And suddenly, after he said the words, it was not important. For an instant he felt the truth of what he said, and for the first time in months he felt lift away from him the weight of a despair whose heaviness he had not fully realized. Nearly giddy, almost laughing, he said again, “It really isn’t important.”
He took a grim and ironic pleasure from the possibility that what little learning he had managed to acquire had led him to this knowledge: that in the long run all things, even the learning that let him know this, were futile and empty, and at last diminished into a nothingness they did not alter.
He tried to read at random, for his own pleasure and indulgence, many of the things that he had been waiting for years to read. But his mind would not be led where he wished it to go; his attention wandered from the pages he held before him, and more and more often he found himself staring dully in front of him, at nothing; it was as if from moment to moment his mind were emptied of all it knew and as if his will were drained of its strength. He felt at times that he was a kind of vegetable, and he longed for something—even pain—to pierce him, to bring him alive.