What’s that smell?

Why, it’s comedy giving off that scent…


I HAVE A LIST | OOOH JIGGLY! | DANDY-LIONS



Fetching a premium by Sam Gunn | You repel me from Sherlock | That’s what people do from Sherlock | Thunder Road by Jim Cummings | In Memoriam Mae Noblitt by A.R. Ammons | No Place Like Home by Nancy Franklin | Highly Relatable Fantasies for Everyone by Olivia de Recat | Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge read by Benedict Cumberbatch | Hedgehog in the Fog by Yuriy Norshteyn | The Aesthetic Splendor of ‘The Simpsons’ by Naomi Fry | The Periwig-Maker by Steffen Schäffler | Ocean Vuong on War, Sexuality, and Asian-American Identity | The Neighbor’s Window by Marshall Curry | The Carousel from Mad Men | Cambridge Sidewalk Poetry Map | Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye | Ted Turner asks Carl Sagan if he is a socialist | Kids meet a 101 year old | How the English language became such a mess by James Harbeck | The Chaos by Gerard NoIst Trenité | White Flowers by Mary Oliver | I Wanted to be Surprised by Jane Hirschfield | In Ulvic by Jane Hirschfield | Tatiana’s Letter to Onegin by Pushkin | A Trip Through New York City in 1911 | “You’re so quiet” | Two unaccompanied little children in a trench coat | Hyperfixation 


“I see now that giddiness is the eighth deadly sin.”

(Julie Walters in Brooklyn)


“Love the art in yourself and not yourself in the art.”

(Konstantin Stanislavski)


“If you can live your life without an audience, you should do it.”

(Bo Burnham)


“The important thing is to be there when the picture is painted.”

(John Minton)


“Hundred years, all new people”

(Ray Romano on You Made it Weird)


“At times I panicked at my responsibilities; when I did not, I worried that maybe I should.”

(Salvador Luria)


“Give me a book to read; don’t tell me what to do.”

(Anthony Jeselnik on DTFH)


“Chris Rock once told me, “If you’re going to make a special, make a special. Don’t make a normal.””

(Michael Che on You Made it Weird)


“The princess will be wearing something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Which is a pretty good guide for how to put together a 20 minute club stand up set.”

(from The Bugle Podcast episode 150)


“A sentence is but a cheveril glove to a good wit: how quickly the wrong side may be turned outward!”

[…] “Better a witty fool than a foolish wit.”

(from Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare)


“I learned that you can fail at what you don’t love, so you might as well do what you love. There’s really no choice to be made.”

(Jim Carey)


“I cannot sanction your buffoonery.” 

(Tommy Lee Jones to Jim Carey)


“Measure your mind’s height by the shade it casts.”

(Robert Browning)


“Poor is the man whose pleasure depends on the permission of another.”

(Madonna Ciccone)


“I hate that we are all educated people who don’t know what we’re doing, even though we can give a convincing pitch about what we are busy with at any moment. We were always taught rhetoric, but we were never taught sincerity, self-consciousness. These two were forced upon us, or perhaps we we’re forced upon them, but only when there was nothing else to grasp.”

(from Some Things Never Change by B.J.)


“In winter, in the snow, there was neither baseball nor football, so the boys and I threw snowballs at passing cars. I got in trouble throwing snowballs, and have seldom been happier since”

(from Being Chased by Annie Dillard)


Fitting

How fitting, she thought to herself
(or just thought as she was the only person
to whom she had ever thought).
How fitting, she thought, that her words,
after tumbling in her head all day,
came out shrunken
like they were meant for a child.

(from Egghead: Or, You Can’t Survive on Ideas Alone by Bo Burnham)


“Look around at what baffles you; look in at your peculiar self and how your own frontiers continue to edge back. Don’t worry, you’ll never fully grasp how the world transcends you and your ability to describe it… Now go and write.”

(from The Soul-Crushing Student Essay by Scott Korb)


“Yes, sometimes the offering drives. Like, if I had an idea, like, it should drive. But it’s just like the idea says, ‘Get in the car.’ And I’m like, ‘Where am I going?’ And the idea says, ‘Don’t worry, I’m driving.’ And then you just get there. Sometimes I’m shotgun. Sometimes I’m, like, in the fucking trunk. The idea takes you where it wants to go. And then other times, you know, there’s me, it’s my ego, like, ‘I should do something.’ [That’s not good] because there’s no idea in the car. It’s just me. That formula doesn’t work.”

(Dave Chappelle on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee)


“When I was starting out I used to sit down and write a couple times a week. And then one day I was watching these construction workers go back to work and I was watching them kind of trudging down the street and it was a revelation to me, and I realized, ‘These guys don’t want to go back to work after lunch, but they’re going. Cause that’s their job.’ And I think if they can exhibit that level of dedication for that job, I should be able to do the same. Just trudge your ass in.”

(Jerry Seinfeld)


“Sometimes in class I couldn’t stop laughing; things were too funny to be borne. It began then, my surprise that no one else saw what was so funny.”

(from Waking Up Wild by Annie Dillard)


“Reading fiction doesn’t help us escape the world, it helps us live in it”

(Harry Potter and the Sacred Text)


“I knew nothing but shadows and thought them to be real.”

(from The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde)


A Prayer

As the image of myself becomes sharper in my brain and more precious, I feel less afraid that someone else will erase me by denying me love.

(from Little Weirds by Jenny Slate)


“The whole electoral process is in the hands of don’t-trust-anyone-over-the-age-I-was-under-when-I-was-saying-don’t-trust-anyone-over-that-age.”

(from Hey, Hipsters: Please Save Us from Ted Cruz by P.J. O’Rourke)


Small Kindnesses

I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead — you first,” “I like your hat.”

(Danusha Laméris)


sonder

n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.

(from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows)


The Third Body

A man and a woman sit near each other, and they do not long
at this moment to be older, or younger, nor born
in any other nation, or time, or place.
They are content to be where they are, talking or not talking.
Their breaths together feed someone whom we do not know.
The man sees the way his fingers move;
he sees her hands close around a book she hands to him.
They obey a third body that they share in common.
They have made a promise to love that body.
Age may come, parting may come, death will come.
A man and a woman sit near each other;
as they breathe they feed someone we do not know,
someone we know of, whom we have never seen.

(Robert Bly)


“Look, when you die, people are going to be really, really, really sad; they’re going to ball, they’re going to be at your funeral, they’re going to be holding each other and quivering, yelling ‘Why would the universe do this?’ And then they’re going to go eat lunch.”

(Zach Braff on You Made it Weird)


“I don’t trust myself, I treat myself like a ticking time-bomb, a fragile person who can’t be alone; I treat others as my lifeline, doing whatever i can to please them so that they will take care of me.” 

(Valerie Chaney on ‘We Made it Weird #1’)


“You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of you hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

(from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams)


“If we teach our daughter, our children, or anybody, that it’s not safe to be anything but the good girl, the happy girl, the good person, the happy person… then they’ll learn to fake it and you’ll never see them again.”

(Pete Holmes on ‘We Made It Weird #4’)


Yesterday I thought
Of my love for you.
I remembered
The drops of honey on your lips,
I licked the sugar
Off the walls of my memory.

(Nizar Qabbani)


I forget how beautiful the night sky
looks when the moon shines
through the clouds.

I forget how important human
interactions are, how much it
matters to belong. To feel
understood. To exhale, relax, and
be your natural self without
worrying.

I am in awe of people.
Their idiosyncrasies, intellect,
kindness, curiosity, perseverance,
and depth.
Good people compensate for all of
the bad ones.

The world is cruel, but there are
moments so bright that they are
worth living for.

(Y.P.)


“I’ll be perfectly content if that’s how my story ends; sitting on the swing with the woman I love, my soul mate, and our two wonderful children nearby. I’ll sit there for a while and then maybe the four of us will go for a walk, each day trying to walk a little farther than the last. We’ll take things one step at a time, one day at a time. In fact, I think I’ll go sit in the swing for a bit right now. The weather is beautiful–the sun is shinning into a mild, mild looking sky, and there’s not a cloud in sight.”

(from The Answer Is.. by Alex Trebek)


“Most people are afraid of the dark. Literally when it comes to children, while many adults fear, above all, the darkness that is the unknown, the unseeable, the obscure. And yet the night in which distinctions and definitions cannot be readily made is the same night in which love is made, in which things merge, change, become enchanted, aroused, impregnated, possessed, released, renewed.”

(from Woolf’s Darkness by Rebecca Solnit)


Mark what you Knit
Knit what you Love
Love what you Knit
Knit will rut your Mark

(Navpreet Gill)


“Not all true or false statements are descriptions… many traditional philosophical perplexities have arisen through a mistake- the mistake of taking as straightforward statements of fact utterances which are either (In interesting non-grammatical ways) nonsensical or else intended as something quite different.

[…] But it does not by any means necessarily masquerade as a statement of fact, descriptive or constative. Yet it does quite commonly do so, and that, oddly enough, when it assumes its most explicit form

[…] Surely the words must be spoken ‘seriously’ and so as to be taken ‘seriously’? This is, though vague, true enough in general- it is important commonplace in discussing the purport of any utterance whatsoever

[…] Language in such circumstances is in special ways-intelligibly-used not seriously, but in ways parasitic upon its normal use- ways which fall under the doctrine of the etiolations of language”

(from How To Do Things With Words by J.L. Austin)


‘”Perhaps we should wait until morning.” “They’ll be mourning for you soon enough,” came a reply from directly above, and this was followed by a hideous cackling laugh very much like someone choking on a fishbone.

“I don’t think you understand,” said Milo timidly as the watchdog growled a warning. “We’re looking for a place to spend the night.” “It’s not yours to spend,” the bird shrieked again, and followed it with the same horrible laugh.

“That doesn’t make any sense, you see- ” he started to explain. “Dollars or cents, it’s still not yours to spend,” the bird replied haughtily.

“But I didn’t mean-” insisted Milo. “Of course you’re mean,” interrupted the bird. “Anyone who’d spend a night that doesn’t belong to him is very mean.”

“Well, I thought that by-” he tried again desperately. “That’s a difference story,” interjected the bird a bit more amiably. “If you want to buy, I’m sure I can arrange to sell, but with what you’re doing you’ll probably end up in a cell anyway.”

“That doesn’t seem right,” said Milo helplessly, for, with the bird taking everything the wrong way, he hardly knew what he was saying. “Agreed,” said the bird, with a sharp click of his beak, “but neither is it left, although if I were you I would have left a long time ago.”

“Let me try once more,” Milo said in an effort to explain. “In other words-” “You mean you have other words?” cried the bird happily. “Well, by all means, use them. You’re certainly not doing very well with the ones you have now.”

“Must you always interrupt like that?” said Tock irritably, for even he was becoming impatient. “Naturally,” the bird cackled; “it’s my job. I take the words right out of your mouth. Haven’t we met before? I’m the Everpresent Wordsnatcher.”

“Is everyone who lives in Ignorance like you?” asked Milo. “Much worse,” he said longingly. “But I don’t live here. I’m from a place very far away called Context.”

“Don’t you think you should be getting back?” suggested the bug, holding one arm up in front of him. “What a horrible thought.” The bird shuddered. “It’s such an unpleasant place that I spend almost all my time out of it.”

(from The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster)


“Jealousy is something that I struggle with… Cause it’s a useless allocation of time to become jealous. What I do to pull myself back from jealousy or when I feel jealous of someone is I say, “Would I trade my life for that person’s life one-for-one?” Or, “Would I trade my career for that person’s career one-for-one?” And usually I say, “No.” Because you can’t cherry pick what you want from other people’s lives.

People come here to make art and a lot of great artists move here. And the concentration of artists is unbelievable. And none of them really wanted to be rich. And then they show up here, and all of a sudden they want to be rich. Why?! I think it’s in part related to that thing of looking at other people and going, “Well, that person has a car… what is that, a Lexus? I guess I could have a Lexus if I took up something that I was less proud of.””

(Mike Birbiglia on You Made it Weird)


(on Pat Proft) “He is basically one of the most prolific comedy writers ever. I asked him, “How do you write?” And he said, “I get up in the morning, get dressed, put the jacket on, walk downstairs to my office, take my jacket off and close the door, sit down… and I write. I sit there until about 5 o’clock, get up and put the jacket on.”

People often say that they’ll write when they’ll feel like writing or when they really feel something compelled to get stuff done… And I think those are all lies. I tell comics that work is hard. Just like getting people into bed is hard, think about how hard you work at getting people to bed or how hard you work at getting drugs, work that hard on your career.

But the writing is about writing, when I write, I’m really really good, but it’s such a big commitment to write because you know what it means, you have to risk all else to write.”

(Louie Anderson on You Made it Weird)


“I think I just sometimes hate ridiculous titles. In terms of us being, “Well, Pete what do you do?” And you say, “I’m a stand-up comedian, I’m a performer, I’m a writer, I’m an artist.” Like, that makes sense. But then to say, “But, spiritually, what are you?” I’m here! Why do I have to be in a group? And why do you then have an assumption that I don’t want to associate with a group? When that fucking curtain drops, the same thing is going to happen! I think this alone is the initial thing that is keeping us from evolving in a higher or more communal way as a people. Let’s just put this aside that there is a next level and let’s just worry about this fucking level right now. And let’s get rid of this thing of always worrying about what’s next and just deal with what’s now.”

(Rory Scovel on You Made it Weird)


“Elsewhere in the interview, Colbert opened up about the plane crash that took the life of his father and two brothers when he was just 10, and how that tragedy informed his comedy. “It certainly gives you one step back from society or what is considered normality,” Colbert said. “Because it’s a shock to the system to lose your father and your brothers at that age. And school and friends and homework and that value system suddenly doesn’t mean anything any more. And I think it really helps if you’re doing comedy, or maybe even specifically doing satire, that what seems normal no longer has status.””

(from I’m Note Just a Pundit – I’m a Comedian by Daniel Kreps)


“America is an anomaly in the world. His candidacy has animated that thought that a multi-ethnic democracy, a multi-culture democracy is impossible. But that is what America is by its foundation and its constitution.

America is not natural. Natural is tribal. We’re fighting against thousands and thousands of years of human behavior and history to create something that no one’s ever created… that’s what’s exceptional about it. It ain’t easy! It’s an incredible thing!”

(from an interview with Jon Stewart by Charlie Rose)


“I can’t assume that the money chase didn’t alter me in some ways… Increasingly I found myself spending time with people of means — law firm partners and investment bankers, hedge fund managers and venture capitalists. As a rule, they were smart, interesting people, knowledgeable about public policy, liberal in their politics, expecting nothing more than a hearing of their opinions in exchange for their checks. But they reflected, almost uniformly, the perspectives of their class: the top 1 percent or so of the income scale that can afford to write a $2,000 check to a political candidate. They believed in the free market and an educational meritocracy; they found it hard to imagine that there might be any social ill that could not be cured by a high SAT score. They had no patience with protectionism, found unions troublesome, and were not particularly sympathetic to those whose lives were upended by the movements of global capital. Most were adamantly prochoice and antigun and were vaguely suspicious of deep religious sentiment.

And although my own worldview and theirs corresponded in many ways — I had gone to the same schools, after all, had read the same books, and worried about my kids in many of the same ways — I found myself avoiding certain topics during conversations with them, papering over possible differences, anticipating their expectations. On core issues I was candid; I had no problem telling well-heeled supporters that the tax cuts they’d received from George Bush should be reversed. Whenever I could, I would try to share with them some of the perspectives I was hearing from other portions of the electorate: the legitimate role of faith in politics, say, or the deep cultural meaning of guns in rural parts of the state.

Still, I know that as a consequence of my fund-raising I became more like the wealthy donors I met, in the very particular sense that I spent more and more of my time above the fray, outside the world of immediate hunger, disappointment, fear, irrationality, and frequent hardship of the other 99 percent of the population — that is, the people that I’d entered public life to serve. And in one fashion or another, I suspect this is true for every senator: The longer you are a senator, the narrower the scope of your interactions. You may fight it, with town hall meetings and listening tours and stops by the old neighborhood. But your schedule dictates that you move in a different orbit from most of the people you represent.

And perhaps as the next race approaches, a voice within tells you that you don’t want to have to go through all the misery of raising all that money in small increments all over again. You realize that you no longer have the cachet you did as the upstart, the fresh face; you haven’t changed Washington, and you’ve made a lot of people unhappy with difficult votes. The path of least resistance — of fund-raisers organized by the special interests, the corporate PACs, and the top lobbying shops — starts to look awfully tempting, and if the opinions of these insiders don’t quite jibe with those you once held, you learn to rationalize the changes as a matter of realism, of compromise, of learning the ropes. The problems of ordinary people, the voices of the Rust Belt town or the dwindling heartland, become a distant echo rather than a palpable reality, abstractions to be managed rather than battles to be fought.”

(from The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama)


“I just think it’s hypocritical. Everyone’s racist, everyone’s sexist, everyone’s homophobic, everyone’s elitist, everyone’s everything. And they try to cleanse their own guilt by castigating other people. I believe that everyone who rails against another person is something but was fortunate enough to not be caught doing it in public. And it’s also just really fashionable to not be those things. I know I’m a little bit everything. And the reason I say it is because I know that you are, too, if you’re being honest with yourself.”

(Neal Brennan on You Made it Weird)


“I think it’s a life-long wrestling match with the back of my brain. In the sense that whatever doubt or fear or anger or resentment that I have towards anyone else or towards any other thing that I’m experiencing on a day to day basis really is just a parallel to somebody who’ll tell you that, “You’ll go to hell if you fuck a guy in the ass.”

You know what I mean, it’s exactly the same. It’s all the same battle that we’re all facing. It’s like survival, your survival instincts… “I have to survive so I have to be in control of something. I have to be in control of something so that I have power and the best way to do that is to know exactly how everything is and the way that everything’s meant to be. And how am I going to know that for sure? Well, I’ll define it. Ok, well I’m not smart enough to write a book so this book works for me. This is what the way it is and if you disagree with that, then you disagree with me and with everything that I believe in. And you’re trying to affect the power that I have over my life and on the world around me. And I’ll fucking kill you dead if you do!””

(Nate Craig on You Made it Weird)


“Everyone is basing their belief system on incomplete information, because no one has taken in everything there is to take in. So, to be so adamant that you’re right when the very next book on the bookshelf might change your mind is very arrogant. It’s OK to go, “Here’s where I am right now. Here’s what I believe right now. I feel pretty strongly about this or that.”

But it’s challenging for me when someone doesn’t approach everything, including religious beliefs, with a sense of wonder.”

(Brian Regan on You Made it Weird)


“All these people are just sitting around bragging about their ego death, they saw themselves die, now they don’t have an ego anymore… but they’re bragging about it! If you don’t have a fucking ego, then why are you bragging about this. I’m pretty sure your ego is alive and well.”

(Shane Mauss on You Made it Weird)


“… which I’m sure to me was very far from being a tempting sight, or from giving me any other emotions than those of horror and disgust: their skins appeared so coarse and uneven. […] The nipple was about half the bigness of my head, and the hue both of that and the dug, so varies with spots, pimples and freckles, that nothing could appear more nauscous: for I had a near sight of her. This made me reflect upon the fair skins of our English ladies, who appear so beautiful to us, only because they are of our own size, and their defects not to be seen through a magnifying glass; where we find by experiment that the smoothest and whitest skins looks rough, and coarse, and ill-coulored.

I remember, when I was at Lilliput, the complexion of those diminutive people appeared to me the fairest in the world; and talking upon this subject with a person of learning these, who was an intimate friend of mine, he said that my face appeared much fairer and smoother when he looked on me from the ground, than it did upon a nearer view, when I took him up in my hand, and brought him close, which he confessed was at first a very shocking sight. He said, “he could discover great holes in my skin; that the stumps of my bear were ten times stronger than the bristles of a boar, and my complexion made up of several colours altogether disagreeable.” Although I must beg leave to say for myself, that I am as fair as most of my sex and country, and very little sun-burnt by all my travels. On the other side, discoursing of the ladies in that emperor’s court, he used to tell me, “one had freckles, another too wide a mouth, a third too large a nose” nothing of which I was able to distinguish.”

(from Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift)


“Carrey recalls an epiphany he had during the early stages of his own standup career. He had struggled to determine what the audiences who watched him wanted, and one night, he says, he shot out of bed with the answer: ‘They want to be free from concern.’ The best way to provide that kind of transporting release, he decided, was to become free from concern himself onstage—to lean into his maddest physical and mental instincts, and to give himself fully over to what he refers to as his Hyde, a latent personality devoted to pleasing others by exploring the outer extremes of performance. Think of all his faces, tics, catchphrases, and pratfalls—the disfiguring and humbling of his body in front of others for their delight and approval.”

(from Jim Carrey Ceases to Exist in ‘Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond’ by Ian Crouch)


“For people she may have had affection, but she formed no binding ties. ‘I had not adjusted myself, from the time I was young, to being closely associated with anybody, even members of my family.’… Looking back on her life, she could not recognize ‘that strong necessity for a personal attachment to anybody.’ Marriage, then, was beside the point. Evelyn Witkin, a bacterial geneticist at Cold Spring Harbor from 1945 to 1955, became a close friend. In an interview in 1996, Witkin said that McClintock ‘found it very hard to imagine how anybody could share a life with someone, for instance in marriage. This was something that she could not conceive of for herself. She actually told me that it was very difficult for her to imagine how anybody could do it. In 1978, McClintock said the same to Keller: ‘I never could understand marriage. Let me put it this way: I really do not even understand it, because I didn’t go through that experience of requiring it.'”

(from The Tangled Field by Nathaniel C. Comfort)


“We hear a lot about the power of vulnerability these days — how important it is to be real with each other, how it’s our darkest, hardest times we need to share with those around us. What’s missing from that conversation is how quickly we respond to vulnerability with correction or encouragement or condemnation. When someone shares the pain they’re in, we jump in to cheer them up. We judge how well they’re dealing with things. We believe that there’s a right and a wrong way to grieve, and if you don’t return to “normal” (aka: happy) quickly, you’re not doing it right. There’s a shelf-limit for sadness, as there is for most expressions of grief, and it’s far shorter than you think.”

[…] “Not knowing how to support ourselves and each other inside grief isn’t really our fault. We’ve had decades of training in looking on the bright side. All of our movies and books are stories of redemption and transformation. Our social media memes glorify those who put their pain behind them and go on to live “even better lives.” We believe that a positive attitude changes everything. Things always work out in the end. We believe that only happiness is healthy and normal. Anything less than that means there’s a problem. We give people advice on how to feel better. We label people “mentally ill” when they’re feeling sad, when they claim that loss has deeply and irrevocably changed them. It’s what we’ve learned to do.”

(from ‘Stay Strong,’ And Other Useless Drivel We Tell The Grieving by Megan Devine)


“What causes this emotional self-sabotage? Clance and Imes found that childhood experiences typically begin the cycle. Sufferers were often valued for their intelligence, giving rise to self-doubts and feelings of fraudulence when excellent grades don’t materialize in graduate school and, later, when a new postdoc or new job isn’t a breeze. ‘A lot of high achievers grew up in families where they are given approval for achievement but not given much validation for their feelings,’ Imes explains. ‘So they grow up thinking their worth or value is tied only to achievement.’ … ‘One of my strategies is to reread papers of mine and remind myself:  Wow, that was great, that was such a good paper.’ … Make a list of your strengths. Look back at examples of your own successful work, or positive reviews, and remind yourself of your own accomplishments.”

(from Unmasking the Imposter by Karen Kaplan)


“A more important message from me would be that, “Hey, everybody, let’s just calm down a little bit.” There’s this fantastic book by, probably my favorite scientist, Robert Sapolsky… the gist of it is: Basically every mammal has about the same stress response system. So, a zebra sees a lion and releases these glucocorticoids and cortisol and what that does is that it delegates energy to the parts that need it. “Let’s shut down the digestion, we don’t really need it. We don’t really need the immune system right now. Don’t need the sex drive, there’s no time for a boner. Let’s just get the energy to our legs and let’s get the hell out of here!” And then, the zebras get away and then they go back and these hormones dial everything back down and they go back to eating grass and relaxing. And this was necessary for them to have…

The problem with humans is that we can think so subjectively about all of these big subjective ideas and can see so far into the future that we’re setting off this stress response for our 401k. And it’s never dialing down… So, our dicks aren’t working, our digestive systems are not working, our immune systems are falling apart. And it’s fucking everyone up.”

(Shane Mauss on the Duncan Trussell Family Hour)


“Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it’s to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential-as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth. You’ll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you’ll hear about them.”

(from Some Thoughts on the Real World by One who Glimpsed it and Fled by Bill Watterson; from cartoon depiction of Bill Watterson’s words by Gaving Aung Tang)


“For as long as I could remember, I had been transparent to myself, unself-conscious, learning, doing, most of every day. Now I was in my own way; I myself was a dark object I could not ignore. I couldn’t remember how to forget myself. I didn’t want to think about myself, to reckon myself in, to deal with myself every livelong minute on top of everything else- but swerve as I might, I couldn’t avoid it. I was a boulder blocking my own path. I was a dog barking between my own ears, a barking dog who wouldn’t hush. 

So the was adolescence. Was this how the people around me had died on their feet- inevitably, helplessly? Perhaps their own selves eclipsed the sun for so many years the world shriveled around them, and when at last their inescapable orbits had passed through these dark egoistic years, it was too late; they had adjusted. 

Must I then lose the world forever, that I had so loved? Was it all, the whole bright and various planet, where I had been so ardent about finding myself alive, only a passion peculiar to children, that I would outgrow even against my will?”

(from Waking Up Wild by Annie Dillard)


“These Mr. Know-it-alls are occasionally, even quite frequently, to be met with in a certain social stratum. They know everything, all the restless inquisitiveness of their minds and all their abilities are turned irresistibly in one direction, certainly for lack of more important life interests and perspectives, as a modern thinker would say. The phrase ‘they know all’ implies, however, a rather limited sphere: where so-and-so works, who he is acquainted with, how much he is worth, where he was governor, who he is married to, how much his wife brought him, who his cousins are, who his cousins twice removed are, etc., etc., all in the same vein. For the most part these know-it-alls go about with holes at the elbows and earn a salary of seventeen roubles a month. The people whose innermost secretes they know would, of course, be unable to understand what interests guide them, and yet many of them are positively consoled by this knowledge that amounts to a whole science; they achieve self-respect and even the highest spiritual satisfaction. Besides, it is a seductive science. I have known scholars, writers, poets, political activists who sought and found their highest peace and purpose in this science, who passively made their careers by it alone.”

 […] “‘… But I’ll learn not to disturb you and figure it out quickly, because I myself don’t like to disturb… And, finally, it seems to me that we’re such different people, by the look of it… in many ways, that we perhaps cannot have many points in common, only, you know, I personally don’t believe in that last notion, because it often only seems that there are no points in common, when there really are a lot… it comes from people’s laziness, that they sort themselves out by looks and can’t find anything… But, anyhow, maybe I’ve begun to bore you?’”

[…] “Her forehead was high but narrow; her gray, rather large eyes sometimes had a most unexpected expression. She had once had the weakness of believing that her gaze produced an extraordinary effect; that conviction remained indelible in her.”

[…] “‘It surprises me that you laugh so genuinely. You really have a childlike laugh. When you came in to make peace with me and said: ‘If you want, I’ll kiss your hand,’ it was like children making peace. Which means you’re still capable of such words and gestures. Then suddenly you start reading a whole lecture about all this darkness and the seventy-five thousand roubles. Really it’s all somehow absurd and cannot be.’”

[…] “…; but he had spoken so unseriously each time that it had been impossible to believe him. Besides, he even spoke about serious things with such a jocular air that it was quite impossible to make him out, especially if he himself did not want to be made out.”

[…] “Lizaveta Prokofyevna was a hothead and a passionate lady, so that suddenly and at once, without thinking long, she would sometimes raise all anchors and set out for the open sea without checking the weather.”

[…] “Even the thought of the forthcoming marriage is loathsome to her, and she takes offense at it. Of him she thinks as much as of an orange peel, not more, or else more, but with fear and horror, she even forbids all mention of him, and they see each other only by necessity.”

[…] “‘-but I’m superfluous in society… I don’t say it out of vanity… I was thinking it over during these three days and decided that I should inform you candidly and nobly at the first opportunity. There are certain ideas, there are lofty ideas, which I ought not to start talking about, because I’ll certainly make everyone laugh;…’”

[…] “… we wanted to talk about practical people. Here there is no doubt that timidity and a total lack of personal initiative have always been regarded among us as the chiefest and best sign of the practical man- and are so regarded eve now. But why blame only ourselves- if this opinion can be considered an accusation? Lack of originality, everywhere, all over the world, from time immemorial, has always been considered the foremost quality and the best recommendation of the active, efficient and practical man, and at least ninety-nine out of a hundred people (at least that) have always held to that notion, and only perhaps one out of a hundred people has constantly looked and still looks at it differently.

Inventors and geniuses, at the beginning of their careers (and very often at the end as well), have almost always been regarded in society as no more than fools- that is a most routine observation, well known to everyone… if decorous timidity and a decent lack of originality have constituted among us up to now, according to a generally accepted conviction, the inalienable quality of the sensible and respected man, it would be all too unrespectable and even indecent to change quite so suddenly. What mother, for instance, tenderly loving her child, would not become frightened and sick with fear if her son or daughter went slightly off the rails: ‘No, better let him be happy and live in prosperity without originality,’ every mother thinks as she rocks her baby to sleep. And our nannies, rocking babies to sleep, from time immemorial have cooed and crooned: ‘You shall go all dressed in gold, you shall be a general bold!’ And so, even among our nannies, the rank of general was considered the limit of Russian happiness and, therefore, was the most popular national ideal of beautiful, peaceful felicity… Thus the Russian man, almost without any effort, finally attained the title of a sensible and practical man. In essence, the only one among us who cannot make a general of himself is the original- in other words, the troublesome- man.”

[…] “’And it was during those hours that ‘the ultimate conviction’ flared up in me. I am astonished now at how I could have lived for a whole six months without this ‘conviction’! I knew positively that I had consumption and it was incurable; I did not deceive myself and understood the matter clearly. But the more clearly I understood it, the more convulsively I wanted to live; I clung to life and wanted to live whatever the cost. I agree that I could have become angry then at the dark and blank fate which had decreed that I be squashed like a fly, and, of course without knowing why; but why did I not end just with anger? Why did I actually begin to live, knowing that it was no longer possible for me to begin; why did I try, knowing that there was no longer anything to try? And meanwhile I could not even read through a book and gave up reading; why read, why learn for six months? This thought made me drop a book more than once.

… Well, who is not going to consider me a runt who knows nothing of life, forgetting that I am no longer eighteen years old; forgetting that to live as I have lived for these six months means to live till you’re gray-haired! But let them laugh and say that it is all tall tales. I did really tell myself tall tales. I filled whole nights with them; I remember them all now. 

But do I really have to tell them again now- now, when the time for tall tales is past for me as well? And to whom! For I delighted in them then, when I saw clearly that I was forbidden even to study Greek grammar, as I once conceived of doing: ‘I won’t get as far as the syntax before I die’- I thought at the first page and threw the book under the table. It is still lying there…

Let him into whose hands my ‘Explanation’ falls and who has enough patience to read it, consider me a crazy person or even a schoolboy, or most likely of all, a man condemned to death, to whom it naturally seemed that all people except himself value their life too little, are accustomed to spending it too cheaply, too lazily, use it much too shamelessly, and are therefore unworthy of it one and all! And what then? I declare that my reader will be mistaken, and that my conviction is completely independent of my death sentence. Ask them, only ask them one and all, what they understand by happiness? Oh, you may be sure that Columbus was happy not when he had discovered America, but when he was discovering it; you may be sure that the highest moment of his happiness was, perhaps, exactly three days before the discovery of the New World, when the mutinous crew in their despair almost turned the ship back to Europe, right around! The New World is not the point here, it can just as well perish. Columbus died having seen very little of it and in fact not knowing what he had discovered. The point is in life, in life alone- in discovering it, constantly and eternally, and not at all in the discovery itself!’”

[…] “’How do you know, Bakhmutov, what meaning this communion of one person with another will have in the destiny of the person communed with?… Here the whole life stands before us and a countless number of ramifications that are hidden from us. The best chess player, the sharpest of them, can calculate only a few moves ahead; one French player, who could calculate ten moves ahead, was written about as a wonder. And how many moves are there, and how much is unknown to us? In sowing your seed, in sowing your ‘charity,’ your good deed in whatever form it takes, you give away part of your person and receive into yourself part of another’s’ you mutually commune in each other; a little more attention, and you will be rewarded with knowledge, with the most unexpected discoveries. You will be bound, finally, to look at your work as a science; it will take in the whole of your life and maybe fill the whole of it. On the other hand, all your thoughts, all the seeds you have sown, which you may already have forgotten, will take on flesh and grow; what was received from you will be passed on to someone else. And how do you know what share you will have in the future outcome of human destiny?’”

[…] “’What do I need your nature for, your Pavlovsk park, your sunrises and sunsets, your blue sky, and your all-contented faces, when this whole banquet, which has no end, began by counting me alone as superfluous? What do I care about all this beauty, when every minute, every second, I must and am forced to know that even this tiny fly that is now buzzing near me in a ray of sunlight, even it participates in this banquet and chorus, knows its place, loves it, and is happy, while I alone am a castaway, and only in my pusillanimity did not want to understand it till now!’”

[…] “His anguish continued; he would have liked to go away somewhere… He did not know where. Above him in the tree a little bird was singing, and he started searching for it with his eyes among the leaves; suddenly the bird flew away from the tree, and at that moment for some reason he recalled the ‘little fly’ in a ‘hot ray of sunlight,’ of which Ippolit had written that even this fly ‘knows its place and participates in the general chorus, and he alone was castaway.’ This phrase had struck him earlier, and he remembered it now. A long-forgotten memory stirred in him and suddenly became clear all at once.

It was in Switzerland, during the first year of his treatment, even during the first months. He was still quite like an idiot then, could not even speak properly, and sometimes did not understand what was required of him. Once he went into the mountains on a clear, sunny day, and wandered about for a long time with a  tormenting thought that refused to take shape. Before him was the shining sky, below him the lake, around him the horizon, bright and infinite, as if it went on forever. For a long time he looked and suffered. He remembered now how he had stretched out his arms to that bright, infinite blue and wept. What had tormented him was that he was a total stranger to it all. What was this banquet, what was this great everlasting feast, to which had long been drawn, always, ever since childhood, and which he could never join? Every morning the same bright sun rises; every morning there is a rainbow over the waterfall; every evening the highest snowcapped mountain, there, far away, at the edge of the sky burns with a crimson flame; every ‘little fly that buzzes near him in a hot ray of sunlight participates in this whole chorus: knows its place, loves it, and is happy’; every little blade of grass grows and is happy! And everything has its path, and everything knows its path, goes with a song and comes back with a  song; only he knows nothing, understands nothing, neither people nor sounds, a stranger to everything and a castaway. Oh, of course, he could not speak then with these words and give voice to his question; he suffered blankly and mutely…”

[…] “There are people of whom it is difficult to say anything that would present them at once and fully, in their most typical and characteristic aspect; these are those people who are usually called ‘ordinary’ people, the ‘majority,’ and who indeed make up the vas majority in any society. Writers in their novels and stories for the most party try to take social types and present them graphically and artistically- types which in their full state are met extremely rarely in reality and which are nonetheless almost more real than reality itself… Nonetheless, a question remains before us all the same: what is a novelist to do with ordinary, completely ‘usual’ people, and how can he present them to the reader so as to make them at least somewhat interesting? To bypass them altogether in a story is quite impossible, because ordinary people are constantly and for the most part the necessary links in the chain of everyday events; in bypassing them we would thus violate plausibility. To fill novels with nothing but types or even simply, for the sake of interest, with strange and nonexistent people, would be implausible- and perhaps uninteresting as well. In our opinion, the writer should try to seek out interesting and instructive nuances even among ordinary people. And when, for instance, the very essence of certain ordinary people consists precisely in their permanent and unchanging ordinariness, or, better still, when, despite all the extreme efforts of these people to get out of the rut of the usual and the routine, they end up all the same by remaining unchangingly and eternally in one and the same routine, then such people even acquire a kind of typicality- as that ordinariness which refuses to remain what it is and wants at all costs to become original and independent, but has not the slightest means of achieving independence…

Indeed, there is nothing more vexing, for instance, than to be rich, of respectable family, of decent appearance, of rather good education, not stupid, even kind, and at the same time to have no talent, no particularity, no oddity even, not a single idea of one’s own, to be decidedly ‘like everybody else.’ There is wealth… but which has never distinguished itself in any way; a decent appearance, but very little expression, a proper education, but without knowing what to apply it to; there is intelligence, but with no ideas of one’s own; there is a heart, but with no magnanimity, etc., etc., in all respects. There are a great many such people in the world and even far more than it seems; they are divided, as all people are, into two main categories: one limited, the other ‘much cleverer.’ The first are happier. For the limited ‘usual’ man, for instance, there is nothing easier than to imagine himself an unusual and original man and to revel in it without any hesitation… As soon as a man feels in his heart just a drop of some sort of a generally human and kindly feeling for something or other, he immediately becomes convinced that no one else feels as he does, that he is in the forefront of general development. As soon as a man takes some thought or other at its word or reads a little par of something without beginning or end, he believes at once that these are ‘his own thoughts’ and were conceived in his own brain. The impudence of naïvety, if one may put it so, goes so far in such cases as to be astonishing; all this is incredible, but one meets with it constantly…

[The category of people who are ‘much cleverer’], as we have already noted above, is much more unhappy than the first. The thing is that a clever ‘usual’ man, even if he imagines himself momentarily (or perhaps throughout his life) to be a man of genius and originality, nevertheless preserves in his heart a little worm of doubt, which drives him so far that the clever ma sometimes ends up in complete despair; if he submits, then he is already completely poisoned by vanity turned in upon itself. However, we have in any case chosen an extreme instance: in the great majority of this clever category of people, things generally do not go so tragically; the liver gives out more or less towards the end of his days, and that’s all. But still, before reconciling and submitting these people sometimes spend an extremely long time acting up, from their youth till the age of submission, and all out of a desire to be original. One even comes upon strange cases: some honest man, out of desire to be original, is even ready to commit a base deed; it can even happen that one of these unhappy persons is not only honest but even kind, the providence of his family, who by his labor supports and provides not only for his own but even for others- and what then? All his life he is unable to be at peace! For him, the thought that he has fulfilled his human obligations so well brings neither peace nor comfort; on the contrary, that is even what irritates him: ‘This,’ he says, ‘is what I’ve blown my whole life for, this is what has bound me hand and foot, this is what has kept me from discovering gunpowder! If it hadn’t been for that, I’d certainly have discovered it!’ What is most characteristic in these gentlemen is that all their lives they are indeed unable to find out for sure what precisely they need so much to discover: gunpowder or America? But of suffering, of longing for discovery, they have truly enough of a share in them for a Columbus or a Galileo.”

[…] “’Forgive a foolish, bad, spoiled girl and be assured that we all have boundless respect for you. And if I dared to make a mockery of your beautiful, kind simple-heartedness, then forgive me as you would a child for a prank; forgive me that I insisted on an absurdity which, of course, cannot have the least consequences’”

[…] “’To be surprised at nothing, they say, is a sign of great intelligence; in my opinion, it might serve equally as a sign of great stupidity…’”

(from The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky)


“…Repetition is a mode of intensification, accumulating power as it progresses, a repeated probing for an exit from its own reiterations. Finally, the practice of repetition is not, of course, confined to words, phrases or sentences. It extends to the organization of incident and episode, allowing us to see the pattern of rise and fall, near-escape and then further imprisonment that gives the work its convoluted form. Out of all these repetitions we see the slow emergence of a Stephen who will no longer be victim to them, just as, on another level, we see the emergence of Stephen into the first and out of the third person, the gradual liberation of his language from that of others. In fact, repetition is, in its monotony, variety and intensity, the rhetoric of hell, and, as in hell, its worst aspect is that it goes on forever.It is from this that Stephen must escape. It is from the very carefully construed, aurally dominant prose, in which one phrase lapses into another, that he must break free into the more staccato, declarative prose of his diary… But he does not escape from his Ireland: he escapes with it. He brings it into another world. He wants to absolve it from the fate of sameness, the monotony of a repetition that becomes merely farcical.”

[…] “Parnell almost made the Irish into individuals; that was the real version of Home Rule that he offered. Once they refused it, the battle for individuality was resumed by the artist, availing of the long romantic tradition of radical selfhood to support his position. Parnell is, in that respect, the leader who almost redeemed the Irish from their oppression; but what he revealed was that the oppression was not inflicted by the English alone; the Irish had introjected the oppression; they had become experts in oppressing themselves. That was why they hated individuality, why they hated the artist and why they turned upon Parnell. They could not take on the responsibility of becoming themselves; they turned instead into the infernal mob condition to which earlier in their history they had been reduced.”

(from an Introduction to A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by Richard Brown)


“The tradition of all generations of the dead weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living. And just when they seem involved in revolutionizing themselves and things, in creating something that has never before existed, it is precisely in such periods of revolutionary crisis that they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service and borrow names, battle cries and costumes from them in order to act out the new scene of world history in this time-honored disguise and this borrowed language.”

(from The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte by Karl Marx)


“It pained him that he did not know well what politics meant and that he did not know where the universe ended. He felt small and weak. When would he be like the fellows in poetry and rhetoric? They had big voices and big boots and they studied trigonometry. That was very far away. First came the vacation and then the next term and then vacation again and then again another term and then again the vacation. It was like a train going in and out of tunnels and that was like the noise of the boys eating in the refectory when you opened and closed the flaps of the ears. Term, vacation; tunnel, out; noise, stop.”

[…] “He returned to Mercedes and, as he brooded upon her image, a strange unrest crept into his blood. Sometimes a fever gathered within him and leg him to rove alone in the evening along the quiet avenue. The peace of the gardens and the kindly lights in the windows poured a tender influence into his restless heart. The noise of children at play annoyed him and their silly voices made him feel, even more keenly than he had felt at Clongowes, that he was different from others. He did not want to play. He wanted to meet in the real world the unsubstantial image which his should so constantly beheld. He did not know where to seek it or how: but a premonition which led him on told him that this image would, without any overt act of his, encounter him. They would meet quietly as if they had known each other and had made their tryst, perhaps at one of the gates or in some more secret place. They would be alone, surrounded by darkness and silence: and in that moment of supreme tenderness he would be transfigured. He would fade into something impalpable under her eyes and then in a moment, he would be transfigured. Weakness and timidity and inexperience would fall from him in that magic moment.”

[…] “He went once or twice with his mother to visit their relatives: and, though they passed a jovial array of shops lit up and adorned for Christmas, his mood of embittered silence did not leave him. The causes of his embitterment were many, remote and near. He was angry with himself for being young and the prey of restless foolish impulses, angry also with the change of fortune which was reshaping the world about him into a vision of squalor and insincerity. Yet his anger lent nothing to the vision. He chronicled with patience what he saw, detaching himself from it and tasting its mortifying flavour in secret.”

[…] “His mind seemed older than theirs: it shone coldly on their strifes and happiness and regrets like a moon upon a younger earth. No life or youth stirred in him as it had stirred in them. He had known neither the pleasure of companionship with others nor the vigour of rude male health nor filial piety. Nothing stirred within his soul but a cold and cruel and loveless lust. His childhood was dead or lost and with it his soul capable of simple joys, and he was drifting amid life like the barren shell of the moon.”

[…] “In this life our sorrows are either not very long or not very great because nature either overcomes them by habits or puts an end to them by sinking under their weight.”

[…] “He sat near them at the table and asked where his father and mother were. One answered:

-Goneboro toboro lookboro atboro aboro houseboro.

Still another removal! A boy named Fallon in Belvedere had often asked him with a silly laugh why they moved so often. A frown of scorn darkened quickly his forehead as heard again the silly laugh of the questioner. 

He asked:

-Why are we on the move again, if it’s a fair question? 

The sister answered:

-Becauseboro theboro landboro lordboro willboro putboro usboro outboro.

The voice of his youngest brother from the farther side of the fireplace began to sing the air Oft in the Stilly Night. One by one the others took up the air until a full choir of voices was singing. They would sing so for hours, melody after melody, glee after glee, till the last pale light died down on the horizon, till the first dark nightclouds came forth and night fell.”

[…] “-You are an artist, are you not, Mr. Dedalus? said the dean, glancing up and blinking his pale eyes. The object of the artist is the creation of the beautiful. What the beautiful is is another question.”

[…] “-When may we expect something from you on the esthetic question? he asked.

-From me! said Stephen in astonishment. I stumble on an idea once a fortnight if I am lucky.

-These questions are very profound, Mr. Dedalus, said the dean. It is like looking down from the cliffs of Moher into the depths. Many go down into the depths and never come up. Only the trained diver can go down into those depths and explore them and come to the surface again.

-If you mean speculation, sir, said Stephen, I also am sure that there is no such thing as free thinking inasmuch as all thinking must be bound by its own laws. 

-Ha!

-For my purpose I can work on at present by the light of one or two ideas of Aristotle and Aquinas.

-I see. I quite see your point.

-I need them only for my own use and guidance until I have done something for myself by their light. If the lamp smokes or smells I shall try to trim it. If it does not give light enough I shall sell it and buy another.”

[…] “His father’s whistle, his mother’s mutterings, the screech of an unseen maniac were to him now so many voices offending and threatening to humble the pride of his youth. He drove their echoes even out of his heart with an execration: but, as he walked down the avenue and felt the grey morning light falling about him through the dripping trees and smelt the strange wild smell of the wet leaves and bark, his soul was loosed of his miseries.

The rainladen trees of the avenue evoked in him, as always, memories of the girls and women in plays of Gerhart Hauptmann; and the memory of their pale sorrows and the fragrance falling from the wet branches mingled in a mood of quiet joy. His morning walk across the city had begun, and he foreknew that as he passed the sloblands of Fairview he would think of the cloistral silverveined prose of Newman, that as he walked along the North Strand Road, glancing idly at the windows of the provision shops, he would recall the dark humour of Guido Cavalcanti and smile, that as he went by Baird’s stonecutting works in Talbot Place the spirit of Ibsen would blow through him like a keen wind, a spirit of wayward boyish beauty, and that passing a grimy marinedealer’s shop beyond the Liffey he would repeat the song by Ben Janson which begins:

I was not wearier where I lay.

His mind, when wearied of its search for the essence of beauty amid the spectral words of Aristotle or Aquinas, turned often for its pleasure to the dainty songs of the Elizabethans. His mind, in the vesture of a doubting monk, stood often in shadow under the windows of that age, to hear the grave and mocking music of the lutenists or the frank laughter of waistcoateers until a laugh too low, a phrase, tarnished by time, or chambering and false humour, stung his monkish pride and drove him on from his lurkingplace.”

[…] “The formula which he wrote obediently on the sheet of paper, the coiling and uncoiling calculations of the professor, the spectrelike symbols of force and velocity fascinated and jaded Stephen’s mind. He had heard some say that the old professor was an atheist freemason. O the grey dull day! It seemed a limbo of painless patient consciousness through which souls of mathematicians might wander, projecting long slender fabrics from plane to plane of ever rarer and paler twilight, radiating swift eddies to the last verges of a universe ever vaster, farther and more impalpable.”

[…] “Beauty expressed by the artist cannot awaken in us an emotion which is kinetic or a sensation which is purely physical. It awakens, or ought to awaken, or induces, or ought to induce, an esthetic stasis, an ideal pity or an ideal terror, a stasis called forth, prolonged and at last dissolved by what I call the rhythm of beauty.

-What is that exactly? asked Lynch.

-Rhythm, said Stephen, is the first formal esthetic relation of part to part in any esthetic whole or of an esthetic whole to its part or parts or of any part to the esthetic whole of which it is a part.”

[…] “The simplest epical form is seen emerging out of lyrical literature when the artist prolongs and broods upon himself as the centre of an epical event and this form progresses till the centre of emotional gravity is equidistant from the artist himself and from others. The narrative is no longer purely personal. The personality of the artist passes into the narration itself, flowing round and round the persons and the action like a vital sea. This progress you will see easily in that old English ballad Turpin Hero which begins in the first person and ends in the third person. The dramatic form is reached when the vitality which has flowed and eddied round each person fills every person with such vital force that he or she assumes a proper and intangible esthetic life. The personality of the artist, at first a cry or a cadence or a mood and then a fluid and lambent narrative, finally refines itself out of existence, impersonalises itself, so to speak. The esthetic imagine in the dramatic form is life purified in and reprojected from the human imagination. The mystery of esthetic like that of material creation is accomplished. The artist, like the God of the creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails.”

[…] “You made me confess the fears that I have. But I will tell you also what I do not fear. I do not fear to be alone or to be spurned for another or to leave whatever I have to leave. And I am not afraid to make a mistake, even a great mistake, a lifelong mistake and perhaps as long as eternity too. 

Cranly, now grave again, slowed his pace and said:

-Alone, quite alone. You have no fear of that. And you know what that word means? Not only to be separate from all others but to have not even one friend. 

-I will take the risk, said Stephen.

-And not to have any one person, Cranly said, who would be more than a friend, more even than the noblest and trues friend a man ever had. 

His words seemed to have struck some deep chord in his own nature. Had he spoken of himself, of himself as he was or wished to be? Stephen watched his face for some moments in silence. A cold sadness was there. He had spoken of himself, of his own loneliness which he feared. 

-Of whom are you speaking? Stephen asked at length. Cranly did not answer.”

[…] “24 March: Began with a discussion with my mother… Said religion was not a lying-in hospital. Mother indulgent. Said I have a queer mind and have read too much. Not true. Have read little and understood less. Then she said I would come back to faith because I had a restless mind. This means to leave church by backdoor of sin and reenter through through the skylight of repentance. Cannot repent. Told her so and asked for sixpence. Got threepence.”

[…] “A bird twittered; two birds, three.”

(from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce)


“I remember a psychiatrist once telling me that I gamble in order to escape the reality of life, and I told him that’s why everyone does everything. But I’ve had plenty of wasted nights, after losses and bigger losses, to consider the question more seriously. So why the attraction? Most people would think it’s the wins that keep the gambler going, but any gambler knows this is not true. As you place your chips on the craps table, you feel anxiety and impatience. When the red dice hit the green felt with a thunk and you’re declared the winner and the chips are pushed toward you, you feel relief. Relief is all. And relief is fine, but hardly what a man would give the whole rest of his life to gain. It has to be something else, and the best I’ve come up with is this: It is a particular moment. A magic moment that occurs after the placing a bet and before the result of that bet. It is after the red dice are thrown but before they lie still on the green felt where they fall. It is when the dice are in the air, and as long as they are there, time stops. As long as the red dice are in the air, the gambler has hope. And hope is a wonderful thing to be addicted to.”

[…] “I laugh. ‘Yes, Adam Eget, I am alive. I felt this life had nothing left to offer but I was wrong. Life offers the squeals of delight as you pass a park filled with children. Life offers breakfast with a friend, drinking coffee and laughing at past mistakes. Life offers the kiss of a stranger, unexpected and thrilling. Life offers Dilaudid. What a wonderful life I almost tossed away.”

[…] “Death is a funny thing. Not funny haha, like a Woody Allen movie, but funny strange, like a Woody Allen marriage. When it’s unexpected, death comes fast like a ravenous wolf and tears open your throat with a merciful fury. But when it’s expected, it comes slow and patient like a snake, and the doctor tells you how far away it is and when, exactly, it will be at your door. And when it will be at the foot of your bed. And when it will be on your flesh. It’s all right there on their clipboards.”

[…] “If you cry, sir, then cry with envy and not pity. For the boy is in the clouds and he is one with the clouds. It is we who are left who are reminded on this unacceptable day that life is swift and yet we are blind to its mighty splendor, which can be found in the simplest of things. Things like a walk in the park, a conversation with a good friend, a deep rich coffee leavened with half cream and half milk and served in a sturdy mug- one with some heft- and, with it, a delicious cookie that’s white and has red jelly in the middle.”

[…] “… adam eget says he doesnt want to read the book because reading makes him sleepy and i tell him not to worry nobody needs to read the fucking thing but just to count the words because a book has to be so many words and this one has to be seventy five thousand words and thats how many words a mans life has to add up to but then i think that every man is different and that a nobody like adam egets life probably adds up to a hundred words or something but a big-shot like me my life probably adds up to over a million words or even a billion words so i take the tape recorded and i start talking into it fast and adam eget is counting words and i just keep speaking words into the tape recorder because the faster i read the more words go into my book and each word is a part of my life even if the words dont make any sense because they dont have to because thats not in the contract. nobody ever said your life had to make a damn bit of sense just as long as it had enough words thats all.”

(from Based on a True Story: Not a Memoir by Norm Macdonald)


“My upbringing aimed, or at least conspired, to make me an unartistic, unliterary, moderately religious bourgeois concerned mostly with economic success—possibly paying lip service to the arts but without serious emotional involvement. Artistic and literary emotions were something one just could not afford: they might interfere with getting ahead or even with fitting properly into the limited framework within which one’s life was supposed to develop. The image of the artist holding a glass of absinthe and consorting with lost women, however titillating, was the specter of what good middle-class parents feared for their children. This was a class ideology, not peculiar to my family: an ideology according to which luxuries should be postponed until after economic success was gained. Intellectual and artistic pursuits were luxuries. Worse still, they were luxuries without the benefit of the prestige conferred by furs and jewels.

I have often asked myself how many of those attitudes I internalized, and to what extent my later interests in the world of the imagination have been shaped by my upbringing. I have even wondered to what extent these interests of mine, which now occupy a small but significant part of my intellectual and emotional life, may have developed out of rebellion against the outlook of the world in which I grew.”

[…] “In Paris, when I was already fifty, I decided to try my hand at sculpting. I had become more and more fond of sculpture… In Piera Rossi I found an excellent teacher—a bright, energetic woman, several of whose works now surround me at home. Working in clay and wood, I made some progress, and after returning home continued to sculpt on and off for a few years. But a new twist developed, which together with my reluctance to engage in long-range tasks caused me to give up sculpting. Paradoxically, what blocked me was a small initial measure of success. Both I and my teachers thought that some of pieces of stone work were rather good for a beginning amateur. After that, my attempts were marred, both in execution and in outcome, by a new concern for achievement; and the pleasure was gone from sculpting.”

(from A Slot Machine, A Broken Test Tube by Salvador Luria)


“What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you.

Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”

(Carl Sagan)


“Chekhov, the writer, neither turns away in disgust nor rushes forward to satisfy a sadistic curiosity. He simply looks, and looks again. The gaze is unsparing and penetrating, clear-eyed, clinical—a word used often in association with Chekhov. You cannot see if your eyes are clouded with tears, he seems to tell us: a weeping doctor is a useless doctor.”

[…] “In Chekhov, the clinical detachment—that cool, unsparing, astringent gaze—gives way to tenderness, to a sensitivity that is precisely the opposite of dispassion.”

[…] ““Six principles that make for a good story,” Chekhov would later write, “are: 1. Absence of lengthy verbiage of a political-social-economic nature; 2. total objectivity; 3. truthful descriptions of persons and objects; 4. extreme brevity; 5. audacity and originality . . . and; 6. compassion.” The first five principles cleanse and desensitize our wounds. But it is the last—compassion—that moves us beyond numbness toward healing.”

[…] “He moved beyond his own numbness and found a new means of engagement with his world—and, in doing so, invented a new kind of writing. Today, and especially today, as the threat of desensitization—and the accompanying seductions of detachment, outrage, revulsion, indignation, piety, and narcissism—looms over all our lives, we might need to ask ourselves the question that Chekhov asked himself in the spring of 1890: What will move me beyond this state of anesthesia? How will I counteract the lassitude that creeps over my soul?”

(from Love in the Time of Numbness; or, Doctor Chekhov, Writer by Siddharta Mukherjee)


“Pestilence is in fact very common, but we find it hard to believe in a pestilence when it descends upon us. There have been as many plagues in the world as there have been wars, yet plagues and wars always find people equally unprepared. Dr Rieux was unprepared, as were the rest of the townspeople, and this is how one should understand his reluctance to believe. One should also understand that he was divided between anxiety and confidence. When war breaks out people say: ‘It won’t last, it’s too stupid.’ And war is certainly too stupid, but that doesn’t prevent it from lasting. Stupidity always carries doggedly on, as people would notice if they were not always thinking about themselves. In this respect, the citizens of Oran were like the rest of the world, they thought about themselves; in other words, they were humanists: they did not believe in pestilence. A pestilence does not have human dimensions, so people tell themselves that it is unreal, that it is a bad dream which will end. But it does not always end and, from one bad dream to the next, it is people who end, humanists first of all because they have not prepared themselves. The people of our town were no more guilty than anyone else, they merely forgot to be modest and thought that everything was still possible for them, which implied that pestilence was impossible. They continued with business, with making arrangements for travel and holding opinions. Why should they have thought about the plague, which negates the future, negates journeys and debate? They considered themselves free and no one will ever be free as long as there is plague, pestilence and famine.”

[…] “But what are a hundred million deaths? When one has fought a war, one hardly knows any more what a dead person is. And if a dead man has no significance unless one has seen him dead, a hundred million bodies spread through history are just a mist drifting through the imagination.”

[…] “’There are the ones who are afraid and the others, the majority, who don’t even have time to feel afraid.’”

[…] “One of the most remarkable consequences of the closing of the gates was, indeed, a sudden separation of people who were not prepared for it. Mothers and children, wives, husbands and lovers, who had imagined a few days earlier that they were embarking on a temporary separation, who had embraced on the platform of the station with some pieces of last-minute advice, sure that they would see one another a few days or a few weeks later, deeply entrenched in their idiotic human faith in the future, this parting causing barely a pause in the course of their everyday concerns, found themselves abruptly and irremediably divided, prevented from meeting or communicating with one another…”

[…] “Creatures bound together by mutual sympathy, by flesh and heart, were reduced to finding the signs of this ancient communion in a ten-word dispatch, all written in capitals. And since, as it happens, the forms of words that can be used in a telegram are quickly exhausted, before long whole lives together or painful passions were reduced to a periodic exchange of stock phrases such as ‘Am well’, ‘Thinking of you’, ‘Affectionately yours’.”

[…] “To speak more particularly at last of lovers, who are the most interesting group and one about whom the narrator is perhaps better qualified to speak, they still found themselves tormented by other agonies, among which one should mention remorse. Their situation allowed them to consider their feelings with a sort of feverish objectivity, and it was rare, at such times, for them not to see their own shortcomings clearly. The first occasion of this was the difficulty they had in imagining precisely the absent person’s actions and gestures. They deplored the fact that they knew nothing about how their loved ones spent their time; they felt guilty about their past failure to find this out and about having pretended to believe that, for a person in love, the beloved’s actions are not the source of every joy. From then on it was easy for them to go back through the story of their love and to examine its imperfections. In normal times we are all aware, consciously or not, that there is no love which cannot to be surpassed, yet we accept with a greater or lesser degree of equanimity that ours shall remain merely average. But memory is more demanding. And, in a highly significant way, the misfortune that attacked us from outside, and which affected a whole town, did not only bring us an unjust suffering, about which we might have complained, it also forced us to make ourselves suffer, and so made us consent to pain. This was one way that the disease had of distracting attention and confusing the issue.”

[…] “’Have pity, doctor!’ said Mme Loret, mother of the chambermaid who worked at Tarrou’s hotel. What did that mean? Of course he had pity. But where did that get anyone?… At the end of these harrowing weeks, after all these evenings when the town poured into the streets to wander round them, Rieux realized that he no longer needed to protect himself against pity. When pity is useless one grows tired of it.”

[…] “”… When I have managed to describe precisely the picture that I have in my imagination, when my sentence has the very same movement as that trotting horse, one-two-three, one-two-three, then the rest will be easy and above all the illusion will be such from the very start that it will be possible to say: ‘Hats off, gentlemen!’””

[…] “This was, actually, the time when he could grasp hold of her. In general, at four in the morning, one does nothing but sleep, even if the night has been one of betrayal. Yes, this is the time when one sleeps and that is reassuring because the great wish of the uneasy heart is endlessly to possess the being that it loves and, when the time of absence arrives, to be able to plunge that being into a dreamless sleep which can only come to an end on that day when the two are reunited.”

[…] “So he went to see a large number of civil servants and people whose competence one did not usually question. But, in the circumstances, this competence was useless to them… You might even say that the most striking thing among all of them was their goodwill. But when it came to the plague, their knowledge was more or less nil.”

[…] “To this Rambert might reply that it did not alter the substance of his argument at all, to which they answered that it did alter something in respect of administration, this being unfavourable to any measure of exemption that might tend to create what, with expressions of great repugnance, they called ‘a precedent’. According to the classification which Rambert suggested to Dr Rieux, those who argued in this way belonged to the category of Formalists. In addition to these, there were also the Fine Words, who assured the client that none of this could last and who, full of good advice when what one wanted from them was a decision, consoled Rambert by telling him that all this was only a temporary inconvenience. There were also the High and Mighty, who requested the visitor to leave a note summarizing his case and told him that they would give a ruling on it; the Futile, who offered housing coupons or the addresses of cheap boarding houses; the Methodical, who got you to fill out a form, then filed it; the Overworked, who held their hands in the air; and the Interrupted, who looked in the other direction. And finally there were the Traditionalists, by far the greatest number, who directed Rambert to another office or suggested some alternative course of action.”

[…] “The evil in the world comes almost always from ignorance, and goodwill can cause as much damage as ill-will if it is not enlightened. People are more often good than bad, though in fact that is not the question. But they are more or less ignorant and this is what one calls vice or virtue, the most appalling vice being the ignorance that thinks it knows everything…”

[…] “’How is the horsewoman?’ Tarrou often asked; and Grand would invariably reply with a pained smile: ‘Trotting along, trotting along.’ One evening Grand said that he had finally abandoned the adjective ‘elegant’ for his rider; from now on, he would describe her as ‘slender’, adding: ‘It’s more concrete.’ Another time, he read his two listeners the first sentence, with this alteration: ‘On a fine May morning, a slender woman was riding a magnificent sorrel mare through the flowered avenues of the Bois de Boulogne’… After that, he became very concerned about the adjective ‘magnificent’. It was not evocative enough, he said, so he was hunting for the word that would capture in a single snapshot the splendid animal that he had in mind. ‘Plump’ was not right: it was concrete, but somewhat pejorative. ‘Lustrous’ had tempted him for a while, but the sound was not right. One evening, he announced triumphantly that he had found it: ‘a black sorrel mare’. Blackness, he felt, discreetly suggested elegance.”

[…] “… they considered the inhabitants of other areas to be free men. Meanwhile, people from these other areas found some consolation in hard times in the idea that there were those still less free than themselves. ‘There’s always someone more captive than I am,’ was the statement that summed up the only possible hope at that time.”

[…] “… after a short while, there was an urgent problem of food supplies and the attention of the inhabitants turned towards more immediate concerns. Taken up with queuing, pulling strings and filling forms if they wanted to eat, people did not have time to worry about how others were dying around them and how they themselves would one day die.”

[…] “Without memory and without hope, they settled into the present. In truth, everything became present for them. The truth must be told: the plague had taken away from all of them the power of love or even of friendship, for love demands some future, and for us there was only the here and now.”

[…] “… amid horrifying smoke and the tranquil notes of ambulances, we ate the same bread of exile, waiting (though we did not know it) for the same devastating reunion and the same devastating peace. No doubt our love was still there, but quite simply it was unusable, heavy to carry, inert inside us, sterile as crime or condemnation. It was no longer anything except a patience with no future and a stubborn wait.”

[…] “This had been the day when people tried to make up to the dead for leaving them alone and forgetting them for many long months. But that year no one wanted to think about the dead, for the very reason that they had already been thinking too much about them. It was no longer a matter of going back to see them, with a little remorse and lots of melancholy. They were no longer the forgotten ones whom one visited in self- justification one day a year. They were the intruders about whom one would rather forget.”

[…] “And when it comes down to it, you realize that no one is really capable of thinking of anyone else, even in the worst misfortune. Because thinking about someone really means thinking about that person minute by minute, not being distracted by anything — not housework, not a fly passing, not meals, not an urge to scratch oneself. But there are always flies and itches. This is why life is hard to live.”

[…] “He knew what his mother was thinking and that she loved him at that moment. But he also knew that it is not much to love a person — or, at least, that a love is never strong enough to find its own expression. So his mother and he would always love one another in silence. And she would die in her turn — or he would — without either of them at any time in their lives being able to go further in confessing their affection. In the same way he had lived beside Tarrou, who had died, that afternoon, without them being able to have the time really to experience their friendship. Tarrou had lost the game, as he said. But what had he, Rieux, won? All he had gained was to have known the plague and to remember it, to have known friendship and to remember it, to have known affection and to have one day to remember it. All that a man could win in the game of plague and life was knowledge and memory…  how hard it must be to live only with what one knows and what one remembers, and deprived of what one hopes.”

[…] “Against all evidence they calmly denied that we had ever known this senseless world in which the murder of a man was a happening as banal as the death of a fly, the well-defined savagery, the calculated delirium and the imprisonment that brought with it a terrible freedom from everything that was not the immediate present, the stench of death that stunned all those whom it did not kill. In short, they denied that we had been that benumbed people of whom some, every day, stuffed into the mouth of an oven, had evaporated in oily smoke, while the rest, weighed down by the chains of impotence and fear, had waited their turn.”

[…] “For all the people who… had looked beyond man to something that they could not even imagine, there had been no reply. Tarrou had appeared to reach the almost unattainable peace about which he spoke, but he found it only in death, at a moment when it could be of no use to him. By contrast, there were others whom Rieux saw on the doorsteps of their houses, in the fading light, clasped to one another with all their strength and looking at one another with enchantment: if they had found that they wanted, it was because they had asked for the only thing that depended on them. And Rieux… thought that it was right that, from time to time, joy should reward those whose desires are circumscribed by mankind and its meagre and terrible love.”

(from The Plague by Albert Camus)


“The settler and the native are old acquaintances. In fact, the settler is right when he speaks of knowing “them” well. For it is the settler who has brought the native into existence and who perpetuates his existence.”

[…] “The colonial world is a world cut in two. The dividing line, the frontiers are shown by barracks and police sta­tions. In the colonies it is the policeman and the soldier who are the official, instituted go-betweens, the spokesmen of the settler and his rule of oppression. In capitalist societies the educational system, whether lay or clerical, the structure of moral reflexes handed down from father to son, the exemplary honesty of workers who are given a medal after fifty years of good and loyal service, and the affection which springs from harmonious relations and good behavior—all these aesthetic expressions of respect for the established order serve to create around the exploited person an atmosphere of submission and of inhibition which lightens the task of policing considerably. In the capitalist countries a multitude of moral teachers, coun­selors and “bewilderers” separate the exploited from those in power. In the colonial countries, on the contrary, the policeman and the soldier, by their immediate presence and their frequent and direct action maintain contact with the native and advise him by means of rifle butts and napalm not to budge. It is obvious here that the agents of government speak the language of pure force. The intermediary does not lighten the oppression, nor seek to hide the domination; he shows them up and puts them into practice with the clear conscience of an upholder of the peace; yet he is the bringer of violence into the home and into the mind of the native.”

[…] “The colonized man is an envious man. And this the settler knows very well; when their glances meet he ascertains bitterly, always on the defensive, “They want to take our place.” It is true, for there is no native who does not dream at least once a day of setting himself up in the settler’s place.”

[…] “The well-known principle that all men are equal will be illustrated in the colonies from the moment that the native claims that he is the equal of the settler. One step more, and he is ready to fight to be more than the settler.”

[…] “The first thing which the native learns is to stay in his place, and not to go beyond certain limits. This is why the dreams of the native are always of muscular prowess; his dreams are of action and of aggression. I dream I am jumping, swim­ ming, running, climbing; I dream that I burst out laugh­ ing, that I span a river in one stride, or that I am followed by a flood of motorcars which never catch up with me. During the period of colonization, the native never stops achieving his freedom from nine in the evening until six in the morning.”

[…] “This characteristic on the part of the nationalist politi­cal parties should be interpreted in the light both of the make-up of their leaders and the nature of their followings. The rank-and-file of a nationalist party is urban. The workers, primary schoolteachers, artisans, and small shop­ keepers who have begun to profit—at a discount, to be sure—from the colonial setup, have special interests at heart. What this sort of following demands is the better­ment of their particular lot: increased salaries, for example. The dialogue between these political parties and colonial­ ism is never broken off. Improvements are discussed, such as full electoral representation, the liberty of the press, and liberty of association. Reforms are debated. Thus it need not astonish anyone to notice that a large number of natives are militant members of the branches of politi­cal parties which stem from the mother country. These natives fight under an abstract watchword: “Government by the workers,” and they forget that in their country it should be nationalist watchwords which are first in the field. The native intellectual has clothed his aggressiveness in his barely veiled desire to assimilate himself to the colonial world. He has used his aggressiveness to serve his own individual interests.”

[…] “After a phase of accumulation of capi­tal, capitalism has today come to modify its conception of the profit-earning capacity of a commercial enterprise. The colonies have become a market. The colonial popula­tion is a customer who is ready to buy goods; conse­quently, if the garrison has to be perpetually reinforced, if buying and selling slackens off, that is to say if manu­factured and finished goods can no longer be exported, there is clear proof that the solution of military force must be set aside. A blind domination founded on slavery is not economically speaking worthwhile for the bourgeoisie of the mother country. The monopolistic group within this bourgeoisie does not support a government whose policy is solely that of the sword. What the factory- owners and finance magnates of the mother country ex­pect from their government is not that it should decimate the colonial peoples, but that it should safeguard with the help of economic conventions their own “legitimate interests.””

[…] “It is understandable that in this atmosphere, daily life becomes quite simply impossible. You can no longer be a fellah, a pimp, or an alcoholic as before. The violence of the colonial regime and the counter-violence of the native balance each other and respond to each other in an ex­traordinary reciprocal homogeneity. This reign of violence will be the more terrible in proportion to the size of the implantation from the mother country. The development of violence among the colonized people will be propor­tionate to the violence exercised by the threatened colonial regime.”

[…] “From the moment that the native has chosen the methods of counter-violence, police reprisals automatically call forth reprisals on the side of the nationalists. However, the results are not equivalent, for machine-gunning from airplanes and bombardments from the fleet go far beyond in horror and magnitude any answer the natives can make. This recurring terror de-mystifies once and for all the most estranged members of the colonized race. They find out on the spot that all the piles of speeches on the equality of human beings do not hide the commonplace fact that the seven Frenchmen killed or wounded at the Col de Sakamody kindles the indignation of all civilized con­sciences, whereas the sack of the douars of Guergour and of the dechras of Djerah and the massacre of whole popu­lations—which had merely called forth the Sakamody ambush as a reprisal—all this is of not the slightest im­portance.”

(from The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon)


[…] “According to the evidence put forward in the preceding pages the space-time events in the body of a living being which correspond to the activity of its mind, to its self conscious or any other actions, are (considering also their complex structure and the accepted statistical explanation of physico-chemistry) if not strictly deterministic at any rate statistico-deterministic.”

[…] “Yet each of us has the indisputable impression that the sum total of his own experience and memory forms a unit, quite distinct from that of any other person. He refers to it as ‘I’ and What is this ‘I’? If you analyse it closely you will, I think, find that it is just the facts little more than a collection of single data (experiences and memories), namely the canvas upon which they are collected. And you will, on close introspection, find that what you really mean by ‘I’ is that ground-stuff upon which they are collected. You may come to a distant country, lose sight of all your friends, may all but forget them; you acquire new friends, you share life with them as intensely as you ever did with your old ones. Less and less important will become the fact that, while living your new life, you still recollect the old one. “The youth that was I’, you may come to speak of him in the third person, indeed the protagonist of the novel you are reading is probably nearer to your heart, certainly more intensely alive and better known to you. Yet there has been no intermediate break, no death. And even if a skilled hypnotist succeeded in blotting out entirely all your earlier reminiscences, you would not find that he had killed you. In no case is there a loss of personal existence to deplore. Nor will there ever be.”

(from What is Life? by Erwin Schrödinger)


“There is consequently some basis of understanding between any two humans simply because they are human. But even humans living in the same culture will have difficulty in understanding one another where their respective lives differed radically. Since, in the last analysis, each of our lives is unique, there is a limit to what we can bring another person to understand. There is an ultimate privacy about each of us that absolutely precludes full communication of any of our ideas to the universe outside ourselves and which thus isolates each one of us from every other noetic object in the world.”

(from Computer Power and Human Reason by Joseph Weizbaum)


“It rasped her, though, to have stirring about in her this brutal monster! to hear twigs cracking and feel hooves planted down in the depths of that leaf-encumbered forest, the soul; never to be content quite, or quite secure, for at any moment the brute would be stirring, this hatred, which, especially since her illness, had power to make her feel scraped, hurt in her spine; gave her physical pain, and made all pleasure in beauty, in friendship, in being well, in being loved and making her home delightful rock, quiver, and bend as if indeed there were a monster grubbing at the roots, as if the whole panoply of content were nothing but self love! this hatred!”

[…] “But there could be no doubt that greatness was seated within; greatness was passing, hidden, down Bond Street, removed only by a hand’s-breadth from ordinary people who might now, for the first and last time, be within speaking distance of the majesty of England, of the enduring symbol of the state which will be known to curious antiquaries, sifting the ruins of time, when London is a grass-grown path and all those hurrying along the pavement this Wednesday morning are but bones with a few wedding rings mixed up in their dust and the gold stoppings of innumerable decayed teeth.”

[…] “Away and away the aeroplane shot, till it was nothing but a bright spark; an aspiration; a concentration; a symbol (so it seemed to Mr. Bentley, vigorously rolling his strip of turf at Greenwich) of man’s soul; of his determination, thought Mr. Bentley, sweeping round the cedar tree, to get outside his body, beyond his house, by means of thought, Einstein, speculation, mathematics, the Mendelian theory—away the aeroplane shot.”

[…] “He had only to open his eyes; but a weight was on them; a fear. He strained; he pushed; he looked; he saw Regent’s Park before him. Long streamers of sunlight fawned at his feet. The trees waved, brandished. We welcome, the world seemed to say; we accept; we create. Beauty, the world seemed to say. And as if to prove it (scientifically) wherever he looked at the houses, at the railings, at the antelopes stretching over the palings, beauty sprang instantly. To watch a leaf quivering in the rush of air was an exquisite joy. Up in the sky swallows swooping, swerving, flinging themselves in and out, round and round, yet always with perfect control as if elastics held them; and the flies rising and falling; and the sun spotting now this leaf, now that, in mockery, dazzling it with soft gold in pure good temper; and now and again some chime (it might be a motor horn) tinkling divinely on the grass stalks—all of this, calm and reasonable as it was, made out of ordinary things as it was, was the truth now; beauty, that was the truth now. Beauty was everywhere.”

[…] “But suppose Peter said to her, “Yes, yes, but your parties–what’s the sense of your parties?” all she could say was (and nobody could be expected to understand): They’re an offering; which sounded horribly vague. But who was Pater to make out that life was all plain sailing?… But could any man understand what she meant either? about life?…

But to go deeper, beneath what people said (and these judgements, how superficial, how fragmentary they are!) in her own mind now, what did it mean to her, this thing she called life? Oh, it was very queer. Here was So-and-so in South Kensington; some one up in Bayswater; and somebody else, say, in Mayfair. And she felt quite continuously a sense of their existence; and she felt what a waste; and she felt what a pity; and she felt if only they could be brought together; so she did it. And it was an offering; to combine, to create; but to whom?

An offering for the sake of offering, perhaps. Anyhow, it was her gift. Nothing else had she of the slightest importance; could not think, write, even play the piano. She muddled Armenians and Turks; loved success; hated discomfort; must be liked; talked oceans of nonsense; and to this day, ask her what the Equator was, and she did not know. All the same, that one day should follow another; Wednesday Thursday, Friday, Saturday; that one should wake up in the morning; see the sky; walk in the park; meet Hugh Whitbread; then suddenly in came Peter; then these roses; it was enough. After that, how unbelievable death was!–that it must end; and no one in the whole world would know how she had loved it all; how, every instant…”

[…] “Clarissa had a theory in those days—they had heaps of theories, always theories, as young people have. It was to explain the feeling they had of dissatisfaction; not knowing people; not being known. For how could they know each other? You met every day; then not for six months, or years. It was unsatisfactory, they agreed, how little one knew people. But she said, sitting on the bus going up Shaftesbury Avenue, she felt herself everywhere; not “here, here, here”; and she tapped the back of the seat; but everywhere. She waved her hand, going up Shaftesbury Avenue. She was all that. So that to know her, or any one, one must seek out the people who completed them; even the places. Odd affinities she had with people she had never spoken to, some woman in the street, some man behind a counter—even trees, or barns. It ended in a transcendental theory which, with her horror of death, allowed her to believe, or say that she believed (for all her scepticism), that since our apparitions, the part of us which appears, are so momentary compared with the other, the unseen part of us, which spreads wide, the unseen might survive, be recovered somehow attached to this person or that, or even haunting certain places after death … perhaps—perhaps.”

[…] “Every time she gave a party she had this feeling of being something not herself, and that every one was unreal in one way; much more real in another. It was, she thought, partly their clothes, partly being taken out of their ordinary ways, partly the background, it was possible to say things you couldn’t say anyhow else, things that needed an effort; possible to go much deeper. But not for her; not yet anyhow.”

[…] “What business had the Bradshaws to talk of death at her party? A young man had killed himself. And they talked of it at her party—the Bradshaws, talked of death. He had killed himself—but how? Always her body went through it first, when she was told, suddenly, of an accident; her dress flamed, her body burnt. He had thrown himself from a window. Up had flashed the ground; through him, blundering, bruising, went the rusty spikes. There he lay with a thud, thud, thud in his brain, and then a suffocation of blackness. So she saw it. But why had he done it? And the Bradshaws talked of it at her party! … Somehow it was her disaster—her disgrace. It was her punishment to see sink and disappear here a man, there a woman, in this profound darkness, and she forced to stand here in her evening dress. She had schemed; she had pilfered. She was never wholly admirable. She had wanted success.”

[…] “And were they happy together? Sally asked (she herself was extremely happy); for, she admitted, she knew nothing about them, only jumped to conclusions, as one does, for what can one know even of the people one lives with every day? she asked. Are we not all prisoners? She had read a wonderful play about a man who scratched on the wall of his cell, and she had felt that was true of life—one scratched on the wall. Despairing of human relationships (people were so difficult), she often went into her garden and got from her flowers a peace which men and women never gave her. But no; he did not like cabbages; he preferred human beings, Peter said.

Indeed, the young are beautiful, Sally said, watching Elizabeth cross the room. How unlike Clarissa at her age! Could he make anything of her? She would not open her lips. Not much, not yet, Peter admitted. She was like a lily, Sally said, a lily by the side of a pool. But Peter did not agree that we know nothing. We know everything, he said; at least he did.”

(from Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf)


“Gaylord was the kind of place in which just about any event was newsworthy. Consider the headlines and snippets from the county newspaper: ‘WISCONSIN GIRL KILLS WOLF WITH MOP STICK’; ‘A woman smoking a cigarette on the Midway caused some attention, not all of which was favorable’; ‘LUMBERJACK DIES OF APOPLEXY’; ‘VERN MATTS LOSES FINGER’; ‘MEETING CALLED TO DISCUSS ARTICHOKES.’ And one September, a paragraph-long ode to a glorious run of fall weather, the lakes like blue mirrors by day and ‘splotches of silver’ by night, a waxing moon bright enough to light up a printed page.”

(from A Mind at Play by Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman)