“Going the Bloody Hard Way” (Marcel)

It is indeed of the nature of value to take on a special function in relation to life and, as it were, to set its seal upon it.  An incontestable experiment, which can scarcely be recorded in objective documents, here brings us the most definite proof:  if I dedicate my life to serve some supreme cause where a supreme value is involved, by this fact my life receives from the value itself a consecration which delivers it from the vicissitudes of history.  We must, however, be on our guard against illusions of all kinds which swarm around the word ‘value’.  Pseudo-values are as full of vitality as pseudo-ideas.  The dauber who works to please a clientele, even if he persuades himself that he is engaged in the service of art, is in no way “consecrated”; his tangible successes will not deceive us.  Perhaps, in a general way, the artist can only receive the one consecration that counts on the condition that he submits to severe test.  This does not necessarily take the form of the judgment of others, for it may happen for a long time that the artist is not understood by those around him–but it means at least that with lucid sincerity he compares what he is really doing with what he aspires to do–a mortifying comparison more often than not.  This amounts to saying that value never becomes a reality in a life except by means of a perpetual struggle against easiness.  This is quite as true in our moral lives as in scientific research or aesthetic creation.  We always come back to the spirit of truth, and that eternal enemy which has to be fought against without remission:  our self-complacency.

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