"He is no fool. First he makes sure this really is the content of his life, and his soul is too healthy and too proud to squander the least thing upon an inebriation. He is not cowardly, he is not afraid of letting love creep into his most secret, his most hidden thoughts, to let it twine in innumerable coils about every ligament of his consciousness — if the love becomes an unhappy love, he will never be able to tear himself loose from it. He feels a blissful rapture in letting love tingle through every nerve, and yet his soul is as solemn as that of a man who has drained the poisoned goblet and feels how the juice permeated every drop of blood — for this instant is life and death. So when he has thus sucked into himself the whole of love and absorbed himself in it, he does not lack courage to make trial of everything and venture everything. He surveys the situation of his life, he convokes the swift thoughts, which like doves obey his every bidding, he waves his wand over them, and they dart off in all directions. But when they all return, all as messengers of sorrow, and declare to him that it is an impossibility, then he becomes quiet, he dismisses them, he remains alone, and then he performs the movements.
Soren Kierkegaard from Fear and Trembling ca. 1843
The Bellow novel and Kierkegaard have the same point. Eric, a riding companion on my long trip made it over and over. Why are sailors and motorcyclists and climbers such similar people? “We’re perfectly willing to risk death for a little fun.” But what he really meant, I think, is that, if we’re lucky, sometimes, we catch a glimpse of what Henderson was looking for, and what Kierkegaard (love is just an example) is trying to explain. Truth through blows. The soul waking up.
(Photo taken six years ago in the Catholic church in New Delhi where my friends Eryca and Sebastien were married.)