Some of us never get over the childhood desire for the impossible. I remember a book I read as a kid, colorfully illustrated without words, in which some children get magical christmas presents of unknown origin. The presents turn out to be strange jumpsuits with backpacks on them. When they are put on and a button on the chest is pressed, the backpacks sprout wings and the children fly off.
The kids soar over beautiful green farmland and towns, land and visit friends, get ice cream, fly some more, and finally return home happily exhausted. When they wake up the next day, the magic flying suits are gone, and in fact never were; it was all a dream.
This is a terrible cheat. Not only is it a nasty trick to use the “it was all a dream” trick anywhere, but the author of this book didn’t have the balls to let the poor kids have their science fiction flying suits of the future in a work of fiction! I remember being really upset by the end of that little book.
Throughout childhood I had a series of impossible dreams: toys my parents could never buy, mostly. As I got older I wanted various Cool Stuff that was out of my reach: the ultimate bicycle, various electronic items, eventually a computer. I would make elaborate lists of the exact specifications of things I would never have. It’s not that I was a demanding child; quite the opposite! I was almost always too polite to ask for anything, and just hoped that someone would notice my obsession with the current golden dream and present it to me.
But I had a talent for wanting the unreachable. I wasn’t often satisfied; one bicycle and a walkie-talkie set stand out as dreams fulfilled. Rosebud! O my Raleigh 10 speed, and the little walkie talkies with the separate microphone that was so cool.
As the Apostle says, now that I think as a man I put away childish things. My toy planning now is limited to the occasional configuration rampage on an auto maker’s or computer company’s website. I don’t like to play the “if I won the Lottery” game or read books about how to become the CEO of a company. That stuff feels immature, silly.
But if there’s a woman I know who’s unavailable, I’ll fall for her whether she’s attached, uninterested, or just emotionally inaccessible. Reliably and fatally, I’m attracted to whomever won’t reciprocate: ice queens, people who live far away, people in love with someone else, and people who just aren’t interested.
And when I think about solving my problems I need to fix everything, now and forever; I insist on total cures for my ills and freedom from every demon that dogs me. I can hold up some ridiculous image of future perfection and call it a goal, and I’m being serious.
And when I let my mind drift and imagine some kind of happiness like that, I always next imagine betrayal and failure. Clearly I’d be dumped by anyone I wanted, obviously any success at defeating my troubles would blow back in my face sevenfold once I told myself I’d won. I build tragic ends to every daydream.
There’s life lived with nose pressed to the glass. The flying suits never arrive, and if they did it was all a dream. Real life is more like marching than like flying, and that’s never suited me.