I stand in a natural alcove where the weeping willow touches the river water. From my left, a young boy and his father, both in rented canoes, splash into view. The boy sings: “Row, row, row your boat—gently down the stream! Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily—life is but a dream! Life is a dream!” “No it’s not,” snaps the father, “life is not a dream.” The once exultant boy falls silent and they splash from my view—I am essentially unseen; nobody expects anyone here, here in the natural alcove.
The boy attained an exultant truth—a religious truth. I could tell from the way he said: “Life is a dream!” When his father heard the exultant truth—the joy—he crushed it, crushed it from envy and hate. “It’s just practical, it’s just facts. You can’t go through life like that. What good will that do you?” This is the pretence for murder, murder by suffocation: “Dreamers think the world is all unlimited ice cream and gooey buns. Well, you’ll see—you’ll see what it is soon enough!” This is the excuse, the idea that the dream is wish-fulfilment—the idea that the dreamer is an impractical person; it’s time to crack on and be sensible.
The dreamer is the most practical person, the old song constitutes high realism. The father has built a carapace from pretension and manipulation—and this carapace, built on lies, constitutes his reality. It is his “practicality”. To be reminded that it is illusion, an illusion built to aggrandise itself, constitutes an unacceptable intrusion—it must be smothered, the pretext is practicality. It is as when one child crushes another’s sandcastle on a beach—it is beautiful, it exists, it is not mine. As it happens, to sleep and to wake are one and the same—to dream is to awaken, to awaken is to dream. This was one incident, there will be others—others to put the boy to sleep, until, at death, he awakens.