voltairine de cleyre, extreme virtue

Ξ November 20th, 2007 | → 0 Comments | ∇ Politics and Society |



Ah, once to stand unflinchingly on the brink of that dark gulf of passions and desires, once at last to send a bold, straight-driven gaze down into the volcanic Me, once, and in that once, and in that once forever, to throw off the command to cover and flee from the knowledge of that abyss, - nay, to dare it to hiss and seethe if it will, and make us writhe and shiver with its force! Once and forever to realize that one is not a bundle of well-regulated little reasons bound up in the front room of the brain to be sermonized and held in order with copy-book maxims or moved and stopped by a syllogism, but a bottomless, bottomless depth of all strange sensations, a rocking sea of feeling wherever sweep strong storms of unaccountable hate and rage, invisible contortions of disappointment, low ebbs of meanness, quakings and shudderings of love that drives to madness and will not be controlled, hungerings and moanings and sobbings that smite upon the inner ear, now first bent to listen, as if all the sadness of the sea and the wailing of the great pine forests of the North had met to weep together there in that silence audible to you alone. To look down upon that, to know the blackness, the midnight, the dead ages in oneself, to feel the jungle and the beast within, - and the swamp and the slime, and the desolate desert of the heart's despair - to see, to know, to feel to the uttermost, - and then to look at one's fellow, sitting across from one in the street-car, so decorous, so well got up, so nicely combed and brushed and oiled and to wonder what lies beneath that commonplace exterior, - to picture the cavern in him which somewhere far below has a narrow gallery running into your own - to imagine the pain that racks him to the finger-tips perhaps while he wears that placid ironed-shirt-front countenance - to conceive how he too shudders at himself and writhes and flees from the lava of his heart and aches in his prison-house not daring to see himself - to draw back respectfully from the Self-gate of the plainest, most unpromising creature, even from the most debased criminal in oneself - to spare all condemnation (how much more trial and sentence) because one knows the stuff of which man is made and recoils at nothing since all is in himself, - this is what Anarchism may mean to you. It means that to me.

And then, to turn cloudward, starward, skyward, and let the dreams rush over one - no longer awed by outside powers of any order - recognizing nothing superior to oneself - painting, painting endless pictures, creating unheard symphonies that sing dream sounds to you alone, extending sympathies to the dumb brutes as equal brothers, kissing the flowers as one did when a child, letting oneself go free, go free beyond the bounds of what fear and custom call the "possible," - this too Anarchism may mean to you, if you dare apply it so. And if you do some day, - if sitting at your work-bench, you see a vision of surpassing glory, some picture of that golden time when there shall be no prisons on the earth, nor hunger, nor houselessness, nor accusation, nor judgment, and hearts open as printed leaves, and candid as fearlessness, if then you look across at your low-browed neighbor, who sweats and smells and curses at his toil, - remember that as you do not know his depth neither do you know his height. He too might dream if the yoke of custom and law and dogma were broken from him. Even now you know not what blind, bound, motionless chrysalis is working there to prepare its winged thing.

--Voltairine de Cleyre [Anarchism]

 

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