Stand up for a better dream

Stand up for a better dream

Last night I watched someone I had known almost 16 years stand up and become somebody else.

Through art we have a way to fast forward the glacial pace of evolution. We can move beyond natural laws and into the realms of dreams and deep collaboration.

Which is why I cringe at the way we have crippled art by making it a competitive sport. Reality TV, eisteddfods, talent shows… as failure becomes a fixture of art we are losing the art of dreaming up better futures. We are taking what is revolutionary about art and twisting it into another form of marketing for the status quo.

Last night I watched more than 20 young people perform monologues on stage. A monologue is intensely challenging because there is no hiding. You pull out everything you’ve got knowing that you’ll never be enough. You just won’t. You won’t meet up to your own standards and that’s a thorn every artist suffers every time they do what they do.

But there they were, young children through to young adults, ready to stand up and give us all they had. Incredible, all of them.

The judges told us everyone deserved to win, of course, but… well… they didn’t. If they want to win next year they need to reduce themselves to a set of criteria. Dreaming provides no competitive advantage. Rather than invite each other into a world-wide conversation, inspiring each other to more wondrous dreams, we further oppress ourselves.

I held one of the performers in my arms the day he was born, almost 16 years ago, and after all that time, last night I watched as he became someone I had never met before. It took my breath away. I wasn’t at all nervous for him because not long after he walked onto the stage he made way for someone he had dreamed up and perfected through long hours of practice. The person who replaced him was awkward, sweet and unintentionally hilarious.

Comedy has been a vehicle of rebellion for many centuries. Stand up comedy, in particular, is an art perfectly suited to the active negotiation of a live audience and it is one of the only modern art forms that remains relatively untamed. May it never become a reality TV show. May our comics continue to guide us gently, belly-achingly, into conversations that seek to enlighten us.

We are so judged, compared and competed with that to stand up for our dreams can be terrifying. Our awkward protagonist stumbled many times, but he didn’t give up on his grand dream. And in this humble joke was the golden essence of our short existence. Stand up and try again. That’s the art of living. That’s all we have. We may not get exactly the world we ask for but we won’t get anything if we don’t first dream it possible and then stand up and make it so.



About the author

Tanya Burke is the author of the EveryVoiceCounts blog and creator of the Wise Child, Happy Child program. She co-authored A Doctor’s Dream with Buddhi Lokuge. You can follow us on facebook, RSS feed, twitter and read our ridiculously infrequent but super interesting newsletters.




3 Responses to “Stand up for a better dream”

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  1. intellectual admirer says:

    Once again. Words to connect us to a bigger reality.

  2. Stephanie says:

    Ah Tanya,
    you speak as though you know what I am thinking!!!

    I love to hear human beings of all age practice all kinds of artistic endeavours, but I fear that neoliberalism has so infected our culture that it seems that art (in all its’ forms) is now just another thing to be commodified…

    Trying very hard to walk the tightrope of keeping my boy immersed in community experiences that allow him to express and experience singing, dancing, theatre etc, without the wholesale competitive win/lose set up that is so pervasive right now.

    Art is intrinsically part of what it means to be human, in my mind you can’t separate the two. By commodifying the artistic process, we are commodifying our children at a deep and fundamental level. I can’t see how this can lead to anything but a whole lot of people feeling empty in the long term, a kind of soulless-ness in the culture.

    Bring on the unadulterated, joyous expression of being human, I say, minus the competition!!!

    • EveryVoiceCounts says:

      I agree completely – when you learn how to participate in the conversation of art with your full self you are vulnerable and powerful at the same time. The act of engaging the human conversation connects you to every other human and makes you a conscious part of your creation. Now why would we want to shrink that incredible gift down into another process of teaching to the test?

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