The Underground Lady [Page Thirty-Four]

Suffering through sickness does not sanctify one.  The mistake comes in craving sanctity in the first place.  We are adrift—and should remain so.

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Transparency recedes before one.  Truth crumbles with old age.  What remains is an everlasting moment, a transcendent existentialism.

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Once I met a friend, who has the same illness as I, at a cafe and we sat and laughed over coffee for hours.  We didn’t notice at the time, but we must have made quite a sight—two skeletons sitting and rocking with laughter before the gallows—worthy jokes in the face of humanity, whatever that is.  Passersby must have thought they had come upon a nightmare scene, like two characters out of one of those weird anecdotes in Chaucer about the plague.

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Whenever I feel relatively healthy, that is when everyone asks me how I am.  But when I get deathly sick, nobody asks.  This is very frustrating, but of course there is no reason why this shouldn’t be the case.  People are afraid of getting the wrong answer.

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I am under the odd impression that I have become more attractive since my sickness has begun.  When I look at my own body sometimes I cannot help but feel an enormous welling up of pride.  I never had this reaction when I was younger and others found me appealing.  I always suspected their motives.  How stupid.

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When I was younger, sexuality was a matter of interpretation.  When somebody approached me, I felt a certain tug in the opposite direction, as if by creating distance between us, I could see what they saw in me.  It wasn’t that I had a low opinion of myself—on the contrary, I thought highly of my looks and my ability to charm others.  But I wanted to look through the eyes of those who saw these qualities, to reinforce my own self-impressions and, above all, to plumb theirs.  I wanted to judge myself accurately, at least according to their criteria, and in this I showed the same tendency toward detachment and objectivity that I pursued in everything.  This is the passion, and the burden, of youth—not pride, but a rage to accuracy.  If there is any hubris in youth, it is its unrelenting drive to “get at things,” to understand them, and to know their true orbit.  Now I am perfectly happy in choosing to believe in certain illusions, about myself and others, so long as I am aware of the limitations of the deception involved.  Perhaps this is the hubris of old age, or, at least, its decadence.

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The Demon is not in our motives.  The Demon is real—as  real as these words—and was driven into us long before we thought or spoke or acted, or even before we opened our eyes for the first time.

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The Underground Lady says: The Demon cannot speak.  The Demon is mute.  And yet it hounds us with its presence.  It breathes beside us all the while.

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Everywhere we go we take the Demon with us.  There is no country where it will not follow.  There are no laws it cannot circumvent.  The Demon holds court with itself—it uses feints and other half-gestures to communicate—and it dictates to us many volumes in its own dense reasoning, with many twists and turns.  It leaves us to wonder about the plot, if there is any, and leads us on in ever more complex patterns.  Until finally it drops our hand by the graveside, and goes on to find another.

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When I speak like this, I am not being superstitious.  Still I mean what I say, literally.

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The books of the Demon run on to many pages, but they contain neither sign nor symbol.  There are no markings on the cover or in the binding.  No one knows for certain the number of all the pages.  We are forced to read these cryptic tomes at night only, this is how the text appears to us, half-visible in the half-darkness, and even then only for a little while each time.  The characters, too, are unfamiliar.  They don’t appear in any alphabet from any part of the world or in any period of history—this is neither a dead language nor a living one, but something in between, like the ancient Celtic, which has been changed so many times, it is only hinted at in the Gaelic spoken today.  And this is important: the letters in the Demon’s books read up and down, and left to right, and right to left, depending on the time of evening when they appear, and on the bending of the tides….

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Demonism can best be defined as an overarching belief in one’s own capacity to do evil.  Rather than looking for sin in others, or in the world, the demonist starts at home.  It will be remarked that this is what the Christian faith proposes—that we are all sinners, from the cradle.  But while in Christianity such considerations pass quickly on to a deep (and nevertheless often hypocritical) concern with the souls of others, in demonism the beginning is everything.  And Sin is named “I.”

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What separates demonism from indulgence?  Very little—only the thinnest tissue of self-restraint.  But then, this is always the case.

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