“You live on the surface,” Lia told me years later. “You sometimes seem profound, but it’s only because you piece a lot of surfaces together to create the impression of depth, solidity. That solidity would collapse if you tried to stand it up.”
“Are you saying I’m superficial?”
“No,” she answered. “What others call profundity is only a tesseract, a four-dimensional cube. You walk in one side and come out another, and you’re in their universe, which can’t coexist with yours.”
What did I really think fifteen years ago? A nonbeliever, I felt guilty in the midst of all those believers. And since it seemed to me that they were in the right, I decided to believe, as you might decide to take an aspirin: It can’t hurt, and you might get better.
So there I was, in the midst of the Revolution, or at least in the most stupendous imitation of it, seeking an honorable faith. It was honorable, for example, to take part in rallies and marches. I chanted “Fascist scum, your time has come!” with everybody else. I never threw paving stones or ball bearings, out of fear that others might do unto me as I did unto them, but I experienced a kind of moral excitement escaping along narrow downtown streets when the police charged. I would come home with the sense of having performed a duty. In the meetings I remained untouched by the disagreements that divided the various groups: I always had the feeling that if you substituted the right phrase for another phrase, you could move from group to group. I amused myself by finding the right phrases. I modulated.
Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum.