[Sacrifice is] the boundless resolve, no longer limitable in any direction, to achieve one’s purest inner possibility.
Rilke, letter, quoted by Mitchell (editor), Selected Poetry (Picador/Pan, 1987), 313.
SAINTS see MAGI, 7/91
Charon in Lucian, as he wittily feigns was conducted by Mercury to such a place where he might see all the world at once; after he had sufficiently viewed and looked about, Mercury would needs know of him what he had observed. He told them [sic] that he saw a vast multitude and a promiscuous, their habitations like mole-hills, the men as emmets… he could discern cities like so many hives of bees, wherein every bee had a sting and they did naught else but sting one another, some domineering like hornets bigger than the rest, some like filching wasps, others as drones. Over their heads were hovering a confused company of perturbations – hope, fear, anger, avarice, ignorance etc.; and a multitude of diseases hanging, which they still pulled on their pates. Some were brawling, some fighting, riding, running, solicite ambulantes, callide litigantes (earnestly suing or cunningly disputing) for toys and trifles, and such momentary things; their towns and provinces were factions, rich against poor, poor against rich, nobles against artificers, they against nobles, and so the rest. In conclusion, he condensed them all for madman, fools, idiots, asses, O stulti, quaenam haec est amentia? O fools, O madmen! he exclaims, insane studia, insane labores, etc., mad endeavours, mad actions, mad, mad, mad, O seculum insipiens et infacetum, a giddy-headed age. [It is not perfectly clear that this quote is from Oken.]
Oken, Lorenz, Elements of Physiophilosophy, quoted Sitwell, English Eccentrics (Penguin, 1971, 1st edition 1933), 259-60.
What a deale of cold busines doth a man mis-spend the better part of life in! In scattering complements, tendring visits, gathering and venting newes, following Feasts and Playes, making a little winter-love in a darke corner.
Jonson, Ben, Timber: or, Discoveries (his commonplace book).
SAMSARA see MUNDANE, 4/97
SAMSKARAS see KARMA, 12/87
SCHOLARSHIP, DELIGHT IN
There were giants in those days, and Thomas Bartholinus [of Copenhagen, author of De Unicornu Observationes Novae, 1645] was one of them. This is the book on the unicorn, more than any other, in which one is convinced that the author is engaged in some sort of erudite play for which we have lost the art and the feeling. The tone of the preface is unmistakably gay and occasionally jocose, and on nearly every later page there is some observation so droll, or so almost incredibly erudite as to rouse the suspicion, at least, although we cannot be quite sure, that the unwieldy elephant is wreathing his lithe proboscis to make us sport. …
Sheppard, Odell, The Lore of the Unicorn (Allen and Unwin, 1930), 176-7.
SCHOLARSHIP, DELIGHT IN see DISCOVERY, 8/92
Science is… the most powerful… framework for thinking and investigating and understanding and challenging the world around us that there is, and it rests on the premise that any idea is there to be attacked and if it withstand the attack, then it lives to fight another day and if it doesn’t withstand the attack them down it goes. Religion doesn’t seem to work like that…
Adams, Douglas, ‘Is There an Artificial God?’ (1998 talk transcript), in The Salmon of Doubt (Pan, 2003), 141.
SCIENCE see POETRY, 12/87; CERTAINTY, 3/89; DISCOVERY, 3-9/89; SMALL TO LARGE, 1/91, OBSERVATION, 10/06
Science terrorism takes the following form. You isolate a small quantity of statistic, attach to it a lengthy fuse of language, and leave it in a public place for a politician to trip over. More disreputable practitioners then telephone a message to the press demanding a large sum of money for ‘more research’, to be deposited in a named university.
Jenkins, Simon, The Times, 9 September 1998, 18.
SCIENCE, ADVANCES IN
While we keep our futuristic dreams alive, we also need to keep our expectations realistic. It seems that every time we gain access to a regime that is a factor of 10 different—and presumably “better”— two things happen. First, some wonderful, unanticipated scientific phenomenon emerges. But then a thorny host of underlying, equally unanticipated new problems appear. This pattern has held true as we have pushed to decreased size, enhanced sensitivity, greater spatial resolution, higher magnetic and electric fields, lower pressure and temperature, and so on. It is at the heart of why projecting forward too many orders of magnitude is usually perilous. And it is what should imbue us with a sense of humility and proportion at this, the beginning of our journey. Nature has already set the rules for us. We are out to understand and employ her secrets.
Once we head out on the quest, nature will frequently hand us what initially seems to be nonsensical, disappointing, random gibberish. But the science in the glitches often turns out to be even more significant than the grail motivating the quest. And being proved the fool in this way can truly be the joy of doing science. If we had the power to extrapolate everything correctly from the outset, the pursuit of science would be utterly dry and mechanistic. The delightful truth is that, for complex systems, we do not, and ultimately probably cannot, know everything that is important.
Complex systems are often exquisitely sensitive to a myriad of parameters beyond our ability to sense and record— much less control—with sufficient regularity and precision. Scientists have studied, and in large part already understand, matter down to the fundamental particles that make up the neutrons, protons and electrons that are of crucial importance to chemists, physicists and engineers. But we still cannot deterministically predict how arbitrarily complex assemblages of these three elemental components will finally behave en masse. For this reason, I firmly believe that it is on the foundation of the experimental science under way [sic], in intimate collaboration with theory, that we will build the road to true nanotechnology. Let’s keep our eyes open for surprises along the way!
Roukes, Michael, in Scientific American, Vol 13 No1, 100.
SCIENCE, PHILOSOPHY OF see BACON’S IDOLS, 6/2000
I give myself over to my rapture. The die is cast. Nothing I have ever felt before is like this. I tremble, my blood leaps. God has waited 6000 years for a looker-on to his work… [Written when at last he found the laws of the movement of the planets.]
Kepler, quoted in Karen Blixen, Out Of Africa (Penguin, 1984, first edition 1937), 208.
His theory … had arisen from the depths where there are no mathematics, no physics, no laboratory data, no experience of life, no consciousness, only the inflammable peat of the subconscious…
And the logic of mathematics, itself quite unconnected with the world, had become reflected and embodied in a theory of physics; and this theory had fitted with divine accuracy over a complex pattern of dotted lines on photographic paper….
This new explanation had been born from his own head, but it was indeed linked to Markov’s experiments. Yes, if there were no atoms and atomic nuclei in the world, there would be none inside a man’s brain. If it weren’t for those famous glass-blowers the Petushkovs, if there were no power stations, no furnaces and no production of pure reactors, then there would be no mathematics inside the head of a theoretical physicist, no mathematics that could predict reality.
Grossman, Vasily, Life and Fate (R Chandler (trs), Vintage, 2006), 333.
One of the beauties of learning is that it admits its provisionality, its imperfections. This scholarly scrupulousness, this willingness to admit that even the best-supported of theories is still a theory, is now being exploited by the unscrupulous. But that we do not know everything does not mean we know nothing. Not all theories are of equal weight. The moon… is not made of green cheese. Genesis, as a theory, is bunk.
Rushdie, Salman “Locking out that disruptive Darwin fellow” [Boston] Globe and Mail, 2/9/99.
… may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.//
For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea. [They are playing on the beach.]
Cummings, e e, “maggie and millie and mollie and may”, in The Rattle Bag.
I have seen it over and over,
the same sea, the same,
slightly, indifferently swinging above the stones,
icily free above the stones… as if the water were a transmutation of fire
That feeds on stones and burns with a dark grey flame.
Bishop, Elizabeth, from ‘At the Fishhouses’.
SEA OF FAITH see MEANINGLESSNESS, 6/98
We walk among the layers of disintegrating coral, along the straggling line of ‘brown sea-wrack, dizzy with jumping sand hoppers’. We stand among the flotsam, the odd shoes and tins, hot-water bottles and skulls of sheep or deer. We know nothing. We look daily at the appalling mystery of plain stuff. We stand where any upright food-gatherer has stood, on the edge of our unconscious, and hope, perhaps, for the terror and excitement of the print of a single foot.
Golding, William, review of Gavin Maxwell’s Ring of Bright Water, quoted Guardian Review, 14/5/11, 9.
SEARCHING AND INTERCONNECTION
Pierce thy heart to find the key;
With thee take
Only what none else would keep;
Learn to dream when thou dost wake,
Learn to wake when thou dost sleep;
Learn to water joy with tears,
Learn from fears to vanquish fears;
To hope, for thou dar’st not despair;
Plough thou the rock until it bear;
Know, for thou else couldst not believe;
Lose, that the lost thou may’st receive;
Die, for none other way canst live.
When earth and heaven lay down their veil,
And that apocalypse turns thee pale;
When thy seeing blindeth thee/To what thy fellow-mortals see;
When their sight to thee is sightless;
Their living, death; their light, most lightless;
Search no more….//
When to the eyes of thee
All things by immortal power,
Near or far,
To each other linkéd are,
That thou canst not stir a flower
Without troubling of a star;
When thy song is shield and mirror
To the fair snake-curléd Pain,
Where thou dar’st affront her terror
That on her thou may’st attain
Perséan conquest; seek no more,
O seek no more!
Thomson, Francis, from ‘The Mistress of Vision’; ‘the Lady of fair weeping’ is speaking. In Walter de la Mare’s Come Hither anthology (Constable, 1923).
SECRECY see GUILTY SECRETS, 5/94
No point in having a secret if you make a secret of it.
Bennett, Alan, in An Englishman Abroad (Independent on Sunday quoted in The Week, 23 January 1999).
SECRET OF UNIVERSE see BANANA, 9/91
There is no security on this earth; there is only opportunity.
MacArthur, General Douglas, in Great Quotations (Readers Digest, 1978), 41.
SECURITY, FROM THEORIES see CERTAINTY, 3/89
SEEDS see KARMA, 12/87
… yea, were the very soul to be hushed to herself, and by not thinking on self to surmount self; …
Augustine, St., Confessions, ix, 10 (Bridges translation).
To study the Buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind, as well as the bodies and minds of others, drop away. No trace of realization remains, and this no-trace continues endlessly.
[A human being] is a dark and veiled thing; and whereas the hare has seven skins, the human being can shed seven times seventy skins and still not be able to say: This is really you, this is no longer outer shell.
Nietzsche, quoted Guardian Review, 17 December 2011, 5.
SELF see PERSONALITY, 12/87; COWERING, 8/87; UNCONSCIOUS, 6/91; FIXED SELF, 5/98
SELF, CREATING see FINDING ONESELF, 4/99
Animula vagular blandula, the little soul wavers away, wrote the Emperor Hadrian. How irretrievably unjust that yours, stored with its singular cargo, should break up forever. Or is it the puzzling ship of Theseus that every sleep pulls apart to its least peg and every waking rebuilds with new matter in the old form so that there is no I to your I, no continuing self, but successive semblances that fade and wear out at last?
Kaplan, Robert, The Nothing That Is (Penguin, 1999), 192.
SELF-ABSORPTION see NIHILISM, 10/93, PARENTING AS SELFISH, 5/13
The consciousness of Self involves a stream of thought, each part of which as ‘I’ can remember those which went before, know the things they knew, and care paramountly for certain ones among them as ‘Me’, and appropriate to these the rest. The I … is a thought, at each moment different from that of the last moment, but appropriating the latter, together with all which the latter calls its own. … The thoughts themselves are the thinkers. [William James says before this quote that you should start from your actual mental states, noticing the main fact that consciousness goes on. It has four characteristics: 1. Every state tends to be part of a personal consciousness. 2. Within this, states are always changing. 3. Each state seems to be continuous. 4. Each state of consciousness chooses aspects of the apparently outside world to attend to. On this last point, James points out that there is one case in which nobody ‘chooses’ alike. That is in what he calls “the great splitting of the universe into two halves… we all draw the line of division between them in a different place… their names are ‘me’ and ‘not-me'”. He notes that one has a much greater interest in the me and mine parts of the universe. He then talks about ‘I’ as the knower, and ‘me’ as the self which is known by self-consciousness, the empirical self, and the ‘mine’ which is appropriated to the me. He emphatically rejects any possibility of there being any permanent ego or soul or spirit in addition to the fleeting but connected states of consciousness, which are all that psychology needs.]
James, William, Psychology, a Briefer Course.
[Little girl realises self-awareness. See:]
Hughes, Richard, A High Wind in Jamaica (Penguin), 94ff.
It is from my earliest reading that I date the unbroken consciousness of my own existence. [The age of five or six.]
Rousseau, J J, Confessions (1953 edition), 19.
In man there’s failure only since he left
The lower and inconscious forms of life.
We called it an advance, the rendering plain
Man’s spirit might grow conscious of man’s life,
And, by new lore so added to the old,
Take each step higher over the brute’s head.
This grew the only life, the pleasure-house,
Watch-tower and treasure-fortress of the soul,
Which whole surrounding flats of natural life
Seemed only fit to yield subsistence to;
A tower that crowns a country. But alas,
The soul now climbs it just to perish there!
For thence we have discovered (’tis no dream –
We know this, which we had not else perceived)
That there’s a world of capability
For joy, spread round about us, meant for us,
Inviting us, and still the soul craves all,
And still the flesh replies, ‘Take no jot more
Than ere thou clombest the tower to look abroad!
Nay, so much less as that fatigue has brought
Deduction to it.’ We struggle, fain to enlarge
Our bounded physical recipiency,
Increase our power, supply fresh oil to life,
Repair the waste of age and sickness: no,
It skills not! life’s inadequate to joy,
As the soul sees joy, tempting life to take.
[This philosopher is represented as lamenting that there is no joy transcending the senses, wilfully ignorant of Paul preaching heaven on the same island.]
Browning, from “Cleon”.
[Proust] was for ever squatting in the tepid bath of his remembered past… and all the accumulated dirt of years lay crusty on the sides of the tub. [A fictional character is speaking.]
Huxley, Aldous, quoted The Week, 4 March 2000, 9.
Self-consciousness like a poison seems to eat into the very paint, making it sluggish and dead. [Nessim is trying to paint.]
Durrell, Lawrence, Justine (Faber), 160.
SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS IN A CHILD
I am hands
And things inside of me
That I can’t see.//
What knows in me?
Is it only something inside
That I can’t see?
Riding, Laura, “In Laddery Street Herself”, from Forgotten Girlhood, in The Rattle Bag.
SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS see MEANINGLESSNESS, 2/92; FORMAL SYSTEMS, 9/93; WATCHING, 4/97
Nothing ever really sets human nature free but self-control.
Bottome, Phyllis The Kingfisher (Doran, 1922), 164.
The ability to evaluate and regulate the effects we have on other people is part of a fine awareness of our selves. If we stop thinking about those effects, if we stop caring, we are not expressing the freedom and wonder of our selves, but limiting them. If we do not control our desires, they control us.
Hitchings, Henry, Sorry! The English and Their Manners (Murray, 2013), quoted Guardian Review, 6/7/13, 18.
Self-deception once yielded to, all other deception is followed naturally more and more.
Carlyle, On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History (1840), Lecture VI.
SELF-DELUSION see DELUSION, SELF-, 10/96
Nobody can say truthfully of himself that he is filth. Because if I do say it, though it can be true in a sense, this is not a truth by which I myself can be penetrated: otherwise I should either have to go mad or change myself.
Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, 32e.
There are some characters in this world who are marked down for self-destruction and to these no amount of rational argument can appeal. For my part Justine always reminded me of a somnambulist discovered treading the perilous leads of a high tower; any attempts to wake her with a shout might lead to disaster. One could only follow her silently in the hope of guiding her gradually away from the great shadowy drops which loomed up on every side.
Durrell, Lawrence Justine (Faber), 134.
Wordsworth… pioneered a new sort of self exploration, summoning up and contemplating ‘the picture of the mind,’ [“Tintern Abbey”, 61] by which he meant the emotional and intellectual history of his own evolving mind – personal to him as the ‘Fair seed-time’ [Prelude, I, 301] of his soul – and at the same time a metaphysical microcosm of the ‘Mind of Man/My haunt, and the main region of my song.’ [Prospectus to The Recluse, 40-1.]
Gifford, Don, The Farther Shore: a Natural History of Perception (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1990), 174.
To become an artist one must shed the whole complex of egotisms which led to the choice of self-expression as the only means of growth! This, because it is impossible, I call The Whole Joke! [Pursewarden speaking.]
Durrell, Lawrence, Clea (Faber), 128.
He [Ralph Nickleby] knew himself well, and choosing to imagine that all mankind were cast in the same mould, hated them; for, though no man hates himself, the coldest among us having too much self-love for that, yet most men unconsciously judge the world from themselves, – it will be very generally found that those who sneer habituedly at human nature, and affect to despise it, are among its worst and least pleasant samples.
Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby, Chapter XLIV.
The first law for every creature is that of self-preservation, of keeping alive. You sow hemlock and expect to see the ripening ears of corn!
Machiavelli, quoted by Stendhal, in Scarlet and Black (Penguin), 390.
The little rills of selfishness had united and made a channel so that they would never again meet with the same resistance.
Eliot, George, Romola (Penguin, 1980), 151.
It is a feeling of awe and fear which seizes on a man of noble mind, when conscious that his character is just about to be exhibited before him. Every tradition [sic] is a crisis; and the crisis presupposes sickness. With what reluctance do we look into the glass [that is the mirror], after rising from a sick bed! The recovery is what we feel: but the effects of past diseases are all that we see.
Goethe, Wilhelm Meister, Carlyle’s translation (Collier, New York, 1962) 454-5.
To your own breast in quest of worth repair, and blush to find how poor a stock is there.
Persius, Satires, quoted from Ben Jonson’s commonplace book, in: William H. Gass, Gutenberg’s Triumph (essay).
It came home to him that his opinions were stiff, whereas in comparison his effort was lax.
James, Henry, The Bostonians, quoted Guardian Review, 6 Sep 2003, 35. Basil Ransom is talking.
SELF-KNOWLEDGE see FRIEND AND SELF-KNOWLEDGE, 5/98
SELFLESSNESS see ALTRUISM, 5/98, PARENTING AS SELFISH, 5/13
[See Pope’s Essay on Man (iv, 363) – metta spreading from self to all. Blake sees that an effective peaceful society can be founded on people’s readiness to submit to laws and conventions, through mutual fear. But he sees the selfist philosophy leading to self-deceit and hypocrisy. (Paraphrased)]
Gillham, D G, William Blake (Cambridge University press, 1973) 86 – on “the Human Abstract”.
All force strives forward to work far and wide
To live and grow and ever to expand;
Yet we are checked and thwarted on each side
By this world’s flux and swept along like sand:
In this internal storm and outward tide
We hear a promise, hard to understand:
From the compulsion that all creatures binds,
Who overcomes himself, his freedom finds.
Goethe, The Mysteries, translated W Kaufmann, in his Nietzsche (1974 edition), 209.
SELF-OVERCOMING see TRANSCENDENCE, SELF-, 5/98; SOLITUDE, 6/98
My self-consciousness was heightened to that pitch of intensity in which our own emotions take the form of a drama which urges itself imperatively on our contemplations and we begin to weep, less under the sense of our suffering than at the thought of it. I felt a sort of pitying anguish over the pathos of my own lot.
Eliot, George, The Lifted Veil (near the start of section II).
The teaching is only of whither and how to go, the vision itself is the work of him who has willed to see.
Plotinus, Enneads, VI, 9,4. R Bridges translation. (The Spirit of Man.)
SELF-RELIANCE see LIFE, 5/03
‘Cannot Man exist without Mysterious
Offering of Self for Another?’…
Jesus said: ‘Wouldest thou love one who never died
For thee, or ever die for one who had not died for thee?
… every kindness to another is a little Death
In the Divine Image, nor can Man exist but by Brotherhood.’
Blake, Jerusalem, 96.
It was all born out of habits of mind produced by Christianity: that if you sacrificed yourself you would somehow obtain the object of your desires. It was a knife of an idea, a cruel instrument of sacrifice, but also one of great beauty, silvery, curved, dancing with light.
Carey, Peter, Oscar and Lucinda (Faber, 1988), 387.
SELF-SUFFICIENCY see MIND, 6/99
Hence arises that egotism which has been remarked as the characteristic of self-taught men, and which degenerates into obstinate prejudice or petulant fickleness of opinion, according to the natural sluggishness or activity of their minds. For they either become blindly bigoted to the first opinions they have struck out for themselves, and inaccessible to conviction; or else (the dupes of their own vanity and shrewdness) are everlasting converts to every crude suggestion that presents itself, and the last opinion is always the true one… every new fact overturns the whole system. [Thus they are partisans…]
Hazlitt, William, The Round Table, 1817, I, 26.
I hold its truth, with him who sings
To one clear harp in divers tones,
That men may rise on stepping-stones,
Of their dead selves to higher things.
Tennyson, In Memoriam, (i).
If you inhibit thought (and persevere) you come at length to a region of consciousness below or behind thought… and a realisation of an altogether vaster self than that which we are accustomed. And since the ordinary consciousness with which we are concerned in daily life is before all things founded on the little local self… it follows that to pass out of that is to die to the ordinary self and the ordinary world.
It is to die in the ordinary sense, but in another, it is to wake up and find that the ‘I’, one’s real, most intimate self, pervades the Universe, and all other beings – that the mountains and the sea and the stars are part of one’s body and that one soul is in touch with the souls of all creatures.
Carpentier, Edward, quoted by P Russell, Awakening Earth, 124.
Our destiny, our nature and our home
Is with infinitude and only there;
With hope it is, hope that can never die,
Effort, and expectation, and desire,
And something evermore about to be.
Wordsworth, The Prelude, VI.
Tell a wise person, or else keep silent,
because the mass man will mock it right away.
I praise what is truly alive,
what longs to be burned to death. //
In the calm water of the love-nights,
where you were begotten, where you have begotten,
a strange feeling comes over you,
when you see the silent candle burning. //
Now you are no longer caught in the obsession with darkness,
and a desire for higher love-making sweeps you upward. //
Distance does not make you falter.
Now, arriving in magic, flying,
and finally, insane for the light,
you are the butterfly and you are gone.
And so long as you haven’t experienced this: to die and so to grow,
you are only a troubled guest on the dark earth.
Goethe, ‘The Holy Longing’ (1814, trs Robert Bly).
… the life
at which I aim
is a circumference
through sympathy and
rather than an exclusive centre
of pure self-feeling
the whole I seek
is centre plus circumference
and now the struggle at the centre is over
beckons from everywhere. [Arrangement of lines lost.]
White, Kenneth, from ‘Walking the Coast’, in The Bird Path (Mainstream, Edinburgh, 1989), 58.
The fountain of content must spring up in the mind, and he who hath so little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own disposition will waste his life in fruitless efforts and multiply the grief he proposes to remove.
Johnson, Samuel, quoted Covey, The Seven Habits….
Carnal and Spiritual Love
Swift through the eyes unto the heart within
all lovely forms that thrall the spirit stray;
so smooth and broad and open is the way
that thousands and not hundreds enter in.
Burdened with scruples and weighed down with sin,
these mortal beauties fill me with dismay;
nor find I one that does not strive to stay
my soul on transient joy, or lets me win
the heaven I yearn for. Lo, when erring love –
who fills the world, howe’er his powers we shun,
else were the world a grave and we undone –
assails the soul, if grace refuse to fan
our purged desires and make them soar above,
what grief it were to have been born a man!
Michelangelo (1542). In I Michelangelo, Sculptor (I and J Stone (ed.), Fontana, 1965), 155.
The common statement that all knowledge comes from sense experience is neither true nor false; it is simply muddled. The senses are organs of the mind, therefore all knowledge is mental experience, … something in which the barrier between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ dissolves.
Frye, Northrop, Fearful Symmetry, (Princeton University Press, 1969, second edition), 85.
SENSE-PLEASURE see PASSION, 11/90
His [Capodistria’s] heart has withered in him and he has been left with the five senses, like pieces of a broken wine glass.
Durrell, Lawrence, Justine (Faber), 34.
SENSES see KAMALOKA, 2/85
Whatever withdraws us from the power of our senses; whatever makes the past, the distant, or the future, predominate over the present, advances us in the dignity of thinking beings.
Johnson, Samuel, A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland, “Inch Kenneth”.
And already his senses are forming a precipitate in the clear ichor of his spirit. Already his prayer is stripped of its foliage and stands up out of his mouth. [Rilke is speaking of a St. Anthony figure, failing.]
Rilke, The Notebook of Malte Laurids Brigge (Oxford University Press, 1984, first edition 1910), 174.
The most evil things in the world, today, are to be found under the chiffon folds of sentimentalism. Sentimentality is the garment of our vice. It covers viciousness as inevitably as greenness covers a bog.
Lawrence, D H, ‘The Crown, IV Within the Sepulchre’, in Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine and Other Essays)
Sentimentality, the ostentatious parading of excessive spurious emotion, is the mark of dishonesty, the inability to feel; the wet eyes of the sentimentalist betray his aversion to experience, his fear of life, his arid heart; and it is always, therefore, the signal of secret and violent inhumanity, the mask of cruelty.
Baldwin, James, quoted in Alec Guinness, A Commonplace Book (Hamish Hamilton, 2001), 116.
SEPARATENESS see EXPERIENCE, 8/14
If you wish to free many, then dare to do service to many.
‘Dare? So it’s dangerous work?’ Questioner, try it and see!
Goethe, Venetian Epigrams number 20, translated Michael Hamburger.
I could not help thinking then as I held her lightly in the crook of an arm how little we own our own bodies. I thought of Arnanti [fictitious novelist] when he says: ‘it dawned on me then that in some fearful way this girl had shorn me of all my force morale. I felt as if I had had my head shaved’. (p 85)
Minds dismembered by their sexual part never find peace until old age and failing powers persuade them that silence and quietness are not hostile. (p 180) [Balthazar speaking.]
Durrell, Lawrence, Justine.
Sexual Love… is the door through which most of us enter the imaginative world, and for many it affords the sole glimpse into that world. It is thus especially pathetic when a chance to love is thwarted or missed, and especially important for the selfhood to place a strong guard over this door to send inquirers in the wrong direction. This door, the guard says, does not lead to fuller humanity; it goes the opposite way to nature. This is the ‘animal’ or lower part of you that you are now experiencing, and is a form of excretion which the loftiest spirituality cuts out of life entirely.
The guard, of course, is lying. Mating and copulating may be ‘animal’, but imaginative love is part of our divine birthright.
Frye, Northrop, Fearful Symmetry (Princeton University Press, 1969), 73.
An average woman is in this [sex] superior to an average man – that she never instigates, only responds. We ought to have lived in mental communion, and no more. [Sue is talking to Jude.]
Hardy, Thomas, Jude the Obscure (Oxford University Press, 1985), 372.
I believe in the living extending consciousness of man. I believe the consciousness of man has now to embrace the emotions and passions of sex, and the deep effects of human physical contact. This is the glimmering edge of our awareness and our field of understanding, in the endless business of knowing ourselves
Lawrence, D H, Letter to Morris Ernst, 10/11 1928.
The key is to … describe faithfully and realistically what goes on when you have sex, which is usually comic. Henri Bergson says that comedy is where the material world resists the spiritual impulse…. It strikes me that sex is often a failure of the body to deliver the promises of the spirit.
White, Edmund, quoted Guardian Review, 7 January 2012, 10.
SEX AND THE SPIRITUAL
Stirred by amorous longing a man can rise, starting from the senses and the flesh. (p 70, quoting from Plato’s Symposium or Phaedrus.)
The man may have the initiative in the ritual of sexuality, but the woman may well be called upon to reveal its meaning – a meaning that is only illuminated by love. She, more than man, is immersed in the night of sex. Out of the world of the Mothers, where the mystery is accomplished in the darkness propitious to all gestation, she emerges with a prodigious experience. If only she brings into it the disciplines of intelligence and carries lucidity into the heart of this irrational thing, she will even obtain – through the sublime play of a sacral sexuality – to the great way of Knowledge. (p 241.)
Lilar, Susanne, Aspects of Love (Panther, 1967, first French edition 1963).
SEX see ACTS, 12/87; CRAVING, 8/87; PASSION, 11/90, MEANING, 4/95
I would be content that we might procreate like trees, without conjunction, or that there were any way to perpetuate the world without this trivial and vulgar act of coition; It is the foolishest act a wise man commits in all his life, nor is there anything that will more deject his cooled imagination, when he shall consider what an odd and unworthy piece of folly he hath commited. I speak not in prejudice, nor am adverse from that sweet sex, but naturally amorous of all that is beautiful; I can look a whole day with delight upon a handsome picture, though it be but of a horse.
Browne, Sir Thomas, Religio Medici.
The reproduction of mankind is a great marvel and mystery. Had God consulted me in the matter, I should have advised him to continue the generation of the species by fashioning them of clay.
Luther, Martin, William Hazlitt trs, The Table Talk… of Martin Luther, 307.
I hate Fruition, now ’tis past,
‘Tis all but nastiness at best;
The homeliest thing, that Man can do
Besides, ’tis short, and fleeting too:
A squirt of slippery delight,
That with a moment takes its flight:
A fulsome Bliss, that soon does cloy,
And makes us loath what we enjoy.
Then let us not too eager run,
By Passion blindly hurried on,
Like Beasts who nothing better know,
Than meer Lust incites them to;
For when in Floods of Love we’re drench’d,
The Flames are by enjoyment quench’d:
But thus, let’s thus together lie,
And kiss out long Eternity…
[Argument for prolonged kissing follows. The poem is attached to the Petronius quote: Foeda est in coitu, et brevis voluptas, etc.]
Oldham, John, “A Fragment of Petronius Paraphrased”, in The Penguin Book of Unrespectable Verse (1971), 129.
But celibacy is just great. I have many good friends whom I love dearly and couldn’t bear to be without; I just don’t want to rub the wet slimy bits of my body all over them. It seems perfectly reasonable. I would have thought I was doing them a favour. I mean, who wants to have their bellies slapping together in a great sea of mucus? It’s an awful idea, sex, don’t you think?
Fry, Stephen, interviewed April 1990 by Lynn Barber, in her Mostly Men (Penguin, 1991), 124.
SEXUAL INTIMACY see INTIMACY, SEXUAL, 5/87
[People live in the cosy circle of light formed by the bonfire of man’s ‘completed consciousness’ – the world. Outside is darkness, ignored, or disbelieved in by ordinary people. But some can see glimmers of eyes beyond the darkness.] The grey shadow-shapes of wild beasts, and also… of the angels. … some, having for a moment seen the darkness, saw it bristling with the tufts of the hyena and the wolf; and some, having given up their vanity of the light, having died in their own conceit, saw the gleam in the eyes of the wolf and hyena, that it was the flash of the sword of angels, flashing at the door to come in, that the angels in the darkness were lordly and terrible and not to be denied, like the flash of fangs.
Lawrence, D H, The Rainbow (Penguin, 1949), 443.
SHADOW see SOLITUDE, 6/98
SHAKESPEARE see WORDS, 1/93; GENIUS, 9/93
I think sometimes how good it were had I someone by me to listen when I am tempted to read a passage aloud. Yes, but is there any mortal in the whole world upon whom I could invariably depend for sympathetic understanding? – nay, who would even generally be at one with me in my appreciation. Such harmony of intelligences is the rarest thing. All through life we long for it: the desire drives us like a demon, into waste places… And after all, we learn that the vision was illusory. To every man it is decreed: thou shalt live alone….
Gissing, George, The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft (Oxford, 1987, first edition 1903), 44.
How many forms discarded
how many selves destroyed
how many dawns and darknesses
until I reach
this place of light and emptiness
where white birds cry
a presence —
or still yet only a sign? [from ‘The Region of Identity’, 98.]
In the blue morning mist
off the coast//
that rock the seabirds
with immaculate shit…//
he never tired
of watching it//
saying to himself://
where goes the world?
to the white//
where goes the white?
to the void
where goes the void?//
the void comes and goes
like the light.
[From ‘The Armorican Manuscript’, 217-8.]
White, Kenneth, The Bird Path (Mainstream, Edinburgh, 1989).
SHUNYATA see POETRY, 11/01
SIGHT see VISION, INWARD, 7/87
SIGHT, BLINDNESS AND TV see TELEVISION, 2/98
SIGHTS, THREE, OF, FOUR see DEATH, 5/98
SIGNIFICANCE OF THINGS
We are the bees of the invisible. Tremulously we gather in the honey of the visible to store up in the great golden hive of the Invisible. … [In the days before mass production] hardly a thing was not a vessel in which our grandparents found human sentiment inhering, or in which they did not, in their turn, store up an additional horde of human sentiment. But now empty, indifferent things come surging down upon us…
Rilke, 1925 letter, quoted by J M Coetzee, London Review of Books, 2 December 1999.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THINGS
Every thing in this world, said my father, is big with jest,—and has wit in it, and instruction too,—if we can but find it out.
Sterne, Laurence, Tristram Shandy (1762), vol. 5, ch. 32.
SIGNIFICANCE see MYTHIC, 5/98
SIGNIFICANCE see POETRY, 11/01
In every object, mountain, tree, and star — in every birth and life,
As part of each — evolv’d from each — meaning, behind the ostent,
A mystic cipher waits infolded. [Ostent means showing.]
Whitman, Walt, from ‘Shakespeare — Bacon’s Cipher’ in Leaves of Grass (1892).
[Long section, including] The silence that keeps mental tares and parasites afar, and shelters the unfolding of your thoughts. … The silence of thoughts shaping their wings in tranquillity; for any unrest of the heart or mind is evil.
Silence of the heart and silence of the senses. Silence even of the still, small voice within yourself; … Silence of God, like the shepherd’s sleep than which no sleep is softer, though threatened seem the lambs and ewes; when both flock and shepherd cease to be, for who can tell one from the other in the starry night, when all is at rest and a wan glimmer of sleep-bound wool? [Continuation under WISDOM.]
St.-Exupery, The Wisdom of the Sands (Hollis and Carter, 1952), 18.
[Edith Sitwell says that Thomas Carlyle] was much given to the praise of silence. But the exiled Mazzini was driven by his constant monologues on the subject – lasting sometimes for over half an hour – to the conclusion that ‘he loved silence somewhat platonically’.
Sitwell, Edith, English Eccentrics (Penguin, 1971, first edition 1933), 314.
I have decided to leave Clea’s last letter unanswered. … It will be up to Clea to interpret my silence according to her own needs and desires. … Does not everything depend on our interpretation of the silence around us?
Durrell, Lawrence, Justine (Faber), 245.
And as we stray further from love
We multiply the words,
Words and sentences long and orderly.
Had we remained together
We could have become a silence.
Amichai, Yehuda, Quick and Bitter, translated from the Hebrew by Assia Gutmann (Penguin book of love poems).
Forever you go towards silence further and further, it at once calls and rebels. If we stay there long enough nature draws us into the mood of the infinite and the unknown. [Caption to a photograph.]
O’Brien, Edna, Mother Ireland.
Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving wordy evidence of the fact.
Eliot, George, Impressions of Theophratus
SILENCE, FEAR OF
Le silence eternel de ces espaces infinis m’effraie.
Pascal, Blaise, Pensees, in Bridges, The Spirit of Man, No 163.
In Platonic thinking, there was no melodrama, no agonised doubt of salvation, for evil was already dominated by the mere fact of being discerned and known: in Christianity, on the contrary, all is drama, expiation, damnation, redemption, passion; sin is not error but disobedience and revolt. And as soon as the sin of the flesh became the exemplary sin and the sexual act a profanation (except for a resigned concession to marriage), with virginity considered as the state of excellence, the full weight of terror fell upon the flesh and upon love….
Lilar, Susanne, Aspects of Love (Panther, 1967, first French edition 1963).
SKILFUL HABITS see ETHICS, HABIT OF, 7/94
SLANDER see MALICIOUS SPEECH, 8/98
Sleeping is no mean art. You have to stay awake all day to do it.
Nietzsche, Zarathustra, “Of the Choirs of Virtue”.
[Sleep:]… The unfathomable deep
Forest where all must lose
Their way, however straight,
Or winding, soon or late.
Thomas, Edward, from “Lights Out”, in 1954 Palgrave.
SLEEP, see RESPITE, 8/87; BEULAH, 9/87; DEATH AS SLEEP, 2/05
[Various delighted people] Feel rapture; but not such true joy are reaping
As they who watch o’er what they love while sleeping. …
There lies the thing we love with all its errors
And all its charms, like death without its terrors.
Byron, Don Juan, II, CXCVI-VII.
SLEEP-WALKERS, AWAKE AMONG see AWAKE, BEING, 12/87
SLEEP-WALKING see SELF-DESTRUCTION, 5/87
SMALL TO LARGE
We need not shrink from this comparison of small things with great, for does not science tell us that its highest striving is after the ascertainment of a unity which shall bind the smallest things with the greatest? In natural science, I have understood, there is nothing petty to the mind that has a large vision of relations, and to which every single object suggest a vast sum of conditions. It is surely the same with the observation of human life.
Eliot, George, The Mill on the Floss, 363.
SNOW see LONELY PLACE, 5/98
SOBRIETY YIELDS OMINOUS THOUGHTS see THINKING, 82
SOCIALISING TO AVOID ONESELF
I live in the crowd of jollity, not so much to enjoy company as to shun myself.
Johnson, Samuel, Rasselas. Chap. xvi.
… if there could be such a thing as socialism combined with individual liberty, I would be a socialist still. For nothing could be better than living a modest, simple, and free life in an egalitarian society. It took some time before I recognised this is no more than a beautiful dream; that freedom is more important than equality; that the attempt to realise equality endangers freedom; and that, if freedom is lost, there will not even be equality among the unfree.
Popper, Karl, Unended Quest, 36.
SOCRATES see WISDOM OF SOCRATES, 6/98; EXAMINATION, 6/98; DEATH, 6/98
SOCRATES, DEATH OF
There was not one of those present who was not overcome by his tears and distress except Socrates himself. But he asked: ‘What are you doing, you strange people? My chief reason for sending away the women was that we might be spared such discordance is this; for I have heard that a man ought to die in solemn stillness. So prey be composed, and restrain yourselves!’
Plato, Phaedo, in Casson, editor, Classical Age (Laurel, Dell, New York, 1965), 349.
SOLEMNITY see LAUGHTER, 4/98
SOLIPSISM see CONSCIOUSNESS, 5/87
… Solitude can be well fitted and set right, but upon a very few persons. They must have enough knowledge of the World to see the vanity of it, and enough Virtue to despise all vanity; if the mind be possest with any dust or Passions, a man had better be in a Fair than in a Wood alone. They may, like petty thieves, cheat us perhaps, and pick our pockets, in the midst of company; but like robbers, they use to strip or bind or murder us, when they catch us alone. …
Cowley, Abraham, “Essay on Solitude”, in Bridges, The Spirit of Man, 292.
… languor, which, though to the eye
Idlesse it seem, hath its morality –
If from society we learn to live,
‘Tis solitude should teach us how to die;
It hath no flatterers; vanity can give
No hollow aid; alone – man with his God must strive.
Byron, Childe Harold, IV, XXXIII.
One man runs to his neighbour because he’s looking for himself, and another because he wants to lose himself. Your bad love of yourselves makes solitude a prison to you.
Nietzsche, Zarathustra, “Of Love of One’s Neighbour”.
And be on your guard, too, against the assaults your love makes upon you! The solitary extends his hand too quickly to anyone he meets.
To many men, you ought not to give your hand, but only your paw: and I should like it if your paw had claws, too.
But you yourself will always be the worst enemy you encounter; you yourself lie in wait for yourself in caves and forests.
Solitary man, you are going the way to yourself! And your way leads past yourself and your seven devils!
You will be a heretic to yourself and a witch and a prophet and an evil-doer and a villain.
You must be ready to burn yourself in your own flame: how could you become new, if you had not first become ashes?
Nietzsche, Zarathustra, “Of the Way of the Creator”.
You don’t need to leave your room.
Remain sitting at your table and listen.
Don’t even listen, simply wait.
Don’t even wait.
Be quite still and solitary.
The world will freely offer itself to you.
To be unmasked, it has no choice.
It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
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).
He preferred to be alone, as he had always been. … Baudelaire wanted to add to the list of human rights: le droit de s’en aller, “the right to go away”.
Calasso, Roberto, Guardian Review, 8/12/2012
SOLITUDE AND COMPANIONSHIP
At bottom no one in life can help anyone else in life; this one experiences over and over in every conflict and every perplexity: that one is alone.
All companionship can exist only in the strengthening of two neighbouring solitudes, whereas everything one is wont to call giving oneself is by nature harmful to companionship: for when a person abandons himself, he is no longer anything, and when two people both give themselves up in order to become closer to each other, there is no longer any ground beneath them and their being together is a continual falling.
Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, translated John Mood (Rilke on Love and Other Difficulties, Norton, 1975, 28).
SOLITUDE AND TOGETHERNESS, NEED FOR
Only when alone can I feel fully alive … which probably explains why great artists are usually male, since females are biologically slanted away from the extreme forms of this disposition, and have to devote a good deal of attention to others.
Atthill, Diana. Guardian Review. 10/12/05, 22.
SOLITUDE see NATURE, 1/90; INDIVIDUALITY, 4/95; LONELY PLACE, 5/98; LOVE, 6/98; MARRIAGE, 6/2000; HAPPINESS, 6/2000
And ever, against eating cares,
Lap me in soft Lydian airs,
Married to immortal verse,
Such as the meeting soul may pierce,
In notes with many a winding bout
Of linkéd sweetness long drawn out
With wanton heed and giddy cunning,
The melting voice through mazes running,
Untwisting all the chains that tie
The hidden soul of harmony.
Milton, from “L’allegro”.
This was a fruit, sound and splendid enough for the instant or so, yet extraordinarily prone to decay; the purest refreshment of the spirit, if enjoyed at the right moment, but the next, capable of spreading decay and corruption among men. It was the fruit of life, conceived of death, pregnant of dissolution; it was a miracle of the soul, perhaps the highest, in the eye and sealed with the blessing of conscienceless beauty; but on cogent grounds regarded with mistrust by the eye of shrewd geniality dutifully ‘taking stock’ in its love of the organic; it was the subject for self-conquest at the definite behest of conscience. [Schubert’s The Linden Tree.]
Mann, Thomas, The Magic Mountain (Penguin, 1960, Lowe-Porter trans., 1st ed. 1924), 652-3.
… a sorrow’s crown of sorrow is remembering happier things.
Tennyson, Locksley Hall.
As I’ve gotten older, I find I am able to be nourished more by sorrow and to distinguish it from depression.
Bly, Robert, in Marcus Mendez quotes pamphlet, Out of the Blue, December 1992.
SORROW see THIRST, 4/85; EMOTIONS, VERBALISING, 4/95; DUKKHA, 5/98
SOUL see HABITS, 12/87; COWERING, 8/87; FIXED SELF, 5/98; SPIRIT AND SOUL, 7/02
What birds plunge through is not the intimate space
in which you see all forms intensified.
(Out in the open, you would be denied
yourself, would disappear into that vastness.)//
Space reaches from us and construes the world:
to know a tree, in its true element,
throw inner space around it, from that pure
abundance in you. Surround it with restraint.
It has no limits. Not till it is held
in your renouncing is it truly there.
Rilke, (Untitled), In Mitchell (Selected Poetry, Picador/Pan, 1987), 263.
SPACE AND TIME
… Space with gaunt grey eyes and her brother Time…
She with the mould of form and he with the loom of rhyme. …
[and]… Ether’s long bankless streams.
Flecker, James Elroy, from “Stillness”, in 1954 Palgrave.
SPACE, PERSONAL see MUNDANE SHELL, 5/98
SPEAKING see TALKS, 5/98
… for the uttering sweetly and properly the conceits of the mind (which is the end of speech).
Sidney, Sir Philip, A Defence of Poetry (Oxford University Press, 1966, 1st ed. 1595, dates 1554-86), 73.
SPEECH BETTER THAN WRITING see WRITING, 5/98; 8/06; 7/08
SPEECH CONCEALS THOUGHTS
Speech has been given to us for the purpose of concealing our thoughts.
Conrad, Joseph, Under Western Eyes, quoted Guardian Review, 5/2/05, 34.
SPELL FOR SLEEPING see INSOMNIA, 5/90
SPIRAL see DEVELOPMENT, SPIRAL, 6/90; PROGRESS, 6/97; PROGRESS, 10/2000
SPIRIT AND SOUL
Spirit directs us to the Negative Way, driving us upward, beyond all images, towards the transcendent One, Truth, God…. soul’s movement is downward to the Underworld, towards the imminent Many.
Whenever we sit down to serious intellectual work or to spiritual meditation, it is soul’s daimons which distract us with anxiety and disturbing memories, and provoke us with daydreams and desires. From the “pure intellect” and “pure act” of Augustine and Aquinas, to the “pure Reason” and “pure Being “of Kant and Hegel, spirit always pursues purity. Pure science literalises the pursuit…
Not only purity but order, clarity, enlightenment are spirit’s watchwords. Let’s get things straight, let’s be clear, let’s be rational… says spirit. But soul is always at its side, obscuring, muddying and muddling. For soul favours the labyrinthine way of slow reflection, not rapid thought. Things cannot be made straight because they are intrinsically crooked and ambiguous; cannot be spotlit because they are intrinsically twilit; cannot be wiped away because they are harnessed to a long history whose traces cannot be kicked over. Soul holds spirit back, and down, making it mull things over and attend to the details here and now, rather than flying off into some programmed future plan.
The universe is ultimately simple, elegant, unified, says the spirit of the scientist… no, says the soul of the artist… it is complex, grotesque, multiple and full of anomalies. All images are false, says spirit; no images are false, says soul — only false perspectives on images.
Spirit always leads us into literalism… If soul ascends it does so metaphorically.
Harpur, Patrick, The Philosophers Secret Fire (Penguin, 02), 227.
SPIRIT see AWARENESS, 3/88
SPIRITUAL DEATH see SOLITUDE, 6/98
Never thinking of protecting the little rice fields,
Yet it does not fail – the scarecrow. (Dogen)
Not for the sake of a beholder, in the deep mountains
Blossoms the cherry out of the sincerity of its heart. (Japanese song.)
[Attainment is not just sitting by the river just watching the current, but jumping in – but without being drowned!]
On the swift current is impelled a ball,
Freely turning and turning, freely rolling and rolling. (Sessan)
Leggett, Trevor, trs, A First Zen Reader (Tuttle, Rutland Vm., 1960), 183, 191.
SPONTENEITY see CREATIVITY, 2/02
STAGE, WORLD AS see MEANINGLESSNESS, 2/92
STAGNATION see MISFORTUNE, BECOMING RECONCILED TO, 6/2000
STAR, DANCING (NIETZSCHE’S) see CREATIVITY, 1/93
I know more than Apollo,
For oft, where he lies sleeping,
I see the stars
At mortal wars
In the wounded welkin weeping.
Anon, “Tom O’Bedlam’s Song”, circa 1500.
Star of my life, to the stars your face is turned;
Would I were the heavens, looking back at you with ten thousand eyes.
Baudelaire talks of… ‘angelic excitation’, of ‘immaterial voluptuousness’…
But I’ll still continue to travel a step at a time, believing that the ‘paradise’ comes out of the most ordinary reality, and out of ‘normal’ states. Less spectacular maybe, but more lasting; less intense, but with a greater density.
White, Kenneth, Travels in the Drifting Dawn (Penguin, 1989), 69
This magnificent butterfly finds a little heap of dirt and sits still on it; but man will never on his heap of mud keep still…
Conrad, Joseph, Lord Jim, Ch. 20.
STIMULATING COMPANY see HUMBOLDT, 4/99
STIMULATING INTELLECT AND WILL
The intellect is stimulated by the statement of truth in a trope, and the will by clothing the laws of life in illusions.
Emerson, from ‘Illusions’ quoted Guardian Review, 24/05/03, 6.
All she has left is the picture. Also the story of it.// The picture [an old photograph] is of happiness, the story not. Happiness is a garden walled with glass: in Paradise there are no stories, because there are no journeys. It’s loss and regret and misery and yearning that drive the story forward, along its twisted road.
Atwood, Margaret, The Blind Assassin (Bloomsbury, 2000) 518.
The act of telling a story involves straddling two worlds. One foot is in the place where the story happens, one foot is in the place where the story is being told. One eye looks inwards to the image world of the tale (the imagination), the other looks outwards to the audience. The tongue (or the pen) relays one world to the other.
Lupton, Hugh, Something Understood (Radio 4, Feb 2005).
Then welcome each rebuff
That turns Earth’s smoothness rough,
Each sting that bids nor sit nor stand but go!
Be our joys three parts pain!
Strive and hold cheap the strain;
Learn, nor account the pang, dare, never grudge the throe!
Browning, from “Rabbi Ben Ezra”.
Theoretically there exists a perfect possibility of happiness: to believe in the indestructible element in oneself and not strive after it.
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).
STRIVING see ACTION, 5/92
STUBBORNNESS see PERSUASION, 9/93
Why does one study?//
for the white gathered element –
having shaken the letters//
to become unlettered//
in the unlettered light.
White, Kenneth, from ‘Mountain Study’, in The Bird Path (Mainstream, Edinburgh, 1989), 164.
STUDY see KNOWLEDGE AS TRADITION, 4/04
Style is the imprint of what we are on what we do.
Daumal, René, quoted Roberto Calasso, The Ruin of Kasch, translated by Weaver and Sartarelli (Vintage, 1995), 96.
SUBJECT AND OBJECT
When the subject exists in cramped distortion the object will necessarily exist in a monstrous distortion. [Man as a mere body in a huge, lifeless cosmos.] (p 41)
The visionary sees, as the final revelation of the Word which God speaks to his mind, that the whole ‘outside’ universe is a shadow of an eclipsed Man. (p 48.)
… the ‘memory’, by separating the subject from the object, may quite consistently turn a man into either in navel-gazer or an atomist, but… from the point of view of the imagination it does not matter which. … the same tendency in religion may make a man either an inert contemplative or an antinomian. In ordinary life… a man may specialise in self-restraint or in restraint of others. The former produces the vices which spring from fear, the latter those which spring from cruelty. But the thwarting of imagination is the basis for both: all the cruel are frightened, and all the fearful are cruel. … [The first are ‘tyrants’ or ‘parasites’, the second are ‘victims’ or ‘hosts’ – both being passive.] In the state of ‘memory’ or reflection we withdraw into ourselves and are locked up there with our own keys in a dark spiritual solitude in which we are unable to perceive activity except in terms of hindrance and restraint. (p 57.)
Frye, Northrop, Fearful Symmetry (Princeton, 1947).
SUBJECT AND OBJECT AND PAIN
We’re living exactly on the borderline between the natural world … and that other world which is generated by our brain cells. And so clearly that fault line runs through our physical and emotional makeup … where these tectonic plates rub against each other [are] the sources of pain.
Sebald, WG, The Emergence of Memory, quoted Guardian Review, 7/2/09, p3.
SUBJECT AND OBJECT see FEMININE 12/85
We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are.
Nin, Anais, quoted The Week, 13/3/99, 17.
The idea has spread… that, if you want to be objective (that is, fair), you must talk only about objects, never about subjects….
[The trouble is] not that we don’t study the appropriate sages but that we have been deliberately deterred – indeed, actively warned off – from directly attending to ourselves and to those around us at all. The bizarre anti-self campaign… is surely intended, among other things, to put us off taking notice of everybody’s inner life.
Midgley, Mary, Are You an Illusion (Acumen, Durham, 2014), 19, 133.
SUBJECTIVITY, CONTINUOUS WITH OBJECTIVITY
Thought… Is part of a huge network that is continuous with the vast world that is its subject matter. The roots and tendrils of thought are everywhere. It is pervasive because it is not, as dualists have supposed, a supernatural alien substance intruded into our physical existence but on organic element of life, an activity as natural to us as seeing or eating.
Midgley, Mary, Are You an Illusion (Acumen, Durham, 2014), 57
SUBJECTIVITY see CONSCIOUSNESS, 5/87
Everyone… came under her sway with the submissiveness of molluscs involved in a glacial epoch.
Saki, Best of Saki (Picador/Pan), 221.
SUCCESS see HOPE, 5/92
SUFFERING AND DECISION see POETRY, 9/09
SUFFERING OF LIFE
Hides from himself his state, and shuns to know
That life protracted is protracted woe.
Johnson, Samuel, Vanity of Human Wishes. Line 257.
SUFFERING see UGLINESS, 3/91; NEUROSIS, 2/05
SUFFERING VS DECEIT
‘This lie isn’t so very terrible. What harm does it do anyone? Suffering is more terrible than lying.’
And when he felt he was strong and ruthless enough to break with Lyudmila and ruin Sokolov’s life, this same treacherous fear egged him on with a contradictory argument: ‘Nothing can be worse than deceit. It would be better to break with Lyudmila altogether than to go on lying to her all the time. And making Marya Ivanovna lie to her. Deceit is more terrible than suffering.’
Grossman, Vasily, Life and Fate (R Chandler (trs), Vintage, 2006), 810. Re character considering renouncing a deceitful love affair.
“O Cormac, grandson of Conn,” said Carberry, “what is the worst for the body of man?”
“Not hard to tell,” said Cormac. “Sitting too long, lying too long, long-standing, lifting heavy things, exerting oneself beyond one’s strength, running too much, leaping too much, frequent falls, sleeping with one’s leg over the bed-rail, gazing at glowing embers, wax, biestings [very new milk], new ale, bull-flesh, curdles, dry food, bog-water, rising too early, cold, sun, hunger, drinking too much, eating too much, sleeping too much, sitting too much, grief, running up a height, shouting against the wind, drying oneself by a fire, summer-dew, winter-dew, beating ashes, swimming on a full stomach, sleeping on one’s back, foolish romping.”
Cormac, Instructions of King Cormac (Irish, 9th Century), quoted in Walter de la Mare’s Come Hither anthology (Constable, 1923).
It’s ridiculous to murder somebody, even if it’s you, for a temporary reason.
Kennedy, A L (writer, interviewed on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour, 2008)
SUICIDE see DEATH WISH, 2/01
[The sun]… flames in the forehead of the morning sky.
Milton, Weep No More.
The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and depending on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do.
Galileo, in Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (1632), quoted Daily Telegraph, 10/9/12, QI column.
SUN, VISIONARY see VISIONARY PERCEPTION, 10/98
I am a Sundial. Ordinary words
Cannot express my thoughts on birds.
Belloc, H, “On another [Sundial]”.
SUNDIAL see MORTALITY, 7/88; DUALITY, 7/88
What is this tempest
This rumbling of drums!
These yellow stripes of the tiger
Through the dark green leaves!//
It is only the Sun
Walking along the riverbank.//
Can you not hear the pad pad of the sunbeams
Through the trees?//
And the noiseless hurry of the water?//
You would not think they were chained —
Vibrating in the stillness of adamant!
Turner, W J, poem viii from a sequence in The Oxford Book of Modern Verse.
SURFEIT see EXCESS, 7/87
When [one] is driven to the utmost extremity, it is warmth and food and ease from pain he wants. Peace and justice come afterward. Rain symbolises mercy and sunlight charity, but rain and sunlight are better than mercy and charity. Otherwise they would degrade the things they symbolise.
Wolfe, Gene, The Citadel of the Autarch (Arrow/Hutchinson, 1983), 247.
I adore certain symbols as much as you do. But it would be absurd to sacrifice to the symbol the reality which it symbolises. Cathedrals should be adored until such time as their preservation becomes dependent on our denying the truths that they teach. [Marcel is speaking.]
Proust, Le Temps retrouvé, (new Penguin translation), quoted Guardian Review, 2/11/02, 27.