I’m no longer capable of losing my head in love. Ambition has been crushed in me by circumstances, but it comes out in another way, for ambition is nothing more than a lust for power and my chief delight is to dominate those around me. To inspire in others love, devotion, fear—isn’t that the first symptom and the supreme triumph of power? To cause another person suffering or joy, having no right to do so – isn’t that the sweetest food of our pride? What is happiness but gratified pride? If I thought myself better and more powerful than everyone else in the world, I should be happy. If everyone loved me I should find inexhaustible founts of love within myself. Evil begets evil. The first time we suffer, we see the pleasure to be had from torturing others. The idea of evil cannot enter a man’s mind without his wanting to fulfill it in practice. Someone has said that ideas are organic creations, that the moment they are conceived they have form, this form being action. The most active man is the one who conceives most ideas, and so a genius stuck in an office chair must either die or go mad, and, in the same way, a man of strong physique who leads a sedentary and temperate life will die of apoplexy.
Passions are merely ideas in their initial stage. They are the property of youth, and anyone who expects to feel their thrill throughout his life is a fool. Tranquil rivers often begin as roaring waterfalls, but no river leaps and foams all the way to the sea. Tranquility, however, is often a sign of great, if hidden, power. Intensity and depth of feeling and thought preclude wild outbursts of passion; in pain and pleasure the soul takes careful stock of all, constant heat of the sun would dry it up. It gets steeped in its own existence, coddles and chides itself like a loved child. Only this higher state of self-knowledge can give man a true appreciation of divine justice.
- Mikhail Lermontov (1814-1841)