Merton on daydreaming . . .
The strange thing about this light was that although it seemed so “ordinary” in the sense I have mentioned, and so accessible, there was no way of recapturing it. In fact, I did not even know how to start trying to reconstruct the experience or bring it back if I wanted to, except to make acts of faith and love. But it was easy to see that there was nothing I could do to give any act of faith that peculiar quality of sudden obviousness: that was a gift and had to come from somewhere else, beyond and above myself.
However, let no one think that just because of this light that came to me one day, at Mass, in the Church of St. Francis at Havana, I was in the habit of understanding things that clearly, or that I was far advanced in prayer. No, my prayer continued to be largely vocal. And the mental prayer I made was not systematic, but the more or less spontaneous meditating and affective prayer that came and went, according to my reading, here and there. And most of the time my prayer was not so much prayer as a matter of anticipating, with hope and desire, my entrance into the Franciscan novitiate, and a certain amount of imagining what it was going to be like, so that often I was not praying at all, but only day dreaming.
I'm a big believer in daydreaming. Not just as a way of killing time or avoiding work that you don't want to face. I think daydreaming is an essential part of any day. I get some of my best ideas for my job when my mind starts to wander around my skull. For instance, last October, I daydreamed about introducing two-time U. S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey for a reading at the library where I work. Last Saturday, I introduced two-time U. S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey for a reading at the library where I work.
Daydreaming pays off.
Of course, making dreams come true takes work. A lot of it. Especially if you're shooting for the stars. When John F. Kennedy stood before Congress in May of 1961 and said, ".We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard. . ."--he was the ultimate daydreamer. And a whole bunch of people rolled up their sleeves and figured out a way to make Kennedy's daydream a reality. It only took eight years, and Neil Armstrong was taking his one small step.
Some daydreams are small and easy. I've been daydreaming about Taco Bell all afternoon. I can make that happen if I want to. Other daydreams require the effort of orchestrating a moon landing. Publishing a book of poems. Winning the Pulitzer Prize. Winning the Nobel Prize. Big daydreams. Hard work.
Today, I spent a great deal of time grading papers. It is the end of the semester, and I am buried in essays. It's my own fault. I take a lot of time responding to students' work. Not because I'm lazy. Because I want my students to know that I care about them and their success. They are daydreamers, too. In fact, daydreaming is their primary motivation. Every day they show up for class, they are dreaming. Of graduation. Of careers in medicine or law or forestry or cannabis distribution. Those visions are what drive them. They are seekers of happiness and fulfillment.
Ultimately, that's what all daydreams are about--happiness. We choose our daydreams--and, generally, they don't involve misery or grief or disappointment. If you daydream about losing your job or home or spouse, then you are probably in need of some sort of psychiatric medication. No, in daydreams, we become great heroes or lovers or writers or poets or athletes or leaders. We become better versions of ourselves.
I am a poet. In my daydreams, I'm a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet. I'm also a contingent college English professor. In my daydreams, I'm a tenured college English professor. I'm a blogger. In my daydreams, I'm the first blogger to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. These versions of myself make me happy. They motivate me. Because. as President Kennedy said, we dream of these things "not because they are easy, but because they are hard . . ."
And now, with the ta-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa of his fingers on the keyboard, Saint Marty ends this daydream, one blog post closer to a trip to Stockholm and the Swedish Academy.