In January 2012, while on a storytelling course, I was given a story to c0-narrate with a colleague. It was about a man who bought a dream – and, like some stories do, it left Johnson and I wondering about what the message of the story really was. Everytime we thought we had grasped it, is seemed to slip away, or raise a different question. A skeleton version of the story goes like this:
A poor man was sitting with his friend who was fast asleep. As the friend woke up, a bee flew out of his nose. He shared his dream which was about finding a pot of gold under a nandin bush in the garden of the richest man in Osaka. The poor man was so impressed by the dream he took all his savings and bought the dream. His wife was angry – what use was someone else’s dream? The man left home, armed with hope, and walked 400 kms to Osaka, and found the rich man’s house. He asked to spend the night there, and told the rich man the story, asking for help to find the gold. As he slept the rich man got his servant to dig in the garden and they found a pot. when they opened it a bee flew out – and there was nothing else inside! He re-buried the pot, and the next day, the poor man dug it up – to find nothing. He was devastated, and almost did not return home for he was ashamed of what he had done. But his love for his wife was so strong he returned home. When he got there she ran up to him and told him that on the day he left, she heard bees in the attic – and when she opened to door a bee flew out, and then lots and lots of gold coins fell out of the attic. They were so happy, and were never poor again. (for a written version of the story go to – http://www.timmyabell.com/mandream.htm or google it)
This story left me feeling like I had not really ‘got it’. And then I forgot about it… until November when I went to a show by Hugh Masekela and Sibongile Khumalo called ‘Songs of Migration”. It was a beautiful show exploring, in song, narration and movement, people leaving home in search of … work, riches, refuge – based mainly in South Africa during apartheid, but also touching on immigrants from other parts of the world, and migration in post apartheid South Africa. At some point Hugh said something like, “Those who stayed at home long for those who have gone. And those who have gone long to return, but cannot because they have not found what they set out to find. They are too ashamed to go back.” And in that moment I thought of that man who had bought a dream – and almost did not return because how could he? He had used up everything they owned on a ‘foolish’ dream. How could he face his wife? And yet his love for her took him back, ready to face the consequences of his foolishness – and he found riches, and love and joy.
There is so much richness in this story – still more to be mined, but as I think of this year – my prayer is that we all have the courage to follow our dreams, and to have the courage, when it fails (or seems to have failed) to go back home to the place of love and acceptance, to have the courage to face the consequences of our failure – and to be open to surprise!!!!!