Friday, December 29, 2006

Seize the Day

This month the book team attacked Seize the Day by Saul Bellow. This was a reread for me, and knocked my socks off both times. I picked up on so much more this time than I did before. Bellow is an observer and a philosopher. His characters are all deep and fleshed out. As the title might suggest this book is largely about how one must (absolutely must!) take advantage of the moment and become. It is up to you and none else. One of my favorite passages is a conversation in which the enigmatic Tamkin gives the pathetic Tommy Wilhelm a lesson in what he percieves to be the nature of souls:

"In here, the human bosom--mine, yours, everybody's--there isn't just one soul. There's a lot of souls. But there are two main ones, the real soul and a pretender soul. Now! Every man realizes that he has to love something or somebody. He feels that he must go outward...The interest of the pretender soul is the same as the interest of the social life, the society mechanism. This is the main tragedy of human life. Oh, it is terrible! Terrible! You are not free. Your own betrayer is inside of you and sells you out. You have to obey him like a slave. He makes you work like a horse and for what? For Who?...The true soul is the one that pays the price. It suffers and gets sick, and it realizes that the pretender can't be loved. Because the pretender is a lie. The true soul loves the truth. And when the true soul feels like this, it wants to kill the pretender. The love has turned into hate. Then you become dangerous. A killer. you have to kill the deceiver....Whenever the slayer slays, he wants to slay the soul in him which has gypped and decieved him. Who is his enemy? Him. And his lover? Also. Therefore, all suicide is murder, and all murder suicide. It's the one and identical phenomenon. Biologically,
feeble, like a parasite. it happens unconciously, unawaringly, in the depths of the organism."

As I read this I became concerned as to how I might be a parasite unto myself. How is it that I court my "pretender soul," however you may define that (natural man, carnal man)? I'm sure there are many ways that I do this, but the more I thought about this the more I feel that the triumph of the true soul over the pretender soul hinges upon love. What do I chose to love? How do I choose to love it? If I choose to love shadows and smoke and all things ethereal, then I will be nothing more than a farce, a flimsy mask. But if I love something virtuous and I pursue that love with full purpose of heart then there is nothing parasitic about that and the true soul is the victor.

1 comment:

The Goughs said...

I can't believe you didn't tell me when you posted this!! I had to have Nichole point it out to me. Great interpretation of this highly complex section of the book.