“Don’t wanna try
Don’t wanna cry
Just let me live inside a dreamland
I wanna be free.”
– From “New Genesis,” by Ado
Translated to English by Brina Palencia
This is the first song in the anime movie, One Piece Film: Red, sung by the character Uta. It’s sweeping and magical and vastly appealing in every way, and throughout this and the other songs of the soundtrack are the expression of Uta’s mind and soul. It paints a very alluring picture of life within a fantastical dream world, without troubles or trials of any kind, where one can spend one’s days forever in idle pleasure, never having to worry about anything ever again. It’s a very pretty picture… at first glance.
I know the allure of that picture very well.
I see it at work today in mind-boggling ways, including every pursuit of a life where one can have it easy, do what one wants, and there are no bad consequences for any of it. Many of us practically live online, in a state of mind not entirely different from a drug-induced haze. And, of course, there is quite simply the immense yearning that many of us have, and which I know all too well, to simply be freed from our present burdens somehow. We strive to escape our own lives, and our world so full of sorrow and hate and problems that are so vast and intangible that simply knowing of them is a crushing weight on the soul.
Speaking personally, there are so many things – so many! – which I often find myself wishing I could just leave behind forever. The daily struggle to survive, and the indignities that come with swallowing one’s ego in order to pay the bills. The widespread madness in the world which has resulted from the erosion of everything good, decent, loving, and true. The machinations of the mighty in their shallow, gaudy halls as they step on the lives of billions of people. Who in their right mind, finding themselves powerless to change all of these things, would not want to turn tail and flee into a dreamland where we would never have to endure pain or disappointment of any kind, ever again?
But that’s simply part of life.
Key word: “part.”
Hardship of every sort is part of life, and we cannot escape it, but it is still only part of life. There are other parts as well.
Triumph, for instance. We can never truly thrive, never grow or progress or become more than we were before, when everything is easy. No pain, no gain, as the saying goes. But in our troubles and trials, as we face the obstacles in our way and endure through them, then we may yet know victory, which is sweet indeed after everything bitter. To be magically delivered from our hard lives, then, is to be robbed of every accomplishment we could ever achieve.
There’s love, too. I don’t only mean romantic love, though love which endures is the very definition of “true love.” I also mean the love which gives purpose to our hard, daily lives. Someone very wise once commented that people can endure any “how” involved in living, so long as they have a “why.” A parent works their butt of to provide for their children. A farm boy loves the animals they care for. Comrades in arms go through Hell together, fighting to get each other home. A man provides for his elderly mother in her final years, returning the love that was given to him in his childhood.
And in a world filled with despair and loss and broken dreams, there is still hope. Hope that good things may yet happen. Hope for new days, new lives, and new friends. Hope that even a broken dream may leave us better than we were before, that we may learn something from them.
Should all of these and more be cast aside for a dream, a cage of illusions where we sink into an endless, bottomless haze and stupor?
That is no fit way to live, no more than is a life of slavery.
If we truly want to be free, than we must realize that freedom does not come from evading what binds us, but by mastering it.
Like how our ancestors mastered the seas by learning how to operate upon them, rather than by avoiding them, or laying on the waves like flotsam.
Or like gravity. Sure, we might dream of a weightless existence, but that just leaves us floating aimlessly. But using the principles of gravity in our favor allows us to walk along the ground, fly through the skies, and reach towards the stars.
So, yes, our lives here are generally pretty crappy, on the whole, in countless ways. But the solution has never been, and will never be, trying to escape it. It’s fine to take a break for a time, within moderation, but we must always return to it. We must face life and every terrible thing about it head-on. We must face it, and master it, and, most of all, we must endure it.
It may never get easy, and it will never be a dream. It will demand our blood, our sweat, our tears, and more. That’s just a part of life, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Life is not a dream, and a dream is not living.
Nor should it be.