What Does BTS’ Paradise Tell Us About Dreams?
At the beginning of the new year 2018, Suga of BTS had a message for all their fans. “Everything will work out, all of your dreams will come true. And if you don’t have a dream, that’s okay too. It’s possible to not have a dream. If you’re happy then that’s all that matters.”
Five months later, BTS release a full-length album, Love Yourself; Tear. A part of the LOVE YOURSELF series, Bighit Entertainment describes the series bearing the message “that loving oneself is the beginning of true love.”
But what does it mean to truly love who you are?
In a live stream for their album, RM describes more about every song off their album. It is clear that Paradise remains something different to him. “The term love and dream both have sociality. People say the same terms over and over again and the terms get extra meaning. Or the term gets specific feelings. Dream and love, the two terms, are being used so many times. There are used by many people. Yes, they are precious terms but I think these terms have become too sacred.”
“We think love should be something that’s always beautiful,” He continues, “And we always have to be giving and desperate about it. It should be something beautiful. And dreams, too. We think we must have one. ‘If you don’t have a dream, you are not living a life.” He frowns, “But not all love is beautiful. I think hatred is a part of love. I think love and hate can be the same thing.” He goes on, “We think we must accomplish our goals and make our dreams come true.” He’s quick to reiterate, “It’s not bad, we all have our dreams. But I didn’t always have a dream.”
Ending his live stream, RM describes Paradise as a “very sad song.” He says, “It reflects the reality and it’s about hope. I think the song itself is a dream.”
Paradise by BTS speaks of what it means to dream and be human in a way that many of us are yet to listen.
Life is long, do it slowly
At the end, it’s full of the paradise of dream
But the real world
Is different from the promise
We have to run, we have to step on the accelerator,
When the flare gun launches a signal
You don’t even have a destination
And there’s not even a scenery
When you are so out of breath
You need to, you need to
Paradise begins by describing life as a marathon, contrary to a race. The distinction is important — a race and a marathon may sound similar but the journey through both programs remains different. A race focuses on an objective, on being the first to reach a destination while a marathon focuses on the cumulative distance, the entirety of the journey. The pace too is different. While a marathon does not require speed or for you to be the first to win, a race undeniably does so. A marathon has no winner either.
In Paradise, we see how life, initially supposed to be seen as a marathon, is more of a race brimming with competition. Every moment is important but there is no time to sit back or rest, our ears on the watch for the flare gun or for anyone who rushes by. There is no moment to be enjoyed. Instead, we rush to a paradise that might not exist, hoping, praying it makes sense at the end.
It’s okay to pause
There’s no need to run without knowing the reason
It’s okay not to have a dream
as long as there are your moments to briefly feel happiness
It’s okay to pause
We now don’t run without knowing the purpose
It’s okay not to have a dream
Every breath you exhale is already in the paradise
Here BTS tell you it’s okay to take a moment for yourself, to not have a dream. This message is contrary to so many of us who grew up being asked what our ambitions in our life are, what we want to be in our lives, what we work so hard for. Messages of hope and the will to instill happiness in our own lives and find it is rare. But BTS say, there is no paradise at the end. It is every moment you live. Or it could be.
We dream through others (like debt)
We learn that we have to become great (like light)
Your dream, actually a burden
If future is the only dream,
then what’s the thing that I dreamed last night in bed?
It’s okay to have different names to your dream
To buy a laptop next month,
or just to eat and sleep
or to do nothing but have a lot of money
Dream doesn’t need to be anything grand
You can just become anyone
We deserve a life
Whether it’s big or small, you’re still just you
In his livestream, RM spoke about how Paradise was based on Marxist ideals. We can see how these lyrics reflect on these ideals, how it encourages us to understand dreams for what they are, how enforced some ideas can be. The more we think about it, the more we try to understand, it is easy to see dreams for what they are — ambitions less so, burdens the more we think about it. Here RM asks us, can’t a dream mean two different things? Can it not mean something else to someone else? Can a dream be too big or too small? Who can we become? Who deserves a life? Must life be something grandiose? Is it unambitious to exist as we always have been, to find happiness and meaning and live a life that’s ours?
It’s also interesting to see the lyrics talk of dreams as debts, as something that remains unoriginal, borrowed from others but still leaves us indebted. Are our dreams truly ours? Who do we dream for?
All in all, Paradise poses questions that remain important for many to hear. What is a dream? Who are we to define it? What remains at the end?
I don’t have a dream
Sometimes I’m scared to dream
Just to live like this
and to survive like this, that’s a small dream for me
To dream a dream, to grasp the dream,
and to breathe a breath, sometimes are too much for me
Saying ‘some are living like this, some are living like that,’
the world pours curses on me
Here Suga admits openly he does not have a dream and even if he did, he would be scared to. A dream is defined as something out worldly, something that remains out of our reach, impossible but meaningful. Here Suga says, to survive perhaps is enough. When breathing is too much, perhaps to exist as we always have been can be a dream. Comparison, the theft of joy, lingers behind. They tell us, a dream is not worth having if you do not live for the world or if you do not live better. It tells us a dream is only worth having if it defines you — if it makes you important. You must dream bigger.
This lyric is especially important when compared to Suga’s previous verse in his solo song So Far Away when Suga talks about feeling dejected over having no dream, how he follows the dreams of others and realizes at the end, they were wrong. He comes to understand his dream is to live a life that is kind to him, where he is kind to others and rewards him with a “full bloom at the end” and realizes that is enough.
The world has no right to curse at me
It never has even taught me how to dream
Because it’s a made-up dream, you sleep talk in tears
I wake you from the nightmare for you
Let’s now smile every day in that paradise
Here BTS say to us, the world has never had any right to curse us, to tell us to have bigger dreams, to do more because a dream isn’t a dream anyway. Is a dream truly a dream when it hurts? How do we dream when we have never known what it means? When we have never been taught to think for ourselves? They tell you to wake up, to truly understand what a dream is, what it can be, why it doesn’t matter even if you choose not to, and how a Paradise at the end does not exist because it already is here.
Paradise’s message remains contrary to a message that has been thrown at us for all our lives. It is incredibly refreshing to have someone tell you it is okay to exist as you always have been. Perhaps life does not have to be a single act of grandiosity, it can be anything you want. Perhaps you do not have to have a dream but maybe you have always had one or maybe you don’t have to and that’s okay.
Perhaps life remains something different for every single one of us and there is no right pace, no right track, no right formula to live a life that’s right, to dream or to truly be yourself. There is no right way to live. Perhaps, to live, to dream and to exist are three different things but not so different too. Paradise tells us it is okay to exist as we have always been but to find moments that make us happy and remember why, in the end, we keep moving.