Monthly Archives: April 2021

Totally chaotic

For what was perhaps the first time, the journalist caught a clear glimpse of his inner self, pale and dazed, before it disappeared again, like a dream in the light of morning… It was not so much Cenabre’s words, with their vague suggestion of anger and scorn, as the complete change in the subtle priest and the way in which he communicated a compelling inner vision shown by an attitude and voice that dragged Pernichon’s inner core into the open like a muscle suddenly jumping out of its covering in a surgeon’s hands. Being seen as a skillful and ambitious man who weighed his chances, a doubtful friend and a watchful enemy, would not have offended him. The attacks he had just suffered, however, hit a deeper, more secret and sensitive spot, the point of balance, as it were, of his humble existence: the idea, which was now a habitual and integral part of his thinking, of an inner struggle, the need to be able to classify himself, a certain stability. His self-concept had been brutally uprooted, and the suddenly persuasive hypothesis of a life with no spiritual reality breaking into his normally very carefully managed conscience had been enough to shock him into seeing how totally chaotic that conscience really was. There are very many other people who watch more or less strictly over their actions and yet, like sailors observing the stars without looking at their compasses, are unaware of where their will or their perverted instincts are taking them. The horror lies not in the strangers whose paths cross ours but in the features our devastated soul will suddenly meet and not recognize as its own.

— Georges Bernanos, The Impostor (tr. Whitehouse)


Illness is the dark side of our transactions with nature. It’s a reminder of the routineness of death, of the disposability of individuals, of the fact that living systems can be ruthless and unpredictable in their constant manoevring. But, at first sight, depression doesn’t fit into even this austere picture. There’s no random physical ‘accident’ behind it and nothing which benefits, no opportunist virus or evolutionary climber. It seems to have no connection with the biological business of living at all. And what it did to me was unearthly, in that it negated, cut dead, all the things in which I most believed: the importance of sensual engagement with the world, the link between feeling and intelligence, the inseparability of nature and culture. And it began to grow at the most unexpected time, when by all conventional psychological theories, I should have been awash with the sense of well-being that comes from high status and achievement.

— Richard Mabey, Nature Cure

Here is something to do

But as soon as a man comes along who brings a primitivity with him, so that he does not say that one takes the world as it is (the sign of passing through freely like a stickleback) but says: Whatever the world may be, I relate to an original principle which I do not intend to change at the world’s discretion — the moment this word is heard, a transformation takes place in the whole of life. Just as in the fairy tale when the word is spoken and the castle which has been under a spell for a hundred years opens up and everything comes alive, just so life becomes sheer awareness. Angels get busy, watch curiously to see what will come of it, for this interests them. On the other hand, the sombre, grumbling demons, proper limbs of the devil, who for a long time have been sitting inactive and chewing their fingernails, leap to their feet for here is something to do, they say, and they have waited a long time for that.

— Kierkegaard, diary entry, tr. Hong and Hong, via here

For Knausgaard, it is […] between the proximity and fullness of our “presence in the moment” and the remoteness of the feeling of “being outside something and considering it while being removed from it” that we find the place of art.

— Daniel Fraser, via here

I am unable to think, in my thinking I constantly come up against borders; certain isolated matters I can grasp in a flash, but I am quite incapable of coherent, consecutive thinking.

— Kafka, from a letter to Brod

Kafka on Kierkegaard’s books: ‘They are not unambiguous and even when later he develops himself into a kind of unambiguousness, this is also just part of his chaos of spirit, mourning, and faith.’