Saul Bellow

The Adventures of Augie March

I was no child now, neither in age nor in protectedness, and I was thrown for fair on the free spinning of the world. If you think, and some do, that continual intimacy, familiarity, and love can result in falsehood, this being thrown on the world may be a very desirable even if sad thing. What Christ meant when he called his mother "Woman." That after all she was like any woman. That in any true life you must go and be exposed outside the small circle that encompasses two or three heads in the same history of love. Try and stay, though, inside. See how long you can.

And this lightness of mind—I could have benefited from the wisdom about it that the heavy is the root of the light. First, that is, that the graceful comes out of what is buried at great depth. But as wisdom has to spread and knot out in all directions, this can also refer to the slight laugh which is only a little of what is sent upward by great heaviness of heart, or also to the gravity which passes off by performer's flutter or pitch for laughs. Even the man who wants to believe, you sometimes note kidding his way to Jesus.

I know man's labor must be one of those deals figured out by Providence that saves him by preserving him, or he would be hungry, he would freeze, or his brittle neck would be broke. But what curious and strange forms he ends up surviving in, becoming them in the process.

What I did at times realize was how I was abandoning some mighty old protection which now stood empty. Hadn't I been warned enough because of my mother and on my own account? With terrible warnings? Look out! Oh, you chump and weak fool, you are one of a humanity that can't be numbered and not more than the dust of metals scattered in a magnetic field and clinging to the lines of force, determined by laws, eating, sleeping, employed, conveyed, obedient, and subject. So why hunt for still more ways to lose liberty? Why go toward, and not instead run from, the huge drag that threatens to wear out your ribs, rub away your face, splinter your teeth? No, stay away! Be the wiser person who crawls, rides, runs, walks to his solitary ends used to solitary effort who procures for himself and heeds the fears that are the kinds of this world. Ah, they don't give you much of a break, these kings! Many a dead or dying face lives or drifts under them.

The great astonishment of this state was that the unit of humanity should maybe be not one but two.

Everyone tries to create a world he can live in, and what he can't use he often can't see. But the real world is already created, and if your fabrication doesn't correspond, then even if you feel noble and insist on there being something better than what people call reality, that better something needn't try to exceed what, in its actuality, since we know it so little, may be very surprising. If a happy state of things, surprising; if miserable or tragic, no worse than what we invent.

Because nobody anyhow can show what he is without a sense of exposure and shame, and can't care while preoccupied with this but must appear better and stronger than anyone else mad! And meantime feels no real strength in himself, cheats and gets cheated, relies on cheating but believes abnormally in the strength of the strong. All this time nothing genuine is allowed to appear and nobody knows what's real. And that's disfigured, degenerate, dark mankind—mere humanity.

Either this stuff comes easy or it doesn't come at all.

Anyhow, I had found something out about an unknown privation, and I realized how a general love or craving, before it is explicit or before it sees its object, manifests itself as boredom or some other kind of suffering.

But in this modern power of luxury, with its battalions of service workers and engineers, its the things themselves, the products that are distinguished, and the individual man isn't nearly equal to their great sum. Finally they are what becomes great—the multitude of baths with never-failing hot water, the enormous air conditioning units and the elaborate machinery. No opposing greatness is allowed, and the disturbing person is the one who won't serve by using or denies by not wishing to enjoy.

Well—you understand. Everyone has bitterness in his chosen thing. Bitterness in his chosen thing. That's what Christ was for, that even God had to have bitterness in his chosen thing if he was really going to be man's God, a god who was human.

There have great things been done to mitigate the worst human sights and teach you something different from revulsion at them. All the Golgothas have been painted with this aim. But since probably very few people are now helped by these things and lessons, each falls back on whatever he has.