I imagine this nameless place
as a bird sanctuary
peopled with creatures whose brains
are less complex than mine
so that for them
everything clicks all the time/…
to say it’s a sanctuary
is to say it’s admirable
how to inhabit (intimately)
a place with no name? —
one would have one’s self
to have no name
but if there are no names
what can one say?
White, Kenneth, from “Late August on the Coast’, in The Bird Path (Mainstream, Edinburgh, 1989), 235.
Napoleon stood… with neck out-thrust, you fancy how,
Legs wide, arms locked behind,
As if to balance the prone brow
Oppressive with its mind.
Browning, from “Incident of the French Camp”.
A nation is a society united by delusion about its ancestry, and by a common hatred of its neighbours.
Inge, W R, quoted John Grigg, The Wits Dictionary (Angus and Robertson, Australia, 1984).
No people could live without evaluating. But if it wishes to maintain itself, it must not evaluate as its neighbour evaluates.
Nietzsche, Zarathustra, “Of the Thousand and One Gods”.
[Knowledge of its details helps knowledge of Man.]
Meredith, George, “Melampus” (in Bridges, Spirit of Man, 185).
There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture in the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet can not all conceal.
[Continues to say that Man can never conquer nature, embodied in the ocean.]
Byron, Childe Harold, IV, CLXXVIII.
We constantly refer back to the natural world to try and discover who we are. Nature is the most potent source of metaphors to describe and explain our behaviour and feelings. It is the root and the branch of much of our language.
Mabey, Richard, Nature Cure (2006), 19-20.
NATURE AS TEACHER
Every land is a leaf of the Codex of Nature, and he who would explore her must tread her books with his feet.
Paracelsus, quoted Guardian Review, 28/1/06
NATURE DISDAINING HUMAN ASPIRATIONS see CHILDREN, 6/98
NATURE see INTELLECT, 1/90; PERCEPTION, 3/91, SCIENCE, ADVANCES IN, 3/03
Everything, the whole of creation, was an enemy, and he [Picasso] was a painter in order to fashion not works of art — he always despised the use of that term — but weapons: defensive weapons against surrendering to the spell of the spirit that fills creation, and weapons of combat against everything outside man, against every emotion of belonging in creation, against nature, human nature, and the God who created it all. “Obviously,” he said, “nature has to exist so that we may rape it”. [Il faut bien que la nature existe, pour pouvoir la violer.]
Huffington, A S, Picasso, Creator and Destroyer (New York: Avon, 1989), 91.
NATURE, SERVING see MAGI, 7/91
We need the tonic of wildness… We can never have enough of Nature. We must be refreshed by the sight of inexhaustible vigour, vast and Titanic features… We need to witness our own limits transgressed, and some life pasturing freely where we never wander.
Thoreau, Henry, Walden, quoted Guardian Review, 26/6/04, 6.
For nature is one with rapine, a harm no preacher can heal;
The Mayfly is torn by the swallow, the sparrow spear’d by the shrike,
And the whole little wood where I sit is a world of plunder and prey.
Tennyson, Maud, part I, section IV, verse IV.
NECESSITY AND REASON see PROVIDENCE, 7/93
What constitutes a happy life?
enough money to meet your needs
a comfortable fire
a clear distance from law
a minimum of city business
a peaceful mind and healthy body
simple wisdom and firm friends
enjoyable dinners and plain living
nights free from care
a virtuous wife who is not a prude
enough sleep to make the darkness short
contentment with the life you have,
and avoiding the sneer, the poisoned sigh;
no fear of death
and no desire to die.
Martial, translated by Brendan Kennelly, quoted Guardian Review, 6 Sep 2003, 25.
NEGATIVE CAPABILITY see UNCERTAINTY, 3/91
NEGATIVITY YIELDING ENERGY
Hegel defends the Enlightenment with a theory of struggle between reason and what he calls “the night of the world”, the chaotic lava of hatred and irrationality within us which can destroy us and what we build, but which is nevertheless the source of enormous energy. For Hegel, our history is about our attempts to negate the destructive negativity of “the night of the world”, and turn it to productive thought and social construction.
Brenton, Howard, Guardian Review, 21/09/02, 15.
NEIGHBOUR, LOVE OF see ALTRUISM, 5/98; SOLITUDE, 5/98
Network: Any thing reticulated or decussated, at equal distances, with interstices between the intersections.
Johnson, Samuel, Dictionary.
Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.
Jung, Carl, quoted Jacob Liberman, Take off Your Glasses and See (Thorsons, 1995), 75.
I knew then, and I know now, it is no use trying to do anything – I speak only for myself – publicly. It is no use trying merely to modify present forms. The whole great form of our era will have to go. And nothing will really send it down but the new shoots of life springing up and slowly bursting the foundations. And one can do nothing, but fight tooth and nail to defend the new shoots of life from being crushed out, and let them grow.
We can’t make life. We can but fight for the life that grows in us.
So that, personally, little magazines mean nothing to me: nor groups, nor parties of people. I have no hankering after quick response, nor the effusive, semi-intimate back-chat of literary communion.
What comes will come slowly, with some steadfastness.
Lawrence, D H, ‘Note to The Crown’, in Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine and Other Essays.
For the next ocean is the first ocean
And the last ocean is the first ocean
And, however often the sun may rise,
A new thing dawns upon our eyes.
MacNeice, Louis, from “Apple Blossom”, in The Rattle Bag.
After a certain age – and for some of us that can be very young – there are no new people, beasts, dreams, faces, events; it has all happened before, they have appeared before, masked differently, wearing different clothes, another nationality, another colour; but the same, the same, and everything is an echo and a repetition; and there is no grief even that is not a recurrence of something long out of memory that expresses itself in unbelievable anguish, days of tears, loneliness, knowledge of betrayal – all for a small, thin, dying cat.
Lessing, Doris, Particularly Cats (Grafton/Collins, 1979), 17.
I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy, playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself, in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.
Newton, Isaac, In Geoffrey Grigson, 0 Rare Mankind (Phoenix House Ltd, London, 1963).
The fundamental principles on which the Newtonian picture of the world was built included the idea that the universe is eternal, that everything is made out of particles which obey absolute and unchanging laws, and that everything in the world can be reduced ultimately to the action of these absolute laws.
Smolin, Lee, The Life of the Cosmos (Phoenix, 1998, first edition 1997), 16.
Does the next world exist or not?
‘Tis indeed a maze.
None the knows but the asker himself. Go and seek him!
[Commentator explains as: you have lived before – this is the life after death.]
Hakuin. Quoted in A First Zen Reader (Leggett (trans.), Tuttle, Rutland Univ., 1960), 157.
NIETZSCHE’S “DANCING STAR” see CREATIVITY, 1/93
Shelley, “Spirit of Night”.
[Night:] When creeping murmur and the poring dark
Fill the wide vessel of the universe.
Shakespeare, Henry V, act 4, chorus.
… From too much love of living,
From hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief thanksgiving
Whatever gods may be
That no life lives for ever;
That dead men rise up never,
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea.//
Then star nor sun shall weaken,
Nor any change of light;
Nor sound of waters shaken,
Nor any sound or sight;
Nor wintry leaves nor vernal,
Nor days nor things diurnal;
Only the sleep eternal
In an eternal night.
Swinburne, The Garden of Proserpine.
Bobo is dead. One feels an impulse, with
half-parted lips, to murmur ‘Why? What for?’
It’s emptiness, no doubt, which follows death.
That’s likelier than hell – and worse, what’s more.//
You were all things, Bobo. But your decease
has changed you. You are nothing; you are not;
or rather, you are a clot of emptiness –
which also, come to think of it, is a lot.//
Bobo is dead. To these round eyes, the view
of the bare horizon line is like a knife….
Brodsky, Joseph, “The Funeral of Bobo”, in A Part of Speech (Oxford, 1980).
Wrapped up in himself, he has looked at nothing but his own hollow empty Me, which seemed to him like an immeasurable abyss… ‘Before me’ cried he, ‘I see nothing; behind me nothing but an endless night, in which I live in the most horrid solitude. There is no feeling in me but the feeling of my guilt: and this appears but like a dim formless spirit, far before me. Yet here there is no height, no depth, no forwards, no backwards; no words can express this never-changing state. Often in the agony of this sameness, I exclaim with violence, Forever! Forever! and this dark incomprehensible word is clear to the gloom of my condition. No ray of Divinity illuminates this night; I shed all my tears by myself and for myself. Nothing is more horrible to me than friendship and love; for they alone excite in me the wish that the Apparitions which surround me might be real. But these two Spectres also have arisen from the abyss to plague me, and at length to tear from me the precious consciousness of my existence, unearthly though it be.’
Goethe, Wilhelm Meister, Carlyle’s translation (Collier, New York, 1962), 397-8.
This hankering after nothingness as a relief always rings somehow false, since it paradoxically supposes your presence enjoying your absence. Such an ill-imagined scenario lies behind many misinterpretations of Nirvana as the Bliss of Non-Being and other upper-case abstractions…. Don’t you feel like saying, with Herman Melville, to all this sallow tribe, ‘Give it up’?
Kaplan, Robert, The Nothing That Is (Penguin, 1999), 195.
NIHILISM see MAN, 7/98
The noble man wants to create new things and a new virtue. The good man wants the old things and that the old things should be preserved.
But that is not the danger for the noble man – that he may become a good man – but that he may become an impudent one, a derider, a destroyer.
Alas, I have known noble men who lost their highest hope. And henceforth they slandered all high hopes.
Henceforth they lived impudently in brief pleasures, and they had hardly an aim beyond the day. …
Nietzsche, Zarathustra, “Of the Tree on the Mountainside”.
What is noble?–That one constantly has to play a part. That one seeks situations in which one has constant need of poses. That one knows how to make enemies everywhere, if the worse comes to the worst even of oneself. That one constantly contradicts the great majority not through words but through deeds
Nietzsche, Will to Power:
Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?
Frost, Robert, from “Reluctance”, in 1954 Palgrave.
Let not your rage or malice destroy a life, for truly, anyone who does not esteem life does not deserve it.
Da Vinci, Leonardo, quoted at an exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, 1989, London.