All my misfortune in life—I don’t want to complain, just make a generally instructive observation—derives, one might say, from letters or from the possibility of writing letters. People have hardly ever deceived me, but letters always have, and as a matter of fact not those of other people, but my own. In my case this is a particular misfortune which I do not want to discuss further, but it is nevertheless also a general one. The easy possibility of writing letters—from a purely theoretical point of view—must have brought wrack and ruin to the souls of the world. Writing letters is actually an intercourse with ghosts and by no means just with the ghost of the addressee but also with one’s own ghost, which secretly evolves inside the letter one is writing or even in a whole series of letters, where one letter corroborates another and can refer to it as witness. How did people ever get the idea they could communicate with one another by letter! One can think about someone far away and one can hold on to someone nearby; everything else is beyond human power. Writing letters, on the other hand, means exposing oneself to the ghosts, who are greedily waiting precisely for that. Written kisses never arrive at their destination; the ghosts drink them up along the way. It is this ample nourishment which enables them to multiply so enormously. People sense this and struggle against it; in order to eliminate as much of the ghosts’ power as possible and to attain a natural intercourse, a tranquility of soul, they have invented trains, cars, aeroplanes—but nothing helps anymore: These are evidently inventions devised at the moment of crashing. The opposing side is so much calmer and stronger; after the postal system, the ghosts invented the telegraph, the telephone, the wireless. They will not starve, but we will perish."
"This is what it amounts to: on the one hand, he constantly hopes for something he should be remembering, his hope is constantly disappointed, but on its being disappointed he discovers that the reason is not that the goal has been moved further on but that he has gone past it, that it has already been experienced, or is supposed to have been, and has thus passed over into memory. On the other hand, he constantly remembers something he should be hoping for; for in thought the future is something he has already taken up, he has experienced it in thought, and that which he has experienced is something he remembers instead of hopes for. Consequently what he hopes for lies behind him, and what he remembers lies before him. His life is not backwards but back-to-front in two directions. He will soon notice his misfortune even if he does not grasp what it really consists in. But to make sure that he really gets the chance to feel it, that misunderstanding comes along which every moment in a remarkable way casts ridicule. He enjoys, for everyday purposes, the reputation of being in his right mind, yet he knows that were he to explain to a single person just how things were with him, he would be declared mad. This itself is enough to drive a person mad, yet he does not become so, and that is precisely his misfortune. His misfortune is that he has come to the world too soon and is therefore constantly arriving too late. He is forever quite close to the goal and the same moment at a distance from it; he now discovers that what it is that makes him unhappy, because now he has it, or because he is this way, is precisely what a few years ago would have made him happy if he had had it then, whereas then he was unhappy because he did not have it."
"His life has no meaning, like that of Ancaeus, of whom it is customary to say that nothing is known of him except that he gave rise to a proverb: ‘There’s many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip’, as if this were not more than enough. His life knows no rest and has no content, he is not present to himself in the moment, not present to himself in the future, for the future has been experienced, and not in the past, because the past has still not arrived. Thus is he chased about, like Latona to the Hyperborean darkness, to the bright isle of the Equator, and cannot give birth and is constantly as though just about to. Left to himself he stands in the wide world alone, he has no contemporaneity to attach himself to, no past he can long for, for his past has still not arrived, and no future he can hope for, for his future is already past."
"Alone, he has the whole world over against him as the ‘Thou’ with which he finds himself in conflict. For all the rest of the world is to him just one person, and this person, this inseparable, importunate friend, this is the misunderstanding. He cannot become old, for he has never been young; he cannot become young, for he has already become old; in a way he cannot die, for he has never lived; in a way he cannot live, for he is already dead; he cannot love, for love is always in the present, and he has no present time, no future, no past, and yet he is of a sympathetic nature, and he hates the world only because he loves it; he has no passion, not because he lacks it, but because that same instant he has the opposite; he has no time for anything, not because his time is taken up with something else, but because he has no time at all; he is powerless, not because he lacks strength, but because his own strength makes him impotent.”
"So accept, then, our wish, a good wish: may no one understand you, but all envy you; may no friend attach himself to you, no girl love you; may no secret sympathy suspect your solitary pain; may no eye fathom your distant sorrow; may no ear detect your secret sigh! Or if your proud soul scorns such expressions of sympathy, spurns the alleviation, may the girls love you, may those with child seek you out in their anguish, may mothers put their hopes in you, may the dying look to you for comfort, may the young attach themselves to you, may husbands depend upon you, may the aged one reach out to you as to a staff – may all the world believe you are able to make it happy. So live well, then, you the unhappiest one! But what am I saying, the unhappiest, I ought to say the happiest, for this indeed is a gift of fortune that no one can give to themselves. See, language fails, and thought is confounded; for who is the happiest except the unhappiest, and who the unhappiest except the happiest? And what is life but madness, and faith but folly, and hope but reprieve, and love but salt in the wound?
He vanished, and we stand again before an empty grave. Then let us wish him peace and rest and recovery, and all possible good fortune, and an early death, and an eternal oblivion, and no remembrance lest even the memory of him should make another unhappy.”
"Her face is wasted away so that the bones draw just under the skin in white lines. Her eyes are like two candles when you watch them gutter down into the sockets of iron candlesticks. But the eternal and the everlasting salvation and grace is not upon her."
“His conviction of having no purpose in life other than to act as a distillation of poison was part of the ego of an eighteen-year-old. He had resolved that his beautiful white hands would never be soiled or calloused. He wanted to be like a pennant, dependent on each gusting wind. The only thing that seemed valid to him was to live for the emotions--gratuitous and unstable, dying only to quicken again, dwindling and flaring without direction or purpose.” -Yukio Mishima, Spring Snow
You had to have read the rest of the story to "get" the passage, but this story really shook me all-together.
The telephone rang. It was an unusual hour for it to ring. He stood in the middle of the room, groping with his foot for one slipper that had come off, and childishly, toothlessly, gaped at his wife. Since she knew more English than he, she always attended to the calls.
”Can I speak to Charlie?” a girl’s dull little voice said to her now.
“What number do you want? . . . No. You have the wrong number.”
She put the receiver down gently and her hand went to her heart. “It frightened me,” she said.
He smiled a quick smile and immediately resumed his excited monologue. They would fetch him as soon as it was day. For his own protection, they would keep all the knives in a locked drawer. Even at his worst, he presented no danger to other people.
The telephone rang a second time.
The same toneless, anxious young voice asked for Charlie.
“You have the incorrect number. I will tell you what you are doing. You are turning the letter ‘o’ instead of the zero.” She hung up again.
They sat down to their unexpected, festive midnight tea. He sipped noisily; his face was flushed; every now and then he raised his glass with a circular motion, so as to make the sugar dissolve more thoroughly. The vein on the side of his bald head stood out conspicuously, and silvery bristles showed on his chin. The birthday present stood on the table. While she poured him another glass of tea, he put on his spectacles and reëxamined with pleasure the luminous yellow, green, and red little jars. His clumsy, moist lips spelled out their eloquent labels—apricot, grape, beach plum, quince. He had got to crab apple when the telephone rang again.
A little portrayal of a paradisiacal life could be seen through the loop in the noose in front of him., The noose hung outside the transom of The dolly shop on Sailmaker Street, depending from a short-cut top spar-end long since retired from service by woodworm and weather, and lately called upon to half-pay shore duty by one Bail Raskin, Esq., Prop. in Res., informally liscensed pawnborker and dealer in ship's stores. Said noose was normally the fixed and frequent residence of Jarky, a sailcloth and tar tatterdemalion, liberally greased and lampblacked and with two mismatched and lopsided button eyes and a the red felt grin of a demon from hell, which, in fact, he was. The paradise glimpsed was little more than a skyline of warehouse roofridge and chimney pots, with a grey moon scudding through the Thames fog behind it. But this was paradise enow and amen to Domdaniel. He had been a sweep for three years of his short life until cold and tuberculosis, with the able assitance of starvation, had ushered him out of the workaday world and into the service and employ of Master Raskin, Esq., who, while a most able and straightforward man of business, was also perhaps the blackest and most capable practitioner of the Dark Arts that London in the year 1889 Anno Domine could boast
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink life to the lees. All times I have enjoyed greatly and have suffered greatly, both with those who love me and alone. Much have I seen and known; cities of men and manners, climates, councils, governments, and myself not least, but honoured them all. How dull it is to pause, to make an end, to rust unbunished, not to shine in use! As though to breathe were life. Life piled on life were all too little, and of one to me little remains. But every hour is saved from that eternal silence - something more, a bringer of new things; and vile it were to store and hoard myself.
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