I was late for English. Hirst discovered me sitting blithely in the common room as the class waited. She was quite angry and I went to class feeling guilt-ridden and annoyed at my own lazy nature: “drifting,” as she put it. As we read through The Secret Agent I realized that what Conrad says about moral and physical torpor could be applied to me. I’m so lazy and lethargic.
No real big thrills at school other than the exchange of jovial criticisms with Deborah. . . .
I spent the evening gratefully doing nothing other than sleeping or watching TV. Late on, I watched Everyman which was about near death experiences. It was fascinating and also frightening, and Mum and I got into a discussion about religion and death. We turned the TV off and our voices sounded small and alone in the after-dark silence.
Mum told me that since Christmas she's started to brood more about death and how, as she gets older, she is leaning more and more towards agnosticism. I said that I see religion as a sign of fundamental human weakness, as an inability to come to terms with and accept the frightening void of dying.
Religion's a symptom of human frailty, a creation of the mind designed to give comfort and support in times of stress. During stable and relatively comfortable periods such as now, the influence of religion wanes and is weaker, yet in times of hardship – Poland, El Salvador and in the Nazi concentration camps, for instance – religious faith is strong and a powerful source of solace.
Kerouac’s vision of death overshadowed everything, seeming to link things together somehow, death as a sort of unifying strand undermining what we do and making our efforts as pointless and insignificant as they really must be. . . .