Filed under: brave new world, unseen world | Tags: fools, Fyodor Dostoevsky, intelligent men, Notes from the Underground
Why do most people lead ‘lives of quiet desperation?’ Perhaps because: the extent of our despair is a measure of our degree of unused potential (School of Life). We must have an inbuilt sense of our potentials and that they’re being cheated, which for most people is most of the time. Mr D’s embittered narrator in Notes – below – says only fools become something and intelligent men conform themselves into characterlessness. Intelligent men somehow (do they allow it?) are subsumed; and fools somehow flourish. Desperate indeed.
I never even managed to become anything: neither wicked nor good, neither a scoundrel nor an honest man, neither a hero nor an insect. And now I am living out my life in my corner, taunting myself with the spiteful and utterly futile consolation that it is even impossible for an intelligent man seriously to become anything, and only fools become something. Yes, sir, an intelligent man of the nineteenth century must be and is morally obliged to be primarily a characterless being; and a man of character, an active figure—primarily a limited being.
Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from the Underground, previewing the early 21st century.