writing vs thinking

For some, what they think but don’t write gives them a better idea of themselves than what they write.

bashfulness

Bashfulness accompanied by pride sometimes produces the same behaviour as modesty.

morality

Morality is solely a human concern. One doesn’t realize God by being moral, but by relying on God one can understand and accept the necessity of morality.

cogito ergo sum

Neither a tree nor an animal can say to themselves: “I think, therefore I am.”

Do they exist any less for that? And if a deep thinker comes to doubt his existence, whereas a simple thoughtless man does not, and would laugh at anyone who does, does that provide any assurance that thinking constitutes the best proof of existence?

misery

Misery is a kind of dark reflection of hell. While poverty burdens us under the weight of slavery.

Without these chains poverty would not be a suffering and it would perhaps lose all its value.

***

Misery inspires a physical disgust, luxury a moral disgust. Yet it is misery that leads to the worst moral degradations.

posthumous glory

People put their affairs in order before they die, they don’t plan anything beyond that.

An artist who hopes for posthumous glory is like someone who says, “When I’m dead, I will do this and that.”

revolution vs. evolution

Revolution occurs in the form, evolution in the ground.

moulting

Poetry is moulting. It has shed its old skin. It has remained naked and stripped like those animals who have cast off their skins and are about to put on a new one that is even finer and more beautiful.

If poetry doesn’t die, it too will become more beautiful.

religious art

Religious sentiment has given rise to admirable works of art. These days the Church approves of religious trinkets, the selling of which is a disgrace and which are, from an aesthetic point of view, indefensible. But one can easily overlook that, for they at least avoid the danger into which aesthetes fall by considering beautiful artworks as veritable idols; whereas they are simple memory aids or points of focus. The mediocrity of these works can easily be excused if one remembers that one must not forget oneself while admiring the most beautiful forms of matter, when one should actually be contemplating the formless, invisible beauty of the Spirit.

***

Art is useless to saints. Thus it is not an indispensible vehicle for religious sentiment. This is consolation for the fact that our epoch is so incapable of creating any fine religious art.

And if one’s religious sentiment is too weak one must not pretend to sustain it by taking the support of art. Worldly art will more readily absorb the strength of the artist than religious sentiment.

Faith risks being frustrated by the earthly demands of art.

***

The mystic gives himself to God unreservedly, and by doing so acquires an unparalleled freedom.

The artist gives himself to art, and by doing so finds himself stuck. It would be better if he could, occasionally, take a break from it.

One’s bond with God is liberating because it detaches one from the things of this world and alone grants a truly disinterested mind.

The artist is chained to the world by a double interest: That of drawing the material for his art from it and that of creating something more elevated above the world. But he always falls back down to earth, and more heavily at that, for with each new artwork that he creates he forges another chain.

style

Style is the form of expressed thought and not the form of the phrase.

By seeking the form of the phrase, style will be lost.

The love of words kills style.

***

Style is the correct expression of a thought, its image.

A style’s quality and power are thus dependent upon the quality and power of the thought.

the beautiful, the good and the true

The beautiful is the perceptible form of the good.

But how can it be the good, if it is not at the same time the true?

sacrifice

Blind are those artists who sacrifice themselves for their art, but above all for themselves.

If all those who are capable of the sacrifices, often heroic, demanded by art and the pursuit of glory were turned toward God, there would be fewer bad artists and more saints.

But they too are victims of this misuse of the sense of grandeur that God has instilled in us.

the poet

The poet is a giant passing effortlessly through the eye of a needle yet, at the same time, a dwarf filling the universe.

the secret to success

In art one must seek art and not self-satisfaction.

In religion one must seek God and not self-deification.

This will make the task a bit easier.

true modesty

To follow true modesty. To no longer see failure as an injustice, and above all to find others’ success legitimate.

It is not a question of the soul’s grandeur, of resignation, of serene pride. It is a question of flushing out false sentiments that, previously, would deform the situation as a whole. This entire greedy restless world tumbles like stones down the slopes of glaciers. To each his place, his obscurity or his glory. It is a mass of swarming ambitions; but no one is a greater master of their destiny than any other. Those who go to so much trouble to live and float along fail to understand that solitude and selflessness are possible. And yet these become easy, and even pleasurable, when you realize that nothing is less enviable than the success that a difficult character always considers to be undeserved. There is more bitterness to accepting the idea of a glory greater than your talents than to that of an obscurity so great that it risks going unnoticed.

In order to draw nearer to true modesty, one must always prefer the risk of being above the lot that you have been granted rather than below.

Consequently, instead of seeking it one must flee success and prefer injustice, that which makes you value yourself too little to that which would make you value yourself too much.

sublime simplicity

From many complicated appearances, the poet must extract profound reality, in order to reveal sublime simplicity.

poetry

This effusiveness of the soul and its contact with the poetry that is in all things is the godly part, but only a part, that is why nothing is entirely poetry, neither poets nor their poems. But the contact of the soul with things is poetry, the profound contact, or penetration rather. It is this poetry that has led me to God without my realizing it along arduous paths and through the dark labyrinth of superstition.

psychology

Psychological attempts are false, false and dangerous. They lay claim, basically, to a serious but almost always rash judgment. The psychologist claims to judge the depths of the soul, yet he is unable to reach them, for to us the depths of the soul are but darkness and to God alone a light. The psychologist thus works by observing external manifestations and relates them to the innermost depths, but one cannot discern the depths through what appears on the surface. Luminous air bubbles sometimes rise from the ocean floor. Novelists with psychological pretentions create characters who appear real because they have been built from fragments of real things. But, if you put this same novelist in front of a real being and if you listen to what he has to say about this person, you will discover how little contact he has with who this person really is. All artists put themselves into their art, and novelists—even with psychological pretentions—are sometimes artists. So how can they form a true psychological character or even a copy, while mixing it with their own substance? It is easy to see the absurdity of such a situation. All of Balzac’s characters are false, their situations, their actions are all false. But in the atmosphere that he has created they rarely lack the most cogent reality. Reality is their right to exist; truth, a parade of appearances.

As for modern psychological pseudo-novelists, nothing is more eccentric and comical than their abilities: almost all of them are, basically, repentant or unsuccessful poets. Now, the distinctive feature of a poet is to know and have at his disposal only a single being, a single subject: himself. A poet watches himself live and listens to himself think. The poet is an obscure animal who sometimes writes, and who totally realizes himself when he has the chance to know, to be able to crystallize and condense what he most deeply feels and thinks in the most concentrated manner.

The greatest saints are perhaps known by God alone, as might be the greatest poets.

art

Art is undoubtedly the most beautiful but also the worst of illusions.

author vs reader

Author and reader confront one another, one must either dominate or be dominated.