My dear Criten,
Today it has been raining and I have been out walking in it. I have intimations but no clear reasons for the cheerfulness I find in rain. The chattering of the waters pouring into the drains is cheerful, the greenness of the drinking grass is cheerful, the steady pouring of water, wet trunks, puddles with their vanishing targets and ripples and streams with braids of bright water are all very cheerful and conducive to introspection. I have long held it an article of faith that people who dislike rain dislike it because it is conducive to introspection and they are bored by that because they are so meager-souled. No megalomaniac can really hate the rain.
I see the question forming in your mind, even in the future of my writing and as you read. You want to know what I was thinking as I went walking since the rain is so conducive to it. Well, my dear Criten, I was thinking about myself, of course, and I was wondering whether I really was a man of conviction and I was led to the conclusion that I am not. No, not a man of conviction at all but rather a man of embarrassment. Convictions, I can say with some certainty, have never moved me; embarrassments, however, seldom fail to do so. I find it extremely discomforting to be embarrassed and have spent too much of my life in that state, or remembering it—sometimes with even greater discomfort.
But, you will say, have you not always striven to be a man of principle? Of principle, yes—at least, from what I can remember, since last week when I began keeping track; and of conviction, I may say, also, for I have striven to be a man of conviction as certainly as I have failed to achieve it. Let it never be said that it was for want of trying. No, I have tried to be a man of conviction and I have tried to be so because I am a man of principle, and a man of principle must strive to be a man of conviction, but even a man of principle may fail. Principles, you see, are not enough. And this is precisely why I am a man of embarrassment: I am a man of principle—probably, now that I reflect upon it, since I was at least six years old, which is astonishing and gratifying—even though I cannot be a man of conviction.
I have many high and glorious principles, and I hold to all of them with all but conviction, which is a great deal (especially for a lad of six!). But I find that what really motivates my actions is not the conviction with which I hold a principle, but the embarrassment that is caused me by my principles and the positions or situations in which I find myself because of my inability to be a man of conviction. And so I have been known to behave, from time to time, as a man of conviction out of sheer embarrassment. It may seem a move of conviction, but the truth is that I have been forced to move from something other than conviction and the truth that dawned upon me, as I wandered in the rain with a large umbrella tilted—as much as was convenient—in the direction of the rain.
So there it is, my dear Criten. I trust you are as well as I am, for I am very well nowadays. How do you like your view of the Baltic Sea? Lucky sends you his regards, oh yes, and wants me to mention that we have been paring down our books here. You know how much Lucky likes to be perched on better books and how greatly he dislikes to perch on lesser books. In many ways, it seems to me, Lucky is also a cockroach of embarrassment. Well, nobody expects a cockroach to have a great deal in the way of convictions. (I am still surprised at how many opinions this one has and have often wondered whether I should not take Lucky in to be seen by a specialist—only there aren’t really any specialists specializing in the psychology of cockroaches in this country. Perhaps a Nouthetic counselor would do as well?)
Anyway, best wishes and good luck with the sea-shell collection.
Yours infinitely etc.,