The other day I came across one of my favorite F. Scott Fitzgerald quotes, which I'd inexplicably forgotten was from his rather gloomy essay The Crack Up:
...let me make a general observation -- the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise. This philosophy fitted on to my early adult life, when I saw the improbable, the implausible, often the "impossible," come true. Life was something you dominated if you were any good. Life yielded easily to intelligence and effort, or to what proportion could be mustered of both...
...I must hold in balance the sense of the futility of effort and the sense of the necessity to struggle; the conviction of the inevitability of failure and still the determination to "succeed" -- and, more than these, the contradiction between the dead hand of the past and the high intentions of the future. If I could do this through the common ills -- domestic, professional and personal -- then the ego would continue as an arrow shot from nothingness to nothingness with such force that only gravity would bring it to earth at last.
"Life yielded easily to intelligence and effort," at least for a little while. As Fitzgerald explains two paragraphs down, at the age of 39, he prematurely cracked.
I'm reminded of a few things -- the elegance of Fitzgerald's prose, his keen insight, and how quintessentially American his thinking was.Posted by Ideofact at May 23, 2005 09:23 PM