It is, in my opinion, the duty of every American to thoroughly ponder the meaning of the American Dream as it relates to the modern era. The original idea of the American Dream was work hard and be rewarded, no matter what social class you're a part of. On the surface, wealth is the apparent objective, however, the desire for riches is not a yearning for piles of cash; it is a suffocating thirst for freedom and comfort—or so it seems. We have created a society that gets so high on the notion of freedom that we never took the time to understand what freedom is. Instead, we have equated money with freedom. We have replaced the essence of what is to be human with a gluttonous disposition that has led to backward priorities.
Now, comfort comes from television and computers and internet-ready cell phones. Comfort comes from screens that are destroying our vision and hindering our imagination. Being blind will be far more of a handicap if we cannot imagine what we can't see. Sure, one could argue that the numerous forms of media only stimulate our imagination, but if we spend much of our time absorbing the creative product of others we will hamper our ability to produce our own creative gems. However, an original thought does not need to be a thought that has not been pondered before, but a conclusion to a person's individual examination of the world around them—and possibly, a theory about the worlds that may exist beyond our own.
For instance, the idea of a movie rental delivery service was an original thought of mine when I was eight. No one mentioned the idea to me before, but I was able to realize how convenient it would be if movies and video games could be delivered to my house. Apparently so did the guy who started Netflix. I bet he will tell you it was an original thought.
The same can be said about the flying car. Every person, ever since they learned what planes and cars did, has thought how great it would be to own a flying car without someone introducing the idea to them first. A truly original thought is a rare occurrence, indeed. The chances are, if you are a member of the civilized world, you have shared many thoughts with strangers whom you may never speak with. It goes to show we are more similar than our own minds allow us to believe.
We are fiends for illusion. It is a childhood trait that we never grew out of. This is why we love movies and video games and reality television and the Bible or any other religious folklore. All exaggerate truth to varying extents. Often time, the ones that try to stick closely to our collective perception of reality almost always leave us uncertain and perplexed.
Nevertheless, dreams hold some of the responsibility for our odd inclination to reject concepts, which don't jive with our individual perceptions of reality. Humankind has always put incredible faith in the interactive show that comes to mind while we sleep. There has always been the gut feeling that our dreams were telling us something important, something that we were too blind consciously to realize. There is some truth to that. Studies have shown that dreams are the subconscious speaking out.
Most of the time the subconscious is serving as an internal parent, reminding us of something we did that we knew or felt was wrong. That's the kicker, though; our brain (conscious and subconscious) is constantly yammering on to us—even when we sleep! We don't even have the option to ignore the damned thing; it's with us for as long as we live on Earth, and possibly longer.
So, it is fitting that we worship the notion of freedom, but not the practice of it. If we were to practice pure freedom, our collective, as well individual, perceptions would face inevitable reexamination. True freedom, the kind of freedom we all wish for, is being in the position where we do not have to do anything, but can do anything we want, whenever we want. Freedom is to live responsibility free, and in human society that is impossible. Even if we choose to abandon society and go into the woods we will still have responsibilities. We must build a shelter, we must eat, we must obey nature and her unpredictable behavior; we have certain rules we must adhere to. And we must do all of those things, even if we don't want to, or we will die! Absolute freedom cannot exist because we are bound by the nature we know, perplexed by the nature we can only imagine. Only God, as we claim to know It, knows what true freedom is.
Why do we claim to be chasing freedom when the type of freedom we chase cannot be obtained? Why are we selling our soul for iPhones and flat screens? I ask because I do not know.
Confucius once wrote, "Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated." Maybe humans had it right during our hunter/gatherer phase. Ehh, probably not. After all, it was the dreams of our ancestors that got us here today. The difference is that they didn't know what dreams were; they thought some almighty force was reaching out to them, telling them what needed to be done. We, on the other hand, know we dream. We know our biased brain communicates with us secretly. We know this, but we still act as though some almighty force is trying to tell us something profound.
We're just a bunch of insecure egotists. I'm sure during hunter/gatherer times many a man would brag about his new ax or bow just to make other men feel inferior. Why? Because if one can make others feel inferior then that person can feel superior. I guess it's just the natural order of things. Once everyone gets the cool new thing, it can't be bragged about any longer, and another cool new thing must be invented, so more humans can feel superior to other humans. I wonder how primitive man would handle modern man gloating about his new iPhone—probably by smashing it with his fancy stone axe. In hindsight, it is highly probable that most wars or conflicts were the result of too much peacocking on behalf of one country or one person towards another.
In my pondering of the American dream, I have reached this final realization: The American Dream (as it's practiced) is not about freedom or comfort, it's about being superior to our neighbors. The American Dream isn't really American at all. It's something all humans think they want: to feel better than they are, and our culture has instilled in us the notion that wealth equals superiority.
Yet what we truly want is comfort. That's all. We want to be comfortable with ourselves, but society does not allow that. We must be better! Stronger, richer, faster, healthier, cleaner! By linking superficialities to great goals such as supreme comfort we have created a sense of false comfort. Our illusionist tendency has made us prefer the phony over the authentic because it's cheaper and easier to acquire. When in the midst of awkward silence we escape using our cell phone, whether through Tetris or text message, thus avoiding awkward conversation. This does not make us better at coping with awkwardness, but more prone to avoid it. To exercise my conjecture muscle: I predict the future will be a very lonely place, where all people are under the impression of being together. Yes, the future will enable us to be alone, together.