19 May 2007

Despairing of society as a source of significance

Once I despaired of society or other people as a source of significance. And once I despaired of all that could be possibly be got out of finite existence. Both times it took very great emotional violence to break the resistance, but the first was the more fundamental, in that it gave me the sort of centralisation that can lead to a higher level, although of course I did not know it at the time.

It is very difficult to write about, because it was essentially a manoeuvre to make it possible not to give up. I knew that it would make me an outsider and I had not expected to have to be that. I was a perfectly respectable middleclass person and until my life was made to go wrong I had been treated as a member of the club by respectable middleclass teachers etc. But now my wish to get back into the same position was being used against me as a decentralising factor.

I could only escape the trap by becoming independent of anyone else’s opinion. I would not stop behaving like a respectable bourgeois and successful academic person, nor would I stop feeling as if I were one, but I would not be a member of the club. Nor did I think that the club, as it was in practice, should be able to exclude me. I retained an image of the way society should be, to which the way it was in practice was irrelevant.

However, I would not ‘belong’ any more. I would be a criminal and outlaw because I was breaking the taboo which decrees that respectable persons do not think of themselves as better than society tells them they are. Of course it was a long time since I had been treated as if I ‘belonged’ anyway. They had set up impossible arrangements, ignoring my protests and complaints, and said that their judgement about me was fixed until further notice. If, and only if, I could succeed on the terms they prescribed after traversing the obstacle course, would they consider accepting me as a person who was good at doing the sort of things that, in the right circumstances, I was superlatively good at doing.