Life is a slope. As long as you're going up you're always looking towards the top and you feel happy, but when you reach it, suddenly you can see the road going downhill and death at the end of it all. It's slow going up and quick going down.
A human being - what is a human being? Everything and nothing. Through the power of thought it can mirror everything it experiences. Through memory and knowledge it becomes a microcosm, carrying the world within itself. A mirror of things, a mirror of facts. Each human being becomes a little universe within the universe!
There are some delightful places in this world which have a sensual charm for the eyes. One loves them with a physical love. We people who are attracted by the countryside cherish fond memories of certain springs, certain woods, certain ponds, certain hills, which have become familiar sights and can touch our hearts like happy events.Sometimes indeed the memory goes back towards a forest glade, or a spot on a river bank or an orchard in blossom, glimpsed only once on a happy day, but preserved in our heart.
I told myself: 'I am surrounded by unknown things.' I imagined man without ears, suspecting the existence of sound as we suspect so many hidden mysteries, man noting acoustic phenomena whose nature and provenance he cannot determine. And I grew afraid of everything around me – afraid of the air, afraid of the night. From the moment we can know almost nothing, and from the moment that everything is limitless, what remains? Does emptiness actually not exist? What does exist in this apparent emptiness?
By nature independent, gay, even exuberant, seductively responsive and given to those spontaneous sallies that sparkle in the conversation of certain daughters of Paris who seem to have inhaled since childhood the pungent breath of the boulevards laden with the nightly laughter of audiences leaving theaters, Madame de Burne's five years of bondage had nonetheless endowed her with a singular timidity which mingled oddly with her youthful mettle, a great fear of saying too much, of going to far, along with a fierce yearning for emancipation and a firm resolve never again to compromise her freedom.
I told myself 'Everything is a being! The shout that passes into the air is an entity like an animal, since it is born, produces a movement, and is again transformed, in order to die. So the fearful mind that believes in incorporeal beings is not wrong. What are they?
....and I gazed at these forms incomprehensible to me, but which revealed the immortal thoughts of the greatest shatterer of dreams who had ever dwelt on earth.
Nevertheless man has found love, which is not a bad reply to that sly Deity, and he has adorned it with so much poetry that woman often forgets the sensual part of it. Those among us who are unable to deceive themselves have invented vice and refined debauchery, which is another way of laughing at God and paying homage, immodest homage, to beauty.
It is man who has introduced a little grace, beauty, unknown charm and mystery into creation by singing about it, interpreting it, by admiring it as a poet, idealizing it as an artist and by explaining it through science, doubtless making mistakes, but finding ingenious reasons, hidden grace and beauty, unknown charm and mystery in the various phenomena of Nature. God created only coarse beings, full of the germs of disease, who, after a few years of bestial enjoyment, grow old and infirm, with all the ugliness and all the want of power of human decrepitude.
The human mind is a lucky little local, passing accident which was totally unforeseen, and condemned to disappear with this earth and to recommence perhaps here or elsewhere the same or different with fresh combinations of eternally new beginnings. We owe it to this little lapse of intelligence on His part that we are very uncomfortable in this world which was not made for us, which had not been prepared to receive us, to lodge and feed us or to satisfy reflecting beings, and we owe it to Him also that we have to struggle without ceasing against what are still called the designs of Providence, when we are really refined and civilized beings.
We are, on earth, two distinct races. Those who have need of others, whom others amuse, engage soothe, whom solitude harasses, pains, stupefies, like the movement of a terrible glacier or the traversing of the desert; and those, on the contrary, whom others weary, tire, bore, silently torture, whom isolation calms and bathes in the repose of independency, and plunges into the humors of their own thoughts. In fine, there is here a normal, physical phenomenon. Some are constituted to live a life outside of themselves, others, to live a life within themselves. As for me, my exterior associations are abruptly and painfully short-lived, and, as they reach their limits, I experience in my whole body and in my whole intelligence an intolerable uneasiness.
Every ideal comes from us as do all the amenities of life, in order to make our existence as simple reproducers, for which divine Providence solely intended us, less monotonous and less hard.
Killing is decreed by law but nature loves eternal youth. Whatever she does, however unconscious and unfeeling the act, she seems to cry out: ‘Quick! Quick! Quick!’ And the more she destroys, the more she is renewed.
Do you know how I picture God myself? he said. As an enormous, creative organ beyond our ken, who scatters millions of worlds into space, just as one single fish would deposit its spawn in the sea. He creates because it is His function as God to do so, but He does not know what He is doing and is stupidly prolific in His work and is ignorant of the combinations of all kinds which are produced by His scattered germs.
Yes, but I say that Nature is our enemy, that we must always fight against Nature, for she is continually bringing us back to an animal state. You may be sure that God has not put anything on this earth that is clean, pretty, elegant or accessory to our ideal; the human brain has done it.
When the first fine spring days come, and the earth awakes and assumes its garment of verdure, when the perfumed warmth of the air blows on our faces and fills our lungs, and even appears to penetrate to our heart, we feel vague longings for undefined happiness, a wish to run, to walk at random, to inhale the spring.
...A strange art – music – the most poetic and precise of all the arts, vague as a dream and precise as algebra.
...perhaps, also this short embrace may infuse in their veins a little of this thrill which they would not have known without it, and will give to those two dead souls, brought to life in a second, the rapid and divine sensation of this intoxication, of this madness which gives to lovers more happiness in an instant than other men can gather during a whole lifetime.
Is it not rather the touch of Love, of Love the Mysterious, who seeks constantly to unite two beings, who tries his strength the instant he has put a man and a woman face to face?
There were some children round him playing in the dust on the paths. They had long fair hair, and with very earnest faces and solemn attention were making little mountains of sand so as to stamp on them and squash them underfoot.Pierre was going through one of those gloomy days when one looks into every corner of one's soul and shakes out every crease.'Our occupations are like the work of those kids,' he thought. Then he wondered whether after all the wisest course in life was not to beget two or three of these little useless beings and watch them grow with complacent curiosity. And he was touched by the desire to marry. You aren't so lost when you're not alone any more. At any rate you can hear somebody moving near you in times of worry and uncertainty, and it is something anyway to be able to say words of love to a woman when you are feeling down.He began thinking about women.His knowledge of them was very limited, as all he had had in the Latin Quarter was affairs of a fortnight or so, dropped when the month's money ran out and picked up again or replaced the following month. Yet kind, gentle, consoling creatures must exist. Hadn't his own mother brought sweet reasonableness and charm to his father's home? How he would have loved to meet a woman, a real woman!He leaped up, determined to go and pay a little visit to Mme Rosémilly.But he quickly sat down again. No, he didn't like that one!
Why is it a shame for me to cause them to die and try to exterminate them, tell me? You did not talk that way when you used to come to my house in Jeanne-d'Arc street. Ah! it is a shame! You have not done as much, with your cross of honor! I deserve more merit than you, do you understand, more than you, for I have killed more Prussians than you!
There is a part of everything which is unexplored,because we are accustomed to using our eyes only in association with the memory of what people before us have thought of the thing we are looking at. Even the smallest thing has something in it which is unknown.
Madame Chantal―a large woman whose ideas always strike me as being square-shaped, like stones dressed by a mason―was in the habit of concluding any political discussion with the remark: 'As ye sow, so shall ye reap'. Why have I always imagined that Madame Chantal's ideas are square? I've no idea, but everything she says goes into that shape in my mind: a block―a large one―with four symmetrical angles.
Solitude is indeed dangerous for a working intelligence. We need to have around us people who think and speak. When we are alone for a long time we people the void with phantoms
For some years he had felt weighing on him the burden of loneliness which sometimes overwhelms old bachelors. He had been strong, active and cheerful, spending his days in sport, and his evenings in amusement. Now he was growing dull, and no longer took interest in anything. Exercise tired him, suppers and even dinners made him ill, while women bored him as much as they had once amused him.
Get married, my friend, you don't know what it means to live alone, at my age. Nowadays feeling alone fills me with appalling anguish; being alone at home, by the fire, in the evening. It seems to me then that I'm alone on the earth, dreadfully alone, but surrounded by indeterminate dangers, by unknown, terrible things; and the wall, which divides me from my neighbour, whom I do not know, separates me from him by as great a distance as that which separates me from the stars I see through my window. A kind of fever comes over me, a fever of pain and fear, and the silence of the walls terrifies me. It is so profound, so sad, the silence of the room in which you live alone. It isn't just a silence of the body, but a silence of the soul, and, when a piece of furniture creaks, a shiver runs through your whole body, for in that dismal place you expect to hear no sound.
How fathomless the mystery of the Unseen is! We cannot plumb its depths with our feeble senses - with eyes which cannot see the infinitely small or the infinitely great, nor anything too close or too distant, such as the beings who live on a star or the creatures which live in a drop of water... with ears that deceive us by converting vibrations of the air into tones that we can hear, for they are sprites which miraculously change movement into sound, a metamorphosis which gives birth to harmonies which turn the silent agitation of nature into song... with our sense of smell, which is poorer than any dog's... with our sense of taste, which is barely capable of detecting the age of a wine!Ah! If we had other senses which would work other miracles for us, how many more things would we not discover around us!
There were office-worn gents with yellow faces, bent backs, and one shoulder set slightly higher than the other from spending hours hunched over desks. And their sad, anxious faces spoke volumes about their domestic troubles, never-ending money worries, and all those old hopes which had been dashed for good; for they all belonged to the army of poor threadbare drudges who just about make ends meet in some dismal plasterboard house with a flowerbed for a garden in the rubbish-and-slag-heap belt on the outskirts of Paris.
Night was a very different matter. It was dense, thicker than the very walls, and it was empty, so black, so immense that within it you could brush against appalling things and feel roaming and prowling around a strange, mysterious horror.
Solitude is obviously dangerous for people with active brains. We need men around us who have ideas and like talking. Leave us alone for any length of time, and we start filling the void with supernatural creatures.
Daylight does not lend itself to terror: objects and people are plain to see; and we encounter there only those things which dare to show themselves in the glare of day. But night, opaque night denser than walls, night, empty and infinite and so black and fathomless that terrifying things reach out and touch us, night when we feel horror stirring, mysteriously prowling―night seemed to him to hide some unknown, imminent, threatening danger. What could it be?