Saturday, November 18, 2006

notes from the underground

Today at work, I was listening to an audiobook of Dostoevsky's Notes from the Underground, and the sentiments of the narrator were too apt, his questions too close to sentiments I had been pondering today. Yesterday, I watched Apocalyspe Now, and, of course, there has been my nagging regrets about my behavior on Saturday, and so I have been wondering about good and bad, about descents into bad, and here these thoughts from Dostoevsky hitting me like a sack of bricks this evening:

Tell me this: why does it happen that at the very, yes, at the very moments when I am most capable of feeling every refinement of all that is "sublime and beautiful," as they used to say at one time, it would, as though of design, happen to me not only to feel but to do such ugly things, such that ... Well, in short, actions that all, perhaps, commit; but which, as though purposely, occurred to me at the very time when I was most conscious that they ought not to be committed. The more conscious I was of goodness and of all that was "sublime and beautiful," the more deeply I sank into my mire and the more ready I was to sink in it altogether. But the chief point was that all this was, as it were, not accidental in me, but as though it were bound to be so. It was as though it were my most normal condition, and not in the least disease or depravity, so that at last all desire in me to struggle against this depravity passed. It ended by my almost believing (perhaps actually believing) that this was perhaps my normal condition. But at first, in the beginning, what agonies I endured in that struggle! I did not believe it was the same with other people, and all my life I hid this fact about myself as a secret. I was ashamed (even now, perhaps, I am ashamed): I got to the point of feeling a sort of secret abnormal, despicable enjoyment in returning home to my corner on some disgusting Petersburg night, acutely conscious that that day I had committed a loathsome action again, that what was done could never be undone, and secretly, inwardly gnawing, gnawing at myself for it, tearing and consuming myself till at last the bitterness turned into a sort of shameful accursed sweetness, and at last--into positive real enjoyment!

And this rhetorical question closing Part 4:

Can a man of perception respect himself at all?

I think that once I finish the books I have lined up on my plate, it should be a winter of nothing but Russians.

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