GADFLY SEE WISDOM of SOCRATES, 6/98
[Zany, existential, symbolic ‘games’ described in his “Games” poems.]
Popa, Vasco, in The Rattle Bag, 171ff.
A brushstroke is always broad by comparison to one that is finer…. there is always a place for generalities as long as one remains mindful of the fact that in the process of resorting to them one is sacrificing detail.
Cabezon, J I, ‘Buddhism and Science’, in Wallace, B. A. (ed), Buddhism and Science (Columbia University Press, New York, 2003).
Men of democratic centuries like general ideas because they exempt them from studying particular cases; they contain… many things in a small volume and give out a large product in a little time. When, therefore, after an inattentive and brief examination, they believe they perceive a common relation among certain objects, they do not push their research further, and without examining in detail how these various objects resemble each other or differ, they hastened to arrange them under the same formula in order to get past them.
De Tocqueville, Alexis, Democracy in America, quoted in Crawford, Matthew, The Case for Working with Your Hands (Penguin, 2009), 227.
We think in generalities but we live in detail.
Whitehead, A N, quoted by Don Gifford, The Farther Shore (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1990), 237.
Men ought so to procure serenity as they destroy not magnanimity.
Bacon, Francis, The Advancement of Learning, II, xxi, 5.
I love him whose soul is lavish, who neither wants nor returns thanks: for he always gives, and will not preserve himself.
Nietzsche, Zarathustra, 4.
Again and again one finds that generosity flowers most freely in cruel soil, as though inhumanity is the best fertiliser for it. That is not a pessimistic conclusion, given that inhumanity seems to be available in limitless quantities. (p 387)
The favourite instrument for dealing with danger used to be magic, which controlled the meeting of the invisible with the visible, and it brought fear. Today, love is the magic most people believe in, when two strangers meet and discover they cannot live except in each other’s arms, which also brings fear, the fear of losing love. The small family based itself on this magic. However, there is a third kind of magic, in which an individual can make a difference to the way the world revolves, by helping another individual without asking anything in return, without offending pride, without curtailing freedom, being purely and simply generous. (p 391)
Zeldin, Theodore, An Intimate History of Humanity (Minerva, 1995).
GENEROSITY see GOLD, 5/98
[Shakespeare’s works] seem as if they were performances of some celestial genius, descending among men to make them, by the mildest instructions, acquainted with themselves. They are no fictions! You would think, while reading them, you stood before the unclosed, awful Books of Fate, while the whirlwind of most impassioned life was howling through the leaves, and tossing them fiercely to and fro. The strength and tenderness, the power and peacefulness of this man, have so astonished and transported me, that I long vehemently for the time when I shall have it in my power to read further.
… It seems as if he cleared up every one of our enigmas to us, though we cannot say: here or there is the word of solution. … The few glances I have cast over Shakespeare’s world incite me, more than anything else beside, to quicken my footsteps forwards into the actual world, to mingle in the flood of destinies that is suspended over it; and at length, if I shall prosper, to draw a few cups from the great ocean of true nature, and to distribute them from off the stage among the thirsting people of my native land. [Wilhelm Meister speaking; he wants to revive the German Theatre.]
Goethe, Wilhelm Meister, Carlyle’s translation (Collier, New York, 1962), 188-9.
You ask why the torrent of genius so rarely pours forth, so rarely floods and thunders and overwhelms your astonished soul? –Because, dear friends, on either bank dwell the cool, respectable gentlemen, whose summerhouses, tulip beds and cabbage patches would all be washed away, and who are therefore highly skilled in averting future dangers in good time, by damming and digging channels.
Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther, Hulse trs (Penguin, 1989, 1st ed 1774), 16. Werther writing.
When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.
Swift, Jonathan, ‘Thoughts on Various Subjects, Moral and Diverting’.
GENIUS see CHAUCER, 5/92
In giving you are throwing a bridge across the chasm of your solitude.
St.-Exupery, The Wisdom of the Sands (Hollis and Carter, 1952), 146.
GOAL see EFFORT, 4/85; UNIVERSAL IDEAL, 5/98
I reverence the individual who understands distinctly what it is he wishes; who unweariedly advances, who knows the means conducive to his object, and can seize and use them. How far his object may be great or little, may merit praise or censure, is the next consideration with me. Believe me, love, most part of all the misery and mischief, of all that is denominated evil in the world, arises from the fact that men are too remiss to get a proper knowledge of their aims, and when they do know them, to work intensively in attaining them. They seem to me like people who have taken up a notion, that they must and will erect a tower and who yet expend on the foundation not more stones and labour than would be sufficient for a hut. [Follows CREATIVITY quote.]
Goethe, Wilhelm Meister, Carlyle’s translation (Collier, New York, 1962), 372.
Every goal is a grave, when you get there.
Lawrence, D H, from ‘Him With His Tail in His Mouth’, in Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine and Other Essays.
Frye, Northrop, Fearful Symmetry (Princeton, 1947), 32.
Given a Godchild
I must find a god
worthy of her. Dante
refused – in courtesy
(he said) to the god
he venerated, to wipe
a sinner’s eyes in hell:
I must tell her that
one day, and see
that she ponders well
what she takes to be
the dues of deity –
and learn that a god
who harbours anger where
thirst has no slaking,
eyes no ease,
is either of her own
or other’s making.
Tomlinson, Charles, “For a Godchild”, in Annunciations, quoted Independent, 24 February 1990, 28.
Man in his creative acts and perceptions is God, and God is Man. God is the eternal, and the worship of God is self-development. [Paraphrasing Blake; p 30.]… the god of official Christianity… is good, and we are evil; yet, though he created us, he is somehow or other not responsible for us being evil, though he would consider it blasphemous either to assert that he is or to deny his omnipotence. All calamities and miseries are his will, and to that will we must be absolutely resigned even in thought and desire. … He keeps a grim watch over everything men do, and will finally put most of them in hell to scream eternally in torment… A few, however, who have done as they have been told, that is, have done nothing creative, will be granted an immortality of the ‘pie in the sky when you die’ variety. [pp 61-2.] He constantly relapses into Fate or Necessity as soon as his pretensions are examined at all seriously. (p 63.)
Frye, Northrop, Fearful Symmetry (Princeton University Press, 1969, second edition).
[On God’s malice etc., see (especially the lines starting “From an eternity of idleness…”):]
Shelley, “Queen Mab”.
GOD, 6/92; GOD, 5/94
GOD, IMMORTALITY AND DUTY
How inconceivable the first, how unbelievable the second, how peremptory and absolute the third.
Eliot, George, quoted in Ashton, R, George Eliot (Oxford, 1983), 99.
It is often said that a new religion brands the gods of the old one as devils. But in reality they have probably already become devils by that time.
Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, 15.
[An aim of spiritual life is:] going forth from all things that are without, and from the desires and imperfections that are in the sensual part of man because of the disordered state of his reason.
St. John of the Cross, Complete Works; edited E A Peers (Burns, Oates & Washbourne, 1934), I, 17. Quoted by Dharmasiri, A Buddhist Critique of the Christian Concept of God, 165.
There is a time for departure even when there’s no certain place to go.
Williams, Tennessee, Camino Real (1953).
GOING FORTH see RENOUNCING THE WORLD, 9/93
Only as an image of the highest virtue did gold come to have the highest value. Gold-like gleams the glance of the giver. Gold-lustre makes peace between moon and sun.
The highest virtue [like gold] is uncommon and useless, it is shining and mellow in lustre: the highest virtue is a bestowing virtue.
Nietzsche, Zarathustra, “Of the Bestowing Virtue, I”.
There would not be counterfeiters if there were not real gold.
GOOD AND EVIL
I do not consider either the Just or the Wicked to be in a Supreme State, but to be every one of them States of the Sleep which the Soul may fall into in its deadly dreams of Good and Evil when it leaves Paradise following the Serpent. … The Combats of Good and Evil is Eating of the Tree of Knowledge. The Combats of Truth and error is Eating of the Tree of Life.
Blake, Vision of the Last Judgement, 86 and 90.
GOOD AND EVIL PEOPLE see HUMAN QUALITIES, 4/87; IGNORANCE AS VICE, 3/03
[Levin realised that] this faculty of working for the public good, of which he felt himself utterly devoid, was possibly not so much a quality as a lack of something –not a lack of good, honest, noble desires and tastes, but a lack of vital force, of what is called heart, of that impulse which drives a man to choose someone out of the innumerable paths of life, and to care only for that one. The better he knew his brother, the more he noticed that Sergey Ivanovitch, and many other people who worked for the public welfare, were not led by an impulse of the heart to care for the public good, but reasoned from intellectual considerations that it was a right thing to take interest in public affairs, and consequently took interest in them.
Tolstoy, Leo, Anna Karenina (Translated by Constance Garnett) Part 3 Ch 1.
[Goya’s early pictures. They are conventional except for one character looking out of the group at you.]
Lessing, Doris, Briefing for a Descent into Hell, 228.
GRADUAL PROGRESS see STEP-BY-STEP, 6/07
GRASPING see PERCEPTION, 10/06
You can have what you want, but can’t have it for long.
That’s the rule.
Bringurst, Robert, from Selected Poems, quoted Sunday Times Review, 9/8/09, p12.
I have braved, for want of wild beasts, steel cages,
carved my term and nickname on bunks and rafters,
lived by the sea, flashed aces in an oasis,
dined with the-devil-knows-whom, in tails, on truffles.
From the height of a glacier, I beheld half the world, the earthly
width. Twice have drowned, thrice let knives rake my nitty-gritty.
Quit the country that bore and nursed me.
Those who forgot me would make a city.
I have waded the steppes that saw yelling Huns in saddles,
worn the clothes nowadays back in fashion in every quarter,
planted rye, tarred the roofs of pigsties and stables,
guzzled everything save dry water.
I’ve admitted the sentries’ third eye into my wet and foul
dreams. Munched the bread of exile: it’s stale and warty.
Granted my lungs all sounds except the howl;
switched to a whisper. Now I am forty.
What shall I say about life? That it’s long and abhors transparence.
Broken eggs make me grieve; the omelette though makes me vomit.
Yet until brown clay has been crammed down my larynx,
only gratitude will be gushing from it.
Brodsky, Joseph, “May 24th 1980″, in To Urania…, in Collected Poems (Carcanet, 2001), 211 .
If you stand still there is only one way to go, and that’s backwards.
Shilton, Peter, quoted in B Fantoni, Colemanballs (Private Eye, 1984).
GRAVITY see LAUGHTER, 4/98
GREATNESS see HERO, 10/95; RESPONSIBILITY, 12/99
GREECE, ANCIENT see WORLD ORDER, NEW, 4/99
A man is satisfied not by the quantity of food, but by the absence of greed.
Gurdjieff, G L, Meetings with Remarkable Men (Picador, 1978), 46. (A saying of his father’s)
Consumption is thus always evolving into something more complex. Greed and altruism were once enemies, desire and abstinence were once the only alternatives. But desire can find its consummation in generosity, and greed in curiosity. It is a question of knowing what one values most. Humans have never been simply passive victims of their desires, but have played with them, polished them.
Zeldin, Theodore, An Intimate History of Humanity (Minerva, 1995), 296.
GREED, LACK OF see HEBRIDEANS
GREEK GODS see DIVINE, THE, 12/99
Reach me a handkerchief,
And yet another, for the last is wet.
Anon, “A Funeral Elegy upon the Death of George Sands, Esq.” in Wyndham Lewis’s The Stuffed Owl.
We stood here in the coupledom of us.
I showed her this – a pool with leaping trout,
Split-second saints drawn in a rippled nimbus.//
We heard the boys in the night-trees shout.
Dusk was an insect-hovered dark water,
The calling of lost children, stars coming out.//
With all the feelings of a widower
Who does not live there now, I dream my place.
I go by the soft paths, alone with her.//
Dusk is listening, a whispered grace
Voiced on a bank, a time that is all ears
For the snapped twig, the strange wind on your face.//
She waits at the door of the hemisphere
In her harvest dress, in the remote
Local August that is everywhere and here.//
What rustles in the leaves, if it is not
What I asked for, an opening of doors
To a half-heard religious anecdote?//
Monogamous swans on the darkened mirrors
Picture the private grace of man and wife
In its white poise, it’s sleepy portraitures.//
Night is his Dog Star, it’s eyelet of grief
The high, lit echo of the starry sheaves.
A puff of hedge-dust loosens in the leaves.
Such love that lingers on the fields of life!
[Dunn’s wife Lesley died of cancer, aged 37, in 1981. Also see many of the other poems in this collection, especially pages 18-23, 25, 31, 33, 35, 39, 40.]
Dunn, Douglas, from Elegies (Faber, 1985), 47.
Griefs, at the moment when they change into ideas, lose some of the power to injure our heart.
Proust (or possibly Alain de Botton paraphrasing him), quoted by Edmund White, Observer Review, 13 April 1997, 16.
Happiness is good for the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind.
Proust, quoted The Week, 4 March 2000, 9.
GRIEVANCE see LENIENCY 8/2000
But far more numerous was the herd of such
Who think too little and who talk too much.
These out of mere instinct, they knew not why,
Adored their father’s God and property,
And by the same blind benefit of Fate
The Devil and the Jebusite did hate:
Born to be saved even in their own despite,
Because they could not help believing right.
Dryden, John, Absalom and Achitophel, lines 534-40.
Nothing is so rooted in my mind than the vast distinction between the individual and the class. Take a man by himself, and there is generally some reason to be found in him, some disposition for good; mass him with his fellows in the social organism, and ten to one he becomes a blatant creature, without a thought of his own, ready for any evil to which contagion prompts him. It is because nations tend to stupidity and baseness that mankind moves so slowly; it is because individuals have a capacity for better things that it moves at all.
Gissing, George, The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft (Oxford University Press, 1987, first edition 1903), 35-6.
The Term [Eric Erikson’s pseudo-speciation] denotes the fact that while man is obviously one species, he appears and continues on the scene split up into groups (from tribes to nations, from castes to classes, from religions to ideologies) that provide their members with a firm sense of distinct and superior identity – and immortality. This demands, however, that each group invent for itself a place and a moment in the very centre of the universe where and when an especially provident deity caused it to be created superior to all others, the mere mortals.
Gifford, Don, The Farther Shore (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1990), 209.
I say herdsmen, but they call themselves the good and the just. I say herdsmen, but they call themselves the faithful of the true faith.
Behold the good and the just [repeated for the faithful of the true faith]! Whom do they hate most? Him who smashes the tables of values, the breaker, the law-breaker – but he is the creator.
Nietzsche, Zarathustra, 9.
Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one!
Mackay,Charles, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, (from Preface, 1841)
GROUP see NOBILITY, 4/98
Groups have never thirsted after Truth. They demand illusions, and cannot do without them.
Freud, Sigmund, Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego. [Joseph Bion says he is quoting Le Bon.]
GROWTH THROUGH DEATH OF SELF see SELF-TRANSCENDENCE, 2/01
Guilt always hurried towards its complement, punishment: only there does its satisfaction lie.
Durrell, Lawrence, Justine (Faber), 147-8.
GUILT see RESPONSIBILITY, 12/99
Under every guilty secret there is hidden a brood of guilty wishes, whose unwholesome, infecting life is cherished by the darkness. The contaminating effect of deeds often lies less in the commission than in the consequent adjustment of our desires – the enlistment of self-interest on the side of falsity; as on the other hand, the purifying influence of public confession springs from the fact that by it the hope in lies is for ever swept away, and the soul recovers the noble attitude of simplicity.
Eliot, George, Romola (Penguin, 1980), 151.