Joys of degradation

Orhan Pamuk

We all know the joy of degradation. Perhaps I should rephrase that: We must all have lived through times when we discovered that it was pleasurable, even relaxing, to run ourselves down. Even as we tell ourselves we are worthless – over and over, as if repetition will make it true – we are suddenly freed from all those injunctions to conform and from the suffocating worry of having to obey rules and laws, of having to grit our teeth as we strive to be like others. When others degrade us, we arrive at the same place as we do when we take the initiative in humiliating ourselves. Then we find ourselves in a place where we can wallow blissfully in our existence, our smell, our filth, our habits, the place where we can abandon all hope of self improvement and stop trying to nurture optimistic thoughts about other human beings. This resting place is so comfortable that we cannot help feeling grateful for the anger and selfishness that has brought us to this moment of freedom and solitude.

Orhan Pamuk, Dostoyevsky’s Notes from the Underground: The Joys of Degradation. Other Colors Essays and Stories. New York: Vintage Books, 2007.


6 thoughts on “Joys of degradation”

  1. i know. i’m going to be so much of a loser if i let it eat me, but it’s also not that bad to enjoy these negative feelings every once in a while.

    this allows us to embrace our humanity.

  2. maybe but if you can avoid degradation in the first place why succumb into it? the hard part is that how are you going to go beyond the surface. encouragement from other people and a strong social group often times help you to overcome this obstacle. yet in the long run, it is you yourself who will decide to triumph and trample this situation.

  3. when others are putting you down the best response to such degradation is to go up. i would admit its hard but that is the most appropriate thing to do.

    1. sometimes, it’s also a nice feeling to just savor failure, let it linger for a while, let it stay for a night and sleep with it.

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