The Impudence of Naivety

Indeed, there is nothing more vexing, for instance, than to be rich, of respectable family, of decent appearance, of rather good education, not stupid, even kind, and at the same time to have no talent, no particularity, no oddity even, not a single idea of one's own , to be decidedly "like everybody else." There is wealth, but not a Rothschild's; an honorable family, but which has never distinguished itself in any way; a decent appearance, but very little expression; a proper education, but without knowing what to apply it to; there is intelligence, but with no ideas of one's own; there's a heart, but with no magnanimity etc. etc., in all respects. There are a great many such people in the world and even far more than it seems; they are divided, as all people are, into two main categories: one limited, the other "much cleverer." The first are happier. For the limited "usual" man, for instance, there is nothing easier than to imagine himself an unusual and original man and to revel in it without any hesitation. As soon as some of our young ladies cut their hair, put on blue spectacles, and called themselves nihilists, they became convinced at once that, having put on the spectacles, they immediately began to have their own "convictions." As soon as a man feels in his heart just a drop of some sort of generally human and kindly feeling for something or other, he immediately becomes convinced that no one else feels as he does, that he is in the forefront of general development. As soon as a man takes some thought or other at its word or reads a little page of something without beginning or end, he believes at once that these are "his own thoughts" and were conceived in his own brain. The impudence of naivety, if one may put it so, goes so far in such cases as to be astonishing; all this is incredible, but one meets with it constantly. This impudence of naivety, this stupid man's unquestioningness of himself and his talent, is excellently portrayed by Gogol in the astonishing type of Lieutenant Pirogov...

-From The Idiot (Dostoevsky)

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