To poets it is a familiar world. The ordinary mortal wanders about in its wonderful gardens as if he were blind; he lives in it without knowing it. He does not know where the real world stops and where the fantasy world begins. In the treadmill of grey day the invisible boundaries between these two worlds escape him.
The second world! What would our life be without it? What a vale of tears would this globe be were it not for this heaven on earth!
The reader probably guesses what I mean. All of us, the poorest and the richest, the smallest and biggest, rarely or never find contentment in our daily routine. We need a second sphere, a richer life, in which we may dream of everything that is denied us in the first sphere. Ibsen called this “The Great Life-Lie.” But is it always a lie? Did not Ibsen go too far with this characterization? Who could doubt that the lie is not one of those eternal truths that is so incorporeal that we cannot grasp it, so colourless that we cannot see it, so formless that we cannot describe it.
The child finds its second world in play. The little duties of everyday life are for it only unnecessary interruptions in its play in the second world. Here the child’s fantasy has ample room. It is a soldier, king, and robber, cook, and princess; it rides through a wide world on steaming express trains, it battles courageously with dragons and giants, it snatches the treasures of the earth from their guardian dwarfs, and even the stars in the heavens are not beyond its reach in its play. Then comes the powerful dictum called education and snatches the child out of its beloved second world and compels it to give heed to the first world and to learn things necessary to it in its actual life. The child learns of obligations and submits unwillingly to the dictates of its teachers. The first world is made up of duties. The second world knows no duties; it knows only freedom and unrestrained freedom of thought. This is the root of the subsequent great conflict between feelings and duties. In our childhood we find duties a troublemaker who interferes with our playing; this childish hostility continues with us all through life. Our vocation, the sphere of our duties, can never wholly satisfy us. It is our first world; and even though we seem to accept it wholly, a little remnant of this hostility remains and this constitutes a part of our second world.