Our Concepts Quotes

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The world is, of course, nothing but our conception of it.
Anton Chekhov
We never love anyone. What we love is the idea we have of someone. It's our own concept—our own selves—that we love.
Fernando Pessoa (The Book of Disquiet)
God is a concept by which we measure our pain.
John Lennon
In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagvat Geeta, since whose composition years of the gods have elapsed, and in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial; and I doubt if that philosophy is not to be referred to a previous state of existence, so remote is its sublimity from our conceptions. I lay down the book and go to my well for water, and lo! there I meet the servant of the Bramin, priest of Brahma and Vishnu and Indra, who still sits in his temple on the Ganges reading the Vedas, or dwells at the root of a tree with his crust and water jug. I meet his servant come to draw water for his master, and our buckets as it were grate together in the same well. The pure Walden water is mingled with the sacred water of the Ganges.
Henry David Thoreau (Walden)
We habitually erect a barrier called blame that keeps us from communicating genuinely with others, and we fortify it with our concepts of who's right and who's wrong. We do that with the people who are closest to us and we do it with political systems, with all kinds of things that we don't like about our associates or our society. It is a very common, ancient, well-perfected device for trying to feel better. Blame others....Blaming is a way to protect your heart, trying to protect what is soft and open and tender in yourself. Rather than own that pain, we scramble to find some comfortable ground.
Pema Chödrön
We’re all searching for something to fill up what I like to call that big, God-shaped hole in our souls. Some people use alcohol, or sex, or their children, or food, or money, or music, or heroin. A lot of people even use the concept of God itself. I could go on and on. I used to know a girl who used shoes. She had over two-hundred pairs. But it’s all the same thing, really. People, for some stupid reason, think they can escape their sorrows.
Tiffanie DeBartolo (God-Shaped Hole)
We are living in a culture entirely hypnotized by the illusion of time, in which the so-called present moment is felt as nothing but an infintesimal hairline between an all-powerfully causative past and an absorbingly important future. We have no present. Our consciousness is almost completely preoccupied with memory and expectation. We do not realize that there never was, is, nor will be any other experience than present experience. We are therefore out of touch with reality. We confuse the world as talked about, described, and measured with the world which actually is. We are sick with a fascination for the useful tools of names and numbers, of symbols, signs, conceptions and ideas.
Alan W. Watts
Conservation is getting nowhere because it is incompatible with our Abrahamic concept of land. We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.
Aldo Leopold
Such a simple concept, yet so true: that which we manifest is before us; we are the creators of our own destiny. Be it through intention or ignorance, our successes and our failures have been brought on by none other than ourselves.
Garth Stein (The Art of Racing in the Rain)
The truth about the world, he said, is that anything is possible. Had you not seen it all from birth and thereby bled it of its strangeness it would appear to you for what it is, a hat trick in a medicine show, a fevered dream, a trance bepopulate with chimeras having neither analogue nor precedent, an itinerant carnival, a migratory tentshow whose ultimate destination after many a pitch in many a mudded field is unspeakable and calamitous beyond reckoning. The universe is no narrow thing and the order within it is not constrained by any latitude in its conception to repeat what exists in one part in any other part. Even in this world more things exist without our knowledge than with it and the order in creation which you see is that which you have put there, like a string in a maze, so that you shall not lose your way. For existence has its own order and that no man's mind can compass, that mind itself being but a fact among others.
Cormac McCarthy (Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West)
Every day is important for us because it is a day ordained by God. If we are bored with life there is something wrong with our concept of God and His involvement in our daily lives. Even the most dull and tedious days of our lives are ordained by God and ought to be used by us to glorify Him.
Jerry Bridges (Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts)
Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights and keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose. To that high concept there can be no end save victory.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
I believe our only hope for the future is to adopt a new conception of human ecology, one in which we start to reconstitute our concept of the richness in human capacity.
Ken Robinson
The complexity of our present trouble suggests as never before that we need to change our present concept of education. Education is not properly an industry, and its proper use is not to serve industries, either by job-training or by industry-subsidized research. It's proper use is to enable citizens to live lives that are economically, politically, socially, and culturally responsible. This cannot be done by gathering or "accessing" what we now call "information" - which is to say facts without context and therefore without priority. A proper education enables young people to put their lives in order, which means knowing what things are more important than other things; it means putting first things first.
Wendell Berry
Reading activates and exercises the mind. Reading forces the mind to discriminate. From the beginning, readers have to recognize letters printed on the page, make them into words, the words into sentences, and the sentences into concepts. Reading pushes us to use our imagination and makes us more creatively inclined.
Ben Carson (Think Big: Unleashing Your Potential for Excellence)
America was never innocent. We popped our cherry on the boat over and looked back with no regrets. You can't ascribe our fall from grace to any single event or set of circumstances. You can't lose what you lacked at conception.
James Ellroy
In our time no one has the conception of what is great. It is up to me to show them.
Napoléon Bonaparte
I think forever is an incorrect concept," I answered. He smirked. "You're an incorrect concept." "I know. That's why I'm being taken out of the rotation".
John Green (The Fault in Our Stars)
We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.
Henry Beston (The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod)
Perhaps the immobility of the things that surround us is forced upon them by our conviction that they are themselves, and not anything else, and by the immobility of our conceptions of them.
Marcel Proust (Remembrance of Things Past: Volume I - Swann's Way & Within a Budding Grove)
We never love anyone. Not really. We only love our idea of another person. It is some conception of our own that we love. We love ourselves, in fact.
William Boyd (Cork)
But in college, we can wear our alcohol abuse as proudly as our university sweatshirts; the two concepts are virtually synonymous.
Koren Zailckas (Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood)
My first language, the true language of the soul spoken only on our planet of origin, had no word for betrayal or traitor. Or even loyalty- because without the opposite, the concept had no meaning.
Stephenie Meyer (The Host)
Freedom is not a constant attribute which we either "have" or "have not." In fact, there is no such thing as "freedom" except as a word and an abstract concept. There is only one reality: the act of freeing ourselves in the process of making choices. In this process the degree of our capacity to make choices varies with each act, with our practice of life.
Erich Fromm (El corazón del hombre: Su potencia para el bien y para el mal)
Concepts create idols; only wonder comprehends anything. People kill one another over idols. Wonder makes us fall to our knees.
Gregory of Nyssa
By and large, the truth is not merely a fierce battle with ignorance and fallacy, but, first and foremost, a combat with our own preconceived ideas and aprioristic conceptions. ("The hidden sides of his character" )
Erik Pevernagie
We always imagine eternity as something beyond our conception, something vast, vast! But why must it be vast? Instead of all that, what if it's one little room, like a bath house in the country, black and grimy and spiders in every corner. and that's all eternity is? I sometimes fancy it like that.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Crime and Punishment)
We make Idols of our concepts, but Wisdom is born of wonder
Pope Gregory I
We now know the basic rules governing the universe, together with the gravitational interrelationships of its gross components, as shown in the theory of relativity worked out between 1905 and 1916. We also know the basic rules governing the subatomic particles and their interrelationships, since these are very neatly described by the quantum theory worked out between 1900 and 1930. What's more, we have found that the galaxies and clusters of galaxies are the basic units of the physical universe, as discovered between 1920 and 1930. ...The young specialist in English Lit, having quoted me, went on to lecture me severely on the fact that in every century people have thought they understood the universe at last, and in every century they were proved to be wrong. It follows that the one thing we can say about our modern 'knowledge' is that it is wrong... My answer to him was, when people thought the Earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the Earth was spherical they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the Earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the Earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together. The basic trouble, you see, is that people think that 'right' and 'wrong' are absolute; that everything that isn't perfectly and completely right is totally and equally wrong. However, I don't think that's so. It seems to me that right and wrong are fuzzy concepts, and I will devote this essay to an explanation of why I think so. When my friend the English literature expert tells me that in every century scientists think they have worked out the universe and are always wrong, what I want to know is how wrong are they? Are they always wrong to the same degree?
Isaac Asimov
Perhaps it is not-being that is the true state, and all our dream of life is inexistent; but, if so, we feel that these phrases of music, these conceptions which exist in relation to our dream, must be nothing either. We shall perish, but we have as hostages these divine captives who will follow and share our fate. And death in their company is somehow less bitter, less inglorious, perhaps even less probable.
Marcel Proust (Swann's Way (In Search of Lost Time, #1))
The aim of science is to seek the simplest explanations of complex facts. We are apt to fall into the error of thinking that the facts are simple because simplicity is the goal of our quest. The guiding motto in the life of every natural philosopher should be, 'Seek simplicity and distrust it.
Alfred North Whitehead (The Concept of Nature: The Tarner Lectures Delivered in Trinity College, 11/1919)
Birth is okay and death is okay, if we know that they are only concepts in our mind. Reality transcends both birth and death.
Thich Nhat Hanh (The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation)
In the critic's vocabulary, the word "precursor" is indispensable, but it should be cleansed of all connotations of polemic or rivalry. The fact is that every writer creates his own precursors. His work modifies our conception of the past, as it will modify the future." -- Essay: "Kafka and his Precursors
Jorge Luis Borges
HELPED are those who are content to be themselves; they will never lack mystery in their lives and the joys of self-discovery will be constant. HELPED are those who love the entire cosmos rather than their own tiny country, city, or farm, for to them will be shown the unbroken web of life and the meaning of infinity. HELPED are those who live in quietness, knowing neither brand name nor fad; they shall live every day as if in eternity, and each moment shall be as full as it is long. HELPED are those who love others unsplit off from their faults; to them will be given clarity of vision. HELPED are those who create anything at all, for they shall relive the thrill of their own conception, and realize an partnership in the creation of the Universe that keeps them responsible and cheerful. HELPED are those who love the Earth, their mother, and who willingly suffer that she may not die; in their grief over her pain they will weep rivers of blood, and in their joy in her lively response to love, they will converse with the trees. HELPED are those whose ever act is a prayer for harmony in the Universe, for they are the restorers of balance to our planet. To them will be given the insight that every good act done anywhere in the cosmos welcomes the life of an animal or a child. HELPED are those who risk themselves for others' sakes; to them will be given increasing opportunities for ever greater risks. Theirs will be a vision of the word in which no one's gift is despised or lost. HELPED are those who strive to give up their anger; their reward will be that in any confrontation their first thoughts will never be of violence or of war. HELPED are those whose every act is a prayer for peace; on them depends the future of the world. HELPED are those who forgive; their reward shall be forgiveness of every evil done to them. It will be in their power, therefore, to envision the new Earth. HELPED are those who are shown the existence of the Creator's magic in the Universe; they shall experience delight and astonishment without ceasing. HELPED are those who laugh with a pure heart; theirs will be the company of the jolly righteous. HELPED are those who love all the colors of all the human beings, as they love all the colors of the animals and plants; none of their children, nor any of their ancestors, nor any parts of themselves, shall be hidden from them. HELPED are those who love the lesbian, the gay, and the straight, as they love the sun, the moon, and the stars. None of their children, nor any of their ancestors, nor any parts of themselves, shall be hidden from them. HELPED are those who love the broken and the whole; none of their children, nor any of their ancestors, nor any parts of themselves, shall be hidden from them. HELPED are those who do not join mobs; theirs shall be the understanding that to attack in anger is to murder in confusion. HELPED are those who find the courage to do at least one small thing each day to help the existence of another--plant, animal, river, or human being. They shall be joined by a multitude of the timid. HELPED are those who lose their fear of death; theirs is the power to envision the future in a blade of grass. HELPED are those who love and actively support the diversity of life; they shall be secure in their differences. HELPED are those who KNOW.
Alice Walker
There is an element of the busybody in our conception of virtue: unless a man makes himself a nuisance to a great many people, we do not think he can be an exceptionally good man.
Bertrand Russell (Sceptical Essays)
I actually attack the concept of happiness. The idea that - I don’t mind people being happy - but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying “write down 3 things that made you happy today before you go to sleep”, and “cheer up” and “happiness is our birthright” and so on. We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position - it’s rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say “Quick! Move on! Cheer up!” I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word “happiness” and to replace it with the word “wholeness”. Ask yourself “is this contributing to my wholeness?” and if you’re having a bad day, it is.
Hugh Mackay
A purely mental life may be destructive if it leads us to substitute thought for life and ideas for actions. The activity proper to man is purely mental because man is not just a disembodied mind. Our destiny is to live out what we think, because unless we live what we know, we do not even know it. It is only by making our knowledge part of ourselves, through action, that we enter into the reality that is signified by our concepts.
Thomas Merton (Thoughts in Solitude)
The next time believers tell you that 'separation of church and state' does not appear in our founding document, tell them to stop using the word 'trinity.' The word 'trinity' appears nowhere in the bible. Neither does Rapture, or Second Coming, or Original Sin. If they are still unfazed (or unphrased), by this, then add Omniscience, Omnipresence, Supernatural,Transcendence, Afterlife, Deity, Divinity, Theology, Monotheism, Missionary, Immaculate Conception, Christmas, Christianity, Evangelical, Fundamentalist, Methodist, Catholic, Pope, Cardinal, Catechism, Purgatory, Penance, Transubstantiation, Excommunication, Dogma, Chastity, Unpardonable Sin, Infallibility, Inerrancy, Incarnation, Epiphany, Sermon, Eucharist, the Lord's Prayer, Good Friday, Doubting Thomas, Advent, Sunday School, Dead Sea, Golden Rule, Moral, Morality, Ethics, Patriotism, Education, Atheism, Apostasy, Conservative (Liberal is in), Capital Punishment, Monogamy, Abortion, Pornography, Homosexual, Lesbian, Fairness, Logic, Republic, Democracy, Capitalism, Funeral, Decalogue, or Bible.
Dan Barker (Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist)
Lieutenant Chatrand: I don’t understand this omnipotent-benevolent thing. Camerlengo Carlo Ventresca: You are confused because the Bible describes God as an omnipotent and benevolent deity. Lieutenant Chatrand: Exactly. Camerlengo Carlo Ventresca: Omnipotent-benevolent simply means that God is all-powerful and well-meaning. Lieutenant Chatrand: I understand the concept. It’s just... there seems to be a contradiction. Camerlengo Carlo Ventresca: Yes. The contradiction is pain. Man’s starvation, war, sickness... Lieutenant Chatrand: Exactly! Terrible things happen in this world. Human tragedy seems like proof that God could not possibly be both all-powerful and well-meaning. If He loves us and has the power to change our situation, He would prevent our pain, wouldn’t he? Camerlengo Carlo Ventresca: Would He? Lieutenant Chatrand: Well... if God Loves us, and He can protect us, He would have to. It seems He is either omnipotent and uncaring, or benevolent and powerless to help. Camerlengo Carlo Ventresca: Do you have children? Lieutenant Chatrand: No, signore. Camerlengo Carlo Ventresca: Imagine you had an eight-year-old son... would you love him? Lieutenant Chatrand: Of course. Camerlengo Carlo Ventresca: Would you let him skateboard? Lieutenant Chatrand: Yeah, I guess. Sure I’d let him skateboard, but I’d tell him to be careful. Camerlengo Carlo Ventresca: So as this child’s father, you would give him some basic, good advice and then let him go off and make his own mistakes? Lieutenant Chatrand: I wouldn’t run behind him and mollycoddle him if that’s what you mean. Camerlengo Carlo Ventresca: But what if he fell and skinned his knee? Lieutenant Chatrand: He would learn to be more careful. Camerlengo Carlo Ventresca: So although you have the power to interfere and prevent your child’s pain, you would choose to show you love by letting him learn his own lessons? Lieutenant Chatrand: Of course. Pain is part of growing up. It’s how we learn. Camerlengo Carlo Ventresca: Exactly.
Dan Brown (Angels & Demons (Robert Langdon, #1))
Every concept of reality is all in our head, belief is what makes truth.
Christy Leigh Stewart
The "show business," which is so incorporated into our view of Christian work today, has caused us to drift far from Our Lord's conception of discipleship. It is instilled in us to think that we have to do exceptional things for God; we have not. We have to be exceptional in ordinary things, to be holy in mean streets, among mean people, surrounded by sordid sinners. That is not learned in five minutes.
Oswald Chambers
The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything except our thinking. Thus, we are drifting toward catastrophe beyond conception. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.
Albert Einstein
He smirked. "You're an incorrect concept." "I know. That's why I'm being taken out of the rotation.
John Green (The Fault in Our Stars)
When we speak of man, we have a conception of humanity as a whole, and before applying scientific methods to the investigation of his movement we must accept this as a physical fact. But can anyone doubt to-day that all the millions of individuals and all the innumerable types and characters constitute an entity, a unit? Though free to think and act, we are held together, like the stars in the firmament, with ties inseparable. These ties cannot be seen, but we can feel them. I cut myself in the finger, and it pains me: this finger is a part of me. I see a friend hurt, and it hurts me, too: my friend and I are one. And now I see stricken down an enemy, a lump of matter which, of all the lumps of matter in the universe, I care least for, and it still grieves me. Does this not prove that each of us is only part of a whole? For ages this idea has been proclaimed in the consummately wise teachings of religion, probably not alone as a means of insuring peace and harmony among men, but as a deeply founded truth. The Buddhist expresses it in one way, the Christian in another, but both say the same: We are all one. Metaphysical proofs are, however, not the only ones which we are able to bring forth in support of this idea. Science, too, recognizes this connectedness of separate individuals, though not quite in the same sense as it admits that the suns, planets, and moons of a constellation are one body, and there can be no doubt that it will be experimentally confirmed in times to come, when our means and methods for investigating psychical and other states and phenomena shall have been brought to great perfection. Still more: this one human being lives on and on. The individual is ephemeral, races and nations come and pass away, but man remains. Therein lies the profound difference between the individual and the whole.
Nikola Tesla
Physical objects are conceptually imported into the situation as convenient intermediaries not by definition in terms of experience, but simply as irreducible posits comparable, epistemologically, to the gods of Homer . . . For my part I do, qua lay physicist, believe in physical objects and not in Homer's gods; and I consider it a scientific error to believe otherwise. But in point of epistemological footing, the physical objects and the gods differ only in degree and not in kind. Both sorts of entities enter our conceptions only as cultural posits.
Willard Van Orman Quine
I was conceived because it would be good for my House to have an heir and because my parents' genes ticked the right set of boxes. You were probably conceived because your parents loved each other." "According to our mother," Bern said, "he was conceived because she was too wasted to remember a rubber." Mad Rogan stopped chewing. "I was conceived because my mother skipped bail. Her boyfriend at the time threatened to call the cops on her so she had to do something to keep him from doing it," Bern said helpfully. Awesome. Just the right kind of information to share. "Aunt Giselea isn't the best mother," I said. "There's one in every family.
Ilona Andrews (Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy, #1))
The other night we talked about literature's elimination of the unessential, so that we are given a concentrated "dose" of life. I said, almost indignantly, "That's the danger of it, it prepares you to live, but at the same time, it exposes you to disappointments because it gives a heightened concept of living, it leaves out the dull or stagnant moments. You, in your books, also have a heightened rhythm, and a sequence of events so packed with excitement that I expected all your life to be delirious, intoxicated." Literature is an exaggeration, a dramatization, and those who are nourished on it (as I was) are in great danger of trying to approximate an impossible rhythm. Trying to live up to Dostoevskian scenes every day. And between writers there is a straining after extravagance. We incite each other to jazz-up our rhythm.
Anaïs Nin (The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934)
Because here’s something that’s weird but true: we don’t actually know what a positive or negative experience is. Some of the most difficult and stressful moments of our lives also end up being the most formative and motivating. Some of the best and most gratifying experiences of our lives are also the most distracting and demotivating. Don’t trust your conception of positive/negative experiences. All that we know for certain is what hurts in the moment and what doesn’t. And that’s not worth much. Just
Mark Manson (The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life)
The truth about our childhood is stored up in our body, and although we can repress it, we can never alter it. Our intellect can be deceived, our feelings manipulated, and conceptions confused, and our body tricked with medication. But someday our body will present its bill, for it is as incorruptible as a child, who, still whole in spirit, will accept no compromises or excuses, and it will not stop tormenting us until we stop evading the truth.
Alice Miller
Let's find and remedy all our weaknesses before our enemies get a chance to say a word. That is what Charles Darwin did. ...When Darwin completed the manuscript of his immortal book "The Origin Of Species" he realized that the publication of his revolutionary concept of creation would rock the intellectual and religious worlds. So he became his own critic and spent another 15 years checking his data, challenging his reasoning, and criticizing his conclusions.
Dale Carnegie (How to Stop Worrying and Start Living)
A piece of art comes to life, when we can feel, it is breathing, when it talks to us and starts raising questions. It may dispel biased perceptions; make us recognize ignored fragments and remember forsaken episodes of our life story. Art may sometimes even be nasty and disturbing, if we don’t want to consent to its philosophy or concept, but it might, in the end, perhaps reconcile us with ourselves. ("When is Art?")
Erik Pevernagie
Our world is not safe. It is a toxic swamp populated by predators and parasites. The odds are stacked against us from the moment of conception. We survive only because we fight the elements, hunger, disease, each other. And, although civilization promises us safe harbor, that promise is a fairy tale. Only the storm is real. It comes for each of us. And we cannot win. We can only choose how we will suffer our defeat. We can meekly take our beatings, and die like lemmings, finding solace in the belief that we shall one day inherit the earth. Or, we can plunge into the chaos with eyes wide open, taking comfort instead from the bruises, scars, and broken bones which prove that we fought to live and die as gods.
J.K. Franko (Life for Life (Talion #3))
The Copenhagen Interpretation is sometimes called "model agnosticism" and holds that any grid we use to organize our experience of the world is a model of the world and should not be confused with the world itself. Alfred Korzybski, the semanticist, tried to popularize this outside physics with the slogan, "The map is not the territory." Alan Watts, a talented exegete of Oriental philosophy, restated it more vividly as "The menu is not the meal.
Robert Anton Wilson (Cosmic Trigger: Die letzten Geheimnisse der Illuminaten oder An den Grenzen des erweiterten Bewusstseins)
The universe is no narrow thing and the order within it is not constrained by any latitude in its conception to repeat what exists in one part in any other part. Even in this world more things exist without our knowledge than with it and the order in creation which you see is that which you have put there, like a string in a maze, so that you shall not lose your way. For existence has its own order and that no man’s mind can compass, that mind itself being but a fact among others.
Cormac McCarthy (Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West)
Only a catastrophe gets our attention. We want them, we depend on them. As long as they happen somewhere else. This is where California comes in. Mud slides, brush fires, coastal erosion, mass killings, et cetera. We can relax and enjoy these disasters because in our hearts we feel that California deserves whatever it gets. Californians invented the concept of life-style. This alone warrants their doom.
Don DeLillo (White Noise)
A child is the quickest to trust because they have no concept of the depravity of our species.
Alessandra Torre (The Girl in 6E (Deanna Madden, #1))
Science has carried us to the gateway to the universe. And yet our conception of our surroundings remains the disproportionate view of the still-small child. We are spiritually and culturally paralyzed, unable to face the vastness, to embrace our lack of centrality and find our actual place in the fabric of nature. We batter this planet as if we had someplace else to go. That we even do science is a hopeful glimmer of mental health. However, it's not enough merely to accept these insights intellectually while we cling to a spiritual ideology that is not only rootless in nature but also, in many ways, contemptuous of what is natural.
Ann Druyan
The woman who first gives life, light, and form to our shadowy conceptions of beauty, fills a void in our spiritual nature that has remained unknown to us till she appeared. Sympathies that lie too deep for words, too deep almost for thoughts, are touched, at such times, by other charms than those which the senses feel and which the resources of expression can realise. The mystery which underlies the beauty of women is never raised above the reach of all expression until it has claimed kindred with the deeper mystery in our own souls.
Wilkie Collins (The Woman in White)
Why should we contain God any longer in our poor and narrow conceptions, which are so often no more than grandiose reflections of ourselves? Let us set him free.
Sue Monk Kidd (The Book of Longings)
In our dreams we have seen another world, an honest world, a world decidedly more fair than the one in which we now live. We saw that in this world there was no need for armies; peace, justice and liberty were so common that no one talked about them as far-off concepts, but as things such as bread, birds, air, water, like book and voice.
Subcomandante Marcos
Now that's a concept that's always fascinated me: the real world. Only a very specific subset of people use the term, have you noticed? To me, it seems self-evident that everyone lives in the real world - we all breathe real oxygen, eat real food, the earth under our feet feels equally solid to all of us. But clearly these people have a far more tightly circumscribed definition of reality, one that I find deeply mysterious, and an almost pathologically intense need to bring others into line with that definition.
Tana French (The Likeness (Dublin Murder Squad, #2))
The instinct to survive is human nature itself, and every aspect of our personalities derives from it. Anything that conflicts with the survival instinct acts sooner or later to eliminate the individual and thereby fails to show up in future generations. . . . A scientifically verifiable theory of morals must be rooted in the individual's instinct to survive--and nowhere else!--and must correctly describe the hierarchy of survival, note the motivations at each level, and resolve all conflicts. We have such a theory now; we can solve any moral problem, on any level. Self-interest, love of family, duty to country, responsibility toward the human race . . . . The basis of all morality is duty, a concept with the same relation to group that self-interest has to individual.
Robert A. Heinlein (Starship Troopers)
Whether or not we continue to enforce a universal conception of human rights at moments of outrage and incomprehension, precisely when we think that others have taken themselves out of the human community as we know it, is a test of our very humanity.
Judith Butler (Precarious Life)
We should fix ourselves firmly in the presence of God by conversing all the time with Him...we should feed our soul with a lofty conception of God and from that derive great joy in being his. We should put life in our faith. We should give ourselves utterly to God in pure abandonment, in temporal and spiritual matters alike, and find contentment in the doing of His will,whether he takes us through sufferings or consolations.
Brother Lawrence
Freedom is more than just a patriotic concept; it is the purest intent of our design. Be you. Be free. Be nice.
Steve Maraboli (Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience)
We want to stand upon our own feet and look fair and square at the world - its good facts, its bad facts, its beauties, and its ugliness; see the world as it is and not be afraid of it. Conquer the world by intelligence and not merely by being slavishly subdued by the terror that comes from it. The whole conception of God is a conception derived from the ancient Oriental despotisms. It is a conception quite unworthy of free men. When you hear people in church debasing themselves and saying that they are miserable sinners, and all the rest of it, it seems contemptible and not worthy of self-respecting human beings. We ought to stand up and look the world frankly in the face. We ought to make the best we can of the world, and if it is not so good as we wish, after all it will still be better than what these others have made of it in all these ages. A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by words uttered long ago by ignorant men. It needs a fearless outlook and free intelligence. It needs hope for the future, not looking back all the time toward a past that is dead, which we trust will be far surpassed by the future that our intelligence can create.
Bertrand Russell (Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects)
I really feel like civilisation's already over. It's not ending but it's already done. We're all addicted to the concept that humanity equals civilisation and that's not the case. We need a global conversation to be able to decipher how we can live from this point forward. We have to redefine our relationship with our environment.
Serj Tankian
We are afraid of the known and afraid of the unknown. That is our daily life and in that there is no hope, and therefore every form of philosophy, every form of theological concept, is merely an escape from the actual reality of what is. All outward forms of change brought about by wars, revolutions, reformations, laws and ideologies have failed completely to change the basic nature of man and therefore of society.
Thomas Jefferson
Whenever I'm asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one. To be able to recognize a freak, you have to have some conception of the whole man, and in the South the general conception of man is still, in the main, theological. That is a large statement, and it is dangerous to make it, for almost anything you say about Southern belief can be denied in the next breath with equal propriety. But approaching the subject from the standpoint of the writer, I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted. The Southerner, who isn't convinced of it, is very much afraid that he may have been formed in the image and likeness of God. Ghosts can be very fierce and instructive. They cast strange shadows, particularly in our literature. In any case, it is when the freak can be sensed as a figure for our essential displacement that he attains some depth in literature.
Flannery O'Connor (Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose)
Although the rhythm of the waves beats a kind of time, it is not clock or calendar time. It has no urgency. It happens to be timeless time. I know that I am listening to a rhythm which has been just the same for millions of years, and it takes me out of a world of relentlessly ticking clocks. Clocks for some reason or other always seem to be marching, and, as with armies, marching is never to anything but doom. But in the motion of waves there is no marching rhythm. It harmonizes with our very breathing. It does not count our days. Its pulse is not in the stingy spirit of measuring, of marking out how much still remains. It is the breathing of eternity, like the God Brahma of Indian mythology inhaling and exhaling, manifesting and dissolving the worlds, forever. As a mere conception this might sound appallingly monotonous, until you come to listen to the breaking and washing of waves.
Alan W. Watts
To better understand God we must first shatter our own idea of God - maybe even day after day. Maybe he's too great to stay compressed in the human mind. Maybe he splits it wide open; this is why pretentious intellectualism so often fails to comprehend the concept of God: it is only accepting of what it can explain while in the process finding higher sources offensive. What we may confidently assert is that faith is the opening that allows God, this unpredictable, unseen power, to travel in and out of the mind without all the pains of confusion.
Criss Jami (Killosophy)
I think forever is an incorrect concept,” I answered. He smirked. “You’re an incorrect concept.
John Green (The Fault in Our Stars)
We need someone to thank and someone to blame; thus the concept of God and the Devil. We can't accept that everything that happens to us, is our own doing.
Hafsa Shah
The propensity to excessive simplification is indeed natural to the mind of man, since it is only by abstraction and generalisation, which necessarily imply the neglect of a multitude of particulars, that he can stretch his puny faculties so as to embrace a minute portion of the illimitable vastness of the universe. But if the propensity is natural and even inevitable, it is nevertheless fraught with peril, since it is apt to narrow and falsify our conception of any subject under investigation. To correct it partially - for to correct it wholly would require an infinite intelligence - we must endeavour to broaden our views by taking account of a wide range of facts and possibilities; and when we have done so to the utmost of our power, we must still remember that from the very nature of things our ideas fall immeasurably short of the reality.
James George Frazer (The Magic Art and the Evolution of Kings, Part 1)
Who among us has any conception of the dimensions of shame that will befall us and our children when one day the veil has fallen from our eyes and the most horrible of crimes...reach the light of day?
Amy Goodman
Akin to the idea that time is money is the concept, less spoken but 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.
Wendell Berry
The Israeli court psychiatrist who examined Eichmann found him a “completely normal man, more normal, at any rate, than I am after examining him,” the implication being that the coexistence of normality and bottomless cruelty explodes our ordinary conceptions and present the true enigma of the trial.
Hannah Arendt (Eichmann in Jerusalem - A Report on the Banality of Evil)
One day Dostoevsky threw out the enigmatic remark: "Beauty will save the world". What sort of a statement is that? For a long time I considered it mere words. How could that be possible? When in bloodthirsty history did beauty ever save anyone from anything? Ennobled, uplifted, yes - but whom has it saved? There is, however, a certain peculiarity in the essence of beauty, a peculiarity in the status of art: namely, the convincingness of a true work of art is completely irrefutable and it forces even an opposing heart to surrender. It is possible to compose an outwardly smooth and elegant political speech, a headstrong article, a social program, or a philosophical system on the basis of both a mistake and a lie. What is hidden, what distorted, will not immediately become obvious. Then a contradictory speech, article, program, a differently constructed philosophy rallies in opposition - and all just as elegant and smooth, and once again it works. Which is why such things are both trusted and mistrusted. In vain to reiterate what does not reach the heart. But a work of art bears within itself its own verification: conceptions which are devised or stretched do not stand being portrayed in images, they all come crashing down, appear sickly and pale, convince no one. But those works of art which have scooped up the truth and presented it to us as a living force - they take hold of us, compel us, and nobody ever, not even in ages to come, will appear to refute them. So perhaps that ancient trinity of Truth, Goodness and Beauty is not simply an empty, faded formula as we thought in the days of our self-confident, materialistic youth? If the tops of these three trees converge, as the scholars maintained, but the too blatant, too direct stems of Truth and Goodness are crushed, cut down, not allowed through - then perhaps the fantastic, unpredictable, unexpected stems of Beauty will push through and soar to that very same place, and in so doing will fulfil the work of all three? In that case Dostoevsky's remark, "Beauty will save the world", was not a careless phrase but a prophecy? After all he was granted to see much, a man of fantastic illumination. And in that case art, literature might really be able to help the world today?
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (Nobel Lecture)
We try, we struggle, all the time to find words to express our love. The quality, the quantity, certain that no two people have experienced it before in the history of creation. Perhaps Catherine and Heathcliff, perhaps Romeo and Juliet, maybe Tristan and Isolde, maybe Hero and Leander, but these are just characters, make-believe. We have known each other forever, since before conception even. We remember playing together in a playpen, crossing paths at FAO Schwarz. We remember meeting in front of the Holy Temple in the days before Christ, we remember greeting each other at the Forum, at the Parthenon, on passing ships as Christopher Columbus sailed to America. We have survived pogrom together, we have died in Dachau together, we have been lynched by the Ku Klux Klan together. There has been cancer, polio, the bubonic plague, consumption, morphine addiction. We have had children together, we have been children together, we were in the womb together. Our history is so deep and wide and long, we have known each other a million years. And we don't know how to express this kind of love, this kind of feeling. I get paralyzed sometimes. One day, we are in the shower and I want to say to him, I could be submerged in sixty feet of water right now, never drowning, never even fearing drowning, knowing I would always be safe with you here, knowing that it would be ok to die as long as you are here. I want to say this but don't.
Elizabeth Wurtzel (Prozac Nation)
We must know the whole play in order to properly act our parts; the conception of totality must never be lost in that of the individual.
Kakuzō Okakura (The Book of Tea)
In our life there is one side which is finite and another side which is infinite. I want you to think about both the sides and design the best life and stand in their true values.
Amit Ray (Walking the Path of Compassion)
Someday, you know, we're going to be shown the great ledger of our recorded decisions-a dread concept you nonetheless know in your deepest soul is true.
Leif Enger (Peace Like a River)
The origin of the conflict, frustration, and anxiety we experience does not lie in the nature of the world itself but in our distorted conceptions of the world.
Stephen Batchelor (Alone with Others: An Existential Approach to Buddhism)
Though our brother is upon the rack, as long as we ourselves are at ease, our senses will never inform us of what he suffers. They never did and never can carry us beyond our own persons, and it is by the imagination only that we form any conception of what are his sensations...His agonies, when they are thus brought home to ourselves, when we have this adopted and made them our own, begin at last to affect us, and we then tremble and shudder at the thought of what he feels.
Adam Smith (The Theory of Moral Sentiments)
to see beauty is to learn the private language of meaning which is another's life - to recognize and relish what is. beauty must be defined as what we are, or else the concept itself is our enemy. why languish in the shadow of a standard we cannot personify, an ideal we cannot live?
CrimethInc. (Expect Resistance: A Field Manual)
Today the most civilized countries of the world spend a maximum of their income on war and a minimum on education. The twenty-first century will reverse this order. It will be more glorious to fight against ignorance than to die on the field of battle. The discovery of a new scientific truth will be more important than the squabbles of diplomats. Even the newspapers of our own day are beginning to treat scientific discoveries and the creation of fresh philosophical concepts as news. The newspapers of the twenty-first century will give a mere 'stick' in the back pages to accounts of crime or political controversies, but will headline on the front pages the proclamation of a new scientific hypothesis. Progress along such lines will be impossible while nations persist in the savage practice of killing each other off. I inherited from my father, an erudite man who labored hard for peace, an ineradicable hatred of war.
Nikola Tesla
Clarence Darrow, one of history's greatest lawyers, once noted "There is no such thing as justice, in or out of court." Perhaps because justice is a flawed concept that ultimately comes down to the decision of twelve people. People with their own experiences, prejudices, feelings about what defines right and wrong. Which is why, when the system fails us, we must go out and seek our own justice.
Emily Thorne
And then we will understand that people cannot be possessions. And because we are both and this should not be, a new concept will take shape within us, though we have never heard the word for it because the conductors are forbidden to even mention it in our presence. Revolution.
N.K. Jemisin (The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth, #3))
Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged. When our Founding Fathers passed the First Amendment, they sought to protect churches from government interference. They never intended to construct a wall of hostility between government and the concept of religious belief itself. … To those who cite the First Amendment as reason for excluding God from more and more of our institutions every day, I say: The First Amendment of the Constitution was not written to protect the people of this country from religious values; it was written to protect religious values from government tyranny.
Ronald Reagan
we must speak carefully so that we and our listeners do not get stuck in words or concepts. It is our duty to transcend words and concepts to be able to encounter reality.
Thich Nhat Hanh (Living Buddha, Living Christ)
Have you ever wondered what it feels like to have a love for the lost? This is a term we use as part of our Christian jargon. Many believers search their hearts in condemnation, looking for the arrival of some feeling of benevolence that will propel them into bold evangelism. It will never happen. It is impossible to love “the lost”. You can’t feel deeply for an abstraction or a concept. You would find it impossible to love deeply an unfamiliar individual portrayed in a photograph, let alone a nation or a race or something as vague as “all lost people”. Don’t wait for a feeling or love in order to share Christ with a stranger. You already love your heavenly Father, and you know that this stranger is created by Him, but separated from Him, so take those first steps in evangelism because you love God. It is not primarily out of compassion for humanity that we share our faith or pray for the lost; it is first of all, love for God.
John Piper
when the sky is as grey as this - impeccably grey, a denial, really of the very concept of colour - and the stooped millions lift their heads, it's hard to tell the air from the impurities in our human eyes, as if the sinking climbing paisley curlicues of grit were part of the element itself, rain, spores, tears, film, dirt. Perhaps, at such moments, the sky is no more then the sum of the dirt that lives in our human eyes.
Martin Amis (Money)
Watching someone you love go through difficult times is like being trapped in your own body but paralyzed. You want to yell at them, scream, help them, but your body won't move, and you know that no matter how hard you try, in the end, the path is theirs to choose, you can't choose for them. What a terrifying concept, especially considering we hardly see every option when we're stuck in our own self-defeat.
Rachel Van Dyken (Toxic (Ruin, #2))
Life is too precious for us to lose ourselves in our ideas and concepts, in our anger and our despair. We must wake up to the marvelous reality of life. We must begin to live fully and truly, every moment of our daily lives.
Thich Nhat Hanh (The Pocket Thich Nhat Hanh (Shambhala Pocket Classics))
The core identity is Traven, a name taken consciously from B. Traven, a writer I've always admired for his extreme reclusiveness—so completely at odds with the logic of our own age, when even the concept of privacy is constructed from publicly circulating materials. It is now almost impossible to be ourselves except on the world's terms.
J.G. Ballard (The Atrocity Exhibition)
Poetry is only the highest eloquence of passion, the most vivid form of expression that can be given to our conception of anything, whether pleasurable or painful, mean or dignified, delightful or distressing. It is the perfect coincidence of the image and the words with the feeling we have, and of which we cannot get rid in any other way, that gives an instant "satisfaction to the thought." This is equally the origin of wit and fancy, of comedy and tragedy, of the sublime and pathetic.
William Hazlitt
On the way from the Renaissance to our days we have enriched our experience, but we have lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity which used to restrain our passions and our irresponsibility. We have placed too much hope in political and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession: our spiritual life. In the East, it is destroyed by the dealings and machinations of the ruling party. In the West, commercial interests tend to suffocate it. This is the real crisis.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
We're very near a certain point where money doesn't mean anything... They say: How much money is this going to cost? This is really a totally meaningless concept. Money determines less and less our reality. Money is not constant factor, it's simply a process dependent entirely on acceptance for its existence. We already see situations without money, and I think that we're coming closer and closer to it.
William S. Burroughs (With William Burroughs: A Report From The Bunker)
[R]eligion was the race's first (and worst) attempt to make sense of reality. It was the best the species could do at a time when we had no concept of physics, chemistry, biology or medicine. We did not know that we lived on a round planet, let alone that the said planet was in orbit in a minor and obscure solar system, which was also on the edge of an unimaginably vast cosmos that was exploding away from its original source of energy. We did not know that micro-organisms were so powerful and lived in our digestive systems in order to enable us to live, as well as mounting lethal attacks on us as parasites. We did not know of our close kinship with other animals. We believed that sprites, imps, demons, and djinns were hovering in the air about us. We imagined that thunder and lightning were portentous. It has taken us a long time to shrug off this heavy coat of ignorance and fear, and every time we do there are self-interested forces who want to compel us to put it back on again.
Christopher Hitchens (The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever)
During the play-act of life, errors can clash with our conventional truth and compel us to prepare new ground for another truth concept that will replace the old truth model. Be that as it may, let us fly on the wings of our inspiration, value the day, enjoy the now, and be ready because the new blueprint may only remain valid until it dies by natural death on its turn. (“Measuring space”)
Erik Pevernagie
The world of the living contains enough marvels and mysteries..acting upon our emotions and intelligence in ways so inexplicable that it would almost justify the conception of life as an enchanted state. No, I am too firm in my consciousness of the marvellous to be ever fascinated by the mere supernatural...
Joseph Conrad (The Shadow-Line)
I have spent my life watching, not to see beyond the world, merely to see, great mystery, what is plainly before my eyes. I think the concept of transcendence is based on a misreading of creation. With all respect to heaven, the scene of the miracle is here, among us. The eternal as an idea is much less preposterous than time, and this very fact should seize our attention.
Marilynne Robinson (The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought)
We have an odd relationship with words. We learn a few when we are small, throughout our lives we collect others through education, conversation, our contact with books, and yet, in comparison, there are only a tiny number about whose meaning, sense, and denotation we would have absolutely no doubts, if one day, we were to ask ourselves seriously what they meant. Thus we affirm and deny, thus we convince and are convinced, thus we argue, deduce, and conclude, wandering fearlessly over the surface of concepts about which we only have the vaguest of ideas, and, despite the false air of confidence that we generally affect as we feel our way along the road in verbal darkness, we manage, more or less, to understand each other and even, sometimes, to find each other.
José Saramago (The Double)
I have been studying for forty years, which is to say forty wasted years; I teach others yet am ignorant of everything; this state of affairs fills my soul with so much humiliation and disgust that my life is intolerable. I was born in Time, I live in Time, and do not know what Time is. I find myself at a point between two eternities, as our wise men say, yet I have no conception of eternity. I am composed of matter, I think, but have never been able to discover what produces thought. I do not know whether or not I think with my head the same way that I hold things with my hands. Not only is the origin of my thought unknown to me, but the origin of my movements is equally hidden: I do not know why I exist. Yet every day people ask me questions on all these issues. I must give answers, yet have nothing worth saying, so I talk a great deal, and am confused and ashamed of myself afterwards for having spoken.
Voltaire (Micromegas and Other Short Fictions)
Science is opposed to theological dogmas because science is founded on fact. To me, the universe is simply a great machine which never came into being and never will end. The human being is no exception to the natural order. Man, like the universe, is a machine. Nothing enters our minds or determines our actions which is not directly or indirectly a response to stimuli beating upon our sense organs from without. Owing to the similarity of our construction and the sameness of our environment, we respond in like manner to similar stimuli, and from the concordance of our reactions, understanding is born. In the course of ages, mechanisms of infinite complexity are developed, but what we call 'soul' or 'spirit,' is nothing more than the sum of the functionings of the body. When this functioning ceases, the 'soul' or the 'spirit' ceases likewise. I expressed these ideas long before the behaviorists, led by Pavlov in Russia and by Watson in the United States, proclaimed their new psychology. This apparently mechanistic conception is not antagonistic to an ethical conception of life.
Nikola Tesla (Inventions, Researches and Writings of Nikola Tesla)
States' rights, as our forefathers conceived it, was a protection of the right of the individual citizen. Those who preach most frequently about states' rights today are not seeking the protection of the individual citizen, but his exploitation. . . . The time is long past - if indeed it ever existed - when we should permit the noble concept of States' rights to be betrayed and corrupted into a slogan to hide the bald denial of American rights, of civil rights, and of human rights.
Robert F. Kennedy
No settled family or community has ever called its home place an “environment.” None has ever called its feeling for its home place “biocentric” or “anthropocentric.” None has ever thought of its connection to its home place as “ecological,” deep or shallow. The concepts and insights of the ecologists are of great usefulness in our predicament, and we can hardly escape the need to speak of “ecology” and “ecosystems.” But the terms themselves are culturally sterile. They come from the juiceless, abstract intellectuality of the universities which was invented to disconnect, displace, and disembody the mind. The real names of the environment are the names of rivers and river valleys; creeks, ridges, and mountains; towns and cities; lakes, woodlands, lanes roads, creatures, and people. And the real name of our connection to this everywhere different and differently named earth is “work.” We are connected by work even to the places where we don’t work, for all places are connected; it is clear by now that we cannot exempt one place from our ruin of another. The name of our proper connection to the earth is “good work,” for good work involves much giving of honor. It honors the source of its materials; it honors the place where it is done; it honors the art by which it is done; it honors the thing that it makes and the user of the made thing. Good work is always modestly scaled, for it cannot ignore either the nature of individual places or the differences between places, and it always involves a sort of religious humility, for not everything is known. Good work can be defined only in particularity, for it must be defined a little differently for every one of the places and every one of the workers on the earth. The name of our present society’s connection to the earth is “bad work” – work that is only generally and crudely defined, that enacts a dependence that is ill understood, that enacts no affection and gives no honor. Every one of us is to some extent guilty of this bad work. This guilt does not mean that we must indulge in a lot of breast-beating and confession; it means only that there is much good work to be done by every one of us and that we must begin to do it.
Wendell Berry
The gospel of submission, commitment, decision, and victorious living is not good news about what God has achieved but a demand to save ourselves with God’s help. Besides the fact that Scripture never refers to the gospel as having a personal relationship with Jesus nor defines faith as a decision to ask Jesus to come into our heart, this concept of salvation fails to realize that everyone has a personal relationship with God already: either as a condemned criminal standing before a righteous judge or as a justified coheir with Christ and adopted child of the Father.
Michael S. Horton
A sentimentalist is simply one who wants to have the luxury of an emotion without paying for it. We think we can have our emotions for nothing. We cannot. Even the finest and most self-sacrificing emotions have to be paid for. Strangely enough, that is what makes them fine. The intellectual and emotional life of ordinary people is a very contemptible affair. Just as they borrow their ideas from a sort of circulating library of thought—-the Zeitgeist of an age that has no soul—-and send them back soiled at the end of each week, so they always try to get their emotions on credit, and refuse to pay the bill when it comes in. You should pass out of that conception of life. As soon as you have to pay for an emotion you will know its quality, and be the better for such knowledge. And remember that the sentimentalist is always a cynic at heart. Indeed, sentimentality is merely the bank holiday of cynicism.
Oscar Wilde (De Profundis)
It is tragic to see how the religious sentiment of the West has become so individualized that concepts such as "a contrite heart," have come to refer only to the personal experiences of guilt and willingness to do penance for it. The awareness of our impurity in thoughts, words and deeds can indeed put us in a remorseful mood and create in us the hope for a forgiving gesture. But if the catastrophical events of our days, the wars, mass murders, unbridled violence, crowded prisons, torture chambers, the hunger and the illness of millions of people and he unnamable misery of a major part of the human race is safely kept outside the solitude of our hearts, our contrition remains no more than a pious emotion.
Henri J.M. Nouwen (Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life)
We need to return from the self-centred concept of sincerity to the other-centred concept of truth. We are not isolated free choosers, monarchs of all we survey, but benighted creatures sunk in a reality whose nature we are constantly and overwhelmingly tempted to deform by fantasy. Our current picture of freedom encourages a dream-like facility; whereas what we require is a renewed sense of the difficulty and complexity of the moral life and the opacity of persons. We need more concepts in terms of which to picture the substance of our being; it is through an enriching and deepening of concepts that moral progress takes place. Simone Weil said that morality was a matter of attention not of will. We need a new vocabulary of attention.
Iris Murdoch
When tradition thus becomes master, it does so in such a way that what it transmits is made so inaccessible, proximally and for the most part, that it rather becomes concealed. Tradition takes what has come down to us and delivers it over to self-evidence; it blocks our access to those primordial "sources" from which the categories and concepts handed down to us have been in part quite genuinely drawn. Indeed it makes us forget that they have had such an origin, and makes us suppose that the necessity of going back to these sources is something which we need not even understand.
Martin Heidegger (Being and Time)
Sometimes we forget to appreciate the things that truly matter because our vision is so clouded by all of the mundanes. The here and now become our obsession , and we forget the concept of our finite state because with all the little things vying for our attention it feels like we'll go on forever.
Lynetta Halat (Everything I've Never Had (Everything, #1))
Medicine, electronic communications, space travel, genetic manipulation . . . these are the miracles about which we now tell our children. These are the miracles we herald as proof that science will bring us the answers. The ancient stories of immaculate conceptions, burning bushes, and parting seas are no longer relevant. God has become obsolete. Science has won the battle.
Dan Brown (Angels & Demons (Robert Langdon, #1))
To use books rightly, is to go to them for help; to appeal to them when our own knowledge and power fail; to be led by them into wider sight and purer conception than our own, and to receive from them the united sentence of the judges and councils of all time, against our solitary and unstable opinions.
John Ruskin
All my moral and intellectual being is penetrated by an invincible conviction that whatever falls under the dominion of our senses must be in nature and, however exceptional, cannot differ in its essence from all the other effects of the visible and tangible world of which we are a self-conscious part. The world of the living contains enough marvels and mysteries as it is—marvels and mysteries acting upon our emotions and intelligence in ways so inexplicable that it would almost justify the conception of life as an enchanted state. No, I am too firm in my consciousness of the marvelous to be ever fascinated by the mere supernatural which (take it any way you like) is but a manufactured article, the fabrication of minds insensitive to the intimate delicacies of our relation to the dead and to the living, in their countless multitudes; a desecration of our tenderest memories; an outrage on our dignity.
Joseph Conrad (The Shadow-Line)
...it's what life's all about." "what?" "a search. we're all searching for something to fill up what I like to call that big, God-shaped hole in our souls. some people use alcohol, or sex, or their children, or food, or money, or music, or heroin. a lot of people even use the concept of God itself. I could go on and on. I used to know a girl who used shoes. she had over two-hundred pairs. but it's all the same thing, really. people, for some stupid reason, think they can escape their sorrows.
Tiffanie DeBartolo (God-Shaped Hole)
No one is accountable for existing at all, or for being constituted as he is, or for living in the circumstances and surroundings in which he lives. The fatality of his nature cannot be disentangled from the fatality of all that which has been and will be. He is not the result of a special design, a will, a purpose; he is not the subject of an attempt to attain an 'ideal of man' or an 'ideal of happiness' or an 'ideal of morality'--it is absurd to want to hand over his nature to some purpose or other. We invented the concept 'purpose': in reality purpose is lacking...One is necessary, one is a piece of fate, one belongs to the whole, one is in the whole--there exists nothing which could judge, measure, compare, condemn our being, for that would be to judge, measure, condemn the whole...
Friedrich Nietzsche (A Nietzsche Reader)
We are living in a culture entirely hypnotized by the illusion of time, in which the so-called present moment is felt as nothing but an infinitesimal hairline between an all-powerfully causative past and an absorbingly important future. We have no present. Our consciousness is almost completely preoccupied with memory and expectation. We do not realize that there never was, is, nor will be any other experience than present experience. We are therefore out of touch with reality. We confuse the world as talked about, described, and measured with the world which actually is. We are sick with a fascination for the useful tools of names and numbers, of symbols, signs, conceptions and ideas.
Alan W. Watts
As you know, I have always been curious about our immortality... how it feels to live on and on through time....I need speculate no longer, I have sampled eternity in Miss Campbell's fifth period "social studies" class. Three days on the concept of "manifest destiny," Vasile. THREE DAYS. I yearned to stand up, rip her lecture notes from her pallid hands, and scream, 'Yes, America expanded westward! Is that not logical, given that Europeans settled on the Eastern shore? What else were they to do? Advance vainly into the sea?
Beth Fantaskey (Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side (Jessica, #1))
The notion that women shouldn't care about personal success -- or the work that gets them there -- is disengenuous; it is impossible for women not to have jobs anymore, so it doesn't make sense to expect them to structure their lives around getting married. The real failure is our cultural incapacity to make room for women to live and thrive outside of traditional conceptions of femininity and relationships. After all, we can eat without marriage, but not without work.
Samhita Mukhopadhyay
We also have to give up the notion of a divine savior, which has nothing to do with what religion we belong to, but refers to the idea of someone or something who will save us without our having to go through any pain. In fact, giving up that kind of false hope is the first step. We have to be with ourselves. We have to be real people. There is no way of beating around the bush, hoping for the best. If you are really interested in working with yourself, you can’t lead that kind of double life, adopting ideas, techniques, and concepts of all kinds, simply in order to get away from yourself.
Chögyam Trungpa (Smile at Fear: Awakening the True Heart of Bravery)
Our point of departure must be the conception of an almost childlike play-sense expressing itself in various play-forms, some serious, some playful, but all rooted in ritual and productive of culture by allowing the innate human need of rhythm, harmony, change, alternation, contrast and climax, etc., to unfold in full richness.
Johan Huizinga (Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture)
One of the great differences that set Jews apart from other cultural groups is that we see our wealth as a means to partner with God, as a way to bring God’s kingdom into this earth, a concept that we call tikkun olam – perfecting the world. We perfect the world by using our God- given wealth to further God’s realm on this planet. So what you see is that the Jewish people’s pursuit of wealth is often paired with the pursuit of charitable works, not only for selfish purposes.
Celso Cukierkorn (Secrets of Jewish Wealth Revealed!)
The belief that we somehow moved on to something else - whether still recognisably ourselves, or quite thoroughly changed - might be a tribute to our evolutionary tenacity and our animal thirst for life, but not to our wisdom. That saw a value beyond itself; in intelligence, knowledge and wit as concepts - wherever and by whoever expressed - not just in its own personal manifestation of those qualities, and so could contemplate its own annihilation with equanimity, and suffer it with grace; it was only a sort of sad selfishness that demanded the continuation of the individual spirit in the vanity and frivolity of a heaven.
Iain Banks
[W]e conceive the Devil as a necessary part of a respectable view of cosmology. Ours is a divided empire in which certain ideas and emotions and actions are of God, and their opposites are of Lucifer. It is as impossible for most men to conceive of a morality without sin as of an earth without 'sky'. Since 1692 a great but superficial change has wiped out God's beard and the Devil's horns, but the world is still gripped between two diametrically opposed absolutes. The concept of unity, in which positive and negative are attributes of the same force, in which good and evil are relative, ever-changing, and always joined to the same phenomenon - such a concept is still reserved to the physical sciences and to the few who have grasped the history of ideas.
Arthur Miller (The Crucible)
Like the octopi, our destiny is to become what we think, to have our thoughts become our bodies and our bodies become our thoughts. This is the essence of the more perfect Logos envisioned by the Hellenistic polymath Philo Judaeus—a Logos, an indwelling of the Goddess, not heard but beheld. Hans Jonas explains Philo Judaeus's concept as follows: A more perfect archetypal logos, exempt from the human duality of sign and thing, and therefore not bound by the forms of speech, would not require the mediation of hearing, but is immediately beheld by the mind as the truth of things.
Terence McKenna (Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge)
A chorus of voices exhorts kids to study science. No one stops to ask whether it is inhumane to force adolescents to spend the bulk of their time studying subjects most of them hate. When skilled workers are put out of a job by technical advances and have to undergo “retraining,” no one asks whether it is humiliating for them to be pushed around in this way. It is simply taken for granted that everyone must bow to technical necessity, and for good reason: If human needs were put before technical necessity there would be economic problems, unemployment, shortages or worse. The concept of “mental health” in our society is defined largely by the extent to which an individual behaves in accord with the needs of the system and does so without showing signs of stress.
Theodore J. Kaczynski (Industrial Society and Its Future)
The Western States nervous under the beginning change. Texas and Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas, New Mexico, Arizona, California. A single family moved from the land. Pa borrowed money from the bank, and now the bank wants the land. The land company--that's the bank when it has land --wants tractors, not families on the land. Is a tractor bad? Is the power that turns the long furrows wrong? If this tractor were ours it would be good--not mine, but ours. If our tractor turned the long furrows of our land, it would be good. Not my land, but ours. We could love that tractor then as we have loved this land when it was ours. But the tractor does two things--it turns the land and turns us off the land. There is little difference between this tractor and a tank. The people are driven, intimidated, hurt by both. We must think about this. One man, one family driven from the land; this rusty car creaking along the highway to the west. I lost my land, a single tractor took my land. I am alone and bewildered. And in the night one family camps in a ditch and another family pulls in and the tents come out. The two men squat on their hams and the women and children listen. Here is the node, you who hate change and fear revolution. Keep these two squatting men apart; make them hate, fear, suspect each other. Here is the anlarge of the thing you fear. This is the zygote. For here "I lost my land" is changed; a cell is split and from its splitting grows the thing you hate--"We lost our land." The danger is here, for two men are not as lonely and perplexed as one. And from this first "we" there grows a still more dangerous thing: "I have a little food" plus "I have none." If from this problem the sum is "We have a little food," the thing is on its way, the movement has direction. Only a little multiplication now, and this land, this tractor are ours. The two men squatting in a ditch, the little fire, the side- meat stewing in a single pot, the silent, stone-eyed women; behind, the children listening with their souls to words their minds do not understand. The night draws down. The baby has a cold. Here, take this blanket. It's wool. It was my mother's blanket--take it for the baby. This is the thing to bomb. This is the beginning--from "I" to "we." If you who own the things people must have could understand this, you might preserve yourself. If you could separate causes from results, if you could know Paine, Marx, Jefferson, Lenin, were results, not causes, you might survive. But that you cannot know. For the quality of owning freezes you forever into "I," and cuts you off forever from the "we." The Western States are nervous under the begining change. Need is the stimulus to concept, concept to action. A half-million people moving over the country; a million more restive, ready to move; ten million more feeling the first nervousness. And tractors turning the multiple furrows in the vacant land.
John Steinbeck (The Grapes of Wrath)
and while faith based on theological reasoning is today universally engaged in a bitter struggle with doubt and resistance from the prevailing brand of rationalism, it does seem that the naked fundamental experience itself, that primal seizure of mystic insight, stripped of religious concepts, perhaps no longer to be regarded as a religious experience at all, has undergone an immense expansion and now forms the soul of that complex irrationalism that haunts our era like a night bird lost in the dawn.
Robert Musil (The Man Without Qualities)
The other night we talked about literature's elimination of the unessential, so that we are given a concentrated "dose" of life. I said, almost indignantly, "That's the danger of it, it prepares you to live, but at the same time, it exposes you to disappointments because it gives a heightened concept of living, it leaves out the dull or stagnant moments. You, in your books, also have a heightened rhythm, and a sequence of events so packed with excitement that i expected all your life to be delirious, intoxicated." Literature is an exaggeration, a dramatization, and those who are nourished on it (as I was) are in great danger of trying to approximate an impossible rhythm. Trying to live up to dostoevskian scenes every day. And between writers there is a straining after extravagance. We incite each other to jazz-up our rhythm. It is amusing that, when Henry, Fred, and I talked together, we fell back into a deep naturalness. Perhaps none of us is a sensational character. Or perhaps we have no need of condiments. Henry is, in reality, mild not temperamental; gentle not eager for scenes. We may all write about sadism, masochism, the grand quignol, bubu de montparnasse (in which the highest proof of love is for a pimp to embrace his woman's syphilis as fervently as herself, a noblesse-oblige of the apache world), cocteau, drugs, insane asylums, house of the dead, because we love strong colors; and yet when we sit in the cafe de la place clichy, we talk about henry's last pages, and a chapter which was too long, and richard's madness. "One of his greatest worries," said Henry, "was to have introduced us. He thinks you are wonderful and that you may be in danger from the 'gangster author.
Anaïs Nin
Faith is a continuum, and we each fall on that line where we may. By attempting to rigidly classify ethereal concepts like faith, we end up debating semantics to the point where we entirely miss the obvious-that is, that we are all trying to decipher life's big mysteries, and we're each following our own paths of enlightenment.
Dan Brown
She shook her head. 'Look. We both know life is short, Macy. Too short to waste a single second with anyone who doesn't appreciate and value you.' 'You said the other day life was long,' I shot back. 'Which is it?' ' It's both,' she said, shrugging. 'IT all depends on how you choose to live it. It's like forever, always changing.' 'Nothing can be two opposite things at once,' I said. 'It's impossible.' 'No,' she replied, squeezing my hand,' what's impossible is that we actually think it could be anything other than that. Look, when I was in the hosptal, right after the accident, they thought I was going to die. I was really fucked up, big time.' 'Uh-huh,' Monica said, looking at her sister. 'Then,' Kristy continued, nodding at her, 'life was very short, literally. but now that I'm better it seems so long I have to squint to see even the edges of it. It's all in the view, Macy. That's what I mean about forever, too. For any one of us our forever could end in an hour, or a hundred years from now. You can never know for sure, so you'd better make every second count.' Monica, lighting another cigarette, nodded. 'Mmm-hmm,' she said. 'What you have to decide,' Kristy said to me, leaning foreward, 'is how you want your life to be. If your forever was ending tomorrow, would this be how you'd want to have spent it? It seemed like it was a choice I had already made. I'd spent the last year and a half with Jason, shaping my life to fit his, doing what I had to in order to make sure I had a plae in his perfect world, where things made sense. But it hadn't worked. 'Listen,' Kristy said,' the truth is, nohing is guaranteed. You know that more than anybody.' She looed at me hard, making sure I knew what she meant. I did. 'So don't be afraid. Be alive.' But then, I couldn't imagine, after everything that had happened, how you could live and not constantly be worrying about the dangers all around you. Especially when you'd already gotten teh scare of your life. 'It's the same thing,' I told her. 'What is?' 'Being afraid and being alive.' 'No,' she said slowly, and now it was as if she was speaking a language she knew at first I wouldn't understand, the very words, not to mention the concept, being foreign to me. 'Macy, no. It's not.
Sarah Dessen (The Truth About Forever)
As an empiricist I continue to think of the conceptual scheme of science as a tool, ultimately, for predicting future experience in the light of past experience. Physical objects are conceptually imported into the situation as convenient intermediaries-not by definition in terms of experience, but simply as irreducible posits comparable, epistemologically, to the gods of Homer. For my part I do, qua lay physicist, believe in physical objects and not in Homer's gods; and I consider it a scientific error to believe otherwise. But in point of epistemological footing the physical objects and the gods differ only in degree and not in kind. Both sorts of entities enter our conception only as cultural posits. The myth of physical objects is epistemologically superior to most in that it has proved more efficacious than other myths as a device for working a manageable structure into the flux of experience.
Willard Van Orman Quine (From a Logical Point of View: Nine Logico-Philosophical Essays)
A person who does not read, or reads little, or reads only trash, is a person with an impediment: he can speak much but he will say little, because his vocabulary is deficient in the means for self-expression. This is not only a verbal limitation. It represents also a limitation in intellect and imagination. It is a poverty of thought, for the simple reason that ideas, the concepts through which we grasp the secrets of our condition, do not exist apart from words.
Mario Vargas Llosa
Sociologists argue that in contemporary Western society the marketplace has become so dominant that the consumer model increasingly characterizes most relationships that historically were covenantal, including marriage. Today we stay connected to people only as long as they are meeting our particular needs at an acceptable cost to us. When we cease to make a profit - that is, when the relationship appears to require more love and affirmation from us than we are getting back - then we "cut our loses" and drop the relationship. This has also been called "commodification," a process by which social relationships are reduced to economic exchange relationships, and so the very idea of "covenant" is disappearing in our culture. Covenant is therefore a concept increasingly foreign to us, and yet the Bible says it is the essence of marriage.
Timothy J. Keller (The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God)
Lockwood sat up awkwardly, adjusting his Bubble-Wrapped loops of chain. 'We're in good shape,' he said. 'We've lost the heavy duty chains and the stuff in the bags, but we've got our rapiers, iron, and silver seals. And we've found what we wanted now.' I stared at the clean, calm surface of the door. 'Why couldn't it come after us? Ghosts can pass through walls.' Lockwood shrugged. 'In some cases a Visitor is tied so completely to the room where it met its death that it no longer has any conception of there being any adjacent space at all. So...when we left its hunting ground, it was as if we ceased to exist, as if we ceased to be....' I looked at him. 'You haven't really got a clue, have you?' 'No.
Jonathan Stroud (The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co., #1))
We have to ask ourselves why we are so focused on silent girly-girls in G-strings faking lust. This is not a sign of progress, it's a testament to what's still missing from our understanding of human sexuality with all its complexity and power. We are still so uneasy with the vicissitudes of sex we need to surround ourselves with caricatures of female hotness to safely conjure up the concept of 'sexy.' When you think about it, it's kind of pathetic.
Ariel Levy
In the course of my intellectual life I experienced very acutely the problem of whether it isn't actually presumptuous to say that we can know the truth - in the face of all our limitations. I also asked myself to what extent it might not be better to suppress this category. In pursuing this question, however, I was able to observe and also to grasp that relinquishing truth doesn't solve anything but, on the contrary, leads to the tyranny of caprice. In that case, the only thing that can remain is really what we decide on and can replace at will. Man is degraded if he can't know truth, if everything, in the final analysis, is just the product of an individual or collective decision. In this way it became clear to me how important it is that we don't lose the concept of truth, in spite of the menaces and perils that it doubtless carries with it. It has to remain as a central category. As a demand on us that doesn't give us rights but requires, on the contrary, our humility and our obedience and can lead us to the common path.
Benedict XVI
The usual antonym for the word “spiritual” is “material.” That at least is what I believed when I began this inquiry—that the whole issue with spirituality turned on a question of metaphysics. Now I’m inclined to think a much better and certainly more useful antonym for “spiritual” might be “egotistical.” Self and Spirit define the opposite ends of a spectrum, but that spectrum needn’t reach clear to the heavens to have meaning for us. It can stay right here on earth. When the ego dissolves, so does a bounded conception not only of our self but of our self-interest. What emerges in its place is invariably a broader, more openhearted and altruistic—that is, more spiritual—idea of what matters in life. One in which a new sense of connection, or love, however defined, seems to figure prominently.
Michael Pollan (How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence)
Perhaps the most extraordinary popular delusion about violence of the past quarter-century is that it is caused by low self-esteem. That theory has been endorsed by dozens of prominent experts, has inspired school programs designed to get kids to feel better about themselves, and in the late 1980s led the California legislature to form a Task Force to Promote Self-Esteem. Yet Baumeister has shown that the theory could not be more spectacularly, hilariously, achingly wrong. Violence is a problem not of too little self-esteem but of too much, particularly when it is unearned.
Steven Pinker (The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined)
A man's minor actions and arrangements ought to be free, flexible, creative; the things that should be unchangeable are his principles, his ideals. But with us the reverse is true; our views change constantly; but our lunch does not change. Now, I should like men to have strong and rooted conceptions, but as for their lunch, let them have it sometimes in the garden, sometimes in bed, sometimes on the roof, sometimes in the top of a tree. Let them argue from the same first principles, but let them do it in a bed, or a boat, or a balloon.
G.K. Chesterton
All the philosophical theories that exist have been created by the mistaken dualistic minds of human beings. In the realm of philosophy, that which today is considered true, may tomorrow be proved to be false. No one can guarantee a philosophy's validity. Because of this, any intellectual way of seeing whatever is always partial and relative. The fact is that there is no truth to seek or to confirm logically; rather what one needs to do is to discover just how much the mind continually limits itself in a condition of dualism. Dualism is the real root of our suffering and of all our conflicts. All our concepts and beliefs, no matter how profound they may seem, are like nets which trap us in dualism. When we discover our limits we have to try to overcome them, untying ourselves from whatever type of religious, political or social conviction may condition us. We have to abandon such concepts as 'enlightenment', 'the nature of the mind', and so on, until we are no longer satisfied by a merely intellectual knowledge, and until we no longer neglect to integrate our knowledge with our actual existence.
Namkhai Norbu (Dzogchen: The Self-Perfected State)
But we must not forget that all things in the world are connected with one another and depend on one another, and that we ourselves and all our thoughts are also a part of nature. It is utterly beyond our power to measure the changes of things by time. Quite the contrary, time is an abstraction, at which we arrive by means of the change of things; made because we are not restricted to any one definite measure, all being interconnected. A motion is termed uniform in which equal increments of space described correspond to equal increments of space described by some motion with which we form a comparison, as the rotation of the earth. A motion may, with respect to another motion, be uniform. But the question whether a motion is in itself uniform, is senseless. With just as little justice, also, may we speak of an “absolute time” --- of a time independent of change. This absolute time can be measured by comparison with no motion; it has therefore neither a practical nor a scientific value; and no one is justified in saying that he knows aught about it. It is an idle metaphysical conception.
Ernst Mach (The Science of Mechanics: A Critical and Historical Account of Its Development)
America was never innocent. We popped our cherry on the boat over and looked back with no regrets. You can't ascribe our fall from grace to any single event or set of circumstances. You can't lose what you lacked at conception. Mass-market nostalgia gets you hopped up for a past that never existed. Hagiography sanctifies shuck-and-jive politicians and reinvents their expedient gestures as moments of great moral weight. Our continuing narrative line is blurred past truth and hindsight. Only a reckless verisimilitude can set that line straight. The real Trinity of Camelot was Look Good, Kick Ass, Get Laid. Jack Kennedy was the mythological front man for a particularly juicy slice of our history. He called a slick line and wore a world-class haircut. He was Bill Clinton minus pervasive media scrutiny and a few rolls of flab. Jack got whacked at the optimum moment to assure his sainthood. Lies continue to swirl around his eternal flame. It's time to dislodge his urn and cast light on a few men who attended his ascent and facilitated his fall. They were rouge cops and shakedown artist. They were wiretappers and soldiers of fortune and faggot lounge entertainers. Had one second of their lives deviated off course, American History would not exist as we know it. It's time to demythologize an era and build a new myth from the gutter to the stars. It's time to embrace bad men and the price they paid to secretly define there time. Here's to them.
James Ellroy (American Tabloid (Underworld USA #1))
Violent ideologies speak their own language; core concepts are translated to maintain the system while appearing to support the people. Under carnism, for instance, democracy has become defined as having the freedom to choose among products that sicken our bodies and pollute our planet, rather than the freedom to eat our food and breathe our air without the risk of being poisoned. But violent ideologies are inherently undemocratic, as they rely on deception, secrecy, concentrated power, and coercion--all practices that are incompatible with a free society. While the larger system, or nation, may appear democratic, the violent system within it is not. This is one reason we don't recognize violent ideologies that exist within seemingly democratic systems; we simply aren't thinking to look for them.
Melanie Joy (Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism: The Belief System That Enables Us to Eat Some Animals and Not Others)
A certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces must be present; and there must be a hint, expressed with a seriousness and portentousness becoming its subject, of that most terrible conception of the human brain - a malign and particular suspension or defeat of those laws of Nature which are our only safeguard against the assaults of chaos and the daemons of unplumbed space .... Therefore we must judge a weird tale not by the author's intent, or by the mere mechanics of the plot; but by the emotional level which it attains at its least mundane point... The one test of the really weird is simply this - whether or not there be excited in the reader a profound sense of dread, and of contact with unknown spheres and powers; a subtle attitude of awed listening, as if for the beating of black wings or the scratching of outside shapes and entities on the known universe's utmost rim.
H.P. Lovecraft (Supernatural Horror in Literature)
They convinced our mothers that if a food item came in a bottle -- or a can or a box or a cellophane bag -- then it was somehow better for you than when it came to you free of charge via Mother Nature....An entire generation of us were introduced in our very first week to the concept that phony was better than real, that something manufactured was better than something that was right there in the room. (Later in life, this explained the popularity of the fast food breakfast burrito, neocons, Kardashians, and why we think reading this book on a tiny screen with only three minutes of battery life left is enjoyable.
Michael Moore (Here Comes Trouble)
People are suffering all around the world. We ignore what’s happening elsewhere every second of every day, focusing only on our country, our city, our neighborhood, or on the people we see daily. We only really care about the pain and unhappiness of our loved ones, our friends and families, because we couldn’t stay sane if we tried to support and save everyone. Nobody could try to do anything like that, except maybe Scion. I’m applying that concept to a smaller scale. My family and my team, they take priority, and they take priority in that order.
Wildbow (Worm (Parahumans, #1))
We consult astrology charts like the Babylonians, try to make our children into our own image with a firm hand like the Romans, elbow others to get a breath-quickening glimpse of the queen in her ritual procession, and confess to the priests and attend church. And we wonder why, with all this power capital drawn from so many sources, we are deeply anxious about the meaning of our lives. The reason is plain enough: none of these, nor all of them taken together, represents an integrated world conception into which we fit ourselves with pure belief and trust.
Ernest Becker
I figure... ...that the people are now more deeply conscious than ever before in history of the existence and functioning principles of universal, inexorable physical laws; of the pervading, quietly counseling truth within each and every one of us; of the power of love; and--each man by himself--of his own developing, dynamic relationship with his own conception of the Almightiness of the All-Knowing. ...that our contemporaries just don't wear their faith on their sleeves anymore. ...that people have removed faith from their sleeves because they found out for themselves that faith is much too important for careless display. Now they are willing to wait out the days and years for the truthful events, encouraged individually from within; and the more frequently the dramatic phrases advertising love, patriotism, fervent belief, morals, and good fellowship are plagiarized, appropriated and exhibited in the show windows of the world by the propaganda whips for indirect and ulterior motives, no matter how meager the compromise--the more do people withdraw within themselves and shun taking issue with the nauseating perversions, though eternally exhibiting quiet indifference, nonchalance or even cultivating seemingly ignorant acceptance.
R. Buckminster Fuller
This is not (as you have charged) to paint religion with a broad brush. I am very quick to distinguish gradations of bad ideas; some clearly have no consequences at all (or at least not yet); some put civilization itself in peril. The problem with dogmatism, however, is that one can never quite predict how terrible its costs will be. To use one of my favorite examples, consider the Christian dogma that human life begins at the moment of conception: On its face, this belief seems likely to only improve our world. After all, it is the very quintessence of a life-affirming doctrine. Enter embryonic stem-cell research. Suddenly, this “life begins at the moment of conception” business becomes the chief impediment to medical progress. Who would have thought that such an innocuous idea could unnecessarily prolong the agony of tens of millions of people? This is the problem with dogmatism, no matter how seemingly benign: it is unresponsive to reality. Dogmatism is a failure of cognition (as well as a commitment to such failure); it is the state of being closed to new evidence and new arguments. And this frame of mind is rightly despised in every area of culture, on every subject, except where it goes by the name of “religious faith.” In this guise, parading its most grotesque faults as virtues, it is granted a special dispensation, even in the pages of Nature.
Sam Harris
When asked whether or not we are Marxists, our position is the same as that of a physicist, when asked if he is a “Newtonian” or of a biologist when asked if he is a “Pasteurian.” There are truths so evident, so much a part of the peoples’ knowledge, that it is now useless to debate them. One should be a “Marxist” with the same naturalness with which one is a “Newtonian” in physics or a “Pasteurian.” If new facts bring about new concepts, the latter will never take away that portion of truth possessed by those that have come before. Such is the case, for example, of “Einsteinian” relativity or of Planck’s quantum theory in relation to Newton’s discoveries. They take absolutely nothing away from the greatness of the learned Englishman. Thanks to Newton, physics was able to advance until it achieved new concepts of space. The learned Englishman was the necessary stepping-stone for that. Obviously, one can point to certain mistakes of Marx, as a thinker and as an investigator of the social doctrines and of the capitalist system in which he lived. We Latin Americans, for example, cannot agree with his interpretation of Bolivar, or with his and Engels’ analysis of the Mexicans, which accepted as fact certain theories of race or nationality that are unacceptable today. But the great men who discover brilliant truths live on despite their small faults and these faults serve only to show us they were human. That is to say, they were human beings who could make mistakes, even given the high level of consciousness achieved by these giants of human thought. This is why we recognize the essential truths of Marxism as part of humanity’s body of cultural and scientific knowledge. We accept it with the naturalness of something that requires no further argument.
Ernesto Che Guevara
Dear Jeff, I happened to see the Channel 7 TV program "Hooray for Hollywood" tonight with the segment on Blade Runner. (Well, to be honest, I didn't happen to see it; someone tipped me off that Blade Runner was going to be a part of the show, and to be sure to watch.) Jeff, after looking—and especially after listening to Harrison Ford discuss the film—I came to the conclusion that this indeed is not science fiction; it is not fantasy; it is exactly what Harrison said: futurism. The impact of Blade Runner is simply going to be overwhelming, both on the public and on creative people—and, I believe, on science fiction as a field. Since I have been writing and selling science fiction works for thirty years, this is a matter of some importance to me. In all candor I must say that our field has gradually and steadily been deteriorating for the last few years. Nothing that we have done, individually or collectively, matches Blade Runner. This is not escapism; it is super realism, so gritty and detailed and authentic and goddam convincing that, well, after the segment I found my normal present-day "reality" pallid by comparison. What I am saying is that all of you collectively may have created a unique new form of graphic, artistic expression, never before seen. And, I think, Blade Runner is going to revolutionize our conceptions of what science fiction is and, more, can be. Let me sum it up this way. Science fiction has slowly and ineluctably settled into a monotonous death: it has become inbred, derivative, stale. Suddenly you people have come in, some of the greatest talents currently in existence, and now we have a new life, a new start. As for my own role in the Blade Runner project, I can only say that I did not know that a work of mine or a set of ideas of mine could be escalated into such stunning dimensions. My life and creative work are justified and completed by Blade Runner. Thank you...and it is going to be one hell of a commercial success. It will prove invincible. Cordially, Philip K. Dick
Philip K. Dick
Omnipotent-benevolent simply means that God is all-powerful and well-meaning.' 'I understand the concept. It's just . . . there seems to be a contradiction.' 'Yes. The contradiction is pain. Man's starvation, war, sickness . . .' 'Exactly!' Chartrand knew the camerlengo would understand. 'Terrible things happen in this world. Human tragedy seems like proof that God could not possibly be both all-powerful and well-meaning. If He loves us and has the power to change our situation, He would prevent our pain, wouldn't He?' The camerlengo frowned. 'Would He?' Chartrand felt uneasy. Had he overstepped his bounds? Was this one of those religious questions you just didn't ask? 'Well . . . if God loves us, and He can protect us, He would have to. It seems He is either omnipotent and uncaring, or benevolent and powerless to help.' 'Do you have children, Lieutenant?' Chartrand flushed. 'No, signore.' 'Imagine you had an eight-year-old son . . . would you love him?' 'Of course.' 'Would you let him skateboard?' Chartrand did a double take. The camerlengo always seemed oddly "in touch" for a clergyman. 'Yeah, I guess,' Chartrand said. 'Sure, I'd let him skateboard, but I'd tell him to be careful.' 'So as this child's father, you would give him some basic, good advice and then let him go off and make his own mistakes?' 'I wouldn't run behind him and mollycoddle him if that's what you mean.' 'But what if he fell and skinned his knee?' 'He would learn to be more careful.' The camerlengo smiled. 'So although you have the power to interfere and prevent your child's pain, you would choose to show your love by letting him learn his own lessons?' 'Of course. Pain is part of growing up. It's how we learn.' The camerlengo nodded. 'Exactly.
Dan Brown (Angels & Demons (Robert Langdon, #1))
Christians often ask why God does not speak to them, as he is believed to have done in former days. When I hear such questions, it always makes me think of the rabbi who was asked how it could be that God often showed himself to people in the olden days while nowadays nobody ever sees him. The rabbi replied: "Nowadays there is now longer anybody who can bow low enough." This answer hits the nail on the head. We are so captivated by and entangled in our subjective consciousness that we have forgotten the age-old fact that God speaks chiefly through dreams and visions. The Buddhist discards the world of unconscious fantasies as useless illusions; the Christian puts his Church and his Bible between himself and his unconscious; and the rational intellectual does not yet know that his consciousness is not his total psyche. This ignorance persists today in spite of the fact that for more than 70 years the unconscious has been a basic scientific concept that is indispensable to any serious psychological investigation.
C.G. Jung (Man and His Symbols)
Memorizing someone else’s explanation of the truth isn’t the same as seeing the truth for yourself. It is what it is—the memorization of second-hand knowledge. It is not your experience. It is not your knowledge. And no matter how much material is learned by rote, and no matter how eloquently we can speak about the memorized information, we’re clinging to a description of something that’s not ours. What’s more, the description is never the item itself. By holding onto our impression of certain descriptions, we frequently are unable to see the real thing when it’s right before our eyes. We are conditioned by memorizing and believing concepts—the truth of which we’ve never genuinely seen for ourselves.
H.E. Davey (Japanese Yoga: The Way of Dynamic Meditation)
Psilocybes gave our hominid ancestors “access to realms of supernatural power,” “catalyzed the emergence of human self-reflection,” and “brought us out of the animal mind and into the world of articulated speech and imagination.” This last hypothesis about the invention of language turns on the concept of synesthesia, the conflation of the senses that psychedelics are known to induce: under the influence of psilocybin, numbers can take on colors, colors attach to sounds, and so on. Language, he contends, represents a special case of synesthesia, in which otherwise meaningless sounds become linked to concepts. Hence, the stoned ape: by giving us the gifts of language and self-reflection psilocybin mushrooms made us who we are, transforming our primate ancestors into Homo sapiens.
Michael Pollan (How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence)
An imaginary circle of empathy is drawn by each person. It circumscribes the person at some distance, and corresponds to those things in the world that deserve empathy. I like the term "empathy" because it has spiritual overtones. A term like "sympathy" or "allegiance" might be more precise, but I want the chosen term to be slightly mystical, to suggest that we might not be able to fully understand what goes on between us and others, that we should leave open the possibility that the relationship can't be represented in a digital database. If someone falls within your circle of empathy, you wouldn't want to see him or her killed. Something that is clearly outside the circle is fair game. For instance, most people would place all other people within the circle, but most of us are willing to see bacteria killed when we brush our teeth, and certainly don't worry when we see an inanimate rock tossed aside to keep a trail clear. The tricky part is that some entities reside close to the edge of the circle. The deepest controversies often involve whether something or someone should lie just inside or just outside the circle. For instance, the idea of slavery depends on the placement of the slave outside the circle, to make some people nonhuman. Widening the circle to include all people and end slavery has been one of the epic strands of the human story - and it isn't quite over yet. A great many other controversies fit well in the model. The fight over abortion asks whether a fetus or embryo should be in the circle or not, and the animal rights debate asks the same about animals. When you change the contents of your circle, you change your conception of yourself. The center of the circle shifts as its perimeter is changed. The liberal impulse is to expand the circle, while conservatives tend to want to restrain or even contract the circle. Empathy Inflation and Metaphysical Ambiguity Are there any legitimate reasons not to expand the circle as much as possible? There are. To expand the circle indefinitely can lead to oppression, because the rights of potential entities (as perceived by only some people) can conflict with the rights of indisputably real people. An obvious example of this is found in the abortion debate. If outlawing abortions did not involve commandeering control of the bodies of other people (pregnant women, in this case), then there wouldn't be much controversy. We would find an easy accommodation. Empathy inflation can also lead to the lesser, but still substantial, evils of incompetence, trivialization, dishonesty, and narcissism. You cannot live, for example, without killing bacteria. Wouldn't you be projecting your own fantasies on single-cell organisms that would be indifferent to them at best? Doesn't it really become about you instead of the cause at that point?
Jaron Lanier (You Are Not a Gadget)
He read the veinings of a leaf, the pattern on a mushroom cap, and divined mysteries, relations, futures, possibilities: the magic of symbols, the foreshadowing of numbers and writing, the reduction of infinitudes and multiplicities to simplicity, to system, to concept. For all these ways of comprehending the world through the mind no doubt lay within him, nameless, unnamed, but not inconceivable, not beyond the bounds of presentiment, still in the germ, but essential to his nature, part of him, growing organically within him. And if we were to go still further back beyond this Rainmaker and his time which to us seems so early and primitive, if we were to go several thousand years further back into the past, wherever we found man we would still find - this is our firm belief - the mind of man, that mind which has no beginning and always has contained everything that it later produces.
Hermann Hesse (The Glass Bead Game)
What is the place of art in the Christian life? Is art- especially the fine arts- simply a way to bring worldliness in through the back door? What about sculpture or drama, music or painting? Do these have any place in the Christian life? Shouldn't a Christian focus his gaze steadily on "religious things" alone and forget about art and culture? As evangelical Christians, we have tended to relegate art to the very fringe of life. The rest of human life we feel is more important. Despite our constant talk about the lordship of Christ, we have narrowed its scope to a very small area of reality. We have misunderstood the concept of the lordship of Christ over the whole man and the whole of the universe and have not taken to us the riches that the Bible gives us for ourselves, for our lives, and for our culture. The lordship of Christ over the whole of life means that there are no platonic areas in Christianity, no dichotomy or hierarchy between the body and the soul. God made the body as well as the soul, and redemption is for the whole man.
Francis A. Schaeffer (Art & the Bible)
Our species is the only creative species, and it has only one creative instrument, the individual mind and spirit of a man. Nothing was ever created by two men. There are no good collaborations, whether in music, in art, in poetry, in mathematics, in philosophy. Once the miracle of creation has taken place, the group can build and extend it, but the group never invents anything. The preciousness lies in the lonely mind of a man. And now the forces marshaled around the concept of the group have declared a war of extermination on that preciousness, the mind of man. By disparagement, by starvation, by repressions, forced direction, and the stunning hammerblows of conditioning, the free, roving mind is being pursued, roped, blunted, drugged. It is a sad suicidal course our species seems to have taken. And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about. I can understand why a system built on a pattern must try to destroy the free mind, for this is one thing which can by inspection destroy such a system. Surely I can understand this, and I hate it and I will fight against it to preserve the one thing that separates us from the uncreative beasts. If the glory can be killed, we are lost.
John Steinbeck (East of Eden)
We criticize Americans for not being able either to analyse or conceptualize. But this is a wrong-headed critique. It is we who imagine that everything culminates in transcendence, and that nothing exists which has not been conceptualized. Not only do they care little for such a view, but their perspective is the very opposite: it is not conceptualizing reality, but realizing concepts and materializing ideas, that interests them. The ideas of the religion and enlightened morality of the eighteenth century certainly, but also dreams, scientific values, and sexual perversions. Materializing freedom, but also the unconscious. Our phantasies around space and fiction, but also our phantasies of sincerity and virtue, or our mad dreams of technicity. Everything that has been dreamt on this side of the Atlantic has a chance of being realized on the other. They build the real out of ideas. We transform the real into ideas, or into ideology.
Jean Baudrillard (America)
I told her that we go to work to provide for our families, attend school functions that our children are involved in, take a few pieces of cake we just baked over to our neighbor next door, drive our children to school in the morning. “No! No!” She said. “How do you worship?” I said we make love to our spouses, smile and greet someone we pass on the street, help our children with their homework, hold open a door for someone behind us. “Worship! I’m asking about worship!” She exclaimed. I asked her exactly what she had in mind. “You know-Rituals!” She insisted. I answered her that we practice those also and that they are a very important part of Muslim worship. I was not trying to frustrate her, but I answered her in this way in order to emphasize Islam’s comprehensive conception of worship.
Jeffrey Lang (Even Angels Ask: A Journey to Islam in America)
It’s a subtle thing, freedom. It takes effort; it takes attention and focus to not act something like an automaton. Although we do have freedom, we exercise it only when we strive for awareness, when we are conscious not just of the content of the mind but also of the mind itself as a process.’ We may say, then, that in the world of the psyche, freedom is a relative concept: the power to choose exists only when our automatic mechanisms are subject to those brain systems that are able to maintain conscious awareness. A person experiences greater or less freedom from one situation to the next, from one interaction to the next, from one moment to the next. Anyone whose automatic brain mechanisms habitually run in overdrive has diminished capacity for free decision making, especially if the parts of the brain that facilitate conscious choice are impaired or underdeveloped.
Gabor Maté (In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction)
All things that live must die. Man alone it seems lives all his life in the knowledge of death. And yet there is more to life than merely waiting for death. For life to have meaning, there must be a purpose. A man must pass something on – otherwise he is useless. For most men, that purpose revolves around marriage and children who will carry on his seed. For others it is an ideal – a dream, if you like. Each of us here believes in a concept of honor: that it is a man’s duty to do that which is right and just; that might alone is not enough. We have all transgressed at some time. We have stolen, lied, cheated – even killed – for our own ends. But ultimately we return to our beliefs. We judge ourselves more harshly than others can judge us. We know that death is preferable to betrayal of that which we hold dear.
David Gemmell (Legend (The Drenai Saga, #1))
Extremism, racism, nativism, and isolationism, driven by fear of the unknown, tend to spike in periods of economic and social stress—a period like our own. Americans today have little trust in government; household incomes lag behind our usual middle-class expectations. The fires of fear in America have long found oxygen when broad, seemingly threatening change is afoot. Now, in the second decade of the new century, in the presidency of Donald Trump, the alienated are being mobilized afresh by changing demography, by broadening conceptions of identity, and by an economy that prizes Information Age brains over manufacturing brawn. “We are determined to take our country back,” David Duke, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, said in Charlottesville. “We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in, that’s why we voted for Donald Trump. Because he said he’s going to take our country back. And that’s what we gotta do.
Jon Meacham (The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels)
Under the redwood tree my grave was laid, and I beguiled my true love to lie down. The stream of our kiss put a waterway around the world, where love like a refugee sailed in the last ship. My hair made a shroud, and kept the coyotes at bay while we wrote our cyphers with anatomy. The winds boomed triumph, our spines seemed overburdened, and our bones groaned like old trees, but a smile like a cobweb was fastened across the mouth of the cave of fate. Fear will be a terrible fox at my vitals under my tunic of behaviour. Oh, canary, sing out in the thunderstorm, prove your yellow pride. Give me a reason for courage or a way to be brave. But nothing tangible comes to rescue my besieged sanity, and I cannot decipher the code of the eucalyptus thumping on my roof. I am unnerved by the opponents of God, and God is out of earshot. I must spin good ghosts out of my hope to oppose the hordes at my window. If those who look in see me condescend to barricade the door, they will know too much and crowd in to overcome me. The parchment philosopher has no traffic with the night, and no conception of the price of love. With smoky circles of thought he tries to combat the fog, and with anagrams to defeat anatomy. I posture in vain with his weapons, even though I am balmed with his nicotine herbs. Moon, moon, rise in the sky to be a reminder of comfort and the hour when I was brave.
Elizabeth Smart (By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept)
I whispered, "Do you have a rubber?" He laughed, hushed, a laughing whisper, as though his parents were in the next room, and reached one arm past my head to a nightstand there. "A rubber chicken." He shook the dancing chicken in the air. "Will that do?" I laughed back, ran a finger along the bumps of the fake chicken skin. "Ribbed and beaked for her pleasure, even. Want me to leave you two alone?" He threw the chicken on the floor and bit my neck and I giggled and he said, "Never," and he was everywhere then. The couch was a sinking place and I disappeared into the orgy of costumes, the smell of nervous strangers, makeup and smoke, my naked body buried in the perfume of human need. I took the rubber chicken home. Plucky was my mascot, the souvenir of our date. Later, much later, there was the conception of our child. And now the miscarriage, unexpected, though I should've expected it because, why not? -- family slid through my fingers the same as the old silicone banana-peel trick. After the D&C, after the suctioning away of our tiny fetus, I drew the black heart on Plucky's rubber breast in the place where a chicken might have a heart, over the ridges of implied feathers. Indelible ink. Now she'd been nabbed by a kid too young to know what love means, what a chicken might mean. Too young to know that a rubber chicken can carry all of love in one indelible ink heart.
Monica Drake (Clown Girl)
At the end of that class Demian said to me thoughtfully: "There’s something I don’t like about this story, Sinclair. Why don’t you read it once more and give it the acid test? There’s something about it that doesn’t taste right. I mean the business with the two thieves. The three crosses standing next to each other on the hill are almost impressive, to be sure. But now comes this sentimental little treatise about the good thief. At first he was a thorough scoundrel, had committed all those awful things and God knows what else, and now he dissolves in tears and celebrates such a tearful feast of self-improvement and remorse! What’s the sense of repenting if you’re two steps from the grave? I ask you. Once again, it’s nothing but a priest’s fairy tale, saccharine and dishonest, touched up with sentimentality and given a high edifying background. If you had to pick a friend from between the two thieves or decide which one you’d rather trust, you most certainly wouldn’t choose the sniveling convert. No, the other fellow, he’s a man of character. He doesn’t give a hoot for ‘conversion’, which to a man in his position can’t be anything but a pretty speech. He follows his destiny to it’s appointed end and does not turn coward and forswear the devil, who has aided and abetted him until then. He has character, and people with character tend to receive the short end of the stick in biblical stories. Perhaps he’s even a descendant of Cain. Don’t you agree?" I was dismayed. Until now I had felt completely at home in the story of the Crucifixion. Now I saw for the first time with how little individuality, with how little power of imagination I had listened to it and read it. Still, Demian’s new concept seemed vaguely sinister and threatened to topple beliefs on whose continued existence I felt I simply had to insist. No, one could not make light of everything, especially not of the most Sacred matters. As usual he noticed my resistance even before I had said anything. "I know," he said in a resigned tone of voice, "it’s the same old story: don’t take these stories seriously! But I have to tell you something: this is one of the very places that reveals the poverty of this religion most distinctly. The point is that this God of both Old and New Testaments is certainly an extraordinary figure but not what he purports to represent. He is all that is good, noble, fatherly, beautiful, elevated, sentimental—true! But the world consists of something else besides. And what is left over is ascribed to the devil, this entire slice of world, this entire half is hushed up. In exactly the same way they praise God as the father of all life but simply refuse to say a word about our sexual life on which it’s all based, describing it whenever possible as sinful, the work of the devil. I have no objection to worshiping this God Jehovah, far from it. But I mean we ought to consider everything sacred, the entire world, not merely this artificially separated half! Thus alongside the divine service we should also have a service for the devil. I feel that would be right. Otherwise you must create for yourself a God that contains the devil too and in front of which you needn’t close your eyes when the most natural things in the world take place.
Hermann Hesse (Demian: Die Geschichte von Emil Sinclairs Jugend)
We say it is "explanation" but it is only in "description" that we are in advance of the older stages of knowledge and science. We describe better we explain just as little as our predecessors. We have discovered a manifold succession where the naive man and investigator of older cultures saw only two things "cause" and "effect " as it was said we have perfected the conception of becoming but have not got a knowledge of what is above and behind the conception. The series of "causes" stands before us much more complete in every case we conclude that this and that must first precede in order that that other may follow - but we have not grasped anything thereby. The peculiarity for example in every chemical process seems a "miracle " the same as before just like all locomotion nobody has "explained" impulse. How could we ever explain We operate only with things which do not exist with lines surfaces bodies atoms divisible times divisible spaces - how can explanation ever be possible when we first make everything a conception our conception It is sufficient to regard science as the exactest humanizing of things that is possible we always learn to describe ourselves more accurately by describing things and their successions. Cause and effect: there is probably never any such duality in fact there is a continuum before us from which we isolate a few portions - just as we always observe a motion as isolated points and therefore do not properly see it but infer it. The abruptness with which many effects take place leads us into error it is however only an abruptness for us. There is an infinite multitude of processes in that abrupt moment which escape us. An intellect which could see cause and effect as a continuum which could see the flux of events not according to our mode of perception as things arbitrarily separated and broken - would throw aside the conception of cause and effect and would deny all conditionality.
Friedrich Nietzsche (The Gay Science)
Politicians in our times feed their clichés to television, where even those who wish to disagree repeat them. Television purports to challenge political language by conveying images, but the succession from one frame to another can hinder a sense of resolution. Everything happens fast, but nothing actually happens. Each story on televised news is ”breaking” until it is displaced by the next one. So we are hit by wave upon wave but never see the ocean. The effort to define the shape and significance of events requires words and concepts that elude us when we are entranced by visual stimuli. Watching televised news is sometimes little more than looking at someone who is also looking at a picture. We take this collective trance to be normal. We have slowly fallen into it. More than half a century ago, the classic novels of totalitarianism warned of the domination of screens, the suppression of books, the narrowing of vocabularies, and the associated difficulties of thought. In Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, published in 1953, firemen find and burn books while most citizens watch interactive television. In George Orwell’s 1984, published in 1949, books are banned and television is two-way, allowing the government to observe citizens at all times. In 1984, the language of visual media is highly constrained, to starve the public of the concepts needed to think about the present, remember the past, and consider the future. One of the regime’s projects is to limit the language further by eliminating ever more words with each edition of the official dictionary. Staring at screens is perhaps unavoidable, but the two-dimensional world makes little sense unless we can draw upon a mental armory that we have developed somewhere else. When we repeat the same words and phrases that appear in the daily media, we accept the absence of a larger framework. To have such a framework requires more concepts, and having more concepts requires reading. So get the screens out of your room and surround yourself with books. The characters in Orwell’s and Bradbury’s books could not do this—but we still can.
Timothy Snyder (On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century)
At present, the successful office-seeker is a good deal like the center of the earth; he weighs nothing himself, but draws everything else to him. There are so many societies, so many churches, so many isms, that it is almost impossible for an independent man to succeed in a political career. Candidates are forced to pretend that they are catholics with protestant proclivities, or christians with liberal tendencies, or temperance men who now and then take a glass of wine, or, that although not members of any church their wives are, and that they subscribe liberally to all. The result of all this is that we reward hypocrisy and elect men entirely destitute of real principle; and this will never change until the people become grand enough to allow each other to do their own thinking. Our government should be entirely and purely secular. The religious views of a candidate should be kept entirely out of sight. He should not be compelled to give his opinion as to the inspiration of the bible, the propriety of infant baptism, or the immaculate conception. All these things are private and personal. The people ought to be wise enough to select as their officers men who know something of political affairs, who comprehend the present greatness, and clearly perceive the future grandeur of our country. If we were in a storm at sea, with deck wave-washed and masts strained and bent with storm, and it was necessary to reef the top sail, we certainly would not ask the brave sailor who volunteered to go aloft, what his opinion was on the five points of Calvinism. Our government has nothing to do with religion. It is neither christian nor pagan; it is secular. But as long as the people persist in voting for or against men on account of their religious views, just so long will hypocrisy hold place and power. Just so long will the candidates crawl in the dust—hide their opinions, flatter those with whom they differ, pretend to agree with those whom they despise; and just so long will honest men be trampled under foot.
Robert G. Ingersoll (Some Mistakes of Moses)
At this point we can finally see what's really at stake in our peculiar habit of defining ourselves simultaneously as master and slave, reduplicating the most brutal aspects of the ancient household in our very concept of ourselves, as masters of our freedoms, or as owners of our very selves. It is the only way that we can imagine ourselves as completely isolated beings. There is a direct line from the new Roman conception of liberty – not as the ability to form mutual relationships with others, but as the kind of absolute power of "use and abuse" over the conquered chattel who make up the bulk of a wealthy Roman man's household – to the strange fantasies of liberal philosophers like Hobbes, Locke, and Smith, about the origins of human society in some collection of thirty- or forty-year-old males who seem to have sprung from the earth fully formed, then have to decide whether to kill each other or begin to swap beaver pelts.
David Graeber (Debt: The First 5,000 Years)
Most people find the word Apocalypse, to be a terrifying concept. Checked in the dictionary, it means only revelation, although it obviously has also come to mean end of the world. As to what the end of the world means, I would say that probably depends on what we mean by world. I don’t think this means the planet, or even the life forms upon the planet. I think the world is purely a construction of ideas, and not just the physical structures, but the mental structures, the ideologies that we’ve erected, that is what I would call the world. Our political structures, philosophical structures, ideological frameworks, economies. These are actually imaginary things, and yet that is the framework that we have built our entire world upon. It strikes me that a strong enough wave of information could completely overturn and destroy all of that. A sudden realization that would change our entire perspective upon who we are and how we exist.
Alan Moore
I'd like to ask you more about your ears if I may," I said. "You want to ask whether or not my ears possess some special power?" I nodded. "See what I mean?" She said. She’d become so beautiful, it defied understanding. Never had I feasted my eyes on such beauty. It transcended all concepts within the boundaries of my awareness. She was at one with her ears, gliding down the oblique face of time like a protean beam of light. "You are extraordinary." I said after catching my breath. "I know." she said. "These are my ears in their unblocked state." Several of the other customers were now turned our way, staring agape at her. The waiter who came over with more coffee couldn't pour properly. Not a soul uttered a word, only the reels on the tape deck kept slowly spinning. She retrieved a clove cigarette from her purse and put it to her lips. I hurriedly offered her a light with my lighter. "I want to sleep with you," She said. So we slept together.
Haruki Murakami (A Wild Sheep Chase (The Rat, #3))
The skeleton key unlocks the mind and swings open the door of imagination. A far better place than here A much safer place than there The quintessential somewhere The mystical nowhere The enigmatic anywhere My gift to you - the key to everywhere. The mortal will find itself lost while the soul always knows the way it is grateful for the darkness and celebrates the day I can give you peace my peace I give you... but I cannot be your savior or your god - I cannot be the light along your path - I can only give you the lamp and point the way. The blind will see... the deaf will hear... but those who choose reason will never understand. Woe to the ones who think they know the answers they will cease to ask the questions that may be their own salvation. We possess the knowledge of the Universe from conception. Once born we are taught to forget. If we cannot look out at our world and see our children's vision then we are truly blind we are unable to lead them to paradise. "Even people who are in the dark search for their shadows. Shadows exist only if there is light. We will never find total darkness - not even in death... ...and we always cast a shadow no matter how overcast our skies become. You are never alone." Do not listen to the voice that shouts to you from behind desks behind podiums behind altars. Do not pay attention to the orators and the opportunists. Do not be distracted by the promises made behind masks. Listen to the quiet. Listen to the whispers as they gently guide you through the assaults of man's absurdities. Listen to the gentle breathing of your mother and lay your head to rest in her peace and in her warm embrace and understand that truth and power lie within you. Breathe silence. The free bird will always return to the cage sooner or later to seek food and water and the loving hand of it's caretaker.
M. Teresa Clayton
Formation may be the best name for what happens in a circle of trust, because the word refers, historically, to soul work done in community. But a quick disclaimer is in order, since formation sometimes means a process quite contrary to the one described in this book----a process in which the pressure of orthodox doctrine, sacred text, and institutional authority is applied to the misshapen soul in order to conform it to the shape dictated by some theology. This approach is rooted in the idea that we are born with souls deformed by sin, and our situation is hopeless until the authorities "form" us properly. But all of that is turned upside down by the principles of a circle of trust: I applaud the theologian who said that "the idea of humans being born alienated from the Creator would seem an abominable concept." Here formation flows from the belief that we are born with souls in perfect form. As time goes on, we subject to powers of deformation, from within as well as without, that twist us into shapes alien to the shape of the soul. But the soul never loses its original form and never stops calling us back to our birhtright integrity.
Parker J. Palmer (A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life)
The popular concept–that we should each determine our own morality–is based on the belief that the spiritual realm is nothing at all like the rest of the world. Does anyone really believe that? For many years after each of the morning and evening Sunday services I remained in the auditorium for another hour to field questions. Hundreds of people stayed for the give-and-take discussions. One of the most frequent statements I heard was that 'Every person has to define right and wrong for him- or herself.' I always responded to the speakers by asking, 'Is there anyone in the world right now doing things you believe they should stop doing no matter what they personally believe about the correctness of their behavior?' They would invariable say, 'Yes, of course.' Then I would ask, “Doesn’t that mean that you do believe there is some kind of moral reality that is "there" that is not defined by us, that must be abided by regardless of what a person feels or thinks?' Almost always, the response to that question was silence, either a thoughtful or a grumpy one.
Timothy J. Keller (The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism)
I hope each of us owns the facts of her or his own life," Hughes wrote in a letter to the Independent in April, 1989, when he had been goaded by a particularly intrusive article. But, of course, as everyone knows who has ever heard a piece of gossip, we do not "own" the facts of our lives at all. This ownership passes out of our hands at birth, at the moment we are first observed. The organs of publicity that have proliferated in our time are only an extension and a magnification of society's fundamental and incorrigible nosiness. Our business is everybody's business, should anybody wish to make it so. The concept of privacy is a sort of screen to hide the fact that almost none is possible in a social universe. In any struggle between the public's inviolable right to be diverted and an individual's wish to be left alone, the public almost always prevails. After we are dead, the pretense that we may somehow be protected against the world's careless malice is abandoned. The branch of the law that putatively protects our good name against libel and slander withdraws from us indifferently. The dead cannot be libelled or slandered. They are without legal recourse.
Janet Malcolm (The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes)
Because we cannot discover God's throne in the sky with a radiotelescope or establish (for certain) that a beloved father or mother is still about in a more or less corporeal form, people assume that such ideas are "not true." I would rather say that they are not "true" enough, for these are conceptions of a kind that have accompanied human life from prehistoric times, and that still break through into consciousness at any provocation. Modern man may assert that he can dispose with them, and he may bolster his opinion by insisting that there is no scientific evidence of their truth. Or he may even regret the loss of his convictions. But since we are dealing with invisible and unknowable things (for God is beyond human understanding, and there is no means of proving immortality), why should we bother about evidence? Even if we did not know by reason our need for salt in our food, we should nonetheless profit from its use. We might argue that the use of salt is a mere illusion of taste or a superstition; but it would still contribute to our well-being. Why, then, should we deprive ourselves of views that would prove helpful in crises and would give a meaning to our existence? And how do we know that such ideas are not true? Many people would agree with me if I stated flatly that such ideas are probably illusions. What they fail to realize is that the denial is as impossible to "prove" as the assertion of religious belief. We are entirely free to choose which point of view we take; it will in any case be an arbitrary decision. There is, however, a strong empirical reason why we should cultivate thoughts that can never be proved. It is that they are known to be useful. Man positively needs general ideas and convictions that will give a meaning to his life and enable him to find a place for himself in the universe. He can stand the most incredible hardships when he is convinced that they make sense; he is crushed when, on top of all his misfortunes, he has to admit that he is taking part in a "tale told by an idiot." It is the role of religious symbols to give a meaning to the life of man. The Pueblo Indians believe that they are the sons of Father Sun, and this belief endows their life with a perspective (and a goal) that goes far beyond their limited existence. It gives them ample space for the unfolding of personality and permits them a full life as complete persons. Their plight is infinitely more satisfactory than that of a man in our own civilization who knows that he is (and will remain) nothing more than an underdog with no inner meaning to his life.
C.G. Jung (Man and His Symbols)
This is what the bourgeois political economists have done: they have treated value as a fact of nature, not a social construction arising out of a particular mode of production. What Marx is interested in is a revolutionary transformation of society, and that means an overthrow of the capitalist value-form, the construction of an alternative value-structure, an alternative value-system that does not have the specific character of that achieved under capitalism. I cannot overemphasize this point, because the value theory in Marx is frequently interpreted as a universal norm with which we should comply. I have lost count of the number of times I have heard people complain that the problem with Marx is that he believes the only valid notion of value derives from labor inputs. It is not that at all; it is a historical social product. The problem, therefore, for socialist, communist, revolutionary, anarchist or whatever, is to find an alternative value-form that will work in terms of the social reproduction of society in a different image. By introducing the concept of fetishism, Marx shows how the naturalized value of classical political economy dictates a norm; we foreclose on revolutionary possibilities if we blindly follow that norm and replicate commodity fetishism. Our task is to question it.
David Harvey (A Companion to Marx's Capital)
To the mind (Geist), good and evil, above and below, are not skeptical, relative concepts, but terms of a function, values that depend on the context they find themselves in…. It regards nothing as fixed, no personality, no order of things: because our knowledge may change from day to day, it regards nothing as binding: everything has the value it has only until the next act of creation, as a face changes with the words we are speaking to it. And so the mind or spirit is the great opportunist, itself impossible to pin down, take hold of, anywhere: on is tempted to believe that of all its influence nothing is left but decay. Every advance is a gain in particular and a separation in general; it is an increase in power leading only to a progressive increase in impotence, but there is no way to quit. Ulrich thought of that body of facts and discoveries, growing almost by the hour, out of which the mind must peer today if it wishes to scrutinize any given problem closely. This body grows away from its inner life. Countless views, opinions, systems of ideas from every age and latitude, from all sorts of sick and sound, waking and dreaming brains run through it like thousands of small sensitive nerve strands, but the central nodal point tying them all together is missing. Man feels dangerously close to repeating the fate of those gigantic primeval species that perished because of their size; but he cannot stop himself.
Robert Musil (The Man Without Qualities: Volume I (1/2))
Abelman’s Dry Goods Kansas City, Missouri U.S.A. Mr. I. Abelman, Mongoloid, Esq.: We have received via post your absurd comments about our trousers, the comments revealing, as they did, your total lack of contact with reality. Were you more aware, you would know or realize by now that the offending trousers were dispatched to you with our full knowledge that they were inadequate so far as length was concerned. “Why? Why?” You are, in your incomprehensible babble, unable to assimilate stimulating concepts of commerce into your retarded and blighted worldview. The trousers were sent to you (1) as a means of testing your initiative (A clever, wide-awake business concern should be able to make three-quarter-length trousers a byword of masculine fashion. Your advertising and merchandising programs are obviously faulty.) and (2) as a means of testing your ability to meet the standards requisite in a distributor of our quality product. (Our loyal and dependable outlets can vend any trouser bearing the Levy label no matter how abominable their design and construction. You are apparently a faithless people.) We do not wish to be bothered in the future by such tedious complaints. Please confine your correspondence to orders only. We are a busy and dynamic organization whose mission needless effrontery and harassment can only hinder. If you molest us again, sir, you may feel the sting of the lash across your pitiful shoulders. Yours in anger, Gus Levy, Pres.
John Kennedy Toole (A Confederacy of Dunces)
Struggles to coerce uniformity of sentiment in support of some end thought essential to their time and country have been waged by many good as well as by evil men. Nationalism is a relatively recent phenomenon but at other times and places the ends have been racial or territorial security, support of a dynasty or regime, and particular plans for saving souls. As first and moderate methods to attain unity have failed, those bent on its accomplishment must resort to an ever-increasing severity. . . . Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard. It seems trite but necessary to say that the First Amendment to our Constitution was designed to avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings. There is no mysticism in the American concept of the State or of the nature or origin of its authority. We set up government by consent of the governed, and the Bill of Rights denies those in power any legal opportunity to coerce that consent. Authority here is to be controlled by public opinion, not public opinion by authority. If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.
Robert H. Jackson
Mind you, I cannot swear that my story is true. It may have been a dream; or worse, a symptom of some severe mental disorder. But I believe it is true. After all, how are we to know what things there are on earth? Strange monstrosities still exist, and foul, incredible perversions. Every war, each new geographical or scientific discovery, brings to light some new bit of ghastly evidence that the world is not altogether the same place we fondly imagine it to be. Sometimes peculiar incidents occur which hint of utter madness. How can we be sure that our smug conceptions of reality actually exist? To one man in a million dreadful knowledge is revealed, and the rest of us remain mercifully ignorant. There have been travelers who never came back, and research workers who disappeared. Some of those who did return were deemed mad because of what they told, and others sensibly concealed the wisdom that had so horribly been revealed. Blind as we are, we know a little of what lurks beneath our normal life. There have been tales of sea serpents and creatures of the deep; legends of dwarfs and giants; records of queer medical horrors and unnatural births. Stunted nightmares of men's personalities have blossomed into being under the awful stimulus of war, or pestilence, or famine. There have been cannibals, necrophiles, and ghouls; loathsome rites of worship and sacrifice; maniacal murders, and blasphemous crimes. When I think, then, of what I saw and heard, and compare it with certain other grotesque and unbelievable authenticities, I begin to fear for my reason. ("The Mannikin")
Robert Bloch (Monster Mix)
I am trying to explain as quickly as possible my essential nature, that is, what manner of man I am, what I believe in, and for what I hope, that's it, isn't it? And therefore I tell you that I accept God honestly and simply. But you must note this: If God exists and if He really did create the world, then, as we all know, He created it according to the geometry of only three dimensions in space. Yet there have been some very distinguished ones, who doubt whether the whole universe, or to speak more generally the whole of being, was only created in Euclid's geometry; they even dare to dream that two parallel lines, which according to Euclid can never meet on earth, may meet somewhere in infinity. I have come to the conclusion that, since I can't understand even that, I can't expect to understand about God. I acknowledge humbly that I have no faculty for settling such questions, I have a Euclidian earthly mind, and how could I solve problems that are not of this world? And I advise you never to think about it either, my dear Alyosha, especially about God, whether He exists or not. All such questions are utterly inappropriate for a mind created with a conception of only three dimensions. And so I accept God and am glad to, and what's more I accept His wisdom, His purpose - which are utterly beyond our ken; I believe in the underlying order and the meaning of life; I believe in the eternal harmony in which they say we shall one day be blended. I believe in the Word to Which the universe is striving, and Which Itself was "with God", and Which Itself is God and so on, and so on, to infinity.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky (The Brothers Karamazov)
What is hope? Is it the ambition of discovering for the first time what the carnal definition of physical love is without understanding the concept of true passion? Or is it imagination running wild and free fueled by the dram that tonight will last forever and tomorrows will always come as you are blinded by the brilliance of another's smile? Is it a theory of inevitability that relies on fate or destiny bringing two souls together for their one shot at true and unbridled happiness? Or is it a plea to erase a past that used to hold the potential for limitless smiles and endless laughs? I define hope as a narcotic. It courses through our veins, igniting ideas and feelings and emotions that all work in collaboration to produce a better tomorrow, while leaving today, but a distant memory. The essence of its unknown and unseen promise is beautiful and addicting to those who are in need of its satiating grace. The dependence on the idea of possibility can become a crutch however; an excuse for ignoring the here and now. It can swiftly morph from a therapeutic escape to an addictive obsession that somewhere over the rainbow lies the answer that will make everything right again. I am thankful to call myself a true addict to hope's mind altering panacea. It's blissful nirvana can seem both inconceivably irrational yet entirely fathomable to anyone lost in a sea of uncertainty. Just as age brings wisdom, experience brings the understanding that no matter what pot of gold lies at the end of your hopeful rainbow, the relief it casts over tragedy and heartache is the power behind it's true magic. To the hope that resides in the depths of my being, thank you.......
Ivan Rusilko (Entrée (The Winemaker's Dinner, #2))
I have argued that this sort of thinking is problematic in at least two regards: First, the notion that nonhuman animals do not have an interest in continued existence—that they do not have an interest in their lives—involves relying on a speciesist concept of what sort of self-awareness matters morally. I have argued that every sentient being necessarily has an interest in continued existence—every sentient being values her or his life—and that to say that only those animals (human animals) who have a particular sort of self-awareness have an interest in not being treated as commodities begs the fundamental moral question. Even if, as some maintain, nonhuman animals live in an “eternal present”—and I think that is empirically not the case at the very least for most of the nonhumans we routinely exploit who do have memories of the past and a sense of the future—they have, in each moment, an interest in continuing to exist. To say that this does not count morally is simply speciesist. Second, even if animals do not have an interest in continuing to live and only have interests in not suffering, the notion that, as a practical matter, we will ever be able to accord those interests the morally required weight is simply fantasy. The notion that we property owners are ever going to accord any sort of significant weight to the interests of property in not suffering is simply unrealistic. Is it possible in theory? Yes. Is it possible as a matter of practicality in the real world. Absolutely not. Welfarists often talk about treating “farmed animals” in the way that we treat dogs and cats whom we love and regard as members of our family. Does anyone really think that is practically possible? The fact that we would not think of eating our dogs and cats is some indication that it is not.
Gary L. Francione
We have one collective hope: the Earth And yet, uncounted people remain hopeless, famine and calamity abound Sufferers hurl themselves into the arms of war; people kill and get killed in the name of someone else’s concept of God Do we admit that our thoughts & behaviors spring from a belief that the world revolves around us? Each fabricated conflict, self-murdering bomb, vanished airplane, every fictionalized dictator, biased or partisan, and wayward son, are part of the curtains of society’s racial, ethnic, religious, national, and cultural conflicts, and you find the human ego turning the knobs and pulling the levers When I track the orbits of asteroids, comets, and planets, each one a pirouetting dancer in a cosmic ballet, choreographed by the forces of gravity, I see beyond the plight of humans I see a universe ever-expanding, with its galaxies embedded within the ever-stretching four-dimensional fabric of space and time However big our world is, our hearts, our minds, our outsize atlases, the universe is even bigger There are more stars in the universe than grains of sand on the world’s beaches, more stars in the universe than seconds of time that have passed since Earth formed, more stars than words & sounds ever uttered by all humans who have ever lived The day we cease the exploration of the cosmos is the day we threaten the continuing of our species In that bleak world, arms-bearing, resource-hungry people & nations would be prone to act on their low-contracted prejudices, and would have seen the last gasp of human enlightenment Until the rise of a visionary new culture that once again embraces the cosmic perspective; a perspective in which we are one, fitting neither above nor below, but within
Neil deGrasse Tyson
As they walked, Tehol spoke. ‘…the assumption is the foundation stone of Letherii society, perhaps all societies the world over. The notion of inequity, my friends. For from inequity derives the concept of value, whether measured by money or the countless other means of gauging human worth. Simply put, there resides in all of us the unchallenged belief that the poor and the starving are in some way deserving of their fate. In other words, there will always be poor people. A truism to grant structure to the continual task of comparison, the establishment through observation of not our mutual similarities, but our essential differences. ‘I know what you’re thinking, to which I have no choice but to challenge you both. Like this. Imagine walking down this street, doling out coins by the thousands. Until everyone here is in possession of vast wealth. A solution? No, you say, because among these suddenly rich folk there will be perhaps a majority who will prove wasteful, profligate and foolish, and before long they will be poor once again. Besides, if wealth were distributed in such a fashion, the coins themselves would lose all value—they would cease being useful. And without such utility, the entire social structure we love so dearly would collapse. ‘Ah, but to that I say, so what? There are other ways of measuring self-worth. To which you both heatedly reply: with no value applicable to labour, all sense of worth vanishes! And in answer to that I simply smile and shake my head. Labour and its product become the negotiable commodities. But wait, you object, then value sneaks in after all! Because a man who makes bricks cannot be equated with, say, a man who paints portraits. Material is inherently value-laden, on the basis of our need to assert comparison—but ah, was I not challenging the very assumption that one must proceed with such intricate structures of value? ‘And so you ask, what’s your point, Tehol? To which I reply with a shrug. Did I say my discourse was a valuable means of using this time? I did not. No, you assumed it was. Thus proving my point!’ ‘I’m sorry, master,’ Bugg said, ‘but what was that point again?’ ‘I forget. But we’ve arrived. Behold, gentlemen, the poor.
Steven Erikson (Midnight Tides (Malazan Book of the Fallen, #5))
The Idiot. I have read it once, and find that I don't remember the events of the book very well--or even all the principal characters. But mostly the 'portrait of a truly beautiful person' that dostoevsky supposedly set out to write in that book. And I remember how Myshkin seemed so simple when I began the book, but by the end, I realized how I didn't understand him at all. the things he did. Maybe when I read it again it will be different. But the plot of these dostoevsky books can hold such twists and turns for the first-time reader-- I guess that's b/c he was writing most of these books as serials that had to have cliffhangers and such. But I make marks in my books, mostly at parts where I see the author's philosophical points standing in the most stark relief. My copy of Moby Dick is positively full of these marks. The Idiot, I find has a few... Part 3, Section 5. The sickly Ippolit is reading from his 'Explanation' or whatever its called. He says his convictions are not tied to him being condemned to death. It's important for him to describe, of happiness: "you may be sure that Columbus was happy not when he had discovered America, but when he was discovering it." That it's the process of life--not the end or accomplished goals in it--that matter. Well. Easier said than lived! Part 3, Section 6. more of Ippolit talking--about a christian mindset. He references Jesus's parable of The Word as seeds that grow in men, couched in a description of how people are interrelated over time; its a picture of a multiplicity. Later in this section, he relates looking at a painting of Christ being taken down from the cross, at Rogozhin's house. The painting produced in him an intricate metaphor of despair over death "in the form of a huge machine of the most modern construction which, dull and insensible, has aimlessly clutched, crushed, and swallowed up a great priceless Being, a Being worth all nature and its laws, worth the whole earth, which was created perhaps solely for the sake of the advent of this Being." The way Ippolit's ideas are configured, here, reminds me of the writings of Gilles Deleuze. And the phrasing just sort of remidns me of the way everyone feels--many people feel crushed by the incomprehensible machine, in life. Many people feel martyred in their very minor ways. And it makes me think of the concept that a narrative religion like Christianity uniquely allows for a kind of socialized or externalized, shared experience of subjectivity. Like, we all know the story of this man--and it feels like our own stories at the same time. Part 4, Section 7. Myshkin's excitement (leading to a seizure) among the Epanchin's dignitary guests when he talks about what the nobility needs to become ("servants in order to be leaders"). I'm drawn to things like this because it's affirming, I guess, for me: "it really is true that we're absurd, that we're shallow, have bad habits, that we're bored, that we don't know how to look at things, that we can't understand; we're all like that." And of course he finds a way to make that into a good thing. which, it's pointed out by scholars, is very important to Dostoevsky philosophy--don't deny the earthly passions and problems in yourself, but accept them and incorporate them into your whole person. Me, I'm still working on that one.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky
(Ivan) Hold your tongue, or I'll kill you! (The devil) You'll kill me? No, excuse me, I will speak. I came to treat myself to that pleasure. Oh, I love the dreams of my ardent young friends, quivering with eagerness for life! 'There are new men,' you decided last spring, when you were meaning to come here, 'they propose to destroy everything and begin with cannibalism. Stupid fellows! they didn't ask my advice! I maintain that nothing need be destroyed, that we only need to destroy the idea of God in man, that's how we have to set to work. It's that, that we must begin with. Oh, blind race of men who have no understanding! As soon as men have all of them denied God -- and I believe that period, analogous with geological periods, will come to pass -- the old conception of the universe will fall of itself without cannibalism, and, what's more, the old morality, and everything will begin anew. Men will unite to take from life all it can give, but only for joy and happiness in the present world. Man will be lifted up with a spirit of divine Titanic pride and the man-god will appear. From hour to hour extending his conquest of nature infinitely by his will and his science, man will feel such lofty joy from hour to hour in doing it that it will make up for all his old dreams of the joys of heaven. Everyone will know that he is mortal and will accept death proudly and serenely like a god. His pride will teach him that it's useless for him to repine at life's being a moment, and he will love his brother without need of reward. Love will be sufficient only for a moment of life, but the very consciousness of its momentariness will intensify its fire, which now is dissipated in dreams of eternal love beyond the grave'... and so on and so on in the same style. Charming! Ivan sat with his eyes on the floor, and his hands pressed to his ears, but he began trembling all over. The voice continued. (The devil) The question now is, my young thinker reflected, is it possible that such a period will ever come? If it does, everything is determined and humanity is settled for ever. But as, owing to man's inveterate stupidity, this cannot come about for at least a thousand years, everyone who recognises the truth even now may legitimately order his life as he pleases, on the new principles. In that sense, 'all things are lawful' for him. What's more, even if this period never comes to pass, since there is anyway no God and no immortality, the new man may well become the man-god, even if he is the only one in the whole world, and promoted to his new position, he may lightheartedly overstep all the barriers of the old morality of the old slaveman, if necessary. There is no law for God. Where God stands, the place is holy. Where I stand will be at once the foremost place... 'all things are lawful' and that's the end of it! That's all very charming; but if you want to swindle why do you want a moral sanction for doing it? But that's our modern Russian all over. He can't bring himself to swindle without a moral sanction. He is so in love with truth-.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky (The Brothers Karamazov)
Perhaps the deepest indication of our slavery is the monetization of time. It is a phenomenon with roots deeper than our money system, for it depends on the prior quantification of time. An animal or a child has “all the time in the world.” The same was apparently true for Stone Age peoples, who usually had very loose concepts of time and rarely were in a hurry. Primitive languages often lacked tenses, and sometimes lacked even words for “yesterday” or “tomorrow.” The comparative nonchalance primitive people had toward time is still apparent today in rural, more traditional parts of the world. Life moves faster in the big city, where we are always in a hurry because time is scarce. But in the past, we experienced time as abundant. The more monetized society is, the more anxious and hurried its citizens. In parts of the world that are still somewhat outside the money economy, where subsistence farming still exists and where neighbors help each other, the pace of life is slower, less hurried. In rural Mexico, everything is done mañana. A Ladakhi peasant woman interviewed in Helena Norberg-Hodge’s film Ancient Futures sums it all up in describing her city-dwelling sister: “She has a rice cooker, a car, a telephone—all kinds of time-saving devices. Yet when I visit her, she is always so busy we barely have time to talk.” For the animal, child, or hunter-gatherer, time is essentially infinite. Today its monetization has subjected it, like the rest, to scarcity. Time is life. When we experience time as scarce, we experience life as short and poor. If you were born before adult schedules invaded childhood and children were rushed around from activity to activity, then perhaps you still remember the subjective eternity of childhood, the afternoons that stretched on forever, the timeless freedom of life before the tyranny of calendar and clocks. “Clocks,” writes John Zerzan, “make time scarce and life short.” Once quantified, time too could be bought and sold, and the scarcity of all money-linked commodities afflicted time as well. “Time is money,” the saying goes, an identity confirmed by the metaphor “I can’t afford the time.” If the material world
Charles Eisenstein (Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, And Society In The Age Of Transition)
Over recent years, [there's been] a strong tendency to require assessment of children and teachers so that [teachers] have to teach to tests and the test determines what happens to the child, and what happens to the teacher...that's guaranteed to destroy any meaningful educational process: it means the teacher cannot be creative, imaginative, pay attention to individual students' needs, that a student can't pursue things [...] and the teacher's future depends on it as well as the students'...the people who are sitting in the offices, the bureaucrats designing this - they're not evil people, but they're working within a system of ideology and doctrines, which turns what they're doing into something extremely harmful [...] the assessment itself is completely artificial; it's not ranking teachers in accordance with their ability to help develop children who reach their potential, explore their creative interests and so on [...] you're getting some kind of a 'rank,' but it's a 'rank' that's mostly meaningless, and the very ranking itself is harmful. It's turning us into individuals who devote our lives to achieving a rank, not into doing things that are valuable and important. It's highly destructive...in, say, elementary education, you're training kids this way [...] I can see it with my own children: when my own kids were in elementary school (at what's called a good school, a good-quality suburban school), by the time they were in third grade, they were dividing up their friends into 'dumb' and 'smart.' You had 'dumb' if you were lower-tracked, and 'smart' if you were upper-tracked [...] it's just extremely harmful and has nothing to do with education. Education is developing your own potential and creativity. Maybe you're not going to do well in school, and you'll do great in art; that's fine. It's another way to live a fulfilling and wonderful life, and one that's significant for other people as well as yourself. The whole idea is wrong in itself; it's creating something that's called 'economic man': the 'economic man' is somebody who rationally calculates how to improve his/her own status, and status means (basically) wealth. So you rationally calculate what kind of choices you should make to increase your wealth - don't pay attention to anything else - or maybe maximize the amount of goods you have. What kind of a human being is that? All of these mechanisms like testing, assessing, evaluating, measuring...they force people to develop those characteristics. The ones who don't do it are considered, maybe, 'behavioral problems' or some other deviance [...] these ideas and concepts have consequences. And it's not just that they're ideas, there are huge industries devoted to trying to instill them...the public relations industry, advertising, marketing, and so on. It's a huge industry, and it's a propaganda industry. It's a propaganda industry designed to create a certain type of human being: the one who can maximize consumption and can disregard his actions on others.
Noam Chomsky
Reality, at first glance, is a simple thing: the television speaking to you now is real. Your body sunk into that chair in the approach to midnight, a clock ticking at the threshold of awareness. All the endless detail of a solid and material world surrounding you. These things exist. They can be measured with a yardstick, a voltammeter, a weighing scale. These things are real. Then there’s the mind, half-focused on the TV, the settee, the clock. This ghostly knot of memory, idea and feeling that we call ourself also exists, though not within the measurable world our science may describe. Consciousness is unquantifiable, a ghost in the machine, barely considered real at all, though in a sense this flickering mosaic of awareness is the only true reality that we can ever know. The Here-and-Now demands attention, is more present to us. We dismiss the inner world of our ideas as less important, although most of our immediate physical reality originated only in the mind. The TV, sofa, clock and room, the whole civilisation that contains them once were nothing save ideas. Material existence is entirely founded on a phantom realm of mind, whose nature and geography are unexplored. Before the Age of Reason was announced, humanity had polished strategies for interacting with the world of the imaginary and invisible: complicated magic-systems; sprawling pantheons of gods and spirits, images and names with which we labelled powerful inner forces so that we might better understand them. Intellect, Emotion and Unconscious Thought were made divinities or demons so that we, like Faust, might better know them; deal with them; become them. Ancient cultures did not worship idols. Their god-statues represented ideal states which, when meditated constantly upon, one might aspire to. Science proves there never was a mermaid, blue-skinned Krishna or a virgin birth in physical reality. Yet thought is real, and the domain of thought is the one place where gods inarguably ezdst, wielding tremendous power. If Aphrodite were a myth and Love only a concept, then would that negate the crimes and kindnesses and songs done in Love’s name? If Christ were only ever fiction, a divine Idea, would this invalidate the social change inspired by that idea, make holy wars less terrible, or human betterment less real, less sacred? The world of ideas is in certain senses deeper, truer than reality; this solid television less significant than the Idea of television. Ideas, unlike solid structures, do not perish. They remain immortal, immaterial and everywhere, like all Divine things. Ideas are a golden, savage landscape that we wander unaware, without a map. Be careful: in the last analysis, reality may be exactly what we think it is.
Alan Moore
This one is bigger than the other by at least a quarter,” he said. “That’s perspective,” Will replied stubbornly. “The left one is closer, so it looks bigger.” “If it’s perspective, and it’s that much bigger, your handcart would have to be about five meters wide,” Horace told him. “Is that what you’re planning?” Again, Will studied the drawing critically. “No. I thought maybe two meters. And three meters long.” He quickly sketched in a smaller version of the left wheel, scrubbing over the first attempt as he did so. “Is that better?” “Could be rounder,” Horace said. “You’d never get a wheel that shape to roll. It’s sort of pointy at one end.” Will’s temper flared as he decided his friend was simply being obtuse for the sake of it. He slammed the charcoal down on the table. “Well, you try drawing a perfect circle freehand!” he said angrily. “See how well you do! This is a concept drawing, that’s all. It doesn’t have to be perfect!” Malcolm chose that moment to enter the room. He had been outside, checking on MacHaddish, making sure the general was still securely fastened to the massive log that held him prisoner. He glanced now at the sketch as he passed by the table. “What’s that?” he asked. “It’s a walking cart,” Horace told him. “You get under it, so the spears won’t hit you, and go for a walk.” Will glared at Horace and decided to ignore him. He turned his attention to Malcolm. “Do you think some of your people could build me something like this?” he asked. The healer frowned thoughtfully. “Might be tricky,” he said. “We’ve got a few cart wheels, but they’re all the same size. Did you want this one so much bigger than the other?” Now Will switched his glare to Malcolm. Horace put a hand up to his face to cover the grin that was breaking out there. “It’s perspective. Good artists draw using perspective,” Will said, enunciating very clearly. “Oh. Is it? Well, if you say so.” Malcolm studied the sketch for a few more seconds. “And did you want them this squashed-up shape? Our wheels tend to be sort of round. I don’t think these ones would roll too easily, if at all.” Truth be told, Malcolm had been listening outside the house for several minutes and knew what the two friends had been discussing. Horace gave vent to a huge, indelicate snort that set his nose running. His shoulders were shaking, and Malcolm couldn’t maintain his own straight face any longer. He joined in, and the two of them laughed uncontrollably. Will eyed them coldly. “Oh, yes. Extremely amusing,” he said.
John Flanagan (The Siege of Macindaw (Ranger's Apprentice, #6))
. . . Neither ecological nor social engineering will lead us to a conflict-free, simple path . . . Utilitarians and others who simply advise us to be happy are unhelpful, because we almost always have to make a choice either between different kinds of happiness--different things to be happy _about_--or between these and other things we want, which nothing to do with happiness. . . . Do we find ourselves a species naturally free from conflict? We do not. There has not, apparently, been in our evolution a kind of rationalization which might seem a possible solution to problems of conflict--namely, a takeover by some major motive, such as the desire for future pleasure, which would automatically rule out all competing desires. Instead, what has developed is our intelligence. And this in some ways makes matters worse, since it shows us many desirable things that we would not otherwise have thought of, as well as the quite sufficient number we knew about for a start. In compensation, however, it does help us to arbitrate. Rules and principles, standards and ideals emerge as part of a priority system by which we guide ourselves through the jungle. They never make the job easy--desires that we put low on our priority system do not merely vanish--but they make it possible. And it is in working out these concepts more fully, in trying to extend their usefulness, that moral philosophy begins. Were there no conflict, it [moral philosophy] could never have arisen. The motivation of living creatures does got boil down to any single basic force, not even an 'instinct of self-preservation.' It is a complex pattern of separate elements, balanced roughly in the constitution of the species, but always liable to need adjusting. Creatures really have divergent and conflicting desires. Their distinct motives are not (usually) wishes for survival or for means to survival, but for various particular things to be done and obtained while surviving. And these can always conflict. Motivation is fundamentally plural. . . An obsessive creature dominated constantly by one kind of motive, would not survive. All moral doctrine, all practical suggestions about how we ought to live, depend on some belief about what human nature is like. The traditional business of moral philosophy is attempting to understand, clarify, relate, and harmonize so far as possible the claims arising from different sides of our nature. . . . One motive does not necessarily replace another smoothly and unremarked. There is _ambivalence_, conflict behavior.
Mary Midgley (Beast and Man: The Roots of Human Nature)
In 90% of cases, you can start with one of the two most effective ways to open a speech: ask a question or start with a story. Our brain doesn’t remember what we hear. It remembers only what we “see” or imagine while we listen. You can remember stories. Everything else is quickly forgotten. Smell is the most powerful sense out of 4 to immerse audience members into a scene. Every sentence either helps to drive your point home, or it detracts from clarity. There is no middle point. If you don’t have a foundational phrase in your speech, it means that your message is not clear enough to you, and if it’s not clear to you, there is no way it will be clear to your audience. Share your failures first. Show your audience members that you are not any better, smarter or more talented than they are. You are not an actor, you are a speaker. The main skill of an actor is to play a role; to be someone else. Your main skill as a speaker is to be yourself. People will forgive you for anything except for being boring. Speaking without passion is boring. If you are not excited about what you are talking about, how can you expect your audience to be excited? Never hide behind a lectern or a table. Your audience needs to see 100% of your body. Speak slowly and people will consider you to be a thoughtful and clever person. Leaders don’t talk much, but each word holds a lot of meaning and value. You always speak to only one person. Have a conversation directly with one person, look him or her in the eye. After you have logically completed one idea, which usually is 10-20 seconds, scan the audience and then stop your eyes on another person. Repeat this process again. Cover the entire room with eye contact. When you scan the audience and pick people for eye contact, pick positive people more often. When you pause, your audience thinks about your message and reflects. Pausing builds an audiences’ confidence. If you don’t pause, your audience doesn’t have time to digest what you've told them and hence, they will not remember a word of what you've said. Pause before and after you make an important point and stand still. During this pause, people think about your words and your message sinks in. After you make an important point and stand still. During this pause, people think about your words and your message sinks in. Speakers use filler words when they don’t know what to say, but they feel uncomfortable with silence. Have you ever seen a speaker who went on stage with a piece of paper and notes? Have you ever been one of these speakers? When people see you with paper in your hands, they instantly think, “This speaker is not sincere. He has a script and will talk according to the script.” The best speeches are not written, they are rewritten. Bad speakers create a 10 minutes speech and deliver it in 7 minutes. Great speakers create a 5 minute speech and deliver it in 7 minutes. Explain your ideas in a simple manner, so that the average 12-year-old child can understand the concept. Good speakers and experts can always explain the most complex ideas with very simple words. Stories evoke emotions. Factual information conveys logic. Emotions are far more important in a speech than logic. If you're considering whether to use statistics or a story, use a story. PowerPoint is for pictures not for words. Use as few words on the slide as possible. Never learn your speech word for word. Just rehearse it enough times to internalize the flow. If you watch a video of your speech, you can triple the pace of your development as a speaker. Make videos a habit. Meaningless words and clichés neither convey value nor information. Avoid them. Never apologize on stage. If people need to put in a lot of effort to understand you they simply won’t listen. On the other hand if you use very simple language you will connect with the audience and your speech will be remembered.
Andrii Sedniev (Magic of Public Speaking: A Complete System to Become a World Class Speaker)
When I close my eyes to see, to hear, to smell, to touch a country I have known, I feel my body shake and fill with joy as if a beloved person had come near me. A rabbi was once asked the following question: ‘When you say that the Jews should return to Palestine, you mean, surely, the heavenly, the immaterial, the spiritual Palestine, our true homeland?’ The rabbi jabbed his staff into the ground in wrath and shouted, ‘No! I want the Palestine down here, the one you can touch with your hands, with its stones, its thorns and its mud!’ Neither am I nourished by fleshless, abstract memories. If I expected my mind to distill from a turbid host of bodily joys and bitternesses an immaterial, crystal-clear thought, I would die of hunger. When I close my eyes in order to enjoy a country again, my five senses, the five mouth-filled tentacles of my body, pounce upon it and bring it to me. Colors, fruits, women. The smells of orchards, of filthy narrow alleys, of armpits. Endless snows with blue, glittering reflections. Scorching, wavy deserts of sand shimmering under the hot sun. Tears, cries, songs, distant bells of mules, camels or troikas. The acrid, nauseating stench of some Mongolian cities will never leave my nostrils. And I will eternally hold in my hands – eternally, that is, until my hands rot – the melons of Bukhara, the watermelons of the Volga, the cool, dainty hand of a Japanese girl… For a time, in my early youth, I struggled to nourish my famished soul by feeding it with abstract concepts. I said that my body was a slave and that its duty was to gather raw material and bring it to the orchard of the mind to flower and bear fruit and become ideas. The more fleshless, odorless, soundless the world was that filtered into me, the more I felt I was ascending the highest peak of human endeavor. And I rejoiced. And Buddha came to be my greatest god, whom I loved and revered as an example. Deny your five senses. Empty your guts. Love nothing, hate nothing, desire nothing, hope for nothing. Breathe out and the world will be extinguished. But one night I had a dream. A hunger, a thirst, the influence of a barbarous race that had not yet become tired of the world had been secretly working within me. My mind pretended to be tired. You felt it had known everything, had become satiated, and was now smiling ironically at the cries of my peasant heart. But my guts – praised be God! – were full of blood and mud and craving. And one night I had a dream. I saw two lips without a face – large, scimitar-shaped woman’s lips. They moved. I heard a voice ask, ‘Who if your God?’ Unhesitatingly I answered, ‘Buddha!’ But the lips moved again and said: ‘No, Epaphus.’ I sprang up out of my sleep. Suddenly a great sense of joy and certainty flooded my heart. What I had been unable to find in the noisy, temptation-filled, confused world of wakefulness I had found now in the primeval, motherly embrace of the night. Since that night I have not strayed. I follow my own path and try to make up for the years of my youth that were lost in the worship of fleshless gods, alien to me and my race. Now I transubstantiate the abstract concepts into flesh and am nourished. I have learned that Epaphus, the god of touch, is my god. All the countries I have known since then I have known with my sense of touch. I feel my memories tingling, not in my head but in my fingertips and my whole skin. And as I bring back Japan to my mind, my hands tremble as if they were touching the breast of a beloved woman.
Nikos Kazantzakis (Travels in China & Japan)