The Book of Disquiet
Author:Fernando Pessoa

 

‘Creator of indifferences’ is the motto I want for my spirit today. I’d like my life’s activity to consist, above all, in educating others to feel more and more for themselves, and less and less according to the dynamic law of collectiveness. To educate people in that spiritual antisepsis which precludes contamination by commonness and vulgarity is the loftiest destiny I can imagine for the pedagogue of inner discipline that I aspire to be. If all who read me would learn – slowly, of course, as the subject matter requires – to be completely insensitive to other people’s opinions and even their glances, that would be enough of a garland to make up for my life’s scholastic stagnation.

 

My inability to act has always been an ailment with a metaphysical aetiology. I’ve always felt that to perform a gesture implied a disturbance, a repercussion, in the outer universe; I’ve always had the impression that any movement I might make would unsettle the stars and rock the skies. And so the tiniest gesture assumed for me early on a metaphysical significance of astonishing proportions. I developed an attitude of transcendental honesty with respect to all action, and ever since this attitude took firm hold in my consciousness, it has prevented me from having intense relations with the tangible world.

 

 

 

 

 

390

 

 

To know how to be superstitious is still one of the arts which, developed to perfection, distinguishes the superior man.

 

 

 

 

 

391

 

 

Ever since I’ve been using my idle moments to observe and meditate, I’ve noticed that people don’t agree or know the truth about anything that’s of real importance in life or that would be useful for living it. The most exact science is mathematics, which lives in the cloister of its own laws and rules; when applied, yes, it elucidates other sciences, but it can elucidate only what they discover – it cannot help in the discovery. In the other sciences, the only sure and accepted facts are those that don’t matter for life’s supreme ends. Physics knows the expansion coefficient for iron, but it doesn’t know the true mechanics of the world’s composition. And the more we advance in what we’d like to know, the more we fall behind in what we do know. Metaphysics would seem to be the supreme guide, since it alone is concerned with ultimate truth and life’s supreme ends, but it isn’t even a scientific theory, just a pile of bricks that these or those hands form into awkward houses with no mortar holding them together.

 

I’ve also noticed that the only difference between humans and animals is the way they deceive themselves and remain ignorant about the life they live. Animals don’t know what they do: they’re born, they grow up, they live and they die without thought, reflection or a real future. And how many men live differently from animals? We all sleep, and the only difference is in what we dream, and in the degree and quality of our dreaming. Perhaps death will awaken us, but we can’t even be sure of that unless it’s by faith (for which believing is having), by hope (for which wanting is possessing), or by charity (for which giving is receiving).

 

It’s raining on this cold and sad winter afternoon as if it had been raining, just as monotonously, since the first page of the world. It’s raining, and as if the rain had made them hunch forward, my feelings lower their stupid gaze to the ground, where water flows and nourishes nothing, washes nothing, cheers up nothing. It’s raining, and I suddenly feel the terrible weight of being an animal that doesn’t know what it is, dreaming its thought and emotion, withdrawn into a spatial region of being as into a hovel, satisfied by a little heat as by an eternal truth.

 

 

 

 

 

392

 

 

‘The people’ are a regular chap.

 

The people are never humanitarian. What most characterizes this fellow called ‘the people’ is a narrow focus on his own interests, and a careful exclusion – as far as possible – of the interests of others.

 

When the people lose their tradition, it means that the social bond has been severed; and when the social bond is severed, then the bond between the people and the minority who aren’t like them is also severed. And the severing of the social bond between the minority and the people spells the death of art and true science, the end of the main agencies on whose existence civilization depends.

 

To exist is to deny. What am I today, living today, but the denial of who and what I was yesterday? To exist is to contradict oneself. Nothing better symbolizes life than those news articles that contradict today what the newspaper said yesterday.

 

To want is to be unable to achieve. The man who wanted something he achieved didn’t want it until it was already in his power to achieve. The man who wants will never achieve, because he loses himself in wanting. These principles seem fundamental to me.

 

 

 

 

 

393

 

 

… contemptible like the aims we live for, without our having chosen those aims.