It was a typical Sunday. Mum, Dad and Nanna P. went out for a ride round in the car and came back late afternoon.
I'd been planning to do some work but when they got back I was watching a hippy-influenced dramatization of the life of St. Francis of Assissi by Franco Zeffirelli, which had some interesting bits, despite being on the sugary side: the future St. Francis hurls his fine fabrics out the window to the scrambling crowds below, imploring them to renounce their material possessions; he's dragged before the fat earthy bishop and jeering townspeople, silences them by calmly telling them what he believes; strips off completely naked and walks out of town back to his ruined retreat.
He found a way out. I’ve picked up The Outsider by Colin Wilson and I read it this evening. It's really an interesting book.
Tolstoy . . . cites an Eastern fable of a man who clings to a shrub on the side of a pit to escape an enraged beast at the top and a dragon at the bottom. Two mice gnaw at the roots of his shrub. Yet while hanging, waiting for death, he notices some drops of honey on the leaves of the shrub, and reaches out and licks them. This is man, suspended between the possibilities of violent accidental death & inevitable natural death, diseases accelerating them, yet still eating, drinking, laughing at Fernandel in the cinema. This is the man who calls the Outsider morbid because he lacks appetite for the honey!I'm not advancing myself as an ‘Outsider,’ but I think that anyone who spends just a little time dwelling on what’s behind existence must necessarily tend toward this category, if not in actions, then certainly in mentality. The majority of people don’t think about these things, preferring instead to live out lives in a blind and battling slog.
And for what? “These men are in prison: that is the Outsider’s verdict. They are quite contented in prison—caged animals who have never known freedom; but it is prison all the same. And the Outsider? He is in prison too: nearly every Outsider . . . has told us so in a different language; but he knows it. His desire is to escape.”
My “semi-mania” and “half-belief” in myself is motivated by this desire to escape, a desire to throw myself wholeheartedly into something which I know to be right and true, because I drift without rhyme nor reason through life. I need some act needed that shows me that I too have “power over my doubts and self-questionings.”
I don’t know . . . What do I do? At the present time I just don’t have the courage or the conviction to act on undefined beliefs (so undefined I can’t even grasp ‘em myself) and to change. Going to Uni. has shown me that changing surroundings and friends doesn’t do a thing. This I knew already, although I tried—half-romantically—to convince myself that it wouldn’t be so. . . .
The change has got to come from inside, be in me as a person, but I don’t know how or what I have to do and be to change. I sometimes think that perhaps the answer lies in books, literature etc., but I can see a lifetime spent in searching, searching and, at the end of it, still just finding emptiness and confusion.
What I said the other day about living on a plane of intensity utterly removed from the meaningless half-boredom of everyday life is put into sharper focus when I read about the need for a “definitive act.” Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov found that act in a murder, and from then on moved with “a firm purpose.” Says Wilson, “Extremes of crime or extremes of asceticism, murder or renunciation, both have the same effect. Both free the Outsider from his fundamental indecision, so that the problem is carried to a higher stage.”
Zeffirelli’s St. Francis finds his spiritual ‘feet’ after returning, nearly destroyed, from a war. “’Pure will’ without the troubles and perplexities of ‘intellect.’” I need something that's worth doing, really worth doing, but the more I write the more these questions slip frustratingly out of focus in my mind. I really can’t get anything clear in my head . . . confusion . . . lack of purpose.
All the time these insoluble questions possess my mind my work goes untouched and neglected. I've a fortnight left at home and what have I achieved since I’ve been back? Two books read, notes made on one . . . What am I at University for . . .? I'd hoped to find so many answers through living and in books during my course but the reality is nowhere near what I’d dreamed, and really I suppose, what did I expect. . .?
Jeremy rang around nine this evening. He told me that Colin Baron’s Dad died at Christmas of a “massive heart attack.” It was quite a shock to hear this.
Dad told me about his recent bad dream. He was lying in bed alone; everyone else was downstairs and he could hear the “racket” of my music. He felt there was something indescribably evil outside his bedroom window, something nameless, faceless, but terrible all the same, and it was trying to get in to harm him. He didn’t know what it was and he was totally isolated, unable to contact anyone. Whatever it was finally burst through the window and that’s when he woke up to Mum’s anxious “what’s the matter?”
She told him he’d been tossing and moaning in his sleep.