Sunday, October 18, 2009

On Monotony

From Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, translated by Richard Zenith:
In its essence life is monotonous. Happiness therefore depends on a reasonably thorough adaptation to life’s monotony. By making ourselves monotonous, we make ourselves equal to life. Thus we live to the full. And living to the full is to be happy.

Unhealthy, illogical souls laugh—uneasily, deep down—at bourgeois happiness, at the monotonous life of the bourgeois man who obeys a daily routine . . . . . . , and at his wife who spends her time keeping the house tidy, is consumed by the minutiae of caring for the children, and talks about neighbors and acquaintances. That’s what happiness is, however. It seems, at first glance, that new things are what give pleasure to the mind; but there aren’t many new things, and each one is new only once. Our sensibility, furthermore, is limited, and it doesn’t vibrate indefinitely. Too many new things will eventually get tiresome, since our sensibility can’t keep up with all the stimulations it receives.

To resign oneself to monotony is to experience everything as forever new. The bourgeois’s vision of life is the scientific vision, since everything is indeed always new, and before this day this day never existed.

He, of course, would say none of this. Were he capable of saying it, he wouldn’t be capable of being happy. My observations only make him smile; and it’s his smile that brings me, in all their detail, the considerations I’m writing down, for future generations to ponder.

As long as we're on the subject, behold the double-genius of Irving Berlin and Judy Garland in Easter Parade: