The true and only virtue, then, is to hate self (for we are hateful on account of lust) and to seek a truly lovable being to love. But as we cannot love what is outside ourselves, we must love a being who is in us and is not ourselves; and that is true of each and all men. Now, only the Universal Being is such. The kingdom of God is within us; the universal good is within us, is ourselves — and not ourselves.
Pascal, Pensées (tr. Trotter)
Man cannot live without a permanent trust in something indestructible in himself, though both the indestructible element and the trust may remain permanently hidden from him. One of the ways in which this hiddenness can express itself is through faith in a personal god.
– Kafka, The Blue Octavo Notebooks (tr. Kaiser and Wilkins)
X and I sit in the afternoon sun drinking. Drink, he tells me, keep up. Why are we drinking? I ask. To be renewed, he says, because it’s spring. Is it working for you? I ask him some time later. No, he says, keep going.
Dusk is my time of dread, I tell X, my dread time. Yours too, I think? This darkening holding pattern… it’s not a time at all, really, I say. It’s time stopped or winding down with no certainty of starting again – how do we know it will? Dead time, a hole in time that demands: What have you done with your time today? Now, when you should have earned the time to relax, what have you done with the time that was given to you? And tomorrow, if tomorrow comes, what will you do, how will you honour the gift that tomorrow will be, if it comes? Do you know what awaits you? And the answer it gives us is always nothing, isn’t it? I say. You’ve done nothing, you’ll do nothing, nothing awaits you. That’s why dusk is our time, I say, that’s why we dread it.
If salvation comes it will come like a stranger, I say, unannounced and unknown, while we sleep, like a thief in the night. Yes, says X, if it were to come that’s how it would have to come. But would we wake up? he says.
I read to X from the Bible: ‘His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.’ That’s as clear as it gets, I tell him, there you have it. Even Christ said it. There’s no getting away from it, I say. We need to figure out once and for all what our real work is. You need to stop talking once and for all, says X.
So what have you accomplished today? X asks me when I get home from work. I don’t know, I say, slumping down opposite him. What’s our real work? I ask after a while. I don’t know, he says. Something’s overdue, I say, I can feel it, we’ve missed some crucial deadline and I can’t remember when it was or what I was supposed to do, I only know a judgement’s coming down on us, like in a nightmare. Only from this nightmare there’s no waking up, and it’s only going to get worse unless we… unless we what? I say. What’s our real work? I say. I don’t know, says X.
The harvest is now, I tell X, the world is ready, more than ready, it’s groaning under its readiness. Time too is ripe, over-ripe, time itself is rotting away. What’s left of the rotting wheat is being sorted from the rotting chaff. Do you want to be the wheat or the chaff?
I’m going to work, I tell X. Fine, he says, I’m staying here. Don’t look at me like that, he says. If you think you’re better than me, you’re wrong. I’m going to work, I tell X. You think that’s work? he says. I’m going to work, I tell X. I’ll be here when you get back, he says. I’m going to work, I tell X. Don’t look at me like that, he says. You think it’s easy sitting in this chair all day? You do, don’t you? I’m going to work, I tell X. Suit yourself, he says. I’m going to work, I tell X. You want a medal? he says. I’m going to work, I tell X. Go then, he says.
We need to prepare ourselves for the Judgement, I tell X, can you help me with that at least? All the signs are there, it’s coming, it’s already here, it’s overtaken us. We’re like the virgins without the candles, or however the saying goes, I say. It’s time for you to step up and join me at the threshold, I say, the time is ripe. I know you, says X, you’d be the one without the candle, you’d be too frightened. You’d join the crowds when you could, you’d back away the minute the cock crowed.