War makes men barbarous because, to take part in it, one must harden oneself against all regret, all appreciation of delicacy and sensitive values. One must live as if those values did not exist, and when the war is over one has lost the resilience to return to those values.
Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things: air, sleep, dreams, sea, the sky - all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.
Living is like working out a long addition sum, and if you make a mistake in the first two totals you will never find the right answer. It means involving oneself in a complicated chain of circumstances.
A consoling thought: what matters is not what we do, but the spirit in which we do it. Others suffer too; so much so that there is nothing in the world but suffering; the problem is simply to keep a clear conscience.
No matter how much a young man likes to think for himself, he is always trying to model himself on some abstract pattern largely derived from the example of the world around him. And a man, no matter how conservative, shows his own worth by his personal deviation from that pattern.
I was happy enough; I knew that during the night the whole city might go up in flames and all its people be killed, but the ravines, houses, and footpaths would wake in the morning calm and unchanged.
The problem is not the harshness of Fate, for anything we want strongly enough we get. The trouble is rather that when we have it we grow sick of it, and then we should never blame Fate, only our own desire.
You need a village, if only for the pleasure of leaving it. A village means that you are not alone, knowing that in the people, the trees, the earth, there is something that belongs to you, waiting for you when you are not there.
Why does a man who is truly in love insist that this relationship must continue and be "lifelong"? Because life is pain and the enjoyment of love is an anesthetic. Who would want to wake up halfway through an operation?
Men who have a tempestuous inner life and do not seek to give vent to it by talking or writing are simply men who have no tempestuous inner life. Give company to a lonely man and he will talk more than anyone.
A decision, an action, are infallible omens of what we shall do another time, not for any vague, mystic, astrological reason but because they result from an automatic reaction that will repeat itself.
It is not that the child lives in a world of imagination, but that the child within us survives and starts into life only at rare moments of recollection, which makes us believe, and it is not true, that, as children, we were imaginative?
At great periods you have always felt, deep within you, the temptation to commit suicide. You gave yourself to it, breached your own defenses. You were a child. The idea of suicide was a protest against life; by dying, you would escape this longing for death.
If it is true that one gets used to suffering, how is it that as the years go one always suffers more? No, they are not mad, those people who amuse themselves, enjoy life, travel, make love, fight they are not mad. We should like to do the same ourselves.
Now that I've seen what war is ... I know that everybody, if one day it should end, ought to ask himself: "And what shall we make of the fallen? Why are they dead?" I wouldn't know what to say. Not now, at any rate. Nor does it seem to me that the others know. Perhaps only dead know, and only for them is the war really over.
There is an art in taking the whiplash of suffering full in the face, an art you must learn. Let each single attack exhaust itself; pain always makes single attacks, so that its bite may be more intense, more concentrated. And you, while its fangs are implanted and injecting their venom at one spot, do not forget to offer it another place where it can bite you, and so relieve the pain of the first.
People who don't know any better will always be in the dark because the power lies in the hands of men who take good care that ordinary folk don't understand, in the hands, that is, of the government, of the clerical party, of the capitalists.
The world, the future, is now within you as your past, as experience, skill in technique, and the rich, everlasting mystery is found to be childish you that, at the time, you made no effort to possess.
Literature is a defense against the attacks of life. It says to life: You can't deceive me. I know your habits, foresee and enjoy watching all your reactions, and steal your secret by involving you in cunning obstructions that halt your normal flow.
To choose a hardship for ourselves is our only defense against that hardship. This is what is meant by accepting suffering. Those who, by their very nature, can suffer completely, utterly, have an advantage. That is how we can disarm the power of suffering, make it our own creation, our own choice; submit to it. A justification for suicide.
When we read, we are not looking for new ideas, but to see our own thoughts given the seal of confirmation on the printed page. The words that strike us are those that awake an echo in a zone we have already made our ownâthe place where we liveâand the vibration enables us to find fresh starting points within ourselves
Dawn's faint breath breathes with your mouth at the ends of empty streets. Gray light your eyes, sweet drops of dawn on dark hills. Your steps and breath like the wind of dawn smother houses. The city shudders, Stones exhaleâ you are life, an awakening. Star lost in the light of dawn, trill of the breeze, warmth, breathâ the night is done. You are light and morning.
Suffering is by no means a privilege, a sign of nobility, a reminder of God. Suffering is a fierce, bestial thing, commonplace, uncalled for, natural as air. It is intangible; no one can grasp it or fight against it; it dwells in time - is the same thing as time; if it comes in fits and starts, that is only so as to leave the sufferer more defenseless during the moments that follow, those long moments when one relives the last bout of torture and waits for the next.
The face of the night will be an old wound that reopens each evening, impassive and living. The distant silence will ache like a soul, mute, in the dark. We'll speak to the night as it's whispering softly.
Childhood is not only the childhood we really had but also the impressions we formed of it in our adolescence and maturity. That is why childhood seems so long. Probably every period of life is multiplied by our reflections upon the next.
Don't you know that what happens to you once always happens again? You always react in the same way to the same thing. It's no accident when you make a mess. Then you do it again. It's called destiny.
Whatever people may say, the fastidious formal manner of the upper classes is preferable to the slovenly easygoing behaviour of the common middle class. In moments of crisis, the former know how to act, the latter become uncouth brutes.
In fact a man in love or one consumed with hatred creates symbols for himself, as a superstitious man does, from a passion of conferring uniqueness on things or persons. A man who knows nothing of symbols is one of Dante's sluggards. This is why art mirrors itself in primitive rites or strong passions, seeking for symbols, revolving round the primitive taste for savagery, for what is irrational (blood and sex).
In general, the man who is readily disposed to sacrifice himself is one who does not know how else to give meaning to his life. The profession of enthusiasm is the most sickening of all insincerities.