Still Dreaming Seriously

Hello my friends,

Today is the 13th day of the 12th month of 2014. For my friends in the US, this is 12-13-14 and some of them have already told me they are expecting a message today— so I’ve chosen to take advantage of one more number pattern even though here in Europe (I’m writing this in Bucharest during two weeks of working here) we write today as 13-12-14.

Once again I mourn the loss of those twelve wonderful years from 01-01-01 to 12-12-12 when I could use the same date for both sides of the Atlantic.

So this year we have different dates—and yet we can still talk with each other. That’s the way I feel about the aftermath of the independence referendum in Scotland. We have differences and we still talk with each other.

Many of you have asked me how I’m feeling after the referendum. One response is the chorus of Not Lie Down, a song by Scotland’s Dougie MacLean: You can fall but you must not lie down.

For a not-yet-independent nation, Scotland has a lot of national anthems. One of the more recent contenders is Dougie MacLean’s

Caledonia. A couple hundred of us sang it along with Dougie at the launch of the Yes Campaign in May 2012. And I watched 12,000 people sing it with Dougie a couple of weeks ago as Nicola Sturgeon completed her tour as Scotland’s new First Minister.

If you don’t know Caledonia (and even if you do) you can follow this link to Dougie’s home page to see and hear him singing it: http://www.dougiemaclean.com

The Caledonia lyrics have taken on new resonance this year. So I thought I’d share the lyrics (from Dougie’s website) with you and then share what resonates for me.

I don't know if you can see the changes that have come over me

In the past year some changes have definitely come over me.

The last time I actively participated in a political campaign was when McGovern lost the US presidency in 1972. As I sat in a training group on the night of that election, I kept saying that I wished I had done more. My friend Nancy Fox asked me a memorable question: “If McGovern were winning tonight, would you be taking as much credit for his victory as you are taking for his defeat?”

So as I gradually became more involved in the Yes Campaign, I made one clear commitment to myself: This time I will make sure that I’ll never say that I could have done more. I moved from doing something every week to doing something every day. I spent the last few weeks sending a nightly email to a group of fifty people who were leafleting, or canvassing, or staffing a stall. I thanked each person who had shown up that day and I then encouraged others to show up the next day. I was still knocking on doors to get out the vote up to an hour before the polls closed. Then Rosie and I drove to Perth and spent all night at the count— watching the devastating result happening right in front of us.

In these last few days I've been afraid that I might drift away

The next few days—and weeks— were tough. I agreed completely with Lily, my granddaughter, who was in tears the next day—like the rest of us. She was asking, “Why wouldn’t people want to run their own country?”

So I've been telling old stories, singing songs, that make me think about where I come from

Lily helped her younger sister Fran recover—together they went to the shop to get some chocolate and then they sang “Flower of Scotland” loudly. I too have been singing songs and telling stories to keep the energy flowing.

That's the reason why I seem so far away today

I apologise for having seemed so far away from many of you over the past year. I was pouring most of my time, money, and energy into the campaign.

I have moved and I've kept on moving, proved the points that I needed proving

We have indeed kept on moving. After we began recovering from the devastation of the result—all the more devastating because we thought we were going to win— many of us began behaving in a mysterious way. We began to join the political parties that supported Yes. All three of those parties have quadrupled in size since the referendum. Clearly we are continuing the campaign.

We proved that we could move from 30% of the vote to 45% of the vote. We are at base camp and the summit is in sight for the next time. We are moving onward and upward.

Lost the friends that I needed losing, found others on the way

Remarkably, I have not lost too many individual friends. We are still talking with people who voted No and although we hope some of them will vote Yes next time, we can accept those who will stay No. The friend I was saddest to lose was the BBC, which I now realise is a state broadcaster supporting the establishment—rather than the objective source I used to know.

The real resonance in the above line is about the friends I have found on the way. We are having long conversations over lunch with people we didn’t even know six months ago. Twenty-five of us gathered at a restaurant back in November and we expect that many at our Yes open house tomorrow.

This has been the greatest gift of the campaign. As we have said to each other: “Knocking on doors in the rain, being called names we’ve never been called before, convincing a few people, getting

others to start thinking—and then doing it all again the next day— that builds a bond of friendship.”

I have tried and I've kept on trying, stolen dreams, yes there's no denying

We tried and we will try again. We have created our own serious dream of independence, a dream borrowed from the dreams of the dozens of countries that have already declared independence from Westminster. As Alex Salmond said on the day after: “The dream shall never die.”

I have traveled hard sometimes with conscience flying somewhere in the wind

My conscience drove me to do this. Unlike the other campaign that kept its focus on fear of what might happen to make some of us less comfortable, we in the Yes campaign kept our focus on what could happen for all of us as we move to a more equal and more peaceful society.

Now I'm sitting here before the fire, the empty room the forest choir
The flames that couldn't get any higher they've withered now they've gone

The flames of the last campaign are gone. But the embers of the next campaign are glowing and ready to come alight for the general election in May.

But I'm steady thinking, my way is clear and I know what I will do tomorrow
When the hands have shaken and the kisses flow then I will disappear

So here I am, working on my last day in Bucharest. And I do indeed know what I will do tomorrow. The influencing skills course that I am teaching ends tonight; the handshakes and hugs will signify the end of that work. And early tomorrow morning (the day when I hope you will receive this) I will disappear from Romania and fly home to Caledonia—singing the chorus of Caledonia:

Let me tell you that I love you and I think about you all the time Caledonia you're calling me and now I'm going home

But if I should become a stranger you know that it would make me more than sad
Caledonia's been everything I've ever had

Music and Lyrics by Dougie MacLean Published by Limetree Arts and Music


Thank you for listening to me— and to Dougie MacLean.

I do love each of you and I do think about you all the time.

I wish for each of you the love of a place that is life-giving and inspiring. I wish for you the challenge of campaigning for something that is worth campaigning for even if you lose. I wish for you the joy of continuing to dream seriously.

So I end this year with the same sentence I ended with last year:Some serious dreams we will live to see; other serious dreams we must live so that others will see.