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  • Stevie Bee

Our circumstances are far too dire for the luxury of realism.

Updated: Jan 1

So says Caroline Casey.


Caroline Casey is recognised around the world for her pioneering and innovative approach to changing how society views people with disabilities. Born with ocular albinism — a condition that made her legally blind — Caroline hid her disability well into her 20s, until her eyesight deteriorated to such an extent she had no choice but to reveal her condition to her employer. Leaving her post and embarking on a soul-searching journey, she rode 1,000 kilometres across India on an elephant named Kanchi to raise funds for Sight Savers. Returning to Dublin, Ireland, she founded Kanchi, a not-for-profit that aims to change the attitudes and behaviours towards people with disability by working with businesses. She developed a set of best practices for businesses to help them see "disabled" workers as assets rather than liabilities. Hundreds of companies have adopted the standards, changing their policies and attitudes.

Impressive, to be sure . . . But back to the quote.

I like it. Not because I think we are in dire straits and not because I think we all need to be Caroline Caseys, but because we get to think whether the it's-all-good, business-as-usual approach still works. I don't think it does. I haven't for a long time. All we've got good at is kicking the can even further down the road. Someone else's problem! Well, we can do that only for so long. At some point, in present time, we become the 'someone'.

The can-kickers often tell the rest of us: “You have to be realistic. People won't go for that. You can't scare the horses.” So, we shrink in the face of such overwhelming odds, and inertia sets in. We get sluggish and averse to using our imaginations.

It reminds me of being told as a kid to stop daydreaming, as I stared out the dining room window when I was meant to be studying. “Come on, stop daydreaming and get on with that homework.” I didn’t listen too much to that voice! Some of my best thoughts were found daydreaming as I flitted off into fantasyland or conjured up vast visions of an impossibly brilliant new world. (Like many designers, I have architectural and big-picture planning fantasies.) Fortunately at my high school, until the equivalent of year 10, we were still able to write fiction. Yes, in English, we could write our own stories (we had prose classes), our own poetry (we had poetry classes). We were encouraged to. And as I consumed vast quantities of sci-fi at the time, my imagination was all fired up. I was having a field day. Few sci-fi novels had been turned into movies at that time. Given how poor the special effects were in those days — think early Dr Who and of course early Star Trek — I’m glad most of my favourites weren’t made into movies. Unless it was Stanley Kubrick and his 1969 masterpiece that is 2001: A Space Odyssey. So, fortunately my imagination had not been influenced by filmmakers.

My impression is most of my friends at the time daydreamed. We had the time; we would stay up all night on weekends in winter by a fire and solve all the world's problems and cogitate on the meaning of life. Ah, luxury! Of course, I did pick friends who weren't afraid to dream. Naturally, I picked people with whom I resonated — as I keep doing, as you keep doing, too.

I wonder if those friends still play in their imaginations. I wonder if people around me nowadays daydream and fantasise. When I'm bubbling with enthusiasm, I think they do. Then again, looking around, I suspect many of us have largely ended up hunkering down and getting all realistic about life. We're just too busy to even think about tripping off in the middle of the day! Maybe daydreaming has become an unaffordable luxury. Of course, I might be wrong and maybe there's a lot more imagining happening but it's not talked about, even less acted upon.

Nonetheless, there are those who quietly go about dreaming up things. They’re the gadflies, the misfits, the tinkerers, the what-if-we-tried-this types, the ‘mad’ inventors, the ones who don’t fit in, who dare to dream on into adulthood. I suspect these folk and their ‘crazy’, ‘leftfield’, ‘unrealistic’ ideas are going to be more important in the coming weeks, months and years. They’re the people brave enough to conjure, to dream up, to envision new ways of seeing and doing. We're going to need them.

Caroline is right. Realism is a luxury. I would add: an over-reliance on realism means life is dry and stale. Life lacks the spark of creativity, of fecundity, of direction. It becomes aimless.

Bringing numerology into the mix . . .

In 2022, we're supposed to be forming a new foundation, a new base upon which to build something that will carry us through to 2025, when the 9-year cycle ends. Designing it and using the same formula or the same ingredients we did last time (2013) won’t do it. We’re going to need those who can think outside the box — in fact, outside the box factory. So, if you're one of those thinkers, ponderers or dreamers who wonder if ever your time will come, whether your ideas will ever be taken seriously let alone ever see the light of day, well, then come on down.

The year 2022 is made up of the 20 and the 22. The 20 is The Awakening, which I’ve written about in previous blog posts. The 22 is about being cautious about taking on the burdens of others; it's about listening to the voice within that obliges us to be more alert; and to exercise a deeper assertiveness. It urges all of us to realise our own power to change things, to practise that power and master it, to be finally in control, no longer “blinded by the folly of others”. And 22 is a 4, which is expect the unexpected, which is perfect for the oddball, and which urges us to always take time out to envision and dream up what's next.

So, it’s time to listen to the ones who don’t listen to everybody else, who are prepared to go out on a limb and take a chance. A foundation built on that has a refreshing resilience, has an inbuilt capacity to cope with what is constructed atop it. And unlike your basic concrete slab, enough flexibility and malleability to meet all and every challenge.

So, dream on you gadflies, misfits and visionaries. Your time draws ever nearer. For the rest of us, if that level of free-flow creativity isn’t you, at least be open to the different, the unusual, the challenging. It is potentially liberating. And might just get us to out of the messes we keep on walking into.

TL,DR* For those who dare to dream, this is your time. In fact, these times are made for you. It's time to start drawing up blueprints for a new foundation, one that is both creative and flexible.

* Too Long, Didn’t Read, aka the short version

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