Sabbatical Reflections Three: Dream(s) as Target(s)

I continue thinking about aim, targets, dreams.  

Clearly targets/dreams evolve, even change significantly.  For example, when we bought our farm, we came from a house in the city where our garden expanded every year.  Our aim was primarily much more garden space with an eventual farm plan that included beef cows.  Instead, we inherited a rooster, Crest, and a hen, Hennie, from some friends a few months into land ownership, followed within a year by a milk cow. Aim: beef cows. Target arrived at: motley bird pair and a milk cow.  How did that happen?  Well, I hadn’t developed my “no free animals” policy yet and we were buying milk at considerable expense for our limited single-income budget.  So, our aim evolved toward a target.  And, I don’t know what to say about the chickens–it happens (or no harm, no fowl…sorry, couldn’t resist).

Which is more important, true aim or arriving on target?  A false dichotomy?

Let me put more meat on the bones.  We bought a farm to have meaningful work for our children.  We bought a farm to feed our children.  We bought a farm to have space.  We bought a farm to have nature out our back door instead of lawn and fences.  We bought a farm for many other reasons all of which added up to a dream.  Is that THE dream?  We aimed, we shot, we landed. The aim was true. The aim is true.  The aim will be true…?  I’ll spare us all the discussion of time but the temporal element does fascinate me. We bought a farm almost ten years ago and we continue to build our farm today.

THE dream in our case is more than a sum of the parts.  There is a synergy we’re after that amplifies meaningful living so that we’re not just about any one of the dreams.  Central to the “we bought our farm” because statements above is the vision that I would one day walk out the back door to work without driving away.  In other words, we aimed at making our life together in time and space. Ideal and idyll? Yes, but I’ve never hesitated to aim at the highest good.  I’ve never been too afraid of falling short to try.  I’ve never been accused of having too few irons in the fire.  Of course, I have fallen short of the ideal.  I just don’t see that as a reason to adjust the aim.

Therein lies the crux of the issue: what is the proper aim?  In recent years since my “epiphany” (see part one of this Sabbatical series), I have shifted my aim to thoughts of making my dream to come home, to be home, from my reality toward possibility for my children.  That is, I bear the burden of debt and leaving home to pay for it so that our farm will afford our children the opportunity to be free from that burden and home more, in time and space. This is not some utopian, cashless society dream but simply that the heavy financial lifting will be done so they are more free to choose to be home if they want.  Clearly assumptions are made about their dream(s).  We are not tyrannical and surely they will decide what is best for their own families when the time comes. 

Accepting that the farm is not a cottage economy enough to pay for itself moves the target. A move that caused me to consider a variety of other “career” options in the last several years.  A move that causes me angst, discomfort.  It feels like it does not fit, like a left foot in a right shoe. Not impossible to navigate but very obviously not the ideal.  Part of the reason for a sabbatical is to search out this discomfort.  Is it possible to get accustomed to aiming at the wrong target?  I think so.  Have I been aiming at the wrong target? I don’t think so.  Is it possible that there are targets beyond, yet in line with, the one at which I have aimed?  Seems possible.  Is it possible my aim is true and my target is well chosen, but I must hold aim a while longer? Also very possible.  

Ultimately, the dream is an anachronism.  I am aware.  I have always been a contrarian but that does not make me impervious to the fatigue of resistance.  Perhaps I am wrestling to hold what I know to be true.  Perhaps I am finally tempted by convention or convenience or (gasp) specialization as I cross into the second half of life.  I could have earned much more money.  I chose to trade earnings for time.  I am home much more than the average salaried employee.  Shouldn’t I just be content with that.  I don’t function well aiming at mediocrity.   

For now, there is no tidy conclusion to my thoughts.  I am feeling my way through this.  I am committed to sitting for a time.  It has been difficult for me to lay down something I cultivated over years. Something successful across multiple measures.  It is difficult to accept, “I will not be a full-time farmer.”  It is possible I need that dream regardless of or perhaps even in spite of the practical difficulties.  A well chosen target trues aim whether or not the arrow is released. Hold! Hold…

Reflecting on my fits and starts, the ideas of the last few years (some of which seem crazy now) I can see the restlessness, the wrestling.  I might even call this grief.  What else would the death of a dream be for a dreamer?  An archetype of temporal living no doubt.  Perhaps even THE dream must be allowed to die so that we do not.

Of course, there can be no resurrection if there is no death.

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