The world is what it is

7833737938_d37789dd6f_c“The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.”
This is a quote that has often troubled me and cropped up in my mind at odd times, when either awake or sleeping, and I have what one might term an illicit affair with this particular grouping of words. It is mainly focused on the first six as the rest tend to qualify or contextualise but don’t really add much more depth or even
The key phrase for me is repetitious and it may even be tautological but it conjures up something deep, something primeval and present from the beginning of time or maybe even prior to that.
A pithy and throwaway truth, one that somehow stands alone and has no need of rationalisation or even a second thought, the kind of one-liner that gets you punched or congratulated depending on your timing.
The rest of the quote suggests an existentialist type of journey through the world that involves a choosing, a choice of being nothing and having no right to be or alternatively becoming something and therefore having a right to be.
It is an annoying quote and almost circular or even circuitous in its ability to mangle the mind. There is something deeper than a Koan or maybe more destructive than a maxim.
For me personally the first six words have a deeper almost mystical meaning that could form the basis of a mantra and maybe even the accompaniment to some breathing exercises and meditation.
Even something mystical and other worldly, with all the attendant bad PR and connotations that that faux pas inevitably invites when in certain company, a litmus test for deciding on which friends are real and which are synthetic.
For different people that I have raised it with the effects are varied ranging from indifference to an immediate attempt to contextualise it within a current and manageable paradigm, a need to corral it or even place it in quarantine indefinitely.
I have to admit that the six words are something quite personal and have no portable relevance. It cannot be saved on a memory stick and be transferred to somebody else’s head in the same way it works in mine.
It is of course the first paragraph in a book called ‘A bed in the river’ by V. S. Naipaul. This very necessary detail adds clutter to what could have been clarity if I had only more time to write down the results of my meditation on those first six words but you will have to take my word for it.



  1. What is it to be nothing?

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