The dreamer is the true man of action

A glimpse of open country above a stone wall on the outskirts of town is more liberating for me than an entire journey would be for someone else. Every point of view is the apex of an inverted pyramid, whose base is indeterminate.

There was a time when I was irritated by certain things that today make me smile. And one of those things, which I’m reminded of nearly every day, is the way men who are active in day-to-day life smile at poets and artists. They don’t always do it, as the intellectuals who write in newspapers suppose, with an air of superiority. Often they do it with affection. But it’s as if they were showing affection to a child, someone with no notion of life’s certainty and exactness.

This used to irritate me, because I naïvely assumed that this outward smile directed at dreaming and self-expression sprang from an inner conviction of superiority. In fact it’s only a reaction to something that’s different. While I once took this smile as an insult, because it seemed to imply a superior attitude, today I see it as the sign of an unconscious doubt. Just as adults often recognize in children a quick-wittedness they don’t have, so the smilers recognize in us, who are devoted to dreaming and expressing, something different that makes them suspicious, just because it’s unfamiliar. I like to think that the smartest among them sometimes detect our superiority, and then smile in a superior way to hide the fact.

But our superiority is not the kind that many dreamers have imagined we have. The dreamer isn’t superior to the active man because dreaming is superior to reality. The dreamer’s superiority is due to the fact that dreaming is much more practical than living, and the dreamer gets far greater and more varied pleasure out of life than the man of action. In other and plainer words, the dreamer is the true man of action.

Life being fundamentally a mental state, and all that we do or think valid to the extent we consider it valid, the valuation depends on us. The dreamer is an issuer of banknotes, and the notes he issues circulate in the city of his mind just like real notes in the world outside. Why should I care if the currency of my soul will never be convertible to gold, when there is no gold in life’s factitious alchemy? After us all comes the deluge, but only after us all. Better and happier those who, recognizing that everything is fictitious, write the novel before someone writes it for them and, like Machiavelli, don courtly garments to write in secret. 

Fernando Pessoa, 
Bernardo Soares, ''The Book of Disquiet'' 
(Text 91)   

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