Sunday, December 20, 2009

What I Most Dread

An entry from the diary of British writer Frances Partridge (1900-2004), associated with the Bloomsbury Group, dated March 19, 1940, as quoted in Simon Brett, ed., The Faber Book of Diaries (London: Faber and Faber, 1987), p. 102—

What I most dread is that life should slip by unnoticed, like a scene half glimpsed from a railway carriage window. What I want most is to be always reacting to something in my surroundings, whether a complex of visual sensations, a physical activity like skating or making love, or a concentrated process of thought; but nothing must be passively accepted, everything modified by passing it through my consciousness as a worm does earth. Here too comes in my theory that pleasure can be extracted from experiences which are in themselves neutral or actually unpleasant, with the help of drama and curiosity, and by drama I mean the aesthetic aspect of the shape of events. The exceptions are physical pain and anxiety, the two most stultifying states; I can't hold intensity of experience to be desirable in them.