zondag, maart 28, 2004


23 March 1933

..."Life for most people is a tiresome chore they unwittingly perform, a sad affair with happy respites, as when those who watch over dead bodies tell anecdotes to pass the long quiet night and their obligation to keep watch. I've always thought it futile to see life as a valley of tears: yes, it is a valley of tears, but one in which we rarely weep. Heine said that after great tragedies we always merely blow our noses. As a Jew, and therefore universal, he lucidly perceived the universal natureof humanity.

Life would be intolerable if we were conscious of it. Fortunately we're not. We live as unconsciously as the animals, in the same futile and useless manner,and if we anticipate death, which presumably (though not certainly) they don't, we anticipate it through so much forgetfulness, so many distractions and digressions, that we can hardly say what we think about it.

Thus we live, and it's not much on which to consider ourselves superior to the animals. What distinguishes us from them is the purely external detail of speaking and writing, of having abstract intelligence to distract us from having concrete intelligence, and of imaginging impossible things.All this, however, is incidental to our fundamental organism. Speaking and writing have no effect on our primordial instinct of living without knowing how. Our abstract intelligence only serves to invent systems - or ideas purporting to be systems - for what the animals is lying in the sun. And to imagine the impossible may not be exclusive to us; I've seen cats look at the moon, and I don't know that they weren't wishing they
had it.

All the world, all life, is a vast system of unconscious entities operating through individual consciousnesses. Like two gases that form a liquid when a electric current passes through them, so two consciousnesses - that of our concrete being and that of our abstract being - form a superior unconsciousness when life and the world pass through

Happy the man who doesn't think, for he accomplishes through instinct and organic destiny what the rest of us must accomplish through devious ways and through inorganic or social destiny. Happy the man who most resembles the animals, for he is effortlessly what the rest of us only are by arduous labour; for he knows the way home, which the rest of us can only reach through byways of fiction and return routes; for he is rooted like a tree, forming part of the landscape and therefore of beauty, whereas we are passing myths, actors of futility and oblivion dressed in fleshly costumes."

Fernando Pessoa-The Book of Disquietude, by Bernardo Soares, assistant bookkeeper in the city of Lisbon.Translated by Richard Zenith.Carcanet Press Limited.

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