I had a dream, last night.
I dreamt I was in the woods, and it got complicated fast: There were guides in tangerine helmets (no seriously they were like giant tangerines) who warned me that I needed to make thistle helmets that sparkled and kept away bad people and lit my path; I needed to bring a small pocket knife sized rake with me to rake away leaves that covered ice patches that when warmed with my breath up close became entry ways to otherwise inaccessible parts of the forest. It went on like this, and somewhere in the middle of the dream I did that half-wake up, where you're still in the dream but you're aware that you're still just dreaming, and I thought, as I've thought before in this state: How in the world does my mind come up with this stuff?
This time I not only wondered how a human mind dreams in such complexity but how it does so with such amazing speed, as if there was no planning involved. I didn't sit down with pen and paper drafting out ideas; they just appeared, complex and well-formed, as if, quite literally, out of nowhere. How does this happen? And it dawned on me: my mind was completely free and unencumbered. There were no restrictions, no fears, no day to day objectives or obstacles, no rug to vacuum or hall to sweep, no spreadsheet to consider, there were no laws in this land. When you dream, you are perfectly free, and when you are perfectly free the mind creates amazing things, it innovates without pause at the highest and most compelling levels of complexity and awe, so simple, yet so diverse, and it works perfectly.
People often ask me where I'm from, and it's a hard question to answer as a child of a father who moved us all over the world. I grew up in Asia and Europe, the Midwestern U.S. and California, but my family roots are in the San Francisco Bay Area. My grandmother was born under Coit Tower during the great San Francisco earthquake and is buried in Oakland. My dad was born and raised there and my Mom's family were immigrants in the early 50's. I'm more proud of my connection to the Bay Area sometimes than all the places I had the fortune of living when I was younger. The reason I'm proud of my Bay Area roots is because of 'freedom': out of this odd, gorgeous, earthquake prone corner of the world arose and continues to arise a culture that honors altering visions of 'freedom' like few places in human history. It is a place where the only pattern is a constant rethinking of laws and views, where nostalgia is institutionally not tolerated; it is proudly our (America's) epicenter of 'radicalism'. And what was born of this dangerously free society? The world's greatest center of technological innovation. Out of freedom comes greatness, just like a dream.
So, today, when we think of the man who forever emblazoned the words "I have a dream" into the fabric of the American (and the world's) psyche, I believe he meant for us to be free; and it was a call to greatness; free of laws that restrict us, free to be who we are and want to be, free to be messy and complicated and diverse, free to accept that we are not all the same, and for all of this to be uniting and allow us to be a creative, brilliant people. This is the America (the world) I hope to pass on to my children. So, today: Go be free. Be seriously free, revel in the complexity and mess of it all -- you deserve it and the world needs it.
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