I have the following text clip saved to an area on my phone, and I sometimes read it when I’m having a bad day. It’s from Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.
“…I believe that you are sincere and good at heart. If you do not attain happiness, always remember that you are on the right road, and try not to leave it. Above all, avoid falsehood, every kind of falsehood, especially falseness to yourself. Watch over your own deceitfulness and look into it every hour, every minute. Avoid being scornful, both to others and to yourself. What seems to you bad within you will grow purer from the very fact of your observing it in yourself. Avoid fear, too, though fear is only the consequence of every sort of falsehood. Never be frightened at your own faint-heartedness in attaining love.”
Funny thing: I first heard (note: heard not read) the quote above in the film Surviving Desire by Hal Hartley. When I was in my early 20’s. Many people have a favorite filmmaker. I discovered Hartley in 1997 when I saw the film Henry Fool, then I tried to get my eyes on everything he had ever done. To this day Hartley is my favorite film maker.
I have a non-romantic fantasy about being able to somehow put Hal Hartley and Adam Phillips together in, and have them just hang out for a week, and see what happens.
The video below is the video that I’ve watched more than any other video on YouTube. I admire Adam Phillips ability to express himself via both the spoken and written word. It seems to me that he is usually saying very interesting things that make me consider things in a different light.
For those of you who might be interested, here’s a link to an interview with Adam Phillips via The Paris Review. Here are some good bits from it…
The interviewer had described what he thinks Phillip’s style of writing is. Phillips replied…
I’m sure what you’re saying is true—it sounds true. My experience of doing it is I just write it. One’s style is like one’s smell—because you can’t smell it, you need other people to tell you about it.
Later talking about the importance of having good conversations…
Because in your mind, you’re mad. But in conversation you have the chance of not being. Your mind by itself is full of unmediated anxieties and conflicts. In conversation things can be metabolized and digested through somebody else—I say something to you and you can give it back to me in different forms—whereas you’ll notice that your own mind is very often extremely repetitive. It is very difficult to surprise oneself in one’s own mind. The vocabulary of one’s self-criticism is so impoverished and clichéd. We are at our most stupid in our self-hatred.
There are lots of great things in the interview. If you give it a read I hope you enjoy it as much as I did…. or that you enjoy it more than I did, that would be nice as well.