When winds that move not its calm surface sweep
The azure sea, I love the land no more;
The smiles of the serene and tranquil deep
Tempt my unquiet mind. – But when the roar
Of Ocean’s grey abyss resounds, and foam
Gathers upon the sea, and vast waves burst,
I turn from the drear aspect to the home
Of earth and its deep woods, where interspersed,
When winds blow loud, pines make sweet melody.
Whose house is some lone bark,
Whose toil the sea, whose prey the wandering fish, an evil lot
Has chosen. – But I my languid limbs will fling
Beneath the plane, where the brook’s murmuring
Moves the calm spirit, but disturbs it not.
Moschos of Syracuse (3rd Century BCE), Shelley trs.
… If to any the tumult of the flesh were hushed; hushed the images of earth, of waters and of air; hushed also the poles of heaven; yea, were the very soul to be hushed to herself, and by not thinking on self to surmount self; hushed all dreams and imaginary revelations; every tongue and every sign; if all transitory things were hushed utterly, – … – if, when their speech had gone out they should suddenly hold their peace, and to the ear which they had aroused to their Maker, he himself should speak, … [– then we’d be hearing God directly and, this continued,] life might ever be like that one moment of understanding, which but now we sighed after; … [“Hush” see Plotinus, Enn, v.i.2.]
Augustine, St., Confessions, ix, 10.
[The unhealthy longing for calm: see]
Tennyson, “The Lotos Eaters”.
… even so, amid the tornadoed Atlantic of my being, do I myself still for ever centrally disport in mute calm; and while ponderous planets of unwaning woe revolve around me, deep down and deep inland there I still bathe me in eternal mildness of joy.
Melville, Moby Dick (Penguin), 498.
CAMBRIDGE see PETTINESS, 7/93
CANT see HYPOCRISY, 9/04
Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men, for the nastiest of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all.
Keynes, John Maynard, unsourced.
CAPITALISM see UNCERTAINTY, 1/99
CARING (FOR NATURE)
[To care] is a treacherous emotion, apt to slip into a sense of custodianship, and then of possessiveness, into a habit of seeing the natural world as not just in need of protection, but unable to thrive without our help. […Naturalness, he suggests, is not a state, but a process. Naturalness is whatever occurs between human interventions.]
Mabey, Richard, Beechcombings, quoted Guardian Review, 6/10/07
It is incredible how helpful a new drawer can be, suitably located in our filing cabinet.
Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, Q 25 .
CATHARSIS see ART, AS IMITATION, 3/99
CAUSALITY see DUALITY, 5/94, CONDITIONALITY, 11/07
Every Natural Effect has a Spiritual Cause, and Not
A Natural; for a Natural Cause only seems; it is a Delusion
Of Ulro and a ratio of the perishing [i.e. transient] Vegetable Memory.
Blake, Milton, 28.
CAVE see PLATO, 6/92
Nearly everyone I knew was suffering from the old celibacy – or at least that wistful pornographic third eye that is the verruca of long-term fidelity. The error was to imagine that the constant heart could be foiled by the flighty body.
Boylan, Clare, The Independent, 22 September 1990, 29.
[see Browning’s “Andrea del Sarto” – a Florentine called ‘the Faultless Painter’, who reflects on Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo – all single – and how he could have been greater than them, but his beautiful wife, his marriage, and financial demands all divert him from it. He has become placid, they remained burning. (He reflects it might have been different had she not been so mindless.)]
Browning, “Andrea del Sarto”.
CELIBACY see SEX, 9/97
The wrong view of science betrays itself in the craving to be proved right. [Don’t look for certainty, but for falsifiable hypotheses.] (The Logic of Scientific Discovery, 281, and see Eccles quote in Magee’s Popper, 39.) [And… accepting for example Marxism or Freudianism had] the effect of an intellectual conversion or revelation, opening your eyes to a new truth hidden from those not yet initiated. Once your eyes were thus opened you saw confirming instances everywhere: the world was full of verifications of the theory. … Thus its truth appeared manifest; and unbelievers… refused to see it, either because it was against their class interest, or because of the repressions which were still ‘un-analysed’ and crying aloud for treatment. [An example from Adler follows.] (Conjectures and Refutations, 34-5.)
CERTAINTY see BEAUTY AND MYSTERY, 7/2000
… Prisoner, tell me who was it that wrought this unbreakable chain? It was I, said the prisoner, who forged this chain very carefully. I thought my invincible power would hold the world captive, leaving me in a freedom undisturbed. Thus night and day I worked at the chain with huge fires and cruel, hard strokes. When as last the work was done and the links were complete and unbreakable, I found that it held me in its grip.
Tagore, Gitanjali, 31. In Bridges, Spirit of Man, No 284.
… how little real difference there is between the two apparently contradictory conceptions. – ‘Chance would have it so.’ ‘It was fated to be.’ The sting of both phrases – their pleasant bitterness when played with, their quality of poison when believed – lies in the denial of the value of human endeavour.
Murray, Gilbert, Five Stages of Greek Religion, excerpted in J Pelikan, World Treasury of Modern Religious Thought.
CHANCE & REASON see PROVIDENCE, 7/93
[You can’t announce that you going to change, decide to change.] … You got changed by being made to live through something, and then you found yourself changed.
Lessing, Doris, The Summer Before the Dark (Penguin), 92.
[Change in apparent fixity – see:]
Shelley, Mont Blanc, passim.
Here below, to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.
Newman, Cardinal, quoted Eiseley, The Firmament of Time, 67.
Following Leibnitz and Einstein, we have so far come to accept that there may be no meaning to time besides change. …
It is another thing altogether to wonder whether time and change themselves might be constructs – whether there might be some fundamental way of perceiving the world in which they play no role at all. … I don’t know if there are any real limits to what the human mind can imagine, but thinking about this question brings me closer than I like to the limits of what my own mind has the language or means to conceive.
The problem of time in quantum cosmology is hard exactly because it seems to lead us to confront the possibility that time and change themselves are illusions. …
Smolin, Lee, The Life of the Cosmos (Phoenix, 1998, first edition 1997), 355.
CHANGE AND STASIS
Whisper to the silent earth: I’m flowing.
To the flashing water say: I am.
Rilke, from the last “Sonnet to Orpheus”, II, 29, translated by Mitchell, Selected Poetry (Picador/Pan, 1987), 255.
CHANGE see HISTORY, 9/88; LOSS, 1/97; TIME AND CHANGE, 8/99
CHANGE, PRESENTIMENTS OF
The wintry days passed for Romola as the white ships pass one who is standing lonely on the shore – passing in silence and sameness, yet each bearing a hidden burden of coming change.
Eliot, George, Romola (Penguin, 1980), 496.
CHANGING YOUR LIFE see ATTITUDES AND CIRCUMSTANCES, 1979
CHAOS see ORDERING EXPERIENCE, 7/87; CREATIVITY, 1/93; EVOLUTION, 4/99; VISION OF CHAOS, AND POETRY, 2/02
We prepare ourselves for sudden deeds by the reiterated choice of good or evil which gradually determines character.
Eliot, George, Romola (Penguin, 1980), 287.
Even sound authors are wrong in stubbornly trying to weave us into one invariable and solid fabric…. Anyone who turns his prime attention onto himself will hardly ever find himself in the same state twice. I give my soul this face or that, depending upon which side I lay it down on. I speak about myself in diverse ways: that is because I look at myself in diverse ways. Every sort of contradiction can be found in me, depending upon some twist or attribute: timid, insolent, chaste, lecherous; talkative, taciturn; tough, sickly; clever, dull, brooding, affable; lying, truthful; learned, ignorant; generous, miserly and then prodigal – I can see something of all of that in myself, depending on how I gyrate; and anyone who studies himself attentively finds in himself and in his very judgement this whirring about and this discordancy. There is nothing I can say about myself as a whole simply and completely, without intermingling and admixture.
Montaigne, in The Essays of Michel de Montaigne (translated by Screech, Penguin, 1991, 373-7), quoted by E H Gombrich, New York Review of Books, 20 January 2000, 10.
There is always a paradox at the heart of character . . . some contradiction that ties the knot, holds two conflicting halves together . . . A sort of stable schizophrenia you could call it, an enigma at the core.
Parks, Tim, Destiny (novel), quoted Guardian Review, 16/7/11.
Do I exhort you to chastity? With some, chastity is a virtue, but with many it is almost a vice.
These people abstain, it is true, but the bitch Sensuality glares enviously out of all that they do. …
And how nicely the bitch Sensuality knows how to beg for a piece of spirit, when a piece of flesh is denied her. …
Not when truth is dirty, but when it is shallow, does the enlightened man dislike to wade in its waters.
Truly, there are some who are chaste from the very heart: they are more gentle of heart, and they laugh more often and more heartily than you. [They laugh and ask …]
‘Is chastity not folly? But this folly came to us and not we to it.
We offered this guest love and shelter: now it lives with us – let it stay as long as it wishes!’
Nietzsche, Zarathustra, “Of Chastity”.
The word [chastity] normally carries the suggestion of a withholding or suppressing of natural desires in the interests of a lofty ideal, and later in [Milton’s] poem Comus exploits this negative idea of chastity. The Lady’s speech anticipates these arguments by forcefully conjoining charity and chastity, and so removes the stigma of withholding from chastity, which becomes an image of love. The Lady has transformed chastity into a positive virtue which represents the giving of love rather than its denial.
Campbell, Gordon, editor’s introduction to John Milton (Everyman, Dent, 1996), xiv.
Of whom, truly, I know not whether to marvel more, either that he in that misty time could see so clearly, or that we in this clear age go so stumblingly after him.
Sidney, Sir Philip, A Defence of Poetry (Oxford University press, 1966, first edition 1595, dates 1554-86), 64.
You said you had cried over my plays. You’re not the only one. But that’s not what I wrote them for. It was Stanislavsky who made them so whining. I wanted to say something else. I wanted to talk honestly to people, to say: ‘Look at yourselves, look at the dreary lives you lead!’ The important thing is for people to realise this, and when they have, they will create a different, better world for themselves. I won’t live to see it, it will be a very different world, with no resemblance to today’s. But in the meantime I shall not stop saying to people: ‘Try to understand how miserable and dreary your lives are.’ Yet there’s nothing in that to cry about.
Chekhov, Anton, quoted from memory by Alexander Tikhonov, London Review of Books, 6 January 2000, 15.
Chekhov said: let’s put God – and all these grand progressive ideas – to one side. Let’s begin with man; let’s be kind and attentive to the individual man – whether he’s a bishop, a peasant, an industrial magnate, a convict in the Sakhalin Islands or a waiter in a restaurant. Let’s begin with respect, compassion and love for the individual – or we’ll never get anywhere. That’s democracy, the still unrealized democracy of the Russian people.
Grossman, Vasily, Life and Fate (R Chandler (trs), Vintage, 2006), 267.
CHILD AND SELF-AWARENESS see SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS, 5/98; LOSS OF VISION, 10/13
… here and there on my blankets, lost feelings out of my childhood lie and are like new. All the lost fears are here again.
The fear that a small woollen thread sticking out of the hem of my blankets may be hard, hard and sharp as a steel needle; the fear that this little button on my night-shirt may be bigger than my head, bigger and heavier; the fear that the breadcrumb which has just dropped off my bed may turn into glass, and shatter when it hits the floor, and the sickening worry that when it does, everything will be broken, forever; the fear that the ragged edge of a letter which was torn open may be something forbidden, which no one ought to see, something indescribably precious, for which no place in the room is safe enough; the fear that if I fell asleep I might swallow the piece of coal lying in front of the stove; the fear that some number may begin to grow in my brain until there is no more room for it inside me; … the fear that I might betray myself, to tell everything I dread, and the fear that I might not be able to say anything because everything is unsayable…
Rilke, Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, (translated by Mitchell, Selected Poetry (Picador/Pan, 1987)).
CHILDHOOD SECURITY, END OF see ALONENESS, 5/98
[A French surgeon]: Promising herself that she would become a mother only after she was personally fulfilled, she postponed having children. For most mothers, the child is the masterpiece, but she determined, when she finally did have hers, that they would not stop her writing, that they would not be the final purpose of her life. ‘I have had very intense joys with the children. … I find poetry, humour and imagination with them, and I love them, but I’m not a mother who will spoil them. I regret I’m not a man who could give less time to the children, though I like being with them.’ And of course she is worried by the power to alter another being’s fate: if only she could confine herself to giving the children confidence in themselves.
Zeldin, Theodore, An Intimate History of Humanity (Minerva, 1995), 348.
CHILDREN see IMAGINATION, 7/87
CHILDREN, CONTINUATION THROUGH
He [Jude] projected his mind into the future, and saw her [Sue Bridehead, just married to the school-teacher, and so ‘lost’ to Jude, he thinks] with children, more or less in her own likeness, around her. But the consolation of regarding them as a continuation of her identity was denied to him, as to all such dreamers, by the wilfulness of Nature in not allowing issue from one parent alone. Every desired renewal of existence is debased by being half alloy, … [he saw] the scorn of nature for man’s finer emotions, and her lack of interest in his aspirations.
Hardy, Thomas, Jude the Obscure (Oxford University Press, 1985), 184.
‘To intercalate realities’ writes Balthazar ‘is the only way to be faithful to Time, for at every moment in Time the possibilities are endless in their multiplicity. Life consists in the act of choice. The perpetual reservations of judgement and the perpetual choosing.’
Durrell, Lawrence, Balthazar (Faber), 193.
CHOICE OF LIFE
The causes of good and evil are so various and uncertain, so often entangled with each other, so diversified by various relations, and so much subject to accidents which cannot be foreseen, that he who would fix his condition upon incontestable reasons of preference, must live and die inquiring and deliberating. … Very few live by choice. Every man is placed in his present condition by causes which act without his foresight, and with which he did not always willingly co-operate; and therefore you will rarely meet one who does not think the lot of his neighbour better than his own. (p 77)
While you are making the choice of life, you neglect to live. (p 103) [The Choice of Life was the projected title for Rasselas.]
Johnson, Samuel, Rasselas (Penguin, 1976, 1st ed. 1759).
CHOICE see FORMS, 4/85
… the fearful prohibitions listed in Leviticus. … We have had our testicles pinched for centuries by the Mosaic Law; hence the wan and pollarded look of our young girls and boys. Hence the mincing effrontery of adults willed to perpetual adolescence! [Pursewarden writing.]
Durrell, Lawrence, Clea (Faber), 132.
Experience… regards innocence as an ignorant and unfulfilled version of itself, and subjects it to the teaching necessary to elevate it to a better understanding. The mind of innocence understands the experienced lessons according to its own capacities, however. The Father can only be communicated as one who protects, and ‘love’, ‘mercy’, ‘pity’, and ‘peace’ are taken to mean care for another and not for the self. Christ, who shows the innocent virtues, was the founder of a great church for just these reasons, perhaps. His message is carried by the sword, by reasonable argument and by propaganda; by ‘control’ of the militant type. Such power would [?] be short lived, however, if the message it carried were not continually responded to by that part in man which is innocent, which is responsive, not to physical and rational compulsion, but to ‘control’ of a sympathetic kind. The especial significance of Christianity is that, fundamentally, it shows faith in the presence in man of virtues which are the products, not of the understanding, but of sympathy.
Gillham, D G, Blake’s Contrary States (Cambridge UP, 1966), 109-10.
CHRISTIANITY see RELIGION, 1984; SIN, 3/89; SELF-SACRIFICE, 7/2000
CIRCUMFERENCE AND CENTRE see SELF-TRANSCENDENCE, 11/01
You think me the child of my circumstances. I make my circumstances. [But: ‘Men are dependent on circumstances, not circumstances on men’. – Herodotus.]
Emerson, in Great Quotations (Readers Digest, 1978), 11.
CIRCUMSTANCES see ATTITUDES AND CIRCUMSTANCES, 1979
A man cannot live a decent life in cities, … I am not thinking of aviation. The aeroplane is a means, not an end. One doesn’t risk one’s life for a plane any more than farmer ploughs for the sake of the plough. But the aeroplane is a means of getting away from towns and their book-keeping, and coming to grips with reality.
St.-Exupery, The Wisdom of the Sands (Hollis and Carter, 1952).
Brecht, Bertold, “Of Poor B. B.”, in The Rattle Bag.
A civilisation is simply a great metaphor which describes the aspirations of the individual soul in collective form – as perhaps a novel or a poem might do. The struggle is always for greater consciousness. But alas! civilisations die in the measure that they become conscious of themselves… [elaborated. Pursewarden writing.]
Durrell, Lawrence, Clea (Faber), 143.
CIVILISATION, TRANSITION TO
In history, the great moment is, when the savage is just ceasing to be a savage, with all his hairy Pelasgic [sic] strength directed on his opening sense of beauty — and you have Pericles and Phidias — not yet passed over into the Corinthian civility. Everything good in nature and the world is in that moment of transition, when the swarthy juices still flow plentifully from nature, but their astringency or acridity is got out by ethics and humanity.
Emerson, quoted Guardian Review, 24/05/03, 5.
A person, commonly a woman, who has the power of seeing that which is invisible to her patron – namely that he is a blockhead.
Bierce, Ambrose, Devil’s Dictionary.
CLARITY see CHAUCER, 5/92
The concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems to be able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed. … The great enemy of language is insincerity. … [The English language] becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. [Later, Orwell gives rules including:]
Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
Never use a long word where a short one will do.
If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
Never use the passive where you can use the active.
Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
Orwell, George, ‘Politics and the English Language’ (1946), in Inside the Whale and Other Essays (Penguin, 1957).
Never stay up on the barren heights of cleverness, but come down into the green valleys of silliness.
Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, 76e.
Cliché results from repetition, and a proposition that is repeated frequently and generally enough acquires the status of the self-evident. …[C.P.] Snow utters his platitudes with such self-confidence in part because they seem, to him and to many of his readers, to be so obviously true. These are what Leavis calls “currency values”, the verbal coin that is rubbed smooth by being constantly circulated in a particular social world. He sees this as almost a closed system: to be recognised by this social world as saying something sensible and significant one needs to endorse its currency-values, and the fact of their being so repeatedly endorsed is what confirms them in their status as self-evident truths. Leavis, here and elsewhere in his writings, comes near to the self-dramatising pessimism of “the outsider” who suggests that it is impossible to obtain a hearing for an alternative perspective, so sealed and self-reinforcing is this system. And yet, by the very fact of his critical writing he is tacitly assuming that there is an audience capable of recognising the truth of his critique, so the power of cliché, though great, is not invincible, the system not entirely closed.
Collini, Stefan, ‘ Leavis v Snow: the two-cultures bust-up 50 years on’, in Guardian Review, 17/8/13.
Everything that happens once can never happen again. But everything that happens twice will surely happen a third time. [Said to be an Arab proverb.]
Coelho, Pauli, The Alchemist (Thorsons, 1995, first Spanish addition 1988), 164.
COMEDY AND TRAGEDY see WORLD, 8/99
COMFORT see CHARACTER, 1/91
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: ‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it’.
Murray, W H, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition.
Transport of the mails, transport of the human voice, transport of flickering pictures – in this century, as in others, our highest accomplishments still have the single aim of bringing men together.
St.-Exupery, Wind, Sand, and Stars.
COMMUNICATION see OPENNESS, 12/87; FRIENDSHIP, 8/2000
COMMUNICATION, BAD see DISSATISFACTION, 5/94
Tell all the Truth but tell it slant –
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind –
Communism is a creed which promises to bring about a better world. It claims to be based on knowledge: knowledge of the laws of historical development. I still hoped for a better world, a less violent and more just world, but I questioned whether I really knew – whether what I had thought was knowledge was not perhaps mere pretence. I had, of course, read some Marx and Engels – but had a really understood it? Had I examined it critically, as anybody should do before he accepts a creed which justifies its means by a somewhat distant end?
Popper, Karl, Unended Quest, 33.
In the Communist Manifesto … Marx and Engels were, as it were, writing a monster post-dated cheque drawn on an account in the Bank of Scientific Knowledge, an account into which they had not so far been able to deposit any funds. [Marx spent years later seeing scientific proof for his historicist prediction of inevitable socialist utopia.]
Flew, Anthony, Darwinian Evolution (Paladin, 1984), 104.
No matter how many communes anybody invents, the family always creeps back.
Mead, Margaret, in Great Quotations (Readers Digest, 1978) 17.
‘Men are to be pitied’ – thus say others [preaches of death] again. ‘Take what I have! Take what I am! By so much less am I bound to life!’… [etc]. [This section seems mainly to be an attack on Buddhist doctrines as he saw them, and on asepsis.]
Nietzsche, Zarathustra, “Of the Preachers of Death”.
COMPASSION AND WISDOM
Thou art the sky, and thou art also the nest.
Oh Thou Beautiful! how in the nest thy love embraceth the soul with sweet sounds and colour and fragrant odours!
Morning cometh there, bearing in her golden basket the wreath of beauty, silently to crown the earth.
And there cometh evening, o’er lonely meadows deserted of the herds, by trackless ways, carrying in her golden pitcher cool draughts of peace from the ocean-calms of the West.
But where thine infinite sky spreadeth for the soul to take her flight, a stainless white radiance reigneth; wherein is neither day nor night nor form nor colour, nor ever any word.
Tagore, from Gitanjali. His translation, improved by Bridges.
COMPASSION AND WISDOM
When we realise we are nothing, then we have wisdom.
When we realise we are everything, then we have compassion.
Unsourced, recalled by Dinah Millsom.
COMPASSION see HELPING OTHERS, 7/98
They have split up man’s works and days into two periods, which are meaningless, that of conquering, and that of enjoying the fruits of victory. Have you see the tree growing up, and once it is fully grown, preening itself on its achievements? The tree grows because it must. And this I say to you: ‘They are already dead who become sedentaries when the victory is won.’ (p 40)
I say ‘my task is ended’ only when my fervour fails. (p 69)
Their ‘comfortable conditions’ are but a lack; and because they have no faith in suffering, joy withholds itself from them. (p 110)
St.-Exupery, The Wisdom of the Sands (Hollis and Carter, 1952).
Resting on your laurels is as dangerous as resting when you are walking in the snow. You doze off and die in your sleep.
Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, 35e.
People wish to be settled; only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them. (x, Circles.)
God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose. (xi, Intellect)
Why talk and complain; above all, why quarrel with one another? There is no result in it; it comes to nothing that one can do. Say nothing, if one can do nothing! [To his discontented followers in exile on St Helena.]
Napoleon, quoted or paraphrased by Carlyle, On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History (1840), Lecture VI.
COMPLETENESS, SEARCH FOR
‘At first’ writes Pursewarden ‘we seek to supplement the emptiness of our individuality through love, and for a brief moment enjoy the illusion of completeness. But it is only an illusion. For this strange creature, which we thought would join us to the body of the world, succeeds at last in separating us most thoroughly from it. Love joins and then divides. How else could we be growing?’
Durrell, Lawrence, Balthazar (Faber), 200.
Man is intended for a limited condition; objects that are simple, near, determinate, he comprehends, and he becomes accustomed to employ such means as are at hand: but on entering a wider field, he now knows neither what he would know what he should; and it amounts to quite the same, whether his attention is distracted by the multitude of objects, or is overpowered by their magnitude and dignity. It is always a misfortune for him when he is induced to struggle after anything with which he cannot connect himself by some regular exertion of his powers.
Goethe, Wilhelm Meister, (Carlyle’s translation, Collier, New York, 1962), 373.
COMPLEXITY OF LIFE
Ordinary common-sense no longer suffices to meet the strange demands life makes. Everything has become so intricate that mastering it would require an exceptional intellect. Because skill in playing the game is no longer enough; the question that keeps coming up is: can this game be played at all now and what would be the right game to play?
Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, 27.
CONCENTRATION see PRAYER, 10/05
Anything that happens happens, anything that in happening causes something else to happen causes something else to happen, and anything that in happening causes itself to happen again, happens again. Although not necessarily in chronological order.
Adams, Douglas, The Salmon of Doubt (2002, quoted on Wikiquote).
I know your sorrow and I know that for the likes of us there is no ease for the heart to be had from words or reason and that in the very assurance of sorrow’s fading there is more sorrow. So I offer you only my deeply affectionate and compassionate thoughts and wish for you only that the strange thing may never fail you, whatever it is, that gives us the strength to live on and on with our wounds.
Beckett, Samuel, letter to his US producer, on latter’s father’s death, in No Author Better Served (Harmon, ed., Harvard, 1998), quoted in London Review of Books, 29 July 1999, 19.
Conference: a gathering of important people who singly can do nothing, but together can decide that nothing can be done.
Allen, Fred, in The Wit’s Dictionary (Angus & Robertson, Australia, 1984).
Still with his soul severe accounts he kept.
Weeping all debts out ere he slept
Then down in peace and innocence he lay.
Like the sun’s laborious light
Which still in water sets at night
Unsullied with his journey of the day.
Cowley, Abraham, ‘On the Death of Mr William Hervey’.
He had too little knowledge of the world to understand that persons, quite unstable and incapable of all improvement, frequently accuse themselves in the bitterest manner, confessing and deploring the faults with extreme ingeniousness, though they possess not the smallest power within them to retire from that course, along which the irresistible tendency of their nature is dragging them forward.
Goethe, Wilhelm Meister, (Carlyle’s translation, Collier, New York, 1962), 185.
CONFESSION see GUILTY SECRETS, 5/94
CONFUSION see DUKKHA 9/87
The inward light each mind hath in itself is as good as a philosopher’s book.
Sidney, Sir Philip, A Defence of Poetry (Oxford University press, 1966, first edition 1595, dates 1554-86), 39.
CONSCIOUSNESS DETERMINES BEING
… at each stage of development, each man resumes the whole universe and makes it suitable to his own inner nature: while each thinker, each thought fecundates the whole universe anew.
Durrell, Lawrence, Justine (Faber), 176.
CONSCIOUSNESS see SELF-AWARENESS, 2/87
CONSCIOUSNESS, EVOLUTION OF
Man is a thought-adventurer.
Man is a great venture in consciousness.
Where the venture started, and where it will end, nobody knows.
Lawrence, D H, Books.
CONSENSUS OF EXPERIENCE
All of us on earth are united in thought, for it is impossible to think without images of somewhat on earth.
Blake, Annotations to Lavater.
There are in nature neither rewards nor punishments – there are consequences.
Ingersoll, Robert, in Great Quotations (Readers Digest, 1978) 12.
CONSEQUENCES see KARMA,11/14
CONSERVATISM see DISSATISFACTION, 5/94
[A Conservative:] Someone who believes that nothing should be done for the first time.
Wiggam, Alfred, in The Wit’s Dictionary (Angus & Robertson, Australia, 1984).
Consolation from imaginary things is not an imaginary consolation.
Scruton, Roger, An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Modern Culture (Duckworth, 1998), 18.
CONSUMERISM see UNCERTAINTY, 1/99
‘O Cormac, grandson of Conn,’ said Carberry,
‘What were your habits when you were a lad?’
‘Not hard to tell,’ said Cormac.
‘I was a listener in woods,
I was a gazer at stars,
I was blind where secrets were concerned,
I was silent in a wilderness . . . ‘
Cormac. Instructions of King Cormac (Irish, 9th century) trs Kuno Meyer, The Book of Irish Verse, edited by John Montague (Macmillan, 1974)
CONTEMPLATION & EXPRESSION see POETRY, 11/01
Pleasant to me is the flickering of the sun upon these margins, because it flickers so.
Irish scribe, jotted in a ninth century manuscript, quoted by J J Norwich, Christmas Crackers (Penguin, 1982), 30.
Being [King], I should do as I liked; and doing as I liked, I should take my pleasure; and taking my pleasure, I should be contented; and when one’s content, there’s nothing more to desire; and when there’s nothing more to desire, there’s an end of it. [Sancho Panza speaking.]
Cervantes, Don Quixote (Penguin), 443.
CONTENTMENT see GREED
CONTINUITY OF PURPOSE see PRESENT, 4/88
CONTRADICTORY NATURE OF MAN see PERFECTIBILITY OF MAN, 9/06
Who won’t be ruled by the rudder must be ruled by the rock.
Cornish Proverb, quoted Disraeli, Isaac, Curiosities of Literature II (1834).
CONVERSION see LIFE, MEANING OF, 11/01
It strikes me that a religious belief could only be something like a passionate commitment to a system of reference. Hence, although it’s belief, it’s really a way of living, or a way of assessing life. It’s passionately seizing hold of this interpretation. Instruction in a religious faith, therefore, would have to take the form of a portrayal, a description, of that system of reference, while at the same time being an appeal to conscience. And this combination would have to result in the pupil himself, of his own accord, passionately taking hold of the system of reference. It would be as though someone were first to let me see the hopelessness of my situation and then show me the means of rescue until, of my own accord, or not at any rate led to it by my instructor, I ran to it and grasped it.
Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, 64.
COPERNICUS, see KNOWING AND TRUTH, 4/03
CORRESPONDENCE (MIND AND NATURE)
O Nature, and O soul of man! how far beyond all utterance are your linked analogies! not the smallest atom stirs or lives in matter, but has its cunning duplicate in mind. [Ahab speaking.]
Melville, Moby Dick (Penguin), 418.
Beware that, when fighting monsters you do not become a monster yourself. For when you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.
Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Aphorism 146 (1886).
Perhaps the greatest difference between us and the pagans lies in our different relation to the cosmos. With us, all is personal. Landscape and the sky, these are to us the delicious background of our personal life, and no more. Even the universe of the scientist is little more than an extension of our personality, to us. To the pagan, landscape and personal background were on the whole indifferent. But the cosmos was a very real thing. A man lived with cosmos, and knew it greater than himself.
Lawrence, D H, Apocalypse, V.
No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the world’s storm-troubled sphere;
I see heaven’s glories shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from fear.
Bronte, Emily, “No Coward Soul is Mine”.
COWARD see WILL 1981
Within the central whorl
Of her [soul’s] mazy shell she lies,
Like a snail that doth recoil
From the touch of enemies; …
Weaving, W, Poems, (1913. In Bridges, The Spirit of Man, No 271).
Things men have made with wakened hands, and put soft life into
are awake through years with transferred touch, and go on glowing for long years.
And for this reason, some old things are lovely
warm still with the life of forgotten men who made them.
Lawrence, D H, “Things Men Have Made”.
The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action; and till action, lust
Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust;
Enjoyed no sooner but despised straight;
Past reason hunted, and no sooner had,
Past reason hated, as a swallow’d bait
On purpose laid to make the taker mad:
Mad in pursuit, and in possession so;
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe;
Before a joy proposed, behind a dream.
All this world well knows, yet none knows well
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.
Shakespeare, Sonnet CXXIX.
CRAVING see POSSESSION, 10/87; WHEEL OF BECOMING, 10/90
CREATION FROM FEAR OF DEATH
Perhaps… fear of death is the root of all our image-making, and perhaps, too, of all our intellect. We shrink from death, shuddering at our frail instability, sadly watching the flowers fade again and again, knowing in our hearts how soon we shall be as withered as they. So that when, as craftsmen, we carve images, or seek laws to formulate our thoughts, we do it all to save what little we may from the linked, never-ending dance of death.
Hesse, Herman, Narziss and Goldmund (Penguin, 1971, Geoffrey Dunlop translation), 151.
CREATION see EVOLUTION, 4/99
I will make company with creators, with harvesters, with rejoicers: I will show them the rainbow, and the stairway to the Superman. … (p. 9)
Yourself can no longer perform that act which it most desires to perform: to create beyond itself. That is what it most wishes to do, that is its whole ardour. (“Of the Despisers of the Body”.)
CREATIVE see GROUP, 4/98; NOBILITY, 4/98
Those whose creative instinct is physical have recourse to women, and show their love in this way, believing that by begetting children they can secure for themselves an immortal and blessed memory hereafter forever; but there are some whose creative desire is of the soul, and who long to beget spiritually, not physically, the progeny which it is the nature of the soul to create and bring forth. … – wisdom and virtue in general… but by far the greatest and fairest branch of wisdom is that which is concerned with the due ordering of states and families, whose name is moderation and justice. [Diotima is teaching Socrates.]
Plato, Symposium (Penguin), 90.
One must still have chaos within oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.
Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra (Zarathustra’s Prologue), 1883-92.
Man’s highest merit always is, as much as possible to rule external circumstances, and as little as possible to let himself be ruled by them. Life lies before us, as a huge quarry lies before the architect; he deserves not the name of architect, except when, out of this fortuitous mass he can combine, with the greatest economy, and fitness and durability, some form, the pattern of which originated in his spirit. All things without us, nay, I may add, all things on [sic] us are mere elements: but deep within us lies the creative force, which out of these can produce what they were meant to be: and which leaves us neither sleep nor rest, till in one way or another, without us or on us, that same have been produced.
Goethe, Wilhelm Meister, Carlyle’s trs. (Collier, New York, 1962), p 70.
The human soul itself is the source and well-head of creative activity. In the unconscious human soul the creative prompting issues first into the universe. Open the consciousness to this prompting, away with all your old sluice-gates, locks, dams, channels. No ideal on earth is anything more than an obstruction, in the end, to the creative issue of the spontaneous soul. Away with all ideals. Let each individual act spontaneously from the for ever incalculable prompting of the creative well-head within him. There is no universal law. Each being is, at his purest, a law unto himself, single, unique, a Godhead, a fountain from the unknown.
Lawrence, D H, Forward to Leo Shestov’s All Things Are Possible .
In every work of genius we recognise our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.
Emerson, from ‘Self-Reliance’, quoted Guardian Review, 24/05/03, 6.
The creative spirit moves in a body or ego larger than that of any single person.
Hyde, Lewis, The Gift (Canongate, 83), quoted Guardian Review, 20.1.07
First you have to know and understand intellectually what you want to do – then you have to sleep-walk a little to reach it. The real obstacle is oneself. I believe that artists are composed of vanity, indolence and self regard. Work-blocks are caused by the swelling-up of the ego on one or all of these fronts. You get a bit scared about the imaginary importance of what you are doing! Mirror-worship. My solution would be to slap a poultice on the inflamed parts – tell your ego to go to hell and not make a misery of what should be essentially fun, joy. [Pursewarden Speaking.]
Durrell, Lawrence, Clea (Faber), 110.
CREATIVITY, ARTISTIC see SELF-EXPRESSION, 12/87; ART, 5/87
A wonderful thing about ideas is the extent to which they have a life of their own, so that while contradictory conceptions may live side by side for years in many people’s minds, one day, in someone’s imagination, a new thought, a new combination, leads to a new viewpoint from which it all suddenly fits, differently.
Smolin, Lee, The Life of the Cosmos (Phoenix, 1998, first edition 1997), 321.
CRIME see VICE 10/12
… Yet if a poem have genius, it will force its own reception in the world; for there is a sweetness in good verse, which tickle even while it hurts; and no man can be heartily angry with him who please him against his will. … They who can criticise so weakly as to imagine I have done my worst, may be convinced at their own cost that I can write severely with more ease then I can gently. I have but laughed at some men’s follies, when I could have declaimed against their vices; and other men’s virtues I have commended as freely as I have taxed their crimes. … If you like not my poem, the fault may possibly be in my writing, though ’tis hard for an author to judge against himself; but more probably ’tis in your morals, which cannot bear the truth of it. … The true end of satire is the amendment of vices by correction. And he who writes honestly is no more an enemy to the offender that the physician to the patient, when he prescribes harsh remedies to an inveterate disease; …
Dryden, John, Dryden (W de Christie, editor, Oxford University press, 1883, third edition), “To the Reader”, preceding “Absalom and Achitophel”, 85 – 87.
Reeves, James, The Critical Sense, 75.
And now, kind friends, what I have wrote,
I hope you will pass o’er,
And not criticise as some have done
Moore, Julia (“The Sweet Singer of Michigan”), in The Stuffed Owl.
There is another reason why criticism has to exist. Criticism can talk, and all the arts are dumb. In painting, sculpture, or music it is easy enough to see that the art shows forth, but cannot say anything. And, whatever it sounds like to call the poet inarticulate or speechless, there is a most important sense in which poems are as silent as statues. … Poetry is a disinterested use of words: it does not address a reader directly. When it does so, we usually feel that the poet has some distrust in the capacity of readers and critics to interpret his meaning without assistance, and has therefore dropped into the sub-poetic level of metrical talk [“verse” or “doggerel”] which anybody can learn to produce. … The artist, as John Stuart Mill saw in a wonderful flash of critical insight, is not heard but overhead. The axiom of criticism must be, not that the poet does not know what he is talking about, but that he cannot talk about what he knows. [pp. 4-5]
If I have read the last chapter of Finnegan’s Wake correctly, what happens there is that the dreamer, after spending the night in communion with a vast body of metaphorical identifications, wakens and goes about his business forgetting his dream, like Nebuchadnessar, failing to use, or even to realize that he can use, the “keys to dreamland.” What he fails to do is therefore left for the reader to do, the “ideal reader suffering from an ideal insomnia,” as Joyce called him, in other words the critic. Some such activity as this of reforging the broken links between creation and knowledge, art and science, myth and concept, is what I envisage for criticism. Once more, I am not speaking of a change of direction or activity in criticism: I mean only that if critics go on with their own business this will appear to be, with increasing obviousness, the social and practical result of their labors. [p.354]
Frye, Northrop, Anatomy of Criticism (Princeton University Press, 1957).
CRITICISM see MALICIOUS SPEECH, 8/98
CRUELTY see SUBJECT AND OBJECT, 12/85; NATURE’S CRUELTY, 10/86
CUCUMBER see WORLD, 5/87
We all adore whales, bats and rainforests, but there is an ecology of culture too, an infinitely more precious inheritance which actually defines what it is to be human. [Jones is a lecturer in Classics.]
Jones, Peter, book review, Sunday Telegraph, 8 March 92.
[Culture is] the sum total of things people do as a result of having been so taught.
Coon, C S, The History of Man (Cape, 1955), 5.
[Culture is the] pursuit of total perfection by means of getting to know… the best which has been taught and said in the world, and through this knowledge, turning a stream of fresh and free thought upon our stock notions and habits. [This best can be found in works which lead readers beyond the] bounded intellectual horizon within which we have long lived. [Arnold’s detractors called this a ‘religion of culture’. Delbanco writes of ‘slaking the human craving for contact with works of art that somehow register one’s own longings and yet exceed what one has been able to articulate by and for oneself.’ (p 38)]
Arnold, Matthew, quoted by Andrew Delbanco, New York Review of Books, 4 November 1999, 34.
Egypt’s might is tumbled down
Down a-down the deeps of thought;
Greece is fallen and Troy town,
Glorious Rome hath lost her crown,
Venice’ pride is nought.//
But the dreams their children dreamed
Fleeting, unsubstantial, vain,
Shadowy as the shadows seemed,
Airy nothing, as they deemed,
Coleridge, Mary ‘Egypt’s Might is Tumbled down’, in Walter de la Mare’s Come Hither anthology (Constable, 1923).
May bats defile your ancestral tablets and goats propagate within your neglected tombs! May the sinews of your hams snap in moments of achievement!
Kai Lung (Chinese fabulist), quoted Daily Telegraph, 23/8/97, 21.
May she marry a ghost and bear him a kitten, and may
The High King of Glory permit her to get the mange. [From three stanzas cursing a barmaid who wouldn’t ‘loan’ him a glass of beer.]
Stephens, James, “A Glass of Beer”, in The Rattle Bag.
We must not indulge in unfavourable views of mankind, since by doing it we make bad men believe that they are no worse than others, and we teach the good that they are good in vain.
Landor, Walter Savage, quoted Guardian Review, 28 Dec 2002, 5.