One must work and riot and throw oneself into the whirl
Words of advice from John Dos Passos
Don’t worry about not having an aim. I felt the same way when I first went to college. It took me a good three years to get rid of family bred inhibitions before I realized exactly what I wanted to do. When I think how far I am from doing it I become terrified. Then too I suffer from a multiplicity of desires. I want to swallow the oyster of the world. I want to peel the rind of the orange. I want to drink the cup to the dregs—no—I want to swallow it and still have it to look at. I want to peel off the rind in patterns of my own making. I want to paint with the dregs pictures of gods and demons on the great white curtains of eternity.
And I do nothing. I blame the army, the weather, the food—O if I could wrench myself out of the blankness of inertia.
Like you I believe in frugal living, unwasteful—Like you I abhor the puppyish lying about of college life, the basking in the sun with a full belly. Life is too gorgeous to waste a second of it in drabness or open-mouthed stupidity. One must work and riot and throw oneself into the whirl. Boredom and denseness are the two unforgivable sins. We’ll have plenty of time to be bored when the little white worms crawl about our bones in the crescent putrifying earth. While we live we must make the torch burn ever brighter until it flares out in the socket. Let’s have no smelly smouldering.
John Dos Passos
Letter to Rumsey Marvin
Paris, 29th December 1918
Excerpted from the highly recommended Fourteenth Chronicle: Letters and Diaries of John Dos Passos. First published by Harvard Common Press in 1973.