Most Commonly Used Quotes

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So now you must choose... Are you a child who has not yet become world-weary? Or are you a philosopher who will vow never to become so? To children, the world and everything in it is new, something that gives rise to astonishment. It is not like that for adults. Most adults accept the world as a matter of course. This is precisely where philosophers are a notable exception. A philosopher never gets quite used to the world. To him or her, the world continues to seem a bit unreasonable - bewildering, even enigmatic. Philosophers and small children thus have an important faculty in common. The only thing we require to be good philosophers is the faculty of wonder…
Jostein Gaarder (Sophie’s World)
Let us create extraordinary words, on condition that they be put to the most ordinary use and that the entity they designate be made to exist in the same way as the most common object.
Gilles Deleuze (Dialogues)
The only advice, indeed, that one person can give another about reading is to take no advice, to follow your own instincts, to use your own reason, to come to your own conclusions. If this is agreed between us, then I feel at liberty to put forward a few ideas and suggestions because you will not allow them to fetter that independence which is the most important quality that a reader can possess. After all, what laws can be laid down about books? The battle of Waterloo was certainly fought on a certain day; but is Hamlet a better play than Lear? Nobody can say. Each must decide that question for himself. To admit authorities, however heavily furred and gowned, into our libraries and let them tell us how to read, what to read, what value to place upon what we read, is to destroy the spirit of freedom which is the breath of those sanctuaries. Everywhere else we may be bound by laws and conventions-there we have none.
Virginia Woolf (The Second Common Reader)
In my world, you don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and be against common-sense gun control — like banning public access to the kind of semiautomatic assault rifle, designed for warfare, that was used recently in a Colorado theater. You don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and want to shut down the Environmental Protection Agency, which ensures clean air and clean water, prevents childhood asthma, preserves biodiversity and combats climate change that could disrupt every life on the planet. You don’t get to call yourself “pro-life” and oppose programs like Head Start that provide basic education, health and nutrition for the most disadvantaged children...The term “pro-life” should be a shorthand for respect for the sanctity of life. But I will not let that label apply to people for whom sanctity for life begins at conception and ends at birth. What about the rest of life? Respect for the sanctity of life, if you believe that it begins at conception, cannot end at birth.
Thomas L. Friedman
...I realized that the words most often used to define us were words that described our function in relation to others. Even the most benign words- maiden, wife, mother - told the world whether we were virgins or not. What was the male equivalent of maiden? I could not think of it. What was the male equivalent of Mrs., of whore, of common scold?... Which words would define me? Which would be used to judge or contain?
Pip Williams (The Dictionary of Lost Words)
I began my studies with eagerness. Before me I saw a new world opening in beauty and light, and I felt within me the capacity to know all things. In the wonderland of Mind I should be as free as another [with sight and hearing]. Its people, scenery, manners, joys, and tragedies should be living tangible interpreters of the real world. The lecture halls seemed filled with the spirit of the great and wise, and I thought the professors were the embodiment of wisdom... But I soon discovered that college was not quite the romantic lyceum I had imagined. Many of the dreams that had delighted my young inexperience became beautifully less and "faded into the light of common day." Gradually I began to find that there were disadvantages in going to college. The one I felt and still feel most is lack of time. I used to have time to think, to reflect, my mind and I. We would sit together of an evening and listen to the inner melodies of the spirit, which one hears only in leisure moments when the words of some loved poet touch a deep, sweet chord in the soul that until then had been silent. But in college there is no time to commune with one's thoughts. One goes to college to learn, it seems, not to think. When one enters the portals of learning, one leaves the dearest pleasures – solitude, books and imagination – outside with the whispering pines. I suppose I ought to find some comfort in the thought that I am laying up treasures for future enjoyment, but I am improvident enough to prefer present joy to hoarding riches against a rainy day.
Helen Keller (The Story of My Life: With Her Letters (1887 1901) and a Supplementary Account of Her Education Including Passages from the Reports and Letters of Her Teacher Anne Mansfield Sullivan by John Albert Macy)
To show man the best that is in him; not the most appealing or the most amusing or even the most realistic - but the best, which is rare and common and understood by all of us in all our different ways ... to include all the others - the meanest, the cheapest, the most cowardly - as a background and a foreground for something better ... to dig in the old scum that covers us all and find something that might be a tool for a man who would use it to fashion his self-respect in a world where all those tools are buried or broken or illegal ... and finally to tell it as it is, trying to see it all and especially the best, for to miss that part is to shovel shit on men who were born in quicksand and find no novelty in the heave and smell of doom.
Hunter S. Thompson
The most common English word spoken in the nail salon was sorry. It was the one refrain for what it meant to work in the service of beauty. Again and again, I watched as manicurists, bowed over a hand or foot of a client, some young as seven, say, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry," when they had nothing wrong. I have seen workers, you included, apologize dozens of times throughout a forty-five-minute manicure, hoping to gain warm traction that would lead to the ultimate goal, a tip--only to say sorry anyway when none was given. In the nail salon, sorry is a tool one uses to pander until the word itself becomes currency. It no longer merely apologizes, but insists, reminds: I'm here, right here, beneath you. It is the lowering of oneself so that the client feels right, superior, and charitable. In the nail salon, one's definition of sorry is deranged into a new word entirely, one that's charged and reused as both power and defacement at once. Being sorry pays, being sorry even, or especially, when one has no fault, is worth every self-deprecating syllable the mouth allows. Because the mouth must eat.
Ocean Vuong (On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous)
Sir, people never wanted me to make it to squire. They won't like it any better if I become a knight. I doubt I'll ever get to command a force larger than, well, just me.' Raoul shook his head. 'You're wrong.' As she started to protest, he raised a hand. 'Hear me out. I have some idea of what you've had to bear to get this far, and it won't get easier. But there are larger issues than your fitness for knighthood, issues that involve lives and livelihoods. Attend,' he said, so much like Yayin, one of her Mithran teachers, that Kel had to smile. 'At our level, there are four kids of warrior,' he told Kel. He raised a fist and held up one large finger. 'Heroes, like Alanna the Lioness. Warriors who find dark places and fight in them alone. This is wonderful, but we live in the real world. There aren't many places without any hope or light.' He raised a second finger. 'We have knights- plain, everyday knights, like your brothers. They patrol their borders and protect their tenants, or they go into troubled areas at the king's command and sort them out. They fight in battles, usually against other knights. A hero will work like an everyday knight for a time- it's expected. And most knights must be clever enough to manage alone.' Kel nodded. 'We have soldiers,' Raoul continued, raising a third finger. 'Those warriors, including knights, who can manage so long as they're told what to do. These are more common, thank Mithros, and you'll find them in charge of companies in the army, under the eye of a general. Without people who can take orders, we'd be in real trouble. 'Commanders.' He raised his little finger. 'Good ones, people with a knack for it, like, say, the queen, or Buri, or young Dom, they're as rare as heroes. Commanders have an eye not just for what they do, but for what those around them do. Commanders size up people's strengths and weaknesses. They know where someone will shine and where they will collapse. Other warriors will obey a true commander because they can tell that the commander knows what he- or she- is doing.' Raoul picked up a quill and toyed with it. 'You've shown flashes of being a commander. I've seen it. So has Qasim, your friend Neal, even Wyldon, though it would be like pulling teeth to get him to admit it. My job is to see if you will do more than flash, with the right training. The realm needs commanders. Tortall is big. We have too many still-untamed pockets, too curse many hideyholes for rogues, and plenty of hungry enemies to nibble at our borders and our seafaring trade. If you have what it takes, the Crown will use you. We're too desperate for good commanders to let one slip away, even a female one. Now, finish that'- he pointed to the slate- 'and you can stop for tonight.
Tamora Pierce (Squire (Protector of the Small, #3))
Think about some of the words that are used in these kinds of discussions, one of the most common being the phrase “open-minded.” Often the person with spiritual convictions is seen as close-minded and others are seen as open-minded. What is fascinating to me is that at the center of the Christian faith is the assumption that this life isn’t all there is. That there is more to life than the material. That existence is not limited to what we can see, touch, measure, taste, hear, and observe. One of the central assertions of the Christian worldview is that there is “more” – Those who oppose this insist that this is all there is, that only what we can measure and observe and see with our eyes is real. There is nothing else. Which perspective is more “closed-minded?” Which perspective is more “open?
Rob Bell (Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith)
Suddenly, in the space of a moment, I realized what it was that I loved about Britain - which is to say, all of it. Every last bit of it, good and bad - Marmite, village fetes, country lanes, people saying 'mustn't grumble' and 'I'm terribly sorry but', people apologizing to me when I conk them with a nameless elbow, milk in bottles, beans on toast, haymaking in June, stinging nettles, seaside piers, Ordnance Survey maps, crumpets, hot-water bottles as a necessity, drizzly Sundays - every bit of it. What a wondrous place this was - crazy as fuck, of course, but adorable to the tiniest degree. What other country, after all, could possibly have come up with place names like Tooting Bec and Farleigh Wallop, or a game like cricket that goes on for three days and never seems to start? Who else would think it not the least odd to make their judges wear little mops on their heads, compel the Speaker of the House of Commons to sit on something called the Woolsack, or take pride in a military hero whose dying wish was to be kissed by a fellow named Hardy? ('Please Hardy, full on the lips, with just a bit of tongue.') What other nation in the world could possibly have given us William Shakespeare, pork pies, Christopher Wren, Windsor Great Park, the Open University, Gardners' Question Time and the chocolate digestive biscuit? None, of course. How easily we lose sight of all this. What an enigma Britain will seem to historians when they look back on the second half of the twentieth century. Here is a country that fought and won a noble war, dismantled a mighty empire in a generally benign and enlightened way, created a far-seeing welfare state - in short, did nearly everything right - and then spent the rest of the century looking on itself as a chronic failure. The fact is that this is still the best place in the world for most things - to post a letter, go for a walk, watch television, buy a book, venture out for a drink, go to a museum, use the bank, get lost, seek help, or stand on a hillside and take in a view. All of this came to me in the space of a lingering moment. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I like it here. I like it more than I can tell you.
Bill Bryson (Notes from a Small Island)
I used to believe there was some line between what is sacred and common, miraculous and mundane. My perspective had to shift to see that actually all of the bushes are burning, the entire world is ablaze.
Lisa Gungor (The Most Beautiful Thing I've Seen: Opening Your Eyes to Wonder)
He, unfortunately for himself, had been beautifully brought up. His teacher had educated him as the child is educated in the womb, where it lives the history of man from fish to mammal--and, like the child in the womb, he had been protected with love meanwhile. The effect of such an education was that he had grown up without any of the useful accomplishments for living--without malice, vanity, suspicion, cruelty, and the commoner forms of selfishness. Jealousy seemed to him the most ignoble of vices. He was sadly unfitted for hating his best friend or torturing his wife. He had been given too much love and trust to be good at these things.
T.H. White
Montaigne said long ago: "Were I not to follow the straight road for its straightness, I should follow it for having found by experience that in the end it is commonly the happiest and most useful track." The doctrine of interest rightly understood is not then new, but among the Americans of our time it finds universal acceptance; it has become popular there; you may trace it at the bottom of all their actions, you will remark it in all they say.
Alexis de Tocqueville (Democracy in America)
is a broken man an outlaw?" "More or less." Brienne answered. Septon Meribald disagreed. "More less than more. There are many sorts of outlaws, just as there are many sorts of birds. A sandpiper and a sea eagle both have wings, but they are not the same. The singers love to sing of good men forced to go outside the law to fight some wicked lord, but most outlaws are more like this ravening Hound than they are the lightning lord. They are evil men, driven by greed, soured by malice, despising the gods and caring only for themselves. Broken men are more deserving of our pity, though they may be just as dangerous. Almost all are common-born, simple folk who had never been more than a mile from the house where they were born until the day some lord came round to take them off to war. Poorly shod and poorly clad, they march away beneath his banners, ofttimes with no better arms than a sickle or a sharpened hoe, or a maul they made themselves by lashing a stone to a stick with strips of hide. Brothers march with brothers, sons with fathers, friends with friends. They've heard the songs and stories, so they go off with eager hearts, dreaming of the wonders they will see, of the wealth and glory they will win. War seems a fine adventure, the greatest most of them will ever know. "Then they get a taste of battle. "For some, that one taste is enough to break them. Others go on for years, until they lose count of all the battles they have fought in, but even a man who has survived a hundred fights can break in his hundred-and-first. Brothers watch their brothers die, fathers lose their sons, friends see their friends trying to hold their entrails in after they've been gutted by an axe. "They see the lord who led them there cut down, and some other lord shouts that they are his now. They take a wound, and when that's still half-healed they take another. There is never enough to eat, their shoes fall to pieces from the marching, their clothes are torn and rotting, and half of them are shitting in their breeches from drinking bad water. "If they want new boots or a warmer cloak or maybe a rusted iron halfhelm, they need to take them from a corpse, and before long they are stealing from the living too, from the smallfolk whose lands they're fighting in, men very like the men they used to be. They slaughter their sheep and steal their chicken's, and from there it's just a short step to carrying off their daughters too. And one day they look around and realize all their friends and kin are gone, that they are fighting beside strangers beneath a banner that they hardly recognize. They don't know where they are or how to get back home and the lord they're fighting for does not know their names, yet here he comes, shouting for them to form up, to make a line with their spears and scythes and sharpened hoes, to stand their ground. And the knights come down on them, faceless men clad all in steel, and the iron thunder of their charge seems to fill the world... "And the man breaks. "He turns and runs, or crawls off afterward over the corpses of the slain, or steals away in the black of night, and he finds someplace to hide. All thought of home is gone by then, and kings and lords and gods mean less to him than a haunch of spoiled meat that will let him live another day, or a skin of bad wine that might drown his fear for a few hours. The broken man lives from day to day, from meal to meal, more beast than man. Lady Brienne is not wrong. In times like these, the traveler must beware of broken men, and fear them...but he should pity them as well
George R.R. Martin
I have fought the long defeat and brought other people on to fight the long defeat, and I'm not going to stop because we keep losing. Now I actually think sometimes we may win. I don't dislike victory. ... You know, people from our background-like you, like most PIH-ers, like me-we're used to being on a victory team, and actually what we're really trying to do in PIH is to make common cause with the losers. Those are two very different things. We want to be on the winning team, but at the risk of turning our backs on the losers, no, it's not worth it. So you fight the long defeat.
Tracy Kidder (Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World)
After Carol had left, as Symons threw away a pile of used tissues and rearranged the cushions on the couch, he remarked that the most common and unhelpful illusion plaguing those who came to see him [as a career counselor] was the idea that they ought somehow, in the normal course of events, to have intuited--long before they had finished their degrees, started families, bought houses and risen to the top of law firms--what they should properly be doing with their lives. They were tormented by a residual notion of having through some error or stupidity on their part missed out on their true 'calling.
Alain de Botton (The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work)
They settled the question, by deciding that misfortunes most commonly happen to us from our own misconduct or imprudence; but sometimes from causes independent of ourselves; that the most innocent and prudent conduct cannot always preserve us from them; and that, whether they arise from our own fault or not, trust in God softens them, and renders them useful in preparing us for a better life.
Alessandro Manzoni (The Betrothed)
The most tragic error into which older people can fall is one that is common among educators and politicians. It is to use youth as scapegoats for the sins of their elders.
Shirley Chisholm (Unbought and Unbossed)
Thirty years later he could not come to any other conclusion: women were indisputably better than men. They were gentler, more affectionate, more loving and more compassionate, they were rarely violent, selfish, cruel or self-centred. Moreover, they were more rational, more intelligent and more hardworking. What on earth were men for? Michael wondered as he watched sunlight play across the closed curtains. In earlier times, when bears were more common, perhaps masculinity served a particular function, but for centuries now, men served no useful purpose. For the most part, they assuaged their boredom playing squash, which was a lesser evil; but from time to time they felt the need to change history - which expressed itself in leading a revolution or starting a war somewhere. Aside from the senseless suffering they caused, revolutions and war destroyed the achievements of the past, forcing societies to build again. Without the notion of continuous progress, human evolution took random, irregular and violent turns for which men (with their predilection for risk and danger, their repulsive egotism, their volatile nature and their violent tendencies) were directly to blame. A society of women would be immeasurably superior, tracing a slow, unwavering progression, with no U-turns and no chaotic insecurity, towards a general happiness.
Michel Houellebecq (The Elementary Particles)
Again, it is absurd to hold that a man ought to be ashamed of being unable to defend himself with his limbs, but not of being unable to defend himself with speech and reason, when the use of rational speech is more distinctive of a human being than the use of his limbs. And if it be objected that one who uses such power of speech unjustly might do great harm, that is a charge which may be made in common against all good things except virtue, and above all against the things that are most useful, as strength, health, wealth, generalship. A man can confer the greatest of benefits by a right use of these, and inflict the greatest of injuries by using them wrongly.
Aristotle (The Rhetoric & The Poetics of Aristotle)
I like to remind people that creativity also isn't a spark; it's a slog. Every artist, inventor, designer, writer, or other creative in the world will talk about his work being an iterative experience. He'll start with one idea, shape it, move it, combine it, break it, begin anew, discover something within himself, see a new vision, go at it again, test it, share it, fix it, break it, hone it, hone it, hone it, hone it. This might sound like common sense, but it's not common practice, and that's why so many people are terribly uncreative - they're not willing to do the work required to create something that's beautiful, useful, desirable, celebrated. No masterpiece was shaped or written in a day. It's a long slog to get something right. This knowledge and willingness to iterate is what makes the world's most creative people so creative (and successful).
Brendon Burchard (The Charge: Activating the 10 Human Drives That Make You Feel Alive)
There is no such source and cause of strife, quarrel, fights, malignant opposition, persecution, and war, and all evil in the state, as religion. Let it once enter into our civil affairs, our government soon would be destroyed. Let it once enter our common schools, they would be destroyed. Those who made our Constitution saw this, and used the most apt and comprehensive language in it to prevent such a catastrophe. [Weiss v. District Board, March 18, 1890]
Supreme Court of Wisconsin
nothing is more rare than to find them using common sense; that is to say, the portion of judgment sufficient to know the most simple truths, to reject the most striking absurdities, and to be shocked by palpable contradictions.
Jean Meslier (Superstition In All Ages (Common Sense))
The most common theory points to the fact that men are stronger than women and that they have used their greater physical power to force women into submission. A more subtle version of this claim argues that their strength allows men to monopolize tasks that demand hard manual labor, such as plowing and harvesting. This gives them control of food production, which in turn translates into political clout. There are two problems with this emphasis on muscle power. First, the statement that men are stronger is true only on average and only with regard to certain types of strength. Women are generally more resistant to hunger, disease, and fatigue than men. There are also many women who can run faster and lift heavier weights than many men. Furthermore, and most problematically for this theory, women have, throughout history, mainly been excluded from jobs that required little physical effort, such as the priesthood, law, and politics, while engaging in hard manual labor in the fields....and in the household. If social power were divided in direct relation to physical strength or stamina, women should have got far more of it. Even more importantly, there simply is no direct relation between physical strength and social power among humans. People in their sixties usually exercise power over people in their twenties, even though twenty-somethings are much stronger than their elders. ...Boxing matches were not used to select Egyptian pharaohs or Catholic popes. In forager societies, political dominance generally resides with the person possessing the best social skills rather than the most developed musculature. In fact, human history shows that there is often an inverse relation between physical prowess and social power. In most societies, it’s the lower classes who do the manual labor. Another theory explains that masculine dominance results not from strength but from aggression. Millions of years of evolution have made men far more violent than women. Women can match men as far as hatred, greed, and abuse are concern, but when push comes to shove…men are more willing to engage in raw physical violence. This is why, throughout history, warfare has been a masculine prerogative. In times of war, men’s control of the armed forces has made them the masters of civilian society too. They then use their control of civilian society to fight more and more wars. …Recent studies of the hormonal and cognitive systems of men and women strengthen the assumption that men indeed have more aggressive and violent tendencies and are…on average, better suited to serve as common soldiers. Yet, granted that the common soldiers are all men, does it follow that the ones managing the war and enjoying its fruits must also be men? That makes no sense. It’s like assuming that because all the slaves cultivating cotton fields are all Black, plantation owners will be Black as well. Just as an all-Black workforce might be controlled by an all-White management, why couldn’t an all-male soldiery be controlled by an all-female government?
Yuval Noah Harari (Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind)
To summarize what I have said: Aim for the highest; never enter a bar-room; do not touch liquor, or if at all only at meals; never speculate; never indorse beyond your surplus cash fund; make the firm’s interest yours; break orders always to save owners; concentrate; put all your eggs in one basket, and watch that basket; expenditure always within revenue; lastly, be not impatient, for, as Emerson says, “no one can cheat you out of ultimate success but yourselves.” I congratulate poor young men upon being born to that ancient and honourable degree which renders it necessary that they should devote themselves to hard work. A basketful of bonds is the heaviest basket a young man ever had to carry. He generally gets to staggering under it. We have in this city creditable instances of such young men, who have pressed to the front rank of our best and most useful citizens. These deserve great credit. But the vast majority of the sons of rich men are unable to resist the temptations to which wealth subjects them, and sink to unworthy lives. I would almost as soon leave a young man a curse, as burden him with the almighty dollar. It is not from this class you have rivalry to fear. The partner’s sons will not trouble you much, but look out that some boys poorer, much poorer than yourselves, whose parents cannot afford to give them the advantages of a course in this institute, advantages which should give you a decided lead in the race–look out that such boys do not challenge you at the post and pass you at the grand stand. Look out for the boy who has to plunge into work direct from the common school and who begins by sweeping out the office. He is the probable dark horse that you had better watch.
Andrew Carnegie (The Road To Business Success)
A pause. Then she said: "Tell me, Noah, what do you remember most from the summer we spent together?" "All of it." "Anything in particular?" "No," he said. "You don't remember?" He answered quietly. "No, it's not that. It's not what you're thinking. I was serious when I said 'all of it.' I can remember every moment we were together, and in each or them there was something wonderful. I can't pick any one time that meant more than any other. The entire summer was perfect, the kind of summer everyone should have. How could I pick one moment over another? "Poets often describe love as an emotion that we can't control, one that overwhelms logic and common sense. That's what it was like for me. I didn't plan on falling in love with you, and I doubt if you planned on falling in love with me. But once we met, it was clear that neither of use could control what was happening to us. We fell in love, despite our differences, and once we did, something rare and beautiful was created. For me, love like that has happened only once, and that's why every minute we spent together has been seared in my memory. I'll never forget a single moment of it." Allie stare at him. No one had ever said anything lik that to her before. Ever. She didn't know what to say and stayed silent, her face hot.
Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook (The Notebook, #1))
It's ridiculous. Here I sit in my little room, I, Brigge, who have got to be twenty-eight years old and about whom no one knows. I sit here and am nothing. And yet this nothing begins to think and thinks, up five flights of stairs, these thoughts on a gray Paris afternoon: Is it possible, this nothing thinks, that one has not yet seen, recognized, and said anything real and important? Is it possible that one has had thousands of years of time to look, reflect, and write down, and that one has let the millennia pass away like a school recess in which one eats one's sandwich and an apple? Yes, it is possible. ...Is it possible that in spite of inventions and progress, in spite of culture, religion, and worldly wisdom, that one has remained on the surface of life? Is it possible that one has even covered this surface, which would at least have been something, with an incredibly dull slipcover, so that it looks like living-room furniture during the summer vacation? Yes, it is possible. Is it possible that the whole history of the world has been misunderstood? Is it possible that the past is false because one has always spoken of its masses, as if one was telling about a coming together of many people, instead of telling about the one person they were standing around, because he was alien and died? Yes, it is possible. Is it possible that one believed one has to make up for everything that happened before one was born? Is it possible one would have to remind every single person that he arose from all earlier people so that he would know it, and not let himself be talked out of it by the others, who see it differently? Yes, it is possible. Is it possible that all these people know very precisely a past that never was? Is it possible that everything real is nothing to them; that their life takes its course, connected to nothing, like a clock in an empty room? Yes, it is possible. Is it possible that one knows nothing about girls, who are nevertheless alive? Is it possible that one says "the women", "the children", "the boys", and doesn't suspect (in spite of all one's education doesn't suspect) that for the longest time these words have no longer had a plural, but only innumerable singulars? Yes, it is possible. Is it possible that there are people who say "God" and think it is something they have in common? Just look at two schoolboys: one buys himself a knife, and the same day his neighbor buys one just like it. And after a week they show each other their knives and it turns out that they bear only the remotest resemblance to each other-so differently have they developed in different hands (Well, the mother of one of them says, if you boys always have to wear everything out right away). Ah, so: is it possible to believe that one could have a God without using him? Yes, it is possible. But, if all this is possible, has even an appearance of possibility-then for heaven's sake something has to happen. The first person who comes along, the one who has had this disquieting thought, must begin to accomplish some of what has been missed; even if he is just anyone, not the most suitable person: there is simply no one else there. This young, irrelevant foreigner, Brigge, will have to sit himself down five flights up and write, day and night, he will just have to write, and that will be that.
Rainer Maria Rilke (The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge)
In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, "I don't see the use of this; let us clear it away." To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: "If you don't see the use of it, I certainly won't let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it." This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious. There are reformers who get over this difficulty by assuming that all their fathers were fools; but if that be so, we can only say that folly appears to be a hereditary disease. But the truth is that nobody has any business to destroy a social institution until he has really seen it as an historical institution. If he knows how it arose, and what purposes it was supposed to serve, he may really be able to say that they were bad purposes, that they have since become bad purposes, or that they are purposes which are no longer served. But if he simply stares at the thing as a senseless monstrosity that has somehow sprung up in his path, it is he and not the traditionalist who is suffering from an illusion.
G.K. Chesterton
Derek Sivers, one of my favorite thinkers, says he’s a slow thinker: “It’s a common belief that your first reaction is the most honest, but I disagree. Your first reaction is usually outdated. Either it’s an answer you came up with long ago and now use instead of thinking, or it’s triggering a knee-jerk emotional response to something that happened long ago.
Darius Foroux (Think Straight: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life)
The disorders that psychology associates with the dissonance between what parents say to children and what children know to be reality - from deep insecurities to chronic anxiety to depression - are not to be found among the hunter-gatherers I have known. This is not to claim that they are people who know nothing of mental illness. Rather, it is to look at the absence of a particular kind of illness, one that in my own society is somewhere between common and the norm. The apparent sturdiness of the hunter-gatherer personality, the virtual universality of self-confidence and equanimity, the absence of anxiety disorders and most depressive illnesses - these may well be the benefits of using words to tell the truth.
Hugh Brody (The Other Side of Eden: Hunters, Farmers, and the Shaping of the World)
Consider an AI that has hedonism as its final goal, and which would therefore like to tile the universe with “hedonium” (matter organized in a configuration that is optimal for the generation of pleasurable experience). To this end, the AI might produce computronium (matter organized in a configuration that is optimal for computation) and use it to implement digital minds in states of euphoria. In order to maximize efficiency, the AI omits from the implementation any mental faculties that are not essential for the experience of pleasure, and exploits any computational shortcuts that according to its definition of pleasure do not vitiate the generation of pleasure. For instance, the AI might confine its simulation to reward circuitry, eliding faculties such as a memory, sensory perception, executive function, and language; it might simulate minds at a relatively coarse-grained level of functionality, omitting lower-level neuronal processes; it might replace commonly repeated computations with calls to a lookup table; or it might put in place some arrangement whereby multiple minds would share most parts of their underlying computational machinery (their “supervenience bases” in philosophical parlance). Such tricks could greatly increase the quantity of pleasure producible with a given amount of resources.
Nick Bostrom (Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies)
So, you may ask, what is the use of studying the world of imagination where anything is possible and anything can be assumed, where there are no rights or wrongs and all arguments are equally good? One of the most obvious uses, I think, is its encouragement of tolerance. In the imagination our own beliefs are also only possibilities, but we can also see the possibilities in the beliefs of others. Bigots and fanatics seldom have any use for the arts, because they're so preoccupied with their beliefs and actions that they can't see them as also possibilities. It's possible to go to the other extreme, to be a dilettante so bemused by possibilities that one has no convictions or power to act at all. But such people are much less common than bigots, and in our world much less dangerous.
Northrop Frye (The Educated Imagination (Midland Books))
Gathering, analyzing, sorting, and storing information—these functions and more the mind can perform so automatically, skillfully, and effortlessly that it makes the most sophisticated computer look like a plastic toy by comparison. But it can do infinitely more. To use the mind as it's all too commonly used, on the kinds of things that it's usually used on, is about as inefficient and inappropriate as using a magic sword to open up a can of beans. The power of a clear mind is beyond description. But it can be attained by anyone who can appreciate and utilize the value of Nothing.
Benjamin Hoff (The Tao of Pooh)
One of the most common platitudes we heard was that “words failed.” But words were not failing us at all. It was not true that there was no way to describe our experience. We had plenty of language to talk to each other about the horror of what was happening, and talk we did. If there was a communication problem it was that there were too many words; they were far too heavy and too specific to be inflicted upon others. If something was failing it was the functionality of routine, platitudinous language—the comforting clichés were now inapplicable and perfectly useless. We instinctively protected other people from the knowledge we possessed; we let them think that words failed, because we knew they didn’t want to be familiar with the vocabulary we used daily. We were sure they didn’t want to know what we did; we didn’t want to know it either.
Aleksandar Hemon (The Book of My Lives)
Evil was defined as the use of power to destroy the spiritual growth of others for the purpose of defending and preserving the integrity of our own sick selves. In short, it is scapegoating. We scapegoat not the strong but the weak. For the evil to so misuse their power, they must have the power to use in the first place. They must have some kind of dominion over their victims. The most common relationship of dominion is that of parent over child. Children are weak, defenseless, and trapped in relation to their parents. They are born in thrall to their parents ... They are simply not free or powerful enough to escape.
M. Scott Peck
A common strand appeared to unite these conflicts, and that was the advancement of a small coterie’s concept of American interests in the guise of the fight against terrorism, which was defined to refer only to the organized and politically motivated killing of civilians by killers not wearing the uniforms of soldiers. I recognized that if this was to be the single most important priority of our species, then the lives of those of us who lived in lands in which such killers also lived had no meaning except as collateral damage. This, I reasoned, was why America felt justified in bringing so many deaths to Afghanistan and Iraq, and why America felt justified in risking so many more deaths by tacitly using India to pressure Pakistan.
Mohsin Hamid (The Reluctant Fundamentalist)
Making Genetic Changes We used to think that genes created disease and that we were at the mercy of our DNA. So if many people in someone’s family died of heart disease, we assumed that their chances of also developing heart disease would be pretty high. But we now know through the science of epigenetics that it’s not the gene that creates disease but the environment that programs our genes to create disease—and not just the external environment outside our body (cigarette smoke or pesticides, for example), but also the internal environment within our body: the environment outside our cells. What do I mean by the environment within our body? As I said previously, emotions are chemical feedback, the end products of experiences we have in our external environment. So as we react to a situation in our external environment that produces an emotion, the resulting internal chemistry can signal our genes to either turn on (up-regulating, or producing an increased expression of the gene) or to turn off (down-regulating, or producing a decreased expression of the gene). The gene itself doesn’t physically change—the expression of the gene changes, and that expression is what matters most because that is what affects our health and our lives.
Joe Dispenza (Becoming Supernatural: How Common People are Doing the Uncommon)
This book is intended for use in English courses in which the practice of composition is combined with the study of literature. It aims to give in a brief space the principal requirements of plain English style. It aims to lighten the task of instructor and student by concentrating attention (in Chapters II and III) on a few essentials, the rules of usage and principles of composition most commonly violated. The numbers of the sections may be used as references in correcting manuscript.
William Strunk Jr. (The Elements Of Style)
The main substantive achievement of neoliberalization, however, has been to redistribute, rather than to generate, wealth and income. …[T]his was achieved under the rubric of ‘accumulation by dispossession’. By this I mean the continuation and proliferation of accumulation practices which Marx had treated of as ‘primitive’ or ‘original’ during the rise of capitalism. These include the commodification and privatization of land and the forceful expulsion of peasant populations (compare the cases, described above, of Mexico and of China, where 70 million peasants are thought to have been displaced in recent times); conversion of various forms of property rights (common, collective, state, etc.) into exclusive private property rights (most spectacularly represented by China); suppression of rights to the commons; commodification of labour power and the suppression of alternative (indigenous) forms of production and consumption; colonial, neocolonial, and imperial processes of appropriation of assets (including natural resources); monetization of exchange and taxation, particularly of land; the slave trade (which continues particularly in the sex industry); and usury, the national debt and, most devastating of all, the use of the credit system as a radical means of accumulation by dispossession.
David Harvey (A Brief History of Neoliberalism)
In its various forms, so far as we know them, Love seems always to have a deep significance and a most practical importance to us little mortals. In one form, as the mere semi-conscious Sex-love, which runs through creation and is common to the lowest animals and plants, it appears as a kind of organic basis for the unity of all creatures; in another, as the love of the mother for her offspring—which may also be termed a passion—it seems to pledge itself to the care and guardianship of the future race; in another, as the marriage of man and woman, it becomes the very foundation of human society. And so we can hardly believe that in its homogenic form, with which we are here concerned, it has not also a deep significance, and social uses and functions which will become clearer to us, the more we study it.
Edward Carpenter (The Intermediate Sex: A Study Of Some Transitional Types Of Men And Women)
Why, it seemed to me I had lost the most of myself; and there was left only a brain which played with ideas, and a body that went delicately down pleasant ways. And I could not believe as my fellows believed, nor could I love them, nor could I detect anything in aught they said or did save their exceeding folly: for I had lost their cordial common faith of what use they made of half-hours and months and years... I had lost faith in the importance of my own actions, too. There was a little time of which the passing might be made endurable; beyond gaped unpredictable darkness: and that was all there was of certainty anywhere.
James Branch Cabell (Jurgen (The Biography of Manuel, #7))
Oromis - What is the most important mental tool a person can possess? Eragon - Detrrmination. Oromis - [...] no. I meant the tool most necessary to choose the best course of action in any given situation. Determination is as common among men who are dull and foolish as it is among those who are brilliant intellects [...] Eragon - Wisdom, wisdom is the most important for a person to possess. Oromis- A fair guess, but, again, no. the answer is logic. Or, to put it another way, the ability to reason analytically.Applied properly it can overcome any lack of wisdom, which one only gains through age and experience. Eragon - yes but isn't having a good heart more important than logic. pure logic can lead you to conclusions that are ethically wrong, whereas if you are moral and righteous, that will ensure you don't act shamefully. Oromis - you confuse the issue. All I wanted to know isq what is the most useful 'tool'ma person can have [...] I agree that it is important to be of a virtous nature, but I would also conted that if you had to choose between giving a man a noble disposition or teaching him to think clearly, you'd do better to teach him to think clearly. Too many problems in this world are caused by men with noble dispositions and clouded minds.
Christopher Paolini
The Christian religion alone has been able to cure these twin vices, not by using one to expel the other according to worldly wisdom, but by expelling both through the simplicity of the Gospel. For it teaches the righteous, whom it exalts, even to participation in divinity itself, that in this sublime state they still bear the source of all corruption, which exposes them throughout their lives to error, misery, death and sin; and it cries out to the most ungodly that they are capable of the grace of their redeemer. Thus, making those whom it justifies tremble and consoling those whom it condemns, it so nicely tempers fear with hope through this dual capacity, common to all men, for grace and sin, that it causes infinitely more dejection than mere reason, but without despair, and infinitely more exaltation than natural pride, but without puffing us up.
Blaise Pascal (Pensées)
This hostility to unnatural sex had a demographic consequence of high importance. Puritan moralists condemned as unnatural any attempt to prevent conception within marriage. This was not a common attitude in world history. Most primitive cultures have practiced some form of contraception, often with high success. Iroquois squaws made diaphragms of birchbark; African slaves used pessaries of elephant dung to prevent pregnancy. European women employed beeswax disks, cabbage leaves, spermicides of lead, whitewash and tar. During the seventeenth and early eighteenth century, coitus interruptus and the use of sheepgut condoms became widespread in Europe.14
David Hackett Fischer (Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (America: a cultural history Book 1))
Worship itself is made up of ordinary stuff. We use plain words. Some of the most the glorious words in Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer are, well, common and plain enough to make you weep—“We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done, and there is no health in us.” We are baptized in plain water. We consume plain bread and wine. And it all is lifted up by plain people.
Tish Harrison Warren (Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life)
Akin to the idea that time is money is the concept, less spoken by as commonly assumed, that we may be adequately represented by money. The giving of money has thus become our characteristic virtue. But to give is not to do. The money is given in lieu of action, thought, care, time. And it is no remedy for the fragmentation of character and consciousness that is the consequence of specialization. At the simplest, most practical level, it would be difficult for most of us to give enough in donations to good causes to compensate for, much less remedy, the damage done by the money that is taken from us and used destructively by various agencies of the government and by the corporations that hold us in captive dependence on their products. Most important, even if we could give enough to overbalance the official and corporate misuse of our money, we would still not solve the problem: the willingness to be represented by money involves a submission to the modern divisions of character and community. The remedy safeguards the disease.
Wendell Berry (The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture)
However you refer to it, what this practice has in common with Deep Listening is that observing birds requires you quite literally to do nothing. Bird-watching is the opposite of looking something up online. You can’t really look for birds; you can’t make a bird come out and identify itself to you. The most you can do is walk quietly and wait until you hear something, and then stand motionless under a tree, using your animal senses to figure out where and what it is.
Jenny Odell (How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy)
To eat one's fill, eat until the exhaustion of the appetite, was the principal pleasure that the peasants dangled before their imagination, and one that they rarely realized in their lives. They [the peasants] also imagined other dreams coming true, including the standard run of castles and princesses. But their wishes usually remained fixed on common objects in the everyday world. One hero gets "a cow and some chickens"; another, an armoire full of linens. A third settles for light work, regular meals, and a pipe full of tobacco. And when gold rains into the fireplace of a fourth, he uses it to buy "food, clothes, a horse, land." In most of the tales, wish fulfillment turns into a program for survival, not a fantasy of escape.
Robert Darnton (The Great Cat Massacre)
So what steps can a regulator take when it has established that there is a problem? In very extreme cases it can remove a drug from the market (although in the US, technically drugs usually stay on the market, with the FDA advising against their use). More commonly it will issue a warning to doctors through one of its drug safety updates, a ‘Dear Doctor’ letter, or by changing the ‘label’ (confusingly, in reality, a leaflet) that comes with the drug. Drug-safety updates are sent to most doctors, though it’s not entirely clear whether they are widely read. But, amazingly, when a regulator decides to notify doctors about a side effect, the drug company can contest this, and delay the notice being sent out for months, or even years.
Ben Goldacre (Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients)
To begin with, we have to be more clear about what we mean by patriotic feelings. For a time when I was in high school, I cheered for the school athletic teams. That's a form of patriotism — group loyalty. It can take pernicious forms, but in itself it can be quite harmless, maybe even positive. At the national level, what "patriotism" means depends on how we view the society. Those with deep totalitarian commitments identify the state with the society, its people, and its culture. Therefore those who criticized the policies of the Kremlin under Stalin were condemned as "anti-Soviet" or "hating Russia". For their counterparts in the West, those who criticize the policies of the US government are "anti-American" and "hate America"; those are the standard terms used by intellectual opinion, including left-liberal segments, so deeply committed to their totalitarian instincts that they cannot even recognize them, let alone understand their disgraceful history, tracing to the origins of recorded history in interesting ways. For the totalitarian, "patriotism" means support for the state and its policies, perhaps with twitters of protest on grounds that they might fail or cost us too much. For those whose instincts are democratic rather than totalitarian, "patriotism" means commitment to the welfare and improvement of the society, its people, its culture. That's a natural sentiment and one that can be quite positive. It's one all serious activists share, I presume; otherwise why take the trouble to do what we do? But the kind of "patriotism" fostered by totalitarian societies and military dictatorships, and internalized as second nature by much of intellectual opinion in more free societies, is one of the worst maladies of human history, and will probably do us all in before too long. With regard to the US, I think we find a mix. Every effort is made by power and doctrinal systems to stir up the more dangerous and destructive forms of "patriotism"; every effort is made by people committed to peace and justice to organize and encourage the beneficial kinds. It's a constant struggle. When people are frightened, the more dangerous kinds tend to emerge, and people huddle under the wings of power. Whatever the reasons may be, by comparative standards the US has been a very frightened country for a long time, on many dimensions. Quite commonly in history, such fears have been fanned by unscrupulous leaders, seeking to implement their own agendas. These are commonly harmful to the general population, which has to be disciplined in some manner: the classic device is to stimulate fear of awesome enemies concocted for the purpose, usually with some shreds of realism, required even for the most vulgar forms of propaganda. Germany was the pride of Western civilization 70 years ago, but most Germans were whipped to presumably genuine fear of the Czech dagger pointed at the heart of Germany (is that crazier than the Nicaraguan or Grenadan dagger pointed at the heart of the US, conjured up by the people now playing the same game today?), the Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy aimed at destroying the Aryan race and the civilization that Germany had inherited from Greece, etc. That's only the beginning. A lot is at stake.
Noam Chomsky
Many people in this room have an Etsy store where they create unique, unreplicable artifacts or useful items to be sold on a small scale, in a common marketplace where their friends meet and barter. I and many of my friends own more than one spinning wheel. We grow our food again. We make pickles and jams on private, individual scales, when many of our mothers forgot those skills if they ever knew them. We come to conventions, we create small communities of support and distributed skills--when one of us needs help, our village steps in. It’s only that our village is no longer physical, but connected by DSL instead of roads. But look at how we organize our tribes--bloggers preside over large estates, kings and queens whose spouses’ virtues are oft-lauded but whose faces are rarely seen. They have moderators to protect them, to be their knights, a nobility of active commenters and big name fans, a peasantry of regular readers, and vandals starting the occasional flame war just to watch the fields burn. Other villages are more commune-like, sharing out resources on forums or aggregate sites, providing wise women to be consulted, rabbis or priests to explain the world, makers and smiths to fashion magical objects. Groups of performers, acrobats and actors and singers of songs are traveling the roads once more, entertaining for a brief evening in a living room or a wheatfield, known by word of mouth and secret signal. Separate from official government, we create our own hierarchies, laws, and mores, as well as our own folklore and secret history. Even my own guilt about having failed as an academic is quite the crisis of filial piety--you see, my mother is a professor. I have not carried on the family trade. We dwell within a system so large and widespread, so disorganized and unconcerned for anyone but its most privileged and luxurious members, that our powerlessness, when we can summon up the courage to actually face it, is staggering. So we do not face it. We tell ourselves we are Achilles when we have much more in common with the cathedral-worker, laboring anonymously so that the next generation can see some incremental progress. We lack, of course, a Great Work to point to and say: my grandmother made that window; I worked upon the door. Though, I would submit that perhaps the Internet, as an object, as an aggregate entity, is the cathedral we build word by word and image by image, window by window and portal by portal, to stand taller for our children, if only by a little, than it does for us. For most of us are Lancelots, not Galahads. We may see the Grail of a good Classical life, but never touch it. That is for our sons, or their daughters, or further off. And if our villages are online, the real world becomes that dark wood on the edge of civilization, a place of danger and experience, of magic and blood, a place to make one’s name or find death by bear. And here, there be monsters.
Catherynne M. Valente
The leprechaun, according to legend, can be forced to yield up its treasure if you can keep watching it without letting your attention wander for so much as a moment. This has so much in common with experiences in meditation that Zen masters in America use it as a metaphor for meditative practice. There’s an important lesson here: glamour is hardly limited to the realm of Faery. Most human beings live most of their lives under its spell, chasing after treasures that—like the golden coins in countless fairy tales—turn to dried leaves the moment one looks away.
John Michael Greer (Monsters: An Investigator's Guide to Magical Beings)
ONE OF the most irrational of all the conventions of modern society is the one to the effect that religious opinions should be respected. It is largely to blame, I suspect, for the slowness with which sound ideas are disseminated in the world. The minute a new one bobs up some faction or other of theologians falls upon it furiously, seeking to put it down. The most effective way to defend it, of course, would be to fall upon the theologians, for the only really useful defense is an all-out offensive. But the convention aforesaid protects them, and so they proceed with their blather unwhipped and almost unmolested, to the great damage of common sense and common decency. That they should have this immunity is an outrage. There is nothing in religious ideas, as a class, to lift them above other ideas. On the contrary, they are always dubious and often quite silly. Nor is there any visible intellectual dignity in theologians. Few of them know anything that is worth knowing, and not many of them are even honest.
H.L. Mencken (Minority Report)
The most common argument used against church discipline is that it is unloving and judgmental. In rebuttal, we merely need to point to the teachings of our Lord, who commanded such a practice. If we are unloving in obeying the command, was He unloving in giving it? Although we are not to judge with critical and censorious attitudes, we are commanded to judge and even expel if necessary.28 If in the consummation of all things we are going to judge angels, are we not now able to judge matters pertaining to the church and her well-being?29 Our boasting in a love that refuses to confront unrepentant sin is not good. Do we not understand that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?30 Are we demonstrating love toward God when we allow sin to run rampant in the church so that God’s name is blasphemed among unbelievers?31 Are we demonstrating love toward our brothers in Christ when we allow them to be destroyed by habitual sin, or are we demonstrating self-love and refusing to enter into conflict for the sake of self-preservation?
Paul David Washer (The Gospel Call and True Conversion (Recovering the Gospel Book 2))
I think there’s a greater detriment with our escalating progression toward the opposite extremity—the increasingly common ideology that assures people they’re right about what they believe. And note that I used the word “detriment.” I did not use the word “danger,” because I don’t think the notion of people living under the misguided premise that they’re right is often dangerous. Most day-to-day issues are minor, the passage of time will dictate who was right and who was wrong, and the future will sort out the past. It is, however, socially detrimental. It hijacks conversation and aborts ideas. It engenders a delusion of simplicity that benefits people with inflexible minds. It makes the experience of living in a society slightly worse than it should be.
Chuck Klosterman (But What If We're Wrong?: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past)
Most persons are surprised, and many distressed, to learn that essentially the same objections commonly urged today against computers were urged by Plato in the Phaedrus (274–7) and in the Seventh Letter against writing. Writing, Plato has Socrates say in the Phaedrus, is inhuman, pretending to establish outside the mind what in reality can be only in the mind. It is a thing, a manufactured product. The same of course is said of computers. Secondly, Plato's Socrates urges, writing destroys memory. Those who use writing will become forgetful, relying on an external resource for what they lack in internal resources. Writing weakens the mind.
Walter J. Ong (Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (New Accents))
More profoundly, Nihilist "simplification" may be seen in the universal prestige today accorded the lowest order of knowledge, the scientific, as well as the simplistic ideas of men like Marx, Freud, and Darwin, which underlie virtually the whole of contemporary thought and life. We say "life," for it is important to see that the Nihilist history of our century has not been something imposed from without or above, or at least has not been predominantly this; it has rather presupposed, and drawn its nourishment from, a Nihilist soil that has long been preparing in the hearts of the people. It is precisely from the Nihilism of the commonplace, from the everyday Nihilism revealed in the life and thought and aspiration of the people, that all the terrible events of our century have sprung. The world-view of Hitler is very instructive in this regard, for in him the most extreme and monstrous Nihilism rested upon the foundation of a quite unexceptional and even typical Realism. He shared the common faith in "science," "progress," and "enlightenment" (though not, of course, in "democracy"), together with a practical materialism that scorned all theology, metaphysics, and any thought or action concerned with any other world than the "here and now," priding himself on the fact that he had "the gift of reducing all problems to their simplest foundations." He had a crude worship of efficiency and utility that freely tolerated "birth control", laughed at the institution of marriage as a mere legalization of a sexual impulse that should be "free", welcomed sterilization of the unfit, despised "unproductive elements" such as monks, saw nothing in the cremation of the dead but a "practical" question and did not even hesitate to put the ashes, or the skin and fat, of the dead to "productive use." He possessed the quasi-anarchist distrust of sacred and venerable institutions, in particular the Church with its "superstitions" and all its "outmoded" laws and ceremonies. He had a naive trust in the "natural mom, the "healthy animal" who scorns the Christian virtues--virginity in particular--that impede the "natural functioning" of the body. He took a simple-minded delight in modern conveniences and machines, and especially in the automobile and the sense of speed and "freedom" it affords. There is very little of this crude Weltanschauung that is not shared, to some degree, by the multitudes today, especially among the young, who feel themselves "enlightened" and "liberated," very little that is not typically "modern.
Seraphim Rose
A person who peremptorily denies the existence of anything which is beyond the horizon of his understanding because he cannot make it harmonise with his accepted opinions is as credulous as he who believes everything without any discrimination. Either of these persons is not a freethinker, but a slave to the opinions which he has accepted from others, or which he may have formed in the course of his education, and by his special experiences in his (naturally limited) intercourse with the world. If such persons meet with any extraordinary fact that is beyond their own experience, they often either regard it with awe and wonder, and are ready to accept any wild and improbable theory that may be offered to them in regard to such facts, or they sometimes reject the testimony of credible witnesses, and frequently even that of their own senses. They often do not hesitate to impute the basest motives and the most silly puerilities to honourable persons, and are credulous enough to believe that serious and wise people had taken the trouble to play upon them “practical jokes,” and they are often willing to admit the most absurd theories rather than to use their own common sense.
Franz Hartmann (Life and Doctrines of Paracelsus)
Society itself falls apart into class and intraclass groups; individual life-sequences are directly linked with these and together both individual life and subgroups are opposed to the whole. Thus in the early stages of slaveholding society and in feudal society, individual life-sequences are still rather tightly interwoven with the common life of the most immediate social group. But nevertheless they are separate, even here. The course of individual lives, of groups, and of the sociopolitical whole do not fuse together, they are dispersed, there are gaps; they are measured by different scales of value; each of these series has its own logic of development, its own narratives, each makes use of and reinterprets the ancient motifs in its own way. Within the boundaries of individual life-series, an interior aspect makes itself apparent. The process of separating out and detaching individual life-sequences from the whole reaches its highest point when financial relations develop in slaveholding society, and under capitalism. Here the individual sequence takes on its specific private character and what is held in common becomes maximally abstract. The ancient motifs that had passed into the individual life-narratives here undergo a specific kind of degeneration. Food, drink, copulation and so forth lose their ancient "pathos" (their link, their unity with the laboring life of the social whole); they become a petty private matter; they seem to exhaust all their significance within the boundaries of individual life. As a result of this severance from the producing life of the whole and from the collective struggle with nature, their real links with the life of nature are weakened-if not severed altogether.
Mikhail Bakhtin (The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays (University of Texas Press Slavic Series Book 1))
In addition to the gremlins, another thing that gets in the way of meaningful work is the struggle to define who we are and what we do in an honest way. In a world that values the primacy of work, the most common question that we ask and get asked is, “What do you do?” I used to wince every time someone asked me this question. I felt like my choices were to reduce myself to an easily digestible sound bite or to confuse the hell out of people. Now my answer to “What do you do?” is, “How much time do you have?” Most of us have complicated answers to this question. For example, I’m a mom, partner, researcher, writer, storyteller, sister, friend, daughter, and teacher. All of these things make up who I am, so I never know how to answer that question.
Brené Brown (The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are)
How much time, after this realization sank in and spread among consumers (mostly via phone, interestingly), would any micro-econometrist expect to need to pass before high-tech visual videophony was mostly abandoned, then, a return to good old telephoning not only dictated by common consumer sense but actually after a while culturally approved as a kind of chic integrity, not Ludditism but a kind of retrograde transcendence of sci-fi-ish high-tech for its own sake, a transcendence of the vanity and the slavery to high-tech fashion that people view as so unattractive in one another. In other words a return to aural-only telephony became, at the closed curve’s end, a kind of status-symbol of anti-vanity, such that only callers utterly lacking in self-awareness continued to use videophony and Tableaux, to say nothing of masks, and these tacky facsimile-using people became ironic cultural symbols of tacky vain slavery to corporate PR and high-tech novelty, became the Subsidized Era’s tacky equivalents of people with leisure suits, black velvet paintings, sweater-vests for their poodles, electric zirconium jewelry, NoCoat Lin-guaScrapers, and c.
David Foster Wallace (Infinite Jest)
Most of these stories are on the tragic side. But the reader must not suppose that the incidents I have narrated were of common occurrence. The vast majority of these people, government servants, planters, and traders, who spent their working lives in Malaya were ordinary people ordinarily satisfied with their station in life. They did the jobs they were paid to do more or less competently,. They were as happy with their wives as are most married couples. They led humdrum lives and did very much the same things every day. Sometimes by way of a change they got a little shooting; but at a rule, after they had done their day's work, they played tennis if there were people to play with, went to the club at sundown if there was a club in the vicinity, drank in moderation, and played bridge. They had their little tiffs, their little jealousies, their little flirtations, their little celebrations. They were good, decent, normal people. I respect, and even admire, such people, but they are not the sort of people I can write stories about. I write stories about people who have some singularity of character which suggests to me that they may be capable of behaving in such a way as to give me an idea that I can make use of, or about people who by some accident or another, accident of temperament, accident of environment, have been involved in unusual contingencies. But, I repeat, they are the exception.
W. Somerset Maugham (Collected Short Stories: Volume 4)
It little profits that an idle king, By this still hearth, among these barren crags, Matched with an aged wife, I mete and dole Unequal laws unto a savage race, That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me. I cannot rest from travel; I will drink life to the lees. All times I have enjoyed Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those that loved me, and alone; on shore, and when Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades Vexed the dim sea. I am become a name; For always roaming with a hungry heart Much have I seen and known---cities of men And manners, climates, councils, governments, Myself not least, but honored of them all--- And drunk delight of battle with my peers, Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy. I am part of all that I have met; Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades Forever and forever when I move. How dull it is to pause, to make an end. To rust unburnished, not to shine in use! As though to breathe were life! Life piled on life Were all too little, and of one to me Little remains; but every hour is saved From that eternal silence, something more, A bringer of new things; and vile it were For some three suns to store and hoard myself, And this gray spirit yearning in desire To follow knowledge like a sinking star, Beyond the utmost bound of human thought. This is my son, my own Telemachus, To whom I leave the scepter and the isle--- Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill This labor, by slow prudence to make mild A rugged people, and through soft degrees Subdue them to the useful and the good. Most blameless is he, centered in the sphere Of common duties, decent not to fail In offices of tenderness, and pay Meet adoration to my household gods, When I am gone. He works his work, I mine. There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail; There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners, Souls that have toiled, and wrought, and thought with me--- That ever with a frolic welcome took The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed Free hearts, free foreheads---you and I are old; Old age hath yet his honor and his toil. Death closes all; but something ere the end, Some work of noble note, may yet be done, Not unbecoming men that strove with gods. The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks; The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends. 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world. Push off, and sitting well in order smite the sounding furrows; for my purpose holds To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths Of all the western stars, until I die. It may be that the gulfs will wash us down; It may be that we shall touch the Happy Isles, And see the great Achilles, whom we knew. Though much is taken, much abides; and though We are not now that strength which in old days Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are--- One equal temper of heroic hearts, Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Alfred Tennyson
Your Creative Autobiography 1. What is the first creative moment you remember? 2. Was anyone there to witness or appreciate it? 3. What is the best idea you’ve ever had? 4. What made it great in your mind? 5. What is the dumbest idea? 6. What made it stupid? 7. Can you connect the dots that led you to this idea? 8. What is your creative ambition? 9. What are the obstacles to this ambition? 10. What are the vital steps to achieving this ambition? 11. How do you begin your day? 12. What are your habits? What patterns do you repeat? 13. Describe your first successful creative act. 14. Describe your second successful creative act. 15. Compare them. 16. What are your attitudes toward: money, power, praise, rivals, work, play? 17. Which artists do you admire most? 18. Why are they your role models? 19. What do you and your role models have in common? 20. Does anyone in your life regularly inspire you? 21. Who is your muse? 22. Define muse. 23. When confronted with superior intelligence or talent, how do you respond? 24. When faced with stupidity, hostility, intransigence, laziness, or indifference in others, how do you respond? 25. When faced with impending success or the threat of failure, how do you respond? 26. When you work, do you love the process or the result? 27. At what moments do you feel your reach exceeds your grasp? 28. What is your ideal creative activity? 29. What is your greatest fear? 30. What is the likelihood of either of the answers to the previous two questions happening? 31. Which of your answers would you most like to change? 32. What is your idea of mastery? 33. What is your greatest dream?
Twyla Tharp (The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life (Learn In and Use It for Life))
...this, this life, this "everything" you know is a mere paper construction. You, my TV dinner-sucking, glazed-eyed friends, are living in ... the matrix ... and all you have to do to see the real world, God and Satan's glorious kingdom on Earth, all you have to do to taste real life is to risk being your true self... to dare... to watch... to listen... to all the late-night staticky-voiced deejays playing "race" records blowing in under the radar, shouting their tinny AM radio manifesto, their stations filled with poets, geniuses, rockers, bluesmen, preachers, philosopher kings, speaking to you from deep in the heart of your own soul. Their voices sing, "Listen... listen to what this world is telling you, for it is calling for your love, your rage, your beauty, your sex, your energy, your rebellion... because it needs you in order to remake itself. In order to be reborn into something else, something maybe better, more godly, more wonderful, it needs us. This new world is a world of black and white. A place of freedom where the two most culturally powerful tribes in American society find common ground, pleasure and joy in each other's presence. Where they use a common language to speak with... to be with one another.
Bruce Springsteen (Born to Run)
In 1983 Colonel Burns wrote a poem in which he envisioned how his fledgling communications network might one day influence the world. Imagine the emergence of a new meta-culture. Imagine all kinds of people everywhere getting committed to human excellence, getting committed to closing the gap between the human condition and the human potential... And imagine all of us hooked up with a common high tech communications system. That's a vision that brings tears to the eyes. Human excellence is an ideal that we can embed into every formal human structure on our planet. And that's really why we're going to do this. And that's also why The Meta Network is a creation we can love. Notwithstanding Colonel Burns's failure to foresee that people would use the Internet mostly to access porn and look themselves up on Google, his prescience was admirable.
Jon Ronson (The Men Who Stare at Goats)
Historians, and even common sense, may inform us, that, however specious these ideas of perfect equality may seem, they are really, at bottom, impracticable; and were they not so, would be extremely pernicious to human society. Render possessions ever so equal, men's different degrees of art, care, and industry will immediately break that equality. Or if you check these virtues, you reduce society to the most extreme indigence; and instead of preventing want and beggary in a few, render it unavoidable to the whole community. The most rigorous inquisition too is requisite to watch every inequality on its first appearance; and the most severe jurisdiction, to punish and redress it. But besides, that so much authority must soon degenerate into tyranny, and be exerted with great partialities; who can possibly be possessed of it, in such a situation as is here supposed? Perfect equality of possessions, destroying all subordination, weakens extremely the authority of magistracy, and must reduce all power nearly to a level, as well as property. We may conclude, therefore, that in order to establish laws for the regulation of property, we must be acquainted with the nature and situation of man; must reject appearances, which may be false, though specious; and must search for those rules, which are, on the whole, most useful and beneficial.
David Hume (An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals)
George Williams, the revered evolutionary biologist, describes the natural world as “grossly immoral.” Having no foresight or compassion, natural selection “can honestly be described as a process for maximizing short-sighted selfishness.” On top of all the miseries inflicted by predators and parasites, the members of a species show no pity to their own kind. Infanticide, siblicide, and rape can be observed in many kinds of animals; infidelity is common even in so-called pair-bonded species; cannibalism can be expected in all species that are not strict vegetarians; death from fighting is more common in most animal species than it is in the most violent American cities. Commenting on how biologists used to describe the killing of starving deer by mountain lions as an act of mercy, Williams wrote: “The simple facts are that both predation and starvation are painful prospects for deer, and that the lion's lot is no more enviable. Perhaps biology would have been able to mature more rapidly in a culture not dominated by Judeo-Christian theology and the Romantic tradition. It might have been well served by the First Holy Truth from [Buddha's] Sermon at Benares: “Birth is painful, old age is painful, sickness is painful, death is painful...”” As soon as we recognize that there is nothing morally commendable about the products of evolution, we can describe human psychology honestly, without the fear that identifying a “natural” trait is the same as condoning it. As Katharine Hepburn says to Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen, “Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above.
Steven Pinker (The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature)
..I began speaking.. First, I took issue with the media's characterization of the post-Katrina New Orleans as resembling the third world as its poor citizens clamored for a way out. I suggested that my experience in New Orleans working with the city's poorest people in the years before the storm had reflected the reality of third-world conditions in New Orleans, and that Katrina had not turned New Orleans into a third-world city but had only revealed it to the world as such. I explained that my work, running Reprieve, a charity that brought lawyers and volunteers to the Deep South from abroad to work on death penalty issues, had made it clear to me that much of the world had perceived this third-world reality, even if it was unnoticed by our own citizens. To try answer Ryan's question, I attempted to use my own experience to explain that for many people in New Orleans, and in poor communities across the country, the government was merely an antagonist, a terrible landlord, a jailer, and a prosecutor. As a lawyer assigned to indigent people under sentence of death and paid with tax dollars, I explained the difficulty of working with clients who stand to be executed and who are provided my services by the state, not because they deserve them, but because the Constitution requires that certain appeals to be filed before these people can be killed. The state is providing my clients with my assistance, maybe the first real assistance they have ever received from the state, so that the state can kill them. I explained my view that the country had grown complacent before Hurricane Katrina, believing that the civil rights struggle had been fought and won, as though having a national holiday for Martin Luther King, or an annual march by politicians over the bridge in Selma, Alabama, or a prosecution - forty years too late - of Edgar Ray Killen for the murder of civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi, were any more than gestures. Even though President Bush celebrates his birthday, wouldn't Dr. King cry if he could see how little things have changed since his death? If politicians or journalists went to Selma any other day of the year, they would see that it is a crumbling city suffering from all of the woes of the era before civil rights were won as well as new woes that have come about since. And does anyone really think that the Mississippi criminal justice system could possibly be a vessel of social change when it incarcerates a greater percentage of its population than almost any place in the world, other than Louisiana and Texas, and then compels these prisoners, most of whom are black, to work prison farms that their ancestors worked as chattel of other men? ... I hoped, out loud, that the post-Katrina experience could be a similar moment [to the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fiasco], in which the American people could act like the children in the story and declare that the emperor has no clothes, and hasn't for a long time. That, in light of Katrina, we could be visionary and bold about what people deserve. We could say straight out that there are people in this country who are racist, that minorities are still not getting a fair shake, and that Republican policies heartlessly disregard the needs of individual citizens and betray the common good. As I stood there, exhausted, in front of the thinning audience of New Yorkers, it seemed possible that New Orleans's destruction and the suffering of its citizens hadn't been in vain.
Billy Sothern (Down in New Orleans: Reflections from a Drowned City)
Mystical experience needs some form of dogma in order not to dissipate into moments of spiritual intensity that are merely personal, and dogma needs regular infusions of unknowingness to keep from calcifying into the predictable, pontificating, and anti-intellectual services so common in mainstream American churches. So what does all this mean practically? It means that congregations must be conscious of the persistent and ineradicable loneliness that makes a person seek communion, with other people and with God, in the first place. It means that conservative churches that are infused with the bouncy brand of American optimism one finds in sales pitches are selling shit. It means that liberal churches that go months without mentioning the name of Jesus, much less the dying Christ, have no more spiritual purpose or significance than a local union hall. It means that we -- those of us who call ourselves Christians -- need a revolution in the way we worship. This could mean many different things -- poetry as liturgy, focused and extended silences, learning from other religious traditions and rituals (this seems crucial), incorporating apophatic language. But one thing it means for sure: we must be conscious of language as language, must call into question every word we use until we refine or remake a language that is fit for our particular religious doubts and despairs -- and of course (and most of all!) our joys.
Christian Wiman (My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer)
The most tragic error into which older people can fall is one that is common among educators and politicians. It is to use youth as scapegoats for the sins of their elders. Is the nation wasting its young men and its honor in an unjust war? Never mind — direct your frustration at the long-haired young people who are shouting in the streets that the war must end. Curse them as hippies and immoral, dirty fanatics; after all, we older Americans could not have been wrong about anything important, because our hearts are all in the right place and God is always on our side, so anyone who opposes us must be insane, and probably in the pay of the godless Communists. Youth is in the process of being classed with the dark- skinned minorities as the object of popular scorn and hatred. It    is   as  if  Americans  have  to  have  a  "nigger,"  a  target                             for its hidden frustrations and guilt. Without someone to blame, like the Communists abroad and the young and black at home, middle America would be forced to consider whether all the problems of our time were in any way its own fault. That is the one thing it could never stand to do. Hence, it finds scapegoats. Few adults, I am afraid, will ever break free of the crippling attitudes that have been programmed into their personalities – racism, self-righteousness, lack of concern for the losers of the world, and an excessive regard for property. One reason, as I have noted, is that they do not know they are like this, and that they proclaim ideals that are the reverse of many of their actions. Such hypocrisy, even if it is unconscious, is the real barrier between them and their children.
Shirley Chisholm (Unbought and Unbossed)
Many years later when I got involved in activism, I noticed a very common thread. A lot of us girls had been psychologically abused by our mothers. A [Muslim] woman who has no control over her life craves control. There are very few outlets where that control is acceptable. In her immediate family, she cannot exert control over her husband or her son, but her daughter is fair game. All of her aggression and frustration are released in that one direction. Since, according to Hadith, Heaven is at the feet of mothers, mothers will get to determine if their children will burn in Hell for eternity or not. That is a lot of power to wield over a child. That power can have tragic results in the hands of an abusive mother. She can abuse the status and use it to control and manipulate. You must be an obedient slave to get her affection, support, approval, and, most importantly, to get into Heaven one day. She can revoke her 'blessing' at any point, keeping you in line for perpetuity.
Yasmine Mohammed (Unveiled: How Western Liberals Empower Radical Islam)
Using your wealth to purchase other people’s loyalty is a game as old as humanity itself. Rich men use their wealth to attract women, unscrupulous employers use material incentives and disincentives to manipulate their workers, and wealthy countries like the USA use their national wealth to keep their citizens loyal to the cause of aggressive and genocidal Imperialism. But historical longevity and common practice don’t make the manipulation or exploitation morally or ethically right. Organized religions are inherently POLITICAL organizations. There is a fundamental difference between the financial enterprise and political machinations of an organized religion versus a mass of independent unaffiliated believers, philosophers, and mystics who do not support any organized religion. Christianity and Islam are known as proselytizing religions because they make an organized and systemic effort to gain converts, and they often provide services, products, or employment to attract converts. Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism show far less zeal about gaining converts, which is why you almost never hear about Jewish, Hindu, or Buddhist missionaries. Modern medical and nursing schools usually teach their students the moral principle that the provision of medical services should never be used as a means to proselytize or promote a religion, but that does not deter many Christian health care providers from doing exactly that. Most of the medical and charitable organizations based in Christian countries are fronts for Christian proselytizing activities.
Gregory F. Fegel
We are focus-points of consciousness, [...] enormously creative. When we enter the self-constructed hologrammetric arena we call spacetime, we begin at once to generate creativity particles, imajons, in violent continuous pyrotechnic deluge. Imajons have no charge of their own but are strongly polarized through our attitudes and by the force of our choice and desire into clouds of conceptons, a family of very-high-energy particles which may be positive, negative or neutral. [...] Some common positive conceptions are exhilarons, excytons, rhapsodons, jovions. Common negative conceptions include gloomons, tormentons, tribulons, agonons, miserons. "Indefinite numbers of conceptions are created in nonstop eruption, a thundering cascade of creativity pouring from every center of personal consciousness. They mushroom into conception clouds, which can be neutral or strongly charged - buoyant, weightless or leaden, depending on the nature of their dominant particles. "Every nanosecond an indefinite number of conception clouds build to critical mass, then transform in quantum bursts to high-energy probability waves radiating at tachyon speeds through an eternal reservoir of supersaturated alternate events. Depending on their charge and nature, the probability waves crystallize certain of these potential events to match the mental polarity of their creating consciousness into holographic appearance. [...] "The materialized events become that mind's experience, freighted with all the aspects of physical structure necessary to make them real and learningful to the creating consciousness. This autonomic process is the fountain from which springs every object and event in the theater of spacetime. "The persuasion of the imajon hypothesis lies in its capacity for personal verification. The hypothesis predicts that as we focus our conscious intention on the positive and life-affirming, as we fasten our thought on these values, we polarize masses of positive conceptions, realize beneficial probability-waves, bring useful alternate events to us that otherwise would not have appeared to exist. "The reverse is true in the production of negative events, as is the mediocre in-between. Through default or intention, unaware or by design, we not only choose but create the visible outer conditions that are most resonant to our inner state of being [...]
Richard Bach (Running from Safety: An Adventure of the Spirit)
It was a relief to see his father, who'd always been an unfailing source of reassurance and comfort. They clasped hands in a firm shake, and used their free arms to pull close for a moment. Such demonstrations of affection weren't common among fathers and sons of their rank, but then, they'd never been a conventional family. After a few hearty thumps on the back, Sebastian drew back and glanced over him with the attentive concern that hearkened to Gabriel's earliest memories. Not missing the traces of weariness on his face, his father lightly tousled his hair the way he had when he was a boy. "You haven't been sleeping." "I went carousing with friends for most of last night," Gabriel admitted. "It ended when we were all too drunk to see a hole through a ladder." Sebastian grinned and removed his coat, tossing the exquisitely tailored garment to a nearby chair. "Reveling in the waning days of bachelorhood, are we?" "It would be more accurate to say I'm thrashing like a drowning rat." "Same thing." Sebastian unfastened his cuffs and began to roll up his shirtsleeves. An active life at Heron's Point, the family estate in Sussex, had kept him as fit and limber as a man half his age. Frequent exposure to the sunlight had gilded his hair and darkened his complexion, making his pale blue eyes startling in their brightness. While other men of his generation had become staid and settled, the duke was more vigorous than ever, in part because his youngest son was still only eleven. The duchess, Evie, had conceived unexpectedly long after she had assumed her childbearing years were past. As a result there were eight years between the baby's birth and that of the next oldest sibling, Seraphina. Evie had been more than a little embarrassed to find herself with child at her age, especially in the face of her husband's teasing claims that she was a walking advertisement of his potency. And indeed, there have been a hint of extra swagger in Sebastian's step all through his wife's last pregnancy. Their fifth child was a handsome boy with hair the deep auburn red of an Irish setter. He'd been christened Michael Ivo, but somehow the pugnacious middle name suited him more than his given name. Now a lively, cheerful lad, Ivo accompanied his father nearly everywhere.
Lisa Kleypas (Devil in Spring (The Ravenels, #3))
In the middle of the night, he woke up and realized to his surprise that he had been having one erotic dream after the other. The only one he could recall with any clarity was the last: an enormous naked woman, at least five times his size, floating on her back in a pool, her belly from crotch to navel covered with thick hair. Looking at her from the side of the pool, he was greatly excited. How could he have been excited when his body was debilitated by a gastric disorder? And how could he be excited by the sight of a woman who would have repelled him had he seen her while conscious? He thought: In the clockwork of the head, two cogwheels turn opposite each other. On the one, images; on the other, the body's reactions. The cog carrying the image of a naked woman meshes with the corresponding erection-command cog. But when, for one reason or another, the wheels go out of phase and the excitement cog meshes with a cog bearing the image of a swallow in flight, the penis rises at the sight of a swallow. Moreover, a study by one of Tomas's colleagues, a specialist in human sleep, claimed that during any kind of dream men have erections, which means that the link between erections and naked women is only one of a thousand ways the Creator can set the clockwork moving in a man's head. And what has love in common with all this? Nothing. If a cogwheel in Tomas's head goes out of phase and he is excited by seeing a swallow, it has absolutely no effect on his love for Tereza. If excitement is a mechanism our Creator uses for His own amusement, love is something that belongs to us alone and enables us to flee the Creator. Love is our freedom. Love lies beyond Es muss sein! Though that is not entirely true. Even if love is something other than a clockwork of sex that the Creator uses for His own amusement, it is still attached to it. It is attached to it like a tender naked woman to the pendulum of an enormous clock. Thomas thought: Attaching love to sex is one of the most bizarre ideas the Creator ever had. He also thought: One way of saving love from the stupidity of sex would be to set the clockwork in our head in such a way as to excite us at the sight of a swallow. And with that sweet thought he started dozing off. But on the very threshold of sleep, in the no-man's-land of muddled concepts, he was suddenly certain he had just discovered the solution to all riddles, the key to all mysteries, a new utopia, a paradise: a world where man is excited by seeing a swallow and Tomas can love Tereza without being disturbed by the aggressive stupidity of sex.
Milan Kundera (The Unbearable Lightness of Being)
My mother delayed my enrollment in the Fascist scouts, the Balilla, as long as possible, firstly because she did not want me to learn how to handle weapons, but also because the meetings that were then held on Sunday mornings (before the Fascist Saturday was instituted) consisted mostly of a Mass in the scouts' chapel. When I had to be enrolled as part of my school duties, she asked that I be excused from the Mass; this was impossible for disciplinary reasons, but my mother saw to it that the chaplain and the commander were aware that I was not a Catholic and that I should not be asked to perform any external acts of devotion in church. In short, I often found myself in situations different from others, looked on as if I were some strange animal. I do not think this harmed me: one gets used to persisting in one's habits, to finding oneself isolated for good reasons, to putting up with the discomfort that this causes, to finding the right way to hold on to positions which are not shared by the majority. But above all I grew up tolerant of others' opinions, particularly in the field of religion, remembering how irksome it was to hear myself mocked because I did not follow the majority's beliefs. And at the same time I have remained totally devoid of that taste for anticlericalism which is so common in those who are educated surrounded by religion. I have insisted on setting down these memories because I see that many non-believing friends let their children have a religious education 'so as not to give them complexes', 'so that they don't feel different from the others.' I believe that this behavior displays a lack of courage which is totally damaging pedagogically. Why should a young child not begin to understand that you can face a small amount of discomfort in order to stay faithful to an idea? And in any case, who said that young people should not have complexes? Complexes arise through a natural attrition with the reality that surrounds us, and when you have complexes you try to overcome them. Life is in fact nothing but this triumphing over one's own complexes, without which the formation of a character and personality does not happen.
Italo Calvino (Hermit in Paris: Autobiographical Writings)
One of my greatest fears is family decline.There’s an old Chinese saying that “prosperity can never last for three generations.” I’ll bet that if someone with empirical skills conducted a longitudinal survey about intergenerational performance, they’d find a remarkably common pattern among Chinese immigrants fortunate enough to have come to the United States as graduate students or skilled workers over the last fifty years. The pattern would go something like this: • The immigrant generation (like my parents) is the hardest-working. Many will have started off in the United States almost penniless, but they will work nonstop until they become successful engineers, scientists, doctors, academics, or businesspeople. As parents, they will be extremely strict and rabidly thrifty. (“Don’t throw out those leftovers! Why are you using so much dishwasher liquid?You don’t need a beauty salon—I can cut your hair even nicer.”) They will invest in real estate. They will not drink much. Everything they do and earn will go toward their children’s education and future. • The next generation (mine), the first to be born in America, will typically be high-achieving. They will usually play the piano and/or violin.They will attend an Ivy League or Top Ten university. They will tend to be professionals—lawyers, doctors, bankers, television anchors—and surpass their parents in income, but that’s partly because they started off with more money and because their parents invested so much in them. They will be less frugal than their parents. They will enjoy cocktails. If they are female, they will often marry a white person. Whether male or female, they will not be as strict with their children as their parents were with them. • The next generation (Sophia and Lulu’s) is the one I spend nights lying awake worrying about. Because of the hard work of their parents and grandparents, this generation will be born into the great comforts of the upper middle class. Even as children they will own many hardcover books (an almost criminal luxury from the point of view of immigrant parents). They will have wealthy friends who get paid for B-pluses.They may or may not attend private schools, but in either case they will expect expensive, brand-name clothes. Finally and most problematically, they will feel that they have individual rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and therefore be much more likely to disobey their parents and ignore career advice. In short, all factors point to this generation
Amy Chua (Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother)
I am disgusted that I was often taken into their bed and told to do things to both of them. The things a decent parent wouldn't think of. I didn't know that having sex with her or with him was wrong because I'd never known anything else but I never understood why it used to hurt so much. It carried on right until she died and I am sure that if she was still alive it would still be going on now. I wished someone would help me and stop them hurting me. I tried to do what they told me to do because somethings they were nice to me if I did it properly." - Graham talks about being sexually abused by his mother (and her boyfriend) Graham was sexually abused by his mother. The only person who showed him any affection in his childhood was his grandmother. "My mother always told me the police would think I was a 'dirty little bastard' if I told them and they would take me away to a children's home and I would never see grandmother again." "I knew it was my fault and nobody would believe me." - Graham Children often do not tell about abuse because of their fears about how other people will respond. The most common fear is that they will not be believed, It is a child's word against an adult's and the adult may be well liked and respected in the community. Nowadays, because of the television and newspaper coverage, people are aware that child sexual abuse does happen. In the recent past it was thought to be a rare occurrence, so even if they were trusted adults around for a child to tell, the adult would probably have found it difficult to believe and would have little idea what to do about it.
Carolyn Ainscough (Breaking Free: Help for survivors of child sexual abuse)
Ideology, n. An imaginary relationship to a real situation. In common usage, what the other person has, especially when systematically distorting the facts. But it seems to us that an ideology is a necessary feature of cognition, and if anyone were to lack one, which we doubt, they would be badly disabled. There is a real situation, that can't be denied, but it is too big for any individual to know in full, and so we must create our understanding by way of an act of the imagination. So we all have an ideology, and this is a good thing. So much information pours into the mind, ranging from sensory experience to discursive and mediated inputs of all kinds, that some kind of personal organizing system is necessary to make sense of things in ways that allow one to decide and to act. Worldview, philosophy, religion, these are all synonyms for ideology as defined above; and so is science, although it's a different one, the special one, by way of its perpetual cross-checking with reality tests of all kinds, and its continuous sharpening of focus. That surely makes science central to a most interesting project, which is to invent, improve, and put to use an ideology that explains in a coherent and useful way as much of the blooming buzzing inrush of the world as possible. What one would hope for in an ideology is clarity and explanatory breadth, and power. We leave the proof of this as an exercise for the reader.
Kim Stanley Robinson (The Ministry for the Future)
One wonders why no one in church history has ever been considered a heretic for being unloving. People were anathematized and often tortured and killed for disagreeing on matters of doctrine or on the authority of the church. But no one on record has ever been so much as rebuked for not loving as Christ loved. Yet if love is to be placed above all other considerations (Col. 3:14; 1 Peter 4:8), if nothing has any value apart from love (1 Cor. 13:1–3), and if the only thing that matters is faith working in love (Gal. 5:6), how is it that possessing Christlike love has never been considered the central test of orthodoxy? How is it that those who tortured and burned heretics were not themselves considered heretics for doing so? Was this not heresy of the worst sort? How is it that those who perpetrated such things were not only not deemed heretics but often were (and yet are) held up as “heroes of the faith”? If there is an answer to this question, I believe it lies in the deceptive power of the sword. While God uses the sword of governments to preserve law, order, and justice, as we have seen, there is a corrupting principality and power always at work. Much like the magical ring in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, the sword has a demonic power to deceive us. When we pick it up, we come under its power. It convinces us that our use of violence is a justified means to a noble end. It intoxicates us with the unquenchable dream of redemptive violence and blinds us to our own iniquities, thereby making us feel righteous in overpowering the unrighteousness of others. Most of the slaughtering done throughout history has been done by people who sincerely believed they were promoting “the good.” Everyone thinks their wars are just, if not holy. Marxists, Nazis, the Khmer Rouge, Islamic terrorists, and Christian crusaders have this in common.
Gregory A. Boyd (The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church)
Men's rights activists tend to make a series of valid observations from which they proceed to a single, 180-degree-wrong conclusion. They are correct to point out that, worldwide, suicide is the most common form of death for men under fifty. It's also true that men are more likely than women to have serious problems with alcohol, that men die younger, that the prison population is 95 per cent male and that the lack of support for our returning frontline soldiers is a national disgrace. So far, so regrettably true. They are incorrect, however, to lay any of this at the door of 'feminism', a term which they use almost interchangeably with 'women'. [...] No, sir. No, lads. No, Daddy. That won't help us and it won't help anyone else. Men in trouble are often in trouble precisely because they are trying to Get a Grip and Act Like a Man. We are at risk of suicide because the alternative is to ask for help, something we have been repeatedly told is unmanly. We are in prison because the traditional breadwinning expectation of manhood can't be met, or the pressure to conform is too great, or the option of violence has been frowned upon but implicitly sanctioned since we were children. [...] We die younger than women because, for one thing, we don't go to the doctor. We don't take ourselves too seriously. We don't want to be thought self-indulgent. The mark of a real man is being able to tolerate a chest infection for three months before laying off the smokes or asking for medicine.
Robert Webb (How Not To Be a Boy)
It’s clear that if we use the mind attentively, mental power is increased, and if we concentrate the mind in the moment, it is easier to coordinate mind and body. But in terms of mind and body unity, is there something we can concentrate on that will reliably aid us in discovering this state of coordination? In Japan, and to some degree other Asian countries, people have historically focused mental strength in the hara (abdomen) as a way of realizing their full potential. Japan has traditionally viewed the hara as the vital center of humanity in a manner not dissimilar to the Western view of the heart or brain. I once read that years ago Japanese children were asked to point to the origin of thoughts and feelings. They inevitably pointed toward the abdominal region. When the same question was asked of American children, most pointed at their heads or hearts. Likewise, Japan and the West have commonly held differing views of what is physical power or physical health, with Japan emphasizing the strength of the waist and lower body and Western people admiring upper body power. (Consider the ideal of the sumo wrestler versus the V-shaped Western bodybuilder with a narrow waist and broad shoulders.) However, East and West also hold similar viewpoints regarding the hara, and we’re perhaps not as dissimilar as some might imagine. For instance, hara ga nai hito describes a cowardly person, “a person with no hara.” Sounds similar to our saying that so-and-so “has no guts,” doesn’t it?
H.E. Davey (Japanese Yoga: The Way of Dynamic Meditation)
from the Adairsville PD. What you’ve got to do is imply that you understand the subject, understand what was going through his mind and the stresses he was under. No matter how disgusting it feels to you, you’re going to have to project the blame onto the victim. Imply that she seduced him. Ask if she led him on, if she turned on him, if she threatened him with blackmail. Give him a face-saving scenario. Give him a way of explaining his actions. The other thing I knew from all the cases I’d seen is that in blunt-force-trauma or knife homicides, it’s difficult for the attacker to avoid getting at least traces of the victim’s blood on him. It’s common enough that you can use it. When he starts to waffle, even slightly, I said, look him straight in the eye and tell him the most disturbing part of the whole case is the known fact that he got Mary’s blood on him. “We know you got blood on you, Gene; on your hands, on your clothing. The question for us isn’t ‘Did you do it?’ We know you did. The question is ‘Why?’ We think we know why and we understand. All you have to do is tell us if we’re right.” And that was exactly how it went down. They bring Devier in. He looks instantly at the rock, starts perspiring and breathing heavily. His body language is completely different from the previous interviews: tentative, defensive. The interrogators project blame and responsibility onto the girl, and when he looks as if he’s going with it, they bring up the blood. This really upsets him. You can often tell you’ve got the right guy if he shuts up and starts listening intently as you speak.
John E. Douglas (Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit (Mindhunter #1))
It is not that the historian can avoid emphasis of some facts and not of others. This is as natural to him as to the mapmaker, who, in order to produce a usable drawing for practical purposes, must first flatten and distort the shape of the earth, then choose out of the bewildering mass of geographic information those things needed for the purpose of this or that particular map. My argument cannot be against selection, simplification, emphasis, which are inevitable for both cartographers and historians. But the map-maker's distortion is a technical necessity for a common purpose shared by all people who need maps. The historian's distortion is more than technical, it is ideological; it is released into a world of contending interests, where any chosen emphasis supports (whether the historian means to or not) some kind of interest, whether economic or political or racial or national or sexual. Furthermore, this ideological interest is not openly expressed in the way a mapmaker's technical interest is obvious ("This is a Mercator projection for long-range navigation-for short-range, you'd better use a different projection"). No, it is presented as if all readers of history had a common interest which historians serve to the best of their ability. This is not intentional deception; the historian has been trained in a society in which education and knowledge are put forward as technical problems of excellence and not as tools for contending social classes, races, nations. To emphasize the heroism of Columbus and his successors as navigators and discoverers, and to de-emphasize their genocide, is not a technical necessity but an ideological choice. It serves- unwittingly-to justify what was done. My point is not that we must, in telling history, accuse, judge, condemn Columbus in absentia. It is too late for that; it would be a useless scholarly exercise in morality. But the easy acceptance of atrocities as a deplorable but necessary price to pay for progress (Hiroshima and Vietnam, to save Western civilization; Kronstadt and Hungary, to save socialism; nuclear proliferation, to save us all)-that is still with us. One reason these atrocities are still with us is that we have learned to bury them in a mass of other facts, as radioactive wastes are buried in containers in the earth. We have learned to give them exactly the same proportion of attention that teachers and writers often give them in the most respectable of classrooms and textbooks. This learned sense of moral proportion, coming from the apparent objectivity of the scholar, is accepted more easily than when it comes from politicians at press conferences. It is therefore more deadly. The treatment of heroes (Columbus) and their victims (the Arawaks)-the quiet acceptance of conquest and murder in the name of progress-is only one aspect of a certain approach to history, in which the past is told from the point of view of governments, conquerors, diplomats, leaders. It is as if they, like Columbus, deserve universal acceptance, as if they-the Founding Fathers, Jackson, Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt, Kennedy, the leading members of Congress, the famous Justices of the Supreme Court-represent the nation as a whole. The pretense is that there really is such a thing as "the United States," subject to occasional conflicts and quarrels, but fundamentally a community of people with common interests. It is as if there really is a "national interest" represented in the Constitution, in territorial expansion, in the laws passed by Congress, the decisions of the courts, the development of capitalism, the culture of education and the mass media.
Howard Zinn (A People’s History of the United States)
At the very same time that we witnessed the explosion of white celebrity moms, and the outpouring of advice to a surveillance of middle-class mothers, the welfare mother, trapped in a "cycle of dependency," became ubiquitous in our media landscape, and she came to represent everything wrong with America. She appeared not in the glossy pages of the women's magazines but rather as the subject of news stories about the "crisis" in the American family and the newly declared "war" on welfare mothers. Whatever ailed America--drugs, crime, loss of productivity--was supposedly her fault. She was portrayed as thumbing her nose at intensive mothering. Even worse, she was depicted as bringing her kids into the realm of market values, as putting a price on their heads, by allegedly calculating how much each additional child was worth and then getting pregnant to cash in on them. For middle-class white women in the media, by contrast, their kids were priceless, these media depictions reinforced the divisions between "us" (minivan moms) and "them" (welfare mothers, working-class mothers, teenage mothers), and did so especially along the lines of race. For example, one of the most common sentences used to characterize the welfare mother was, "Tanya, who has_____ children by ______ different men" (you fill in the blanks). Like zoo animals, their lives were reduced to the numbers of successful impregnations by multiple partners. So it's interesting to note that someone like Christie Brinkley, who has exactly the same reproductive MO, was never described this way. Just imagine reading a comparable sentence in Redbook. "Christie B., who has three children by three different men." But she does, you know.
Susan J. Douglas (The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined All Women)
Migraines are described as “one of the most common” pain syndromes, affecting as much as 12 percent of the population.63 That’s common? How about menstrual cramps, which plague up to 90 percent of younger women?64 Can ginger help? Even just one-eighth of a teaspoon of ginger powder three times a day dropped pain from an eight to a six on a scale of one to ten, and down further to a three in the second month.65 And these women hadn’t been taking ginger all month; they started the day before their periods began, suggesting that even if it doesn’t seem to help much the first month, women should try sticking with it. What about the duration of pain? A quarter teaspoon of ginger powder three times a day was found to not only drop the severity of menstrual pain from about seven down to five but decrease the duration from a total of nineteen hours in pain down to about fifteen hours,66 significantly better than the placebo, which were capsules filled with powdered toast. But women don’t take bread crumbs for their cramps. How does ginger compare to ibuprofen? Researchers pitted one-eighth of a teaspoon of powdered ginger head-to-head against 400 mg of ibuprofen, and the ginger worked just as effectively as this leading drug.67 Unlike the drug, ginger can also reduce the amount of menstrual bleeding, from around a half cup per period down to a quarter cup.68 What’s more, ginger intake of one-eighth of a teaspoon twice daily started a week before your period can yield a significant drop in premenstrual mood, physical, and behavioral symptoms.69 I like sprinkling powdered ginger on sweet potatoes or using it fresh to make lemon-ginger apple chews as an antinausea remedy. (Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve suffered from motion sickness.) There is an array of powerful antinausea
Michael Greger (How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease)
Let us use Buddhism as a specific example. It is a system that is gaining a following among many in Hollywood. It is often very simplistically defined as a religion of compassion and ethics. The truth is that there is probably no system of belief more complex than Buddhism. While it starts off with the four noble truths on suffering and its cessation, it then moves to the eightfold path on how to end suffering. But as one enters the eightfold path, there emerge hundreds upon hundreds of other rules to deal with contingencies. From a simple base of four offenses that result in a loss of one’s discipleship status is built an incredible edifice of ways to restoration. Those who follow Buddha’s teachings are given thirty rules on how to ward off those pitfalls. But before one even deals with those, there are ninety-two rules that apply to just one of the offenses. There are seventy-five rules for those entering the order. There are rules of discipline to be applied—two hundred and twenty-seven for men, three hundred and eleven for women. (Readers of Buddhism know that Buddha had to be persuaded before women were even permitted into a disciple’s status. After much pleading and cajoling by one of his disciples, he finally acceded to the request but laid down extra rules for them.) Whatever one may make of all of this, we must be clear that in a nontheistic system, which Buddhism is, ethics become central and rules are added ad infinitum. Buddha and his followers are the originators of these rules. The most common prayer for forgiveness in Buddhism, from the Buddhist Common Prayer, reflects this numerical maze: I beg leave! I beg leave, I beg leave. . . . May I be freed at all times from the four states of Woe, the Three Scourges, the Eight Wrong Circumstances, the Five Enemies, the Four Deficiencies, the Five Misfortunes, and quickly attain the Path, the Fruition, and the Noble Law of Nirvana, Lord.4 Teaching
Ravi Zacharias (Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message)
Whatever the final cost of HS2, all those tens of billions could clearly buy lots of things more generally useful to society than a quicker ride to Birmingham. Then there is all the destruction of the countryside. A high-speed rail line offers nothing in the way of charm. It is a motorway for trains. It would create a permanent very noisy, hyper-visible scar across a great deal of classic British countryside, and disrupt and make miserable the lives of hundreds of thousands of people throughout its years of construction. If the outcome were something truly marvellous, then perhaps that would be a justifiable price to pay, but a fast train to Birmingham is never going to be marvellous. The best it can ever be is a fast train to Birmingham. Remarkably, the new line doesn’t hook up to most of the places people might reasonably want to go to. Passengers from the north who need to get to Heathrow will have to change trains at Old Oak Common, with all their luggage, and travel the last twelve miles on another service. Getting to Gatwick will be even harder. If they want to catch a train to Europe, they will have to get off at Euston station and make their way half a mile along the Euston Road to St Pancras. It has actually been suggested that travelators could be installed for that journey. Can you imagine travelling half a mile on travelators? Somebody find me the person who came up with that notion. I’ll get the horsewhip. Now here’s my idea. Why not keep the journey times the same but make the trains so comfortable and relaxing that people won’t want the trip to end? Instead, they could pass the time staring out the window at all the gleaming hospitals, schools, playing fields and gorgeously maintained countryside that the billions of saved pounds had paid for. Alternatively, you could just put a steam locomotive in front of the train, make all the seats inside wooden and have it run entirely by volunteers. People would come from all over the country to ride on it. In either case, if any money was left over, perhaps a little of it could be used to fit trains with toilets that don’t flush directly on to the tracks, so that when I sit on a platform at a place like Cambridge or Oxford glumly eating a WH Smith sandwich I don’t have to watch blackbirds fighting over tattered fragments of human waste and toilet paper. It is, let’s face it, hard enough to eat a WH Smith sandwich as it is.
Bill Bryson (The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain)
Two centuries ago, the United States settled into a permanent political order, after fourteen years of violence and heated debate. Two centuries ago, France fell into ruinous disorder that ran its course for twenty-four years. In both countries there resounded much ardent talk of rights--rights natural, rights prescriptive. . . . [F]anatic ideology had begun to rage within France, so that not one of the liberties guaranteed by the Declaration of the Rights of Man could be enjoyed by France's citizens. One thinks of the words of Dostoievski: "To begin with unlimited liberty is to end with unlimited despotism." . . . In striking contrast, the twenty-two senators and fifty-nine representatives who during the summer of 1789 debated the proposed seventeen amendments to the Constitution were men of much experience in representative government, experience acquired within the governments of their several states or, before 1776, in colonial assembles and in the practice of the law. Many had served in the army during the Revolution. They decidedly were political realists, aware of how difficult it is to govern men's passions and self-interest. . . . Among most of them, the term democracy was suspect. The War of Independence had sufficed them by way of revolution. . . . The purpose of law, they knew, is to keep the peace. To that end, compromises must be made among interests and among states. Both Federalists and Anti-Federalists ranked historical experience higher than novel theory. They suffered from no itch to alter American society radically; they went for sound security. The amendments constituting what is called the Bill of Rights were not innovations, but rather restatements of principles at law long observed in Britain and in the thirteen colonies. . . . The Americans who approved the first ten amendments to their Constitution were no ideologues. Neither Voltaire nor Rousseau had any substantial following among them. Their political ideas, with few exceptions, were those of English Whigs. The typical textbook in American history used to inform us that Americans of the colonial years and the Revolutionary and Constitutional eras were ardent disciples of John Locke. This notion was the work of Charles A. Beard and Vernon L. Parrington, chiefly. It fitted well enough their liberal convictions, but . . . it has the disadvantage of being erroneous. . . . They had no set of philosophes inflicted upon them. Their morals they took, most of them, from the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. Their Bill of Rights made no reference whatever to political abstractions; the Constitution itself is perfectly innocent of speculative or theoretical political arguments, so far as its text is concerned. John Dickinson, James Madison, James Wilson, Alexander Hamilton, George Mason, and other thoughtful delegates to the Convention in 1787 knew something of political theory, but they did not put political abstractions into the text of the Constitution. . . . Probably most members of the First Congress, being Christian communicants of one persuasion or another, would have been dubious about the doctrine that every man should freely indulge himself in whatever is not specifically prohibited by positive law and that the state should restrain only those actions patently "hurtful to society." Nor did Congress then find it necessary or desirable to justify civil liberties by an appeal to a rather vague concept of natural law . . . . Two centuries later, the provisions of the Bill of Rights endure--if sometimes strangely interpreted. Americans have known liberty under law, ordered liberty, for more than two centuries, while states that have embraced the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, with its pompous abstractions, have paid the penalty in blood.
Russell Kirk (Rights and Duties: Reflections on Our Conservative Constitution)
It is often said that what most immediately sets English apart from other languages is the richness of its vocabulary. Webster’s Third New International Dictionary lists 450,000 words, and the revised Oxford English Dictionary has 615,000, but that is only part of the total. Technical and scientific terms would add millions more. Altogether, about 200,000 English words are in common use, more than in German (184,000) and far more than in French (a mere 100,000). The richness of the English vocabulary, and the wealth of available synonyms, means that English speakers can often draw shades of distinction unavailable to non-English speakers. The French, for instance, cannot distinguish between house and home, between mind and brain, between man and gentleman, between “I wrote” and “I have written.” The Spanish cannot differentiate a chairman from a president, and the Italians have no equivalent of wishful thinking. In Russia there are no native words for efficiency, challenge, engagement ring, have fun, or take care [all cited in The New York Times, June 18, 1989]. English, as Charlton Laird has noted, is the only language that has, or needs, books of synonyms like Roget’s Thesaurus. “Most speakers of other languages are not aware that such books exist” [The Miracle of Language, page 54]. On the other hand, other languages have facilities we lack. Both French and German can distinguish between knowledge that results from recognition (respectively connaître and kennen) and knowledge that results from understanding (savoir and wissen). Portuguese has words that differentiate between an interior angle and an exterior one. All the Romance languages can distinguish between something that leaks into and something that leaks out of. The Italians even have a word for the mark left on a table by a moist glass (culacino) while the Gaelic speakers of Scotland, not to be outdone, have a word for the itchiness that overcomes the upper lip just before taking a sip of whiskey. (Wouldn’t they just?) It’s sgriob. And we have nothing in English to match the Danish hygge (meaning “instantly satisfying and cozy”), the French sang-froid, the Russian glasnost, or the Spanish macho, so we must borrow the term from them or do without the sentiment. At the same time, some languages have words that we may be pleased to do without. The existence in German of a word like schadenfreude (taking delight in the misfortune of others) perhaps tells us as much about Teutonic sensitivity as it does about their neologistic versatility. Much the same could be said about the curious and monumentally unpronounceable Highland Scottish word sgiomlaireachd, which means “the habit of dropping in at mealtimes.” That surely conveys a world of information about the hazards of Highland life—not to mention the hazards of Highland orthography. Of
Bill Bryson (The Mother Tongue: English and How it Got that Way)
After World War II, the United States, triumphant abroad and undamaged at home, saw a door wide open for world supremacy. Only the thing called ‘communism’ stood in the way, politically, militarily, economically, and ideologically. Thus it was that the entire US foreign policy establishment was mobilized to confront this ‘enemy’, and the Marshall Plan was an integral part of this campaign. How could it be otherwise? Anti-communism had been the principal pillar of US foreign policy from the Russian Revolution up to World War II, pausing for the war until the closing months of the Pacific campaign when Washington put challenging communism ahead of fighting the Japanese. Even the dropping of the atom bomb on Japan – when the Japanese had already been defeated – can be seen as more a warning to the Soviets than a military action against the Japanese.19 After the war, anti-communism continued as the leitmotif of American foreign policy as naturally as if World War II and the alliance with the Soviet Union had not happened. Along with the CIA, the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations, the Council on Foreign Relations, certain corporations, and a few other private institutions, the Marshall Plan was one more arrow in the quiver of those striving to remake Europe to suit Washington’s desires: 1.    Spreading the capitalist gospel – to counter strong postwar tendencies toward socialism. 2.    Opening markets to provide new customers for US corporations – a major reason for helping to rebuild the European economies; e.g. a billion dollars (at twenty-first-century prices) of tobacco, spurred by US tobacco interests. 3.    Pushing for the creation of the Common Market (the future European Union) and NATO as integral parts of the West European bulwark against the alleged Soviet threat. 4.    Suppressing the left all over Western Europe, most notably sabotaging the Communist parties in France and Italy in their bids for legal, non-violent, electoral victory. Marshall Plan funds were secretly siphoned off to finance this endeavor, and the promise of aid to a country, or the threat of its cutoff, was used as a bullying club; indeed, France and Italy would certainly have been exempted from receiving aid if they had not gone along with the plots to exclude the Communists from any kind of influential role.
William Blum (America's Deadliest Export: Democracy The Truth about US Foreign Policy and Everything Else)
But that wasn't the chief thing that bothered me: I couldn't reconcile myself with that preoccupation with sin that, so far as I could tell, was never entirely absent from the monks' thoughts. I'd known a lot of fellows in the air corps. Of course they got drunk when they got a chance, and had a girl whenever they could and used foul language; we had one or two had hats: one fellow was arrested for passing rubber cheques and was sent to prison for six months; it wasn't altogether his fault; he'd never had any money before, and when he got more than he'd ever dreamt of having, it went to his head. I'd known had men in Paris and when I got back to Chicago I knew more, but for the most part their badness was due to heredity, which they couldn't help, or to their environment, which they didn't choose: I'm not sure that society wasn't more responsible for their crimes than they were. If I'd been God I couldn't have brought myself to condemn one of them, not even the worst, to eternal damnation. Father Esheim was broad-minded; he thought that hell was the deprivation of God's presence, but if that is such an intolerable punishment that it can justly be called hell, can one conceive that a good God can inflict it? After all, he created men, if he so created them that ti was possible for them to sin, it was because he willed it. If I trained a dog to fly at the throat of any stranger who came into by back yard, it wouldn't be fair to beat him when he did so. If an all-good and all-powerful God created the world, why did he create evil? The monks said, so that man by conquering the wickedness in him, by resisting temptation, by accepting pain and sorrow and misfortune as the trials sent by God to purify him, might at long last be made worthy to receive his grace. It seem to me like sending a fellow with a message to some place and just to make it harder for him you constructed a maze that he had to get through, then dug a moat that he had to swim and finally built a wall that he had to scale. I wasn't prepared to believe in an all-wise God who hadn't common sense. I didn't see why you shouldn't believe in a God who hadn't created the world, buyt had to make the best of the bad job he'd found, a being enormously better, wiser and greater than man, who strove with the evil he hadn't made and who might be hoped in the end to overcome it. But on the other hand I didn't see why you should.
W. Somerset Maugham (The Razor's Edge)
Like most people, when I look back, the family house is held in time, or rather it is now outside of time, because it exists so clearly and it does not change, and it can only be entered through a door in the mind. I like it that pre-industrial societies, and religious cultures still, now, distinguish between two kinds of time – linear time, that is also cyclical because history repeats itself, even as it seems to progress, and real time, which is not subject to the clock or the calendar, and is where the soul used to live. This real time is reversible and redeemable. It is why, in religious rites of all kinds, something that happened once is re-enacted – Passover, Christmas, Easter, or, in the pagan record, Midsummer and the dying of the god. As we participate in the ritual, we step outside of linear time and enter real time. Time is only truly locked when we live in a mechanised world. Then we turn into clock-watchers and time-servers. Like the rest of life, time becomes uniform and standardised. When I left home at sixteen I bought a small rug. It was my roll-up world. Whatever room, whatever temporary place I had, I unrolled the rug. It was a map of myself. Invisible to others, but held in the rug, were all the places I had stayed – for a few weeks, for a few months. On the first night anywhere new I liked to lie in bed and look at the rug to remind myself that I had what I needed even though what I had was so little. Sometimes you have to live in precarious and temporary places. Unsuitable places. Wrong places. Sometimes the safe place won’t help you. Why did I leave home when I was sixteen? It was one of those important choices that will change the rest of your life. When I look back it feels like I was at the borders of common sense, and the sensible thing to do would have been to keep quiet, keep going, learn to lie better and leave later. I have noticed that doing the sensible thing is only a good idea when the decision is quite small. For the life-changing things, you must risk it. And here is the shock – when you risk it, when you do the right thing, when you arrive at the borders of common sense and cross into unknown territory, leaving behind you all the familiar smells and lights, then you do not experience great joy and huge energy. You are unhappy. Things get worse. It is a time of mourning. Loss. Fear. We bullet ourselves through with questions. And then we feel shot and wounded. And then all the cowards come out and say, ‘See, I told you so.’ In fact, they told you nothing.
Jeanette Winterson
This was no coincidence. The best short stories and the most successful jokes have a lot in common. Each form relies on suggestion and economy. Characters have to be drawn in a few deft strokes. There's generally a setup, a reveal, a reversal, and a release. The structure is delicate. If one element fails, the edifice crumbles. In a novel you might get away with a loose line or two, a saggy paragraph, even a limp chapter. But in the joke and in the short story, the beginning and end are precisely anchored tent poles, and what lies between must pull so taut it twangs. I'm not sure if there is any pattern to these selections. I did not spend a lot of time with those that seemed afraid to tell stories, that handled plot as if it were a hair in the soup, unwelcome and embarrassing. I also tended not to revisit stories that seemed bleak without having earned it, where the emotional notes were false, or where the writing was tricked out or primped up with fashionable devices stressing form over content. I do know that the easiest and the first choices were the stories to which I had a physical response. I read Jennifer Egan's "Out of Body" clenched from head to toe by tension as her suicidal, drug-addled protagonist moves through the Manhattan night toward an unforgivable betrayal. I shed tears over two stories of childhood shadowed by unbearable memory: "The Hare's Mask," by Mark Slouka, with its piercing ending, and Claire Keegan's Irishinflected tale of neglect and rescue, "Foster." Elizabeth McCracken's "Property" also moved me, with its sudden perception shift along the wavering sightlines of loss and grief. Nathan Englander's "Free Fruit for Young Widows" opened with a gasp-inducing act of unexpected violence and evolved into an ethical Rubik's cube. A couple of stories made me laugh: Tom Bissell's "A Bridge Under Water," even as it foreshadows the dissolution of a marriage and probes what religion does for us, and to us; and Richard Powers's "To the Measures Fall," a deftly comic meditation on the uses of literature in the course of a life, and a lifetime. Some stories didn't call forth such a strong immediate response but had instead a lingering resonance. Of these, many dealt with love and its costs, leaving behind indelible images. In Megan Mayhew Bergman's "Housewifely Arts," a bereaved daughter drives miles to visit her dead mother's parrot because she yearns to hear the bird mimic her mother's voice. In Allegra Goodman's "La Vita Nuova," a jilted fiancée lets her art class paint all over her wedding dress. In Ehud Havazelet's spare and tender story, "Gurov in Manhattan," an ailing man and his aging dog must confront life's necessary losses. A complicated, only partly welcome romance blossoms between a Korean woman and her demented
Geraldine Brooks (The Best American Short Stories 2011)
In Uprooting Racism, Paul Kivel makes a useful comparison between the rhetoric abusive men employ to justify beating up their girlfriends, wives, or children and the publicly traded justifications for widespread racism. He writes: During the first few years that I worked with men who are violent I was continually perplexed by their inability to see the effects of their actions and their ability to deny the violence they had done to their partners or children. I only slowly became aware of the complex set of tactics that men use to make violence against women invisible and to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. These tactics are listed below in the rough order that men employ them.… (1) Denial: “I didn’t hit her.” (2) Minimization: “It was only a slap.” (3) Blame: “She asked for it.” (4) Redefinition: “It was mutual combat.” (5) Unintentionality: “Things got out of hand.” (6) It’s over now: “I’ll never do it again.” (7) It’s only a few men: “Most men wouldn’t hurt a woman.” (8) Counterattack: “She controls everything.” (9) Competing victimization: “Everybody is against men.” Kivel goes on to detail the ways these nine tactics are used to excuse (or deny) institutionalized racism. Each of these tactics also has its police analogy, both as applied to individual cases and in regard to the general issue of police brutality. Here are a few examples: (1) Denial. “The professionalism and restraint … was nothing short of outstanding.” “America does not have a human-rights problem.” (2) Minimization. Injuries were “of a minor nature.” “Police use force infrequently.” (3) Blame. “This guy isn’t Mr. Innocent Citizen, either. Not by a long shot.” “They died because they were criminals.” (4) Redefinition. It was “mutual combat.” “Resisting arrest.” “The use of force is necessary to protect yourself.” (5) Unintentionality. “[O]fficers have no choice but to use deadly force against an assailant who is deliberately trying to kill them.…” (6) It’s over now. “We’re making changes.” “We will change our training; we will do everything in our power to make sure it never happens again.” (7) It’s only a few men. “A small proportion of officers are disproportionately involved in use-of-force incidents.” “Even if we determine that the officers were out of line … it is an aberration.” (8) Counterattack. “The only thing they understand is physical force and pain.” “People make complaints to get out of trouble.” (9) Competing victimization. The police are “in constant danger.” “[L]iberals are prejudiced against police, much as many white police are biased against Negroes.” The police are “the most downtrodden, oppressed, dislocated minority in America.” Another commonly invoked rationale for justifying police violence is: (10) The Hero Defense. “These guys are heroes.” “The police routinely do what the rest of us don’t: They risk their lives to keep the peace. For that selfless bravery, they deserve glory, laud and honor.” “[W]ithout the police … anarchy would be rife in this country, and the civilization now existing on this hemisphere would perish.” “[T]hey alone stand guard at the upstairs door of Hell.
Kristian Williams (Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America)
The dominant literary mode of the twentieth century has been the fantastic. This may appear a surprising claim, which would not have seemed even remotely conceivable at the start of the century and which is bound to encounter fierce resistance even now. However, when the time comes to look back at the century, it seems very likely that future literary historians, detached from the squabbles of our present, will see as its most representative and distinctive works books like J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, and also George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and The Inheritors, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat’s Cradle, Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed, Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot-49 and Gravity’s Rainbow. The list could readily be extended, back to the late nineteenth century with H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr Moreau and The War of the Worlds, and up to writers currently active like Stephen R. Donaldson and George R.R. Martin. It could take in authors as different, not to say opposed, as Kingsley and Martin Amis, Anthony Burgess, Stephen King, Terry Pratchett, Don DeLillo, and Julian Barnes. By the end of the century, even authors deeply committed to the realist novel have often found themselves unable to resist the gravitational pull of the fantastic as a literary mode. This is not the same, one should note, as fantasy as a literary genre – of the authors listed above, only four besides Tolkien would find their works regularly placed on the ‘fantasy’ shelves of bookshops, and ‘the fantastic’ includes many genres besides fantasy: allegory and parable, fairy-tale, horror and science fiction, modern ghost-story and medieval romance. Nevertheless, the point remains. Those authors of the twentieth century who have spoken most powerfully to and for their contemporaries have for some reason found it necessary to use the metaphoric mode of fantasy, to write about worlds and creatures which we know do not exist, whether Tolkien’s ‘Middle-earth’, Orwell’s ‘Ingsoc’, the remote islands of Golding and Wells, or the Martians and Tralfa-madorians who burst into peaceful English or American suburbia in Wells and Vonnegut. A ready explanation for this phenomenon is of course that it represents a kind of literary disease, whose sufferers – the millions of readers of fantasy – should be scorned, pitied, or rehabilitated back to correct and proper taste. Commonly the disease is said to be ‘escapism’: readers and writers of fantasy are fleeing from reality. The problem with this is that so many of the originators of the later twentieth-century fantastic mode, including all four of those first mentioned above (Tolkien, Orwell, Golding, Vonnegut) are combat veterans, present at or at least deeply involved in the most traumatically significant events of the century, such as the Battle of the Somme (Tolkien), the bombing of Dresden (Vonnegut), the rise and early victory of fascism (Orwell). Nor can anyone say that they turned their backs on these events. Rather, they had to find some way of communicating and commenting on them. It is strange that this had, for some reason, in so many cases to involve fantasy as well as realism, but that is what has happened.
Tom Shippey (J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century)
III. They seek for themselves private retiring places, as country villages, the sea-shore, mountains; yea thou thyself art wont to long much after such places. But all this thou must know proceeds from simplicity in the highest degree. At what time soever thou wilt, it is in thy power to retire into thyself, and to be at rest, and free from all businesses. A man cannot any whither retire better than to his own soul; he especially who is beforehand provided of such things within, which whensoever he doth withdraw himself to look in, may presently afford unto him perfect ease and tranquillity. By tranquillity I understand a decent orderly disposition and carriage, free from all confusion and tumultuousness. Afford then thyself this retiring continually, and thereby refresh and renew thyself. Let these precepts be brief and fundamental, which as soon as thou dost call them to mind, may suffice thee to purge thy soul throughly, and to send thee away well pleased with those things whatsoever they be, which now again after this short withdrawing of thy soul into herself thou dost return unto. For what is it that thou art offended at? Can it be at the wickedness of men, when thou dost call to mind this conclusion, that all reasonable creatures are made one for another? and that it is part of justice to bear with them? and that it is against their wills that they offend? and how many already, who once likewise prosecuted their enmities, suspected, hated, and fiercely contended, are now long ago stretched out, and reduced unto ashes? It is time for thee to make an end. As for those things which among the common chances of the world happen unto thee as thy particular lot and portion, canst thou be displeased with any of them, when thou dost call that our ordinary dilemma to mind, either a providence, or Democritus his atoms; and with it, whatsoever we brought to prove that the whole world is as it were one city? And as for thy body, what canst thou fear, if thou dost consider that thy mind and understanding, when once it hath recollected itself, and knows its own power, hath in this life and breath (whether it run smoothly and gently, or whether harshly and rudely), no interest at all, but is altogether indifferent: and whatsoever else thou hast heard and assented unto concerning either pain or pleasure? But the care of thine honour and reputation will perchance distract thee? How can that be, if thou dost look back, and consider both how quickly all things that are, are forgotten, and what an immense chaos of eternity was before, and will follow after all things: and the vanity of praise, and the inconstancy and variableness of human judgments and opinions, and the narrowness of the place, wherein it is limited and circumscribed? For the whole earth is but as one point; and of it, this inhabited part of it, is but a very little part; and of this part, how many in number, and what manner of men are they, that will commend thee? What remains then, but that thou often put in practice this kind of retiring of thyself, to this little part of thyself; and above all things, keep thyself from distraction, and intend not anything vehemently, but be free and consider all things, as a man whose proper object is Virtue, as a man whose true nature is to be kind and sociable, as a citizen, as a mortal creature. Among other things, which to consider, and look into thou must use to withdraw thyself, let those two be among the most obvious and at hand. One, that the things or objects themselves reach not unto the soul, but stand without still and quiet, and that it is from the opinion only which is within, that all the tumult and all the trouble doth proceed. The next, that all these things, which now thou seest, shall within a very little while be changed, and be no more: and ever call to mind, how many changes and alterations in the world thou thyself hast already been an eyewitness of in thy time. This world is mere change, and this life, opinion.
Marcus Aurelius (Meditations)
Free spirits, the ambitious, ex-socialists, drug users, and sexual eccentrics often find an attractive political philosophy in libertarianism, the idea that individual freedom should be the sole rule of ethics and government. Libertarianism offers its believers a clear conscience to do things society presently restrains, like make more money, have more sex, or take more drugs. It promises a consistent formula for ethics, a rigorous framework for policy analysis, a foundation in American history, and the application of capitalist efficiencies to the whole of society. But while it contains substantial grains of truth, as a whole it is a seductive mistake. . . . The most fundamental problem with libertarianism is very simple: freedom, though a good thing, is simply not the only good thing in life. . . . Libertarians try to get around this fact that freedom is not the only good thing by trying to reduce all other goods to it through the concept of choice, claiming that everything that is good is so because we choose to partake of it. Therefore freedom, by giving us choice, supposedly embraces all other goods. But this violates common sense by denying that anything is good by nature, independently of whether we choose it. . . . So even if the libertarian principle of “an it harm none, do as thou wilt,” is true, it does not license the behavior libertarians claim. Consider pornography: libertarians say it should be permitted because if someone doesn’t like it, he can choose not to view it. But what he can’t do is choose not to live in a culture that has been vulgarized by it. . . . There is no need to embrace outright libertarianism just because we want a healthy portion of freedom, and the alternative to libertarianism is not the USSR, it is America’s traditional liberties. . . . Paradoxically, people exercise their freedom not to be libertarians. The political corollary of this is that since no electorate will support libertarianism, a libertarian government could never be achieved democratically but would have to be imposed by some kind of authoritarian state, which rather puts the lie to libertarians’ claim that under any other philosophy, busybodies who claim to know what’s best for other people impose their values on the rest of us. . . . Libertarians are also naïve about the range and perversity of human desires they propose to unleash. They can imagine nothing more threatening than a bit of Sunday-afternoon sadomasochism, followed by some recreational drug use and work on Monday. They assume that if people are given freedom, they will gravitate towards essentially bourgeois lives, but this takes for granted things like the deferral of gratification that were pounded into them as children without their being free to refuse. They forget that for much of the population, preaching maximum freedom merely results in drunkenness, drugs, failure to hold a job, and pregnancy out of wedlock. Society is dependent upon inculcated self-restraint if it is not to slide into barbarism, and libertarians attack this self-restraint. Ironically, this often results in internal restraints being replaced by the external restraints of police and prison, resulting in less freedom, not more. This contempt for self-restraint is emblematic of a deeper problem: libertarianism has a lot to say about freedom but little about learning to handle it. Freedom without judgment is dangerous at best, useless at worst. Yet libertarianism is philosophically incapable of evolving a theory of how to use freedom well because of its root dogma that all free choices are equal, which it cannot abandon except at the cost of admitting that there are other goods than freedom. Conservatives should know better.
Robert Locke