On Self by Susan Sontag

Sst_3
"On Keeping a Journal. Superficial to understand the journal as just a
receptacle for one’s private, secret thoughts — like a confidante who is deaf,
dumb and illiterate. In the journal I do not just express myself more openly
than I could to any person; I create myself.

The journal is a vehicle for my
sense of selfhood. It represents me as emotionally and spiritually independent.
Therefore (alas) it does not simply record my actual, daily life but rather — in
many cases — offers an alternative to it.


There is often a contradiction between the meaning of our actions
toward a person and what we say we feel toward that person in a journal. But
this does not mean that what we do is shallow, and only what we confess to
ourselves is deep. Confessions, I mean sincere confessions of course, can be
more shallow than actions. I am thinking now of what I read today (when I went
up to 122 Bd. St-G to check for her mail) in H’s journal about me — that curt,
unfair, uncharitable assessment of me which concludes by her saying that she
really doesn’t like me but my passion for her is acceptable and opportune. God
knows it hurts, and I feel indignant and humiliated. We rarely do know what
people think of us (or, rather, think they think of us).. . .Do I feel guilty
about reading what was not intended for my eyes? No. One of the main (social)
functions of a journal or diary is precisely to be read furtively by other
people, the people (like parents + lovers) about whom one has been cruelly
honest only in the journal. Will H. ever read this?"
 
On Self
By SUSAN SONTAG
Notebooks and diaries, 1958-1967.
 
The New York Times Sunday Magazine
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