The crack's in me

on August 13, 2010 with 0 comments » | ,


I seem to have blogged this quote twice before (in 2007 and again in 2009) and I found myself returning to it again today.
"The natural state of the sentient adult is a qualified unhappiness. I think also that in an adult the desire to be finer in grain than you are only adds to this unhappiness in the end" - F. Scott Fitzgerald, as quoted in Nonconformity by Nelson Algren
I had read the above quote when I read NonConformity some years back. But today, I dug out the actual piece by Fitzgerald. It was a very interesting essay - a three-part self-analysis by Fitzgerald in Esquire magazine back in 1936. What an amazing start to the essay, titled Crack-Up:
Of course all life is a process of breaking down, but the blows that do the dramatic side of the work -- the big sudden blows that come, or seem to come, from outside -- the ones you remember and blame things on and, in moments of weakness, tell your friends about, don't show their effect all at once. There is another sort of blow that comes from within -- that you don't feel until it's too late to do anything about it, until you realize with finality that in some regard you will never be as good a man again.
What a find! Going through some personal issues myself and so this really finds a connection with the way I feel at the current time!

Here is another lovely excerpt from the essay:
"Instead of being so sorry for yourself, listen -- “she said. (She always says “Listen,” because she thinks while she talks -- really thinks.) So she said: “Listen. Suppose this wasn’t a crack in you -- suppose it was a crack in the Grand Canyon.”

“The crack’s in me,” I said heroically.

“Listen! The world only exists in your eyes -- your conception of it. You can make it as big or as small as you want to. And you’re trying to be a little puny individual. By God, if I ever cracked, I’d try to make the world crack with me. Listen! The world only exists through your apprehension of it, and so it’s much better to say that it’s not you that’s cracked -- it’s the Grand Canyon.”
Here's another great excerpt from the 2nd part of the essay:
Now the standard cure for one who is sunk is to consider those in actual destitution or physical suffering -- this is an all-weather beatitude for gloom in general and fairly salutary daytime advice for everyone. But at three o’clock in the morning, a forgotten package has the same tragic importance as a death sentence, and the cure doesn’t work -- and in a real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning, day after day. At that hour the tendency is to refuse to face things as long as possible by retiring into an infantile dream -- but one is continually startled out of this by various contacts with the world. One meets these occasions as quickly and carelessly as possible and retires once more back into the dream, hoping that things will adjust themselves by some great material or spiritual bonanza. But as the withdrawal persists there is less and less chance of the bonanza -- one is not waiting for the fade-out of a single sorrow, but rather being an unwilling witness of an execution, the disintegration of one’s own personality…
Unless madness or drugs or drink come into it, this phase comes to a dead end, eventually, and is succeeded by a vacuous quiet. In this you can try to estimate what has been sheared away and what is left.
And this quotable quote:
Trouble has no necessary connection with discouragement -- discouragement has a germ of its own, as different from trouble as arthritis is different from a stiff joint.
In the third and final part, he writes:
This was at least a starting place out of the morass in which I floundered: “I felt -- therefore I was.” At one time or another there had been many people who had leaned on me, come to me in difficulties or written me from afar, believed implicitly in my advice and my attitude toward life. The dullest platitude monger or the most unscrupulous Rasputin who can influence the destinies of many people must have some individuality, so the question became one of finding why and where I had changed, where was the leak through which, unknown to myself, my enthusiasm and my vitality had been steadily and prematurely trickling away.
....


-- I only wanted absolute quiet to think out why I had developed a sad attitude towards sadness, a melancholy attitude toward melancholy, and a tragic attitude toward tragedy -- why I had become identified with the objects of my horror or compassion.
Does this seem a fine distraction? It isn’t: identification such as this spells the death of accomplishment. It is something like this that keeps sane people from working.
And later:
This led me to the idea that the ones who had survived had made some sort of clean break. .......  A clean break is something you cannot come back from; that is irretrievable because it makes the past cease to exist. So, since I could no longer fulfill the obligations that life had set for me or that I had set for myself, why not slay the empty shell who had been posturing at it for four years? I must continue to be a writer because that was my only way of life, but I would cease any attempts to be a person -- to be kind, just, or generous. There were plenty of counterfeit coins around that would pass instead of these and I knew where I could get them at a nickel on the dollar. In thirty-nine years an observant eye has learned to detect where the milk is watered and the sugar is sanded, the rhinestone passed for diamond and the stucco for stone. There was to be no more giving of myself -- all giving was to be outlawed henceforth under a new name, and that name was Waste.

The decision made me rather exuberant, like anything that is both real and new.
And so we prod on.... looking for that which will set us free - hoping that we have the audacity to make that 'clean break' and move on to what is "both real and new".

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