11 February 2013

The Truest and Most Actual Thing

A. C. Benson, "Optimism," At Large (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1908), pp. 292-293:
If the beauty and the joy of the world gave one assurance in dark hours that all was certainly well, the pilgrimage would be an easy one. But can one be optimistic by resolving to be? One can, of course, control oneself, one can let no murmur of pain escape one, one can even enunciate deep and courageous maxims because one would not trouble the peace of others, waiting patiently till the golden mood returns. But what if the desolate conviction forces itself upon the mind that sorrow is the truer thing? What if one tests one's own experience, and sees that, under the pressure of sorrow, one after another of the world's lights are extinguished, health, and peace, and beauty, and delight, till one asks oneself whether sorrow is not perhaps the truest and most actual thing of all? That is the ghastliest of moments when everything drops from us but fear and horror, when we think that we have indeed found truth at last, and that the answer to Pilate's bitter question is that pain is the nearest thing to truth because it is the strongest. If I felt that, says the reluctant heart, I should abandon myself to despair. No, says sterner reason, you would bear it, because you cannot escape from it. Into whatever depths of despair you fell, you would still be upheld by the law that bids you be.