The art of thinking about things consists in the art of stopping thinking before the fatal moment

From Thomas Bernhard’s Walking. An author singularly unsuited to extracts.

When we do something, we may not think about why we are doing what we are doing, says Oehler, for then it would suddenly be totally impossible for us to do anything. We may not make what we are doing the object of our thought, for then we would first be the victims of mortal doubt and, finally, of mortal despair. Just as we may not think about what is going on around us and what has gone on and what will go on, if we do not have the strength to break off our thinking about what happens around us and what has happened and what will happen, that is about the past, the present and the future at precisely the moment when this thinking becomes fatal for us. The art of thinking about things consists in the art, says Oehler, of stopping thinking before the fatal moment. However, we can, quite consciously, drag out this fatal moment, says Oehler, for a longer or a shorter time, according to circumstances. But the important thing is for us to know when the fatal moment is. But no one knows when the fatal moment is, says Oehler, the question is, is it possible that the fatal moment has not yet come and will always not yet come? But we cannot rely on this. We may never think, says Oehler, how and why we are doing what we are doing, for then we would be condemned, even if not instantaneously, but instantaneously to whatever degree of awareness we have reached regarding that question, to total inactivity and to complete immobility. For the clearest thought, that which is the deepest and, at the same time, the most transparent, is the most complete inactivity and the most complete immobility, says Oehler. We may not think about why we are walking, says Oehler, for then it would soon be impossible for us to walk, and then, to take things to their logical conclusion. Everything soon becomes impossible, just as when we are thinking why we may not think, why we are walking and so on, just as we may not think how we are walking, how we are not walking, that is standing still, just as we may not think how we, when we are not walking and standing still, are thinking and so on. We may not ask ourselves: why are we walking? as others who may (and can) ask themselves at will why they are walking. The others, says Oehler, may (and can) ask themselves anything, we may not ask ourselves anything. In the same way, if it is a question of objects, we may also not ask ourselves, just as if it is not a question of objects (the opposite of objects). What we see we think, and, as a result, do not see it, says Oehler, whereas others have no problem in seeing what they are seeing because they do not think what they see. What we call perception is really stasis, immobility, as far as we are concerned, nothing. Nothing. What has happened is thought, not seen, says Oehler. Thus quite naturally when we see, we see nothing, we think everything at the same time.

And shortly after, an oblique continuation:

We are mathematicians, says Oehler, or at least we are always trying to be mathematicians. When we think, it is less a case of philosophy, says Oehler, more one of mathematics. Everything is a tremendous calculation, if we have set it up from the outset in an unbroken line, a very simple calculation. But we are not always in the position of keeping everything that we have calculated intact within our head, and we break off what we are thinking and are satisfied with what we see, and are not surprised for long that we rest content with what we see, with millions upon millions of images that lie on, or under, one another and constantly merge and displace each other.

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