future needs.
The image of a thicket, then, is misleading. The past is more like radio signals streaming around and through us that we transform into sensations of impulse and motive as we stumble in the dark. We don’t step out of the past but redirect it, although it isn’t really “we” who do the directing but the cosmic radiation that proclaims nothing ever happens twice.