Bertrand Russell Speaks my Heart

You know how sometimes you read something and the recognition causes a kind of shock because another being has expressed your heart so well? 

Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970) at eighty-four, wrote this addition to his autobiography titled ‘What I have Lived For’.

These five paragraphs speak my heart unlike any other words I have read and lordy lordy have I read some words.

(Just a side note…how cool is reading! Next month I will be 48 and for 44 of those years I have been addicted to reading. Is there any other hobby whereby I can be certain there will be something/someone new to discover, of life, of imagination every single day? Gotta love it!!)

Anyway, no matter how I play with words I doubt I could ever speak my heart as well as Bertrand has in his addition.

“Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a deep ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.

I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy—ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness—that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it, finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what—at last—I have found.

With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.

Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a hated burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate the evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.

This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.”

So does my heart speak despite left brains refusal to understand the world of Pythagoras.

My only addition would be to say regarding the alleviation of suffering;

We may not be able to alleviate all evil, but, we can alleviate suffering if it exists in our own individual worlds…at least a bit.

Today we can, if we want, help.

cheers…Leesa xx

6 thoughts on “Bertrand Russell Speaks my Heart

  1. Thank you for sharing that wonderful quotation, happy birthday, and I agree about reading. The passion for it is a terrible thing to lose, whether as an individual or a society.

  2. Great post, Leesa, and great writing by Mr Russell. He always could express himself well.

    It might be churlish of me, but I feel I have to question his pursuit of love. I don’t know what he meant by love, but he was a notorious philanderer. He chased women, even when he was married. I’m not sure what kind of “love” he was seeking, but I feel it worth mentioning.

    • glad you liked the post Jon.

      Umm…it seems you are questioning and comparing moral standards rather than questioning his pursuit of love don’t you think?

  3. Beautiful, thought-provoking post.

    Your final comment: “We may not be able to alleviate all evil, but, we can alleviate suffering if it exists in our own individual worlds…at least a bit.” >>Best part of the post<<



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