Henry Miller and Belief

“I believe in God the Father, in Jesus Christ his only begotten Son, in the blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Ghost, in Adam Cadmium, in chrome nickel, the oxides and the mercurochromes, in waterfowls and watercress, in epileptoid seizures, in bubonic plague, in devachan, in planetary conjunctions, in chicken tracks and stick-throwing, in revolutions, in stock crashes, in wars, earthquakes, cyclones, in Kali Yuga and in hula-hula. I believe. I believe. I believe because not to believe is to become as lead, to lie prone and rigid, forever inert, to waste away …”

And, elsewhere in Sexus, Henry Miller is accused of being a Romantic, because he admires “the revolutionaries of yesterday”. In fact it’s his belief in the value of belief that makes him a Romantic.

Belief, any belief, unites a man with his fellow human beings. His fellow believers. On his own, as an individual, a man is nothing. Or at best mere matter, passive and inert. You don’t become free by asserting your individuality. Freedom is not self-sufficiency, else it would be impossible to be free. The one who would be übermensch becomes neurotic because he’s trying to assert his independence from the very humanity that grounds his existence.

Miller is all for standing aloof at times. Standing at the window, looking at the New York streets at night, he spits when he thinks of all the humdrum workers sleeping to prepare themselves for another day of meaningless work. One in ten thousand might escape, he says, and of course Miller himself is one of those with the pluck to escape.

But to stay sane, you need to shift your position. Sometimes you need to just believe. Because when you believe in something, you’re allying yourself with others. Religion binds human beings together. It’s something higher than us, something that we can collectively fix our gaze upon, united in our admiration, or awe, or simple quiet acceptance, of what we see.

It’s not about setting oneself apart from the crowd, but looking for that fire in you that burns in everyone. And in belief you find the embers of the original passion that brought that belief into being, and with this you can rekindle the fire of the living human spirit.

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