Hell is probably quite similar to most Paris bistros ... a bit overheated, somewhat too crowded, and a little too noisy for my tastes. The waiters will surely treat you rudely and the cashiers will always add a few extra francs to your bill but ... and this is the important part ... the food will be marvelous.
A new world is not made simply by trying to forget the old. A new world is made with a new spirit, with new values. Our world may have begun that way, but today it is caricature. Our world is a world of things. What we dread most, in the face of the impending debacle, is that we shall be obliged to give up our gewgaws, our gadgets, all the little comforts that have made us so uncomfortable. We are not peaceful souls; we are smug, timid, queasy and quaky.
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If you are well off and can afford to spend ten or twenty-five dollars a day to hire some patient soul to listen to your troubles you can be readjusted to the crazy scheme of things and spare yourself the humiliation of becoming a Christian Scientist. You can have your ego trimmed or removed, as you wish, just like a wart or bunion.
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The American white man (not to speak of the Indian, the Negro, the Mexican) hasn't a ghost of a chance. If he has any talent he's doomed to have it crushed one way or another. The American way is to seduce a man by bribery and make a prostitute of him. Or else to ignore him, starve him into submission and make a hack of him.
Those who are truly decrepit, living corpses, so to speak, are the middle-aged, middle-class men and woman who are stuck in their comfortable grooves and imagine that the status quo will least forever or else are so frightened it won't, that they have retreated into their mental bomb shelters to wait it out.
The stabbing horror of life is not contained in calamities and disasters, because these things wake one up and one gets very familiar and intimate with them and finally they become tame again. No, it is more like being in a hotel room in Hoboken let us say, and just enough money in one's pocket for another meal.
Life, as we all know, is conflict, and man, being part of life, is himself an expression of conflict. If he recognizes the fact and accepts it, he is apt, despite the conflict, to know peace and to enjoy it. But to arrive at this end, which is only a beginning (for we haven't begun to live yet!), a man has got to learn the doctrine of acceptance, that is, of unconditional surrender, which is love.
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No, there's fifteen francs somewhere, which nobody gives a damn about anymore and which nobody is going to get in the end anyhow, but the fifteen francs is like the primal cause of things and rather than listen to one's own voice, rather than walk out on the primal cause, one surrenders to the situation, one goes on butchering and butchering and the more cowardly one feels the more heroically does he behave, until a day when the bottom drops out and suddenly all the guns are silenced and the stretcher-bearers pick up the maimed and bleeding heroes and pin medals on their chest.
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If I were reading a book and happened to strike a wonderful passage I would close the book then and there and go for a walk. I hated the thought of coming to the end of a good book. I would tease it along, delay the inevitable as long as possible, But always, when I hit a great passage, I would stop reading immediately. Out I would go, rain, hail, snow or ice, and chew the cud.
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One can see now how the idea of heaven takes hold of men's consciousness, how it gains ground even when all the props have been knocked from under it. There must be another world beside this swamp in which everything is dumped pell-mell. It's hard to imagine what it can be like, this heaven that men dream about.
We are all guilty of crime the great crime of not living life to the full. But we are all potentially free. We can stop thinking of what we have failed to do and do whatever lies within our power. What those powers that are in us may be no one has truly dared to imagine. That they are infinite we will realize the day we admit to ourselves that imagination is everything. Imagination is the voice of daring.
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When I reflect that the task which the artist implicitly sets himself is to overthrow existing values, to make of the chaos about him an order which is his own, to sow strife and ferment so that by the emotional release those who are dead may be restored to life, then it is that I run with joy to the great and imperfect ones, their confusion nourishes me, their stuttering is like divine music to my ears.
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She may be lying in bed reading a book, she may be making love with a prize fighter, or she may be running like mad through a field of stubble, one shoe one, one shoe off, a man named Corn Cob pursuing her hotly. Wherever she is I am standing in complete darkness; her absence blots me out.
Who but the artist has the power to open man up, to set free the imagination? The others - priest, teacher, saint, statesman, warrior - hold us to the path of history. They keep us chained to the rock, that the vultures may eat out our hearts. It is the artist who has the courage to go against the crowd; he is the unrecognized "hero of our time" - and of all time.
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...when you are convinced that all the exits are blocked, either you take to believing in miracles or you stand still like the hummingbird. The miracle is that the honey is always there, right under your nose, only you were too busy searching elsewhere to realize it. The worst is not death but being blind, blind to the fact that everything about life is in the nature of the miraculous.
There was another thing I heartily disbelieved in - work. Work, it seemed to me even at the threshold of life, is an activity reserved for the dullard. It is the very opposite of creation, which is play... The part of me which was given up to work, which enabled my wife and child to live in the manner which they unthinkingly demanded, this part of me which kept the wheel turning - a completely fatuous, ego-centric notion! - was the least part of me. I gave nothing to the world in fulfilling the function of breadwinner; the world exacted its tribute of me, that was all.
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If I am against the condition of the world it is not because I am a moralist, it is because I want to laugh more. I don't say that God is one grand laugh: I say that you've got to laugh hard before you can get anywhere near God. My whole aim in life is to get near to God, that is, to get nearer to myself. That's why it doesn't matter to me what road I take. But music is very important. Music is a tonic for the pineal gland. Music isn't Bach or Beethoven; music is the can opener of the soul. It makes you terribly quiet inside, makes you aware that there's a roof to your being.
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Things happen or they don't happen, that's all. Nothing is accomplished by sweat and struggle. Nearly everything which we call life is just insomnia, an agony because we've lost the habit of falling asleep. We don't know how to let go. We're like a Jack-in-the-box perched on top of a spring and the more we struggle the harder it is to get back in the box.
Great God! What have I turned into? What right have you people to clutter up my life, steal my time, probe my soul, suckle my thoughts, have me for your companion, confidant, and information bureau? What do you take me for? Am I an entertainer on salary, required every evening to play an intellectual farce under your stupid noses? Am I a slave, bought and paid for, to crawl on my belly in front of you idlers and lay at your feet all that I do and all that I know?
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I too love everything that flows: rivers, sewers, lava, semen, blood, bile, words, sentences. I love the amniotic fluid when it spills out of the bag. I love the kidney with it's painful gall-stones, it's gravel and what-not; I love the urine that pours out scalding and the clap that runs endlessly; I love the words of hysterics and the sentences that flow on like dysentery and mirror all the sick images of the soul...
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I'm an egotist, but I'm not selfish. There's a difference. I'm a neurotic, I guess. I can't stop thinking about myself. It isn't that I think myself so important... I simply can't think about anything else, that's all. If I could fall in love with a woman that might help some. But I can't find a woman who interests me.
There are those of poor spirit and there are those of great spirit. None are without it but the flame flickers pretty low in some cases. The majority of people seem to be nothing but a little flickering flame. You know that when you match them against an individual who is all fire, all radiance. Those in whom the flame of the spirit runs high are extraordinary examples of human beings.
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He asked me innocently, what then had brought me to his home, and without a minutes hesitation I told him an astounding lie. A lie which was later to prove a great truth. I told him I was only pretending to sell the encyclopedia in order to meet people and write about them. That interested him enormously, even more than the encyclopedia. He wanted to know what I would write about him, if I could say. It's taken me twenty years to answer that question, but here it is. If you would still like to know, John Doe of the city of Bayonne, this is it. I owe you a great deal, because after that lie I told you, I left your house and I tore up the prospectus furnished me by The Encyclopedia Britannica and I threw it in the gutter. I said to myself I will never again go to people under false pretenses, even if is to give them the Holy Bible. I will never again sell anything, even if I have to starve. I am going home now and I will sit down and really write about people and if anybody knocks at my door to sell me something, I will invite him in and say "Why are you doing this?" and if he says it is because he needs to make a living I will offer him what money I have and beg him once again to think what he is doing. I want to prevent as many men as possible from pretending that they have to do this or that because they must earn a living. It is not true. One can starve to death, it is much better. Every man who voluntarily starves to death jams another cog in the automatic process. I would rather see a man take a gun and kill his neighbor in order to get the food he needs than keep up the automatic process by pretending that he has to earn a living. That's what I want to say, Mr John Doe.
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I wanted a metamorphosis, a change to fish, to leviathan, to destroyer. I wanted the earth to open up, to swallow everything in one engulfing yawn. I wanted to see the city buried fathoms deep in the bosom of the sea. I wanted to sit in a cave and read by candlelight. I wanted that eye extinguished so that I might have a chance to know my own body, my own desires. I wanted to be alone for a thousand years in order to reflect on what I had seen and heard - and in order to forget.
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Over and over again I have said that there is no way out of the present impasse. If we were wide awake we would be instantly struck by the horrors which surround us... We would drop our tools, quit our jobs, deny our obligations, pay no taxes, observe no laws, and so on. Could the man or woman who is thoroughly awakened possibly do the crazy things which are now expected of him or her every moment of the day?
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