Catch a falling star

When I was a child, I looked suspiciously at the adults’ world. In fact, it seemed to me that adulthood was linked to a lot of unpleasant things: a lot of paperwork, responsibilities (at the time, that meant to me obligations), all kinds of problems, seriousness, and, of course, sense of reality. The last one appeared to be particularly stressed and manifested by exquisite commonplaces. You’re an adult now, so stop dreaming. You have to be responsible. Be realistic. I don’t know how many times I saw these delightful aphorisms in movies or in teenage books. Honestly, I claim that there isn’t any teenager on earth who hasn’t already heard such exhortations and who hasn’t rolled eyes with this typical teenager’s attitude halfway between boredom and attention. Nevertheless, what I want to point out here isn’t the legitimacy of such advice but rather a reflexion about the two main words which result from them: dream and reality. Clearly, these two words which characterize adulthood are constantly opposed in the phrases above. It would seem that an adult man could only either dream or be realistic. However, do these concepts really have to be antithetical? Must every adult abandon their childhood dreams to become down-to-earth and practical? Or is a reconciliation possible? It’s now time to take a telescope to look at the sky and throw some (star)light on the question.

First of all, I think it’s important to define these two terms: dream and reality. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the word “dream” has two definitions: (1) “a series of events or images that happen in your mind when you are sleeping” and (2) “something that you want to happen very much but that is not very likely”. At the very beginning, I want to underline the fact that the second sense derives from the first and that I’ll further treat both as a whole because, for me, the common point between these two definitions is that it happens in the head (during sleep for the first one and as something desired for the second one). Then, according to the same dictionary, “reality” is “the state of things as they are, rather than as they are imagined to be” or simply “a fact”. It appears first that reality has nothing to do with what happens in the head and common sense would support this assumption. However, I see a huge problem with this definition of “reality” because, to perceive “the state of things as they are”, a human being needs its senses and the senses are decoded by the brain. So, at the end, it still occurs in the head. This inquiry in the dictionary leads therefore to an aporia: the opposition between “dream” and “reality” isn’t clear anymore and isn’t based on a separation between what happens outside and inside of the brain. Moreover, the unreal side of dreams is challenged by the two following arguments.

Firstly, Plato states in the 9th book of the Republic:

When, I suppose, a man’s condition is healthy and sober, and he goes to sleep after arousing his rational part and entertaining it with fair words and thoughts, and attaining to clear self-consciousness, […] and so goes to his rest, you are aware that in such case he is most likely to apprehend truth.

Thus, in some cases, dreaming allows men to reach truth. I personally agree with Plato’s statement. Who’s never had a difficult issue to fix and found a solution after a good night’s sleep? Just think about the English phrase sleep on it … Therefore, I’m convinced that dreaming can provide solutions applicable to real life.

Secondly, this opposition between reality and dream originates perhaps from the separation between being awake and being asleep, the first one occurring during the day and the second one during the night. Even so, it is not valid. Actually, dreaming falls within the scope of a paradox as it combines an awake state (to dream, your brain must be awake) and an asleep state (to dream, your body must be asleep). That’s why the stage of the sleep cycle where you dream, the REM sleep (for Rapid Eye Movement) is also called paradoxical sleep: because dreaming is an activity between being asleep and being awake. What has this to do with the opposition between dream and reality? Well, this opposition doesn’t stem from the separation of the concepts of waking and sleeping, as is not so clear as it appears at first sight.

To conclude, I think it is difficult to fully separate dreams from reality as the definitions of these two concepts are very difficult to pin down. I believe that dreaming is in some ways connected to reality and even real. As a last word about this aspect, I dare cite Dumbledore in the 7th book of the Harry Potter saga. When Harry asks Dumbledore if the discussions they had happened in his own head and were just a dream, Dumbledore answers: “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean it is not real?” I love this quote because it contradicts common sense: dreams are real even if they take place in our minds.

Now, may the reader forgive me this almost endless digression, but I wanted to stress the statement that dreams and reality don’t have to be antithetical. After this mere formality, I now want to answer the two following questions I asked in the introduction. Must every adult abandon their childhood dreams to become down-to-earth and practical? Or is a reconciliation possible?

As I said in the introduction, adulthood is seen as a responsible age. Once you reach your twenties, it’s assumed that you have to give up your dreams to face the so-called responsibilities. Ok, I bow to this statement. But let’s question it a bit. Responsibilities to whom? To the society which educated you and which you benefit from? Ok, I agree. To the others as one person’s freedom ends where another’s begins? Fine, I’ll go along with that too. However, there is a third sort of responsibility which is often passed over in silence: responsibilities to ourselves. For me, that includes having the capacity of taking care of oneself, of being and assuming who we are and of following our most buried dreams. A person who doesn’t follow her dreams and intuitions lies to herself. Therefore, it is important to consider both, dreams and reality (two concepts that are not in opposition), to respond to these three kinds of responsibility. I think that the key is to find a path that allows us both: on the one hand, doing what we like and want and, on the other hand, earning money to meet our needs.

In my last year at high school, I was astonished to see that a lot of my schoolmates were dividing into two distinct categories: dreamers vs. realists. The first ones wanted to do a gap year to discover themselves and the second ones wanted to study economy, law or pedagogy in order to have a career and a lot of money. Honestly, I had the impression that the dreamers’ heads were a little too high in the clouds and that the second were too serious, and above all, not listening to their inner voice. Wasn’t it possible to find a middle way? Besides, the realists had started to talk about this sacrosanct security. They wanted money, a stable life and a-little-kennel-in-the-garden-for-the-dog-for-the-rainy-days. Good heavens! Already at 20 years? I didn’t and still don’t think that security is a good driving force; the most important one to me is rather to follow one’s own dreams and to be oneself. And what with no risk no fun? A pinch of lunacy doesn’t do any harm …

This leads me to declare my personal credos about life and about what, in my opinion, it should be. As an incurable optimist, I believe in the following statements:

  • Do what you like and follow your dreams and who you are, the rest will work itself out on its own.
  • Don’t be afraid and don’t let fear steer your choices.
  • Try and be adventurous. Don’t chose the easy way and what you already know but try and experiment. I especially agree with Kierkegaard when he says: “It’s not the path which is the difficulty; rather, it is the difficulty which is the path.”
  • Be yourself and don’t wear masks (except if a certain virus forces you to).
  • Don’t think too much about the norm and what is convenient. Don’t care too much about what the others think because you will always be criticized. 

In conclusion, I think it’s important to dream and try the impossible. They didn’t know it was impossible, so they did it. I wonder how the world would be if everyone followed their intuition and tried the impossible. Surely a lot of people would feel freer. I wonder how life would be if everyone tried to catch a falling star …


  1. I think it would be better to say that something happens in your mind (not in the head), when we speak about mental states such as dreaming, seeing, listening etc.
    In addition to that, a person lies to himself (not to herself).
    I rather agree, with what you said, even if I’ve found it very predictable knowing you.
    I think on one hand reality is the extension of the physical external world in your mind, where it exists as a set of mental states which together form what we call reality.
    On the other hand, dream is an extension of yourself, of your own creative world to the physical external world through and in your mind.
    Both are essential.
    Dream and reality form the dance between internal and external world and only if they balance each other in harmony, we can reach what we call happiness. (Because a dream without a world is madness or illusion and a world without a dream would lack of life)
    Dream is an intention towards the world which wouldn’t exist without what we call reality, but which makes the life exist, as creative intention towards the world.
    That’s why both are truly important!

  2. Merci de nous partager cette réflexion ! Voici mes pensées qui ont accompagnées ma lecture.
    Le rêve apporte des infos sur une réalité sensorielle et la réalité sensorielle va être différente d’un individu à un autre.
    “La réalité c’est ce qui continue d’exister lorsqu’on cesse d’y croire” Philip K. Dick
    La rencontre entre les rêves d’enfance et la réalité d’adulte peut permettre de se rencontrer soi et de connecter 2 époques différentes pour peut-être se rapprocher de ce qu’on est en train de vivre.
    Les rêves colorent la réalité, la manière dont on la perçoit, et tout ça crée de nouveaux rêves ou de nouvelles manières d’être soi en relation avec le monde.
    Le rêve nous donne des clés pour se sentir bien dans notre réalité ou nous signifier ce qu’il manque peut-être.
    C’est en se rapprochant de soi que l’on trouve peut-être la sécurité…
    Et stop à l’injonction/convention à “faire de beaux rêves ! Les “mauvais” rêves ont beaucoup de choses à nous raconter sur la réalité vécue.
    S’émerveiller, jour après jour, à tous les âges peut permettre de ne pas faire de la réalité quelque chose qui peut-être redoutée et évitée.

    1. Un grand merci pour ce commentaire. Je retire deux points que je trouve extrêmement intéressants: (1) la définition de Dick et (2) l’importance des mauvais rêves. Je n’ai pas du tout parlé de la qualité des rêves (bons ou mauvais) mais effectivement, je crois que les deux sont très importants …

      Au plaisir de te relire!


  3. A very interesting and stimulating article, thank you.

    I agree with you, that the division between dreams and reality is necessarily somewhat arbitrary, since all knowledge and awareness only occurs in our minds.

    The word ‘dream’ is, like many English nouns, not very precise, as you explain. I would, however, offer a distinction between the unrealistic type of waking dream (I dream of being discovered and becoming a famous pop star; I dream of living on a remote tropical island) and the type of dream which is more like a vision or a goal (I dream of becoming a good musician; I dream of running my own business). The former is not useless, such dreams can be pleasant recreation or even a sort of consolation, while the latter can be powerfully inspirational and motivational.

    Finally, I agree that being sensible and responsible need not preclude being sometimes playful and irreverent.

    1. Thanks a lot for your accurate reading. It’s always a great pleasure to have comments and to read what other people think about this topic! And thanks for the reflexion about the definition of the word “dream”. As you say, I agree that a lot of words we use in everyday life are often very complicated to define …



  4. Cher Nomao,

    Un tout grand merci pour ta réflexion. J’apprécie tout grandement le crédo. Ce qui est drôle c’est que, qu’on soit optimiste ou pessimiste, il fonctionne. Moi qui serais pessimiste, je m’y retrouve, car ton crédo n’exclut pas un monde comme projection personelle (à la Schopenhauer), au contraire je crois qu’il soutient cette thèse. Enfin à discuter 😉

    Je ne reviendrai pas sur ta réflexion entre “rêve” et “réalité” qui me semble pertinente, si ce n’est, peut-être, qu’une approche cognitive par antagonistes est parfois questionnable, mais bon… après tout… ça donne peut-être un effet plus catchy 😉

    Un point, en revanche, me chiffonne: Les notions d’enfant, d’adulte et de responsabilité. Je crois qu’il y a peut-être un problème de paradigme. D’une part, d’enfant à adulte, c’est tout un processus long et peu linéaire. D’autre part, enfant et responsabilité ne sont pas à mettre en opposition:

    Je me souviens, vers sept ans, de mettre senti responsable pour les sauterelles que je capturais en montagne et ramenais à la maison. La plupart étaient brunes ou grises. L’une se distinguait par une tache bleus, l’autre par des ailes robustes. Ma préférée était vert pomme, avec des pattes trop longues pour son corps tout trapu; sa robe m’hypnotisait. Je les avais recueillies dans un petit terrarium. Les nourrissais. Les abreuvais. Leur portais tout mon amour… Puis elles décédèrent et je pleurais, m’en voulais de ne pas avoir pris soin d’elles avec sérieux, remettais en question l’amour que j’éprouvais, me haïssais d’être aussi mauvais, irresponsable.

    Bref. Cela nous amène à un problème de paradigme: Dans ton introduction, le narrateur se projette en tant qu’enfant pour parler du mal-être d’être adulte. Il ne s’agirait aucunement de la voix véritable d’un enfant de six ans, mais bien celle d’un adulte, qui ferait de l’enfance un idéal de valeur, ce qui est peu défendable. En conséquent, je parlerais peut-être d’incompréhension entre enfant et adulte. Qui plus est, l’emploi de responsabilité mériterait d’être défini et nuancé: là non plus, je ne l’opposerais pas aux rêves, ni ne l’érigerais en paroxysme du négatif. Enfin à voir, mais ce n’est pas le point central de la discussion.

    Merci encore pour la passionnante lecture !!!! 😀


    1. Cher Matthieu,

      Merci beaucoup pour ton commentaire très intéressant.

      Effectivement, ton questionnement sur le concept de responsabilité chez l’enfant et chez l’adulte est pertinent. Je te rejoins sur le fait qu’un enfant peut tout à fait se sentir responsable. Pour moi, les deux peuvent se sentir responsabilités de qqch. Par contre, je questionne à mon tour ton opinion selon laquelle ma posture est peu défendable. J’en appelle au principe de l’autobiographie qui a de toute façon un côté surfait de par l’opposition entre “je narrant” et “je narré”. Dans ce texte, le moi adulte (je narrant) repense à mon moi plus jeune (je narré). Dans ce cas, je projette de toute façon des éléments de mon moi actuel sur mon moi passé. Non?

      Je suis en tout cas tout à fait impatient d’en parler de vive voix …

      Merci à toi pour ta passionnante lecture!


  5. Je me promenais sur internet et je découvre ton blog, je lis un article, puis deux, puis trois.
    Ta facon d’écrire et d’expliquer ta vision du monde est très interessante.

    Pour ma part, le terme responsabilité je l’ai eu très tôt dans ma vie (trop tôt peut-être). J’ai eu pleins de rêves en tête et peu se sont réalisés mais ce n’est pas pour autant que j’ai arreté de rever.
    Au contraire, continuer a rever nous permets de nous évader de cette vie que parfois d’autres personnes ont construit pour vous.
    Avoir des responsabilités est normal mais il ne faut pas non plus les laisser dominer votre vie. Je dis toujours qu’un adulte doit garder une âme d’enfant car qu’est ce que c’est ennuyeux d’être tout le temps sérieux.

    1. Un grand merci pour ce commentaire 🙂 Effectivement, je pense qu’il est extrêmement important de garder son âme d’enfant et je vois que nous sommes sur la même longueur d’ondes!

      Merci pour la lecture et à tout bientôt!


  6. Cher Damiano,

    On a déjà parlé de ton texte, je ne vais pas reprendre les points discutés. J’aimerais simplement prolonger notre premier échange, et revenir sur la notion de rêve. Je note au passage que, personnellement, j’ai envie de penser le rêve positivement (autrement, je parlerais plutôt de cauchemar).

    En parallèle de la distinction sommeil/veille, je donnerai aux rêves trois teintes différentes :

    1. Rêve d’antan – une vague de nostalgie vers ce qui n’est plus, le temps d’une rêverie se replonger dans le passé. Plaisir de faire revivre un monde disparu et prendre du recul sur ce qui a déjà été accompli.

    2. Rêve d’avenir – un espoir, une source de motivation, une force vers la réalisation, projection vers l’avenir. La première étincelle à la source d’un projet et l’étoile qui nous guide jusqu’à sa réalisation.

    3. Rêve d’illusion – rêverie fantasmagorique, pur produit d’imagination, sans prise dans le réel. Conscience d’un voyage purement imaginaire, destiné à n’exister que dans notre réalité intérieure.

    Dans ton texte, tu mets essentiellement en avant ce que j’appelle ici les « rêves d’avenir». Comme toi, je pense qu’ils jouent un rôle crucial dans nos vies et qu’il est toujours temps, touche après touche, de les réaliser. C’est eux qui nous portent en avant. Ils sont vecteurs de changement.

    A cette liste, j’ajouterais une quatrième catégorie de rêve :

    4. Rêve incarné – je pense ici à un état particulier de conscience qui nous donne accès à un profond sentiment de plénitude. Ces moments « hors le temps », où toute préoccupation disparaît. Ces moments où l’on se sent à la fois profondément ancré dans l’instant, et flottant juste au-dessus du réel. Ces moments où rêve et réalité ne font plus qu’un, où l’on se sent parfaitement aligné et où l’on pose un regard émerveillé sur le monde.

    Je me réjouis de poursuivre cette réflexion de vive voix ! Merci encore pour cette belle lecture !

    A bientôt,

    1. Chère Maïtena,

      Un grand merci pour cette distinction. Je trouve ta définition des rêves d’antan particulièrement intéressante. Je projette et conçois les vers tournés vers l’avenir mais ils peuvent également zieuter vers le passé …



  7. Thank you for this very thought-provoking text! And here, at last, are a few comments on my part! 😉

    It’s a good question you bring up, about growing up and the conflict between being realistic and dreaming and one we are all faced with, and not just once, but over and over again!

    There is an important distinction that I felt was missing concerning the difference between the two different kinds of “dreams” and that is the distinction between conscious and unconscious. I don’t think the two can be counted as one and the same. Should we live according to our conscious dreams and aspirations, or the images our head conveys to us at night when we’re sleeping?

    I thought it interesting when you mentioned that the dreams we have unconsciously help us to figure out truths in our real lives. I don’t know if I necessarily agree with all of that. What I do agree with, it that a good nights sleep can help us think and solve problems, yes, absolutely! I just don’t think that the dreams themselves have a part to play (although maybe there are exceptions?).

    I’d never heard “I bow to this statement”. Very interesting! 🙂

    Small grammatical correction, if I may… “A person who doesn’t follow her … herself.” When talking about a person, we use “their” and “themselves”.

    And lastly, I wholeheartedly agree that we should dare to live adventurously, not shy away from trying new things and do what we enjoy doing. This is something that I. think we all need reminding of once in a while… We only have one life!

    So a little thought I’d like to add about what you call the “middle way” between living as a “dreamer” or as a “realist”. Is it not a key part, when wanting to live our dreams, to make our dreams realistic? This, I think, is also an important part of our responsibility when we become an adult. In order to “try to do the impossible”, I reckon we should aim to follow our dreams in a way that is sustainable and doable. We still need to be organised, keep our feet on the ground, and even while being adventurous, maturity needs to exist to complete the equation. What do you think?

    Thanks again for this exciting piece of literature!

    1. Hi Céline!

      Thanks a lot for your accurate comment.

      Firstly, you saw the flaw in my arguments: I join the two definitions of “dream” and take elements of the first definition (when we dream during the night) to support my aim (talk about the second definition, the “life dreams”). I’m not sure though that the life dreams are fully conscious. On the other hand, I have the impression that we follow our intuition to realize them …

      Secondly, I fully agree with you about what I called the “middle way”. To concretize a life dream, one should be both: realistic and audacious. It’s personally what I did with my project of coming to Canada. It was quite adventurous but the realities – the paperwork – appeared very quickly and I had to fix a lot o concrete problems in order to realize one of my life dreams.

      Thanks a lot for your reflexion!



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