Saturday, December 03, 2005

…such moments of social upset and great inevitable change usually throw up just such men, unbalanced and incomplete, to turn things inside out or lead them astray. That is one of the signs of times of disorder.

Ivo Andric, The Bridge Over The Drina.

Monday, November 28, 2005

So, on the kapia, between the skies, the river and the hills, generation after generation learnt not to mourn overmuch what the troubled waters had borne away. They entered there into the unconscious philosophy of the town; that life was an incomprehensible marvel, since it was incessantly wasted and spent, yet none the less it lasted and endured “like the bridge on the Drina.”

Ivo Andric, The Bridge Over The Drina.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

You, children, be zealous for the
beautiful gifts of the
violetlapped Muses
and for the clear songloving lyre.

But my skin once soft is now
taken by old age,
my hair turns white from black.

And my heart is weighed down
and my knees do not lift,
that once were light to dance as

I groan for this. But what can I
A human being without old age is
Not a possibility.

There is the story of Tithonos,
loved by Dawn with her arms
of roses
and she carried him off to the
ends of the earth

when he was beautiful and young.
Even so was he gripped
by white old age. He still has his
deathless wife.

Sappho, Fragment 58, translated by Anne Carson (NYRB, October 20, 2005)

Monday, October 31, 2005

I am nothing by myself. I am something only when mixed with others.

A principle of science recently rediscovered.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

What matters is deciding in your heart to accept another person completely.

Haruki Murakami, in the New Yorker of September 26, 2005.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

You must always be careful in the jungle. I listen to my dreams. If I have a dream of danger, then I stay in the village. Many accidents happen to white people because they don’t believe their dreams.

Vajuvi, of the Kalapalo people of the Brazilian Amazon as quoted in the New Yorker of September 19, 2005.
God has given me this swan song to see if I am - to see if I am up to it.

Dr. Minyard, elected coroner of Orleans Parish.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Now different races and nationalities cherish different ideals of society that stink in each other's nostrils...

Rebecca West, speaking of Europe in 1937 (Black Lamb and Grey Falcon)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

We prune our minds to fit them into the garden of ordinary life. We exclude from our consciousness all sorts of knowledge that we have acquired because it might distract us from the problems we must solve if we are to go on living, and it might even make us doubt whether it is prudent to live. But sometimes it is necessary for us to know where we are in eternity as well as time, and we must lift this ban. Then we must let our full knowledge invade our minds, and let our memories of birth crawl like serpents from their cave and our foreknowledge of death spread its wide shadow.

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon

Saturday, September 03, 2005

The woman a man loves is in a sense his soul, or at any rate the answer to the call it makes.

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon

Monday, August 22, 2005

All women believe that some day something supremely agreeable will happen, and that afterwards the whole of life will be supremely agreeable. All men believe that some day they will do something supremely disagreeable, and that afterwards life will move on so exalted a plane that all considerations of the agreeable and disagreeable will prove petty and superfluous.

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon

Saturday, August 20, 2005

It is not pleasant to admit that we know almost nothing, so little that, for lack of knowledge, our actions are wild and foolish. It is not pleasant to be bound to the task of learning all our days, to be under the obligation to go on learning even though it involves making acquaintance with pain, although we know that we must die still in ignorance. To do these things it is necessary to have faith in what is entirely hidden and unknown, to cast away all the acquisitions and certainties which would ensure a comfortable existence lest they should impede us on a journey which may never be accomplished, which never even offers comfort.

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon

Sunday, August 14, 2005

[W}e live in an uncomprehended universe, is urgently necessary for sensitive men to look at each phenomenon in turn and find out what it is and what are its relations to the rest of existence. (Dubrovnik II)

He offered himself wholly to each event in order that he might learn in full what revelation it had to make about the nature of the universe. (Sarajevo VII)

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon

Saturday, August 06, 2005

You think you'll never get it right,
But you know that you might.

Misheard somewhere.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Carelessness and cruelty ... infects any power when it governs a people not its own without safeguarding itself by giving the subjects the largest possible amount of autonomy.

It seem very probable that Rome was able to conquer foreign territories because she had developed her military genius at the expense of precisely those qualities which would have made her able to rule them.

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon

Sunday, July 10, 2005

[Mussolini's] offence is that he made himself dictator without binding himself by any of the contractual obligations which civilized man has imposed on his rulers in all creditable phases of history and which give power a soul to be saved.

Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon
It is the habit of the people, whenever an old man mismanages his business so that it falls to pieces as soon as he dies, to say, "Ah, So-and-so was a marvel! He kept things together so long as he was alive, and look what happens now he has gone."

Rebecca West speaking about Emperor Franz Josef in Black Lamb and Grey Falcon

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

That man is never happy for the present is so true, that all his relief from unhappiness is only forgetting himself for a little while. Life is a progress from want to want, not from enjoyment to enjoyment.

Samuel Johnson to James Boswell, in his The Life of Samuel Johnson

Saturday, June 18, 2005

In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.


[A} cynic [is] a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
And a sentimentalist…is a man who sees an absurd value in everything, and doesn't know the market price of any single thing.

Oscar Wilde, Act III, Lady Windermere’s Fan

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Balkans create more history than they can consume locally.

Saki (HH Munro) as quoted by Lord Burnham

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

[F]or general improvement, a man should read whatever his immediate inclination prompts him to.

Samuel Johnson to James Boswell, in his The Life of Samuel Johnson

Monday, June 13, 2005

How does a pattern of brain activity generate feeling? This is not a question about how that pattern of brain activity is generated, for that can be explained in the usual way, just as we explain how a pattern of activity in a car is or a kidney is generated. It is a question about how feeling itself is generated. Otherwise the feeling just remains something that is mysteriously (but reliably) correlated with certain brain patterns.

We don't know how brain activity could generate feeling. Even less do we know why.

Stevan Harnad, "Letters: What is Consciousness?" in the June 23, 2005 NYRB.

Monday, June 06, 2005

[T]rue politeness is a moral quality, whereby the self is abnegated (concealed, Pascal would have said) in order to further the happiness of the group.

Peter France, "The Pleasure of Their Company," in the June 23, 2005 NYRB.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

You always won, everytime you placed a bet
You’re still damn good, no one’s gotten to you yet
Everytime they were sure they had you caught
You were quicker than they thought
You’d just turn your back and walk
You always said, the cards would never do you wrong
The trick you said was never piay the game too long
A gambler’s share, the only risk that you would take
The only loss you could forsake
The only bluff you couldn’t fake.

Bob Seger, Still the Same

Monday, May 23, 2005

[A] man is to guard himself against taking a thing in general.

Samuel Johnson to James Boswell, in his The Life of Samuel Johnson

Saturday, May 21, 2005

[R]epublicanism has been revived as a modern ideology. Disillusion with classical liberalism, because it has led to unrestrained capitalism, and with Marxism, because it has resulted in political tyranny, has created a vogue for a “republican” philosophy, with a commitment to effective legal restraints upon the executive, an active ideal of participatory citizenship, and a belief that the collective good should take priority over private interest. Thus defined, “republicanism” appears to be an attractive, nonsocialist alternative to capitalism and globalization.

Keith Thomas, "Politics: Looking for Liberty" in the May 26, 2005 NYRB.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Destiny is calling me
Open up my eager eyes
‘Cause I’m Mr Brightside.

The Killers

Thursday, April 28, 2005

There is nothing against which an old man should be so much upon his guard as putting himself to nurse.

Samuel Johnson to James Boswell, in his The Life of Samuel Johnson

Sunday, April 24, 2005

I may be a chump in many ways...but I know when and when not to be among those present.

"Bertie Wooster" in Very Good, Jeeves! by P.G. Wodehouse

Tuesday, April 19, 2005 a tavern, there is a general freedom from anxiety. You are sure you are welcome: and the more noise you make, the more trouble you give, the more good things you call for, the welcomer you are....there is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.

Samuel Johnson to James Boswell, in his The Life of Samuel Johnson

Saturday, April 16, 2005

How did it get so late so soon? It's night before it's afternoon. December is here before it's June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?

Theodor Seuss Geisel, submitted by a friend

Monday, April 04, 2005

Do not, however, hope wholly to reason away your troubles; do not feed them with attention, and they will die imperceptibly away. Fix your thoughts upon your business, fill your intervals with company, and sunshine will again break in upon your mind.

Samuel Johnson to James Boswell, in his The Life of Samuel Johnson

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Existence, for all organismic life, is a constant struggle to feed—a struggle to incorporate whatever other organisms they can fit into their mouths and press down their gullets without choking. Seen in these stark terms, life on this planet is a gory spectacle, a science-fiction nightmare in which digestive tracts fitted with teeth at one end are tearing away at whatever flesh they can reach, and at the other end are piling up the fuming waste excrement as they move along in search of more flesh.... Life cannot go on without the mutual devouring of organisms. If at the end of each person’s life he were to be presented with the living spectacle of all that he had organismically incorporated in order to stay alive, he might well feel horrified by the living energy he had ingested. The horizon of a gourmet, or even the average person, would be taken up with hundreds of chickens, flocks of lambs and sheep, a small herd of steers, sties fill of pigs and rivers of fish. The din alone would be deafening... each organism raises its head over a field of corpses, smiles into the sun, and declares life good.

Ernest Becker, Escape From Evil as quoted by the Shakespeare Theatre

Friday, March 25, 2005

Human moments are stolen away by a thousand petty impediments.

Samuel Johnson to James Boswell, in his The Life of Samuel Johnson

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The sicker you get, the harder it is to remember if you took your medicine.

George Carlin

Sunday, March 06, 2005

For the black fumes which rise in your mind, I can prescribe nothing but that you disperse them by honest business or innocent pleasure, and by reading, sometimes easy and sometimes serious. Change of place is useful...

Samuel Johnson to James Boswell, in his The Life of Samuel Johnson

Friday, March 04, 2005

It is just this lack of connection to a concern with truth — this indifference to how things really are — that I regard as the essence of bullshit.

Harry G. Frankfurt, as quoted in Defining Bullshit, Slate.

Friday, February 25, 2005

...metabolism sets the pace for myriad biological processes. An animal with a high metabolic rate processes energy quickly, so it can pump its heart quickly, grow quickly, and reach maturity quickly. Unfortunately, that animal also ages and dies quickly....There is a universal biological clock..."but it ticks in units of energy, not units of time."

"Life on the Scales," Erica Klarreich, Science News, February 12, 2005

Friday, February 18, 2005

No one ever knows what's next,
but they always do it.

George Carlin

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Hell burns within my breast....
I praise and love the one who makes my fire so hot.

Lorenzino de Medici, from Madrigal

Thursday, February 03, 2005

"Be still, and know that I am God." - Psalm 46.10

Rice in a Beggar's Bowl

Of all my thousand choices tonight
I walk into the snowy woods and wait.

Snow rests in peace
on each bough where it has fallen.
The branches are content to bow
like servants with their burdens,
as are all living things content
to wait.

I stand, hands in my pockets,
and let my life fall like snow
in the empty bowl of this meadow;
my mind becomes a slender branch.

My heart settles on the silent earth.

Attend to this moment
until it is enough.

Pastor Steve

Monday, January 24, 2005

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Reading "Uncle Fred in the Springtime" -- very funny.

Try these online intros to Wodehouse:

Some online texts.

Some online quotes. PG Wodehouse search.