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Notes from the Underground

Come, can a man who attempts to find enjoyment in the very feeling of his own
degradation possibly have a spark of respect for himself? I am not saying this
now from any mawkish kind of remorse. And, indeed, I could never endure
saying, "Forgive me, Papa, I won't do it again," not because I am incapable of
saying that--on the contrary, perhaps just because I have been too capable of it,
and in what a way, too. As though of design I used to get into trouble in cases
when I was not to blame in any way. That was the nastiest part of it. At the same
time I was genuinely touched and penitent, I used to shed tears and, of course,
deceived myself, though I was not acting in the least and there was a sick feeling
in my heart at the time. ... For that one could not blame even the laws of nature,
though the laws of nature have continually all my life offended me more than
anything. It is loathsome to remember it all, but it was loathsome even then. Of
course, a minute or so later I would realise wrathfully that it was all a lie, a
revolting lie, an affected lie, that is, all this penitence, this emotion, these vows of
reform. You will ask why did I worry myself with such antics: answer, because it
was very dull to sit with one's hands folded, and so one began cutting capers.
That is really it. Observe yourselves more carefully, gentlemen, then you will
understand that it is so. I invented adventures for myself and made up a life, so
as at least to live in some way. How many times it has happened to me--well, for
instance, to take offence simply on purpose, for nothing; and one knows oneself,
of course, that one is offended at nothing; that one is putting it on, but yet one
brings oneself at last to the point of being really offended. All my life I have had
an impulse to play such pranks, so that in the end I could not control it in myself.
Another time, twice, in fact, I tried hard to be in love. I suffered, too, gentlemen, I
assure you. In the depth of my heart there was no faith in my suffering, only a
faint stir of mockery, but yet I did suffer, and in the real, orthodox way; I was
jealous, beside myself ... and it was all from ENNUI, gentlemen, all from ENNUI;
inertia overcame me. You know the direct, legitimate fruit of consciousness is
inertia, that is, conscious sitting-with-the-hands-folded. I have referred to this
already. I repeat, I repeat with emphasis: all "direct" persons and men of action
are active just because they are stupid and limited. How explain that? I will tell
you: in consequence of their limitation they take immediate and secondary
causes for primary ones, and in that way persuade themselves more quickly and
easily than other people do that they have found an infallible foundation for their
activity, and their minds are at ease and you know that is the chief thing. To
begin to act, you know, you must first have your mind completely at ease and no
trace of doubt left in it. Why, how am I, for example, to set my mind at rest?
Where are the primary causes on which I am to build? Where are my
foundations? Where am I to get them from? I exercise myself in reflection, and
consequently with me every primary cause at once draws after itself another still
more primary, and so on to infinity. That is just the essence of every sort of
consciousness and reflection. It must be a case of the laws of nature again. What
is the result of it in the end? Why, just the same. Remember I spoke just now of