Recently, I began reading the Harry Potter series to my young son. In the first book of the series, The Sorcerer’s Stone, there is a chapter about The Mirror of Erised, which is a mirror that shows not your face, but the desires of your heart. After Harry discovers this mirror, he visits it every night so he can sit and stare at the faces of his dead parents-for Harry would like nothing more than to have a proper family. On the 3rd night, he discovers Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts, waiting for him in the room that houses the mirror. Dumbledore, after explaining what the mirror does, utters this little gem of wisdom,
“However, this mirror will give us neither knowledge or truth. Men have wasted away before it, entranced by what they have seen, or been driven mad, not knowing if what it shows is real or even possible….it does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.”
I have my own Mirror of Erised in my mind, and I can’t tell you how often I have mentally parked myself in front of it, dreaming about what could be better. I have wasted my energy, frittered away countless moments that could’ve been spent enjoying what I have had, or working on ways to improve it. Instead, I have wished it to be different, wished it away. I have dwelled on dreams and forgotten to live.
After reading the above passage, I asked myself, “Why do I do it?” The answer, I am ashamed to admit, is that it’s the easy way out. It’s far easier to dream about the way things could be than to deal with situations, and people, the way they are. Real life is almost always less than ideal; real people have imperfections. Instead of facing that, and doing the work that brings forth fruit, it’s easier to ignore the problems and the pain and get lost instead in fantasies of what could be ‘if only’.
I’m not saying that it’s not OK to dream–not at all. Our ability to imagine ‘what if’ is what makes us human. It is the nexus of our creativity; in fact, without it, we would not be creators. This kind of dreaming is probably better labeled aspiration. No, the dreaming I’m talking about is the kind of stupor that we can allow ourselves to settle into in our day to day lives. It’s easy to fall into. We get into a routine, doing the same things with the same people, and we forget to really see, we aren’t really fully aware of our surroundings. Complacency sets in, and we become numb, to some degree or another.
So what’s the antidote to this state of mind? I’m not entirely sure. But I can think of one weapon that we have at our disposal at all times; choice. The power to choose to accept what is going on, right now, in our lives. The power to face hardships, whatever they may be, and work through them. And most of all, the power to enjoy what we have, even if it isn’t perfectly harmonious with what we think we want (more about that in another post).
With that being said, Carpe Diem! Use your power of choice to live as fully as possible in this day!