Monday, June 30, 2008



Saul Bellow, Mr. Sammler's Planet, chap. 3:
Madness is the attempted liberty of people who feel themselves overwhelmed by giant forces of organized control. Seeking the magic of extremes. Madness is a base form of the religious life.

But wait — Sammler cautioning himself. Even this madness is also to a considerable extent a matter of performance of enactment. Underneath there persists, powerfully too, a thick sense of what is normal for human life. Duties are observed. Attachments are preserved. There is work. People show up for jobs. It is extraordinary. They come on the bus to the factory. They open the shop, they sweep, they wrap, they wash, they fix, they tend, they count, they mind the computers. Each day, each night. And however rebellious at heart, however despairing, terrified, or worn bare, come to their tasks. Up and down in the elevator, sitting down to the desk, behind the wheel, tending machinery. For such a volatile and restless animal, such a high-strung, curious animal, an ape subject to so many diseases, to anguish, to boredom, such discipline, such drill, such strength for regularity, such assumption of responsibility, such regard for order (even in disorder) is a great mystery, too. Oh, it is a mystery. One cannot mistake this for thorough madness, therefore. One thing, though, the disciplined hate the undisciplined to the point of murder. Thus the working class, disciplined, is a great reservoir of hatred. Thus the clerk behind the wicket finds it hard to forgive those who come and go their apparent freedom.

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