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Jack Henry Abbott (January 21, 1944 – February 10, 2002) was an American author and prisoner. His most celebrated work In the Belly of the Beast depicted his life of crime and the psychology of imprisonment.
In the Belly of the Beast (1981)
- Even European philosophers have taken notice that most of what we take for knowledge is nothing but bias and prejudice.
- The world is amazed at how 'cruel' it is! (This is very funny to think about!) And then, when the 'chips are down' (Sartre's favorite expression), Sartre, who has never gambled but is enamored of the terminology of a kind of daring that doesn't involve getting his ass skinned, 'martyrs' himself. It is the same kind of responsibility anyone takes upon himself by submitting to your bad opinion of him by hanging his head and agreeing with all the accusations - and then, when he has done that, forlornly tells you he is sorry it rained last night, sorry the price of tea went up, etc. etc.
- Most important, you learn never to trust a man, even if he seems honest and sincere. You learn how men deceive themselves and how impossible it is to help them without injuring yourself.
- The mind does not regulate its own condition. Mental depression, for example, is a state of mind caused by the body. In a cell in the hole it only seems that there is a separation of mind and body - in fact, the body's condition (of deprivation of sensations; experiences, functions, and so on) controls the moods of the mind more than in any other situation I can think of.
- The intelligence recedes, no more a tool of learning - because knowledge is based on experience - but a tool of the outside world it is deprived of knowing. It tries to contact other minds by telepathy; it becomes the Ancestor. Words and Numbers come to hold mystic significance: they were invented by some arcane magic older than man. The line between the word and the thing vanishes; the intervals of numbers in infinity collapse with infinity.
- But a kind of genius can come of this deprivation of sensation, of experience. It has been mistaken as naïve intelligence, when in fact it is empty intelligence, pure intelligence. The composition of the mind is altered. Its previous cultivation is disintegrated and it has greater access to the brain, the body: it is Supersanity. Learning is turned inside out. You have to start from the top and work your way down. You must study mathematical theory before simple arithmetic; theoretical physics before applied physics; anatomy, you might say, before you can walk.
- I feel that if I ever did adjust to prison, I could by that alone never adjust to society.
- This world is nothing. An illusion. Death is the release.