Love and Creating
Last evening I started re-reading something I last read when I was in college. I still found it just as affecting. But let me exercise some restraint which I wish to believe - or atleast make a show of, as if - age has made it easier for me to achieve, by getting out of the way quickly and resting content with quoting:
..(But) the fact remains that I have a strong, determined face that does not at all represent my true character, though it partly explains some contradictions in it. Perhaps my most noteworthy characteristic is lack of depth. Whatever I do or say, the whole of me is contained in what I do or say, and I have nothing in reserve upon which to fall back in the event of my having to retreat. I am in fact, a man all vanguard without any main body or rearguard. From this characteristic comes my proneness to enthusiasm: I get excited over any trifle. This enthusiasm of mine, however, is rather like an uncontrolled horse taking a very high fence, having already thrown its rider, who is left in the dust ten yards behind. What I mean is that it is an enthusiasm that almost always lacks the support of the intimate, effective strength without which any kind of enthusiasm dwindles into mere foolish desire and rhetoric. And I am, in fact, inclined to rhetoric - that is, to the substitution of words for deeds. My rhetoric is of the sentimental kind. I want, for instance, to be in love and often deceive myself into thinking I am in love when all that I have done is talk about it - with great feeling, no doubt, but nevertheless simply talking. At such moments tears come easily, I stammer, I assume all the attitudes of overflowing emotion. But beneath these outward signs of fervor I often conceal a bitter, positively mean kind of subtlety which makes me deceitful and does not represent any real strength, being merely the expression of my egoism.
.....(Soon) I realized that there were only two things that could save me - the love of a woman and artistic creation. It may seem ridiculous for me to mention two things of such importance in so casual a manner, as thought it were a couple of quack remedies that could be bought at any drug store; but this summary statement merely shows the extreme clarity I had attained by the time I was about thirty-five with regard to the problems of my life. As for love, it seemed to me that I had as much right to it as all other men on this earth; and as for artistic creation, I was convinced that I was led naturally towards it both by my tastes and also by a talent that I was under the illusion that I possessed in my better moments.
What happened, on the contrary, was that I never went beyond the first two or three pages of any composition; and with women I never attained the depth of feeling that convinces both ourselves and others. The thing that did me most harm in both my sentimental and creative efforts was, precisely, that facility of mine for enthusiasm, which was just as prompt to be kindled as it was quick to fade. How many times - in a kiss snatched from unwilling lips, in two or three pages written in furious speed - did I think I had found what I was seeking! And then, with the woman I would slip at once into a wordy sentimentality that ended by alienating her from me; and, as I wrote, I would lose myself in sophistries or in a flood of words into which, for lack of serious inspiration, I was led by a momentary facility. My first impetus was good, and deceived both myself and others; but then some indefinable weakness, cold and discursive would creep in. And I would realize that in truth I had not loved or written so much as wished to love and to write. Sometimes, too, I would find a woman who, either for her own advantage, or out of pity, was prepared to allow herself to be taken in and to delude me as well; on other occasions the written page seemed to resist me and invite me to continue. But I have one good thing about me - a diffident conscience which halts me in time upon the path of illusion. I would tear up the pages and, under some pretext or other, stop visiting the lady. And so, in such vain attempts, youth fled by.
- Alberto Moravia (Conjugal Love)