Practical Dreamer

Being a practical dreamer is the hardest thing. Yet it could be the most rewarding too. If you have dreams (or quests) how do they become real? If you’re busy in your life how could each moment become filled with inspiration? Everyday activities are usually thought of as “mundane” and tiresome, and people who are “dreamers” are dismissed as not practical.

So walking the walk of a “practical dreamer” means putting one foot in a vision (some may say “the future”) and one foot in they way things are (some may say “the present”). One step after another. For example in you have a dream of solutions to the world’s current disasters like climate change, food shortages, homelessness or if you have a vision of humanity living in sustainable, eco-friendly communities, how do you start to get there? Each step demands perseverance, faith, trust, courage, and most of all must be fired by a quest, love for others. Quest to do something for the other, for others.

When one is walking in that poetic land of dreams and visions one can lose track of the practical, and when one is immersed in the land of practical work one can lose track of the dream, the vision. One must always believe in their union – in the possibility and probability of “dreams come true” when the seeds are sown with the right intention. In the practical world one finds many obstacles to bump into and eventually learn how to avoid. And in the poetic world of dreams there is a frustrating disconnect from experiencing the vision.

“No one can say there is a meaning to life, I must make my own life meaningful, that is all” wrote Nader Khalili at the start of his life-story book “Sidewalks on the Moon”. For those of us whose story is “yet untold” this is the challenge of sustainable living where “sustainability begins with a person”. How to sustain your dreams and quests in everyday life, walking the walk of a practical dreamer. One must flight test the truth of the unity of opposites. In earth architecture this is experienced through hands-on work with the unity of tension and compression in the form of arches, vaults and domes. In other life arts such there is unity of compassion and free will, unity of sacrificing and asserting, of connecting and observing, and many others which can be discovered through hands-on work with elements such as water, food, medicine, shelter, air, and energy.

Sustainable design work involves bringing together seemingly unrelated concepts and finding a purposeful connection. And along the way of trying to be a practical dreamer there are useful products and results for humanity, responding to the world’s present need, for a sustainable way of life in sustainable communities. And what of the practical dreamers themselves? That is for each person to research and discover, who chooses to try to become practical in the field of their dreams.

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NOAH TODAY, by Sarah Waltz

In the year 2011, the Lord came unto Noah,
who was now living in America and said:
“Once again, the earth has become wicked and over
-populated, and I see the end of all flesh before me.”
“Build another  Ark and save 2 of every living thing
along with a few good humans.”
He gave Noah the blueprints, saying:
“You have 6 months to build the  Ark before I will
start the unending rain for 40 days and 40 nights.”
Six months later, the Lord looked down and saw Noah
weeping in his yard – but no  Ark.
“Noah!,” He roared, “I’m about to start the rain!
Where is the  Ark?”
“Forgive me, Lord,” begged Noah, “but things have changed.”
“I needed a Building Permit.”
“I’ve been arguing with the Boat Inspector
about the need for a sprinkler system.”
“My neighbors claim that I’ve violated the
neighborhood by-laws by building the  Ark in my
back yard and exceeding the height limitations. We had to
go to the local Planning Committee for a decision.”
“Then the local Council and the Electricity Company demanded a shed load of money for the future costs of moving power
lines and other overhead obstructions, to clear the
passage for the  Ark’s move to the sea. I told them
that the sea would be coming to us, but they would
hear none of it.”
“Getting the wood was another problem. There’s a ban
on cutting local trees in order to save the Greater Spotted Barn Owl.”
“I tried to convince the environmentalists that I
needed the wood to save the owls – but no go!”
“When I started gathering the animals the ASPCA took me to court. They insisted that I was
confining wild animals against their will. They
argued the accommodations were too restrictive, and
it was cruel and inhumane to put so many animals in
a confined space.”
“Then the Environmental Agency ruled that I couldn’t build the  Ark until they’d conducted an environmental impact study
on your proposed flood.”
“I’m still trying to resolve a complaint with the
Human Rights Commission on how many minorities I’m
supposed to hire for my building crew.”
“The Immigration Dept. is checking the
visa status of most of the people who want to work.”
“The trade unions say I can’t use my sons. They
insist I have to hire only Union workers with
Ark-building experience.”
“To make matters worse, the IRS seized all my assets, claiming I’m trying to leave the country illegally
with endangered species.”
“So, forgive me, Lord, but it would take at least 10
years for me to finish this  Ark.”
“Suddenly the skies cleared, the sun began to shine,
and a rainbow stretched across the sky.”
Noah looked up in wonder and asked,
“You mean you’re not going to destroy the world?”
“No,” said the Lord.
” The Government beat me to it.”
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Halloween in Spain

Halloween in Spain

A few days ago I arrived in Spain to visit some dear colleagues who took me to a café full of people who did not seem to be working.

“Wow, the unemployment really is high in Spain” I said, “you are in a deep economic crisis aren’t you?”

“Oh no”, they replied, “November 1st is a national holiday for remembering the dead and bringing flowers to the cemetery with family. “


Just the night before my Sufi spiritual family were celebrating Halloween in upstate New York – probably the most celebrated popular holiday in the USA. It is so much fun to dress up as your most feared vampire or monster and demand sweets from strangers.

But where does this festival come from and does anyone else do anything similar? Well, at the end of winter Jews celebrate Purim, Greeks dress up for Apokries, and those peoples within reach of the ancient Persian influence do something with Haji Firoozeh around New Year’s Spring equinox.  I’m sure there are such festivals in every corner of the world. So really, why do we do it?

In Europe generally, the holiday combined “All hallows eve” (Halloween) October 31st, followed by “All souls day” November 1st.  First you were supposed to appease and placate the scary and restless spirits of the dead with food, then next day all the good souls were supposed to arrive.

Going to a cemetery and remembering a deceased loved one is not that. It is about digging out cherished memories and re-visiting them, crying a bit, looking at the old photographs and generally being in control of these images.  They are not spontaneous.

But Halloween and All Souls is not about being in control. It’s about contacting something bigger than us, however scary, and not being in control.

Is it enough just to celebrate the scary side of things and wait for next year to become scarier? I don’t think so. I think feeding sweets to the ghouls and vampires isn’t meant to be a vampire approval ceremony. It about putting sweetness in the mouth of fear itself. Sending out positive prayers to our most feared entities and waiting for them to return as helpful blessings or beings.

This is essentially a group prayer, nationally and internationally.

In this catholic country of Spain, I think of Jesus’ parable:

“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, “I will return to the house I left.” When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first.”

The interpretation I like best is by Stylianos Atteshlis, which paraphrased, says that the unclean spirit is a “desire-thought” (a thought based on desire and not on reason).  The seven other wicked spirits are the affirmation of that thought returning through all a person’s senses. But when this desire-thought is opposed by repeated reasoned thought or prayer which is sent out, then such an entity can be dis-energised and eventually won’t come back.

I believe that on All Souls one must wait for the good souls to arrive, like a moment when a person is blessed with the presence of a good protecting friend or is suddenly filled with the genuine and unexpected image of a cherished loved one. This is spontaneous. We are not in control of these moments.

In Sufi language learned from Shaykh Taner Ansari’s sohbets, this is like “giving back to Allah”. Maybe we can say that placating the restless souls with sweets, and returning their image to earth as a libation, surrendering attachments to those cherished memories and old photos that we like to control, is like “giving back to Allah”, praying for peace, and then waiting to see what arrives, without expectation.

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