For Thoughts On the Misery of Man

Here are a few words in prose from my gifted friend Blaise Pascal. They should need no explanation, but only the observation that this particular mathematical genius understands human nature (at least mine, if no one else’s) and he can write as clear as the peal of a bell.

from On the Misery of Man

We care nothing for the present. We anticipate the future as too slow in coming, as if we could make it move faster; or we call back the past, to stop its rapid flight. So imprudent are we that we wander through the times in which we have no part, unthinking of that which alone is ours; so frivolous are we that we dream of the days which are not, and pass by without reflection those which alone exist. For the present generally gives us pain; we conceal it from our sight because it afflicts us, and if it be pleasant we regret to see it vanish away. We endeavour to sustain the present by the future, and think of arranging things not in our power, for a time at which we have no certainty of arriving.

If we examine our thoughts, we shall find them always occupied with the past or the future. We scarcely think of the present, and if we do so, it is only that we may borrow light from it to direct the future. The present is never our end; the past and the present are our means, the future alone is our end. Thus we never live, but hope to live, and while we always lay ourselves out to be happy, it is inevitable that we can never be so.

We are so unhappy that we cannot take pleasure in a thing, save on condition of being troubled if it turn out ill, as a thousand things may do, and do every hour. He who should find the secret of rejoicing in good without being troubled at its contrary evil, would have hit the mark. It is perpetual motion.

Our nature exists by motion; perfect rest is death.

Food for thought on a Saturday afternoon…

Update: Me and Blaise go way back.


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