In this essay an aphorism is presented, and the essay itself is a commentary on it. Of course, in order to practice this style of reading as an art, one thing is above all essential—something that today has been thoroughly forgotten (and so it will require still more time before my writings are “readable”)— something for which one almost needs to be a cow, at any rate not a modern man— rumination.
People of education are not called poets or mathematicians, etc.; but they are all these, and judges of all these. No one guesses what they are. When they come into society, they talk on matters about which the rest are talking. We do not observe in them one quality rather than another, save when they have to make use of it. But then we remember it, for it is characteristic of such persons that we do not say of them that they are fine speakers, when it is not a question of oratory, and that we say of them that they are fine speakers, when it is such a question.
The supposed great misery of our century is the lack of time; our sense of that, not a disinterested love of science, and certainly not wisdom, is why we devote such a huge proportion of the ingenuity and income of our societies to finding faster ways of doing things—as if the final aim of mankind was to grow closer not to a perfect humanity, but to a perfect lightning flash.
There is always money for, there are always doctorates in, the learned foolery of research into what, for scholars, is the all-important problem: Who influenced whom to say what when? Even in this age of technology the verbal humanities are honored. The non-verbal humanities, the arts of being directly aware of the given facts of our existence, ale almost completely ignored.
An obvious predominance of images and aesthetic patterns exists today, not only in the current shaping of reality addressed so far, but in the current mediation and apprehension of reality as well. In earlier times, to count as being real, something had to be calculable; today it has to be aesthetically presentable. Aesthetics has become the new leading currency in the reality trade.
Then I fell sick, I was delirious, driven mad by fear, they said at the hospital. Maybe so. The best thing to do when you’re in this world, don’t you agree, is to get out of it. Crazy or not, scared or not.
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.
Proust wanted autonomy and beauty; Nietzsche and Heidegger wanted autonomy and sublimity; Nabokov wanted beauty and self preservation; Orwell wanted to be of use to people who were suffering. They all succeeded. Each of them was brilliantly, equally, successful.