I highlighted these quotes as I was reading, as they struck me for some reason. Now as I sit and reflect on them I sometimes wonder exactly what it was that stood out and if it’s not obvious I guess that the truth I saw in these words is not as deep as I thought. Quotes that remain obvious for their inclusion would seem to highlight a deeper belief I have about the world.
Extracts from White Nights (Dostoyevsky)
…you’re sorry that the ephemeral beauty has faded so rapidly, so irretrievably, that is flashed so deceptively and pointlessly before your eyes – you’re sorry, for you didn’t even have time to fall in love with her…
When I was a teenager or twenty-something I would often look at people in the distance and try to see through their eyes at that moment in time and wonder what they were experiencing in their head. Could I jump, movie-like, from this life experience into a totally new one? Would it be better? Did I feel an urge to escape my own life?
Other times I would see a pretty girl and pretend to fall in love in that moment, hear her breath leave her mouth as I softly kissed her neck, then live a lifetime together in blissful happiness. In an instant these thoughts would disappear back behind other inane thoughts I might have. But, for that brief moment, I lived entire lives.
…moments like this are so rare in my existence that I must repeat them again and again in my thoughts.
These are happy thoughts and memories and as I’ve gotten older I realise they are not as rare as I thought. The more I have been writing and remembering, the big transformative negative events have given way to the smaller transformative positive ones. And as there have been less negative events in the last decade or two I feel like I must be getting somewhere. Repeating thoughts of positive memories must surely have the equal opposite benefit of continued negative ones. This could be a valid use of the word exponential.
…deep down the queer fish really means well.
Just call me ‘the queer fish’.
At any moment, I see more clearly than ever before that I’ve wasted my best years.
Everyone must feel this to some degree. It’s kind of relative. I wish I was as wise as I am now when I was a teenager. I’m envious of those who seem to have a level head at that age, yet also jealous of those crazy mad dogs charging into everything without thought and getting away with it. I consider everything that happened to me has gotten me to where I am now. Ok, I’m not as fit and healthy as when I was a teenager but inside I don’t feel any different, especially when it comes to the possibilities….I feel much more capable now, capable of learning new things and persisting. Though falling off a skateboard aged 40 taught me some things are probably too late to take up.
In the end, you feel that your much-vaunted, inexhaustible fantasy is growing tired, debilitated, exhausted, because you’re bound to grow out of your old ideals; they’re smashed to splinters and turn to dust, and if you have no other life, you have no choice but to keep rebuilding your dreams from the splinters and dust, But the heart longs for something different!
I’m not sure why I specifically highlighted this but it is giving me several ideas. Those ‘much-vaunted inexhaustible fantasies’ smashed; due to maturity, due to change, due to circumstance. I think I’ve been quite flexible in this regard and been able to accept changes and moving on as they happened. ‘Rebuilding your dreams’… is nothing to be afraid of.
I was struck by a passage in Sam McPheeters book ‘Mutations’ where he says he suddenly changed from going to see shows many times a week to not being interested in seeing live music at all – like a switch that went off for him. My circumstances in 2013 suddenly meant that I could no longer afford (or choose to afford) going to shows after about 8 years of being out every weekend. I missed the thrill and the camaraderie, meeting friends, frenzied noise and the joys of working together but ultimately I easily accepted this new situation. Perhaps because I had a higher goal at the time – to move myself to Thailand.
‘Grow out of your ideals’….this, I feel, is something that didn’t change for me. I still carry the same ideals – even useless ones. I am an idealist more than a realist. It’s a source of personal unhappiness but by itself a virtue.
‘But the heart longs for something different’…the grass is always greener. I’m learning now to be satisfied. My brain is not switched off to new ideas and possibilities and I don’t wish to become an old man stuck in his ways but I am learning to relax into a peaceful rhythm of life, sitting in my own comfortable space within a beautiful house with a beautiful garden, in a strange otherworld of a foreign country and in the comfort of my own mind. This is what I wanted, this is what I got, so now I must enjoy the reward.
I know exactly why I highlighted this yet I think I only agree the first clause of this sentence. I have some very vivid memories of certain places that contributed to a great passionate love that sticks with me to this day. It was a very special time that I hope I can put into words one day. I would often revisit those places, searching for that brief passion within me, ultimately knowing that it won’t be found again. I have accepted that and even feel happier without that high, because those kinds of highs were always followed by lows, whether the following week, month, year or decade. I am much more at peace these days. I do still wish I was more mature at the time. I would’ve hurt less people, including myself.
It has been a sad, drizzly day, without relief – just like my future senility. I am oppressed by strange thoughts and dark sensations; throngs of vague questions obsess me, but I have neither the strength nor the desire to cope with them.
“…just like my future senility’ made me chuckle. What about my current senility? Although not this day, I am often oppressed by throngs of vague questions. Some days I love them and others I don’t have the strength for them. On those days I usually accept the situation and watch TV. I am trying to be kind to myself, waiting on my future senility.
…our own unhappiness makes us more sensitive to the unhappiness of others.
I can feel this deeply sometimes and the effort to take other people out of their funk may help my own depression yet the advice I can give others is much more difficult to follow myself. This is a common experience for most people and I have tried to practice talking less and trying to find other ways to pick people up. This is particularly interesting when there’s little point in talking to ESL students or friends as they don’t have the vocabulary to understand anyway. Cultural differences often stand in the way too. I don’t want to come across as being some kind of expert or having the right way but can only try to offer suggestions.
Tell me, why aren’t we all like brothers? Why does even the best person hold something from another?
What a crazy world it would be if we never held anything back. All truths were told. There must be science fiction stories about this. A utopia or a place where humans completely destroyed each other? This concept is too huge for my tiny little brain right now. Is it even worth thinking about?
Naval Ravikant suggested that asking the question ‘what is the meaning of life’ is pointless, at least in the purpose of producing an answer, but the process of trying to answer the question will still provide worthwhile results.
…we won’t resent for long a wound inflicted by those we love..
I’m reminded of a recent time when a friend offered me advice along with the statement that “I’m only saying this because I love and care about you.” I forget what the advice was now but considered this statement. I took it at face value at the time though also felt a little strange about it – what was the real purpose of the statement?
A few months later and for one reason or another I had done something to upset this friend and now they no longer talk with me. Of course, I could have behaved better though it’s not exactly clear to me what it was that triggered this change in friendship status. Then I thought back to this statement and I realised that it was said without sincerity. It was said just to make them feel good.
Now, that’s ok. Because I’m sure I do this all the time. But I try not to. I want to be completely sincere (or obviously insincere – that’s the English in me again!). I would be a terrible poker player – I cannot hide my feelings on my face and I don’t care to learn.
As to those I love, all wounds are forgiven but I also don’t spread my love so deep and far. Maybe I should. But I’m afraid. What am I really afraid of?
Now I’m getting to vague questions that I may not have the strength to contemplate.
Take it easy. No need to push real hard, just do something – every little bit helps.
You are a student and a teacher. Clearer mind this morning – not so much in it.