Of course all life is a process of breaking down, but the blows that do the dramatic side of the work — the big sudden blows that come, or seem to come, from outside — the ones you remember and blame things on and, in moments of weakness, tell your friends about, don’t shows their effect all at once. There is another sort of blow that comes from within — that you don’t feel until it’s too late to do anything about it, until you realize with finality that in some regard you will never be as good a man again. The first sort of breakage seems to happen quick — the second kind happens almost without you knowing it but is realized suddenly indeed.
Scott Fitzgerald, with evident ease, conveys an essential truth here, though of course what was required of him to arrive at that truth all but killed him.
I’m working on a story about a man whose character or soul or whatever you want to call it is gradually disintegrating, one moral calamity leading to the next. My friend Curt Nickish, aka DeepDish, pointed me to this Fitzgerald essay, which I’m embarrassed to say I had never read. Good Lord is it powerful stuff.
Before I go on with this short history, let me make a general observation — the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.
I have nothing profound to say about any of this — what can possibly be said? And, this will largely be true of this blog — mostly a running diary of found art and truth.
He finishes out the first section of the essay speaking to himself, complacent that things will go as before, a balance of the “sense of futility of effort and the sense of the necessity to struggle.”
“Up to 49 it’ll be all right,” I said. “I can count on that. For a man who’s lived as I have, that’s all you could ask.” And then, 10 years this side of 49, I suddenly realized that I had prematurely cracked.
My current age is 39.
Whenceforth the crack-up?