Is It Real or Is It Cynicism?

Faithful readers know my proclivity for making up proverbs, and it's time for one now: There are two types of dreams: those never meant to be more than

Faithful readers know my proclivity for making up proverbs, and it's time for one now: “There are two types of dreams: those never meant to be more than fantasy and those you would like to make real. The former requires only imagination, while the latter also takes hard work.”

I wouldn't rate either one of those types better than the other, but, clearly, turning a dream into reality is more difficult. It's not the work that makes it harder, though; it is the necessity of having the pragmatism and toughness to slog through the hard work while still keeping the dream alive in your heart to give you reason to carry on when the slogging wears on you. Grasping and maintaining the balance to successfully bring a vision to fruition challenges optimists and pessimists alike.

Are you one of those people who sees the glass as either half empty or half full? No matter which you choose you're basically fooling yourself, because life is more Zen than that. The fact is that the glass is both half empty and half full. To say otherwise is nothing more than denial. The optimists in the crowd may find this a cynical viewpoint — one that injects negativity into every situation — while the pessimists will say, “John Lennon was a dreamer, and so are you if you think there's always that much good in everything.”

Both perspectives ascribe value judgments, which is fine, but that in no way defines a need for those judgments to impose an overarching emotional frame of reference for seeing the world. Good and bad both exist in abundance, and you can love and support the good and despise and oppose the bad without letting either rule your universe unilaterally. Surmount this fundamental hurdle, and you may realize a dream without experiencing permanent emotional damage.

Let me give you an example. Your band drives 65 miles through a New England winter evening to get to a club in a blue-collar town. You walk in, and the place is more or less a dump, and an empty one at that. First reaction: “Oh gosh golly, this sucks!” (I hope no one is offended by this dialog, but the rugged life of the musician often provokes such strong language as “gosh golly.”) Indeed, that is the truth: this is not a scenario anyone gives as their motivation for playing music.

Second reaction: “Well, at least no one will give a flying hoot if we try out some of the new material we don't quite have together yet. Hey, it's a (very poorly) paid rehearsal!” That is also true.

Expressing disappointment about a gig does not have to mean that you are a downer any more than appreciating the “public” rehearsal means that your head is in the clouds.

It's easy to label someone as “negative” if his or her response to a new situation is to see the difficulties in it. But the picture becomes more complex if the same person works the hardest to make it happen and to overcome all those difficulties. You also have to question your dismissal of the happy hippie who says “it's all good” if it is that same hippie who does all the negotiations with club owners or deals with (shudder) your business taxes. The point here is balance; appearances may not reflect the reality of a situation as well as do words coupled with actions.

Of course, all that would be much easier to see if there weren't so many truly negative so-and-sos and airy-fairy flakes throughout our industry. Separating the wheat from the chaff isn't easy. What is easy is falling into the trap of seeing the glass part full or part empty and believing that to be the absolute truth. Absolute truth is damned hard to come by.

Relative truth is slippery, but it's all we have, and only in trying to grasp it is there any hope of succeeding. We should all raise a toast to that. Allow me to pour you another half a drink.