Self Destruction Is Too Easy

Colin Wilson on Peak Experience.

“We’re talking, mind you, about individual purpose. You see, if you think of it, The Outsider was about Romantics who basically find this world a bit too much for them and who want to escape into some wonderful, ideal world, to what T E Hulme contemptuously called the ‘eternal vapours’, but nevertheless I personally sympathised deeply with the ‘eternal vapours’ because that’s the way we all start off.

“All writers who are worth anything and really get anywhere start off as Romantics who really don’t like the world we’re in and who feel as Omar Khayyam does, they wish they could shatter it to pieces and rebuild it just to the heart’s desire. That’s why Shelley had all these dreams about the future and so on, it’s this desire to reshape the world. The only problem is that reshaping the world requires a much more practical attitude than Shelley had. Shelley tended to be a rather self-indulgent human being and actually wrecked his own life and the lives of a lot of other people.

“When I was in Paris for the first time when I was 19, I went along to this so-called atelier in the Rue de Seine run by Raymond Duncan who was the brother of the famous dancer Isadora. Raymond had come to Paris, made a pair of sandals for himself, and other people saw them and asked him if he could make them some like that, and suddenly it was a business and made him a fortune. He became a millionaire several times during his life and then spent it all again, made huge fortunes. Now Raymond regarded himself basically as a poet and an idealist and when I went along to see him he invited me to move into this place on the Rue de Seine. He said: ‘What we are trying to teach people like you is that if you are an idealistic poet, you’d be a far better poet if you can actually mend a leak or do various other practical things’.

“I believed him absolutely totally. It was a conclusion I’d already arrived at, that we must have this practical, down-to-earth spirit, enjoying the real world and real life. I could see what had killed off all these Outsiders was the fact that they’d been Romantics, and they’d been flapping around up there in the ethers, and getting themselves into terrible states, and that actually what they really needed was a far more practical attitude. This was a very deep feeling of mine."


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