File spoon-archives/heidegger.archive/heidegger_2001/heidegger.0102, message 44

Date: Mon, 26 Feb 2001 10:47:18 -0800
Subject: The Heart of Darkness

 "However, as you see, I did not go to join Kurtz there and then. I did
not. I remained to dream the nightmare out to the end, and to show my
loyalty to Kurtz once more. Destiny. My destiny! Droll thing life is --
that mysterious arrangement of merciless logic for a futile purpose. The
most you can hope from it is some knowledge of yourself -- that comes too
late -- a crop of unextinguishable regrets. I have wrestled with death. It
is the most unexciting contest you can imagine. It takes place in an
impalpable greyness, with nothing underfoot, with nothing around, without
spectators, without clamour, without glory, without the great desire of
victory, without the great fear of defeat, in a sickly atmosphere of tepid
scepticism, without much belief in your own right, and still less in that
of your adversary. If such is the form of ultimate wisdom, then life is a
greater riddle than some of us think it to be. I was within a hair's
breadth of the last opportunity for pronouncement, and I found with
humiliation that probably I would have nothing to say. This is the reason
why I affirm that Kurtz was a remarkable man. He had something to say. He
said it. Since I had peeped over the edge myself, I understand better the
meaning of his stare, that could not see the flame of the candle, but was
wide enough to embrace the whole universe, piercing enough to penetrate all
the hearts that beat in the darkness. He had summed up -- he had judged.
'The horror!' He was a remarkable man. After all, this was the expression
of some sort of belief; it had candour, it had conviction, it had a
vibrating note of revolt in its whisper, it had the appalling face of a
glimpsed truth -- the strange commingling of desire and hate. And it is not
my own extremity I remember best -- a vision of greyness without form
filled with physical pain, and a careless contempt for the evanescence of
all things -- even of this pain itself. No! It is his extremity that I seem
to have lived through. True, he had made that last stride, he had stepped
over the edge, while I had been permitted to draw back my hesitating foot.
And perhaps in this is the whole difference; perhaps all the wisdom, and
all truth, and all sincerity, are just compressed into that inappreciable
moment of time in which we step over the threshold of the invisible.
Perhaps! I like to think my summing-up would not have been a word of
careless contempt. Better his cry -- much better. It was an affirmation, a
moral victory paid for by innumerable defeats, by abominable terrors, by
abominable satisfactions. But it was a victory! That is why I have remained
loyal to Kurtz to the last, and even beyond, when a long time after I heard
once more, not his own voice, but the echo of his magnificent eloquence
thrown to me from a soul as translucently pure as a cliff of crystal.

   "No, they did not bury me, though there is a period of time which I
remember mistily, with a shuddering wonder, like a passage through some
inconceivable world that had no hope in it and no desire. I found myself
back in the sepulchral city resenting the sight of people hurrying through
the streets to filch a little money from each other, to devour their
infamous cookery, to gulp their unwholesome beer, to dream their
insignificant and silly dreams. They trespassed upon my thoughts. They were
intruders whose knowledge of life was to me an irritating pretence, because
I felt so sure they could not possibly know the things I knew.



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