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The Prologue to Bertrand Russell’s Autobiography

What I Have Lived For

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a great ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.

I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy – ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness–that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what–at last–I have found.

With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.

Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.

This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.


Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) won the Nobel prize for literature for his History of Western Philosophy and was the co-author of Principia Mathematica.

 


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the sun is killing me

shining right into the wound

spilling the pain for all to see

its glare merciless

soulless

indifferent

the rays like daggers

and sweet all the same

loving and hating

while dying

together

 

 

I could close the door

Draw the curtains

Dim the light

Lay my head down

Bow and pray

Breathe and listen to the heartbeat

Lose all memory

Leave no trace

Swim upon the ocean

Float to heaven

And never return…

 

without-hope

 

Art: Frida Kahlo, Without Hope, 1945

 

Leonid_Pasternak_-_The_Passion_of_creation

Writing is akin to the birthing process.

First, there is a silent prolonged period of gestation.

Then the pressure starts to grow.

When the contractions begin, it’s time to sit down to write.

And then it gushes out (or should).

No point counting the fingers and toes of the new arrival.

There is no turning back.

One cannot edit out a sentence just as one cannot cut off a limb.

It’s born.

And it speaks.

 

Art: Leonid Pasternak, The Passion of creation