It did not do to think, nor, for the matter of that to feel. She gave up trying to understand herself, and joined the vast armies of the benighted, who follow neither the heart nor the brain, and march to their destiny by catch-words. The armies are full of pleasant and pious folk. But they have yielded to the only enemy that matters — the enemy within. They have sinned against passion and truth, and vain will be their strife after virtue. As the years pass, they are censured. Their pleasantry and their piety show cracks, their wit become cynicism, their unselfishness hypocrisy; they feel and produce discomfort wherever they go. They have sinned against Eros and against Pallas Athene, and not by any heavenly intervention, but by the ordinary course of nature, those allied deities will be avenged. 

This passage from A Room with a View caused me to reread it repeatedly.

March to their destiny by catch-words — I think of twaddle on social media or the sayings people repeat and pass on as if it is wisdom though no one can recall who said it. Or prayers that don’t really speak to God but to the people who are listening. It is strange to listen to prayers to God that aren’t said to him.

Full of pleasant and pious folk. Yes, they are. Which keeps us from ever confronting them. Calling them liars. Shouting foul-play. They are harmless (are they?) Why shout? They are people who like to have their little world controlled and all people fit where they should. All people go where they should. In or out. Here or there.

Vain will be their strife after virtue. Because they have denied themselves (perhaps because they feel unworthy) what their hearts long for (perhaps they were tired of waiting, or didn’t believe it would ever come), they will always know they cheated their own hearts. It is hard to be really, truly good with a cheated heart.

As the years pass, they are censured. By who? Eros (love) and Pallas Athene (wisdom).

Their pleasantry and their piety show cracks, Ah, the unguarded moment, the secret sin, the mask slips, the heart which is so guarded has stopped beating, it suffocates.

their wit become cynicism, and now they are taking pot shots at groups of people or someone who doesn’t quite fit, isn’t from the race of Joseph, doesn’t understand, doesn’t get it.

their unselfish hypocrisy, when they look like they’re doing something nice for you, but there’s always a catch, there’s something they want.

they feel and produce discomfort wherever they go. Oh, dear God, could this be me? Do I? Do I not follow my heart or my brain? Am I not being really honest and true? Do I love, really love, without hidden motives, and is it powerful — a force to be reckoned with?

I love literature. It crucifies me and ushers me into ecstasy. I’m undone and I’m resurrected.

 

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