If we stop thinking of alternative worlds, we may stop progressing.
I AM a dreamer: always have been and always will be.
When I was a small boy, my uncles would criticise the amount of time I spent doodling and dreaming up imaginary countries and worlds.
People would think I was wasting time and being idle, but now – as I look back – it was the dreaming that fuelled my desire to travel, to write and become a storyteller.
Dreaming is an immensely important business. Dreaming conjures up alternative worlds even if all too often there’s little that’s concrete emerging from the “dreaming”.
Nonetheless, dreaming in its simplest form is about displacement, about wanting to be elsewhere, to be away from your current surroundings.
When times are bad, dreaming is one of the few ways that we sustain ourselves through periods of sadness, loneliness and indeed misery.
When I was a small boy living in a damp, gloomy England I’d dream of home – dream of a place where the sun shone after 4pm, where the food tasted of something and the people were open-hearted, if quick to criticise.
Dreams then are like a balm – soothing the homesickness of a young boy and the misery of those striving to survive.
But it’s when dreams are converted into action that they take on a more productive, more constructive role, as we force ourselves to transform either ourselves or the world around us. Then “dreams” become an important agent for change, something that spurs us on to achieve more.
Of course, for us to be able to make that change we need to be in an environment that allows for some degree of stability and security. It’s hard to overcome your present situation if you’re in the midst of a war-zone, a Syria or a Somalia.
Why am I talking about dreams? Well, the capacity to dream and imagine another kind of future propels societies forward.
For example, while we may not have agreed with his methods, we have to acknowledge that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is a man with a dream and the will to put things into effect.
However, if we stop dreaming we stop progressing.
Stop dreaming and we’ll stagnate, both as individuals and as communities. There’s a real danger that Malaysia is now in some kind of unmoving stasis.
I’m always looking for new challenges. Always stretching myself to the breaking point.
I can still remember that one summer – and this was over twenty-seven years ago – when I realised that the Philippines was in the midst of a dramatic and historic change-of-power. Gathering together whatever cash I had, I splurged on a ticket to Manila and spent two weeks following the Peoples’ Power Revolution of 1986.
I was a young ciku, but I managed to cajole my way into the maelstrom of events.
I can still remember the excitement of Luisita Park, the scene of some of Corazon Aquino’s largest rallies, not to mention the haunting spectre of Imelda Marcos’ Cultural Centre of the Philippines and the many hours I spent waiting patiently to meet editors and interview subjects – always remembering the overall aim.
Dream and you can make it happen.
Of course, you need to constantly work at it, honing your skills. This takes enormous amounts of time. Nothing comes easy.
In this respect, I’m a big supporter of the writer Malcolm Gladwell’s “ten thousand hour rule” where he argues that you’ve got to spend at least ten thousand hours (or forty hours per week over five years) before you’ll be good at something.
But to return to my situation, I soon realised that others (and not just my regular column-readers) wanted to hear about my travels and then meet the same people I’d been writing about.
It was this storytelling across borders that led to my little consulting business.
In a way, I’ve also been immensely lucky.
There will always be more stories so I’ll be busy for as long as I have an audience: travelling, listening and dreaming.
I just hope that we as a nation will have the same spirit of inquiry, ambition and energy to chart our future more boldly.
The views expressed are entirely the writer’s ownKARIM RASLAN The STAR Online Home News Opinion Columnist 10/12/2013