The Lifted Veil

I just finished a novella by George Eliot, The Lifted Veil, and amongst the many quotes I marked this one stood out the most:

“You will think, perhaps, that I must have been a poet, from this early sensibility to Nature. But my lot was not so happy as that. A poet pours forth his song and believes in the listening ear and the answering soul, to which his song will be floated to sooner or later. But the poet’s sensibility without his voice – the poet’s sensibility that finds to vent but in silent tears on the sunny bank, when the noonday light sparkles on the water, or in an inward shudder at the sound of harsh human tones, the sight of a cold human eye – this dumb passion brings with it a fatal solitude of soul in the society of one’s fellow-men.”

There’s a thin line between what we do for ourselves and what we do for others. I wonder about Nietzsche and Freud’s dinstinction between our own impulses and civilization, and wonder how those two could ever be so evenly divided. How much of our desires are dictated by how others perceive us? And is that really a product of civilization or something more primitive? Can’t civilization in fact be seen as just another desire? Back to the point though, I wonder if it is possible solely to write for oneself. Would you continue to write without it ever reaching another soul? I guess it goes back to that saying, if a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, did it really fall? If one writes solely for the self, did one really in fact write? I’m not sure.

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