Dreams, shadow dancing

I'm reading a book called Shadow Dancing in the U.S.A (notes) by Michael Ventura. I found it by accident—via Peter Schwartz's The Art Of The Long View (notes), and that one itself via Tim O'Reilly's WTF?: What's the Future and Why It's Up to Us (notes). I like to follow the references—so many things out there I wouldn't even know to look for, let alone find. The book is from 1985, and it is a collection of essays reworked from his articles in the LA Weekly. Here's another thing I like: reading books that are separated from my own age by just a generation or two. It's interesting to feel the subterranean chill of a contemporaneous reference that may have been important at the time but has been buried just long enough to have been forgotten. It's easy to forget; it's easy not to know.

The fourth essay is called "The Big Chill Factor". Ventura himself has posted a copy here so you can read it. I think you should read it. The first third is a warmup, a kind of simmering annoyance about The Big Chill. (I've never seen it.) Then he cranks the dial and explains his recollections about growing up in the late 1960s and the subsequent comedown from all that energy. A Main Era. It's on par with that "high and beautiful wave" (chapter VIII) from the middle of Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Both Ventura's essay and Thompson's passage are savage, raw—these are people who held dreams in their hands and later watched them slip through their fingers like sand, and the experience burned a taunting image somewhere in their psyche that was so deep that it never went away. Like an afterimage from staring at the sun.

As it was all coming to an end I wrote a kind of note to myself which I wouldn’t read again until a long time later, a fragment of clarity on a cacophonous night: We know now that out dreams are not going to come true. Are never going to come true. We have learned that our dreams are important not because they come true, but because they take you places you would never have otherwise gone, and teach you what you never knew was there to learn.

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