In the race called human life, we can all dream. That’s a great beginning. But to finish? We must get to work.
“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
That’s the number of strides it takes for a runner to complete a marathon, 26.2 miles from beginning to end, to compete in and then complete, this most ancient of athletic competitions. So in our own Boston Marathon, for example, that’s all the way from the postcard-perfect town green of suburban Hopkinton to the finish line under the shadow of the skyscraping Prudential Center in downtown Boston. A very long way to propel one’s self using only your body. No Uber. No commuter train. No cruising along the Pike in your car. Nope. Just your muscles and your breath and your will to finish.
So what’s the secret to competing in and completing such a herculean task? There must be a mysterious shortcut, maybe a hack that makes marathoning somehow easier, right? I’ve got friends who run marathons, and when I ask them just how they do it, how they achieve the seemingly impossible, how they can actually run such a very long distance, their answer is both obvious and simple.
They just run.
They lace up their sneakers and begin with one step and then another step and another and another and another. They have the goal of being a marathoner, and then they take that hope and translate it into action. Into running: when the weather is perfect and they’ve got a tailwind that makes them feel as if they are Mercury, the Greek god of fleet-footedness. They also run when it is cold and rainy at 6 a.m. They run after working a full day, even though all they really want to do is flop down on the couch with a beer. Instead, they get up and they go out and they run.
They just run.
Told you the answer was a no-brainer, so clear and yet so hard sometimes. To dream big dreams for ourselves in this life, but then to also have the discipline and the courage to make them come true. To imagine a glorious victory, but then do the hard work of getting to that finish line. In Thoreau’s words, to build castles in the air and then also have the wisdom to build foundations under them.
Ask most humans if they’ve got some dream they’ve always wanted to achieve and guaranteed they will have at least one great hope. One achievement they’ve always fantasized about realizing. To run a marathon. Write a book. Sing a solo on stage. Start a business. Stand for election to public office. Build a house.
What’s your dream?
To dream big is to be human. To dream big is to listen to the divine voice within that dares us to become and not just to be. In this season of graduations, speakers stand before wide-eyed and huge-hearted graduates and seek to inspire those young people to soar, to take that degree and become who they are called to become in the world. Who their Creator made them to be.
That’s all good. Yet the best of intentions, even the greatest idea of all time: it cannot, it will not ever come true unless we as the dreamer finally make the commitment and begin the race. Sit down before the computer with its blank screen and then type the very first word. Arise at 5 a.m. to get into the office early before most folks have had their first cup of coffee. Pull on well-worn running shoes and put one foot in front of the other and begin at mile marker one.
In the race called human life, we can all dream. That’s a great beginning. But to finish? We must get to work. We must leave the easy life of day dreaming and then do the actual work of life building. We must run.
Ready? Set? GO!
The Rev. John F. Hudson is senior pastor of the Pilgrim Church, United Church of Christ, in Sherborn (pilgrimsherborn.org). If you have a word or idea you’d like defined in a future column or have comments, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or in care of the Dover-Sherborn Press (Dover-Sherborn@wickedlocal.com).