Friday, 11 April 2014

From under the floorboards...

Dear Friends, there's a flickering in my right eye, I'd suggest its becoming more than a mere irritation. But I have to consider my situation as a barrage of mere irritations that I wouldn't dare offload onto others... after all, why would I inflict upon someone something that is entirely of my own doing... better to revel in it, and enjoy this twitch in my right eye. 
How would a civilised, upstanding person deal with this twitch? Well, its a ridiculous thing to suggest that he would ever suffer it in the first place, we have the laws of nature to thank for that. But if, through some absurdity he became afflicted, I'd suggest he'd be publicly heralded for his bravery, in carrying it round with him in public, absurdly honouring his own disease. 
So let me explain to you dear friends, through translated means, how it is that I come to understand this twitch as an endemic, publicly unacceptable trait of mine, that you might soon know better than to try and civilise...

Now I want to tell you, Dear Friends, whether you want to hear it or not, why I couldn't even manage to make myself into an insect. I tell you solemnly that I often wanted to become an insect but didn't manage even that. I swear to you, gentlemen, that to be too much aware of things is an illness, a real, genuine illness. For ordinary purposes it would be quite enough for people to have half, or even a quarter of the awareness that falls to the lot of the educated individual in our wretched century – an individual, what’s more, with the additional misfortune of living here, the most abstract and premeditated place on the globe. (There are premeditated and unpremeditated places.) It would for instance be quite enough to be as aware as so-called spontaneous and decisive people. I bet you think I’m writing all this in order to boast or to make fun of decisive people and that I’m boasting in bad taste too, rattling my sword like my officer. But, gentlemen, who wants to admit his own infirmities, let alone boast and glory in them?
   But why just me… everyone does it; everyone shows off their infirmities and I possibly more than anyone else. Don’t let’s argue; my point is absurd. But, in spite of it, I’m firmly convinced that not just excessive awareness, but any awareness at all, is in itself an illness. I insist on that. Let’s put it aside for a minute. Tell me this: why did it sometimes happen that just at the moment – yes, at the very moment – at which I was most capable of appreciating all the fine points of everything “beautiful and sublime”, as they used to say, I found that I was capable of not only appreciating but of actually performing acts so unseemly that… well, in a word, acts which I suppose everyone performs but which I happened to perform, as if deliberately, at the moment when I was most aware they ought not to be performed?  And the more I was aware of the Good, of everything “beautiful and sublime”, the deeper I sank into my own mire and the more capable I was of being submerged in it altogether. But the main thing was not that I just happened to do it, but that it felt as if it was right and proper for it to be like that, as if it was my absolutely normal condition – not at all an illness or a damaging addiction. So, at least, even the desire to struggle against the addiction left me and it all ended up with my almost believing, or perhaps really believing, that it was my absolutely normal condition and not an illness or an addiction at all. But at first, at the beginning, how much torment I suffered in that struggle! I did not believe that the same sort of thing happened to other people and all my life I kept it to myself, as a secret. I was ashamed of it – and perhaps I still feel ashamed. It reached such a point that I used to feel a sort of secret, abnormal, contemptible little delight coming back to my corner on some foul evening, acutely aware that only that day I’d done something abominable, that what had been done could in no way be undone; and I would inwardly, secretly, gnaw, gnaw at myself with some shameful, damnable sweetness and finally into definite, serious delight. Yes into delight! I insist on that. In fact, that’s why I started this conversation: because I want to know for certain whether other people experience this kind of delight.

I’ll explain. The delight that I felt came precisely from being too acutely aware of my own degradation, from the feeling that you've come up against a brick wall, that it’s bad but at the same time cannot be otherwise, that there is no way out, that you’ll never become a different person, that even if you still had sufficient time or belief to change into something else, you probably wouldn't want to change. And if you did want to, you probably wouldn't do anything about it because, in fact, there’s simply nothing to change into. But the main and final point is this: it all happens in accordance with the normal, basic laws of heightened awareness, and the inertia that follows from these laws. Therefore, it’s not only that you can’t change yourself, but that there’s nothing in this case that you can do about it. So for example, as a consequence of heightened awareness, one feels comfortable performing villainous actions, as though it’s a consolation to a villain to realise that he really is a villain. But enough… Oh! I've blathered on but what have I explained?... How to explain this delight? But I will explain! I’ll get there in the end! That is why I took up my pen…

   I am for, for example, terribly touchy. I’m mistrustful and quick to take offence, like a hunchback or a dwarf. But there have been actual moments in my life when, if somebody had slapped my face, I would have been able to find a kind of delight, particularly when you can see no way out of your situation. And when your face has been slapped – well, then you’ll be crushed by the consciousness of the pulp to which you've been reduced. But the main thing is, whichever way you look at it, the result is that I’m always the first to be blamed and, worst of all, I’m guilty though guiltless, so to speak, simply for acting in conformity with the laws of nature. I am held responsible first, because I’m more intelligent than anyone else around me. (I have always considered myself more intelligent than anyone else around me and, would you believe it, sometimes I was even ashamed of it; at least, all my life I have averted my gaze and could never look people straight in the eye.) And that is why, in the last resort, I am responsible: because, even if I’d had any magnanimity of spirit, I would have been aware of its irrelevance and then become even more tormented. I would probably not have been able to do anything with my magnanimity – not even forgive, because the offender probably would have slapped me in conformity with the laws of nature. You can’t forgive the laws of nature – but nor can you forget them because, laws of nature or not, the sense of grievance still remains. And finally, even if I had no desire whatsoever to be magnanimous but, on the contrary, wanted to take revenge on the offender, I would not have been able to take revenge on anyone because, even if I had been able, I would never have dared…

-The Underground Man, 'Notes From (the) Underground', Fyodor Dostoevsky.

I relish every word.

Best, and entirely logical, to leave a masochist to his own devices.


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