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I think it must start with silence, with at least a modicum of silence, the pathway to reflection.

I can
only begin to think when it is quiet, and I am alone. This often happens at the very hour that I am
trying to fall asleep. Restlessness, an uneasiness about the process of 'falling asleep,' of
departing in some way from my conscious presence, an unwillingness to let go, to depart from
earthly concerns, a grip that gnaws at me even in dreams, in nightmares of forgetfulness and
social disgrace: these things regurgitate the fear of death. It can be difficult to sleep once one has
become agitated in this way, full of sweating, anxiety, and a queasy stomach. So what's left, lying
in the darkness, but an experience of pure consciousness? It is in such moments that I begin to
think and to reflect on the past.

Such thinking is not always pleasant; indeed it is often the reverse. Anxiety over sleep can turn
quickly into anxiety over thought. The silence is relentless. It leads one to think about things
which might better be ignored, hidden or repressed. Believe me, there are many poisonous
truths, or at least one must say there are many perilous ideas, in the world. Without much effort
one can run up against them, bristling as against burs. And once one has thought them, they
cannot really be unthought.

Like the ennui that sometimes follows the sex act, disquiet usually originates from quiet. One
becomes aware of a looming boredom, a stifling banality in the realization that one's animal lust
has been but ephemerally quenched and that desire, which cannot be satiated by the expulsion
of bodily fluids alone, persists practically unabated. What is a cure for hard truths and suffocating
mundanity? Action, noise, entertainment, the buzz of social interaction all conspire to grant us a
constant reprieve from the dread of silence and the immobility of the grave.

For this reason, it seems understandable to me that only the solitaries of the world know true
tedium and fear; they experience melancholia and dread of death more acutely than the sociables
who can more easily hide whatever anxieties they may have under the masks of activity, frivolity,
sensuality and geniality. Fernando Pessoa, who was in life an alcoholic and a recluse, is a
notable byspel of this solitary type. His heteronymn Bernardo Soares expresses the difference
between his solitary self and a cook and an old waiter, two happy, affable characters, in The Book
of Disquiet. He examines their "ordinary lives" and sees nothing but horrifying monotony. Yet they
have families and seem to get by much easier than he does, finding entertainment in the most
"minor incident in the street." Soares concludes: "If life is basically monotony, [the cook] has
escaped it more than I. And he escapes it more easily than I. The truth isn't with him or with me,
because it isn't with anyone, but happiness does belong to him."

Lucidity seems only to come when the person has time for thought, and this thought does not
bring happiness. More often than not, it brings a certain detachment from the world, and this can
lead to nihilism, the thought that nothing matters, that there is no reason to show any effort at all.
"Tedium is not the disease of being bored because there's nothing to do, but the more serious
disease of feeling that there's nothing worth doing. This means that the more there is to do, the
more tedium one will feel." Nevertheless, it is not really a question of one or the other: Pessoa
knew that he happened to be the way he was, and the cook happened to be the way he was.
Those who are open to metaphysical speculations often cannot help themselves. "For humanity,
each man is just who he is." Consider my example of insomniac meditations after midnight. How
could I change that situation and remain honest? Conversely, one might argue that Pessoa's
pessimism is due to his loneliness, and that this goes for all solitaries. This is indeed possible,
and so the question seems insoluble. If one follows Soares's line of thinking, if one is
experiencing currents of doubt and concern, then one must stay true to one's calling and follow it
all the way.