A single dream is more powerful than a thousand realities
– J.R.R. Tolkien
Is it really? Personally, I prefer reading about things that actually could have happened. And the only thing better than that is things that actually did happen. How Lawrence Oates on Scott’s expedition to the South Pole was slowing the whole group down because of his poor condition, and one morning decided to walk out of the tent into the blizzard to help others survice. “I’m just going outside and may be some time.”
Or how the former NHLer Theo Fleury describes the tops and bottoms of his life. How being sexually abused by his coach as a teenager made him a living wreck, who simply could not go home and to bed while it was still dark, because that’s where the bad things had happened. Instead, the only way to get through the nights was to stay out drinking, sniffing coke, and going to casinos and stripclubs. “You know that picture The Scream, by Edvard Munch? It is a picture of me.” Or after all this, how it felt like to be on the ice after Team Canada had just won Olympic Gold in Salt Lake City, and he saw his own parents in the stands going berserk. “Here was a guy who had barely acknowledged my existence when I was growing up, and now he looked like like he was in Rome, cheering for the gladiators. And I realized that I was that gladiator. I was the hero he was screaming for. He looked right at me, and I saw admiration. It blew me away. It was the greatest feeling ever.”
Or how one of the most violent storms in history hit the 1979 Fastnet Race, and after their boat had — once again — been knocked over by the big waves, Nick Ward regained conciousness in the water and climbed back on board with the help of his harness only to find one of his crewmates dead and the others disappeared with the lifeboat. How he spent the next day fighting the storm, climbing back on board after more knockdowns, trying to keep his sanity by talking to his dead mate, and bailing water out of the sinking boat until he could no longer move and no longer keep himself conscious. Until he was saved. “‘Gerry, look, mate, look… it’s a helicopter, it’s a Sea King.’ And in my bemused state I pointed to the sky and wept.”
Maybe I lack imagination, but to me, these realities feel more powerful than a thousand dreams.