The Cocktail Party

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It will do you no harm to find yourself ridiculous.
Resign yourself to be the fool you are.
All cases are unique, and very similar to others.
Your burden is not to clear your conscience
But to learn how to bear the burdens on your conscience.
Can we only love
Something created in our own imaginations?
I shall be left with the inconsolable memory
Of the treasure I went into the forest to find...
I have thought at moments that the ecstasy is real
Although those who experience it may have no reality...
Each way means loneliness — and communion.
Every moment is a fresh beginning.

The Cocktail Party (1949) is a play by T. S. Eliot. Elements of the play are based on Alcestis, by the Ancient Greek playwright Euripides. The play was the most popular of Eliot's seven plays in his lifetime, although his 1935 play, Murder in the Cathedral, is better remembered today. It was written while Eliot was a visiting scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study in 1948.

Quotes[edit]

  • It will do you no harm to find yourself ridiculous.
    Resign yourself to be the fool you are.
  • You will find that you survive humiliation
    And that's an experience of incalculable value.
  • That is the worst moment, when you feel you have lost
    The desires for all that was most desirable,
    Before you are contented with what you can desire;
    Before you know what is left to be desired;
    And you go on wishing that you could desire
    What desire has left behind.
    But you cannot understand.
    How could you understand what it is to feel old?
  • You will change your mind, but you are not free.
    Your moment of freedom was yesterday.
    You made a decision. You set in motion
    Forces in your life and in the lives of others
    Which cannot be reversed.
  • The one thing to do is to do nothing. Wait. … You will find that you survive humiliation and that's an experience of incalculable value.
  • We die to each other daily.
    What we know of other people
    Is only our memory of the moments
    During which we knew them. And they have changed since then.

    To pretend that they and we are the same
    Is a useful and convenient social convention
    Which must sometimes broken. We must also remember
    That at every meeting we are meeting a stranger.
  • I have had quite enough humiliation
    Lately, to bring me to the point
    At which humiliation ceases to humiliate.
    You get to the point at which you cease to feel
    And then you speak your mind.
  • You're still trying to invent a personality for me
    Which will only keep me away from myself.
  • What is hell? Hell is oneself.
    Hell is alone, the other figures in it
    Merely projections. There is nothing to escape from
    And nothing to escape to. One is always alone.
  • All cases are unique, and very similar to others.
  • Half the harm that is done in this world
    Is due to people who want to feel important.

    They don't mean to do harm — but the harm does not interest them.
    Or they do not see it, or they justify it
    Because they are absorbed in the endless struggle
    To think well of themselves.
  • It is very often that my patients
    Are only pieces of a total situation
    Which I have to explore. The single patient
    Who is ill all by himself, is rather the exception.
  • There are several symptoms
    Which must occur together, and to a marked degree,
    To qualify a patient for my sanatorium:
    And one of them is an honest mind. That is one of the causes of their suffering.
  • You have come to where the word 'insult' has no meaning;
    And you must put up with that.
  • To men of a certain type
    The suspicion that they are incapable of loving
    Is as disturbing to their self-esteem
    As, in cruder men, the fear of impotence.
  • The best of a bad job is all any of us make of it —
    Except of course the saints
  • Your burden is not to clear your conscience
    But to learn how to bear the burdens on your conscience.
  • I should really like to think there's something wrong with me —
    Because, if there isn't then there's something wrong,
    Or at least, very different from what it seemed to be,
    With the world itself — and that's much more frightening!
    That would be terrible.
  • An awareness of solitude.
  • Everyone's alone — or so it seems to me.
    They make noises, and think they are talking to each other;
    They make faces, and think they understand each other.
    And I'm sure they don't. Is that a delusion?
  • Can we only love
    Something created in our own imaginations?
    Are we all in fact unloving and unloveable?
    Then one is alone, and if one is alone
    Then lover and beloved are equally unreal
    And the dreamer is no more real than his dreams.
  • I shall be left with the inconsolable memory
    Of the treasure I went into the forest to find
    And never found, and which was not there
    And is perhaps not anywhere? But if not anywhere
    Why do I feel guilty at not having found it?
  • Disillusion can become itself an illusion
    If we rest in it.
  • It's not that I'm afraid of being hurt again:
    Nothing again can either hurt or heal.
    I have thought at moments that the ecstasy is real
    Although those who experience it may have no reality.
    For what happened is remembered like a dream
    In which one is exalted by intensity of loving
    In the spirit, a vibration of delight
    Without desire, for desire is fulfilled
    In the delight of loving.
    A state one does not know
    When awake. But what, or whom I love,
    Or what in me was loving, I do not know.
    And if all that is meaningless, I want to be cured
    Of a craving for something I cannot find
    And of the shame of never finding it.
  • Two people who know they do not understand each other,
    Breeding children whom they do not understand
    And who will never understand them.
  • In a world of lunacy
    Violence, stupidity, greed…it is a good life.
  • I feel it would be a kind of surrender —
    No, not a surrender — more like a betrayal.
    You see, I think I really had a vision or something
    Though I don't know what it is. I don't want to forget it.
    I want to live with it. I could do without everything
    Put up with anything, if I might cherish it.
  • There is another way, if you have the courage.
    The first I could describe in familiar terms
    Because you have seen it, as we all have seen it,
    Illustrated, more or less, in lives of those about us.
    The second is unknown, and so requires faith —
    The kind of faith that issues from despair.
    The destination cannot be described;
    You will know very little until you get there;
    You will journey blind.
    But the way leads towards possession
    Of what you have sought for in the wrong place.
  • Neither way is better.
    Both ways are necessary.
    It is also necessary
    To make a choice between them.
  • Those who take the other
    Can forget their loneliness. You will not forget yours.
    Each way means loneliness — and communion.
  • We must always take risks. That is our destiny.
  • I'd say that she suffered all that we should suffer
    In fear and pain and loathing — all these together —
    And reluctance of the body to become a thing.
    I'd say she suffered more, because more conscious
    Than the rest of us.
  • If we all were judged according to the consequences
    Of all our words and deeds, beyond the intention
    And beyond our limited understanding
    Of ourselves and others, we should all be condemned.
  • Only by acceptance of the past will you alter its meaning.
  • Every moment is a fresh beginning.

External links[edit]

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