Is the prison that Mr. Scoundrel lives in at the end of his career a more uncomfortable place than the workhouse that Mr. Honesty lives in at the end of his career?
But that wasn't the chief thing that bothered me: I couldn't reconcile myself with that preoccupation with sin that, so far as I could tell, was never entirely absent from the monks' thoughts. I'd known a lot of fellows in the air corps. Of course they got drunk when they got a chance, and had a girl whenever they could and used foul language; we had one or two had hats: one fellow was arrested for passing rubber cheques and was sent to prison for six months; it wasn't altogether his fault; he'd never had any money before, and when he got more than he'd ever dreamt of having, it went to his head. I'd known had men in Paris and when I got back to Chicago I knew more, but for the most part their badness was due to heredity, which they couldn't help, or to their environment, which they didn't choose: I'm not sure that society wasn't more responsible for their crimes than they were. If I'd been God I couldn't have brought myself to condemn one of them, not even the worst, to eternal damnation. Father Esheim was broad-minded; he thought that hell was the deprivation of God's presence, but if that is such an intolerable punishment that it can justly be called hell, can one conceive that a good God can inflict it? After all, he created men, if he so created them that ti was possible for them to sin, it was because he willed it. If I trained a dog to fly at the throat of any stranger who came into by back yard, it wouldn't be fair to beat him when he did so.If an all-good and all-powerful God created the world, why did he create evil? The monks said, so that man by conquering the wickedness in him, by resisting temptation, by accepting pain and sorrow and misfortune as the trials sent by God to purify him, might at long last be made worthy to receive his grace. It seem to me like sending a fellow with a message to some place and just to make it harder for him you constructed a maze that he had to get through, then dug a moat that he had to swim and finally built a wall that he had to scale. I wasn't prepared to believe in an all-wise God who hadn't common sense. I didn't see why you shouldn't believe in a God who hadn't created the world, buyt had to make the best of the bad job he'd found, a being enormously better, wiser and greater than man, who strove with the evil he hadn't made and who might be hoped in the end to overcome it. But on the other hand I didn't see why you should.
From my college courses and my reading I knew the various names that came at the end of a line of questions or were placed as periods to bafflement: the First Cause, the First Mover, the Life Force, the Universal Mind, the First Principle, the Unmoved Mover, even Providence. I too had used those names in arguing with others, and with myself, trying to explain the world to myself. And now I saw that those names explained nothing. They were of no more use than Evolution or Natural Selection or Nature or The Big Bang of these later days. All such names do is catch us within the length and breadth of our own thoughts and our own bewilderment. Though I knew the temptation of simple reason, to know nothing that can't be proved, still I supposed that those were not the right names.I imagined that the right name might be Father, and I imagined all that that name would imply: the love, the compassion, the taking offense, the disappointment, the anger, the bearing of wounds, the weeping of tears, the forgiveness, the suffering unto death. If love could force my own thoughts over the edge of the world and out of time, then could I not see how even divine omnipotence might by the force of its own love be swayed down into the world? Could I not see how it might, because it could know its creatures only by compassion, put on mortal flesh, become a man, and walk among us, assume our nature and our fate, suffer our faults and our death?Yes. I could imagine a Father who is yet like a mother hen spreading her wings before the storm or in the dusk before the dark night for the little ones of Port William to come in under, some of whom do, and some do not. I could imagine Port William riding its humble wave through time under the sky, its little flames of wakefulness lighting and going out, its lives passing through birth, pleasure, sufferning, and death. I could imagine God looking down upon it, its lives living by His spirit, breathing by His breath, knowing by His light, but each life living also (inescapably) by its own will--His own body given to be broken.
Who would appreciate such candor? No one. None of us really likes honesty. We prefer deception –but only when it is unabashedly flattering or artfully camouflaged. Groups seem to need to believe that they are superior to others and that they have a purpose greater than just passing along their genes to the next generation. Individuals seem to need similar delusions – about who they are and why they do what they do. They need heroes, however fraudulent… Studies show that people are more likely to accept the opinion of a confident con man than the cautious view of someone who actually knows what he is talking about. And professionals who form overconfident opinions on the basis of incorrect readings of the facts are more likely to succeed than their more competent peers who display greater doubt.What’s more, deception works best, according to studies by psychologists, when the person doing the deceiving is fool enough to be deceived, too; that is, when he believes his own lies. That is why incompetent leaders – who are naïve enough to fall for their own guff – are such a danger to civilized life. If they are modern leaders, they must also delude themselves into thinking they know how to make the world a better place. Invariably, the answers they propose to problems are ones that bubble up from their own vanity, the essence of which is to make the rest of the world look just like them!
Nowadays when a person lives somewhere, in a neighborhood, the place is not certified for him. More than likely he will live there sadly and the emptiness which is inside him will expand until it evacuates the entire neighborhood. But if he sees a movie which shows his very neighborhood, it becomes possible for him to live, for a time at least, as a person who is Somewhere and not Anywhere.
Never love a wild thing, Mr. Bell,' Holly advised him. 'That was Doc's mistake. He was always lugging home wild things. A hawk with a hurt wing. One time it was a full-grown bobcat with a broken leg. But you can't give your heart to a wild thing: the more you do, the stronger they get. Until they're strong enough to run into the woods. Or fly into a tree. Then a taller tree. Then the sky. That's how you'll end up, Mr. Bell. If you let yourself love a wild thing. You'll end up looking at the sky.""She's drunk," Joe Bell informed me. "Moderately," Holly confessed....Holly lifted her martini. "Let's wish the Doc luck, too," she said, touching her glass against mine. "Good luck: and believe me, dearest Doc -- it's better to look at the sky than live there. Such an empty place; so vague. Just a country where the thunder goes and things disappear.
Carroll was eleven years old when he saw The Haunting in The Oregon Theater. He had gone with his cousins, but when the lights went down, his companions were swallowed by the dark and Carroll found himself essentially alone, shut tight into his own suffocating cabinet of shadows. At times, it required all his will not to hide his eyes, yet his insides churned with a nervous-sick frisson of pleasure. When the lights finally came up, his nerve endings were ringing, as if he had for a moment grabbed a copper wire with live current in it. It was a sensation for which he had developed a compulsion.Later, when he was a professional and it was his business, his feelings were more muted - not gone, but experienced distantly, more like the memory of an emotion than the thing itself. More recently, even the memory had fled, and in its place was a deadening amnesia, a numb disinterest when he looked at the piles of magazines on his coffee table. Or no - he was overcome with dread, but the wrong kind of dread.("Best New Horror")
I saw what Andrew did in our family. I saw that he came in and listened and watched and understood who we were, each individual one of us. He tried to discover our need and then supply it. He took responsibility for other people and it didn't seem to matter to him how much it cost him. And in the end, while he could never make the Ribeira family normal, he gave us peace and pride and identity. Stability. He married Mother and was kind to her. He loved us all. He was always there when we wanted him, and seemed unhurt by it when we didn't. He was firm with us about expecting civilized behavior, but never indulged his whims at our expense. And I thought: This is so much more important than science. Or politics, either. Or any particular profession or accomplishment or thing you can make. I thought: If I could just make a good family, if I could just learn to be to other children, their whole lives, what Andrew was, coming so late into ours, then that would mean more in the long run, it would be a finer accomplishment than anything I could ever do with my mind or hands.""So you're a career father," said Valentine."Who works at a brick factory to feed and clothe the family. Not a brick-maker who also has kids. Lini also feels the same way... She followed her own road to the same place. We do what we must to earn our place in the community, but we live for the hours at home. For each other, for the children.
How often since then has she wondered what might have happened if she'd tried to remain with him; if she’d returned Richard's kiss on the corner of Bleeker and McDougal, gone off somewhere (where?) with him, never bought the packet of incense or the alpaca coat with rose-shaped buttons. Couldn’t they have discovered something larger and stranger than what they've got. It is impossible not to imagine that other future, that rejected future, as taking place in Italy or France, among big sunny rooms and gardens; as being full of infidelities and great battles; as a vast and enduring romance laid over friendship so searing and profound it would accompany them to the grave and possibly even beyond. She could, she thinks, have entered another world. She could have had a life as potent and dangerous as literature itself.Or then again maybe not, Clarissa tells herself. That's who I was. This is who I am--a decent woman with a good apartment, with a stable and affectionate marriage, giving a party. Venture too far for love, she tells herself, and you renounce citizenship in the country you've made for yourself. You end up just sailing from port to port.Still, there is this sense of missed opportunity. Maybe there is nothing, ever, that can equal the recollection of having been young together. Maybe it's as simple as that. Richard was the person Clarissa loved at her most optimistic moment. Richard had stood beside her at the pond's edge at dusk, wearing cut-off jeans and rubber sandals. Richard had called her Mrs. Dalloway, and they had kissed. His mouth had opened to hers; (exciting and utterly familiar, she'd never forget it) had worked its way shyly inside until she met its own. They'd kissed and walked around the pond together.It had seemed like the beginning of happiness, and Clarissa is still sometimes shocked, more than thirty years later to realize that it was happiness; that the entire experience lay in a kiss and a walk. The anticipation of dinner and a book. The dinner is by now forgotten; Lessing has been long overshadowed by other writers. What lives undimmed in Clarissa's mind more than three decades later is a kiss at dusk on a patch of dead grass, and a walk around a pond as mosquitoes droned in the darkening air. There is still that singular perfection, and it's perfect in part because it seemed, at the time, so clearly to promise more. Now she knows: That was the moment, right then. There has been no other.
This "sir, yes sir" business, which would probably sound like horseshit to any civilian in his right mind, makes sense to Shaftoe and to the officers in a deep and important way. Like a lot of others, Shaftoe had trouble with military etiquette at first. He soaked up quite a bit of it growing up in a military family, but living the life was a different matter. Having now experienced all the phases of military existence except for the terminal ones (violent death, court-martial, retirement), he has come to understand the culture for what it is: a system of etiquette within which it becomes possible for groups of men to live together for years, travel to the ends of the earth, and do all kinds of incredibly weird shit without killing each other or completely losing their minds in the process. The extreme formality with which he addresses these officers carries an important subtext: your problem, sir, is deciding what you want me to do, and my problem, sir, is doing it. My gung-ho posture says that once you give the order I'm not going to bother you with any of the details--and your half of the bargain is you had better stay on your side of the line, sir, and not bother me with any of the chickenshit politics that you have to deal with for a living. The implied responsibility placed upon the officer's shoulders by the subordinate's unhesitating willingness to follow orders is a withering burden to any officer with half a brain, and Shaftoe has more than once seen seasoned noncoms reduce green lieutenants to quivering blobs simply by standing before them and agreeing, cheerfully, to carry out their orders.
Know that...there's plenty of food and of course popcorn on the dining-room table. Just...help yourself. If that runs out just let me know. Don't panic. And there's coffee, both caff and decaf, and soft drinks and juice in the kitchen, and plenty of ice in the freezer so...let me know if you have any questions with that.' And lastly, since I have you all here in one place, I have something to share with you. Along the garden ways just now...I too heard the flowers speak. They told me that our family garden has all but turned to sand. I want you to know I've watered and nurtured this square of earth for nearly twenty years, and waited on my knees each spring for these gentle bulbs to rise, reborn. But want does not bring such breath to life. Only love does. The plain, old-fashioned kind. In our family garden my husband is of the genus Narcissus , which includes daffodils and jonquils and a host of other ornamental flowers. There is, in such a genus of man, a pervasive and well-known pattern of grandiosity and egocentrism that feeds off this very kind of evening, this type of glitzy generosity. People of this ilk are very exciting to be around. I have never met anyone with as many friends as my husband. He made two last night at Carvel. I'm not kidding. Where are you two? Hi. Hi, again. Welcome. My husband is a good man, isn't he? He is. But in keeping with his genus, he is also absurdly preoccupied with his own importance, and in staying loyal to this, he can be boastful and unkind and condescending and has an insatiable hunger to be seen as infallible. Underlying all of the constant campaigning needed to uphold this position is a profound vulnerability that lies at the very core of his psyche. Such is the narcissist who must mask his fears of inadequacy by ensuring that he is perceived to be a unique and brilliant stone. In his offspring he finds the grave limits he cannot admit in himself. And he will stop at nothing to make certain that his child continually tries to correct these flaws. In actuality, the child may be exceedingly intelligent, but has so fully developed feelings of ineptitude that he is incapable of believing in his own possibilities. The child's innate sense of self is in great jeopardy when this level of false labeling is accepted. In the end the narcissist must compensate for this core vulnerability he carries and as a result an overestimation of his own importance arises. So it feeds itself, cyclically. And, when in the course of life they realize that their views are not shared or thier expectations are not met, the most common reaction is to become enraged. The rage covers the fear associated with the vulnerable self, but it is nearly impossible for others to see this, and as a result, the very recognition they so crave is most often out of reach. It's been eighteen years that I've lived in service to this mindset. And it's been devastating for me to realize that my efforts to rise to these standards and demands and preposterous requests for perfection have ultimately done nothing but disappoint my husband. Put a person like this with four developing children and you're gonna need more than love poems and ice sculpture to stay afloat. Trust me. So. So, we're done here.
It is already the fashion to diminish Eliot by calling him derivative, the mouthpiece of Pound, and so forth; and yet if one wanted to understand the apocalypse of early modernism in its true complexity it would be Eliot, I fancy, who would demand one's closest attention. He was ready to rewrite the history of all that interested him in order to have past and present conform; he was a poet of apocalypse, of the last days and the renovation, the destruction of the earthly city as a chastisement of human presumption, but also of empire. Tradition, a word we especially associate with this modernist, is for him the continuity of imperial deposits; hence the importance in his thought of Virgil and Dante. He saw his age as a long transition through which the elect must live, redeeming the time. He had his demonic host, too; the word 'Jew' remained in lower case through all the editions of the poems until the last of his lifetime, the seventy-fifth birthday edition of 1963. He had a persistent nostalgia for closed, immobile hierarchical societies. If tradition is, as he said in After Strange Gods--though the work was suppressed--'the habitual actions, habits and customs' which represent the kinship 'of the same people living in the same place' it is clear that Jews do not have it, but also that practically nobody now does. It is a fiction, a fiction cousin to a myth which had its effect in more practical politics. In extenuation it might be said that these writers felt, as Sartre felt later, that in a choice between Terror and Slavery one chooses Terror, 'not for its own sake, but because, in this era of flux, it upholds the exigencies proper to the aesthetics of Art.'The fictions of modernist literature were revolutionary, new, though affirming a relation of complementarity with the past. These fictions were, I think it is clear, related to others, which helped to shape the disastrous history of our time. Fictions, notably the fiction of apocalypse, turn easily into myths; people will live by that which was designed only to know by. Lawrence would be the writer to discuss here, if there were time; apocalypse works in Woman in Love, and perhaps even in Lady Chatterley's Lover, but not n Apocalypse, which is failed myth. It is hard to restore the fictive status of what has become mythical; that, I take it, is what Mr. Saul Bellow is talking about in his assaults on wastelandism, the cant of alienation. In speaking of the great men of early modernism we have to make very subtle distinctions between the work itself, in which the fictions are properly employed, and obiter dicta in which they are not, being either myths or dangerous pragmatic assertions. When the fictions are thus transformed there is not only danger but a leak, as it were, of reality; and what we feel about. all these men at times is perhaps that they retreated inso some paradigm, into a timeless and unreal vacuum from which all reality had been pumped. Joyce, who was a realist, was admired by Eliot because he modernized myth, and attacked by Lewis because he concerned himself with mess, the disorders of common perception. But Ulysses ,alone of these great works studies and develops the tension between paradigm and reality, asserts the resistance of fact to fiction, human freedom and unpredictability against plot. Joyce chooses a Day; it is a crisis ironically treated. The day is full of randomness. There are coincidences, meetings that have point, and coincidences which do not. We might ask whether one of the merits of the book is not its lack of mythologizing; compare Joyce on coincidence with the Jungians and their solemn concordmyth, the Principle of Synchronicity. From Joyce you cannot even extract a myth of Negative Concord; he shows us fiction fitting where it touches. And Joyce, who probably knew more about it than any of the others, was not at tracted by the intellectual opportunities or the formal elegance of fascism.
I once met a traveler who told me he would live to see the end of time. He laid out all his vitamins before me and told me he slept seven hours every night, no more or less. All the life you want, he said. It's all within the palm of your hand now. He said he would outlast all the wars and all the diseases, long enough to remember everything, and long enough to forget everything. He'd be the last man still standing when the sun decides to collapse upon itself and history ends. He said he had found the safest place on earth, where he could stay until the gateway to the beyond opened before him. A thousand generations from today. I pictured him there, atop a remote and snowy mountain. The heavens opening and God congratulating him for his perseverance. Asking him to join Him and watch as the sun burns down to a dull orange cinder and everything around it breaks is orbit and goes tumbling tumbling away, everything that once seemed permanent pulled apart so effortlessly, like a ball of yarn. A life into divinity.But I knew it was a lie. I've always known it was a lie. You can not hide from the world. It will find you. It always does. And now it has found me. My split second of immortality is over. All that's left now is the end, which is all any of us ever has.
The lives of thousands of young Frenchmen were ready for this literary bath of blood and sentiment in the 1830's. Their fathers and grandfathers had had their romanticism in the raw: the drama of the French Revolution, the glamour of the Napoleonic campaigns in Europe and in Africa had filled their lives with colour; now the young people, listening with envy to reminiscence and tradition, knew they were living in a world that had become flat and dull. For the unshackling of the Revolution and the pageantry and devotion of the Empire had been succeeded by two colourless Bourbon kings, who had learned nothing from the times and were so stupid as to insist on absolutism without providing any splendour to justify it; and when their line was expelled in a minor revolution in 1830 they were replaced by their even more colourless cousin, Louis Philippe of Orleans, a constitutional monarch whose virtue was that he was more bourgeois than the bourgeois and whom the newspapers caricatured unendingly, strolling with his family past the shops he owned, carrying an umbrella under his arm. In placing him on the throne the French bourgeoisie consolidated the gains it had begun to make forty years before, and his prime minister gave the watchword of the day when he urged his fellow-citizens to make as much money as they possibly could. The French bourgeois — the revolutionaries of 1789, the conquerors of Europe under Napoleon — became rich, smug, tenacious, and fearful of change; and their children and grandchildren, the young men of Flaubert's generation, were raised in an atmosphere of careful, commercial materialism, of complete lack of interest in literature and the arts, and of complete distrust of impulse and imagination.
Security ... what does this word mean in relation to life as we know it today? For the most part, it means safety and freedom from worry. It is said to be the end that all men strive for; but is security a utopian goal or is it another word for rut?Let us visualize the secure man; and by this term, I mean a man who has settled for financial and personal security for his goal in life. In general, he is a man who has pushed ambition and initiative aside and settled down, so to speak, in a boring, but safe and comfortable rut for the rest of his life. His future is but an extension of his present, and he accepts it as such with a complacent shrug of his shoulders. His ideas and ideals are those of society in general and he is accepted as a respectable, but average and prosaic man. But is he a man? has he any self-respect or pride in himself? How could he, when he has risked nothing and gained nothing? What does he think when he sees his youthful dreams of adventure, accomplishment, travel and romance buried under the cloak of conformity? How does he feel when he realizes that he has barely tasted the meal of life; when he sees the prison he has made for himself in pursuit of the almighty dollar? If he thinks this is all well and good, fine, but think of the tragedy of a man who has sacrificed his freedom on the altar of security, and wishes he could turn back the hands of time. A man is to be pitied who lacked the courage to accept the challenge of freedom and depart from the cushion of security and see life as it is instead of living it second-hand. Life has by-passed this man and he has watched from a secure place, afraid to seek anything better What has he done except to sit and wait for the tomorrow which never comes?Turn back the pages of history and see the men who have shaped the destiny of the world. Security was never theirs, but they lived rather than existed. Where would the world be if all men had sought security and not taken risks or gambled with their lives on the chance that, if they won, life would be different and richer? It is from the bystanders (who are in the vast majority) that we receive the propaganda that life is not worth living, that life is drudgery, that the ambitions of youth must he laid aside for a life which is but a painful wait for death. These are the ones who squeeze what excitement they can from life out of the imaginations and experiences of others through books and movies. These are the insignificant and forgotten men who preach conformity because it is all they know. These are the men who dream at night of what could have been, but who wake at dawn to take their places at the now-familiar rut and to merely exist through another day. For them, the romance of life is long dead and they are forced to go through the years on a treadmill, cursing their existence, yet afraid to die because of the unknown which faces them after death. They lacked the only true courage: the kind which enables men to face the unknown regardless of the consequences.As an afterthought, it seems hardly proper to write of life without once mentioning happiness; so we shall let the reader answer this question for himself: who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?
You were already in a prison. You've been in a prison all your life. Happiness is a prison, Evey. Happiness is the most insidious prison of all. Your lover lived in the penitentiary that we are all born into, and was forced to rake the dregs of that world for his living. He knew affection and tenderness but only briefly. Eventually, one of the other inmates stabbed him with a cutlass and he drowned upon his own blood. Is that it, Evey? Is that the happiness worth more than freedom? It's not an uncommon story, Evey. Many convicts meet with miserable ends. Your mother. Your father. Your lover. One by one, taken out behind the chemical sheds... and shot. All convicts, hunched and deformed by the smallness of their cells, the weight of their chains, the unfairness of their sentences. I didn't put you in a prison, Evey. I just showed you the bars.''You're wrong! It's just life, that's all! It's just how life is. It's what we've got to put up with. It's all we've got. What gives you the right to decide it's not good enough?''You're in a prison, Evey. You were born in a prison. You've been in a prison so long, you no longer believe there's a world outside. That's because you're afraid, Evey. You're afraid because you can feel freedom closing in upon you. You're afraid because freedom is terrifying. Don't back away from it, Evey. Part of you understands the truth even as part pretends not to. You were in a cell, Evey. They offered you a choice between the death of your principles and the death of your body. You said you'd rather die. You faced the fear of your own death and you were calm and still. The door of the cage is open, Evey. All that you feel is the wind from outside.