Thursday, January 17, 2008

Metamorphosis Complete

The question "Is this all?" has troubled countless unsatisfied minds throughout the ages, and, at the end of our tether, as it seems, here it is, still baffling but persistent.

To such discomfited minds the world of our everyday reality is no more than a more or less entertaining or distressful story thrown upon a cinema screen. The story holds together; it moves them greatly and yet they feel it is faked. The vast majority of the beholders accept all the conventions of the story, are completely part of the story, and live and suffer and rejoice and die in it and with it. But the skeptical mind says stoutly, "This is delusion".

Golden lads and lasses must, like chimney sweepers, come to dust.”

“No,” says this ingrained streak of protest: “there is still something beyond the dust?”

But is there?

There is no reason for saying there is. That skeptical mind may have overrated the thoroughness of its skepticism. As we are now discovering, there was still scope for doubting.

The severer our thinking, the plainer it is that the dust-carts of Time trundle that dust off to the incinerator and there make an end to it.

Hitherto, recurrence has seemed a primary law of life. Night has followed day and day night. But in this strange new phase of existence into which our universe is passing, it becomes evident that events no longer recur. They go on and on to an impenetrable mystery, into a voiceless limitless darkness, against which this obstinate urgency of our dissatisfied minds may struggle, but will struggle only until it is altogether overcome.

Our world of self-delusion will admit none of that. It will perish amidst its evasions and fatuities. It is like a convoy lost in darkness on an unknown rocky coast, with quarrelling pirates in the chartroom and savages clambering up the sides of the ships to plunder and do evil as the whim may take them. That is the rough outline of the more and more jumbled movie on the screen before us. Mind near exhaustion still makes its final futile movement towards that “way out or round or through the impasse”.

That is the utmost now that mind can do. And this, its last expiring thrust, is to demonstrate that the door closes upon us for evermore.

There is no way out or round or through.
H. G. Wells. Mind at the end of its Tether.

I suppose you might be curious to know what a man can be like who does not love men. Very well, I am such a man…

But what attracts you to them disgusts me. I have seen, as you, men chewing slowly, all the while keeping an eye on everything, the left hand leafing through an economic review. Is it my fault I prefer to watch the sea-lions feeding? Man can do nothing with his face without its turning into a game of physiognomy. When he chews, keeping his mouth shut, the corners of his mouth go up and down, he looks as though he were passing incessantly from serenity to tearful surprise. You love this, I know, you call it the watchfulness of the Spirit. But it makes me sick; I don’t know why; I was born like that.

If there were only a difference of taste between us, I would not trouble you. But everything happens as if you had grace and I had none. I am free to like or dislike lobster newberg, but if I do not like men I am a wretch and can find no place in the sun. They have monopolized the sense of life. I hope you will understand what I mean. For the past 33 years I have been beating against closed doors on which is written “no entrance if not a humanist.” I had to abandon all I had undertaken; I had to choose: either it was an absurd and ill-fated attempt, or sooner or later it had to turn to their profit. I could not succeed in detaching from myself thoughts I did not expressly destine for them, in formulating them; they remained in me as slight organic movements. Even the tools I used I felt belonged to them; words for example: I wanted my own words. But the ones I have dragged through I don’t know how many consciences; they arrange themselves in my head by virtue of the habits I have picked up from the others and it is not without repugnance that I use them in writing to you. But this is the last time.
Jean-Paul Sartre. Erostratus.

‘Now what?’ Gregory asked himself as he looked about him in the darkness. He quite soon discovered that he could no longer move at all. He was not surprised; in fact what struck him as unnatural was that he had actually been able to get about until then on such thin legs. Otherwise he felt comparatively comfortable. Admittedly he hurt all over, but he had the impression that the pains were gradually becoming fainter and fainter and would eventually go away together. The rotten apple in his back and the inflamed area around it, now completely covered with a soft dust, were almost forgotten. He recalled his family with sympathy and love. His own belief that he must go was if possible firmer than his sister’s. He remained in this state of vacant and peaceable reflection until the church clock struck three in the morning. He lived to see the first signs of general brightening outside the window. Then, independently of his will, his head sank to the floor and his last breath streamed feebly from his nostrils.
Franz Kafka. The Metamorphosis.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Wall & A Hunger Artist

Two short stories to consider:

The Wall by Jean-Paul Sartre


A Hunger Artist by Franz Kafka