I'm a little over halfway through Notes from the Underground right now. It's a book I've started reading a number of times without ever getting past Chapter 3, not because I disliked it—on the contrary, I thought it was brilliant from the start—but, for whatever reason, something would always manage to distract me. (It's shameful, I know, that I've somehow passed twenty-seven years on this rock without finishing the bloody thing.)
Perhaps I was scared because his observations hit a little too close to home—remarkably close, in fact. Reading Notes from the Underground makes me feel like a tepid facsimile: the thoughts expressed therein, mostly in Part I, are almost exactly the same as those I've been wrangling with for the past year or so. I am disgusted yet relieved, horrified yet overjoyed. And while I have little else to say on the matter, there is one passage that provides such an accurate summary of my own mindset (and folly) that I feel a pressing need to post it on my blog. (In this regard, my procrastination may have been a blessing in disguise, as the latter half of Part I probably means much more to me now than it would have a year or two ago.)
He who reveals himself too deeply does so at his own peril, and whoever reads the following paragraph will forever have a psychological trump card with which to reduce me to an infirm mass of blithering goo:
"Isn't that shameful, isn't that humiliating?" you will say, perhaps, wagging your heads contemptuously. "You thirst for life and try to settle the problems of life by a logical tangle. And how persistent, how insolent are your sallies, and at the same time what a scare you are in! You talk nonsense and are pleased with it; you say impudent things and are in continual alarm and apologising for them. You declare that you are afraid of nothing and at the same time try to ingratiate yourself in our good opinion. You declare that you are gnashing your teeth and at the same time you try to be witty so as to amuse us. You know that your witticisms are not witty, but you are evidently well satisfied with their literary value. You may, perhaps, have really suffered, but you have no respect for your own suffering. You may have sincerity, but you have no modesty; out of the pettiest vanity you expose your sincerity to publicity and ignominy. You doubtlessly mean to say something, but hide your last word through fear, because you have not the resolution to utter it, and only have a cowardly impudence. You boast of consciousness, but you are not sure of your ground, for though your mind works, yet your heart is darkened and corrupt, and you cannot have a full, genuine consciousness without a pure heart. And how intrusive you are, how you insist and grimace! Lies, lies, lies!"
That's a rough read for me. It's not easy to admit to being a hopelessly lost, infinitely pretentious ass. But if I have believed in one thing more or less consistently throughout my life it's that I would much rather live an ugly truth than a beautiful lie.
It seems a long-dead Russian author has already written most of the thoughts I've been trying to verbalize, my own ugly truth. Saves me the trouble.