Fernando Pessoa

A Shrug of the Shoulders

We generally give to our ideas about the unknown the color of our notions about what we do know: If we call death a sleep it’s because it has the appearance of sleep; if we call death a new life, it’s because it seems different from life. We build our beliefs and hopes out of these small misunderstandings with reality and live off husks of bread we call cakes, the way poor children play at being happy.
But that’s how all life is; at least that’s how the particular way of life generally known as civilization is. Civilization consists in giving an innapropriate name to something and then dreaming what results from that. And in fact the false name and the true dream do create a new reality. The object really does become other, because we have made it so. We manufacture realities. We use the raw materials we always used but the form lent it by art effectively prevents it from remaining the same. A table made out of pinewood is a pinetree but it is also a table. We sit down at the table not at the pinetree. …

An excerpt from “The Book of Disquiet,” written in the 1920’s, first published in 1982 by Atica in Lisbon.

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