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We learn to tolerate, like a low flame on the fire or like a low fever in the body, a “reasonable temperature-level of admitted cynicism.” We learn to feel that it is not intolerable to “be” self-compromised if one is open and amusing in discussion of that matter; or, again, that cynicism, charmingly admitted-to and interestingly described, in some sense cancels itself out. It is not corrupt to “be” corrupt so long as a person is perceptive and articulate concerning his corruption. At this point, as we know, the word itself becomes a distant and quite bearable designation, one scarcely having to do with our own being any longer, but a label identified rather with some interesting character of our late-at-night imagination.

Few people end up totally cold and icelike and removed from their own feelings of self-accusation, but it is a type we strive for and it is a model to which we often gruesomely aspire. It is this, that we should strive with all our hearts to find such desert regions, that appears to me most frightening and most horrible.

–Jonathan Kozol, The Night Is Dark and I Am Far from Home