Immerse Yourself

“In the destructive element immerse yourself” — Marlow to Jim in Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim.

At you can read, “Lord Jim, Conrad’s most famous work, is also his most extensive examination of a persistent theme: the conflict between an individual’s inner moral code and his or her outward actions.”

What happens is, Jim is crewing on a rotten tub full of pilgrims going to Mecca, and when the ship gets in trouble Jim goes over the side (along with the rest of the crew). So against all Jim’s moral principles he plunges into, immerses himself in, raw, immediate experience where it’s sink or swim. Always the profoundest challenge to one’s preformed code, immersion is a metaphor for death and rebirth.

Philip Roth, at, talks about the importance, to writers and non-writers alike, of immersing ourselves in the so-called destructive element, in line with the principle that what doesn’t destroy us makes us stronger and truer.

Immersing ourselves is a metaphor for all experience. It is not just life-transforming, it is life itself, and what does not end our life will be our life. Birth is our initial immersion — we are suddenly cast adrift in an overwhelming sea of sensory inputs. In a proper state of mind we can repeat that initial experience every time we open a door. So go ahead, open that door, immerse yourself.


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