Darwinism was to him [Nabatoff, a peasant revolutionist] only the same kind of plaything of the mind as the creation in six days.
Tolstoy, Resurrection (F R Henderson, 1900. Louise Maude translation), 499.
DEAD — THEIR KINDNESS see ARTISTS’ LEGACIES, 12/87
1. The story of Kuronoti Masashige: Facing defeat in battle and about to commit Harikiri, he rushed first with his bloody sword to a nearby Zen master he knew – Soshuin(?). K M asked: ‘at the meeting of life and death, what then?’ ‘Cut off both the heads [birth and death]; the one sword gleams cold against the sky.’ (When, after a shout from the master, he understood, he went back to finish the battle, and died serenely, vowing to return to serve the loyalist cause!) (p 149)
2. Hakuin’s song on ‘dying-now-in the depths of the navel!’ (p 173)
3. Sengai’s disciples asked him for the usual last words. He wrote: ‘I don’t want to die.’ This wouldn’t do – they asked again. ‘Really, I don’t want to die’! (p 182)
4. Similarly, Dokuon(?): ‘I will not write a death poem. Because I don’t like dying.’ (p 182)]
Leggett, Trevor (trs.), A First Zen Reader, (Tuttle, Rutland Vm, 1960).
The man survives the death of the natural part of him as the total form of his imaginative acts, as the human creation out of nature which he has made. When Blake says ‘Eternity is in love with the productions of time’, he means in part that every imaginative victory won on earth, whether by the artist, the prophet, the martyr or by those who achieve triumphs of self-sacrifice, kindliness and endurance, is a permanent reality, while the triumphs of the unimaginative are lost. Existence and perception being the same thing, man exists eternally by virtue of, and to the extent of, his perception of eternity. Any doctrine of personal immortality which conceives of it either as the survival of the individual or of the disappearance of the individual into some objective form of generalised being, such as matter or force or the collective memory of posterity, is again thinking of the eternal as the indefinite.
Frye, Northrop, Fearful Symmetry (Princeton, 1947), 47.
Take away but the pomps of death, the disguises and solemn bug-bears, and the actings by candlelight, and proper and fantastick ceremonies, the minstrels and the noise makers, the women and the weepers, the swoonings and the shriekings, the nurses and the physicians, the dark room and the ministers, the kindred and the watchers, and then to die is easy, ready and quitted from its troublesome circumstances. It is the same harmless thing that a poor shepherd suffered yesterday, or a maid-servant today; and at the same time in which you die, in that very night a thousand creatures die with you, some wise men and many fools; and the wisdom of the first will not quit him, and the folly of the latter does not make him die.
Taylor, Jeremy (1613-67), quoted in J J Norwich, Christmas Crackers (Penguin, 1982), 266.
[Felix Arvers] was dying with ease and tranquillity… [when the nurse said the word ‘corridor’ to someone, mispronouncing it.] At that, Arvers thrust death from him. He felt it necessary to put this right first. He became perfectly lucid and explained to her that it ought to be pronounced ‘corridor’. Then he died. He was a poet, and hated the approximate; or perhaps he was simply concerned with the truth; or it annoyed him to carry away this last impression that the world would go on so carelessly. That can no longer be decided. Only let no one think that he acted in a spirit of pedantry. Otherwise the same reproach would fall on the saintly Jean-de-Dieu, who sprang up in the midst of his dying and arrived just in time to cut down a man who had hanged himself in his garden, knowledge of whom had in some amazing fashion penetrated the inward tension of his agony. He, too, was concerned only with the truth.
Rilke, R M, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (Oxford University press, 1984, first edition 1910), 158-9.
And am I born to die
To lay this body down
And must my trembling spirit fly
Into a world unknown.//
A land of deepest shade
Unpierced by human thought
The dreary regions of the dead
Where all things are forgot.//
Soon as from earth I go
What will become of me?
Eternal happiness or woe
Must then my portion be.//
Waked by the trumpets’ sound
I from my grave shall rise
And see the Judge with glory crowned
And see the flaming skies.
Anon, Hymn: Idumea (on Watersons record: Sound Sound your Instruments…, 1977).
It is extraordinary how the prospect of death closes down upon the free play of the mind, like a steel shutter, cutting off the future which alone is nourished by hopes and wishes.
Durrell, Lawrence, Justine (Faber), 216.
Death is as unexpected in his caprice as a courtesan in her disdain. But Death is truer – Death has never forsaken any man.
Balzac, “Elixir of Life”, in Christ in Flanders (Everyman), 339.
[See the sonnet “Now God be Thanked”, in 1914…]
Bridges, Robert, Spirit of Man, 429.
Man does not die. Man imagines that it is death he fears; but what he fears is the unforeseen, the explosion. What man fears is himself, not death. There is no death when you meet death. When the body sinks into death, the essence of man is revealed. Man is a knot, a web, a mesh into which relationships are tied. Only those relationships matter. The body is an old crock that nobody will miss. I have never known a man to think of himself when dying. Never.
St.-Exupery, Flight to Arras, 119.
Ah! Surely nothing dies but something mourns?
Byron, don Juan, IV, CVIII.
Ah, lovely appearance of death!
What sight upon earth is so fair?
Not all the gay pageants that breathe
Can with a dead body compare.
Wesley, Charles, “On the Sight of a Corpse”, in The Stuffed Owl.
- Absent Soul
The bull does not know you, nor the fig tree,
nor the horses, nor the ants in your own house.
The child and the afternoon do not know you
Because you have died for ever.//
The back of the stone does not know you,
And all the black satin in which you crumble.
Your silent memory does not know you
Because you have died for ever.//
The autumn will come with small white snails,
misty grapes and with clustered hills,
but no one will look into your eyes
because you have died for ever.//
Because you have died for ever,
like all the dead of the Earth,
like all the dead who are forgotten
in a heap of lifeless dogs.//
Nobody knows you. No. But I sing of you.
For posterity I sing of your profile and grace.
Of the signal maturity of your understanding.
Of your appetite for death and the taste of its mouth.
Of the sadness of your once valiant gaiety.//
It will be a long time, if ever, before there is born
an Andalusian so true, so rich in adventure.
I sing of his elegance with words that groan,
and I remember a sad breeze through the olive trees.
Lorca, from Lament For Ignacio Sanchez Mexas, translated by Spender and Gili.
Weariness, which wants to reach the ultimate with a single leap, with a death leap, a poor ignorant weariness which no longer wants even to want: that created all gods and afterworlds. … It was the body that despaired of the body… [and] of the Earth.
Nietzsche, Zarathustra, “Of the Afterworldmen”.
They [the Preachers of Death] encounter an invalid, an old man or a corpse; and straightaway they say ‘Life is refuted!’
Nietzsche, Zarathustra, “On the Preachers of Death”.
The difficulty is not in escaping death, but… in escaping evil, for this runs faster than death. Now I, being slow and old, am overtaken by death, the slower; and my accusers, being swift and skilful, by evil, the swifter of the two. I go away condemned by you to receive the penalty of death, but they go condemned by truth to receive the penalty of wickedness and wrong.
Socrates, in Plato’s Apology, in L Casson (Ed), Classical Age (Laurel, Dell, New York, 1965) 343.
A great man in his pride
… knows death to the bone –
Man has created death.
Yeats, from “Death”, in 1954 Palgrave.
The only sane, noble, and … religious way to think of death is as part and parcel of life; to regard it with the understanding and with the emotions, as the inviolable condition of life. The ancients … knew how to pay homage to death. For death is worthy of homage as the cradle of life, as the womb of palingenesis [rebirth, or reproduction of ancestral characteristics]. Severed from life, it becomes a spectre, a distortion, and worse. For death, as an independent power, is a lustful power, whose vicious attraction is strong indeed; to feel drawn to it, to feel sympathy with it, is without any doubt at all the most ghastly aberration to which the spirit of man is prone. [Settembrini speaking.]
Mann, Thomas, The Magic Mountain (Penguin, 1960, Lowe-Porter trans., 1st ed. 1924), 200.
Pale Death with impartial foot knocks at the doors of poor men’s hovels and of kings’ palaces.
[Another trs:] Death, pale and impartial, stands at the door;
enters with equal indifference the squatter’s shack
and rich man’s villa.
Horace, from Ode I, 4. Second version translated by James Lasdun, Guardian Review, 2/11/02, 37.
Ah, here it comes, the Distinguished Thing.
James, Henry, last words, as given by Alec Guinness, A Commonplace Book (Hamish Hamilton, 2001), 32.
A noble man asked Master Hakuin: ‘what happens to the enlightened man at death? What happens to the unenlightened man?’ The master replied: ‘Why ask me?’ ‘Because you are a Zen master!’ ‘Yes,’ said Hakuin, ‘but not a dead one!’
Quoted in Kapleau, P., The Wheel of Death (Harper and Row, 1971), 60
When the commonplace ‘We must all die’ transforms itself suddenly into the acute consciousness ‘I must die – and soon’, then death grapples us, and his fingers are cruel; afterwards he may come to fold us in his arms as our mother did, and our last moment of dim earthly discerning may be like the first.
Eliot, George, Middlemarch. Casaubon realising he is dying.
Death confronts us not unlike the historical battle scene that hangs on the wall of the classroom. It is our task to obscure or quite obliterate the picture by our deeds while we are still in this world.
Kafka, Franz, from ‘Reflections on sin, pain, hope and the true way’, in The Great Wall of China (translated by W. and E. Muir, 1933).
The thought that all experience will be lost at the moment of my death makes me feel pain and fear … What a waste, decades spent building up experience, only to throw it all away … We remedy this sadness by working. For example, by writing, painting, or building cities.
Eco, Umberto, in Turning Back the Clock, trs Alastair McEwen (Harvill Secker, 2007), quoted Guardian review, 27/10/07.
There’s nothing certain in a man’s life except this: That he must lose it.
Aeschylus, Agamemnon (translator unknown).
Death, who had once lived in a fairy-tale forest where a fairy-tale wolf was creeping up on a fairy-tale goat, was no longer confined to the pages of a book. For the first time David [a child] felt very clearly that he himself was mortal, not just in a fairy-tale way, but in actual fact.
He understood that one day his mother would die. And it wasn’t from the fairy-tale forest and the dim light of its fir-trees that Death would come for him and his mother – it would come from this very air, from these walls, from life itself, and there was no way they would be able to hide from it.
He sensed Death with a depth and clarity of which only small children or great philosophers are capable, philosophers who are themselves almost childlike in the power and simplicity of their thinking.
Grossman, Vasily, Life and Fate (R Chandler (trs), Vintage, 2006), 193.
For every seeing soul there are two absorbing facts, — I and the Abyss.
Emerson, Journals X:171.
DEATH AND BIRTH
Birth was the death of him.
Beckett, Samuel, in ‘A
Piece of Monologue’.
DEATH AND HUMAN UNIQUENESS
When a person dies, they cross over from the realm of freedom to the realm of slavery. Life is freedom, and dying is a gradual denial of freedom. Consciousness first weakens and then disappears. The life-processes – respiration, the metabolism, the circulation – continue for some time, but an irrevocable move has been made towards slavery; consciousness, the flame of freedom, has died out.
The stars have disappeared from the night sky; the Milky Way has vanished; the sun has gone out; Venus, Mars and Jupiter have been extinguished; millions of leaves have died; the wind and the oceans have faded away; flowers have lost their colour and fragrance; bread has vanished; water has vanished; even the air itself, the sometimes cool, sometimes sultry air, has vanished. The universe inside a person has ceased to exist. This universe is astonishingly similar to the universe that exists outside people. It is astonishingly similar to the universes still reflected within the skulls of millions of living people. But still more astonishing is the fact that this universe had something in it that distinguished the sound of its ocean, the smell of its flowers, the rustle of its leaves, the hues of its granite and the sadness of its autumn fields both from those of every other universe that exists and ever has existed within people, and from those of the universe that exists eternally outside people. What constitutes the freedom, the soul of an individual life, is its uniqueness. The reflection of the universe in someone’s consciousness is the foundation of his or her power, but life only becomes happiness, is only endowed with freedom and meaning when someone exists as a whole world that has never been repeated in all eternity. Only then can they experience the joy of freedom and kindness, finding in others what they have already found in themselves.
Grossman, Vasily, Life and Fate (R Chandler (trs), Vintage, 2006), 539. Follows description of deaths in Nazi gas chambers.
DEATH AS SLEEP
I have come to the borders of sleep,
The unfathomable deep
Forest where all must lose
Their way, however straight,
Or winding, soon or late;
They cannot choose.//
Many a road and track
That, since the dawn’s first crack,
Up to the forest brink,
Deceived the travellers,
Suddenly now blurs,
And in they sink.//
Here love ends,
Despair, ambition ends,
All pleasure and all trouble,
Although most sweet or bitter,
Here ends in sleep that is sweeter
Than tasks most noble.//
There is not any book
Or face of dearest look
That I would not turn from now
To go into the unknown
I must enter and leave alone
I know not how.//
The tall forest towers;
Its cloudy foliage lowers
Ahead, shelf above shelf;
Its silence I hear and obey
That I may lose my way
Thomas, Edward, ‘Lights Out’.
DEATH OF LIMITED SELF see SELF-TRANSCENDENCE, 3/92; LOSS, 1/97.
DEATH see TRUTH, 8/87; BEULAH, 9/87; HUNTER, 9/87; IMPERMANENCE, 9/87; LIFE IN DEATH, 9/87; WAR, 12/87; DEDICATION, 10/88; SOCRATES, DEATH OF, 6/98; CREATION FROM FEAR OF DEATH, 10/05
Whatever crazy sorrow saith
No life that breathes with human breath
Has ever truly longed for death.
Tennyson, from ‘The Two Voices’.
DEATH WISH see REPETITION, 10/07
DEATH, CONTEMPT OF
If its roots are not sunk deep in acceptance of responsibility, [it] is the sign either of an impoverished soul or of youthful extravagance. [A suicide] – So! Behind that attractive face, beneath that skull which should have been a treasure chest, there had been nothing, nothing at all. Unless it was the vision of some silly little girl indistinguishable from the rest. //…
I was [crashed in desert] perfectly ready to fall asleep, whether for a night or for eternity. If I did fall asleep, I could not even know whether it was for one or for the other. And the peace of sleep! But that cry that would be sent up at home, that great wail of desolation – that was what I could not bear. I could not stand idly by and look on at that disaster.
Each second of silence drove the knife deeper into someone I loved. At the thought, a blind rage surged up within me. Why do these chains bind me and prevent me from rescuing those who are drowning? … hear me, you out there! Patience. We are coming to save you.
St.-Exupery, Wind, Sand, and Stars (Penguin, 1966), 49 etc..
DEATH, ETERNAL see NIHILISM, 3/90
The man consummating his life dies his death triumphantly, surrounded by men filled with hope and making solemn vows…
I commend to you my sort of death, voluntary death that comes to me because I wish it.
And when shall I wish it? – He who has a goal and an heir wants death at a time most favourable to his goal and his heir.
And out of reverence for his goal and his heir he will hang up no more withered wreaths in the sanctuary of life.
Nietzsche, Zarathustra, “Of Voluntary Death”.
DECAY see SONG, SENTIMENTAL, 8/99
Oh, what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive!
Scott, Walter, Marmion, canto 6, st.11.
DECEIT see SUFFERING VS DECEIT, 6/13; DECLINE see HABIT, 7/96
[Characterised as saying that a particular utterance] had become a ‘multivalent,’ ‘indeterminate,’ and ‘undecidable’ ‘speech act’ construed differently by different ‘interpretative communities,’ all of which was evidence that the ‘referentiality’ of language to anything outside itself is an illusion, and that sequences of words to which we assign meaning are actually ‘gaps’ filled by the ‘subjectivity’ of the reader. Captain Ahab’s second mate on the Pequod, Mr Stubb, had pretty much summed it up a long time before: ‘Book! … you’ll do to give us the bare words and facts, but we come in to supply the thoughts.’
Deconstruction fit the darkening mood of the Seventies, when all claims to timeless or universal truth became suspect as self-serving deceptions perpetrated by wielders of power. It was an effort, as we used to say, to heighten the contradictions and raise them to the level of consciousness. … it was a mischievously extreme scepticism that regarded all meanings and judgements as contingent on the ‘subject-position’ of the reader. Deconstructionists rejected the idea that a work of the imagination manifests any ‘presence’ (a rubric under which they gathered such notions as meaning, beauty, and authorship), and, with the atheist zeal of erstwhile believers, they substituted terms like ‘aporia’ and ‘absence.’
One of the implications was that literature was no more or less worthy of study than any other semiotic system; fashion, gestures, sports could now serve as a ‘text’ for the game of interpretation. But this view soon lost its playfulness, and turned into the dogma that literature, like any constructed system of meaning, must be assessed in relation to this or that ‘identity’ (race, class, gender, etc.) to the exclusion of every other point of view.
Delbanco, Andrew, New York Review of Books, 4 November 1999, 36.
… By this song may those like me
Irreligious people little better than savages;
Be caught in the flames of renunciation.
May they evolve in spirit, and may they attain to liberation.
[The whole is an excellent meditation on impermanence, and (especially) death.]
Dalai Lama, Fifth, from “Meditations on the Ways of Impermanence”, in Songs of Spiritual Change.
DEEDS AND WORDS
Words and deeds are quite indifferent modes of the divine energy. Words are also actions and actions are a kind of words.
Emerson, Essays, xiii, “The Poet”.
DEEDS see KARMA, 5/94, 10/95, 11/96
[Edith Sitwell quotes the story of Professor Porson showing up a youth trying to impress the ladies with a Greek quotation. The works of each author claimed to have written it are produced from the Professor’s greatcoat.]
Sitwell, Edith, English Eccentrics (1933, Penguin edition, 1971), 183.
DEGENERATION see CHAOS, 4/99
DEJA VU see REBIRTH, 6/87
There’s nothing in this world can make me joy.
Life is as tedious as a twice-told tale
Vexing the dull ear of a drowsy man;
And bitter shame hath spoiled the sweet world’s taste
That it yields nought but shame and bitterness…
Shakespeare, King John, Act III, scene 4.
Tennyson, “The Lotos Eaters”.
DELIGHT AND LAUGHTER
Delight and laughter have … a kind of contrariety: for delight we scarcely do but in things that have a conveniency to ourselves or to the general nature; laughter almost ever cometh of things most disproportioned to ourselves and nature. Delight hath a joy in it, either permanent or present. Laughter hath only a scornful tickling. [Conveniency means agreement or similarity.]
Sidney, Sir Philip, A Defence Of Poetry (Oxford University Press, 1966, first edition 1595, his dates 1554-86), 68.
DELIGHT see SCHOLARSHIP, 8/92
DELIGHT, SEEING WITH see PERCEPTION, 5/98
We cannot write the order of the variable winds. How can we penetrate the law of our shifting moods and susceptibility? Yet they differ as all and nothing. Instead of the firmament of yesterday, which our eyes require, it is today an eggshell which coops us in; we cannot even see what or where our stars of destiny are. From day to day, the capital facts of human life are hidden from our eyes. Suddenly the mist rolls up, and reveals them, and we think how much good time is gone, that might have been saved, had any hint of these things been shown. A sudden rise in the road shows us the system of mountains, and all the summits, which have been just as near us all the year, but quite out of mind. But these alternations are not without their order, and we are parties to our various fortune. If life seem a succession of dreams, yet poetic justice is done in dreams also. The visions of good men are good; it is the undisciplined will that is whipped with bad thoughts and bad fortunes. When we break the laws, we lose our hold on the central reality. Like sick men in hospitals, we change only from bed to bed, from one folly to another; and it cannot signify much what becomes of such castaways — wailing, stupid, comatose creatures — lifted from bed to bed, from the nothing of life to the nothing of death.
Emerson, from ‘Illusions’ quoted Guardian Review, 24/05/03, 6.
The folly of mistaking a paradox for a discovery, a metaphor for a proof, a torrent of verbiage for a spring of capital truths, and oneself for an oracle, is inborn in us.
Valery, Paul, Introduction To The Method Of Leonardo, quoted in The Right Word At The Right Time (Readers Digest), 350.
So far as the name goes we are called a democracy, because the power rests with the majority instead of a few. But though every citizen has equal rights under the law with respect to his private disputes, high standing and honour in the community depend on a man’s merits, his achievement in some pursuit, and none is debarred by poverty and obscurity of birth from contributing what he can to the well-being of the city. We are a free people not only in our management of public affairs, but in a personal tolerance of one-another’s everyday conduct. We do not get angry at our neighbours for doing as they please, or try to inflict on them the petty marks of disapproval which, though harmless, are so unpleasant to experience.
Pericles, in a speech reported by Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, II, 36 (translated by G F Else, in L Casson (Ed), Classical Age Laurel, Dell, New York, 1965) 164.
DEMOCRACY see ATHENS, 6/98
DEPENDENCE see LOVE — EXCLUSIVE, 4/87
[Petrarch complained that he was victim of a] terrible plague of the soul, melancholy, … I feed upon my tears and sufferings with a morbid attraction. … I see the better course and I cling to the worse.
Petrarch, The Secret Conflict of My Cares (about 1341), quoted in Theodore Zeldin, An Intimate History of Humanity (Minerva, 1995), 65.
DEPRESSION see SORROW, 7/94
DEPTH, TAKING SERIOUSLY
Don’t play with what lies deep in another person.
Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, 23.
La perfection est atteinte non quand il ne reste rien à ajouter, mais quand il ne reste rien à enlever.
(You know you’ve achieved perfection in design, not when you have nothing more to add, but when you have nothing more to take away.)
St.-Exupery, The Little Prince.
Some desire is necessary to keep life in motion; and he whose real wants are supplied must admit those of fancy.
Johnson, Samuel, Rasselas, Ch. 8.
What is political tyranny, Socrates asks in the Republic, if not the unjust rule of a man who himself is tyrannised by his lowest desires? Eros is classified by Plato as a demonic force that can lift the soul into divine spheres but is equally capable of delivering it into a life of baseness and suffering in which others are made to suffer, too. The philosopher and the tyrant, the highest and lowest of human types, are linked through some perverse trick of nature by the power of love.
Plato, paraphrased by Mark Lilla, New York Review of Books, 2 December 1999, 29.
DESIRE (KAMACCHANDA & DHAMMACCHANDA) see SENSE DESIRE, 5/92; POVERTY, 7/94; VANITY, 4/96; HINDRANCES, 10/96
DESIRE see POSSESSION, 10/87; QUESTS, TWO, 5/98; DISAPPOINTMENT WHEN DESIRES REALISED, 11/01
DESIRE, TORTURE OF
Whoever is in that state cannot wish not to be, it would be like wishing not to live, because it has bound itself up with life. What good would it do to die? Afterwards – afterwards, yes, gladly. In her arms it would be bliss. Not before – no; it would be preposterous, because life is longing, and longing is life – it cannot go against itself, that is the cursed catch in the game. Even when I say cursed, it is only a way of talking, … for in myself I cannot feel it so. There are many kinds of torture, Castorp, and whichever one you are under, your one desire and longing is to be free of it. But the torture of fleshly lust is the only one you can never wish to be free of, except through satisfaction. Never, never in any other way, never at any price. … what a thing it is, that the flesh can crave the flesh like that, simply because it is not its own flesh, but belongs to another soul… One might say, almost, if that is all he wants, in God’s name let him have it! What is it I want, Castorp? Do I want to kill her? Do I want to shed her blood? I only want to fondle her. [The pathetic Wehsal is speaking.]
Mann, Thomas, The Magic Mountain (Penguin, 1960, Lowe-Porter trans., 1st ed. 1924), 615-16.
DESIRES — MEAN see ESCAPISM, 12/86
Despair occurs when the artist does not work with a pre-prepared or a preconceived structure… Everything – ideas and means – the paint itself – surrounds him with its swarm of potentialities threatening to engulf him. Creativity is a struggle to control this rush of ideas and means. Despair is almost a necessary condition in such circumstances. It is the measurable point in time and place at which the force he is trying to control almost overwhelms him, the point at which victory and defeat are in balance. It is either the moment of defeat, or of breakthrough. [Writing about Francis Bacon.]
Spender, Stephen, quoted by Aloka, Shabda, August 1999.
Despair is stronger than my will.
Waste not thine orison, despair
Is mightier than thy pious prayer:
I would not, if I might, be blest;
I want no paradise, but rest.
Byron, The Giaour (Penguin), 93.
Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it’s awful.
Don’t touch me! Don’t question me! Don’t speak to me! Stay with me! (Waiting for Godot)
We cange. We lose our hair, our teeth! Our bloom, our ideals. (Endgame.)
DESPAIR OR DESOLATION see NIHILISM, 10/93
DESPAIR see THIRST, 4/85
DEVELOPMENT see PROGRESS, 12/91
There is no steady, unretracing progress in this life; we do not advance through fixed gradations, and at the last one pause: – through infancy’s unconscious spell, boyhood’s thoughtless faith, adolescence’ doubt (the common doom), then scepticism, then disbelief, resting at last in manhood’s pondering repose of If. But once gone through, we trace them round again; and are infants, boys, and men, and Ifs eternally. Where lies the final harbour, whence we unmoor no more? …
Melville, Moby Dick (Penguin), 602.
DEVILS see ANGELS AND DEVILS, 1984
The Chinese Zen master Obaku, enlightened, constantly worshipped the Buddha. A disciple, doubting, asked whether he was asking something of the Buddha, or seeking something concerned with the Truth. ‘I need neither.’ ‘Then why?’ ‘I simply worship.’
Leggett, Trevor(trs), A First Zen Reader, (Tuttle, Rutland Vm, 1960), 189.
I can give not what men call love,
But wilt thou accept not
The worship the heart lifts above
And the Heavens reject not, –
The desire of the moth for the star,
Of the night for the morrow,
The devotion to something afar
From the sphere of our sorrow?
Shelley, “To – –”.
… Winds take a pensive tone and stars a tender fire
And visions rise and change which kill me with desire –//
Desire for nothing known in my maturer years
When joy grew mad with awe at counting future tears;
When, if my spirit’s sky was full of flashes warm,
I knew not whence they came, from sun or thunderstorm;//
But first a hush of peace, a soundless calm descends;
The struggle of distress and fierce impatience ends;
Mute music soothes my breast – unuttered harmony
That I could never dream till earth was lost to me.//
Then dawns the Invisible, the Unseen its truth reveals;
My outward sense is gone, my inward essence feels –
Its wings are almost free, its home, it’s harbour found;
Measuring the gulf it stoops and dares the final bound!//
Oh dreadful is the check – intense the agony
When the ear begins to hear and the eye begins to see;
When the pulse begins to throb, the brain to think again;
The soul to feel the flesh and the flesh to feel the chain!
[The next verse hopes the vision heralds death!]
Bronte, Emily, from “The Prisoner”, in 1954 Palgrave.
…that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on,–
Until, the breath of this corporeal frame
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul:
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.
Wordsworth, from Tintern Abbey (1798)
Dickens does not overstep the immodesty of nature.
Shaw, G B, quoted in notes to Penguin Great Expectations, 505.
I don’t paint things, I only paint the difference between things.
Matisse, Henri, in Marcus Mendez quotes pamphlet, “Out Of The Blue,” December 1992, Ashvajit’s copy.
DIFFICULTIES see HELPING OTHERS, 7/98
DIGESTION see FOOD, 10/87
I could not fail to disagree with you less.
Smullyan, Raymond (quoted by), The Tao is Silent (HarperSanfrancisco, 1977), 205.
DISAPPOINTMENT WHEN DESIRES REALISED
… the realization of his desires gave him [Vronsky] no more than a grain of sand out of the mountain of happiness he had expected. It showed him the mistake men make in picturing to themselves happiness as the realization of their desires. For a time after joining his life to hers, and putting on civilian dress, he had felt all the delight of freedom in general of which he had known nothing before, and of freedom in his love,–and he was content, but not for long. He was soon aware that there was springing up in his heart a desire for desires–ennui. Without conscious intention he began to clutch at every passing caprice, taking it for a desire and an object. Sixteen hours of the day must be occupied in some way…
Tolstoy, Leo, Anna Karenina (Translated by Constance Garnett), Part 5 Ch 8.
… so pleasing to a part of the mind is the prospect of total destruction, as the only cure for the classical ennui of modern man.
Durrell, Lawrence, Mountolive (Faber), 81.
DISCIPLE AND MASTER see INDEPENDENCE, 5/98
But for some reason this particular flare-up was not forgotten. If two men’s lives are in harmony, they can quarrel, be wildly unjust to one another and then forget it. But if there is some hidden discord, then any thoughtlessness, any careless word, can be a blade that severs their friendship.
Grossman, Vasily, Life and Fate (R Chandler (trs), Vintage, 2006), 447.
… every discovery contains an ‘irrational element’ or ‘a creative intuition’, in Bergson’s sense. (Logic of Scientific Discovery, 32)
The dogmatic way of thinking [is] due to an inborn need for regularities, and to inborn mechanisms of discovery: mechanisms which make a search for regularities. (Unended Quest, 49)
Musical and scientific creation seem to have this much in common: the use of dogma, or myth, as a man-made path along which we move into the unknown, exploring the world, both creating regularities or rules, and probing for existing regularities…
Indeed, a great work of music (like a great scientific theory) is a cosmos imposed upon chaos. (Ibid., 58-9)
One comes upon these passages and fits them into place with something like the thrill a mason may feel when he sees his key stone slip smoothly down between the two halves of an arch on which he has been labouring with secret doubts of final success. (The petty triumphs of literary research are so minute and they’re so commonly made in large libraries, where one is not allowed to shout ‘Eureka!’ above a whisper, that this bit of confession may be pardoned.)
Sheppard, Odell, The Love Of The Unicorn (Allen and Unwin, 1930), 176-7.
DISCOVERY OF TRUTH
[Alexander Von Humboldt (1769-1859) held] that without diversity of opinion the discovery of truth is impossible. And the object of knowledge of the truth should be ‘not power but the enjoyment of life’. His research was directed therefore to ‘awakening and understanding of all that is loveable’. Discovering harmonies compensates for the tragedies. He convinced himself that ‘the single idea emerging from history’ is ‘the concept of humanisation, the tendency to break down the barriers of prejudice and religion, and the belief in mankind as one large community capable of evolving its inherent capacities’.
Zeldin, Theodore, An Intimate History of Humanity (Minerva, 1995), 199.
It is perhaps the only real lack of which one is conscious in living alone: the mediating power of a friend’s thoughts to place beside one’s own – just to see if they match!
Durrell, Lawrence, Balthazar (Faber), 205.
The vapour dances in his dazzled sight
Till spent, it leaves him to eternal night.
Then Old Age and Experience, hand in hand,
Lead him to death and make him understand,
After a search so painful and so long,
That all his life he has been in the wrong.
Huddled in dirt, the reasoning engine lies,
Who was so proud, so witty, and so wise.
Wilmot, John, Earl of Rochester, from “A Satyr against Mankind”.
Within the common lamp-lit room
Prison my eyes and thought;
Let dingy details crudely loom,
Mechanic speech be wrought:
Too fragrant was Life’s early bloom,
Too tart the fruit it brought!
Hardy, Thomas, from ‘Shut Out That Moon’.
DISILLUSION see NOBILITY, 4/98
[Fruits of a very hard year included…] the sad and painful realisation of how dispensable I am. Well, we all are actually … nobody is an exception … but some are less dispensable than others. Those who have already dispensed with themselves, who have put themselves aside, are the most indispensable of all. It is only when we get out of the way, when the ‘mortal me’ is softly melted away, that Life, Love, Wisdom, the Bodhicitta sees its great chance and shines through, liberating us from suffering and mortality all the while.
Sinhadevi, Shabda, July 2002, 13.
No matter how dissatisfied people are with the results they are getting, they rarely question their way of trying to get results. When what we are doing is not working, we do not try doing something totally different. Instead, we try harder by doing more of what seems self-evidently the right way to proceed. But when styles differ, more of the same is usually met with more of the same from the other party as well. [Tannen is an American linguist.]
Tannen, Deborah, You Just Don’t Understand (Virago, 1992).
If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place.
Rilke, Advice to a Young Poet (1903), trs M. D. Herter Norton (1993).
If I number my beads
except it be in wrath,
What I tell with my tongue
is ten miles from my heart.
Langland, William, Piers Plowman, C, Passus VIII (B Dillon, trans., in J Russel and A Brown, Satire, World Publishing Company, Cleveland, 1967).
Vladimir: That passed the time.
Estragon: It would have passed in any case.
Vladimir: Yes, but not so rapidly.
Beckett, Samuel, Waiting for Godot (1955)
To be diverted isn’t simply to have too many stimuli but to be confused about what to attend to and why. Distraction is the very opposite of emancipation: failing to see what is worthwhile in life, and lacking the wherewithal to seek it….
[To recover from techno-distraction] what’s required is not Luddite extremism but a more ambitious relationship to our tools – one that promotes our liberty instead of weakening it.
Young, Damon, Distraction: A Philosopher’s Guide To Being Free (Melbourne Univ. Publishing, 2008), 6, 69.
Few are left who retain a sufficient memory [of the divine Truth all human souls glimpsed in a former existence]. These, however, when they see some likeness of the world above, are beside themselves and lose all control, but do not realise what is happening to them because of the dimness of their perceptions.
[25 pages later:] we distinguished four kinds of divine madness, and ascribed them to four divinities, the inspiration of the prophet to Apollo, that of the mystic to Dionysus, that of the poet to the Muses, and the fourth kind [the best] to Aphrodite and Love.
Plato, Phaedrus, translated by Walter Hamilton (Penguin Classics).
If, driven by an old compulsion, we were to define what the gods were to the Greeks, we might say, using the principle of Occam’s Razor, everything that takes us away from the ordinary sensations of life. ‘With a god, you are always crying and laughing,’ we read in Sophocles’ Ajax. Life as mere vegetative protraction, glazed eyes looking out on the world, the certainty of being oneself, without knowing what one is: such a life has no need of a god. It is the realm of the spontaneous atheism of the homme naturel.
But when something undefined and powerful shakes mind and fibre and trembles the cage of our bones, when the person who only a moment before was dull and agnostic is suddenly rocked by laughter and homicidal frenzy, or by the pangs of love, or by the hallucination of form, or finds his face streaming with tears, then the Greek realises that he is not alone. Somebody else stands beside him, and that somebody is a god. He no longer has the calm clarity of perception he had in his mediocre state of existence. Instead, that clarity has migrated into his divine companion. A sharp profile against the sky, the god is resplendent, while the person who evoked him is left confused and overwhelmed.
Calasso, Roberto, The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony (Vintage, 1994, translated by Tim Parks), 243.
DIVISION INTO CATEGORIES see TWO CATEGORIES, 4/91
Women are all the bloody same … you can’t love for five minutes without wanting it abolished in brats and house bloody wifery.
Beckett, Samuel, Murphy, (Grove Press, 1959, First ed 1938) 36-37.
A man must ride alternately on the horses of his private and his public nature, as the equestrians in the circus throw themselves nimbly from horse to horse, or plant one foot on the back of one, and the other foot on the back of the other. So when a man is the victim of his fate, has sciatica in his loins, and cramp in his mind; a club-foot and a club in his wit; a sour face, and a selfish temper; a strut in his gait, and a conceit in his affectation; or is ground to powder by the vice of his race; he is to rally on his relation to the universe, which his ruin benefits. Leaving the daemon who suffers, he is to take sides with the deity who secures universal benefit by his pain.
Emerson, quoted Guardian Review, 24/05/03, 6.
A Riddle or the Cricket’s Cry
Is to Doubt a fit Reply.
[Several other fragments here on doubt.]
Blake, from “Auguries of Innocence”.
DOUBT see RATIONALITY, 5/98
DOUBT/DUKKHA see HEDONISM, 6/92
DRAMA see ART (RE DRAMA), 7/93
Under thought [as an aspect of writing tragedy] is included every effect which has to be produced by speech; the excitation of the feelings, such as pity, fear, anger, and the like; the suggestion of importance or its opposite. Now, it is evident that the dramatic incidents must be treated from the same points of view as the dramatic speeches, when the object is to evoke the sense of pity, fear, importance, or probability. The only difference is, that the incidents should speak for themselves without verbal exposition; while the effects aimed at in speech should be produced by the speaker, and as a result of the speech. For what were the business of a speaker, if the thought were revealed quite apart from what he says?
Aristotle, Poetics (Dover, New York, 1997, Butcher’s 1895 translation, 37.
Oh, the dark feeling of mysterious dread which comes over the mind, and which the lamp of reason, though burning bright the while, is unable to dispel. … the principle of woe itself, the fountain-head of all sorrow coexistent with man, whose influence he feels while yet unborn… It may be, for what thou knowest, the mother of wisdom, and of great works: it is the horror of the night that makes the pilgrim hasten on his way. … [Theistic references skipped.]
Borrow, George, Lavengro, chxviii. In Bridges, The Spirit of Man, No 266.
If a man could pass through Paradise in a dream, and have a flower presented to him as a pledge that his soul had really been there, and if he found that flower in his hand when he awoke – Aye! and what then?
Coleridge, In Geoffrey Grigson, 0 Rare Mankind (Phoenix House Ltd, London, 1963).
Had I the heavens embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light;
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
Yeats, from “The Wind among the Reeds”.
[In REM sleep (i.e. dreams), some muscles are completely limp (hence one ‘can’t escape’ nightmares?), but hormones pour, the heartbeat is irregular, the blood pressure fluctuates, the breathing is sometimes shallow and rapid etc., all implying ‘an intense emotional experience and inner concentration.’ Even primitive mammals, e.g. the opossum show REM sleep, and suffer if deprived of it. Young animals and humans spend far more time in REM than adults – new-born babies half of their sleep time, premature babies more. Adults have four to five REM periods each night, at 90 minute intervals, increasingly long, totalling around 1½ hours. [Rebirth and consciousness…?] Early in the night dreams are connected with the previous day. Later with the more distant past, and with more imagery. In men, almost all REM periods are accompanied by an erection.]
Davy, John, quoted in W H Auden’s A Certain World.
Memory supplies the dreamer – with isolated images, not generalisable ones… Noting this dream, I write it like a story, making a resumé or summary of a story, by memory. This is the fundamental error when it comes to narrating a dream. Unfortunately there is no other way around it. To obtain the synthesis of a dream, you would have to express it in its ‘atomic’ constituents. For the story – which one remembers, is only a secondary fabrication, following an initial state that is non-chronological, non-resumable, non-integrable.
Valery, Paul, in The Theatre of Sleep, by G Almasi and C Beguin (Picador, 1987), 356.
The real glory of dreams lies in their atmosphere of unlimited freedom. It is not the freedom of the dictator, who enforces his own will on the world, but the freedom of the artist, who has no will, who is free of will. The pleasure of the true dreamer does not lie in the substance of the dream, but in this: that there things happen without any interference from his side, and altogether outside his control. Great landscapes create themselves, long splendid views, rich and delicate colours… It is true that if remembered in the daytime they will fade and lose their sense, because they belong to a different plane, but as soon as the one who dreams lies down at night, the current is again closed, and he remembers their excellence.
Blixen, Karen, Out Of Africa (Penguin, 1984, first edition 1937), 70.
DREAMS see VISION, 6/90
… like those dreams which, in the morning, for lack of courage, we abandon to sleep – grains imprisoned in their husks and not allowed to germinate.
Lilar, Susanne, Aspects of Love (Panther, 1967, first edition 1963), 70.
Life would be utterly impossible to most men if they allowed themselves no drug to neutralise and quiet their distresses.
Goethe, Maxims, quoted by T F Powys, in Mr Weston’s Good Wine (Chatto, 1964), 175.
DRUG see UNSATISFACTORINESS, 5/86; POISON, 4/98
It is essential to be drunk all the time. That is all: there’s no other problem. If you do not want to feel the appalling weight of Time which breaks your shoulders and bends you to the ground, get drunk, and drunk again.
What with? Wine, poetry, or being good, please yourself. But get drunk. …
Baudelaire, from the Prose Poems, in The Penguin Book Of Unrespectable Verse (1971), 227.
[Edith Sitwell tells the story of the anatomist Doctor G Fordyce who admired the lion, and so ate and drank enormously, but once a day – at Dolly’s chop house. After, he went from coffee house to coffee house drinking brandy. Once, after this routine, he visited a lady patient who’d gone down with a sudden and mysterious illness. However, he was quite unable to count the beats of her pulse.] Irritated by this phenomenon, but tracing it to its source in Dolly’s chop house, the Professor ejaculated: ‘Drunk, by the Lord!’ Rather to Doctor Fordyce’s surprise, the lady wept silently, and Doctor Fordyce, having prescribed some remedy, left the room with dignity and precision. Next day he received a message begging for an immediate interview with him, and as soon as he arrived the lady, bursting into tears, confessed that he had diagnosed her illness only too correctly. The reproof administered by the Professor was severe in the extreme, and the lady promised that there should be no recurrence of the malady.
Sitwell, Edith, English Eccentrics (Penguin, 1971, first edition 1933), 183.
Loss and possession, death and life are one.
There falls no shadow where there shines no sun.
Belloc, “on another [sundial]”.
The chain of cause and effect could be qualitatively verified only if the whole universe were considered as a single system – but then physics has vanished, and only a mathematical scheme remains. The partition of the world into observing and observed system prevents a sharp formulation of the law of cause and effect.
Heisenberg, Werner, quoted in J MacWhirter’s Epistemology Of NLP.
DUHKHA & PROTECTION
It is true that we [children in Rajneesh’s Movement] were not protected enough from the merry-go-round of disciplehood and the agony of surrender. But then, if life didn’t hurt us, we wouldn’t notice it pass by.
Guest, Tim, My Life in Orange, Quoted Guardian Review, 5/2/05, 31.
Fury: … They [humans] dare not devise good for man’s estate,
And yet they know not that they do not dare.
The good want power, but to weep barren tears.
The powerful goodness want: worse need for them.
The wise want love; and those who love want wisdom;
And all best things are thus confused to ill.
Many are strong and rich, and would be just,
But live among their fellow men
As if none felt: they know not what they do.
Prometheus: Thy words are like a cloud of wingéd snakes;
And yet I pity those they torture not.
Shelley, Prometheus Unbound, (i), 618.
Man’s unhappiness, as I construe, comes of his greatness; it is because there is an Infinite in him, which with all his cunning he cannot quite bury under the Finite.
Carlyle, Thomas, Sartor Resartus, chapter 9.
When I was young, I said to Sorrow,
‘Come, I will play with thee’–
He is near me now all day;
And at night returns to say,
‘I will come again tomorrow,
I will come and stay with thee.’//
Through the woods we walk together;
His soft footsteps rustle nigh me.
To shield an unregarded head,
He has built a wintry shed;
And all night in rainy weather,
I hear his gentle breathings nigh me.
de Vere, Aubrey, “Song”, in 1954 Palgrave.
Nothing begins, and nothing ends,
That is not paid with moan;
For we are born in others’ pain,
And perish in our own.
Thomson, Francis, from “Daisy”, in 1954 Palgrave.
Walking down the street, where I walk in memory, morning noon and night, I could not tell what it was, precisely, that reduced me to such wretchedness. Indeed it was not death, but rather the gnawing conviction of not having yet lived. All I could tell was that the stars were as singular and as wondrous as I remembered them and that they still seemed like a link, an enticement to the great heavens, and that one day I would reach them, and be absorbed into their glory, and pass from a world that, at that moment, I found to be rife with cruelty and stupidity, a world that had forgotten how to give.
O’Brien, Edna, Returning (Penguin, 1982), 63.
The more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to trouble you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt.
Merton, Thomas, The Seven Storey Mountain (quoted Guardian Review, 5/1/13.)
DUKKHA AND IMPERMANENCE
… The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs;
Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.
Keats, from “Ode to a Nightingale”.
DUKKHA OF LACK see YEARNING, 6/98
DUKKHA OF LOSS see LEAVING, 5/98
DUKKHA see UNSATISFACTORINESS 5/86; ANTICIPATION, 7/87; HELPING OTHERS, 7/98; JOY AND DREAD, 7/98; GRIEF, 3/2000; SUBJECT AND OBJECT AND PAIN, 2/09
You have the duty to create the conditions for the performance of a duty.
Anon, from a work of Islamic jurisprudence, quoted by Sangharakshita, Windhorse Trading Questions and Answers, 67.