“We are divinely alone, the heavens have fallen on our heads.”

August 14, 2012 § 2 Comments

I come back as I always do to the greatness of mankind’s curse, and I repeat it with the monotony of those who are always right — oh, without God, without a harbor, without enough rags to cover us, all we have, standing erect on the land of the dead, is the rebellion of our smile, the rebellion of being gay when darkness envelops us. We are divinely alone, the heavens have fallen on our heads.

The heavens have fallen on our heads! What a tremendous idea! It is the loftiest cry that life hurls. That was the cry of deliverance for which I had been groping until then. I had had a foreboding it would come, because a thing of glory like a poet’s song always gives something to us poor living shadows, and human thought always reveals the world. But I needed to have it said explicitly so as to bring human misery and human grandeur together. I needed it as a key to the vault of the heavens.

These heavens, that is to say, the azure that our eyes enshrine, purity, plenitude — and the infinite number of suppliants, the sky of truth and religion. All this is within us, and has fallen upon our heads. And God Himself, who is all these kinds of heavens in one, has fallen on our heads like thunder, and His infinity is ours.

We have the divinity of our great misery. And our solitiude, with its toilsome ideas, tears and laughter, is fatally divine. However wrong we may go in the dark, whatever our efforts in the dark and the useless work of our hearts working incessantly, and whatever our ignorance left to itself, and whatever the wounds that other human beings are, we ought to study ourselves with a sort of devotion. It is this sentiment that lights our foreheads, uplifts our souls, adorns our pride, and, in spite of everything, will console us when we shall become accustomed to holding, each at his own poor task, the whole place that God used to occupy. The truth itself gives an effective, practical, and, so to speak, religious caress to the suppliant in whom the heavens spread.

— Henri Barbusse, Hell

§ 2 Responses to “We are divinely alone, the heavens have fallen on our heads.”

  • tom altizer says:

    Who is Barbusse and what is this from?

  • Brad Johnson says:

    Tom, Barbusse was a French author of some renown in the early part of the 20th century. An active Communist, he also wrote a very early biography of Stalin (which did not help his reception into English). Hell was, I believe, his debut novel. He is probably best known for his novel Under Fire.

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