The other day, as I sat in a lawyer’s office, a real estate agent told me that I was a “mover and a shaker.” That’s a term that gets batted around a lot, usually in reference to politicians and/ or businesspeople. I always used it that way…until recently. Because, guess what? That’s wrong. WAY wrong.
The term “movers and shakers” comes from the poem “Ode” by Arthur O’Shaughnessy. (That’s Arthur, in the pic above.) Never heard of “Ode?” I’ll bet you have and didn’t realize it. The poem opens with the lines, “We are the music-makers,/And we are the dreamers of dreams” (1-2). Many artists know that line; it’s about us. And that opening stanza ends with, “Yet we are the movers and shakers/ Of the world for ever, it seems” (7-8).
Whaaaaaaaaaat? Yes, my friends. Movers and shakers are ARTISTS. But–how? Check out these lines: “One man with a dream, at pleasure/ Shall go forth and conquer a crown;/ And three with a new song’s measure/ Can trample an empire down” (14-17). It is about both the fact that artists create worlds in their work, and the fact that this art can influence and change reality. Too often, the world acts as if art is of dubious value. “Dreamers” they call us, as if that’s something bad. But this world is built on dreams. As Joseph Campbell points out in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, “Dream is the personalized myth, myth the depersonalized dream; both myth and dream are symbolic in the same general way of the dynamic of the psyche. But in the dream the forms are quirked by the peculiar troubles of the dreamer, whereas in myth the problems and solutions sown are directly valid for all mankind.” In other words, myths are a reflection of our the human dream. Stories and art connect us to a reality that is deeper than the reality we experience every day, deeper than real estate and lawyer’s offices. As Clive Barker points out in Writers Dreaming (by Naomi Epel), “As a child you are given dream time as part of your fictional life. Into your hands go the books of dream travel, Dorothy’s dream travel, the Darling family’s dream travel in Peter Pan, the children of Narnia…. And then at the age of five or something like that, they start to teach you the gross national product of Chile.” Right. We are taught that “reality” is all that matters. But reality is, of course, a point of view.
So, dreamers, to you I say this: Keep on moving and shaking.