“I mean it to,” Ménalque's went on. “If only these people around us could be convinced. But most of them believe they get nothing good out of themselves except by constraint; they’re only pleased with themselves when they’re under duress. If there’s one thing each of them claims not to resemble it’s himself. Instead he sets up a model, then imitates it; he doesn’t even choose the model—he accepts it ready-made. Yet I’m sure there’s something more to be read in a man. People dare not—they dare not turn the page. The laws of mimicry—I call them the laws of fear. People are afraid to find themselves alone, and don’t find themselves at all. I hate all this moral agoraphobia—it’s the worst kind of cowardice. You can’t create something without being alone. But who’s trying to create here? What seems different in yourself: that’s the one rare thing you possess, the one thing which gives each of us his worth; and that’s just what we try to suppress. We imitate. And we claim to love life.” Another long silence, and then he went on: “Regret, remorse, repentance—they’re all former joys, reversed. I don’t like looking back, and I leave my past behind me the way a bird leaves its shady tree in order to fly away. I tell you, Michel, each joy still awaits us, but must find the bed empty, must be the only one, so that we come to it like a widower. Oh Michel, each joy is like manna in the desert, which spoils from one day to the next; or like water from the fountain of Ameles which Plato says no pitcher could preserve. Let each moment carry away whatever it has brought.” Ménalque's talked on much longer; I cannot repeat here everything he said; yet many of his phrases were etched into my mind, the more deeply because I wanted to forget them; not that they told me much that was new, but they suddenly laid bare my own mind: thoughts I had covered with so many veils I almost believed they were smothered. And so the vigil passed.
— André Gide (1869-1951)