It will do you no harm to find yourself ridiculous.
Resign yourself to be the fool you are.
You will find that you survive humiliation
And that’s an experience of incalculable value.
That is the worst moment, when you feel you have lost
The desires for all that was most desirable,
Before you are contented with what you can desire;
Before you know what is left to be desired;
And you go on wishing that you could desire
What desire has left behind. But you cannot understand.
How could you understand what it is to feel old?
We die to each other daily.
What we know of other people
Is only our memory of the moments
During which we knew them. And they have changed since then.
To pretend that they and we are the same
Is a useful and convenient social convention
Which must sometimes be broken. We must also remember
That at every meeting we are meeting a stranger.
There was a door
And I could not open it. I could not touch the handle.
Why could I not walk out of my prison?
What is hell? Hell is oneself.
Hell is alone, the other figures in it
Merely projections. There is nothing to escape from
And nothing to escape to. One is always alone.
Half the harm that is done in this world
Is due to people who want to feel important.
They don’t mean to do harm — but the harm does not interest them.
Or they do not see it, or they justify it
Because they are absorbed in the endless struggle
To think well of themselves.
There are several symptoms
Which must occur together, and to a marked degree,
To qualify a patient for my sanitorium:
And one of them is an honest mind. That is one of the causes of their suffering.
To men of a certain type
The suspicion that they are incapable of loving
Is as disturbing to their self-esteem
As, in cruder men, the fear of impotence.
I must tell you
That I should really like to think there’s something wrong with me —
Because, if there isn’t, then there’s something wrong
With the world itself — and that’s much more frightening!
That would be terrible.
So, I’d rather believe there’s something wrong with me, that could be put right.
Everyone’s alone — or so it seems to me.
They make noises, and think they are talking to each other;
They make faces, and think they understand each other.
And I’m sure they don’t. Is that a delusion?
Can we only love
Something created in our own imaginations?
Are we all in fact unloving and unloveable?
Then one is alone, and if one is alone
Then lover and beloved are equally unreal
And the dreamer is no more real than his dreams.
I shall be left with the inconsolable memory
Of the treasure I went into the forest to find
And never found, and which was not there
And is perhaps not anywhere? But if not anywhere
Why do I feel guilty at not having found it?
Disillusion can become itself an illusion
If we rest in it.
Two people who know they do not understand each other,
Breeding children whom they do not understand
And who will never understand them.
There is another way, if you have the courage.
The first I could describe in familiar terms
Because you have seen it, as we all have seen it,
Illustrated, more or less, in lives of those about us.
The second is unknown, and so requires faith —
The kind of faith that issues from despair.
The destination cannot be described;
You will know very little until you get there;
You will journey blind. But the way leads towards possession
Of what you have sought for in the wrong place.
We must always take risks. That is our destiny.
If we all were judged according to the consequences
Of all our words and deeds, beyond the intention
And beyond our limited understanding
Of ourselves and others, we should all be condemned.
Only by acceptance of the past will you alter its meaning.
All cases are unique, and very similar to others.
Every moment is a fresh beginning.
Excerpted from T.S. Eliot’s 1949 play, The Cocktail Party