If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them. ~Henry David Thoreau
As summer solstice came and went last week, I remembered a sweat lodge I participated in a couple years ago that offered up a new theory for my curiosity over why some creative people are successful and others are not.
During the sweat I kept seeing the symbol of the beaver, which seems so appropriately connected to the question that has puzzled me–why do some creative minds manage to build foundations under their dreams while other very deeply creative souls trudge through life never quite touching the ground nor managing to share their talents with all the folks that would benefit most? Is it just fate that some find the tools and help they need to anchor their air castles and others remain frustrated in their attempts?
The beaver symbol offered me a clue. A beaver dreams a dream and then methodically coaxes it to reality. He sees and engineers a dam that can change the course of river, believes it can happen and gets to work making it real. He doesn’t hear the voices that say one beaver can’t change the course of a river. He just dreams it and gets to work. But it takes time, diligence and patience. And it takes never losing sight of the dream.
But what strikes me as the most important lesson of this animal totem, is that the beaver does what he does with the intention of building something for everyone. Sans ego, the beaver isn’t looking for accolades or a monument to his enormous talent as an engineer; he’s building safety and security for his community. He’s contributing what he’s best at—dreaming and then doing—for the betterment of the group. The beaver instinctively knows how to balance creative dreaming with egoless doing for the benefit of all. It’s his nature.
Granted in the human realms of creative dreaming, there tend to be dreamers and doers, with few of us blessed with both gifts of beaver-like vision and persistence. And we have egos that will float the most amazing creative ideas out into the world like clusters of beautiful mansion-making sticks and leaves and floss in the hopes that someone will notice what great visionaries we are. There’s a disconnect between dreaming and doing for many, and the easy way out is often to lament that creativity is neither honored or rewarded.
Somehow the example of the beaver tells me that what really keeps all those air castles adrift is the idea that there will be personal rewards for simply being creative or things will just happen by having a dream. Perhaps the wisdom of the beaver tells us that in order for our internal creativity to become a shared reality, we must dream outside our egos and be willing to build one stick at a time. Air castles (or floating beaver lodges) are a start, but it’s creative doing, which inherently understands the importance of community, diligence and patience, that will turn creative dreams to reality. Moving from the vision to action back to the vision again and again is the only way to turn creative dreams into reality.