Waiting means hurrying on ahead, it means regarding time and the present moment not as a boon, but an obstruction; it means making their actual content null and void, by mentally overleaping them. Waiting, we say, is long. We might just as well – or more accurately – say it is short, since it consumes whole spaces of time without our living them or making any use of them as such. We may compare him who lives on expectation to a greedy man, whose digestive apparatus works through quantities of food without converting it into anything of value or nourishment to the system.

Mann, Thomas, The Magic Mountain (Penguin, 1960, Lowe-Porter trans., 1st ed. 1924), 239.




Now it is high time to waken out of sleep; for now is our salvation nearer then when we believed.

The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.

Paul, St., Romans, xiii, 11.




I believe the desire for war was first lodged in the instincts as a biological shock-mechanism to precipitate a spiritual crisis which couldn’t be done any other how in limited people.  The less sensitive among us can hardly visualise death, far less live joyfully with it.  So the powers that arranged things for us felt they must concretise it, in order to lodge death in the actual present. … [Johnny Keats the journalist speaking.]

Durrell, Lawrence, Clea (Faber), 183.




[Very vivid description of young men thrown into the horror of battle.]

Mann, Thomas, The Magic Mountain (Penguin, 1960, Lowe-Porter trans., 1st ed. 1924), 712ff.




When this man crouches for spring on the pig, he sees only the pig.  He don’t have a thort for himself, he’s so rapt up in his prey, single-minded in his hunt.  Meanwhile, the pig grunts hopeful.  He only has thorts for his nuts.  Now all his sense is slid down for the tip of his snout.
An minds are similar in this, like rooting pigs or hunting men.  They don’t have a mind for themselves.  They watch hard an sharp, never remembering its them that watching.
So, when a man watches a hog, he only knows the hog. An when this man’s mind watches the man watching the hog, it only sees the man an the hog.  It’s too busy for watch itself.
So what is, is more than is known.  For what’s seen is less than what’s there.  What wiv the watcher always blind for himself.  Our heds being for blame for this.
An eyes don’t help, nyva, looking out an away, neva watching themselves, which makes them knowing, an ignorant, but that’s the dark hole we fowks are tumbled in, so it’s a hard climb scrambling out, an only the beckoning lite at the top keeps you trying, an that’s the sun, all ways beyond reach.
So becaws our minds wur watching, but hid for themselves, an any way without a name for call themselves, we got lost in our thorts, sum ways, so culdn’t tell what wur out there in the wurld, and what wur stumbling the gloom between our ears, so there wur stuff insides we thought were outsides, and things outside we thort were in… [From a novel about language 35,000 years ago.]

Wilson, Chris, The Wurd (Flamingo, 1995), 100.




[Dying of thirst] I should never have believed that man was so truly the prisoner of the springs and freshets. …  We believe that man is free.  We never see the cord that binds him to springs and fountains, that umbilical cord by which he is tied to the womb of the world….  I have nothing to complain of.  For three days I have tramped the desert, have followed false scents in the sand, have pinned my faith on the dew.  I have struggled to rejoin my kind, whose very existence on earth I’d forgotten.  These are the cares of man alive in every fibre, and I cannot help thinking them more important than the fretful choosing of a night-club in which to spend the evening.  Compare the one life with the other, and all considered, this is luxury!

St.-Exupery, Wind Sand and Stars (Heinemann, 1939), 208-9.




The way lies under the foot of every person.

Dogen, in Yuho Yokoi, Zen Master Dogen An Introduction with Selected Writings (1976).




A monk asked Master Haryo, ‘What is the way?’ Haryo said, ‘An opened-eyed man falling into the well.’

Zen koan




A man who acknowledges his weakness is strong indeed.

Balzac, The Wild Ass’s Skin (Everyman), 127.




Superfluous lags the veteran on the stage.

Johnson, Samuel, Vanity of Human Wishes. Line 308.




… we tread but a perpetual round;
We ne’er strike out, but beat the former ground,
And the same Maukish joyes in the same track are found.
For still we think an absent blessing best,
Which cloys, and is no blessing when possest;
A new arising wish expels it from the Breast.
The Feverish thirst of Life increases still;
We call for more and more, and never have our fill;
Yet know not what to-morrow we shall try,
What dregs of life in the last draught may lie…

Dryden, John, from “Against the Fear of Death” (after Lucretius).




Ay note that potter’s wheel,
That metaphor! And feel
Why time spins fast, why passive lies our clay…//
… Time’s wheel runs back or stops: Potter [God] and clay [soul] endure.//
… Thou, heaven’s consummate cup, what’s need’st thou with earths wheel? …//
… to the wheel of life
With shapes and colours rife,
Bound dizzily…

Browning, “Rabbi Ben Ezra” (fragments).






I never saw a brute I hated so;
He must be wicked to deserve such pain.  [A horse.]

Browning, from “Childe Roland”.




If a man is a coward, it proves he has will. [A saying of his father’s.]

Gurdjieff, G L, Meetings with Remarkable Men (Picador, 1978), 46.




The will that flings a rope – though hard –
To catch the future off its guard.

MacNeice, Louis, from “A Toast”, in 1954 Palgrave.




… it has been brought home to me that man’s ‘progress’ is but the gradual discovery that his questions have no meaning. … the truth has come to them as the annulment of a question, not its answer. … wisdom is not a matter of finding answers to problems, but a cure for the vagaries and imperfections of language. … love means: an end of questionings… O Lord… let us enter that good place where there will be no more answers, but only bliss, keystone of questions, and sweet content.  Then he who enters will discover the lake of soft water, vaster than all the seven seas together, of whose existence he had intimation is in the low sound of streams… [etc.]. …  Silence, the haven.  God’s silence, haven of all wave-worn ships.

St.-Exupery, The Wisdom of the Sands (Hollis and Carter, 1952), 129-30.




But these are foolish things to all the wise,
And I love wisdom more than she loves me;
My tendency is to philosophize
On most things, from a tyrant to a tree;
But still the spouseless virgin knowledge flies.
What are we?  And whence come we?  What shall be
Our ultimate existence?  What’s our present?
Are questions answerless, and yet incessant.

Byron, don Juan, VI, LVIII.




The striving for wisdom is the second paradise of the world.

Paracelsus, quoted in Robertson Davies, The Rebel Angels (Penguin, 1983), 44.




A profound knowledge of life is the least enviable of all species of knowledge, because it can only be acquired by trials that make us regret the loss of our ignorance.

Blessington, Countess of (1789-1841), in L & M Cowan, The Wit of Women.




I am that living and fiery essence of the divine substance that glows in the beauty of the fields.  I shine in the water, I burn in the sun and the moon and the stars… I breathe in the verdure and in the flower, and when the waters flow like living things, it is I… I am Wisdom.  Mine is the blast of the thundered Word by which all things were made… I am life.

Hildegarde of Bingen (1098-1180), quoted by Agnes Arbor(?), in The Mind and the Eye.




[Pip’s soul] … carried down alive to wondrous depths, where strange shapes of the unwarped primal world glided to and fro before his passive eyes; and the miser-merman, Wisdom, revealed his hoarded heaps; and among the joyous, heartless, ever-juvenile eternities, Pip saw the multitudinous, God-omnipresent, coral insects, that out of the firmament of waters heaved the colossal orbs. [Pip is a castaway swimming – called mad when rescued.]

Melville, Moby Dick (Penguin), 525.





[Chaerophon asked the Delphic Oracle] whether anyone was wiser than I, and the Pythian priestess answered that there was no one wiser. … I pondered… ‘I am not conscious that in me is any wisdom.’… I was at a loss as to what he [Apollo] meant, and… I went to one of those who was reputed wise… But as I examined and conversed with him… it seemed to me that… in reality [he] was not wise. … I reasoned… ‘I am wiser than this man; for it may well be that neither of us knows anything really beautiful and good, but he thinks that he knows something…, whereas I neither know nor think that I know anything.  I do therefore seem to be wiser than he, at least in this small particular, that what I know not, I do not even think I know.’ …
After that, I went to many in turn, perceiving with grief and anxiety that I was making myself hated… I learnt… that what [the poets] did was done not by the help of wisdom, but by a certain natural gift and inspiration, just as the soothsayers and diviners say many beautiful things, of which, however, they understand not a word. …
Each [artisan], because he worked well in his own art, thought himself wisest as to matters of another and higher nature, and this error obscured the knowledge that he really possessed. …
Through this I have… got the name of being a wise man.  For the bystanders always think that I am wiser about those subjects on which I expose the ignorance of another.  But the truth probably is, citizens, that it is the God who is really wise, and that he means in this oracle to say that human wisdom is worth little or nothing. … as if he were saying: ‘He is wisest among you… who, like Socrates, has come to know that he is in truth worth nothing as regards wisdom.’… (pp 323-5)
… if you kill me, you will not readily find another such as I, who am, as it were, … fastened upon the state by God like some gadfly upon a powerful, high-bred steed who has become sluggish by reason of his very size, and needs to be aroused. … and that is why, besetting you everywhere the whole day long, I arouse and stir up and reproach each one of you.  (p334) [Speech to judicial panel of 500, at his trial.]

Socrates, in Plato’s Apology, in Casson, Classical Age (Laurel, Dell, New York, 1965).




There is a wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness. [This extends Ecclesiastes.]

Melville, Moby Dick (Penguin), 535.




See, with eyes shut.
Look seldom behind thee.
Mark but a flower:
‘Tis of Eden.  A fly
Shall sound thee a horn
Wooing Paradise nigh.
Think close.  Unto love
Give thy heart’s steed the rein;
So – course the world over:
Then Homeward again.

Anon, found by Walter de la Mare in ‘a small black cobbled-up book entitled Glamourie in a red leather case in Thrae.’ Come Hither (Constable, 1960, first edition 1923), 534.




I wish I loved the Human Race;
I wish I loved its silly face;
I wish I liked the way it walks;
I wish I liked the way it talks;
And when I’m introduced to one
I wish I thought What Jolly Fun!

Raleigh, Sir Walter (20th century), “Wishes of an Elderly Man”, in Penguin Book of Unrespectable Verse (1972), 187.





A woman’s need to be circumferenced by a man is as strong and biologic as ever.

O’Brien, Edna, quoted in L and M Cowan, The Wit of Women.




A woman is like a tea bag, – only in hot water do you realise how strong she is.

Reagan, Nancy, 1985.  Quoted Daily Telegraph, 1 March 1996.




In woman, a slave and a tyrant have all too long been concealed.  For that reason, woman is not yet capable of friendship: she knows only love.
In a woman’s love is injustice and blindness towards all that she does not love.  And in the enlightened love of a woman, too, there is still the unexpected attack and lightning and night, along with the light. …
Woman is not yet capable of friendship.  But tell me, you men, which of you is yet capable of friendship? [“Of the Friend”.]

… Everything about woman is a riddle, and everything about woman has one solution: it is called pregnancy.
For the woman, the man is a means: the end is always the child.  But what is the woman for the man?
The true man wants two things: danger and play.  For that reason he wants woman, as the most dangerous plaything.
Man should be trained for war and woman for the recreation of the warrior: all else is folly. …
Woman understands children better than a man, but man is more childlike than woman.
A child is concealed in the true man: it wants to play.  Come women, discover the child in man! …
Let there be honour in your [woman’s] love!  Woman has understood little otherwise about honour.  But let this be your honour: always to love more than you are loved and never to be second in this.
Let man fear woman when she loves.  Then she bears every sacrifice[,] and every other thing she accounts valueless.
Let man fear woman when she hates: for man is at the bottom of his soul only wicked, but woman is base.
Whom does woman hate most?  – Thus spoke the iron to the magnet: ‘I hate you most, because you attract me, but are not strong enough to draw me towards you.’
The man’s happiness is: I will.  The woman’s happiness is: He will. …
And woman has to obey and find a depth for her surface.  Woman’s nature is surface: a changeable, stormy film upon shallow waters.
But a man’s nature is deep, its torrents roar in subterranean caves: woman senses its power but does not comprehend it. …
‘Give me your little truth, woman!’  [To whom the above was said] I said.  And thus spoke the little old woman:
‘Are you visiting women?  Do not forget your whip!’  [“Of Old and Young Women”.]

Nietzsche, Zarathustra.




A woman who thinks that she is intelligent demands equal rights with men.  A woman who is intelligent does not.

Colette, in Great Quotations (Readers Digest, 1978), 60.




The fate that I tried to tell of and lament in the Requiem [a poem, for Paula Modersohn-Becker, d. 1907, painter] is perhaps the essential conflict of the artist: the opposition and contradiction between objective and personal enjoyment of the world.  It is no less conclusively demonstrated in a man who is an artist by necessity; but in a woman who has committed herself to the infinite transpositions of the artist’s existence the pain and danger of his choice become inconceivably visible.  Since she is physical far into her soul and is designed for bearing children of flesh and blood, something like a complete transformation of all the organs must take place if she is to attain the true fruitfulness of soul.
The birth process which, in a purely spiritual way, the male artist enjoys, suffers, and survives, may, in a woman who is capable of giving birth to a work of art, broaden and be exalted into something that is of the utmost spirituality.  But these processes undergo just a gradual intensification, and still remain, in unlimited ramifications, within the realm of the physical.  (So that, exaggerating, one could say that even what is most spiritual in woman is still her body: body become sublime.) Therefore, for her, any relapse into a more primitive and narrow kind of suffering, enjoying, and bringing forth is an overfilling of the organs with the blood that has been augmented for another, greater circulation.

Rilke, Letter to Hugo Heller, 12 June 1909, translated by Stephen Mitchell, in Selected Poetry (Picador/Pan, 1987), 305.





In her [Justine] there was nothing to control or modify the intuition which she had developed out of a nature gorged upon introspection: no education, no resources of intellection to battle against the imperatives of a violent heart. … Whatever passed for thought in her was borrowed. …  She was a walking abstract of the writers and thinkers whom she had loved or admired – but what clever woman is more?

Durrell, Lawrence, Justine, (Faber), 202-3.




Like women who think by biological precept and without the help of reason.  To such women how fatal an error it is to give oneself; there is simply a small chewing noise, as when the cat reaches the backbone of the mouse.  (p 144)
‘There are only three things to be done with a woman,’ said Clea once.  ‘You can love her, suffer for her, or turn her into literature.’ (p 22)

Durrell, Lawrence, Justine.




Subconsciously he [Nessim, of Justine] knew too, that oriental woman is not a sensualist in the European sense; there is nothing mawkish in her constitution.  Her true obsessions are power, politics and possessions – however much she might deny it.  The sex ticks on in the mind, but its motions are warmed by the kinetic brutalities of money.  (p 202)
Savage and exultant as their kisses were, they were but the lucid illustrations of their human case.  They had discovered each other’s inmost weakness, the true site of love.  (p 205)

Durrell, Lawrence, Mountolive.




Women are born facing inwards, men are born facing outwards.

Anon, Chinese saying.




If they have a fault – and I’m not positively saying they do, you understand, – it’s that they’re inclined to be a trifle down on the defeated warrior.

Wodehouse, P G, quoted in The Week, 1 August 1998, 17.




A few years ago the Palestinian publisher Naim Attalah thought he would like to understand Women with a capital W, by interviewing 300 successful ones in several countries, which resulted in his coming to ‘think that perhaps women were more interesting that men’.  He had not expected it; but each woman seemed to have a different opinion.  However, they agreed on one point: they did not believe that women were creative, or at least they said women were rarely geniuses, because they dissipated their energies, were too sensual, were satisfied with the world as it was, or were not sufficiently brave, or ruthless, or as unbalanced as men; creativity was the male’s substitute for childbearing, which was enough to absorb all women’s creative urges.  One of the women questioned… said women were more creative than men socially, as hostesses, mothers, friends; however, no credit was taken for this, because it was not seen as a central feature of their lives, but as the complementary quality which enriched them and which it was unwise to stress, for women had to yield to the pressure to behave like women.

Zeldin, Theodore, An Intimate History of Humanity (Minerva, 1995), 423.




Wretched un-idea’d girls.

Johnson, Samuel, in Life of Johnson (Boswell), Vol. i. Chap. x. 1752.




WOMEN see LOVE, 12/87; MEN AND WOMEN, 10/05, 10/09


People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.

Augustine, St., quoted by Peter Russell, The Awakening Earth, 94.




Wonder is a sudden surprise of the soul [reserved for what is rare and extraordinary].
[It is the first of the passions, the only passion which is not accompanied by a fluttering pulse or pounding heart – disinterested but not indifferent, fixing on experiences for what they are, instead of what they are for us. According to Aristotle, Plato believed that all philosophy begins with wonder.]

Descartes, quoted in London Review of Books, 10 June 1999, 11.




The world is wonderful and beautiful and good beyond one’s wildest imagination. Never, never, never could one conceive what love is, beforehand, never. Life can be great – quite god-like. It can be so. God be thanked I have proved it.

Lawrence, D H, Letter to Sallie Hopkin, 2/6 1912.




A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged; it is the skin of a living thought, and may vary greatly in color and content according to the circumstances and the time in which it is used.

Holmes, Oliver Wendell, Jr. (Town v Eisner case, 245 U.S. at 425).




Words, like eyeglasses, blur everything that they do not make more clear.

Joubert, quoted in Auden and Kronenberger, Faber Book of Aphorisms (1962), 357.




Never let yourself take seriously problems about words and their meanings.  What must be taken seriously are questions of fact, and assertions about facts: theories and hypotheses; the problems they solve; and the problems they raise.  [Popper calls this his ‘anti-essentialist exhortation’.]

[And:] it is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood.

Popper, Karl, Unended Quest (Fontana, 1976), 19.




“The Cool Web”

Children are dumb to say how hot the day is,
How hot the scent of the summer rose
How dreadful the black wastes of evening sky,
How dreadful the tall soldiers drumming by.//
But we have speech, to chill the angry day,
And speech, to dull the rose’s cruel scent.
We spell away the overhanging night,
We spell away the soldiers and the fright.//
There is a cool web of language winds us in,
Retreat from too much joy or too much fear:
We grow sea-green at last and coldly die
In brininess and volubility.//
But if we let our tongues lose self-possession,
Throwing off language and its watery clasp
Before our death, instead of when death comes,
Facing the wide glare of the children’s day,
Facing the rose, the dark sky, and the drums,
We shall go mad, no doubt, and die that way.

Graves, Robert.




He had to use those words, because words and things grow together in the mind, grow like a skin over the tender images of things until words and images cannot be separated.

Read, Herbert, The Green Child (Robin Clark, 1989, first edition 1935), 59.




Words are to kill time until our emotions render us inarticulate.

Roche, Arthur Sommers, in John Grigg, The Wits Dictionary (Angus and Robertson, Australia, 1984).




Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become, in the hands of one who knows how to combine them!

Hawthorne, Nathaniel, Quoted by Robert Burchfield, in The English Language.




Words are wise men’s counters, they do but reckon by them, but they are the money of fools.

Hobbes, Thomas, Leviathan, I, Chapter 4.




The motto of the Royal Society of London is ‘Nullius in verba’: trust not in words.

Jones, Steve, from review of Pinker, How the Mind Works, The New York Review of Books, 6/11/97, 13-14.






I am not so lost in lexicography as to forget that words are the daughters of earth, and that things are the sons of heaven. [Perhaps quoting another.]

Johnson, Samuel , Preface to his Dictionary.




“Words are not the same as thoughts, and much of human wisdom consists of not mistaking one for the other.” — we can only argue about the meanings of words or the aptness of metaphors because we have something to think with apart from words and metaphors. … Although there is a box, it contains the tools we need to think outside it.

Pinker, Steven, The Stuff of Thought, quoted & paraphrased, Guardian Review, 6/10/07.




Out of us all
That make rhymes,
Will you choose
As the winds use
A crack in the wall
Or a drain,
Their joy or their pain
To whistle through–
Choose me,
You English words? //
I know you:
You are light as dreams,
Tough as oak,
Precious as gold,
As poppies and corn,
Or an old cloak;
Sweet as our birds
to the ear,
As the burnet rose //
In the heat
Of Midsummer:
Strange as the races
Of dead and unborn:
Strange and sweet
And familiar,
To the eye,
As the dearest faces
That a man knows,
And as lost homes are:
But though older far
Than oldest yew,–
As our hills are, old,–
Worn new
Again and again:
Young as our streams
After rain:
And as dear
As the earth which you prove
That we love. //

Make me content
With some sweetness
From Wales,
Whose nightingales
Have no wings,–
From Wiltshire and Kent
And Herefordshire,
And the villages there,–
From the names, and the things
No less.
Let me sometimes dance
With you,
Or climb,
Or stand perchance
In ecstasy,
Fixed and free
In a rhyme,
As poets do.

Thomas, Edward, ‘Words’.





[Shakespeare coined: amazement, assassination, bloodstained, bluster, to champion, cold-hearted, disgraceful, eventful, fathomless, gallantry, hostile, invulnerable, jaded, lacklustre, laughable, majestic, moonbeam, mortifying, to negotiate, obscene, perplexed, puke, puppy dog, on purpose, quarrelsome, radiance, reliance, remorseless, sacrificial, savagery, shipwreck, shooting star, to sneak, squabble, stealthy, to swagger, tardiness, time-honoured, to torture, tranquil, transcendence, unearthly, … etc. etc.  Crystal (Cambridge Encyclopaedia of the English Language, Cambridge, 1995) adds accommodation, countless, courtship, dislocate, dwindle, submerged, etc. (p 63), but notes that the fact that a word first appears in Shakespeare does not prove that he coined it.]

Shakespeare, Compton’s Encyclopaedia, quoted by Anthony Robbins, Awakening the Giant Within, 217.




Could mortal lip divine
The undeveloped Freight
Of a delivered syllable
‘Twould crumble with the weight.

Dickinson, Emily, in The Rattle Bag.




[Hazlitt praises him as a courageous experimental poet who rejects mythological figures and poetic diction.]  His style is vernacular: he delivers household truths.  He sees nothing loftier than human hopes, nothing deeper than the human heart.  This he probes, this he tampers with, this he poises, with all its incalculable weight of thought and feeling, in his hands, and at the same time calms the throbbing pulses of his own heart by keeping his eye ever fixed on the face of nature.

Hazlitt, William, quoted Guardian Review, 10/4/04, 5.




How big the world by lamplight does appear!

How small the world is in our memory!

Baudelaire, from “The Voyage”.




The world is like a cucumber – today it’s in your hand, tomorrow up your arse.  [Arabic proverb, quoted by …]

Durrell, Lawrence, Justine (Faber), 117.




This world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel.

Walpole, Horace, Letter, 16 August 1776.




for long the world was an inn
an ale-house back of heaven
where all were benighted and lost
but I say the world is a range of possibles
and the flight of wild poems.

White, Kenneth, from ‘At the Solstice’, in The Bird Path (Mainstream, Edinburgh, 1989), 32.




Greece… is a man-sized world. … Greece is the home of the gods; they may have died but their presence still makes itself felt.  The gods were of human proportion: they were created out of the human spirit. … Elsewhere in the Western world, this link between the human and the divine is broken.  The scepticism and paralysis produced by this schism in the very nature of man provides the clue to the inevitable destruction of our present civilisation.  If men cease to believe that they will one-day become gods then they will surely become worms. … No nation on earth can possibly give birth to a new order of life until a world view is established.  We have learned through bitter mistakes that all the peoples of the earth are vitally connected, but we have not made use of that knowledge in an intelligent way. … The world must become small again as the old Greek world was – small enough to include everybody.  Until the very last man is included there will be no real human society. … nothing short of that will ever satisfy man.  Until he has become fully human, until he learns to conduct himself as a member of the Earth, he will continue to create gods who will destroy him.  The tragedy of Greece lies not in the destruction of a great culture but in the abortion of a great vision.  We say erroneously that the Greeks humanised the gods.  It is just the contrary.  The gods humanised the Greeks.  There was a moment when it seemed as if the real significance of life had been grasped, a breathless moment when the destiny of the whole human race was in jeopardy.  The moment was lost in the blaze of power which engulfed the intoxicated Greeks.  They made mythology of a reality which was too great for their human comprehension. … in our myths there is no place for the gods.  We are building an abstract dehumanised world out of the ashes of an illusory materialism.  We are proving to ourselves that the universe is empty, a task which is justified by our own empty logic.  We are determined to conquer and conquer we shall, but the conquest is death.

Miller, Henry, The Colossus of Maroussi (Penguin, 1950, first edition 1941), 239-40.




The world will be different only if we live differently.  [Because we and others bring forth a world through our communication and conceptualisation.]

Maturana, H R and F J Varela, The Tree of Knowledge (Shambala, 1992).




The end of the world is experienced as a transition to something new, vaster, and is felt as a terrible annihilation.  At first everything seems queer, uncanny, and significant.  Catastrophe is impending; the deluge is here.  A unique catastrophe approaches.  Something comes over the world; the last Judgment, the breaking of the seven seals of the Book of Revelation.  God comes into the world.  Time wheels back.  The last riddle of all is being solved.

Jaspers, Karl, General Psychopathology




Every good and bad fortune is a test: the sovereignty of the mind lies in recognising them, in dealing with them as such, in getting through them with the secretly indifferent curiosity of the traveller.

Calasso, Roberto, The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony (Vintage, 1994, translated by Tim Parks), 374.




A man used to vicissitudes is not easily dejected.

Johnson, Samuel, Rasselas. Chap. xii.




There are books in which the footnotes, or the comments scrawled by some reader’s hand in the margin, are more interesting than the text.  The world is one of these books.

Santayana, George., Realms of Being, II (1940.  Quoted in Manguel, A History of Reading (HarperCollins, 1996), 169.)




Earth from afar has heard Thy fame,
And worms have learnt to lisp Thy name.  (Unknown hymnodist.)
O may thy powerful word
Inspire the feeble worm
To rush into thy kingdom, Lord,
And take it as by storm. (Wesleyan Hymn Book).

Lewis, Wyndham, , The Stuffed Owl.






He that in his first essay will be curious in refining will certainly be unhappy in inventing.  [I.e. don’t revise as you draft.]

Aubrey, John, Brief Lives (Penguin, 1972), 18.




Often must you turn your stylus to erase if you hope to write something worth a second reading.

Horace, in Great Quotations (Readers Digest, 1978), 62.




The writer is ultimately the loser. Words will not go where we want to go. We cannot say what we most deeply feel. In the end, we can only say what we mean through image. Not through the words, but only through the images that those words can construct. Therefore I came to realize very early on that fantasy was reality…

Garner, Alan, 1989 interview with R H Thompson.




The true aim of writing is to enable the reader better to enjoy life, or better to endure it.

Johnson, Samuel, quoted Guardian Review, 28 Dec 02, 5.




Nothing matters but the writing. There has been nothing else worthwhile… a stain upon the silence.

Beckett, Samuel, last phrase quoted in D Bair,. Samuel Beckett , (Picador, 1980:), 539.




Words are things, and a small drop of ink,
Falling like dew, upon a thought, produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think.

Byron, from ‘Don Juan’.




A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination – any two of which, at times any one of which – can supply the lack of the others.

Faulkner, William, 1956, quoted Guardian Review, 21/7/12, 16.




Half the job of learning to write is getting to know the sound of your own voice…

Bennett, Alan, ‘Joining the literature club’, Guardian Review. 4/10/14.



Those who acquire it [writing] will cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful; they will rely on writing to bring things to their remembrance by external signs instead of on their own internal resources. … And as for wisdom, your [Theuth (=Thoth?), the supposed divine inventor of writing] pupils will have the reputation for it without the reality: they will receive a quantity of information without proper instruction, and in consequence be thought very knowledgeable when they are for the most part quite ignorant.
… Writing involves similar disadvantages to painting.  The productions of a painting look like living beings, but if you ask them a question they maintain a solemn silence.  The same holds true of written words; … if you ask them what they mean by anything they simply return the same answer over and over again.  Besides, … a writing cannot distinguish between suitable and unsuitable readers.  And if it is ill-treated or unfairly abused, it always needs its parents to come to its rescue. …
Nothing worth serious attention has ever been written in prose or verse. … even the best… can do no more than help the memory of those who already know; whereas lucidity and finality and serious importance are to be found only in words spoken by way of instruction or, to use a truer phrase, written on the soul of the hearer to enable him to learn about the right, the beautiful, and the good.

Plato, Phaedrus, “Inferiority of written to spoken word”, Walter Hamilton translation (Penguin Classics).




Talk is fluid, tentative, continually in further search and progress; while written words remain fixed, become idols even to the writer, found wooden dogmatisms, and preserve flies of obvious error in the amber of the truth.

Stevensen, Robert Louis, quoted Guardian Review, 5/8/06, 18.




The written word goes from the eye to the brain, the spoken word goes from the ear to the heart.

Candappa, Beulah (Burmese), quoted by Hugh Lupton (Something Understood, Radio 4, Feb 2005).



WRITING see PAINTING, 10/91, 1/2000;


Voltaire famously ended a letter with the words: ‘I’m sorry to write at such length, I didn’t have time to write less.’

Voltaire, quoted on http://www.tobylitt.com




Strange, strange the world before the eyes of the people!  Seeds buried in the earth rise up as the twigs of a thousand forests; the moon riding in heaven is reflected sunk in the depths of the myriad waters.  All see these things as right, but I call them upside-down.  I’m a princess, yet I have descended among the common people; my hair growing upward is bathed with the star dew.  How they call one thing the right way and another the wrong way – strange it is!  [The mad woman Hair-on-end is singing.  She says when the children laugh at her hair:] Truly, things the wrong way are funny, but more than my hair, their laughing at me is the wrong way.

Anon, No play Seminara in Trevor Leggett trs, A First Zen Reader (Tuttle, Rutland Vm., 1960), 179.