Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov (The Buffoon)

“…When you said just now, ‘Don’t be so ashamed of yourself, for that is at the root of it all,’ you pierced right into my innermost soul. Indeed, whenever I meet people I feel that I am the lowest of the low, and that everybody takes me for a buffoon. So I say to myself, ‘Let me really play the buffoon, I’m not afraid of your opinions, because every one of you is even worse than I am.’ That’s why I’m a buffoon. It is from shame, great elder, from shame. It’s anxiety, pure and simple, that’s what makes me so rowdy. If only I were sure that every one would accept me as the kindest and wisest of men – oh, Lord, what a good man I should be! Teacher!” He suddenly fell on his knees, “what must I do to gain eternal life?”

It was difficult even now to tell whether he was joking or whether he was really moved.

Father Zossima looked up and said with a smile, “You have known for a long time what you must do, you have enough sense; don’t indulge in drunkenness and incontinence of speech, don’t give way to sensual lust, and, above all, to the love of money. And close your taverns. If you can’t close all of the, at least two or three. And, first and foremost, don’t lie to yourself… The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point where he cannot distinguish the truth either in himself or in others, so he loses all respect for himself and for others. Having no respect he ceases to love, and having no love he abandons himself to passions and coarse pleasures to distract himself, and sinks to bestiality in his vices, and all because he was constantly false both to himself and others. The man who lies to himself is the most easily offended man. You know it is sometimes very pleasant to take offense, isn’t it? A man may be perfectly aware that no one has insulted him, that he has imagined it all and put about a lie just for the sake of it, blown it out of all proportion so as to attract attention, deliberately picked on a word and made a mountain out of a molehill – he may very well know all this, and yet he will be the very first to take offense, and he will revel in his resentment until he derives great pleasure from it, and so fall into a state of genuine vindictiveness..”

– Book II: An Unfortunate Gathering, Chapter 2 – The Old Buffoon


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