However great a man’s fear of life, suicide remains the courageous act, the clear-headed act of a mathematician. The suicide has judged by the laws of chance—so many odds against one that to live will be more miserable than to die. His sense of mathematics is greater than his sense of survival. But think how a sense of survival must clamor to be heard at the last moment, what excuses it must present of a totally unscientific nature.
Innocence always calls mutely for protection when we would be so much wiser to guard ourselves against it: innocence is like a dumb leper who has lost his bell, wandering the world, meaning no harm.
Behind the complicated details of the world stand the simplicities: God is good, the grown-up man or woman knows the answer to every question, there is such a thing as truth, and justice is as measured and faultless as a clock. Our heroes are simple: they are brave, they tell the truth, they are good swordsmen and they are never in the long run really defeated. That is why no later books satisfy us like those which were read to us in childhood—for those promised a world of great simplicity of which we knew the rules, but the later books are complicated and contradictory with experience; they are formed out of our own disappointing memories.
Those who marry God can become domesticated too—it’s just as hum-drum a marriage as all the others. The word Love means a formal touch of the lips as in the ceremony of the Mass, and Ave Maria like dearest is a phrase to open a letter. This marriage like the world’s marriages was held together by habits and tastes shared in common between God and themselves—it was God’s taste to be worshipped and their taste to worship, but only at stated hours like a suburban embrace on a Saturday night.
A petty reason perhaps why novelists more and more try to keep a distance from journalists is that novelists are trying to write the truth and journalists are trying to write fiction.
I had very good dentures once. Some magnificent gold work. It’s the only form of jewelry a man can wear that women fully appreciate.
I have often noticed that a bribe has that effect—it changes a relation. The man who offers a bribe gives away a little of his own importance; the bribe once accepted, he becomes the inferior, like a man who has paid for a woman.
Despair is the price one pays for setting oneself an impossible aim. It is, one is told, the unforgivable sin, but it is a sin the corrupt or evil man never practices. He always has hope. He never reaches the freezing-point of knowing absolute failure. Only the man of goodwill carries always in his heart this capacity for damnation.
Topics: Despair, Awareness, Acceptance, Realistic Expectations, Realization
A murderer is regarded by the conventional world as something almost monstrous, but a murderer to himself is only an ordinary man. It is only if the murderer is a good man that he can be regarded as monstrous.
Communism, my friend, is more than Marxism, just as Catholicism is more than the Roman Curia. There is a mystique as well as a politick. Catholics and Communists have committed great crimes, but at least they have not stood aside, like an established society, and been indifferent. I would rather have blood on my hands than water like Pilate.
Champagne, if you are seeking the truth, is better than a lie detector. It encourages a man to be expansive, even reckless, while lie detectors are only a challenge to tell lies successfully.
Topics: Alcohol, Challenges
Our worst enemies here are not the ignorant and simple, however cruel; our worst enemies are the intelligent and corrupt.
Wondering Whom to Read Next?
- Dodie Smith British Novelist
- Dorothy L. Sayers English Novelist, Playwright
- Gladys Bronwyn Stern British Novelist
- J. B. Priestley British Novelist, Playwright, Essayist
- Doris Lessing British Novelist, Poet
- Agatha Christie British Novelist
- William Shakespeare British Playwright
- V. S. Pritchett British Short Story Writer
- W. Somerset Maugham British Novelist
- Arnold J. Toynbee British Historian