Day dreams

WITHIN A BUDDING GROVE
induced by this summer day came like a tributary to swell the flood of joy that had surged in me at the sight of Elstir’s Carquethuit Harbour. I had supposed Elstir to be a modest man, but I realised my mistake on seeing his face cloud with melancholy when, in a little speech of thanks, I uttered the word “fame.” Men who believe that their works will last as was the case with Elstir form the habit of placing them in a period when they themselves will have crumbled into dust. And thus, by obliging them to reflect on their own extinction, the idea of fame saddens them because it is inseparable from the idea of death. I changed the subject in the hope of dispelling the cloud of ambitious melancholy with which I had unwittingly shadowed Elstir’s brow. “Someone advised me once,” I said, thinking of the conversation we had had with Legrandin at Combray, as to which I was glad of an opportunity of learning Elstir’s views, “not to visit Brittany, because it would not be wholesome for a mind with a natural inclination towards day-dreams.” “Not at all,” he replied. “When a mind has a tendency towards day-dreams, it’s a mistake to shield it from them, to ration them. So long as you divert your mind from its day-dreams, it will not know them for what they are; you will be the victim of all sorts of appearances because you will not have grasped their true nature. If a little day-dreaming is dangerous, the cure for it is not to dream less but to dream more, to dream all the time. One must have a thorough understanding of one’s day-dreams if one is not to be troubled by them; there is a way of separating one’s dreams from one’s life which so often produces good results that I wonder whether one oughtn’t to try it just in case, simply as a preventative, as certain surgeons suggest that, to avoid the risk of appendicitis later on, we ought all to have our appendixes taken out when we’re children.”

Marcel Proust

pg 488

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