My thought is me: that is why I can’t stop. I exist because I think… and I can’t stop myself from thinking. At this very moment - its frightful - if I exist it is because I am horrified at existing. I am the one who pulls myself from the nothingness to which I aspire: the hatred, the disgust of existing, there are as many ways to make myself exist, to thrust myself into existence. My thoughts are born at the back of me, like sudden giddiness, I feel them being born behind my head… if I yield they’re going to come round in front of me, between my eyes - and I always yield, the thought grows and grows and there it is, immense, filling me completely and renewing my existence.
So it hadn’t been wrong or dishonest of her to say no this morning, when he asked if she hated him, any more than it had been wrong or dishonest to serve him the elaborate breakfast and to show the elaborate interest in his work, and to kiss him goodbye. The kiss, for that matter, had been exactly right—a perfectly fair, friendly kiss, a kiss for a boy you’d just met at a party, a boy who’d danced with you and made you laugh and walked you home afterwards, talking about himself all the way.
The only real mistake, the only wrong and dishonest thing, was ever to have seen him as anything more than that. Oh, for a month or two, just for fun, it might be all right to play a game like that with a boy; but all these years! And all because, in a sentimentally lonely time long ago, she had found it easy and agreeable to believe whatever this one particular boy felt like saying, and to repay him for that pleasure by telling easy, agreeable lies of her own, until each was saying what the other most wanted to hear—until he was saying “I love you” and she was saying “Really, I mean it; you’re the most interesting person I’ve ever met.” What a subtle, treacherous thing it was to let yourself go that way! Because once you’d started it was terribly difficult to stop; soon you were saying “I’m sorry, of course you’re right,” and “Whatever you think is best,” and “You’re the most wonderful and valuable thing in the world,” and the next thing you knew all honesty, all truth, was as far away and glimmering, as hopelessly unattainable as the world of the golden people.
Then you discovered you were working at life the way the Laurel Players worked at The Petrified Forest, or the way Steve Kovick worked at his drums—earnest and sloppy and full of pretension and all wrong; you found you were saying yes when you meant no, and “ We’ve got to be together on this thing” when you meant the very opposite; then you were breathing gasoline as if it were flowers and abandoning yourself to a delirium of love —and then you were face to face, in total darkness, with the knowledge that you didn’t know who you were.
It was a black and hooded head; and hanging there in the midst of so intense a calm, it seemed the Sphynx’s in the desert. “Speak, thou vast and venerable head,” muttered Ahab, “which, though ungarnished with a beard, yet here and there lookest hoary with mosses; speak, mighty head, and tell us the secret thing that is in thee. Of all divers, thou hast dived the deepest. That head upon which the upper sun now gleams, has moved amid this world’s foundations. Where unrecorded names and navies rust, and untold hopes and anchors rot; where in her murderous hold this frigate earth is ballasted with bones of millions of the drowned; there, in that awful water-land, there was thy most familiar home. Thou hast been where bell or diver never went; hast slept by many a sailor’s side, where sleepless mothers would give their lives to lay them down. Thou saw’st the locked lovers when leaping from their flaming ship; heart to heart they sank beneath the exulting wave; true to each other, when heaven seemed false to them. Thou saw’st the murdered mate when tossed by pirates from the midnight deck; for hours he fell into the deeper midnight of the insatiate maw; and his murderers still sailed on unharmed—while swift lightnings shivered the neighboring ship that would have borne a righteous husband to outstretched, longing arms. O head! thou has seen enough to split the planets and make an infidel of Abraham, and not one syllable is thine!
Paradise Lost steel engraving by Gustav Doré.
The desire for immortality is a logical extension of the preference for life over death. Yet the premise of preference for life over death is not itself founded in logic. The most foundational root of religion, pagan or monotheistic, is this belief that life (including an afterlife), in whatever form, is good. I can find no empirical basis whatsoever for this belief except in the sense that evolution has embedded powerful prejudices towards the irrational belief that life is superior to death.
Le Pandemonium by John Martin 1841
All existents are form and matter. “The lowest part of every thing is its matter, for which reason it is utterly dark.” But the existent is either intelligible, eternal, free from time and space, or else it is sensuous, coming into being and passing away in time and space. Hence there are two matters. The darkness of the intelligible world differs from that of the spatiotemporal, sensory world. ” The matter pertaining to the two worlds is different, and likewise the form.” For the divine matter that receives the definition of form has itself a definite, thinking life. Earthly matter receives definition, but it does not take on life and thought, it is formed but dead. In the intelligible world matter is wholly formed, in the sensory world a part of it is recalcitrant to form. Intelligible matter lends itself only to the higher principle; sensuous matter contains an element of resistance. In the intelligible world matter is everything at once, there is no form it cannot take, for it has everything in itself. Sensuous matter is everything possible by turns, but in each case it is only a particular thing. Intelligible matter is eternally the same, sensuous matter takes on ever new forms.
I was drawn to all the wrong things: I liked to drink, I was lazy, I didn’t have a god, politics, ideas, ideals. I was settled into nothingness; a kind of non-being, and I accepted it. I didn’t make for an interesting person. I didn’t want to be interesting, it was too hard. What I really wanted was only a soft, hazy space to live in, and to be left alone.
It’s precisely in despair that you find the most intense pleasure, especially if you are already powerfully conscious of the hopelessness of your predicament.