Repent!

“All right,” cried Allbee. “Now let me explain something to you. It’s a Christian idea, but I don’t see why you shouldn’t be able to understand it. ‘Repent!’ That’s John the Baptist coming out of the desert. Change yourself, that’s what he’s saying, and be another man. You must be and the reason for that is that you can be, and when you time comes here you will be. There’s another thing behind that ‘repent’; it’s that we know what to repent. How?” His unsmiling face compelled Leventhal’s attention. “I know. Everybody knows. But you’ve got to take away the fear of admitting by a still greater fear. I understand that doctors are beginning to give their patients electric shocks. They tear all hell out of them, and then they won’t trifle. You see, you have to get yourself so that you can’t stand to keep on in the old way. When you reach that stage–” he knotted his hands and the sinews rose up on his wrists. “It takes a long time before you’re ready to quit dodging. Meanwhile, the pain is horrible.” He blinked blindly several times as if to clear his eyes of an obstruction. “We’re mulish; that’s why we have to take such a beating. When we can’t stand another lick without dying of it, then we change. And some people never do. They stand there until the last lick falls and die like animals. Others have the strength to change long before. But repent means now, this minute and forever, without wasting any more time.”

“And this minute has arrived for you already?”

“Yes.”

  • Saul Bellow, The Victim
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