Longing

Call me to You, oh my Source.
Let me stumble into You, losing my self.
How can my pride compare with Your Beauty?
How can my weakness stray from Your Love?
My fears run away from You
And my desires overlook You,
Yet where are You not?
Make me to know Your ever-presence,
And allow me to rest in the Eternal arms of Your Love.
Call me to You, oh my Source.
Swallow me whole, and dissolve me in Completion.

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Thin Red Line, by James Jones

(Following Private First Class Doll as he goes about trying to steal a loose pistol before his company, C-for-Charlie, is dropped at Guadalcanal):

Doll had learned something during the past six months of his life. Chiefly what he had learned was that everybody lived by a selected fiction. Nobody was really what he pretended to be. It was as if everybody made up a fiction story about himself, and then he just pretended to everybody that that was what he was. And everybody believed him, or at least accepted his fiction story. Doll did not know if everybody learned this about life when they reached a certain age, but he suspected that they did. They just didn’t tell it to anybody. And rightly so. Obviously, if they told anybody, then their own fiction story about themselves wouldn’t be true either. So everybody had to learn it for himself. And then, of course, pretend he hadn’t learned it.

Doll’s own first experience of this phenomenon had come from, or at least begun with, a fist fight he had had six months ago with one of the biggest, toughest men in C-for-Charlie: Corporal Jenks. They had fought each other to a standstill, because neither would give up, until finally it was called a sort of draw-by-exhaustion. But it wasn’t this so much as it was the sudden realization that Corporal Jenks was just as nervous about having the fight as he was, and did not really want to fight any more than he did, which had suddenly opened Doll’s eyes. Once he’d seen it here, in Jenks, he began to see it everywhere, in everybody.

When Doll was younger, he had believed everything everybody told him about themselves. And not only told him – because more often than not they didn’t tell you, they just showed you. Just sort of let you see it by their actions. They acted what they wanted you to think they were, just as if it was really what they really were. When Doll had used to see someone who was brave and a sort of hero, he, Doll, had really believed he was that. And of course this made him, Doll, feel cheap because he knew he himself could never be like that. Christ, no wonder he had taken a back seat all his life!

It was strange, but it was as if when you were honest and admitted you didn’t know what you really were, or even if you were anything at all, then nobody liked you and you made everybody uncomfortable and they didn’t want to be around you. But when you made up your fiction story about yourself and what a great guy you were, and then pretended that that was really you, everybody accepted it and believed you.

When he finally did get his pistol – if he did get it – Doll was not going to admit that he had been scared, or unsure of himself, or indecisive. He would pretend it had been easy, pretend it had happened the way he had imagined it was going to happen, before he started out.