Don’t regret to Dream
‘We are dreamers and that is the way it is. We are made for this’.
Petra sends me a voice mail from Austria. A former philosophy student in Vienna, she is driving her car to her friend’s house as she speaks, because her mind can paint pictures better that way.
‘We all carry dreams with us; we picture things in our mind just to keep us going. That’s why regret comes close to dreams or wishes.’
Regret. That word has spun in my head for the past week. Living away from friends and family can bring moments of weakness and tiredness in which the mind, body and soul can collapse quite quickly.
We are artists. We are souls and these souls need to dream to live, but what is this thing that creeps in my head some days? Is it just me?
Jane lives in New York City, the city of dreams. Moved from Ireland five years ago this summer and I ask her about it.
‘I’m a 30 something year old with no career, don’t talk to me about regret’, I can hear her smiling.
Let’s talk about it I say! We can’t deny it, ignore it or pretend these feelings don’t exist from time to time. So what is it that brings upon this time of hurt, of wishing ‘what if?’
Recent times have led me to up sticks from familiar surroundings and leave them behind. This one suspicious boat of opportunity comes down the river and I jumped on it leaving everything behind. Some days it feels like I am on the wrong boat and some days it feels like great excitement of what is to come next.
So you could say I am standing on the boat looking back and thinking. The past becomes smaller and further away.
‘Is regret maybe linked with our realisation of our own mortality? Do we feel it more in our twenties and thirties?’ This panicked feeling that every little error is sealing out fate and dragging us away from the perfect world or perfect self that we long for!’
I remember reading a John Lennon quote where he spoke about the necessity to create ‘the torture of having to get up everyday and create something and make something’.
That feeling is what drove me to move. Bob Dylan says that be it inside or outside, ‘you gotta keep moving.’
Artists are not built to conform to scheduled ways of a working life; we are born to imagine, to create and to dream. We live in this world of dreams.
Yet there are days when the real world is too much to take. Where the dreams seem so far away and getting up is not as easy as everyone likes to think. Such as the wondering of things I left behind.
There was a time when all of us didn’t think about such things; a time when worry didn’t exist, a time when the imagination was all that there was and a time when you could fly ‘past the stars on silver wings and it was wonderful’- Matilda (Roald Dahl).
Jane’s latest adventure makes it seem as though regret could no longer come into the dream.
‘Becoming a parent makes me so aware of how everyone transfers their own issues onto their kids, trying to guide them, creatively, spiritually or academically, but it doesn’t work, it often damages. There are no regrets for kids because they are just free. They just operate out of their own uniqueness’
Sitting in a London warehouse that is now my abode; a loft in South Tottenham. There are rats, stabbings and plenty of characters which surround me. The things around me sometimes do not smell of the things in my dreams.
The death of the great Philip Seymour Hoffman broke a lot hearts. What an amazing artist, a generous man and a committed actor. A man flawed like us all, who had to carry his own demons. The world feeling robbed of never seeing him bring himself to the work again.
In Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic film, ‘The Master’, Hoffman plays the leader of a new religion (inspired by scientology) that uses a method called programming to fix the wrongs of our past lives. To bring us back to our ‘inherent state of perfect.’
In one of the most beautiful scenes of the picture, Hoffman’s character, Lancaster Dodd, puts a Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), through a session of programming.
Freddie who is a wreck less soul is also a potion brewer, a man who has many women, a soldier who came back from World War Two and who has been running from himself ever since. He is a free man carrying the burdens of having no foundation in his life. There is a connection between the two characters throughout the film; a fascination with each other, the Master and the scoundrel become close.
Lancaster Dodd watches Freddie breakdown through a programming session as he is hammered with questions that break his heart:
Lancaster Dodd: Do you often think about how inconsequential you are?
Freddie Quell: Yes.
Lancaster Dodd: Do you believe God will save you?
Freddie Quell: No.
Lancaster Dodd: Have you ever had sex with a member of your family?
Freddie Quell: Yes.
Lancaster Dodd: Are you lying?
The scene continues as Lancaster Dodd intermittently asks throughout:
Lancaster Dodd: Do you regret this?
Quell continuously denies any regret right until the end when he’s heart is pierced with the truth of a pain he lives with.
Lancaster Dodd: Is Doris the love of your life?
Freddie Quell: Yes, sir.
Lancaster Dodd: Then why aren’t you with her?
Freddie Quell: I don’t know.
Lancaster Dodd: Yes you do. Tell me why you are not with her if you love her so much.
Freddie Quell: I told her I’d come back and I never went back and now I just… I gotta get back to her.
Lancaster Dodd: Why don’t you go back?
Freddie Quell: I don’t know.
Lancaster Dodd: Why aren’t you with that lovely girl?
Freddie Quell: (Screams) I don’t know!
Quell breaking into tears, totally immersing himself into the pain of the memories The Master ends the session announcing Freddie as:
‘The bravest man I ever met’.
No asking about regret as it pours out in every tear from Freddie’s eyes. Here, regret takes on it’s other meaning, to regret, or to repent, or say, or to be sorry.
I am still standing on this boat that travels down river and I’m looking back. But I take a brief moment to look in the mirror at something quite beautiful. We are not talking about aesthetics, vanity or the trappings of a consumer society. Instead, there are some signs of where we’ve come from. I’ll see lines and marks on a face, on the body that have come from the journey so far. I will see eyes that have been worn and weathered but behind them there is a soul that is quietly burning its own flame of truth.
These marks are things of beauty, there is no returning to perfect, for we are beauty where we stand.
‘When you are dreaming, in your dreams, you can put in anything. There are no boundaries, and everything is possible!’
Petra is adamant, fixed on the fact that the boat still moves forwards.
‘For me there are only two types of regrets; the type when you hurt some one, or you did someone wrong… but not just anyone. You don’t regret like this with any person, you regret people that were special to you. You regret something bad you did to someone you cared about. You say sorry for this, then it is over, it can no longer exist.’
As the boat moves forward and I’ve had some rest, the tank refills and there is realisation of the things that have floated by.
But floated by is what they have done. So let them.
I ask one more question of Jane. Do you regret your 18 month old son?
‘eh… he is a vision. The best thing that ever happened to me’
I remember the child like state that we all have enjoyed.
‘Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me’ – Dylan Thomas
We didn’t care then. We didn’t look back and we certainly didn’t regret. We just did, and we stuck true as true can be to that little flame inside.
I take a turn around and I look ahead. The regrets are dreams that went wrong. That didn’t happen. But why not drop them over the side and keep the load light?
The great journey is getting to the dreams ahead. No longer is it time to wallow and regret. It’s time to get to those dreams.
Don’t regret to dream.
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Words: Stephen Mullan