Some Manic-Panicked high schooler is probably scribbling this in a note to another one right this second, and yet I can’t seem to refrain from quoting it … negligible maturity fading … self-pitying … Kafka … quote … taking … shape …
To lift yourself out of a miserable mood, even if you have to do it by strength of will, should be easy. I force myself out of my chair, stride around the table, exercise my head and neck, make my eyes sparkle, tighten the muscles around them. Defy my own feelings, welcome A. enthusiastically supposing he comes to see me, amiably tolerate B. in my room, swallow all that is said at C.’s, whatever pain and trouble it may cost me, in long draughts.
Yet even if I manage that, one single slip, and a slip cannot be avoided, will stop the whole process, easy and painful alike, and I will have to shrink back into my own circle again.
So perhaps the best recourse is to meet everything passively, to make yourself an inert mass, and, if you feel that you are being carried away, not to let yourself be lured into taking a single unecessary step, to stare at others with the eyes of an animal, to feel no compunciton, in short, with your own hand to throttle down whatever ghostly life remains in you, that is, to enlarge the final peace of the graveyard and let nothing survive save that.
A characteristic movement in such a condition is to run your little finger over your eyebrows.
–“Resolutions,” from Betrachtung (Meditation), 1912
I’ve mentioned the short piece “Resolutions” (or, if you’re feeling Alex Trebek-y, “Entschluesse”) before, but from a more academic jerk-offy standpoint and not actually feeling like I could write it myself if a) I had the energy to be remotely expressive and b) I was the greatest frickin’ genius of the 20th century.
Though my lack of literary masterliness is hardly the stuff of revelation, the self-deadening misery of that piece is usually only something I affect as a means of deflecting human contact, which I actually only pretend to disdain…most of the time.
Perhaps in a final gesture of uncreative plagiarism, life has begun to imitate art. You know, f I were obsessed with Tom Clancy, this wouldn’t be a problem. Every time I got a little down I’d just jump in a top-of-the-line army-issue helicopter and go cause some suspense or something. Or if I were obsessed with F. Scott Fitzgerald I’d move to Long Island and dress entirely in alcohol. Or if I were obsessed with Jane Austen I’d move back in with my landed-gentry English parents and stuff myself into a corset so I could find a proper husband once and for all. Or if I were obsessed with Mitch Albom I could misappropriate all the world’s religions and spew trite crap all day long until I felt better. Or if I were obsessed with Hitler I could blame all of my problems on the self-damnation of the inbred master race. Or if I were obsessed with Camus I could go hug a big rock.