Do we all pay the same price for our dreams?

My love of fables and allegories

When I was a child, I loved Asian fables. They are so neat. Here is an example of an old one, 塞翁失马, or “Blessing in disguise”:

A farmer had only one horse. One day, his horse ran away.

His neighbours said, “I’m so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.”

The man just said, “We’ll see.”

A few days later, his horse came back with twenty wild horses following. The man and his son corralled all 21 horses.

His neighbours said, “Congratulations! This is such good news. You must be so happy!”

The man just said, “We’ll see.”

One of the wild horses kicked the man’s only son, breaking both his legs.

His neighbours said, “I’m so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.”

The man just said, “We’ll see.”

The country went to war, and every able-bodied young man was drafted to fight. The war was terrible and killed every young man, but the farmer’s son was spared, since his broken legs prevented him from being drafted.

His neighbours said, “Congratulations! This is such good news. You must be so happy!”

The man just said, “We’ll see.”

~

is it easier for some people to achieve their dreams?

A modern take on the price of dreams

I found a modern fable written in Russian. While “Blessings in disguise” addresses judgement, this addresses dreams. It’s a nice deviation away from goal-setting, positive thinking and all that other motivational stuff, so here is my (slightly embellished) translation:

On the outskirts of the universe, there was a small shop. It bore no sign: it was blown away by some long-gone hurricane, and the owner was assured that all the residents knew where to find him anyway. The shop traded in desires.

The little shop offered a surprisingly vast array of choices. It was possible to buy almost everything here: huge yachts, apartments, marriage, vice-presidency of a multinational corporation, money, children, a dream job, a beautiful body, being top of the class, power, success and much more. The shop didn’t trade in life and death as that was the jurisdiction of the head office located in the neighbouring Galaxy.

There were those who wanted to go to the store, but never did: they stayed at home and wanted. For those who did visit, the first thing they enquired about was the price of their desire.

The prices ranged. For example, a dream job attracted the price of was abandoning stability and predictability, willingness to independently plan and structure your life, self-confidence and courage to work where you like, not where you “should”.

Power cost a little more: the purchaser had to give up some of their beliefs, be able to find rational explanations, be able to say no, know their own worth (and it should be high enough), allow themselves to be assertive regardless of the approval of others.

Some prices seemed strange: marriage, for example, could be received almost for free. However, a happy life was expensive: personal responsibility for one’s own happiness, the ability to enjoy life, knowledge of one’s desires, refusal to compare oneself to others, the ability to appreciate what is, awareness of one’s own worth and significance, giving up the “victim complex” and the risk of losing some friends and acquaintances.

do we all pay the same price for our dreams

Not everyone who came to the store was ready to immediately buy their wish. Some, seeing the price, immediately turned around and left. Others stood there in thought, counting their cash and wondering where to get more money. Some complained about exorbitant prices, asked for a discount or were interested seasonal sales.

Though, there were some who left the shop with their cherished desire wrapped in beautiful rustling paper. These lucky few were enviously looked at by other potential buyers. Under their breath, they muttered something about the owner of the shop being the successful purchaser’s distant cousin or acquaintance and the overall unfairness of how effortlessly their desire just fell into their lap.

Business consultants often emailed the owner outlining how he could increase profits by attracting more customers through reduced prices. He always refused, explaining that the the quality of desires would suffer should he lower the prices.

When the owner was asked if he ever feared for his business, he shook his head. He said that there will always be brave men and women willing to risk and undergo change to find the funds for their purchase. They would abandon the habitual and predictable life, become capable of believing in themselves and develop the strength and the means to pay for the fulfilment of their desires.

Reminiscent of a credit notice we see in small shops, the walls of this shop bore a small tattered notice: “If your desire is not fulfilled, it has not been paid for yet.”

~

do we all pay the same price for our dreams

What do we think of the modern fable? It has a controversial premise: that we all pay the same price for things. I wonder, do we?

Consider a Syrian orphan* vs Baron Trump**. Let’s say, in a few years Baron Trump will walk into some real estate conglomerate and go straight to the top. Unfair? I guess. Will he get to boss around lots of people? For sure, but only so long as it doesn’t really matter. He’s not really the vice president. He only has a fraction of the power of a normal VP. If he had been made into a real vice-president and then made a mistake, that would seriously sabotage daddy’s reputation and power in the said conglomerate. So daddy won’t let that happen: Baron would have to prove to daddy that he can really hold the fort. Baron’s big desire may be to not have to do as daddy says. That’s probably at least as difficult as it would be for the Syrian orphan to become vice president of that conglomerate.

In other words, attaining genuine autonomy and power is equally difficult for both the Syrian orphan and Baron Trump. What do you think of this logic? Even if our Syrian friend makes it to the top, Baron will probably get many more “get out of jail free” cards due to his connections. However, he will also have a lot of enemies he never made himself trying to put him in that proverbial jail. Does it all add up the same way in the end, or am I applying laws of thermodynamics to matters they simply don’t affect?

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* My grandfather was a WWII orphan. He still made it to the top and wasn’t that unique in this regard.

** I’ve nothing against the child, but I know he’s the most appropriate figure in the public eye for my theoretical argument

6 Comments Add yours

  1. While there are important truths to our ultimate equality, we must also remember what Sophie Tucker said. “I’ve been rich. I’ve been poor. Rich is better.”

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  2. Love this. I think sometimes that some people are “richer” emotionally and mentally than others and it takes a long time to “save up”. I think we all pay about the same, it just depends on how hard we are willing to work and how much we had in the first place.

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  3. Rivenrod says:

    Ah Martina, you are a seductress, so you are. You’re trying to make me, us, care about money, power, legitimacy etc.

    After the basic necessities of living are accommodated, what must we, what can we, be concerned with. It has rarely been the case with any civilisation (hmm) that once people have sufficient food, shelter, clothing etc. (I’m thinking the Mayan Empire in particular) they simply idle their time away doing nothing at all. All of these civilisations were much more concerned with creating mental wealth not least because monetary riches were pointless because gold per se was perceived as valueless.

    So, in short, for equity in our civilisation we must work to remove the perception of monetary value.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You mean my reference to price in the title? By that, I mean resistance, effort, work.

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  4. GM Wallace says:

    Of feathers and melted wax: When I was a child my father, a teacher, used to tell me the stories of the Greek myths. I read many books about Jason and Ulysses, about the Minotaur and the Trojan War (and what man has not, just a little, fallen in love with the improbably fantastic fictional beauty of Helen, the archetype). My blog is named after the wings built by the father of Icarus, Daedelus, who constructed the labyrinth in which the Minotaur dwelt. When Daedelus constructed wings of wax and feathers for his son and he to escape the island of the labyrinth, he warned his son not to fly too close to the sun lest the wax melt and his wings fail. In the perhaps inevitable impetuousness of youth, Icarus flew too high and for all his arrogance, he fell into the ocean and died. The allegory is strong in this.

    The power of myth and the archetypical psychological patterns, interpersonal symmetries and behavioural role models of the heroes and the gods remains culturally powerful. Beyond Freud’s attachment to specific narratives, the power of the archetype surely rests in its encapsulation of tendencies, predelictions, we might say, of probabilities of human behaviour. Narrative consciousness reflected (and reflexive) through narrative mythologies. Recursion and enigmatic iteration of subjectivity, object-relations and the unfolding, unfurling narrative incompleteness of the perennially partial logics of self…

    Related: I found a fascinating online article recently about moral allegory in the old TV show “The Twilight Zone”:
    https://www.wired.com/2017/03/geeks-guide-twilight-zone/

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