Stefany Anne Golberg at The Smart Set:
Imagine yourself in a small boat that has stopped midway between a river and a raging waterfall below. This is how the man with the tragic sense of life lives. It is, in any case, how Miguel de Unamuno lived — in a state of existential crisis, hovering over the abyss.
Imagine, now, that you are dead. You can’t do it; no matter how hard you try. It is literally impossible, wrote Unamuno, to imagine ourselves as not existing, no matter how great our imagination. Sit for a moment, he suggested, and try to imagine your mind — your consciousness — as it is when you are in a deep, dreamless sleep. It makes your head hurt. Try even harder and you will start to feel crazy. “It is like a cramped cell,” wrote Unamuno, “against the bars of which my soul beats its wings in vain. Its lack of air stifles me. More, more, and always more!”
I want to be myself, and yet without ceasing to be myself to be others as well, to merge myself into the totality of things visible and invisible, to extend myself into the illimitable of space and to prolong myself into the infinite of time. Not to be all and for ever is as if not to be—at least, let me be my whole self, and be so for ever and ever. And to be the whole of myself is to be everybody else. Either all or nothing!