The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart (1901)/Chapter 28



(Sapientiæ apex, desperatio de rebus mundi.)

Now, was I afeard, seeing that nowhere in the world, not even in this castle, is there any enjoyment that the mind can grasp safely, bravely, and entirely. And this thought caused me to feel more and more gloomy, and Falsehood, my guide, though he tried all means, could not drive it from me. Indeed, I exclaimed: "Oh! on my misery! Shall I, then, never find any enjoyment in this wretched world? Alas! everything is everywhere full of violence and anxiety!" Then the interpreter says: "Whose fault, then, is this, except thine own? thou loathsome, peevish one, who art disgusted with all that ought to please thee. Behold the others, how each one in his estate is gay and of good cheer, finding sufficient sweetness in his pursuits." "Either," quoth I, "all these are mad, or they lie; for that they enjoy true happiness is impossible." "Become thou, then, mad too, that thou mayest relieve thy anxiety." I answered: "I know not how to achieve this; thou knowest that I have looked at many things, but ever has the sight of the rapid changes in things, and their wretched purpose, driven me away."

(In the World the Mind of Man findeth not that which it seeks.)

2. Then the interpreter: "What but thy own imagination is the cause of this? If thou didst not sift too curiously the ways of men, and argue all questions everywhere, thou wouldst, like the others, enjoy a quiet mind, pleasure, gladness, happiness." "Yes," I said, "if I clung to outward seemings, as thou hast; if I considered casual, tasteless laughter pleasure, thought the reading a few valueless books wisdom, and a small morsel of accidental felicity the summit of satisfaction. But why dost thou not take into account[1] the sweat, tears, groans, sickness, want, downfall, and other misfortunes that I see in all the estates, countless, measureless, endless? Alas! oh, alas! Oh, over this miserable life! You have led me everywhere, and what has it availed me? It was promised me that I should be shown riches, learning, pleasure and security. But of all these things what have I? Nothing! What have I learnt? Nothing! Where am I? That I myself know not. This only I know, that after so much struggling, so many labours, so much constant danger, so much fatigue and weariness of the mind, I find, at last, but wretchedness within me, and hatred of me in others!"

(Wherewith are Men misled and deceived?)

3. Then the interpreter: "It is well thus. Why wert thou not from the first guided by my counsel, which was to this purport: distrust nothing, believe everything, examine nothing, accept everything, revile nothing, find pleasure in everything? That would have been the path by which thou couldst have journeyed tranquilly, obtained the favour of others, and enjoyment for thyself." To this I answered: "No doubt this would have been a fine thing if, deceived by thee, I had maddened as the others; if I had rejoiced while erring to and fro; if, while groaning under the yoke, I had skipped; rejoiced, while sick and dying! I have seen and beheld and understood that I myself am nothing, understand nothing, possess nothing; neither do others; it is but a vain conceit. We grasp at the shadow, but truth ever escapes us. Oh, alas! and again alas!"

(He who looks through the World can but grieve.)

4. Then spake the interpreter: "What I have said before I will say yet again: 'Everything is thine own fault, for thou demandest somewhat great and unusual that no man obtains.'" I answered: "All the more do I grieve that not only I, but my whole race is wretched, and, being blind also, knoweth not its misery." Then the interpreter said: "I know not how and by what means I can give satisfaction to thee and to thy addled brain. As neither the world nor men, neither work nor idleness, neither learning nor ignorance, nothing generally, pleases thee, I know not what to do with thee, nor what on all this world I can advise thee."

5. On this Impudence said: "Let us now lead him to the palace of our queen, which stands near here; there he will, perhaps, recover his reason."

  1. Literally, "where remain."