Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Oh, Dear

OR "Gustave, why won't you just get a job!"

Flaubert to His Mother
-Between Minia and Assiut
23 February 1850

...Now I come to something that you seem to enjoy reverting to and that I fail to completely understand. You are never at a loss for things to torment yourself about. What is the sense of this: that I must have a job--'a small job,' you say. First of all, what job? I defy you to find me one, to specify in what field, what it would consist in. Frankly, and without deluding yourself, is there a single one that I am capable of filling? You add: 'One that wouldn't take up much of your time and wouldn't prevent you from doing other things.' There's the delusion! That's what Bouilhet told himself when he took up medicine, what I told myself when I began law, which only just failed to kill me with bottled-up fury. When one does something, one must do it wholly and well. Those bastard esistences where you sell suet all day and write poetry at night are made for mediocre minds--like those horses that are equally good for saddle and carriage, the worst kind, that can neither jump a ditch nor pull a plow.

In short, it seems to me that one takes a job for money, for honors, or as an escape from idleness. Now you'll grant me, darling, (1) that I keep busy enough not to have to go out looking for something to do; and (2) if it's a question of honors, my vanity is such that I'm incapable of feeling myself honored by anything: a position, however high it might be (and that isn't the kind you speak of) will never give me the satisfaction that I derive from my self-respect when I have accomplished something well in my own way, and finally, if it's for money, any jobs or job that I could have would bring in too little to make much difference to my income. Weigh all those considerations: don't knock your head against a hollow idea. Is there any position in which I'd be closer to you, more yours? And isn't not to be bored one of the principal goals of life?

*From "Flaubert in Egypt"

1 comment:

Ridiculous Human Things said...

Maybe it's silly to say but I just want to let everyone know that I don't condone writing letters like this to your mother.