“I have talked enough about myself, let’s talk about you. Your letter alarms me. If you persist in your intention of experiencing all possible sensations—although as a transitory state of mind that is quite normal at your age—you will never attain to much. I was much happier when you said that you wished to be in contact with all that was real in life. You may think that they both amount to the same thing, on the contrary they are diametrically opposed. There are people who live only for sensations and by means of sensations; Andre Gide for example. Such people are in reality deceived by life, and as they come to feel this in a confused manner, they have only one refuge, to conceal the truth from themselves by miserable lies. The life which is truly real is not one that consists in experiencing sensations, but in activity, I mean activity both in thought and in deed. Those who live for sensations are parasites in the material and moral sense of the word compared with those who labor and create; these are the true human beings. I would add too that those who do not run after sensation are rewarded in the end by much that is more alive, deeper, truer, less artificial, than anything the sensation seekers experience. To sum up, to seek after sensations implies a selfishness that revolts me, that is my considered opinion. It obviously does not prevent love, but it does imply that those whom one loves are no more than objects of one’s own pleasure or pain, it overlooks completely that they exist as people in their own right. Such a person passes his life among shadows. He is a dreamer, not one who is fully alive.
About love itself I have no wisdom to give you, but I have at least a warning to make: Love is such a serious affair, it often means involving forever your own life and that of another. Indeed it must always involve this, unless one of the two lovers treats the other as a plaything; in that case, one that is only too common, love has changed into something odious. You see, the essential thing about love is that it consists in a vital need that one human being feels for another, a need which may be reciprocated or not, enduring or not, as the case may be. Because of this the problem is to reconcile this need with the equally imperious need for freedom; this is a problem that men have wrestled with since time immemorial. Thus it is that the idea of seeking after love in order to find out what it is like, just to bring a little excitement into a life which was becoming tedious, etc., this seems to me dangerous, and more than that, puerile. I can tell you that when I was your age, and again when I was older, I too felt the temptation to find out what love was like, I turned it aside by telling myself that it was of greater importance for me not to risk involving myself in a way whose eventual outcome I could not possibly foresee, and before too I had attained to any mature idea of what I wanted my life to be and what I hoped for from it. I am not saying all this as a piece of instruction; each one of us has to develop in our own way. But you may find something here to ponder over. I will add that love seems to me to carry with it an even more serious risk than just a blind pledging of one’s own being; it is the risk of becoming the destiny of another person’s life, for that is what happens if the other comes to love you deeply. My conclusion (and I give you this solely as a piece of information) is not that one should shun love, but that one should not go out of one’s way to try and find it, and especially so when you are very young. I believe at that age it is much better not to meet with it … .
I think you are the sort of person who will have to suffer all through your life. Indeed I am sure of it. You have so much enthusiasm, you are so impetuous, that you will never be able to fit into the social life of our times. But you are not alone in that respect. As to suffering, that is not too serious a matter so long as you also experience the intense joy of being alive. What is important is that you don’t let your life be a waste of time.”—454 W 23rd St New York, NY 10011—2157: Simone Weil, at age 26
“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”—Steve Jobs, How to Live Before You Die