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Pascal, from Pensées

March 19, 2014

When I see the blindness and misery of man and the astonishing contradictions revealed in his nature; and observe the whole universe mute, and man without light, abandoned to himself, as though lost in this corner of the universe, without knowing who put him here, or what he has come here to do, or what will become of him in dying; I feel fear like a man who has been carried when asleep into a desert and fearful island, and has waked without knowing where he is and without having means of rescue. And thereupon I wonder how man escapes despair at so miserable an estate. I see others about me, like myself, and I ask them if they are better informed than I, and they tell me no. And then these wretched wanderers, after looking about them and seeing some pleasant object, have given themselves up and attached themselves to it. As for me, I cannot stop there, or rest in the company of these persons, wholly like myself, miserable like me, impotent like me. I see that they would not help me to die; I shall die alone; I must then act as though alone; but if I were alone I should not build houses; I should not fret myself with bustling occupations; I should seek the esteem of no one, but I should try only to discover the truth.

So, considering how much appearance there is that something exists other than what I see, I have sought whether this God of whom everyone talks may not have left some marks of himself. I search everywhere, and see only obscurity everywhere. Nature offers me nothing by matter of possible doubt and disquiet. If I saw there nothing to mark a divinity, I should make up my mind to believe nothing of it. If I saw everywhere the marks of a Creator, I should rest in peace in faith. But seeing too much to deny, and too little to affirm, I am in a pitiable state, where I have an hundred times wished that, if a God supports nature, she would show it without equivocation; and that, if the marks she gives are deceptive, she would suppress them wholly; that she say all or nothing, that I may see my path.


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