`And do you think it's true? Do you think we really want a new gospel?' asked Gerald.
Birkin shrugged his shoulders.
`I think the people who say they want a new religion are the last to accept anything new. They want novelty right enough. But to stare straight at this life that we've brought upon ourselves, and reject it, absolutely smash up the old idols of ourselves, that we sh'll never do. You've got very badly to want to get rid of the old, before anything new will appear -- even in the self.'
Gerald watched him closely.
`You think we ought to break up this life, just start and let fly?' he asked.
`This life. Yes I do. We've got to bust it completely, or shrivel inside it, as in a tight skin. For it won't expand any more.'
There was a queer little smile in Gerald's eyes, a look of amusement, calm and curious.
`And how do you propose to begin? I suppose you mean, reform the whole order of society?' he asked.
Birkin had a slight, tense frown between the brows. He too was impatient of the conversation.
`I don't propose at all,' he replied. `When we really want to go for something better, we shall smash the old. Until then, any sort of proposal, or making proposals, is no more than a tiresome game for self- important people.'
The little smile began to die out of Gerald's eyes, and he said, looking with a cool stare at Birkin:
`So you really think things are very bad?'
The smile appeared again.
`In what way?'
`Every way,' said Birkin. `We are such dreary liars. Our one idea is to lie to ourselves. We have an ideal of a perfect world, clean and straight and sufficient. So we cover the earth with foulness; life is a blotch of labour, like insects scurrying in filth, so that your collier can have a pianoforte in his parlour, and you can have a butler and a motor-car in your up-to-date house, and as a nation we can sport the Ritz, or the Empire, Gaby Deslys and the Sunday newspapers. It is very dreary.'
Gerald took a little time to re-adjust himself after this tirade.
`Would you have us live without houses -- return to nature?' he asked.
`I would have nothing at all. People only do what they want to do -- and what they are capable of doing. If they were capable of anything else, there would be something else.'
Again Gerald pondered. He was not going to take offence at Birkin.
`Don't you think the collier's pianoforte, as you call it, is a symbol for something very real, a real desire for something higher, in the collier's life?'
`Higher!' cried Birkin. `Yes. Amazing heights of upright grandeur. It makes him so much higher in his neighbouring collier's eyes. He sees himself reflected in the neighbouring opinion, like in a Brocken mist, several feet taller on the strength of the pianoforte, and he is satisfied. He lives for the sake of that
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