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Between living and dreaming there is a third thing. Guess it.

Updated on January 28, 2012

|This is my answer to the essay question: "Between living and dreaming there is a third thing. Guess it." written by Spanish poet Antonio Machado. Essay question inspired by Jill Hampshire, AB'08, University of Chicago|

Antonio Machado once asked what was that third thing between living and dreaming. I don’t think he had an answer to this question, he probably had a guess of what was that missing third thing. A couple of days ago I posted a question asking the community their opinion on the subject. The majority of the people looked at the question in a metaphorical point of view, with answers such as premonition, the enjoyments of life, death, existing, etc. I found very interesting ways to interpret this question since in a metaphorical matter, you can look at it from any angle you like. Other people analyzed the question in a literal manner with answers such as sleeping (the most common) and eating. I hadn’t looked at the question in such a manner but I found it very interesting how people think so differently when presented to a question with so many different and correct answers. I based my guess on the basic structure from life to death and found a “falling asleep”(as I call it) factor that is seen between each step of life and concluded that between life and dreaming, there is failing.

The question gives us a basic structure of life to respond; however, I found that there is a missing aspect in this structure, death. From my point of view the structure starts with living continues into dreaming and concludes with death. Life can be described as a time of learning and experience. Since little kids we are on a phase of learning, where everything we see, hear and feel is soaked into our brain. This first phase has no risk or problems, it is a phase of learning until we arrive to the first breaking point. After this first breaking point, which is discussed further in the essay, we move to the dreaming phase. At this phase everything that we learned is being applied to ourselves and who we are. Nevertheless, this still is a phase of no risk, since everything we dream is only a source of our imagination, a journey in our head. Finally, we arrive to our second breaking point that concludes with death. This is the basic journey from life to death that I used to respond Machado’s question. This change in structure does create two answers, what comes between life and dreaming and what comes between death and dreaming. Accordingly, I will explain that next.

In my life to death structure, there are two breaking points, or as I like to call them the “falling asleep” and the “waking up”. The most important part on my understanding of these breaking points is the separation between reality and imagination that we undergo during these two situations (therefore the given names “falling asleep” and “waking up”). In the process of answering the question I realized that in order to move from life to dream and from dream to death there had to be something that would cause the change from reality to imagination, a brutal event. These events are essential parts of our life that mark our change from learning to wondering to end. For many these might be the most important parts of our life since they mark change, maturity and improvement. Nonetheless, both of the breaking points are completely different from one another, the first marks the falling down and the second the rising up. Not only making them diverse but opposites.

My guess was from a metaphorical point of view, I am that kind of person. I believe that the third thing between life and dreaming is failing. After going through the phase of learning, or living, I believe there is a moment when we try to we fail; moving into dreaming. Where we imagine and create in our own head but without the risk. So failing is my answer, failing is essential in our life without failing we don’t learn. Failing brings improvement, it is failing and changing in order to not make the same mistake that makes us achieve success in life. Failure helps you mature and fight harder to achieve your life’s dreams. There is a point when we stop failing and dreaming, and that is the second breaking point. This is when we succeed. After all the learning, all the failing, the dreaming; we finally succeed, we achieve our goals. Everything we learn sums up to this moment , we reach our goals and make our dreams come true and we enjoy the moment. Finally, it’s over, we reach the end of our life span and we die. It’s an inevitable destiny we all have coming, we cannot avoid it. But by now we have completed our goals, our dreams, we have learned, failed, dreamt and succeeded.

In whole, my answer to Machado’s question is that between living and dreaming there is failing. However, these kind of questions have no right or wrong answer, it is up to the person’s imagination, point of view and thinking. Either you look at it from a metaphorical or a literal manner, you will find new answers to the question. I believe that your answer tells much about you, your personality, behavior, imagination and process of thinking. I would like to know your personal opinion on the subject and the way you answer the question. Also tell me what you think of my answer and how it has influenced your answer (if it has at all).

-Alberto

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