I had a very strange and vivid dream a few nights ago. It went something like this:
It is raining and dark outside. The world is coming to an end, and only I can save it. But I decide doing so would be too hard, so I don’t. Instead, I somehow break into someone’s car, steal the CD player lying on the floor of their car, and begin walking around – I’m apparently at a university of some sort, though not the one I attend. I’m looking for CDs to listen to, because I need to find the right music to listen to – maybe this was how I was supposed to save the world in the first place, I don’t quite recall.
But the first CD I find is filled with really bad music (which I listen to anyway – the rest of the dream has a truly horrible soundtrack), and after that, every time I pick up what looks like a CD (these things are lying around everywhere – on tables, in chairs, on bookshelves, etc), it turns out to be a DVD. I know I saw a DVD of season 3 of the Simpsons, and a few movies I can’t remember. I keep frantically walking around trying to find something good to listen to, but couldn’t. Then I woke up.
Where am I going with this? Well, partially, just to relate the story of this strange dream I had. But also, to point out how much more… exciting, in certain ways, this dream was than reality. And how much more exciting every dream, really every story worth telling, is than reality.
We tell stories about things we have no experience in – how many of us have ever actually had to save the world (none), or lead an army into battle (almost none), or even been in war at all (some, but not anywhere near a majority)? Most people have had romantic entanglements of some kind, but how many have been as intense as those of Romeo and Juliet – they both commit suicide rather than live without the other – or Othello, who kills his wife out of jealousy then commits suicide when he realizes he was tricked? (None.) In a sense, literature isn’t about life at all. It’s about what life could be – about a potential that few of us will ever realize.
I don’t think this makes it worthless. Nor do I think it means we ought to move to a literature that is about everyday life, excluding anything extraordinary. Partially, because doing so means moving to a literature that is boring. But also because doing so means saying that the world as it is, and our life as it is, is all that there can be. There is no potential for anything better.
The title of this post is a reference to a song by TYR called Dreams. It’s about what this post is about – how mythology isn’t about life, but it’s about what we dream about, what is possible but not actual.