Those who reject the humanist rejection of the absolute know not what they do. They want their flowers in wax or in flame; but these are not flowers.
Blackham, H J, Objections to Humanism (Pelican, 1965), 20.
We should ask for no absolutes, or absolute. Once and for all and forever, let us have done with the ugly imperialism of any absolute. There is no absolute good, there is nothing absolutely right. All things flow and change, and even change is not absolute
Lawrence, D H, Why the Novel Matters.
The fool separates his object from all surrounding ones; all abstraction is temporary folly.
Lavater, Aphorisms, 624.
ABSTRACTION see INTELLECT AND EMOTION, 12/85; DEFINITION OF TERMS, 8/13
ABSURDITY see REASON, 5/87
ACQUIESCENCE see NON-ACQUIESCENCE, 7/98
ACT AND BEING
Your son is in a burning house. Nobody can hold you back. … It is in your own act that you exist, not in your body. Your act is yourself, and there is no other you. Your body belongs to you, it is not you.
St.-Exupery, Flight to Arras, 116-7.
Let a man contend to the uttermost
For his life’s set prize, be it what it will!//
The counter our lovers staked was lost
As surely as if it were lawful coin:
And the sin I impute to each frustrate ghost//
Is – the unlit lamp and the ungirt loin,
Though the end in sight was a vice, I say
You of the virtue (we issue join)
How strive you? De te, fabula.
Browning, from “The Statue and the Bust”.
ACTION AND THOUGHT
And you, scarlet judge, if you would speak aloud all you have done in thought, everyone would cry: ‘Away with this filth and poisonous snake!’
But the thought is one thing, the deed is another, and another yet is the image of the deed. The wheel of causality does not roll between them.
An image made this pale man pale. He was equal to his deed when he did it: but he could not endure its image after it was done.
Nietzsche, Zarathustra, “Of the Pale Criminal”.
Paracelsus says all thoughts are acts. Of them all, I suppose, the sex act is the most important, the one in which our spirits most divulge themselves. Yet one feels it is a sort of clumsy paraphrase of the poetic, the noetic, thought which shapes itself into a kiss or an embrace. … Sex is the joint or coupling which unites the male and female ends of knowledge merely – a cloud of unknowing! [Clea speaking.]
Durrell, Lawrence, Clea (Faber), 113.
ACTS & THOUGHTS see THOUGHTS AND ACTS, 4/99
ACTUALITY see IDEALS, 1/97
There are six components to addiction:
1. Whether it is salient (the most important thing in your life);
2. Whether it reliably modifies your mood;
3. Whether you build up tolerance;
4. Whether you get withdrawal symptoms;
5. Whether it conflicts with other life factors;
6. Whether you relapse.
Griffiths, Mark (psychologist), quoted Guardian, Online, 4 Apr 2002, 3.
Some people likened him [Mr Pecksniff] to a direction post, which is always telling the way to a place, and never goes there.
Dickens, Martin Chuzzlewit (Oldhams, no date), 27.
[Aesthetics is] the lowest appreciation of the Real.
Sufi, 13th-century, quoted M Scott Peck, Guardian Weekend interview, 5/7/03.
And when upon your dainty breast I lay
My wearied head, more soft than eiderdown.
Steadman, W N, in Wyndham Lewis’s The Stuffed Owl.
Hath Man No Second Life? – pitch this one high.
Arnold, Matthew, from “The Better Part”.
AFTERLIFE NOT LIBERATION
If you don’t break your ropes while you’re alive,
do you think
ghosts will do it after?//
The idea that the soul will join with the ecstatic
just because the body is rotten—
that is all fantasy.
What is found now is found then.
If you find nothing now,
you will simply end up with an apartment
in the City of Death.
If you make love with the divine now, in the next life
you will have the face of satisfied desire.
Kabir, (Robert Bly version), The Kabir Book (Beacon Press, 1977), 24-5.
AFTERLIFE see PRIDE, 4/98; DEATH, 4/98
AGE see OLD AGE, 5/92
Ageing is growth of a new but very fine
hearing that only to silence hearkens.
Ageing! The body reeks of mortality,
that is, of what’s useless to life. From my metallic brow
the radiance cast over this locality
vanishes. And at noon a black searchlight harbours
in my sunken pupils. The strength, the gallantry
are stolen away from my muscles cowardly.
But I do not search for a gallows tree:
shameful to take on the Lord’s own labours…
Brodsky, Joseph, from “1972”, A Part of Speech (Oxford, 1980).
[Asked whether she didn’t find it hard to grow old:] I don’t find it so. The deeper I drink the cup, the sweeter it tastes – all the sugar’s at the bottom.
Howe, Julia Ward, 1819-1910, unsourced.
“Cassida of the branches”
Along the groves of the Tamarit
the leaden dogs have come
to wait for the branches to fall,
to wait for them to break themselves alone.//
The Tamarit has an apple tree
with an apple of sobs;
a nightingale hushes the sighs
and a pheasant drives them away through the dust.//
But the branches are happy,
the branches are like ourselves.
They do not think of the rain and they’ve fallen asleep,
suddenly as if they were trees.//
Seated, with water to the knees,
Two valleys await the autumn.
Dusk, with the step of an elephant,
Pushed aside the branches and the tree trunks.//
Along the groves of the Tamarit
there are many children with veiled face
waiting for my branches to fall,
waiting for them to break themselves alone.
Lorca, translated by Spender and Gibi.
AIMS see GOALS, 10/92
AKASHA see SPACE (AKASHA), 7/98
ALAYA, SEEDS OF see KARMA, 12/87
ALBATROSS see POET, 11/84
ALL IN GREEN
All in green went my love riding
on a great horse of gold
into the silver dawn.//
Four lean hounds crouched low and smiling
the merry deer ran before.//
Fleeter be they than dappled dreams
the swift sweet deer
the red rare deer.//
Four red roebuck at a white water
the cruel bugle sang before.//
Horn at hip went my love riding
riding the echo down
into the silver dawn.//
Four lean hounds crouched low and smiling
the level meadows ran before.//
Softer be they than slippered sleep
the lean lithe deer
the fleet flown deer.//
Four fleet does at a gold valley
the famished arrow sang before.//
Bow at belt went my love riding
riding the mountain down
into the silver dawn.//
Four lean hounds crouched low and smiling
the sheer peaks ran before.//
Paler be they than daunting death
the sleek slim deer
the tall tense deer.//
Four tall stags at a green mountain
the lucky hunter sang before.//
All in green went my love riding
on a great horse of gold
into the silver dawn.//
Four lean hounds crouched low and smiling
my heart fell dead before.
Cummings, e e (1923. Heard sung by Martin Carthy).
[Childhood security and innocence, then:] .
When I was five the black dreams came;
Nothing after was quite the same.//
Come back early or never come [refrain]//
The dark was talking to the dead;
The lamp was dark beside my bed.//Refrain
When I woke they did not care;
Nobody, nobody was there.//Refrain
When my silent terror cried,
Nobody, nobody replied.//Refrain
I got up, the chilly sun
Saw me walk away alone.//Refrain
MacNeice, Louis, “Autobiography”, in The Rattle Bag.
I realised that by choosing his [her husband’s] world I had said goodbye to my own and to those in it. By such choices we gradually become exiles until at last we are quite alone.
O’Brien, Edna, Returning (Penguin, 1982), 23.
ALONENESS see FEAR, 4/11
You crowd together with your neighbours and have beautiful words for it. But I tell you: Your love of your neighbour is your bad love of yourselves.
You flee to your neighbour away from yourselves and would like to make a virtue of it: but I see through your ‘selflessness’.
Nietzsche, Zarathustra, “Of Love of One’s Neighbour.”
ALTRUISM see HELPING OTHERS, 7/98; GENEROSITY, 4/99; RELATIONSHIPS, 4/99; PARENTING AS SELFISH, 5/13
AMBITION see THOUGHT, 1979
… there were others born without a sense of value – the morally colour-blind ones. The very powerful were often like that – men walking inside a dreamcloud of their actions which somehow lacked meaning to them.
Durrell, Lawrence, Mountolive (Faber), 253.
ANCESTORS see MERIT, 1/90
[The adventure of Guillamet. His desire to go on to ‘rescue’ those he’d left behind.] What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step. It’s always the same step, but you have to take it.
St.-Exupery, Wind Sand and Stars (Penguin, 1966), 37.
ANGELS AND DEVILS
Angels are habitually prudent while devils show restraint only if circumstances demand it – they ‘bring out number…’. Angels are burdened by their feelings of guilt, of resentment, of their superiority or insufficiency, while devils are too much engaged in the enjoyment of things to dwell upon themselves. Devils are not afraid of making fools of themselves (‘You never know…’) or of admiring others ‘the most sublime act…’) or of giving of himself [sic] (‘Exuberance is Beauty’); they show pride where angels show arrogance, humility not self abasement, wisdom not craftiness, indignation not resentment, respect not servility, self-reliance not self-love, desire not lasciviousness. Devils are capable of the delight, exuberance and genius which results in life lived to its fullest, in thought at its most free, in creative activity which gives man his fulfilment; while angels, who are merely imitators, pervert the values of creative man, distort his thought and stereotype his works, and because the vigorous man might upset the ‘heaven’ of the angels, he is rendered innocuous in various ways; by being disregarded or declared a freak or nuisance, the visionary or malcontent: ‘The giants who formed…’
Gillham, D G, William Blake (Cambridge University press, 1973), 164, on Blake’s “Proverbs of Hell”.
[A story of angels being caught by God on earth teaching knowledge and skills, and so being ejected from heaven. They and their descendants (through their intimacy with ‘the daughters of man’) continue to keep science, ideas etc. alive on earth. (An old Christian apocryphal tale?)]
Davies, Robertson, The Rebel Angels.
[Carlyle] is just now what in a mere mortal would be called ‘cross’, very cross; but as he is a hero and demigod, I suppose the proper formula would be that he sees keenly and feels acutely the unsatisfactory nature of all human and domestic sayings and doings, and he expresses his sentiments very forcibly.
Jewsbury, Geraldine, (an acquaintance of the Carlyles’, writing new year, 1865.) Quoted by Edith Sitwell, English Eccentrics (Penguin, 1971, first edition 1933), 321.
To be in a Passion you Good may do
But no Good if a Passion is in you.
Blake, from “Auguries of Innocence”.
Anger lay by me all night long,
His breath was hot upon my brow,
He told me of his burning wrong,
All night he talked and would not go.//
He stood by me all the day
Struck from my hand the book, the pen;
He said: ‘Hear first what I’ve to say,
And sing, if you’ve a heart to, then.’//
And can I cast him from my couch?
And can I lock him from my room?
Ah no, his honest words are such
That he’s my true-lord, and my doom.
Daryush, Elisabeth, in The Rattle Bag.
ANIMA see LOVE, 7/98
ANIMAL BEHAVIOUR see BEHAVIOUR, 12/96
The wild deer, wandering here and there,
Keeps the human soul from care…
The Catterpiller on the Leaf
Repeats to thee thy mother’s grief…
The Bleat, the Bark, Bellow and Roar
Are Waves that Beat on Heavens Shore.
Blake, from “Auguries of Innocence”.
[See conversation between fauns in “Prometheus Unbound” – on the lives of infinite varieties of spirits, having lives ‘in the sunlight of the spheréd dew’ etc.]
Shelley, “Prometheus Unbound”.
… for the stricken heart of love
Visible nature, and this common world
Is all too narrow…
For fable is Love’s world …
… The power the beauty and the majesty
That had their haunts in dale or piny mountain [etc.]…
… All these have vanished,
They live no longer in the faith of reason;
But still the heart doth need a language, still
Doth the old instinct bring back the old names;
And to you starry world they now are gone,
Spirits or gods, that used to share this earth
With man as with a friend…
Coleridge, “Piccolomini”, ii, 4. (After Schiller).
Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.
Bronte, Charlotte, quoted in L and M Cowan, The Wit of Women.
ANTICIPATION, PAIN FROM
Some of your hurts you have cured,
And the sharpest you still have survived,
But what torments of grief you endured
From evils which never arrived.
Emerson, Quatrains. Borrowings (from the French).
In the mountains, the shortest route is from peak to peak, but for that you must have long legs. Aphorisms should be peaks, and those to whom they are spoken should be big and tall of stature.
Nietzsche, Zarathustra, “Of Reading and Writing”.
In lapidary inscriptions a man is not upon oath.
Johnson, Samuel, in Life of Johnson (Boswell). Vol. vi. Chap. i. 1775.
APPEARANCE, WORLD OF
…And day and night, aloof, from the high towers
And terraces, the Earth and Ocean seem
To sleep in one another’s arms, and dream
Of waves, flowers, clouds, woods, rocks and all things that we
Read in their smiles and call reality.
Shelley, Epipsychidion, 1, 508.
ARCHETYPAL EQUIVALENTS OF SENSES
Augustine, St., Confessions (quoted by Bridges, Spirit of Man, No 54).
…When I behold, upon the nights starr’d face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never lived to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance…
Keats, from “When I have fears that I may cease to be”.
ARCHETYPES see PROJECTIONS, 7/87
[Dr Parr:] I remember the interview well. I gave him no quarter. The subject of our dispute was the liberty of the press. Dr Johnson was very great; whilst he was arguing, I observe that he stamped, upon this I stamped. Dr Johnson said: ‘why do you stamp, Dr Parr?’ I replied, ‘Sir, because you stamped; and I was resolved not to give you the advantage of a stamp in the argument.’
Sitwell, Edith, English Eccentrics (Penguin, 1971, first edition 1933) 183.
ARGUMENT see DISSATISFACTION, 5/94
It is, then, through art that we understand why perception is superior to abstraction, why perception is meaningless without an imaginative ordering of it, why the validity of such ordering depends upon the normality of the perceiving mind, why that normality must be associated with genius rather than mediocrity, and why genius must be associated with the creative power of the artist. This last which is what Blake means by ‘vision’, is the goal of all freedom, energy and wisdom.
Frye, Northrop, Fearful Symmetry (Princeton, 1948), 25.
He [Nessim] thought and suffered a good deal but he lacked the resolution to dare – the first requisite of a practitioner [here, of painting].
Durrell, Lawrence, Justine (Faber), 17.
Life, the raw material, is only lived in potentia until the artist deploys it in his work.
Durrell, Lawrence, Justine (Faber), 75.
The effective in art is what rapes the emotion of your audience without nourishing its values. [Pombal speaking.]
Durrell, Lawrence, Balthazar (Faber), 95.
The aim of art is not to copy nature but to express it. … We must detect the spirit, the informing soul in the appearances of things and beings. Effects! What are effects [‘real effects in nature’] but the accidents of life, not life itself? [Etc. – excellent discourse.]
Balzac, “The Unknown Masterpiece”, in Christ in Flanders (Everyman), 8.
[Art is a] re-creation of reality according to an artist’s metaphysical value-judgements.
Rand, Ayn, quoted in introduction to Atlas Shrugged (Signet, 1992).
Art is a lie that makes us realise the truth.
Picasso, quoted in The 201 Best Things Ever Said (Great Quotations Publications, Illinois, 1993).
An artist can create something genuine if he is given a genuine task.
Goethe, Italian Journey (W H Auden and E Mayer translation, Penguin) 5th October.
Art is for a transcendence, not an anatomy of the self.
Heaney, Seamus, Radio 3 talk, January 1999.
If one looks at anything with the intention of trying to discover what it means, one ends up no longer looking at the thing itself.
Sylvester, David, in an essay on Magritte, quoted obituary, Daily Telegraph, 20 June 2001.
Never trust the artist. Trust the tale. The proper function of a critic is to save the tale from the artist who created it.
Lawrence, D H, ‘The Spirit of Place’, in Studies in Classic American Literature.
If art teaches us anything it is that the human condition is private.
Brodsky, Joseph, quoted Seamus Heaney, Guardian Review, 25/10/03, 6.
To find a form that accommodates the mess, that is the task of the artist now.
Beckett, Samuel, Quoted Tom Driver, “Beckett by the Madeleine,” in Columbia University Forum, Vol. 4, No. 3, 1961, 23.
We have art in order that we may not perish from truth.
Nietzsche, quoted Calasso, La Folie Baudelaire, (Penguin, 2013) 66.
ART – DEFINITIONS
Art is anything you can get away with. (Marshall McLuhan, circa 1960.)
To evoke in oneself a feeling one has experienced, and having evoked it in oneself, then, by means of movements, lines, colours, sounds or forms expressed in words, so to transmit that feeling that others may experience the same feeling – that is the activity of art. Art is a human activity, consisting in this, that one man consciously, by means of certain external signs, hands on to others feelings he has lived through, and that other people are infected by these feelings and also experience them. (Tolstoy, What Is Art, Maude translation.)
Art is the human disposition of sensible or intelligible matter for an aesthetic end. (James Joyce.)
A work of art is a corner of creation seen through a temperament. (Zola.)
… pattern informed by sensibility. (Sir Herbert Read, The Meaning of Art.)
Art is the skill of examining our range of perceptions by the making of artefacts…. Often the last place you’re likely to find the perceptions being extended is in the compartment marked ‘art’, which may have been frozen into stasis by devices like the Standards of Good Taste, Proven Criteria, the Maintaining of Tradition. (Jeff Nuttall, “Art, Politics and Everything Else”, 1980.) [All definitions from:]
Notes and Queries III (4th Estate, 1992) 126-8.
Art is anything made or presented by humans that successfully engages the viewer in a perceptual experience of its sensory characteristics, and its structural and expressive qualities – either for their own sake or for the narratives, concepts and ideas embodied within and accessed through such. // The determination of “reasonable” in the first instance and “successfully” in the second are determined by critical and aesthetic discourse.
Sandle, Doug, Guardian Notes and Queries, 29/09/10.
ART – DRAMA
The rude man is contented if he see but something going on, the man of more refinement must be made to feel, the man entirely refined desires to reflect.
Goethe, Wilhelm Meister (Carlyle’s translation, Collier, New York, 1962), 70.
ART AND THE RELATIVE
Artists and their judges mutually form each other. The latter ask for nothing but a general vague enjoyment, a work of art is to delight them almost as a work of nature; they imagine that the organs for enjoying works of art may be cultivated altogether of themselves, like the tongue and the palate. They try a picture or a poem as they do an article of food…
Whoever aims at doing or enjoying all and everything with his entire nature, whoever tries to link together all that is without him by such a species of enjoyment, will only lose his time in efforts that can never be successful. How difficult, though it seems so easy, is it to contemplate a noble disposition, a fine picture simply in and for itself; to watch the music for music’s sake, to admire the actor in the actor, to take pleasure in a building for its own particular harmony and durability. Most men are wont to treat a work of art as though it were a piece of soft clay. The hard and polished marble is again to mould itself,… according as their inclinations, sentiments and whims may dictate; the picture is to be instructive, the play is to make us better, everything is to do all. The reason is, that most men are themselves uninformed, they cannot give themselves and their being any certain shape: and thus they strive to take from other things their proper shape, that all they have to do with may be loose and wavering like themselves. Everything is, in the long run, reduced by them to what they call effect; everything is relative, say they; and so indeed it is; everything with them grows relative, except absurdity and platitude, which truly are absolute enough.
Goethe, Wilhelm Meister (Carlyle’s translation, Collier, New York, 1962), 511.
ART see VISION, 6/85, VISIONS, 3/85; BEAUTY, 12/87; CREATIVITY, ARTISTIC, 12/87; FINGER-POINTING, 12/87; FRANCE, 12/87; POSTMODERNISM, 4/99; THOUGHT AND ART, 10/05, OBSERVATION, 10/06
ART, AS IMITATION
[The forms of writing and music are all] modes of imitation. … (p 1)
Since the objects of imitation are men in action, and these men must be either of a higher or a lower type (… goodness and badness being distinguishing marks of moral differences), it follows that we must represent men either as better than in real life, or as worse, or as they are…
… Homer, for example, makes men better than they are. … The same distinction marks off tragedy from comedy; for comedy aims at representing men as worse, tragedy as better than in actual life. … (pp 3-4)
[Man] is the most imitative of living creatures, and through imitation learns his earliest lessons; and no less universal is the pleasure felt in things imitated. We have evidence of this in the facts of experience. Objects which in themselves we view with pain, we delight to contemplate when reproduced with minute fidelity: such as the forms of the most ignoble animals and dead bodies. The cause of this again is, that to learn gives the liveliest pleasure… Thus the reason why men enjoy seeing a likeness is, that in contemplating it they find themselves learning or inferring, and saying perhaps, ‘ah, that is he.’ For if you happen not to have seen the original, the pleasure will be due not to imitation as such, but to the execution, the colouring, or some such other cause…
The graver spirits [poets] imitated noble actions, and the actions of good men. The more trivial sort imitated the actions of meaner persons. … (p 5-6)
Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play; in the form of action, not of narrative; through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions. (p 10)
Aristotle, Poetics (Dover, New York, 1997, Butcher’s 1895 translation).
ART, AS INVOCATION see FINGER-POINTING, 12/87
ART, AS ORDERING EXPERIENCE
I spoke of the uselessness of art but added nothing truthful about its consolations. The solace of such work as I do with brain and heart lies in this – that only there, in the silences of the painter or the writer can reality be re-ordered, reworked and made to show it significant side. Our common actions in reality are simply the sackcloth covering which hides the cloth-of-gold – the meaning of the pattern.
For us artists there wails the joyous compromise through art with all that wounded or defeated us in daily life; in this way, not to evade destiny, as the ordinary people try to do, but to fulfil it in its true potential – the imagination.
Durrell, Lawrence, Justine (Faber) 17.
ART, EDUCATION THROUGH
People nowadays think that scientists exist to instruct them, poets, musicians etc. to give them pleasure. The idea that these have something to teach them – that does not occur to them.
Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, 36e.
ART, MODERN, AS ILLUSTRATION
Modern Art has become completely literary: the paintings and other works exist only to illustrate the text.
Wolfe, Tom, from ‘The Painted World’, quoted Guardian Review, 16/11/02, 31.
ART, THE IMPOSSIBLE IN
In general, the impossible must be justified by reference to artistic requirements, or to the higher reality, or to received opinion. With respect to the requirements of art, a probable impossibility is to be preferred to the improbable and yet possible. … the impossible is the higher thing; for the ideal type must surpass the reality. … [And] sometimes… it is probable that the thing may happen contrary to probability…
The element of the irrational, and, similarly, depravity of character, are justly censured when there is no inner necessity for introducing them.
Thus, there are five sources from which critical objections are drawn. Things are censured either as impossible, or irrational, or morally hurtful, or contradictory, or contrary to artistic correctness.
Aristotle, Poetics (Dover, New York, 1997, Butcher’s 1895 translation), 57-8.
ARTIST, WOMAN see WOMAN ARTIST, 6/98; SOLITUDE AND TOGETHERNESS, NEED FOR, 12/05
ARTIST: CREATIVITY AND EGO see CREATIVITY, ARTISTIC, 12/87
ARTIST’S VISION see PERCEPTION, 5/98
Even the dead are overwhelming us all the time with kindnesses.
Durrell, Lawrence, Clea (Faber), 187.
[The arts have become our only means of] liberation from the eradicating dictates of biological-historical time, which is to say death . . . Without the arts, the human psyche would stand naked in the face of personal extinction.
Steiner, George, Grammars Of Creation (Faber, 2001), quoted in review.
ASCETIC AND SENSUALIST
Men of dreams, the lovers and the poets, are better in most things than the men of my sort; the men of intellect. You take your being from your mothers. You live to the full: it is given you to love with your whole strength, to know and taste the whole of life. We thinkers, though often we seem to rule you, cannot live with half your joy and full reality. Ours is a thin and arid life, but the fullness of being is yours; yours the sap of the fruit, the garden of lovers, the joyous pleasaunces of beauty. Your home is the earth, ours the idea of it. Your danger is to be drowned in the world of sense, ours to go ask for breath in airless space. You are a poet, I a thinker. You sleep on your mother’s breast, I watch in the wilderness. On me there shines the sun; on you the moon with all the stars. (Page 46)
… perhaps it was not merely simpler and more human to live and Goldmund-life in the world. Perhaps in the end it was more valiant, and greater in God’s sight, to breast the currents of reality, sin, and accept sin’s bitter consequence, instead of standing apart, with well-washed hands, living in sober, quiet security, planting a pretty garden of well-trained thoughts, and walking then, in stainless ignorance, among them — the sheltered beds of a little paradise. It was harder perhaps, and needed a stouter heart to walk with broken shoes through forest glades, to trudge the roads, suffer rain and snow, want and drought, playing all the games of the senses, and paying one’s losses with much grief. (Page 287)
Hesse, Herman, Narziss and Goldmund (Penguin, 1971, Geoffrey Dunlop translation).
Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what’s a heaven for?
Browning, Robert, from “Andrea del Sarto”.
ASPIRATION see IDEAL AND PLEASURE, 5/98
[Atheists as benighted souls who] Stake an entire store
Upon a Moment’s shallow Rim
While their commuted Feet
The Torrents of Eternity
Do all but inundate.
We strive for distinction, but with economy, and for intelligence without loss of energy. Thus we use wealth to meet the needs of action, not the craving for display, and think it is no disgrace to admit poverty, but a real disgrace not to act to escape it. … We arrive at sound decisions, or at least sound ideas, on policy, because we do not believe that action is spoiled by discussion, but by failure to be informed by debate before the necessary action is taken.
Pericles, in a speech reported by Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, II, 40 (translated by G M Else, in L Casson (Ed), Classical Age (Laurel, Dell, New York, 1965)), 164.
ATHENS see DEMOCRACY, 6/98
Sitting there, I both wanted to be in our house and to be back in my grandmother’s missing my mother. It was as if I could taste my pain better when I was away from her, the excruciating pain that told me how much I loved her. I thought how much I needed to be without her so that I could think of her, dwell on her, and fashion her into the perfect person that she clearly was not. I resolved that for certain I would grow up and one day go away. It was a sweet thought and it was packed with punishment.
O’Brien, Edna, Returning (Penguin, 1982), 40.
ATTACHMENT see POSSESSION, 10/87
[How come you chop [your prose style] up into sections instead of letting it flow?] Because I’m a teacher and I want people to pay attention. I don’t want them to turn on the automatic pilot. If you deliver a classroom lecture, if you’re a silver-tongued orator on any subject, and famous for this in the university, and other people come to listen, they’ll listen to your voice. They’re there for the music and not for the content. In order to make students pay attention to content you have to suddenly bang on the desk with your fist or get up and write on the blackboard, and if you’re lucky the chalk will squeak, and the people will wake up and pay attention. It’s a teaching problem.
Vonnegut, Kurt quoted Guardian Review, 14/5/11, 19.
ATTITUDES AND CIRCUMSTANCES
If life becomes hard to bear we think of a change in the circumstances. But the most important and effective change, a change in our own attitude, hardly even occurs to us, and the resolution to take such a step is very difficult for us…
… sound doctrines are all useless. … you have to change your life (or the direction of your life).
Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, 53e.
Mild of spirit, mightily susceptible of Fascination. My Idea very clear; Fancy like a Mirror, pure crystal water which the least wind does disorder and unsmooth. Never riotous or prodigal, but… Sloth and carelessness are equivalent to all other vices. [His assessment of himself as a schoolboy.]
Aubrey, John, Brief Lives (Penguin, 1972), 33.
AURA see PRIVACY, 4/97
Find a man whose words paint a likeness, and you have found a man worth something…. He must have been sincere about it… and sympathetic; a man without worth cannot give you the likeness of any object; he dwells in vague outwardness, fallacy, and trivial hearsay, about all objects.
Carlyle, On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History (1840), Lecture I.
[The greatest difficulty for a poet is to distinguish between] what one really feels and what one would like to feel.
Eliot, T. S., from an article on George Herbert, quoted by Wendy Cope, Guardian Review, 6 Dec 2003, 45.
AUTHENTICITY, INSIGHT AND
But such discoveries prompt a question: If the human being is so entangled in the surrounding world, how can that being ever return to itself? If Dasein is inauthentic to the core, how can one ever hope to be authentic? In answering this question, Heidegger resorted to a great many themes familiar to religious tradition. There must be some special insight that permits the human being to grasp itself as it truly is despite the fallenness and opacity of its this-worldly being. Although Dasein can no longer find this understanding in divine revelation—God is absent from Heidegger’s argument—it gains this knowledge in an anticipation of its own end. In awakening through anxiety to the possibility of death, Dasein is brought to realize that its ongoing existence depends on nothing but the resolute decision to embrace certain possibilities as its own. Authenticity is not a metaphysically distinctive way of being human; it is just a way of taking responsibility for what one has already been given.
Gordon, Peter E, ‘Heidegger in Black’, New York review of Books, 9/10/14.
The only real masterful noise a man makes in a house is that of his key, when he is still on the landing, fumbling for the lock.
Colette, quoted in L and M Cowan, The Wit of Women.
The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date. Otherwise you begin excusing yourself. You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it.//Impossible of course.
Atwood, Margaret, The Blind Assassin (Bloomsbury, 2000), 283.
AUTODIDACT see SELF-TAUGHT MEN, 9/87
AVARICE see HYPOCRISY 10/86
Even to be half-awake among sleep-walkers is frightening at first. Later one learns to dissimulate. [Pursewarden speaking.]
Durrell, Lawrence, Clea (Faber), 64.
I had been brought up with a jerk by a very evident fact which men do not trouble to see – that the life of the spirit, the veritable life, is intermittent, and only the life of the mind is constant. … [The ‘spirit’ being the faculty which sees] the significance that relates objects one to another.
St.-Exupery, Flight to Arras (Penguin, 1961, first edition 1942), 19.
AWARENESS, THE UNCONSCIOUS, AND LOVE
… shall we choose to pull ourselves together, fight against slumber and keep a balance on the dividing line between the conscious and the unconscious, still sufficiently governed by the unconscious to feel its swell raising us up, but also firmly enough sustained by the conscious not to let ourselves slip back? Then, on the crest of the wave (if we are attentive) we shall see the emergence of that nocturnal half of our self. … The seismic tremors of love raise it slowly, like a lost continent, from the depths of Night towards the Day.
Lilar, Susanne, Aspects of Love, translated by J Griffin (Panther, 1967), 152.