LACK see YEARNING, 6/98
A damp place where birds fly around uncooked.
Krutch, Joseph Wood, in John Grigg, The Wit’s Dictionary (Angus and Robertson, Australia, 1984).
Language is a perpetual Orphic song,
Which rules with Daedal harmony a throng
Of thoughts and forms, which else Senseless and shapeless were.
Shelley, Prometheus unbound, iv, 415.
The limits of your language are the limits of your world.
Wittgenstein Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus 5.6. Trs D. F. Pears & B. F. McGuinness (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1961).
LANGUAGE ONLY POINTING
Wittgenstein… recognised that language built on logic could only say what isn’t: but that by sighting along it — looking where it pointed — we could see what is; and ‘Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.’ This was the famous conclusion of his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, whose punctiliously numbered sentences stop dead there, followed by an empty expressiveness of paper.
Kaplan, Robert, The Nothing That Is (Penguin, 1999), 85.
LANGUAGE see WORDS, 1/90; PHILOSOPHY, 4/99; WORD, 4/99; TRUTH, LANGUAGE AND, 10/2000
LANGUAGE, POVERTY OF
Well, language does not match up to the complexity of things. I think that the philosopher Whitehead talks of the paradox of the perfect dictionary, that is, the idea of supposing that all the words that a dictionary registers exhaust reality. Chesterton also wrote about this, saying that it is absurd to suppose that all the nuances of human consciousness, which are more vast than a jungle, can be contained in a mechanical system of grunts which would be, in this case, the words spoken by a stockbroker. That’s absurd and yet people talk of a perfect language, of a rich language, but in comparison to our consciousness language is very poor. I think that somewhere Stevenson says that what happens in ten minutes exceeds all Shakespeare’s vocabulary [laughs]. I believe it’s the same idea.
Borges, from interview, ‘Borges and God’, qupted New York Review of Books, November 2014.
When a man bleeds inwardly it is a dangerous thing to himself; but when he laughs inwardly, it bodes no good to other people.
Dickens, The Pickwick Papers, Chapter 31.
I should believe only in a God who understood how to dance. And when I beheld my devil, I found him serious, thorough, profound, solemn: it was the spirit of gravity – through him all things are ruined.
One does not kill by anger but by laughter. Come, let us kill the spirit of gravity!
Nietzsche, Zarathustra, “Of Reading and Writing”.
LAUGHTER see DELIGHT AND LAUGHTER, 5/92
[Learning is] this purifying of wit – this enriching of memory, enabling of judgement, and enlarging of conceit. [The ability to store arguments, arrange them, and invent new ones (note).]
[The deficiencies of learning, or the ‘serving sciences’:] the astronomer, looking to the stars, might fall in a ditch, … the inquiring philosopher might be blind in himself, and the mathematician might draw forth a straight line with a crooked heart.
Sidney, Sir Philip, Defence Of Poetry (Oxford University Press, 1966, first edition 1595, dates 1554-86), 28-9.
LEARNING AND TRADITION
We shed as we pick up, like travellers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those behind. The procession is very long and life is very short. [Septimus Hodge is talking.]
Stoppard, Tom, Arcadia, quoted Guardian Review, 22/6/02, 22.
LEAVING (PARTNER LEAVING ONE)
When a clatter came,
It was horses crossing the ford.
When the air creaked, it was
A lapwing seeing us off the premises
Of its private marsh. A snuffling puff
Ten yards from the boat was the tide blocking,
Unblocking a hole in a rock.
When the black drums rolled, it was water
Falling sixty feet into itself.//
When the door
Scraped shut, it was the end
Of all the sounds there are.//
You left me
Beside the quietest fire in the world.//
I thought I was hurt in my pride only,
When you plunge your hand in freezing water,
A bangle of ice round your wrist
Before the whole hand goes numb.
MacCaig, Norman, “Sounds of the Day”, in The Rattle Bag.
If I’m ever to reach any understanding of myself and the things around me, I must learn to stand alone. That’s why I can’t stay here with you any longer.
Ibsen, Henrik, A Doll’s House.
LEG see ONENNESS, 6/85
Everything hath two handles: the one soft and manageable, the other such as will not endure to be touched. If then your brother does you an injury, do not take it by the hot and hard handle, by representing to your self all the aggravating circumstances of the fact; but look rather on the soft side, and extenuate it as much as is possible, by considering the nearness of the relation, and the long friendship and familiarity between you, obligations to kindness, which a single provocation ought not to dissolve. And thus you will take the accident by its manageable handle.
Epictetus, Enchiridion, from Simplicius’ commentary, ch 64, trs George Stanhope, 1722.
Given any degree of comfort, we still relax into lethargy, into that kind of existence said to be enjoyed by a jellyfish floating in a tepid, tideless, twilight sea.
Berril, N J, Man’s Emerging Mind (Dobson, 1958).
A great drowsiness benumbs from my awakening until evening. I am gradually losing the habit of effort… Sensual pleasure permeates everything; my finest virtues are dissipated and even the expression of my despair is blunted.
Gide, André, quoted The Week, 26 August 2000, 39.
LETTING GO see LOVE, 6/98
It seems to be our liberal political instincts that push us in this direction of centralising authority; we distrust authority in the hands of individuals. With its reverence for neutral process, liberalism is, by design, the politics of irresponsibility. This begins with the best of intentions – securing our liberties against the abuse of power – but has become a kind of monster that feeds on individual agency, especially for those who work in the public sector. In the private sector, the monster is created by profit maximisation rather than distrust of authority, but it demands a similar diet.
Crawford, Matthew, The Case for Working with Your Hands (Penguin, 2009), 45.
LIBERALISM see HUMANISM, 12/02
You cannot free a man who dwells in a desert and is an unfeeling brute. There is no liberty except the liberty of someone making his way towards something.
St.-Exupery, Flight to Arras, 154.
A truth that’s told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent.
Blake, from “Auguries of Innocence”.
A man in no case has liberty to tell lies…. In fact, if a man have any purpose reaching beyond the hour and day, meant to be found extant next day, what good can it ever be to promulgate lies? The lies are found out; ruinous penalty is exacted for them. No man will believe the liar next time even when he speaks the truth, when it is of the last important that he be believed. The old cry of wolf! — A lie is a no-thing; you cannot of nothing make something; you make nothing at last, and lose your labour into the bargain.
Carlyle, On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History (1840), Lecture VI.
LIES see GUILTY SECRETS, 5/94; MUNDANE, 4/97; IMAGINATION, 6/98
The life of this world
Is ruled with wind,
With wind we blowen,
With wind we lassen;
With weepinge we comen,
With weepinge we passen;
With steryinge we beginnen,
With steryinge we enden;
With drede we dwellen,
With drede we wenden.
[Wind: breathing. Steryinge: commotion. Blowen: flower. Lassen: fade. Dwellen: live. Wenden: depart.]
Anon, “This Life”. In Faber Book of Contemplative Verse.
Every life is many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love. But always meeting ourselves.
Joyce, James, Ulysses. Quoted by Vajrapushpa.
Human life is driven forward by its dim apprehension of notions too general for its existing language.
Whitehead, A N, quoted in Berril, N J, Man’s Emerging Mind (Dobson, 1958).
Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
Keller, Helen, quoted Robbins, Awakening the Giant Within, 52.
We love life not because we are used to living, but because we are used to loving. (“Of Reading and Writing”)
‘Life is only suffering’ – Thus others of them [Preachers of Death] speak, and they do not lie: so see to it that you cease to live! So see to it that the life which is only suffering ceases! (“Of the Preachers of Death”.)
What to do? Stay Green. …
Live large, man, and dream small.
[A hale old countryman’s advice.]
Graves, Robert, from “Lore”.
And old lady sat in a party and talked of her life. She declared that she would like to live at all over again, and held this fact to prove that she had lived wisely. I thought: Yes, her life has been the sort of life that should really be taken twice before you can say that you have had it. An arietta you can take da capo, but not a whole piece of music — not a symphony and not a five-act tragedy either. If it is taken over again it is because it has not gone as it ought to have gone
My life, I will not let you go except you bless me, but then I will let you go.
Blixen, Karen, Out Of Africa (Penguin, 1984, first edition 1937), 194.
Life only avails, not the having lived. Power ceases in the instant of repose; it resides in the moment of transition from the past to a new state, in the shooting of a gulf, in the darting to an aim. This one factor turns all riches to poverty, all reputation to shame, confounds the saint with the rogue, shoves Jesus and Judas equally aside. Why, then, do we prate of self-reliance? Inasmuch as the soul is present, there will be power not confident but agent. To talk of reliance is a poor external way of speaking. Speak rather of that which relies, because it works and is.
Emerson, from ‘Self-Reliance’, quoted Guardian Review, 24/05/03, 4.
Life is a mess – we do not remember being born, and death, as Ludwig Wittgenstein wisely said, is not an experience in life, so all we have is this chaotic middle bit, bristling with loose ends, in which nothing is ever properly finished or done with.
Banville, John, Daily Telegraph Online, 11/02/07
LIFE IN DEATH
The splendours of the firmament of time
May be eclipsed, but are extinguished not;
Like stars to their appointed height they climb,
And death is a low mist which cannot blot
The brightness it may veil. When lofty thought
Lifts a young heart above its mortal lair,
And love and life contend in it, for what
Shall be its earthly doom, the dead live there
And move like winds of light on dark and stormy air…
LIFE see ART, 5/87; SOLITUDE, 2/90; PROCREATION, 12/91; CHAOS, 4/99; RELIGION AND LIFE, 8/99; INTERCONNECTION, 2/02; PROGRESS IN HISOTORY, 8/13
LIFE, DEFINITION OF
A living system is: A. a self-organised non-equilibrium system, such that: B. its processes are governed by a programme which is stored symbolically, and: C. it can reproduce itself, including the programme.
Smolin, Lee, The Life of the Cosmos (Phoenix, 1998, first edition 1997), 194.
I am an emergent, quasi-autonomous flow of information in the multiverse.
Deutsch, David , The Beginning of Infinity (Allen Lane, 2011), quoted Guardian review, 3/12/11.
To take a view at once distinct and comprehensive of human life, with all its intricacies of combination, and varieties of connexion, is beyond the power of mortal intelligences.
Johnson, Samuel, Rambler, 63.
LIFE, KNOWLEDGE OF see WISDOM, 1/90
LIFE, MEANING OF
I do not see why the very existence of an invisible world may not in part depend on the personal response which any of us make to the religious appeal. … If this life be not a real fight, in which something is eternally gained by success, it is no better than a game of private theatricals from which one may withdraw at will. [He goes on to talk about our deepest nature being the will that fights thus…]
James, William, “The Will to Believe”, in Bridges, The Spirit of Man, 425.
LIFE, MEANING OF
… he had been stricken with horror, not so much of death, as of life, without any knowledge of whence, and why, and how, and what it was. The physical organization, its decay, the indestructibility of matter, the law of the conservation of energy, evolution, were the words which usurped the place of his old belief. These words and the ideas associated with them were very well for intellectual purposes. But for life they yielded nothing, and Levin felt suddenly like a man who has changed his warm fur cloak for a muslin garment, and going for the first time into the frost is immediately convinced, not by reason, but by his whole nature that he is as good as naked, and that he must infallibly perish miserably. [Part 8 Ch 8]
“By reason could I [Levin speaking] have arrived at knowing that I must love my neighbor and not oppress him? I was told that in my childhood, and I believed it gladly, for they told me what was already in my soul. But who discovered it? Not reason. Reason discovered the struggle for existence, and the law that requires us to oppress all who hinder the satisfaction of our desires. That is the deduction of reason. But loving one’s neighbor reason could never discover, because it’s irrational.” [Part 8 Ch 12]
“This new feeling has not changed me, has not made me happy and enlightened all of a sudden, as I had dreamed, just like the feeling for my child. There was no surprise in this either. Faith–or not faith–I don’t know what it is–but this feeling has come just as imperceptibly through suffering, and has taken firm root in my soul.
I shall go on in the same way, losing my temper with Ivan the coachman, falling into angry discussions, expressing my opinions tactlessly; there will be still the same wall between the holy of holies of my soul and other people, even my wife; I shall still go on scolding her for my own terror, and being remorseful for it; I shall still be as unable to understand with my reason why I pray, and I shall still go on praying; but my life now, my whole life apart from anything that can happen to me, every minute of it is no more meaningless, as it was before, but it has the positive meaning of goodness, which I have the power to put into it.” [Part 8 Ch 19 — end of the novel.]
Tolstoy, Leo, Anna Karenina (Translated by Constance Garnett)
When one subtracts from life infancy (which is vegetation), sleeping, eating and swilling, buttoning and un-buttoning, how much remains of downright existence? The summer of a dormouse.
Byron, quoted in Daily Telegraph, 6 March 1999, 20.
LIFE, VALUE OF see HUMANITY, VALUE OF, 12/13
LIFE-STORY INDUCES EMPATHY
If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each person’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.
Longfellow, H W in Bartlett‘s Familiar Quotations.
[The poet’s crown:]
For it will be made of pure light alone
Drawn from the sacred source of every light,
And mortal eyes, as radiant as noon
Are mournful mirrors of its splendour bright.
Baudelaire, ‘Benediction’, from Les Fleurs du Mal.
Luce intelletual piena d’amore. (The light of the mind is clarified/warmed by love).
Dante, quoted in Urthona No 1.
LIGHT AND SEEING
I say therefore that semblances of things
And tenuous shapes are thrown off from their surface…
Therefore it needs be that in like manner
Idols can course through inexpressible space
In a moment of time…
… but because we can perceive them
With our eyes only, therefore it comes to pass
That to whatever side we turn our sight,
There all things strike it with their shape and colour.
Lucretius, from ‘On the Nature of Things’, Book IV, trs Trevelyan (CUP 1937).
LIGHT, LONGING FOR, see SELF-TRANSCENDENCE, 2/01
… lightning’s lavish
Annunciation, the sword of the mad archangel
Flashed from the scabbard.
MacNeice, Louis, from “June Thunder”, in 1954 Palgrave.
LIKES AND DISLIKES
To set up what you like against what you dislike- this is the disease of the mind.
Limit gives form to the limitless.
Pythagoras, quoted by Alban Leigh, Jalaka, 9/02.
The last and greatest art is to limit and isolate oneself.
Goethe, Quoted by Eckermann in his Gesprache mit Goethe, 20 April 1825.
Lincoln was a strong man and, like most men quietly confident of his strength, without vanity or self-consciousness. He was also tender. Donald recounts an incident right at the end of Lincoln’s life which to me is very revealing. After the fall of Richmond, the Confederate capital, and on the same day that Lee finely surrendered, Lincoln went to see his Secretary of State, William Seward, a man with whom he often disagreed and whom he did not particularly like. Seward had somehow contrived to break both his arm and his jaw. Lincoln found him not merely bedridden but quite unable to move his head. Without a moment’s hesitation, the President stretched out at full-length on the bed and, resting on his elbow, brought his face near to Seward’s, and they held an urgent, whispered consultation on the next steps that the Administration should take. Then Lincoln talked quietly to the agonised man until he drifted off to sleep.
Lincoln could easily have used the excuse of Seward’s incapacity to avoid consulting him at all. But that was not his way. He invariably did the right thing, however easily it might be avoided. Of how many other great men can that be said?
Johnson, Paul, book review in Sunday Telegraph, 7 January 1996.
LINCOLN see EQUALITY, 1/96
Literature is the orchestration of platitudes.
Wilder, Thornton, in John Grigg, The Wits Dictionary (Angus and Robertson, Australia, 1984).
Literature is a point outside of our hodiernal [present-day] circle through which a new one may be described. The use of literature is to afford us a platform whence we may command a view of our present life, a purchase by which we may move it.
Emerson, quoted by Andrew Delbanco, New York Review of Books, 4th November 1999, 34.
[Nabokov] attempted to instil a love of literature by the simple means of revealing his own love.
Amis, Martin, quoted in a book review, Telegraph, 23/4/01.
LIVING IN THE MOMENT see MOMENT, LIVING IN THE, 7/87
For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, or debt to be paid, then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.
Souza, Alfred D, unsourced.
Unless one sins against logic, one generally gets nowhere; … one cannot build a house or construct a bridge without using a scaffold which is really not one of its basic parts.
Einstein, letter to Slovene, quoted in Smolin, Lee, The Life of the Cosmos (Phoenix, 1998, first edition 1997), 278.
… in heaven the light of London, flaring like a dreary dawn.
Tennyson, Locksley Hall.
LONELINESS see BELONGING 12/03
Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast
In a field I looked into going past,
And the ground almost covered smooth in snow,
But a few weeds and stubble showing last.//
The woods around it have it – it is theirs.
All animals are smothered in their lairs.
I am too absent-spirited to count;
The loneliness includes me unawares.//
And lonely as it is that loneliness
Will be more lonely ere it will be less –
A blanker whiteness of benighted snow
With no expression, nothing to express.//
They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars – on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.
Frost, Robert, “Desert Places”, in The Rattle Bag.
LOOKING see ART 6/01
All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy, for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter into another.
France, Anatole, quoted in The 201 Best Things Ever Said (Great Quotations Publications, Illinois, 1993).
Unless one says goodbye to what one loves, and unless one travels to completely new territories, one can expect merely a long wearing away of oneself.
Dubuffet, Jean, quoted in The 201 Best Things Ever Said (Great Quotations Publications, Illinois, 1993).
When the heart weeps for what it has lost, the spirit laughs at what is has gained.
LOST YET GOING ON
Where I am, I don’t know, I’ll never know, in the silence you don’t know, you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.
Beckett, Samuel, The Unnamable (1959), 418
Go not, O go not into the garden of flowers;
Friend, go not thither.
In thy body is the garden of flowers.
Take thy seat on the thousand-petalled Lotus,
And gaze thence on the infinite beauty.
Kabir, translated by Tagore, “100 Poems” (1914), (i), 58. (In Bridges, The Spirit of Man.)
The sun it shines so cold, so cold, when there are no eyes to look love on me.
Eliot, George, 1869 letter to John Cross, quoted Barbara Hardy, George Eliot: A Critic’s Biography (Continuum 2006), 102.
What is it you love in him you love? What is it you hate in him you hate? Answer this closely to yourself, pronounce it loudly, and you will know yourself and him.
Lavater, Aphorism 290
[Plato has Aristophanes relate a myth of primal Androgynes split down the middle by Zeus. (Men and women were also split.) When one encounters his other half:] the pair are lost in amazement of love and friendship and intimacy, … yet they could not explain what they desire of one another. For the intense yearning which each of them has towards the other does not appear to be the desire of lovers’ intercourse, but of something else which the soul of either evidently desires and cannot tell, and of which she has only a dark and doubtful presentiment. [They desire unity, restoring a state where there was no distinction.]
Plato, Symposium, Jowett’s translation.
Every human being deserves to be looked at in this way at least once in a lifetime – loved and venerated for what is authentically divine in him or her.
Lilar, Susanne, Aspects of Love, translated by J Griffin (Panther, 1967), 188.
In real love you want the other person’s good. In romantic love you want the other person.
Anderson, Margaret (in Marcus Mendez’ quotes pamphlet, Out of the Blue, 12/92).
For this is wrong, if anything is wrong:
not to enlarge the freedom of a love
with all the inner freedom one can summon.
We need, in love, to practise only this:
letting each other go. For holding on
comes easily; we do not need to learn it. (from “Requiem”, p85)
[And] … For there is a boundary to looking.
And the world that is looked at so deeply
wants to flourish in love.//
Work of the eyes is done, now
go and do heart-work
on all the images imprisoned within you; for you
overpowered them: but even now you don’t know them.
Learn, inner man, to look on your inner woman,
the one attained from a thousand
natures, the merely attained but
not yet beloved form. (From “Turning Point”, p135.)
… [and: love is:] two solitudes that protect and border and greet each other. (Quoted on p xxxiv.)
Rilke, trans. Stephen Mitchell, Selected Poetry …, (Picador/Pan, 1987).
Is it not well done that our language has but one word for all kinds of love, from the holiest to the most lustfully fleshly? All ambiguity is therein resolved: love cannot but be physical, at its furthest stretch of holiness; it cannot be impious, in its utterest fleshliness. It is always itself… it is organic sympathy, the touching the sense-embrace of that which is doomed to decay. In the most raging as in the most reverent passion, there must be caritas. The meaning of the word varies? In God’s name, then, let it vary. That it does so makes it living, makes it human.
Mann, Thomas, The Magic Mountain (Penguin, 1960, Lowe-Porter trans., 1st ed. 1924), 599.
How often he had told himself [Vronsky of Anna] that her love was happiness; and now she loved him as a woman can love when love has outweighed for her all the good things of life–and he was much further from happiness than when he had followed her from Moscow. Then he had thought himself unhappy, but happiness was before him; now he felt that the best happiness was already left behind.
Tolstoy, Leo, Anna Karenina (Translated by Constance Garnett), Part 4 Ch 3.
To love is good, love being difficult. For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.
Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, translated John Mood (Rilke on Love and Other Difficulties, Norton, 1975, 31).
[Someone’s] atempt to describe his latest infatuation… [is really in] negative statements describing the person who’s saying them! // Wonderful. Indescribable.
— (I can’t figure out what attracts me to her.)
I scarcely can think of anything else.
— (Most of my mind has stopped working.)
Unbelievably perfect. Incredible.
— (No sensible person believes such things.)
She has a flawless character.
— (I’ve abandoned my critical faculties.)
There is nothing I would not do for her.
— (I’ve forsaken most of my usual goals.)
Minsky, Marvin, The Emotion Machine (Simon & Schuster, 2006) (quoted Edge 203, online).
The reason that love is so painful is that it always amounts to two people wanting more than two people can give.
O’Brien, Edna, The Love Object (Faber, 2013), quoted Telegraph, 23/10/13.
LOVE AND DEATH
Though I am young and cannot tell
Either what Love or Death is well,
Yet I have heard they both bear darts
And both do aim at human hearts….
Jonson, Ben, in Walter de la Mare’s Come Hither anthology (Constable, 1923).
LOVE MODE AND POWER PODE
The specific statement with regard to direction through power is first made in Aaron’s Rod. Although Lilly’s function is contaminated by a concern for power, which, as demonstrated in the previous section, is a concern merely for the individual separation, he [D H Lawrence] indicates that the new direction is specifically opposed to the sympathetic love ethic of the orthodox religion: “once the love mode changes, as change it must, for we are becoming worn out and evil in its persistence, then the other mode will take place in us.” [D H Lawrence, Aaron’s Rod (Viking Press, 1965), 289]. Direction through power is seen as pre-idealistic, as basic to the pre-Christian religious forms: “We’ve got to accept the power motive, accept it in deep responsibility, do you understand me? It is a great life motive. It was the great dark power-urge which kept Egypt so intensely living for so many centuries. It is a vast dark source of life and strength in us now, waiting either to issue into true action, or to burst into cataclysm.” [ibid, 288.]
[Keith Sagar in The Art of D. H. Lawrence (CUP, 1966, 112) confirms Lawrence’s use of this contrast, and Bhante may have got it from John Middleton Murray, in D.H. Lawrence: son of woman (Cape, 1931, 222).]
Wright, Dennis William, Lawrence on Society (MA Thesis, McMasters University, 1968, found online), 56-7.
LOVE OVERCOMES EGOTISM?
Part of the magic of falling in love is that you have the illusion of escaping from the stranglehold of your egotism, and then there’s the period of sheer exaltation, when your new-found expansiveness of heart overspills beyond your loved one on to everyone within reach.
Behrens, Tim, The Monument (Cape, 1988), 66.
LOVE see EROS, 12/86; AWARENESS, THE UNCONSCIOUS, AND LOVE, 3/89; SENSE DESIRES/IMPRESSIONS, 5/92; SEX, 6/92; WISHES, 4/97; LIGHT, 1993; LIFE, 4/98; ALTRUISM, 5/98; IMPERMANENCE EXCEPT LOVE, 5/98; ONENESS, 5/98; GENEROSITY, 4/99; STARS, 3/06; DOMESTICITY, 1/07
Nor let his [King David’s, Absalom’s father] love enchant your generous mind;
‘Tis natures trick to propagate her kind.
Our fond begetters, who would never die,
Love but themselves in their posterity.
[Achitophel is speaking to Absalom]
Dryden, John, “Absalom & Achitophel”, lines 423-426.
If she [Rantzeva] had not considered her husband as the cleverest and best of men, she would not have fallen in love with him… but having fallen in love and married him whom she thought the best and cleverest of men, she naturally looked upon life and its aims in the way the best and cleverest of men looked at them. At first he thought the aim of life was to learn, and she therefore looked on study as the aim of life. He became a revolutionist and so did she. He could demonstrate very clearly that the existing state of things could not go on, and that it is everybody’s duty to fight this state, and to try to bring about conditions in which the individual could develop freely, etc. etc.; and she imagined that she really thought and felt all this, but in reality, she only regarded everything her husband thought as absolute truth, and only sought for perfect agreement, perfect identification of her own soul with his, which alone could give her full moral satisfaction.
Tolstoy, Resurrection, translated by Louise Maude (F R Henderson, 1900) 504-5.
No man can draw a free breath who does not share with other men a common and disinterested ideal. Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other, but looking outwards together in the same direction. [Aimer, ce n’est pas se regarder l’un l’autre, c’est regarder ensemble dans la même direction.] There is no comradeship except through union in the same high effort. Even in our age of material well-being this must be so. … Every pilot who has flown to the rescue of a comrade in distress knows that all joys are vain in comparison to this one.
St.-Exupery, Wind, Sand and Stars (Heineman, 1939), 268.
What the speaker [in Blake’s “On Another’s Sorrow”] knows is this: that sympathetic love (compare the ‘natural love’, explained by advantage and utility), while it certainly does not allow one to become another person, does cause one to concentrate one’s attention in them. The relationship of a sympathiser towards a sufferer is not that of an onlooker but of one disturbed to a degree where his own self becomes less and less attended to and the needs of the other dominate the feelings he has. The focus of the mind is moved to take in something of the awareness of another. … his actual knowledge of love or sympathy… is not mental and verbal (a matter of belief) but a function of his whole being, his experience, and so a matter of faith… (clear and certain awareness). …
Gillham, D G, Blake’s Contrary States (Cambridge U P, 1966), 109-10.
[Lavater says the] art to love your enemy consists in never losing sight of the MAN in him. [Blake comments:] none can see the man in the enemy; if he is indirectly so [an enemy] he is not truly an enemy; if maliciously, not a man. I cannot love my enemy, for my enemy is not a man but beast and devil, if I have any. I can love him as a beast and wish to beat him.
Blake, Complete Works (Oxford), 72.
Love took up the glass of Time, and turn’d it in his glowing hands;
Every moment, lightly shaken, ran itself in golden sands.
Love took up the harp of Life, and smote on all the chords with might;
Smote the chord of Self that, trembling, passed in music out of sight.
Tennyson, Locksley Hall.
To love is a necessity; to be loved a luxury.
Sangharakshita, Diary Leaves (1953)
LOVE, METTA see INNOCENCE, 6/85; WISHES, 4/97; LOVE, ROMANTIC, 7/94; CHASTITY, 6/2000
Stendhal, Scarlet and Black.
‘… Once seized, she ceased to be.’. … What mattered was the pursuit… I had been as great a fool as the man who, because he loved the music of the well-spring, filled his pitcher at it and placed it in his cupboard. But if I touch her not, I build her up before me like a temple. … (105-6)
When she asks you to give your time wholly to her and immure yourself in her love, she is inviting you to that selfishness of two-in-one which in their blindness men called the light of love, though it is but a sterile blaze, a wastage of your garners. I did not lay up my stores to house them in a woman and gloat over them. (152)
St.-Exupery, The Wisdom of the Sands (Hollis and Carter, 1952).
Eros, well I know you, if anyone does! With your torch you
Come to us, and it shines brightly for us in the dark.
Soon, however, you lead us down intricate paths; when we need it
Most of all, your bright torch, not to be trusted, goes out.
Goethe, Venetian epigrams, No 33, translated by Michael Hamburger.
Idle to imagine falling in love as a correspondence of minds, of thoughts; it is a simultaneous firing of two spirits engaged in the autonomous act of growing up. And the sensation is of something having noiselessly exploded inside each of them. Around this event, dazed and preoccupied, the lover moves examining his or her own experience; her gratitude alone, stretching away towards a mistaken donor, creates the illusion that she communicates with her fellow, but this is false. The loved object is simply one that has shared an experience at the same moment of time, narcissistically; and the desire to be near the beloved object is at first not due to the idea of possessing it, but simply to let the two experiences compare themselves, like reflections in different mirrors. All this may precede the first look, kiss or touch; precede ambition, pride or envy; precede the first declarations which mark the turning point – for from here love degenerates into habit, possession, and back into loneliness. [From the heroine’s diary. Assumes that the love is mutual!] (pp 49-50)
Lovers are never equally matched – do you think? One always overshadows the other and stunts his or her growth so that the overshadowed one must always be tormented by the desire to escape, to be free to grow. Surely this is the only tragic thing about love? [Clea speaking.] (p 243)
Durrell, Lawrence, Justine.
Oh shadows of love, inebriations of love, foretastes of love, trickles of love, but never yet the one true love.
O’Brien, Edna, Night (Penguin 1974)
She rested in my heart like a hare in the form
That is shaped to herself.
MacDonogh, Patrick, “She Walked Unaware”.
The night has a thousand eyes,
And the day but one;
Yet the light of the bright world dies
With the dying sun.//
The mind has a thousand eyes,
And the heart but one;
Yet the light of a whole life dies,
When love is done.
Boudillon, “Ailes d’Alouette”, in Bridges, Spirit of Man, No, 353.
But such a demon is love that I would not be surprised if in a queer sort of way his [Pursewarden’s] death actually enriched our love-making, filling it with the deceits on which the minds of women feed – the compost of secret pleasures and treacheries which are an inseparable part of every human relation. (p. 191)
… the idea of love… in the psyche of European man – the knowledge (or invention) of which was to make him the most vulnerable of creatures in the scale of being, subject to hunger’s that could only be killed by satiety, but never satisfied; which nourished a literature of affectation whose subject-matter would otherwise have belonged to religion – it’s true sphere of operation. (p. 47)
When you pluck a flower, the branch springs back into place. That is not true of the heart’s affections. (p 19, Clea speaking.)
… the cataract with which Aphrodite seals up the sick eyes of lovers, the thick, opaque form of a sacred sightlessness. (p 45.)
Durrell, Lawrence, Balthazar.
Alas! The love of women! It is known
To be a lovely and a fearful thing;
For all of theirs upon that die is thrown,
And if ’tis lost, life has no more to bring
To them but mockeries of the past alas,
And their revenge is as the tiger’s spring,
Deadly, and quick, and crushing; yet, as real
Torture is theirs, what they inflict they feel.
[Byron goes on to say that they are justified, since women’s lot is hard. …]
Byron, Don Juan, II, CXCIX.
Love never dies of starvation, but often of indigestion.
de l’Enclos, Nina, 1620-1705, in The Wit of Women.
To fall in love you have to be in a state of mind for it to take, like a disease.
Mitford, Nancy, in The Wit of Women.
I did not… invest her with any attributes save those she possessed. … According to my experience, the conventional notion of a lover cannot always be true. The unqualified truth is, that when I loved Estella with the love of a man, I loved her simply because I found her irresistible. Once for all; I knew to my sorrow, often and often, if not always, that I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be. Once for all; I loved her nonetheless because I knew it, and it had no more influence in restraining me, than if I had devoutly believed her to be human perfection. [Pip is speaking.]
Dickens, Great Expectations (Penguin), 53-4.
Alas, Love, I would thou couldst defend thyself as well as thou canst offend others. I wouldst those on whom thou dost attend could either put thee away, or yield good reason why they keep thee.
Sidney, Sir Philip, A Defence of Poetry (Oxford University Press, 1966, first edition 1595), 54.
[Dead lover as future completion of life, see:]
Browning, “Evelyn Hope”.
“It is True”
Oh what an effort it is
to love you as I do!//
For love of you, the air,
and my hat hurt me.//
Who will buy of me
this ribbon I have
and this grief of white
linen to make handkerchiefs?//
Oh what an effort it is
to love you as I do!
Lorca, translated by de Onis.
Wilhelm… transferred the whole wealth of his emotions to her, and looked upon himself as a beggar that lived upon her alms; and as a landscape is more delightful, nay, is delightful only, when it is enlightened by the sun, so likewise in his eyes were all things beautified and glorified which lay around her or related to her.
Goethe, Wilhelm Meister, Carlyle’s translation (Collier, New York, 1962), 70.
I loathe her, yet love her. And if you ask
How that can be,
I have no answer. But it’s what I feel,
And it’s agony.
Catullus, trans. Lionel Casson, in his Classical Age (Laurel, Dell, NY, 1965), 463.
In the lonely canyons of the modern city, there is no more honoured emotion than love. However, this is not the love of which religions speak, not the expansive, universal brotherhood of mankind; it is a more jealous, restricted and ultimately meaner variety. It is a romantic love that sends us on a maniacal quest for a single person with whom we hope to achieve a lifelong and complete communion, one person in particular who will spare us any need for people in general.
De Botton, Alain, ‘An atheist at Christmas’, Guardian Weekend, 24 December 2011, 31.
He remembered something he had read, either in Kuprin or in some foreign novel, about love being like a lump of coal: hot, it burns you; cold, it makes you dirty.
Grossman, Vasily, Life and Fate (R Chandler (trs), Vintage, 2006), 282.
LOVE, ROMANTIC see FEAR AND LOVE, 1981; RELIGION, 1984; OBSERVATION, 2/87; PROJECTION, 10/86; UNHAPPINESS, 3/87; SILENCE, 6/87; PASSION, 10/86; PASSION, 11/90; COMPLETENESS, SEARCH FOR, 12/87; SLEEPING, LOVE, 1/90; PASSION, 11/90; MEANING, 4/95; FRIENDSHIP, 4/97; OBSESSION, 10/96; ONENESS, 5/98
… for love is vanity,
Selfish in its beginning as its end,
Except where ‘tis a mere insanity,
A maddening spirit which would strive to blend
Itself with beauty’s final inanity,
On which the passion’s self seems to depend:
And hence some heathenish philosophers
Make love the main-spring of the universe.
Byron, Don Juan, VIII, LXXIII.
LOVERS BECOMING FRIENDS see REVERSES, 6/92
Vronsky appreciated this desire not only to please, but to serve him, which had become the sole aim of her existence, but at the same time he wearied of the loving snares in which she tried to hold him fast. As time went on, and he saw himself more and more often held fast in these snares, he had an ever growing desire, not so much to escape from them, as to try whether they hindered his freedom.
Tolstoy, Leo, Anna Karenina (Translated by Constance Garnett), Part 6 Ch 25.
‘Lust is sin’– thus say some who preach death – ‘let us go aside and beget no children!’ [Also birth is laborious, and why bear only unhappy children?]
Nietzsche, Zarathustra, “Of the Preachers of Death”.