My high school French teacher would frequently admonish me: don't build "des chauteaux en Espagne." How irksome that my daydreaming was so clearly visible to Mlle. Her warning only made me reflect on what an interesting expression that was—"to build castles in Spain." It usually made me revert to daydreaming although now the topic would be archetypical Spanish castles, the Moorish influence, etc. Her remark rarely brought me back to the French grammar at hand.
Vera told us that in Russian daydreaming is "витать в облаках," "soaring in the clouds" or "wandering in the clouds. "Are other languages equally as poetic? In English we refer to a person whose "head is in the clouds" which seems a lot more static than soaring in Russian or building in French.
I asked Alla whether she remembers daydreaming in school.Her response:
"I can't recall that I was day-dreaming when I was young. I think I was very focused most of the time, desiring better and another place to be. My astro[logical] sign is Fish (Pisces) …DREAMERS who make it happen ... Indeed, I have an imagination, paint pictures in my fantasy and do my outmost to realise (sic) it."
My high school daydreams were mostly retrospective.I spent hours thinking about past summers at camp and relishing the next time I'd see camp friends.My daydreams about the future included involved adventures as an archaeologist or thoughts of living in Israel.I also remember that some of my high school daydreams just as some of my current daydreams allow me to swing back into reality refreshed with a new perspective and even at times, a creative response to the present.
What my French teacher viewed as inattention, seems to be much more valuable than an escape from the subjunctive mood. One can spin a future career, romance, travel, or adventure.And then, as Alla pointed out, one can begin to translate a daydream into an action plan.For many, daydreams disappear like a cloud passing across the sky. For others, daydreams become engines that push them to achieve. And for still others a daydream can be an invigorating mental vacation.
I am not the only one who values daydreaming.There are numerous academic articles and popular magazine features about daydreaming.Links to two are: http://www.newyorker.com/tech/frontal-cortex/the-virtues-of-daydreaming, http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/10/teach-kids-to-daydream/280615. It was surprising how much investigation and thought has been dedicated to random images and stories.
In the past few years I have begun to wonder if electronics have erased some of our daydreaming time.When I sit in an airport or watch others in a lecture, I don't see people looking dreamily off into space. They often have their heads bowed over a device as their fingers furiously move across the screen or their thumbs busily communicate with someone else's device.Is this the same as retreating to a daydream?
I don't think Leslie and I would have been able to bring Jewish Luck to publication had we not daydreamed together as we conceived, planned and wrote the book.I thank Leslie for never dismissing any wild notion born of a daydream.Most of those ideas wafted gently into the computer's trash can, but some notions endured and the process pushed us to think in radically different ways. We had grand visions, some we realized, others we didn't.Our St. Petersburg weekend trip together with Vera and Alla exceeded our dreams.Once we boarded the plane for St. Petersburg in Minneapolis, we were thrilled that a daydream was coming true.We learned far more than we had expected and formed a closer bond than we could have imagined with both women.
When we daydreamed about publication, we saw an agent or a publisher reading our book and scooping it up.Even though that didn't happen, we soldiered through the self-publication process. Our readers have rewarded us with their appreciation for the book.Ten years ago our greatest daydream would have been to appear on Oprah. Now I understand that it's even more rewarding to speak to a group that speaks back to us with genuine reactions and genuine stories.
Thanks to Maxine Agather for spurring my newest daydream—a conversation about Jewish Luck with former students. Thanks to those of my former students who have offered feedback, attended a book talk, met with me in a distant city, and continue to enrich my life.I would love to hand you each a red pen to mark up copies of Jewish Luck with your comments. Payback!
Whether your daydreams dissipate or whether you shape them into a new reality, I hope that you, too, can allow your mind time to play with dreams.