Saturday, May 30, 2009

About primary causes and boredom



And you ask why I twisted and tormented myself so? Answer: because it was just too boring to sit there with folded arms, that’s why I’d get into such flourishes. Really, it was so. Observe yourselves more closely, gentlemen, and you'll understand that it is so. I made up adventures and devised a life for myself so as to live, at least somehow, a little. How many times it happened to me – well, say, for example, to feel offended, just so, for no reason, on purpose; and I'd know very well that I felt offended for no reason, that I was affecting it, but you can drive yourself so far that in the end, really, you do indeed get offended. Somehow all my life I've had an urge to pull such stunts, so that in the end I could no longer control myself. Another time, twice even, I decided to force myself to fall in love. And I did suffer, gentlemen, I assure you. Deep in one's soul it's hard to believe one is suffering, mockery is stirring there, but all the same I suffer, and in a real, honest-to-god way; I get jealous, lose my temper… And all that from boredom, gentlemen, all from boredom; crushed by inertia. For the direct, lawful, immediate fruit of consciousness is inertia - that is, a conscious sitting with folded arms. I've already mentioned this above. I repeat, I emphatically repeat: ingenuous people and active figures are all active simply because they are dull and narrow-minded. How to explain it? Here's how: as a consequence of their narrow-mindedness, they take the most immediate and secondary causes for the primary ones, and thus become convinced more quickly and easily than others that they have found an indisputable basis for their doings, and so they feel at ease; and that, after all, is the main thing. For in order to begin to act, one must first be completely at ease, so that no more doubts remain. Well, and how am I, for example, to set myself at ease? Where are the primary causes on which I can rest, where are my bases? Where am I going to get them? I exercise thinking, and, consequently, for me every primary cause immediately drags with it yet another, still more primary one, and so on ad infinitum. Such is precisely the essence of all consciousness and thought. So, once again it’s the laws of nature.

Dostoevsky, Notes From Underground, Alfred A. Knopf,
Everyman's Library, New York and London,translated from
the Russian by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky

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