"All of a sudden, as if a surgical hand of destiny had operated on a long-standing blindness with immediate and sensational results, I lift my gaze from my anonymous life to the clear recognition of how I live. And I see that everything I've done, thought or been is a species of delusion or madness. I'm amazed by what Imanaged not to see. I marvel at all that I was and that I now see I'm not.
I look at my past life as at a field lit up by the sun when it breaks through the clouds, and I note with metaphysical astonishment how my most deliberate acts, my clearest ideas and my most logical intentions were after all no more than congenital drunenness, inherent madness and huge ignorance. I didn't even act anything out. I was the role that got acted. At most, I was the actor's motions.
All that I've done, thought or been is a series of submissions, either to a false self that I assumed belonged to me because I expressed myself through it to the outside, or to a weight of circumstances that I supposed was the air I breathed. In this moment of seeing, I suddenly find myself isolated, an exile where I'd always thougth I was a citizen. At the heart of my thought I wasn't I.
I'm dazed by a sarcastic terror of life, a despondency that exceeds the limits of my conscious being. I realize that I was all error and deviation, that I never lived, that I existed only in so far as I filled time with consciousness and thought. I feel, in this moment, like a man who wakes up after a slumber full of real dreams, or like a man freed by an earthquake from the dim light of the prison he'd grown used to.
This sudden awareness of my true being, of this being that has always sleepily wandered between what it feels and what it sees, weighs on me like an untold sentence to serve.
It's so hard to describe what I feel when I feel I really exist and my soul is a real entity that I don't know what human words could define it. I don't know if I have a fever, as I feel I do, or if I've stopped having the fever of sleeping through life. Yes, I repeat, i'm like a traveller who suddenly finds himself in a strange town, without knowing how he got there, which makes me think of those who lose their memory and for a long time are not themselves but someone else. I was someone else for a long time -- since birth and consciousness -- and suddenly I've woken up in the middle of a bridge, leaning over the river and knowing that I exist more solidly than the person I was up till now. But the city is unknown to me, the streets are new, and the trouble has no cure. And so, leaning over the bridge, I wait for the truth to go away and let me return to being fictitious and non-existent, intelligent and natural.
It was just a brief moment, and it's already over. Once more I see the furniture all around me, the pattern on the old wallpaper, and the sun through the dusty panes. I saw the truth for a moment. For a moment I was consciously what great men are their entire lives. I recall their words and deeds and wonder if they were also successfully tempted by the Demon of Reality. To know nothing about yourself in a flash, as I did in this moment, is to have a fleeting notion of the intimate monad, the soul's magic word. But that sudden light scorches everything, consumes everything. It strips us nakes of even ourselves.
It was just a moment, and I saw myself. I can no longer even say what I was. And now I'm sleepy, because I think -- I don't know why -- that the meaning of it all is to sleep."
~~ Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet, Fragment 39 (tlk Richard Zenith)