If instead of being hanged by the neck you're thrown inside for not giving up hope in the world, your country, and people, if you do ten or fifteen years apart from the time you have left, you won't say, "Better I had swung from the end of a rope like a flag"-- you'll put your foot down and live. It may not be a pleasure exactly, but it's your solemn duty to live one more day to spite the enemy. Part of you may live alone inside, like a stone at the bottom of a well. But the other part must be so caught up in the flurry of the world that you shiver there inside when outside, at forty days' distance, a leaf moves. To wait for letters inside, to sing sad songs, or to lie awake all night staring at the ceiling is sweet but dangerous. Look at your face from shave to shave, forget your age, watch out for lice and for spring nights, and always remember to eat every last piece of bread-- also, don't forget to laugh heartily. And who knows, the woman you love may stop loving you. Don't say it's no big thing: it's like the snapping of a green branch to the man inside. To think of roses and gardens inside is bad, to think of seas and mountains is good. Read and write without rest, and I also advise weaving and making mirrors. I mean, it's not that you can't pass ten or fifteen years inside and more-- you can, as long as the jewel on the left side of your chest doesn't lose its luster!
Living is no laughing matter: you must live with great seriousness like a squirrel, for example— I mean without looking for something beyond and above living, I mean living must be your whole occupation. Living is no laughing matter: you must take it seriously, so much so and to such a degree that, for example, your hands tied behind your back, your back to the wall, or else in a laboratory in your white coat and safety glasses, you can die for people— even for people whose faces you've never seen, even though you know living is the most real, the most beautiful thing. I mean, you must take living so seriously that even at seventy, for example, you'll plant olive trees— and not for your children, either, but because although you fear death you don't believe it, because living, I mean, weighs heavier.
Let's say we're seriously ill, need surgery— which is to say we might not get up from the white table. Even though it's impossible not to feel sad about going a little too soon, we'll still laugh at the jokes being told, we'll look out the window to see if it's raining, or still wait anxiously for the latest newscast. . . Let's say we're at the front— for something worth fighting for, say. There, in the first offensive, on that very day, we might fall on our face, dead. We'll know this with a curious anger, but we'll still worry ourselves to death about the outcome of the war, which could last years. Let's say we're in prison and close to fifty, and we have eighteen more years, say, before the iron doors will open. We'll still live with the outside, with its people and animals, struggle and wind— I mean with the outside beyond the walls. I mean, however and wherever we are, we must live as if we will never die.
This earth will grow cold, a star among stars and one of the smallest, a gilded mote on blue velvet— I mean this, our great earth. This earth will grow cold one day, not like a block of ice or a dead cloud even but like an empty walnut it will roll along in pitch-black space . . . You must grieve for this right now —you have to feel this sorrow now— for the world must be loved this much if you're going to say "I lived". . .