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中英:月亮和六便士(14)

2006-08-22 21:16

    Chapter XIV

    During the journey back to England I thought much of Strickland. I tried to set in order what I had to tell his wife. It was unsatisfactory, and I could not imagine that she would be content with me; I was not content with myself. Strickland perplexed me. I could not understand his motives. When I had asked him what first gave him the idea of being a painter, he was unable or unwilling to tell me. I could make nothing of it. I tried to persuade myself than an obscure feeling of revolt had been gradually coming to a head in his slow mind, but to challenge this was the undoubted fact that he had never shown any impatience with the monotony of his life. If, seized by an intolerable boredom, he had determined to be a painter merely to break with irksome ties, it would have been comprehensible, and commonplace; but commonplace is precisely what I felt he was not. At last, because I was romantic, I devised an explanation which I acknowledged to be far-fetched, but which was the only one that in any way satisfied me. It was this: I asked myself whether there was not in his soul some deep-rooted instinct of creation, which the circumstances of his life had obscured, but which grew relentlessly, as a cancer may grow in the living tissues, till at last it took possession of his whole being and forced him irresistibly to action. The cuckoo lays its egg in the strange bird's nest, and when the young one is hatched it shoulders its foster-brothers out and breaks at last the nest that has sheltered it.

    But how strange it was that the creative instinct should seize upon this dull stockbroker, to his own ruin, perhaps, and to the misfortune of such as were dependent on him; and yet no stranger than the way in which the spirit of God has seized men, powerful and rich, pursuing them with stubborn vigilance till at last, conquered, they have abandoned the joy of the world and the love of women for the painful austerities of the cloister. Conversion may come under many shapes, and it may be brought about in many ways. With some men it needs a cataclysm, as a stone may be broken to fragments by the fury of a torrent; but with some it comes gradually, as a stone may be worn away by the ceaseless fall of a drop of water. Strickland had the directness of the fanatic and the ferocity of the apostle.

    But to my practical mind it remained to be seen whether the passion which obsessed him would be justified of its works. When I asked him what his brother-students at the night classes he had attended in London thought of his painting, he answered with a grin:

    "They thought it a joke. "

    "Have you begun to go to a studio here?"

    "Yes. The blighter came round this morning —— the master, you know; when he saw my drawing he just raised his eyebrows and walked on. "

    Strickland chuckled. He did not seem discouraged. He was independent of the opinion of his fellows.

    And it was just that which had most disconcerted me in my dealings with him. When people say they do not care what others think of them, for the most part they deceive themselves. Generally they mean only that they will do as they choose, in the confidence that no one will know their vagaries; and at the utmost only that they are willing to act contrary to the opinion of the majority because they are supported by the approval of their neighbours. It is not difficult to be unconventional in the eyes of the world when your unconventionality is but the convention of your set. It affords you then an inordinate amount of self-esteem. You have the self-satisfaction of courage without the inconvenience of danger. But the desire for approbation is perhaps the most deeply seated instinct of civilised man. No one runs so hurriedly to the cover of respectability as the unconventional woman who has exposed herself to the slings and arrows of outraged propriety. I do not believe the people who tell me they do not care a row of pins for the opinion of their fellows. It is the bravado of ignorance. They mean only that they do not fear reproaches for peccadillos which they are convinced none will discover.

    But here was a man who sincerely did not mind what people thought of him, and so convention had no hold on him; he was like a wrestler whose body is oiled; you could not get a grip on him; it gave him a freedom which was an outrage. I remember saying to him:

    "Look here, if everyone acted like you, the world couldn't go on. "

    "That's a damned silly thing to say. Everyone doesn't want to act like me. The great majority are perfectly content to do the ordinary thing. "

    And once I sought to be satirical.

    "You evidently don't believe in the maxim: Act so that every one of your actions is capable of being made into a universal rule. "

    "I never heard it before, but it's rotten nonsense. "

    "Well, it was Kant who said it. "

    "I don't care; it's rotten nonsense. "

    Nor with such a man could you expect the appeal to conscience to be effective. You might as well ask for a reflection without a mirror. I take it that conscience is the guardian in the individual of the rules which the community has evolved for its own preservation. It is the policeman in all our hearts, set there to watch that we do not break its laws. It is the spy seated in the central stronghold of the ego. Man's desire for the approval of his fellows is so strong, his dread of their censure so violent, that he himself has brought his enemy within his gates; and it keeps watch over him, vigilant always in the interests of its master to crush any half-formed desire to break away from the herd. It will force him to place the good of society before his own. It is the very strong link that attaches the individual to the whole. And man, subservient to interests he has persuaded himself are greater than his own, makes himself a slave to his taskmaster. He sits him in a seat of honour. At last, like a courtier fawning on the royal stick that is laid about his shoulders, he prides himself on the sensitiveness of his conscience. Then he has no words hard enough for the man who does not recognise its sway; for, a member of society now, he realises accurately enough that against him he is powerless. When I saw that Strickland was really indifferent to the blame his conduct must excite, I could only draw back in horror as from a monster of hardly human shape.

    The last words he said to me when I bade him good-night were:

    "Tell Amy it's no good coming after me. Anyhow, I shall change my hotel, so she wouldn't be able to find me. "

    "My own impression is that she's well rid of you, " I said.

    "My dear fellow, I only hope you'll be able to make her see it. But women are very unintelligent. "

    在回伦敦的旅途上,关于思特里克兰德我又想了很多。我试着把要告诉他妻子的事理出一个头绪来。事情办得并不妙,我想象得出,她不会对我感到满意的,我对自己也不满意。思特里克兰德叫我迷惑不解。我不明白他行事的动机。当我问他,他最初为什么想起要学绘画的时候,他没能给我说清楚,也许他根本就不愿意告诉我。我一点儿也搞不清楚。我企图这样解释这件事:在他的迟钝的心灵中逐渐产生了一种朦胧模糊的反叛意识。但是,一件不容置疑的事实却驳斥了上述解释:他对自己过去那种单调的生活从来没有流露出什么厌烦不耐啊。如果他只是无法忍受无聊的生活而决心当一个画家,以图挣脱烦闷的枷锁,这是可以理解的,也是极其平常的事;但是问题在于,我觉得他绝对不是一个平常的人。最后,也许我有些罗曼蒂克,我想象出一个解释来,尽管这个解释有些牵强,却是唯一能使我感到满意的。那就是:我怀疑是否在他的灵魂中深深埋藏着某种创作的欲望,这种欲望尽管为他的生活环境掩盖着,却一直在毫不留情地膨胀壮大,正象肿瘤在有机组织中不断长大一样,直到最后完全把他控制住,逼得他必须采取行动,毫无反抗能力。杜鹃把蛋下到别的鸟巢里,当雏鸟孵出以后,就把它的异母兄弟们挤出巢外,最后还要把庇护它的巢窝毁掉。

    但是奇怪的是,这种创作欲竟会抓住了一个头脑有些迟钝的证券经纪人,可能导致他的毁灭,使那些依靠他生活的人陷入不幸。但是如果同上帝的玄旨妙义有时竟也把人们抓住这一点比起来,倒也不足为奇。这些人有钱有势,可是上帝却极其警觉地对他们紧追不舍,直到最后把他们完全征服,这时他们就抛弃掉世俗的欢乐、女人的爱情,甘心到寺院中过着凄苦冷清的生活。皈依能以不同的形态出现,也可以通过不同的途径实现。有一些人通过激变,有如愤怒的激流把石块一下子冲击成齑粉;另一些人则由于日积月累,好象不断的水滴,迟早要把石块磨穿。思特里克兰德有着盲信者的直截了当和使徒的狂热不羁。

    但是以我讲求实际的眼睛看来,使他着了迷的这种热情是否能产生出有价值的作品来,还有待时间证明。等我问起他在伦敦学画时夜校的同学对他的绘画如何评价的时候,他笑了笑说:

    “他们觉得我是在闹着玩。”

    “你到了这里以后,开始进哪个绘画学校了么?”

    “进了。今天早晨那个笨蛋还到我住的地方来过——我是说那个老师,你知道;他看了我的画以后,只是把眉毛一挑,连话也没说就走了。”

    思特里克兰德咯咯地笑起来。他似乎一点也没有灰心丧气。别人的意见对他是毫无影响的。

    在我同他打交道的时候,正是这一点使我狼狈不堪。有人也说他不在乎别人对他的看法,但这多半是自欺欺人。一般说来,他们能够自行其是是因为相信别人都看不出来他们的怪异的想法;最甚者也是因为有几个近邻知交表示支持,才敢违背大多数人的意见行事。如果一个人违反传统实际上是他这一阶层人的常规,那他在世人面前作出违反传统的事倒也不困难。相反地,他还会为此洋洋自得。他既可以标榜自己的勇气又不致冒什么风险。但是我总觉得事事要邀获别人批准,或许是文明人类最根深蒂固的一种天性。一个标新立异的女人一旦冒犯了礼规,招致了唇枪舌剑的物议,再没有谁会象她那样飞快地跑去寻找尊严体面的庇护了。那些告诉我他们毫不在乎别人对他们的看法的人,我是绝不相信的。这只不过是一种无知的虚张声势。他们的意思是:他们相信别人根本不会发现自己的微疵小瑕,因此更不怕别人对这些小过失加以谴责了。

    但是这里却有一个真正不计较别人如何看待他的人,因而传统礼规对他一点也奈何不得。他象是一个身上涂了油的角力者,你根本抓不住他。这就给了他一种自由,叫你感到火冒三丈。我还记得我对他说:

    “你听我说,如果每个人都照你这样,地球就运转不下去了。”

    “你说这样的话实在是太蠢了。并不是每个人都要象我这样的。绝大多数人对于他们做的那些平平常常的事是心满意足的。”

    我想挖苦他一句。

    “有一句格言你显然并不相信:凡人立身行事,务使每一行为堪为万人楷模。”

    “我从来没听说过,但这是胡说八道。”

    “你不知道,这是康德说的。”

    “随便是谁说的,反正是胡说八道。”

    对于这样一个人,想要诉诸他的良心也是毫无效果的。这就象不借助镜子而想看到自己的反影一样。我把良心看作是一个人心灵中的卫兵,社会为要存在下去制订出的一套礼规全靠它来监督执行。良心是我们每人心头的岗哨,它在那里值勤站岗,监视着我们别做出违法的事情来。它是安插在自我的中心堡垒中的暗探。因为人们过于看重别人对他的意见,过于害怕舆论对他的指责,结果自己把敌人引进大门里来;于是它就在那里监视着,高度警觉地卫护着它主人的利益,一个人只要有半分离开大溜儿的想法,就马上受到它严厉苛责。它逼迫着每一个人把社会利益置于个人之上。它是把个人拘系于整体的一条牢固的链条。人们说服自己,相信某种利益大于个人利益,甘心为它效劳,结果沦为这个主子的奴隶。他把他高举到荣誉的宝座上。最后,正如同宫廷里的弄臣赞颂皇帝按在他肩头的御杖一样,他也为自己有着敏感的良心而异常骄傲。到了这一地步,对那些不肯受良心约束的人,他就会觉得怎样责骂也不过分,因为他已经是社会的一名成员,他知道得很清楚,绝对没有力量造自己的反了。当我看到思特里克兰德对他的行为肯定会引起的斥责真的无动于衷的时候,我就象见到一个奇异的怪物一样,吓得毛骨悚然,赶快缩了回去。

    那天晚上在我向他告别的时候,他最后对我说的话是:

    “告诉阿美,到这儿来找我是没有用的。反正我要搬家了,她是不会找到我的。”

    “我的看法是,她摆脱开你未尝不是件好事,”我说。

    “亲爱的朋友,我就希望你能够叫她看清这一点。可惜女人都是没有脑子的。”

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