Saturday, August 30, 2008

Notes from the Underground

Finished Notes from the Underground the other day, and LOVED it. It's divided into two parts, the first which reads more like a full-on philosophy book. The second part is a story of a "bad memory" called A Propos of the Wet Snow and reads more like his other novels. The main character is a sick and spiteful man, who generally rather hates life, and more or less rants at you for the first half of the book. He is like one of those people that gives you lots of unsolicited advice that you have no intention of following because he doesn't really have his act together himself. But...the fact that he is ridiculous and knows it makes you laugh out loud in parts, and then afterwards make you think twice about what he really said in the first place. And for me, the biggest thing I got out of the first part was this man's need to set forth his ideas in print. He writes that he does not intend to have any readers of his thoughts, yet he addresses them, asks questions, apologizes to them in order to sound more imposing, to officially stamp down "this is what I believe today." I feel very similar about blogging. It is, perhaps, very silly to be so free in a public setting, and everywhere you hear cautions of "don't do anything online that you wouldn't want the whole world to see." And yes, okay, there might be some truth in that, but really, I really do wonder, what would be so bad about everyone knowing what was going on? Anyway, a really fun and short read--I would recommend that everyone read it to at least think about things. And now, my favorite quotes!

"And what is it that civilization softens in us? The only gain of civilization for mankind is the greater capacity for variety of sensations--and absolutely nothing more. [...] In any case civilization has made mankind if not more bloodthirsty, at least more vilely, more loathsomely bloodthirsty. In old days he saw justice in bloodshed and with his conscience at peace exterminated those he thought proper. Now we do think bloodshed abominable and yet we engage in this abomination, and with more energy than ever. Which is worse? Decide for yourselves." [huh]

"And why are you so firmly, so triumphantly, convinced that only the normal and the positive--in other words, only what is conducive to welfare--is for the advantage of man? Is not reason in error as regards advantage? Does not man, perhaps, love something besides well-being? Perhaps he is just as fond of suffering? Perhaps suffering is just as great a benefit to him as well-being? Man is sometimes extraordinarily, passionately, in love with suffering, and that is a fact. There is no need to appeal to universal history to prove that; only ask yourself, if you are a man and have lived at all. As far as my personal opinion is concerned, to care only for well-being seems to me positively ill-bred. Whether it's good or bad, it is sometimes very pleasant , too, to smash things. I hold no brief for suffering nor for well-being either. I am standing caprice, and for its being guaranteed to me when necessary." [even though I think this is pure drivel, it's fun to think about how utility captures all of these long as one ENJOYS the suffering, well then it does increase his utility, or well-being.]

"But there are other things which a man is afraid to tell even to himself, and every decent man has a number of such things stored away in his mind. The more decent he is, the greater the number of such things in his mind. Anyway, I have only lately determined to remember some of my early adventures. Till now I have always avoided them, even with a certain uneasiness. Now, when I am not only recalling them, but have actually decided to write an account of them, I want to try the experiment whether one can, even with oneself, be perfectly open and not take fright at the whole truth." [and I read this AFTER that post I wrote about experimenting with being intentionally more open! Dostoevsky, get out of my head!]

"Another circumstance, too, worried me in those days: that there was no one like me and I was unlike anyone else. I am alone and they are EVERYONE," I thought--and pondered. From that it is evident that I was still a youngster." [this spoke to my teenage self, when I thought I was entirely original and no one would understand me hehehe]

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