Tuesday, March 11, 2014

An Idol Unto Yourself

Trying to snatch a bird with bare hands is a fool's errant. I tried repeatedly as a kid. I'd spot a swooping swallow and run toward it full throttle in hopes of plucking it mid-air. God that was stupid. As I aged my methods evolved. I'd stand in a field and hold a granola bar above my head. I figured if I stood still as a scarecrow a bird would eventually investigate the bait, and I'd grasp my prey as it pecked on a salty nut. No dice, duh. Finally, I employed the ol' box propped up with a stick attached to a string contraption. I almost ensnared a blue jay once. He narrowly escaped. I was so dang close.

A therapist observing my fruitless efforts would surely conclude that I was a boy destined to chase unobtainable dreams. He'd write on his tablet "Hopeless. He'll reach for the stars—first on tip toes, and then he'll try a ladder, then a cherry picker, then a spaceship... Silly boy." The margins of the notepad would inevitably be cluttered with doodles of stick figures and spirals drawn by a bored mind.

Just another silly boy?  

I did catch a bird. One day a robin with a gimp leg hobbled about the front yard. I simply strolled up to the defenseless birdie and cupped its enfeebled body with my relatively massive adolescent hands. Here was a creature gifted with the boundless capability of flight nestled in my palms. I could've squashed it like a meat-filled ravioli. Instead, I simply released the poor thing into the nearby woods (where it likely suffered an agonizing death from starvation, but that's not the point).

This silly boy had accidently caught his dream.

He also learned a valuable lesson that has aided him deep into adulthood: Struggling tirelessly to catch a dream is a fool's errand, indeed. Instead, stay alert for the moment a crippled version of your dream staggers within reach, and then pounce at your leisure. Was I ever seriously going to become a star third basemen for the Philadelphia Phillies, as I imagined as a Little Leaguer? No. But I can create and control a badass ball player on MLB's The Show who the automated fans will adore. How about a future astronaut who floats around the cosmos like Buzz Aldrin? Hah. However, the Union County Fair has one of those puke-inducing spinning zero-gravity rides. Hope to become the President of the United States? Sorry, bud. Nonetheless, there's scant competition if your aim is to be elected the inaugural president of the Stephen Baldwin Fan Club.

Go ahead and chase dreams if the rubber stamp movie heroes or billboard song choruses seduce you. Eventually your legs will fatigue and you'll crumple alongside High Hopes Highway. Stay there. When the muscles atrophy the brain soars. Dopamine chugs between receptors like a freight train. Real life happens between the white line and the guard rail, anyway. Here is where laughter doesn't fade into mile markers passed, the spinning celestial plane sets the beat to a rhythmless dance, and a baby tossed straight up in the air can be caught when he returns to Earth a man in your likeness. And if a maimed bird limps into your personal space, you’re an idol unto yourself.

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