That’s the question aeronautical engineer Giovanni Caproni asks Jiro Horikoshi in one of many dream sequences in Miyazaki’s “The Wind Rises.” The question is in response to Jiro’s questioning of his dream of designing airplanes himself, after he gets a taste of the possible consequences while in pre-WWII Germany. Caproni is his idol, but he is also the internal voice that shapes Jiro’s worldview. What Caproni is truly asking him is whether a singular dream is worth all potential consequences. If the ends justify the means. Rarely do we think of the slave labor that created the pyramids – we only marvel at their grandeur. Jiro just wants to design airplanes – even if they’re bombers.
The movie has made me think about the lucky (or unlucky) few who do have that singular drive towards a life’s goal. There are so many kids who want to become doctors or firemen when they grow up. No one at six years old proclaims they want to be an accountant, or a publicist, or an administrative assistant. But they become these things, and most are content with the choice, so long as there is comfort and love in their lives. Then there is the handful of others who were born with the drive and are not complete until they have become what their dreams have shaped. They become heart surgeons because if not, their hearts would stop beating. They become a fireman because if not, the fire in their breast would be extinguished.
The film made me remember a test I took when I was in high school that was supposed to determine my career path. After answering countless questions, I received my future in a dot matrix printout – CREATIVE WRITER. Looking back, what a broad and confusing response! Other students received DOCTOR or POLICE OFFICER – at least there was a clear path for becoming these things. But CREATIVE WRITER? Of what? Does this mean a journalist? An essayist? Someone who writes little blurbs online? A *gulp* novelist? I’ve often wondered what the benefit was to taking those tests – most students were left confused about their future or the test only reinforced existing beliefs. I took the results and held them to my heart for many years, finally deciding that becoming a publicist for the arts would fulfill my desire to be surrounded by art and my desire to write, even if it was just a press release and the occasional blog post.
I realize now that there is so much more I want to say, and that I’m only beginning this journey towards…well…I haven’t defined it yet. I am purposefully treating this next stage in my life as one with many blind curves. I’m not putting pressure on myself to write a novel, or publish an essay in the next year…but I know these desires will come to me naturally, slowly. Maybe that’s what CREATIVE WRITER is meant to be – just ambiguous enough to light many fires instead of one. I know that at some point I’ll no longer wish to write in a vacuum and push my words towards greater heights. I may not have Jiro’s singular drive, but I am driving somewhere…and I’m enjoying the journey.