Break On Through To The Other Side

The song title reminds me of how all young people feel that there is another side to the great scheme of things, that there is a great somewhere out there where the grown ups know nothing about. This is how I felt a couple of years back - that parents and other older people don't know what they were missing; that they have no inkling of how life should be led; that they have no passion; that they are merely here for the sake of being here.

I was wrong.

It is amazing how a person's perspective of life can change within a short period of time. Dreamer - they used to call me. Wake up! - they used to say. For that was what I was, what I thought was the way. To dream - and to quote from a worthy source - for only in dreams man can truly be free. Or something to that effect. I scoffed at people who have both feet firmly planted on the ground - the practical ones. You have no soul - I used to say. You cannot be free. Slaves to the material world.

But the problem is….What are we gonna do with all that freedom? Have we reached a point on the great road that we are looking for what we do not know? It's like a child asking for a piece of paper and a box of crayons - he finally gets it but he doesn't know how to draw. Even if he does, he gets bored with it after a while for the novelty has passed. You cannot dream forever, I have come to realise. Yes. Dreams are beautiful gossamer-like things that all men love but a dream is but a dream if you refuse to make it come true. Dreams - the children of an idle mind. I read that somewhere. I suppose that is true to some extent. How else can you dream except when you have nothing else of importance on your mind?

My father went to Beijing recently. To the Central Conservatory of Music where he studied and will, hopefully, obtain a diploma in vocal performance. A man forty-nine years of age, leaving his business behind for a diploma in vocal performance? Utter foolishness! What was he thinking? A total waste of time and money! These are perhaps some of the kinder comments. How can he leave all those important things behind? But then again, I put this question to all the sceptics. What can be more important than following your dream? More important than fulfilling a lifelong yearning of thirty years to study under a music academy? What, I ask again, can be more important?

Dreams are not just for the young or the ambitious. We should never forget that everybody was young once and that everybody has dreams. What is important, I suppose, is not to get lost in all that beauty but to remember to wake up in time and do something about it.

Sometimes I feel that we are all standing in a deep well where all we can see is the sky and the sky is the most beautiful thing in the world to us, compared to the cold clammy walls. The only thing we strive to reach is that piece of blue sky. That piece of infinite beauty. We can't wait to grow up, to grow bigger so that we can begin our journey towards that great blue sky. But there are distractions. Slowly as we find ourselves being taller and taller and begin peering cautiously over the walls of the well of our childhood, we find that wow! there are so many things other than the sky around us. So many endless possibilities and opportunities. So many choices. Sadly though, we find out other things as well. We find that the sky is not as near as we thought it would be. It is not at the mouth of the well where it seemed. It is so, so much farther away…

And so, we compromise. Forget the sky. It is too unattainable. Let us reach instead for the soft brown earth at our feet. See. It is here. It is easy for us to pick it up. There. I've achieved my dream.

What nature of being are we that even our dreams can be compromised?

People change. Ideals change. Dreams change. But that doesn't mean that they should be less beautiful.

My life-long buddy and I used to dream of what we were going to do with our lives. There wasn't any specific goal or anything like that. We didn't know what was going to happen or what we were going to do about it but that was what made it all the more exciting. We didn't care what we were going to do but we had dreams. The world was going to our oyster and we had free passes to the all-you-can-eat buffet. Then he fell in love. And his focus shifted. And because we have been looking through that telescope together for such a long time, my focus reeled as well. For the briefest of moments, I felt betrayed. What about the world? What about the plans? What about the dreams? I didn't feel like he was betraying me - oh no - never that. I felt that he was betraying the dream. Or, more specifically, the dreamers.

Upon gentle reflection, I realised of course, I was wrong. I found that he never stopped dreaming. No, not once. And I feel joy when I realise now that his dream is more beautiful…

Well then, I suppose it's my turn now to wake up, climb out of that well and reach for that piece of sky.

Wish me luck.

Alex Tan
6th October 1997