the death of God is the death of Man, and so on

I considered that God, because unlikely, just might exist and might therefore deserve to be adored, but that Humanity, being a mere biological idea designating nothing more than the human race itself, was no more deserving of adoration than any other animal species. This worship of Humanity, with its rituals of Liberty and Equality, always struck me as being like a revival of the ancient cults, in which animals were gods or the gods bore the heads of animals.

Thus, not knowing how to believe in God and being unable to believe in a herd of animals, I maintained, like others on the sidelines of the crowd, that attitude of distance towards everything, which is commonly called Decadence. Decadence is the total absence of unconsciousness, for unconsciousness is the very foundation of life. If the heart could think it would stop beating.

To someone like myself, and to the few like me who live without knowing they live, what remains except renunciation as a way of life and contemplation as destiny?

– Fernando Pessoa

Unable to take anything seriously and believing that we were given no other reality than that of our feelings, we took shelter in them and explored them as if they were great undiscovered lands. And if we work assiduously not just at aesthetic contemplation but at finding expression for its modes and consequences, it is because the prose or poetry we write, stripped of the desire to influence another’s perceptions or change someone’s mind, has become rather like someone reading out loud in order to give a heightened objectivity to the subjective pleasure of reading.

For me life is an inn where I must stay until the carriage from the abyss calls to collect me. I don’t know where that carriage will take me because I know nothing. I could consider this inn to be a prison, since I’m compelled to stay here; I could consider it a kind of club, because I meet other people here. However, unlike others, I am neither impatient nor sociable. I leave those who shut themselves in their rooms and wait, lying limply on their beds unable to sleep; I leave those who chatter in the living room, from where the cosy sound of music and voices reaches me. I sit at the door and fill my eyes and ears with the colours and sounds of the landscape and slowly, just for myself, I sing vague songs that I compose while I wait.

Night will fall on all of us and the carriage will arrive. … If what I leave written in the visitors’ book is one day read by others and entertains them on their journey, that’s fine. If no one reads it or is entertained by it, that’s fine too.

– Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet, trans. Margaret Jull Costa, Serpent’s Tail, London, 1998, pp 207-209

Thanatos, Jacek Malczewski, 1898