A Dream Deferred

The song and the video to “Silent Running,” an 80s hit by Mike & the Mechanics, haunted me from the first time I saw it. This ghostly image likely seems irrelevant to most, but somehow this split second frame burnt itself into my subconscious. Frankly, I don’t know how to express it…but I’ll try.

I had a dream last night. Incredibly vivid and incredibly detailed. Maybe the first lucid dream I had in twenty five years or more. I even knew I was dreaming. And yet, though some things were going on that I didn’t like, knowing that I was unconscious, I so did not wish to awaken.

The details would likely only be interesting to a psychologist or a hard core student of dreams. The only detail worth sharing was that I was in high school, I was a teenager again, and my father had broken another promise. And in the dream, and when I awoke, I had a strong feeling of anguish over my father’s broken promises, and the over the quasi loss of my son, for whom I am fighting for custody in a bitter court battle. And the beginning of “Silent Running,” with the faint sound of sea gulls, was running through my mind.

I haven’t quite shook the feeling yet, and again, likely I’m not conveying it. Possibly none of this makes sense. The best way I can describe it is “our father’s broke their promises to us, and we must start a revolution, a Beltane, purging our pasts, making right what we can, killing ourselves if we must to keep our promises to our children.”

I don’t know how many will get this reference, but if you do…..

So why the dream? Why am I writing about it other than the insane compulsion to write? At least in part, I know I am not the only one who has had that dream. There is something about it, the dream of being one of the Founding Fathers of your nation, or an Apostle in your church. Bringing something new and beautiful into fruition, something future generations will call you blessed for being a part of.

It was seeded deep in mythology. It’s why we are so in awe (well, one reason why) of Jesus, of George Washington, of inventors, of those who create great theories and great works of art. The same joy you feel when you first marry or your baby is born.

For some happy few, St. Crispin’s Day dawns and God has granted an Agincourt. Few fought against many in a righteous cause, and the righteous won.

Loki you hippy! Take a bath! No wonder Oden loves Thor more!

But in spite of what we want to believe, the righteous don’t always win. Hector falls defending his homeland. Socrates is condemned to drink hemlock. Christ is crucified. William Wallace is hung, drawn, and quartered. Sainted Joan of Arc is burned as a witch. Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Junior are assassinated. Daddy promises to take me trick or treating and gets drunk instead.

I look on the promises I made my son, and so many of them are no more than ashes blowing in the wind.

What do you do when the Saint is burned? When you light the match?

I’ve said a lot of melodramatic, cryptic stuff here. Before I try to tie it all up into a tidy bow, let me go back to the Silent Running music video. I posted something about it on a failed blog I used to write, but I’ll try to do it justice again.

I must have been seventeen, because it was the year I was in football but still at home with my parents. I don’t remember what game I came home from, whether it was one of the very few we won, or not, but I remember for some reason I came home feeling pumped. I felt seventeen for a change, and strong, and like the causes for which I fought were righteous and destined for either success, or for beautiful, quixotic, poetic failure. And I walk in the door with my pads on and my cleats. And for whatever reason my mother is watching something with music videos (I’ll never know what was up with that, perhaps it is another reason why the event was so dreamlike to me). The cool night air from the farm as behind me, and our little black and white tv starts with the late character actor Billy Drago (found out while researching this post he died in ’19 at the age of 73) in a ghostly hologram telling this boy that he knew his father, that his father was a great man in spite of not being in his life, that he is part of the revolution. He imparts (in the lyrics of the song anyway) wisdom to the boy. “Don’t believe the church and state, and everything they tell you.” “Better you should pray to God, the Father and the Spirit will guide you and protect you.” “Teach the children quietly, for someday sons and daughters will rise up and fight where we stood still.”

In the end, I just miss my son. I’d give twenty years of my life to have him with me one more day, watching Mystery Science Theater and joking about cartoons. I wonder if I’ll ever see him again, and there is nothing to be done but try not to be the one who lights the match. I’m going to post a link to both “Silent Running,” and a Phil Colllins song about the loss of a child. Listen to “Silent Running” a few times, and imagine what the seventeen year old is thinking about his father, and what the fifty year old is thinking about his son.

What do you think? Have you ever lost someone important to you? Please comment.

Can you hear me? Can you hear me running? Can you hear me running can you hear me calling you?
“It seems in a moment, your whole world can shatter. Like morning dreams, they just disappear. Like dust in your hand falling to the floor. How can anything ever be the same?


  1. NorthernOkie says:

    Very poignant thoughts.

    The song always seemed to allude to me about some failed resistance fighters or such…


    1. Curtiswselby says:

      I thought I had replied to you. Sorry, the chronic fatigue is reminding me it hasn’t totally gone away. I found this song with video about Trump, making it look like he was a freedom fighter. ‘Nuff said.


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