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.