Keystone College Honors Convocation 2017
Did you dream last night? Do you remember your dreams? Do you dream in color? Can you interpret your dreams? Do dreams affect reality? If you die in your dreams, do you actually die? Is this all a dream, or perhaps the Buddhist notion of “a dream within a dream” as the films the Matrix (1999) or Inception (2010) imply? Do you ever feel like Rip Van Winkle, (Washington Irving’s 1819 story) who wandered into the Catskill Mountains and woke up twenty years later to find a very different world? Got dreams?
Around 3100 BCE, the Sumerians in Mesopotamia described dreams as the movement of the soul, or some part of it, out from the body of the sleeping person and actually visiting the places and people dreamers saw in their sleep. They also believed that their dreams were omens of the future. On fragments of 4000-year-old papyrus, we can read that ancient Egyptians believed that dreams were messages from the gods. Later in Greece, Antiphon the Sophist, wrote in the 5th century BCE, that Morpheus, the Greek god of sleep and dreams, sent warnings and prophecies to those who slept at shrines and temples.
Many religious and cultural stories are filled with dreaming and consider dreams “hard reality” and the roots of a community’s foundational identity. Some examples include Joseph the dreamer (Genesis 37), Daniel’s end times (Daniel 12), Isaiah and God’s Holy Mountain (Isaiah 11, 36), Hannah’s vision for freedom (1 Samuel 2), Ezekiel’s wheel in the sky (Ezekiel 10), Jacob’s ladder that spanned earth and heaven (Genesis 28), John’s new heavens and earth (Revelation 21), and the night journey in the Qur’an (Surah 17.1) that began the ascent (al-Mi’raj) to the heavens, echoed in Scheherazade’s One Thousand and One Nights, where flying carpets transport those who pray and dream.
North American tribes and Mexican peoples believe that dreams are a way of contacting and visiting with their ancestors, and some employ vision quests as a rite of passage by fasting and praying until a guiding dream is received, to be shared with the rest of the tribe upon returning. Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung (1875-1961), who had analyzed more than 80,000 dreams, similarly asserted that “dreams are the guiding words of the soul” (The Red Book, p. 233).
In short, dreams are a kind of “timeless time” when we envision a better and healthier way of life, and we picture future improvement. Dreams help us to wrestle with our choices, mystery, confusion, and hope, and act like a map for our life’s journey to wisdom and integrity.
Got dreams? There is a kind of vision quest, a moral journey that we are all invited to walk. Dreaming is not simply concerned with one’s personal agenda, but is more about growing into and becoming one’s best self for others. To be dreamers, to be people of vision, challenges the shallow view of unrestrained individual freedoms and avaricious accumulation of material goods. Self-aggrandizing dreams are facile, unfulfilling pipedreams of the selfish. But those who dare to dream and act with honor, humility, and humor are authentic friends—people you have met here at Keystone College.
Perhaps in our post-Freudian world, where dreams are often relegated to impulses or latent unresolved issues, we have been deprived of how a deep, broad, and inclusive vision can animate a community. As you may recall, American pastor and civil rights activist, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., during a march for jobs and freedom on August 28, 1963, called for an end to racism and improved civil and economic rights. He spoke to more than 250,000 supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and at one point in his speech he said: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Nearly 54 years later, we gather today to celebrate the content of your character that has been cultivated to produce extraordinary accomplishments. It is true that Keystone’s faculty and staff offer transformational learning opportunities. But students, you have chosen to go beyond what was required and respond with unbound generosity and creativity.
Got Dreams? Yes we do! Today, at this Honors Convocation, I invite you to continue to dream boldly and in color. And the soul of noble human ambition is found not only in dreaming, but in courageously acting on your dreams, risking failure to achieve success. Real visionaries, real dreamers, real leaders are forged through hard work, some failure, and renewed hope and persistence. Our motto, via fit vi, progress through effort, suits dreamers very well.
There is a respect and care at Keystone that we extend to each other that communicates that we are more than self-interested, and we are not too busy or too self-absorbed to dream together and support each other on our vision quests. You have dreamed to believe that working and studying persistently provides abundant rewards. You have dreamed to belong to a community of learners and tested your resolve through failures and successes. You have dreamed to earn the respect of your professors and peers not by doing the minimum, but by constantly pushing yourself to improve and become your best. In a world where many choose to do the minimum requirement just to get by, you are bold dreamers, Keystone Giants.
Finally, we gather today united as the Keystone College community formed by a dream that began in 1868 that continues to call us all to make a significant positive difference in the world. For those graduating, we wish you could stay, but we know you must go and pursue the bittersweet parting that is inevitable. We will miss you. Fearlessly dream, and at this Honor’s Convocation recommit yourselves to being honorable. Honor your promises, honor your commitments, honor your gifts and talents, honor your teachers wherever they are found, and honor your loved ones, especially your parents.
Since the moment you arrived at Keystone, we have dreamed of this day for you.
Live generously and in gratitude because You’ve Got Dreams!
President David L. Coppola, Ph.D.