Thursday, 29 March 2007

Credo, Leo Rosten.

A comment on another blog recently prompted me to dig this out of storage. This is perhaps the public statement I've yet seen closest to some of my own thinking and experiences, and much better put than I'm capable of.

From Leo Rosten, condensed by Geoff Spencer of the Alcuin Society, 1989 (1999 reprint, paras inserted for clarity).

Credo, Leo Rosten

I BELIEVE that you can understand people better if you look at them as if they are children. For most of us never mature; we simply grow taller.

I have learned that everyone - in some small, secret sanctuary of the self - is mad. If we want to stay sane we must moderate our demands - on ourselves and others.

I have learned that everyone is lonely at bottom, and cries to be understood; but we can never entirely understand someone else, no matter how much we want to; and each of us will forever be part stranger - even to those who love us most.

I have learned that it is the weak who are cruel and that kindness is to be expected only from the strong.

I have had to learn that life - so precious, so variable, so honeycombed with richness and delight - is held cheap in the scheme of impersonal events. When a human life is snuffed out in an instant, without meaning, without reason, without justice, how can one deny that all our lives hang by threads of nothing more than luck? I cannot escape the awareness that in our last bewildered moment just before we die three simple, awful questions cry out from our souls: 'Why me? Why now? Why forever?'

I have come to see that every person is subject to fantasies so obscene, yearnings so mendacious, drives so destructive that even to mention them shakes the gates we have erected against the barbarian within.

I have been driven to believe that no despotism is more terrible than the tyranny of neurosis. No punishment is more pitiless, more harsh and cunning and malevolent, than what we inflict upon ourselves.

Most men feel cheated if happiness eludes them. But where has it been written that life will be easy, our days untroubled by suffering, our nights unfouled by the beasts within our nature? Where, indeed, is it guaranteed that life will be at the very least fair?

People debase 'the pursuit of happiness' into a narcotic pursuit of 'fun'. To me this is demeaning. I would question the sanity of anyone not often torn by despair. Euphoria is the province of lunatics. I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be 'happy'.

I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be honourable, to be compassionate. It is above all, to matter: to count, to stand for something, to have it make some difference that you lived at all.

1 comment:

Unsane said...

I agree with many of these statements, although I think that life is not quite so random as you think it is. Death comes to the victims of history -- but this is often very orchestrated as an effect, not random!(In other words, maybe life is even more terrifying than you are suggesting here.)