Saturday, July 14, 2007

Bastille Day: I've got new dreams ...

On this date in 1789, Parisians stormed the Bastille kick-starting the French Revolution that would give bloody birth to the modern republic. The prison held a store of arms that the people wanted for self-defense, fearing an impending crack down by the royal troops. Because of its history as a place of internment for political writers and intelectuals, the destruction of the Bastille became a rallying point of the revolution, and to this day the event is celebrated by Francophiles around the world. Painter Jean-Pierre Houël famously captured the storming in his work Prise de la Bastille, at left.

The power of the moment lay not in the actual significance of the prison when it was seized, as it only held 7 inmates of no particular political importance, but in the symbolism of the structure. The Bastille had become representative of the oppressive rule of the old aristocracy, and tearing it down was a metaphorical act of defiance against their power. It stood as an abstraction for the old social structures that kept the new, blossoming political ideas of the age from seeing the light of day.

Prisons are very powerful symbols for the inhibition of both social and personal development. When political States form, they erect an entire apparatus of social control meant to preserve the power of the status quo. Societies are living things, however, and they continue to evolve until the old laws become restrictive, holding back the full potential for growth. That's when a society is ripe for revolution.

People are much the same; we can become trapped in old ideas. A mental system we've created to survive a certain age or period of life becomes rigid and confining as we continue to grow into new circumstances. We can either keep those old systems in place and make ourselves misearable, or try to break free of them and embrace change in all its scary beauty.

These threshold moments can be messy and intimidating, as we stand in the doorway to our future deliberating whether to step forward. We just need to recognize them for what they are, screw our courage to the sticking place, and take that first step into the next phase of our lives. Once we do, the trepidation will fall away and we'll feel the exhiliration of new possibilities.

Local Chicago punkers Naked Raygun penned a deceptively simple song about these life-changing moments. Repeating the mantra-like lyrics will help steel us to do what's necessary to achieve our true potential, individually and as a society.

New Dreams by Naked Raygun

I got new dreams
I say I got new dreams
I got new dreams and I'm gonna make 'em real
I got new dreams and I'm gonna make 'em real
I got new dreams and I'm gonna make 'em real
I got new dreams and I'm gonna make 'em
Woh-ay-oh, Way-oh-ay

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