on knitting and healing and other stuff

The Imp of the Perverse

Posted by Janis on February 25, 2007

I am in one of my ruts. So much to do, so little will to actually do it. For example: Friday was a beautiful sunny day.gargoylearc1.jpg I had a couple of meetings earlier in the day, then the whole afternoon free. Free! I could take the dogs for a long walk, I could sit outside and read, I could clean my grubby house, I could do our taxes so we could get our big fat refund, I could grade papers for my Monday night university students so they know if they’re passing or not, I could work on Somerset’s socks so they’d be in the mail on time.

I took a nap. The nap took place in a delightful sunbeam coming in my window just so, it’s true, but still… I took a nap. Of course, I didn’t sleep all night. I got up and started knitting. But the beautiful afternoon was gone and I’d squandered it on sleep. It must be said right here and now that I am not one of the poor souls who does not sleep well at night, suffers from insomnia, or simply cannot get to bed at a reasonable hour. Oh no, not me. I have my 8-9 hours every night, like clockwork. So it must be something else that compels me to fritter away my time this way. It must be what Edgar Allan Poe called “the imp of the perverse.” Bear with me for a rather long passage of that famous tale and see if it sounds familiar at all:

“We have a task before us which must be speedily performed. We know that it will be ruinous to make delay. The most important crisis of our life calls, trumpet-tongued, for immediate energy and action. We glow, we are consumed with eagerness to commence the work, with the anticipation of whose glorious result our whole souls are on fire. It must, it shall be undertaken to-day, and yet we put it off until to-morrow; and why? There is no answer, except that we feel perverse, using the word with no comprehension of the principle. To-morrow arrives, and with it a more impatient anxiety to do our duty, but with this very increase of anxiety arrives, also, a nameless, a positively fearful, because unfathomable, craving for delay. This craving gathers strength as the moments fly. The last hour for action is at hand. We tremble with the violence of the conflict within us, – of the definite with the indefinite – of the substance with the shadow. But, if the contest has proceeded thus far, it is the shadow which prevails, – we struggle in vain. The clock strikes, and is the knell of our welfare. At the same time, it is the chanticleer-note to the ghost that has so long over-awed us. It flies – it disappears – we are free. The old energy returns. We will labour now. Alas, it is too late! …

Examine these and similar actions as we will, we shall find them resulting solely from the spirit of the Perverse. We perpetrate them merely because we feel that we should not. Beyond or behind this, there is no intelligible principle. And we might, indeed, deem this perverseness a direct instigation of the Arch-Fiend, were it not occasionally known to operate in furtherance of good.

I have said thus much, that in some measure I may answer your question, that I may explain to you why I am here, that I may assign to you something that shall have at least the faint aspect of a cause for my wearing these fetters, and for my tenanting this cell of the condemned. Had I not been thus prolix, you might either have misunderstood me altogether; or with the rabble, you might have fancied me mad. As it is, you will easily perceive that I am one of the many uncounted victims of the Imp of the Perverse.” – Edgar Allan Poe

Alas, if only Edgar Allan had instructed us how to get rid of the little bastard.

* Holy imp of the perverse, Batman! I just stumbled on how to make the text wrap around the image! I guess the imp is good for something, after all…


2 Responses to “The Imp of the Perverse”

  1. Unless you are an infant, there are only 2 reasons why you would fall asleep during the day:
    1) You have narcolepsy.
    2) You are sleep deprived.

    Napping (and sleeping in general) is greatly under-rated in my opinion. Gives the brain and body time to heal.

  2. perlnumquist said

    I find it both a delight and a disappointment to discover, after much heartfelt examination of my own procrastination, that the definition the beast has already been achieved with so much more clarity and articulation than I could have mustered.
    Mr Poe captures the nature of the thing so accurately and perceptively that it makes me want to cast away this very laptop and go and plant potatoes or perform some other more rudimentary and less ambitious undertaking.
    One wonders if all the words that can ever be written in combination on a subject have already been set down by someone else and if it is worth even trying to be original.
    Nonetheless, I personally, and seemingly yourself, seem to continue to regard it as a worthwhile endeavour.
    If nothing else, I suppose it gives us a product from our procrastination that we at least feel has done us some good. Is that why we do it? I am sure there are also previously expressed wise words on even this thought!
    Well, that’s enough distraction for now. Conscience bids me return to the tasks I am paid for.

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