Postpone everything. Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow. You don’t have to do anything today or tomorrow.
Never think about what you’re going to do. Simply don’t do it.
Live your life. Do not be lived by it. In truth and in error, in sickness and in health, be your own self. You can only achieve this by dreaming, because your real life, your human life, does not belong to you, but to others. Therefore, replace life with dreaming and take care to dream perfectly. In all your real-life actions, from the day you are born until the day you die, it is not you performing those actions; you do not live, you are merely lived.
Become an absurd sphinx in the eyes of others. Shut yourself up in your ivory tower, but without slamming the door, for your ivory tower is you.
And if anyone tells you this is false and absurd, don’t believe him. But don’t believe what I’m telling you either, because you shouldn’t believe anything.
Despise everything, but in such a way that despising feels quite normal. Do not think you’re superior when you despise others. Therein lies the noble art of despising.
Pessoa, Fernando. The Book of Disquiet, New Directions, New York, 2017: 46.
Last week I drafted a short piece in my notebook about other people, namely my aversion to them. Today I read a passage in Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet that puts my piece to shame. This from Pessoa:
Isolation made me in its own image. The presence of another person — one person is all it takes — immediately slows down my thinking … When I am alone, I can come up with endless bon mots, acerbic ripostes to remarks no one has made, sociable flashes of wit exchanged with no one; but all this disappears when I’m confronted by another human being. I lose all my intelligence, I lose the power of speech, and after a while all I feel like doing is sleeping. Yes, talking to people makes me feel like sleeping. Only my spectral and imagined friends, only the conversations I have in dreams, have reality and substance, and in them the spirit is present like an image in a mirror.
The whole idea of being forced into contact with someone oppresses me. A simple invitation to supper from a friend produces in me an anguish difficult to put into words. The idea of any social obligation — going to a funeral, discussing something with someone at the office, going to meet someone (whether known or unknown) at the station — the mere idea blocks that whole day’s thoughts and sometimes I even worry about it the night before and sleep badly because of it. Yet the reality, when it comes, is utterly insignificant, and certainly doesn’t justify so much fuss, yet it happens again and again and I never learn.
‘My habits are those of solitude, not men.’ I don’t know if it was Rousseau or Senancour who said that, but it was some spirit belonging to the same species as me.