“A man that is born falls into a dream like a man who falls into the sea. If he tries to climb out into the air as inexperienced people endeavor to do, he drowns.”
-Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim
I read this book in high school (great book, btw, if you’re totally down for questioning the existence and purpose of humanity, 10/10 do recommend), and have been giving this quote a lot of thought recently, for a couple of reasons. 1) In my spare time I do creative writing, and I have decided to center the book I’m writing thematically around my interpretation of this quote and 2) I am very interested in the phenomenon of dreams and dreaming.
So, how to approach this quote? Well, from Conrad’s P.O.V., the principal questions to ask would be “why do humans dream in the first place?” or “what is the purpose of dreaming”? As his characters ponder, if humans have the ability to dream and imagine better realities, does that mean that humans, and the reality in which we dwell, are essentially flawed in the first place? Or is the ability to dream a special trait that sets humans apart and makes them superior to other animals?
As this quote says, any man (and we’re taking this broadly here, taking man to mean human) who is born (basically anyone alive) can and will dream, and they will do so like they are falling into the ocean (What does this mean? Well, it’s pretty easy to fall into the ocean, but it’s also not something people tend to want to do. You don’t say “Oh I went and fell in the ocean this weekend”, you say “Wowee man, I splashed around and jumped in the ocean, what great fun!”. Falling tends to be involuntary, though not always.) So, perhaps, Conrad is saying that you will dream, whether you want to or not. But wait, there’s more! Conrad says that you will dream, possibly involuntarily, and if you try to climb out of it, like inexperienced people try to get out of the ocean, you will drown.
So….basically, let me give you some Swimming 101 lessons. If you can’t swim, and you get thrown into some water, and you are thrashing about and struggling madly and trying to get to dry land, you are way more likely to die. It takes up a lot of effort and energy, and tires you out very quickly, making it difficult for you to stay afloat. But, if you can’t swim and you find yourself in water and relax, remain calm, and float on your back, you will find it easy to survive by letting your lungs act as flotation devices.
Therefore, if you fall into a dream, and struggle to get out of it, you will fail and only be miserable. But, if you fall into a dream and you relax into it and let it envelop you, you will have a much easier time of escaping it when the moment approaches.
Great, got it. Thanks Conrad. What a guy. But what does this mean to me?
I’ve already written a lot, so I won’t got into a lot of detail, but when I first read this quote I started to wonder what it would be like if I took its meaning literally. And that is what I’m writing a book about. Essentially, there is a girl who discovers that she can dream in a way very similar to lucid dreaming, but more complexly. As she explores more and more of her own mind, she looses touch with the reality of life and discovers a new reality inside her head. Typically, heartbreak and soul-searching ensues in what will be a thrilling YA novel of epic proportions. Or so it goes in my head.
See ya later.