There is not even “atheism”; “atheist” is not enough! It is the positing of the principle that must be emptied. It is not enough to say that God takes leave, withdraws, or is incommensurable. It is even less a question of placing another principle on his throne—Mankind, Reason, Society. It is instead a question of coming to grips with this: the world rests on nothing—and this is its keenest sense.
I take no sides. I am interested in the shape of ideas. There is a wonderful sentence in Augustine: ‘Do not despair; one of the thieves was saved. Do not presume; one of the thieves was damned.’ That sentence has a wonderful shape. It is the shape that matters.
Words have meaning, not life or persons or the universe itself. Our search for certainty rests in our attempts at understanding the history of all individual selves and all civilizations. Beyond that, there is only awe.
“My basic view of things is—not to have any basic view of things. From having been exceedingly dogmatic, my views on life have gradually dissolved. They don’t exist any longer.”
“The pure present is an ungraspable advance of the past devouing the future. In truth, all sensation is already memory.”
We do not repeat because we repress.
We repress because we repeat.
God is not dead, God is unconscious.
INTERVIEWER: Do you think this feeling of not being at home is part of what made you into a writer?
BARRETT: Sure. I’ve never known a writer who didn’t feel ill at ease in the world. Have you? We all feel unhoused in some sense. That’s part of why we write. We feel we don’t fit in, that this world is not our world, that though we may move in it, we’re not of it. Different experiences in our lives may enforce or ameliorate that, but I think if they ameliorate it totally, we stop writing. You don’t need to write a novel if you feel at home in the world. We write about the world because it doesn’t make sense to us. Through writing, maybe we can penetrate it, elucidate it, somehow make it comprehensible. If I had ever found the place where I was perfectly at home, who knows what I would have done? Maybe I would have been a biologist after all. No great loss if that had been the case, but it didn’t work out that way.