Quotes and highlights
I collect quotes like trading cards. I don’t have a strong criteria for inclusion in this list: if the quote was remarkable in any way (a clever turn of phrase, an interesting concept, a pithy aphorism, a useful insight, a beautiful piece of diction) I’ll add it here. At some point I might try and make this entire enterprise a little more organize with tags and such, but that seems unnecessary while the number of quotes is still less than a thousand: it is hard to displace the ergonomics of Command & F.
the habit of reading theology as one reads poetry — i.e. in a state of total vulnerability, without the mediation of reason — led me nearly to convert to catholicism, so i can’t recommend it in good conscience
Instructions for living a life: pay attention; be astonished; tell about it.
The will to have nice things.
I become grateful to wake up every day knowing how I will spend it. I’m not building a cathedral, but I think about what building a cathedral would let me do, how it would allow me to move my hands in a task and see something monumental grow very slowly, with immense care. A bricklayer understands brick in a way that is devotional.
Repetition is devotional.
We came in to work every day and were treated like popes—a new manila folder for every task; expensive courier services; taxi vouchers; trips to three-day fifteen-hundred-dollar conferences to keep us up to date in our fields; even the dinkiest chart or memo typed, xeroxed, distributed, and filed; overhead transparencies to elevate the most casual meeting into something important and official; every trash can in the whole corporation, over ten thousand trash cans, emptied and fitted with a fresh bag every night; restrooms with at least one more sink than ever conceivably would be in use at any one time, ornamented with slabs of marble that would have done credit to the restrooms of the Vatican! What were we participating in here?
Come to your senses, World! The tone of authority and public-spiritedness that surrounds these falsehoods is outrageous! How can you let your marketing men continue to make claims that sound like the 1890s ads for patent medicines or electroactive copper wrist bracelets that are printed on the Formica on the tables at Wendy’s? You are selling a hot-air machine that works well and lasts for decades: a simple, possibly justifiable means for the fast-food chains to save money on paper products. Say that or say nothing.
Will the time ever come when I am not so completely dependent on thoughts I first had in childhood to furnish the feedstock for my comparisons and analogies and sense of the parallel rhythms of microhistory?
The feeling that you are stupider than you were is what finally interests you in the really complex subjects of life: in change, in experience, in the ways other people have adjusted to disappointment and narrowed ability. You realize that you are no prodigy, your shoulders relax, and you begin to look around you, seeing local color unrivaled by blue glows of algebra and abstraction.
The phrase “That was a good king” recurs throughout the poem, because the poem is fundamentally concerned with how to get and keep the title “Good.” The suspicion that any moment a person might shift from hero into howling wretch, teeth bared, causes characters ranging from scops to ring-lords to drop cautionary anecdotes. Does fame keep you good? No. Does gold keep you good? No. Does your good wife keep you good? No. What keeps you good? Vigilance. That’s it.
My own experiences as a woman tell me it’s very possible to be mistaken for monstrous when one is only doing as men do: providing for and defending oneself. Whether one’s solitary status is a result of abandonment by a man or because of a choice, the reams of lore about single, self-sustaining women, and particularly about solitary elderly women, suggest that many human women have been, over the centuries, mistaken for supernatural creatures simply because they were alone and capable.
Despite its reputation to generations of unwilling students, forced as freshmen into arduous translations, Beowulf is a living text in a dead language, the kind of thing meant to be shouted over a crowd of drunk celebrants. Even though it was probably written down in the quiet confines of a scriptorium, Beowulf is not a quiet poem. It’s a dazzling, furious, funny, vicious, desperate, hungry, beautiful, mutinous, maudlin, supernatural, rapturous shout.
Language is a living thing and when it dies, it leaves bones. I dropped some fossils here, next to some newborns.
There are thousands of cheeses, but only sixty types of shark.
Because that was a parent’s job: to provide shoulders.
Reducing social services and replacing them with punitive social control mechanisms works less well and is more expensive. The cost of housing people and providing then with mental health services is actually lower than cycling them through emergency rooms, homeless shelters, and jails, as numerous studies have shown. The drive to criminalize has more to do with ideology than effectiveness: the mentally ill are seen not as victims of the neoliberal restructuring of public health services but as a dangerous source of disorder to be controlled through intensive and aggressive policing.
A startup company isn’t an industrious venture that makes and sells a worthy product; a startup company is a plywood box containing a whiteboard with arrows and numbers on it and as few employees as possible, which gets passed around among progressively meaner and more craven moral dwarves until it can no longer sustain even the flimsiest illusion of extractable vitality, and then is dissolved.
You all keep coming to a gun fight with infographics.
In the words of Mark Neocleous, police exist to “fabricate social order”, but that order rests on systems of exploitation – and when elites feel that this system is at risk, whether from slave revolts, general strikes or crime and rioting in the streets, they rely on the police to control those activities. When possible, the police aggressively and proactively prevent the formation of movements and public expressions of rage, but when necessary they will fall back on brute force. Therefore, while the specific forms that policing takes have changed as the nature of inequality and the forms of resistance to it have shifted over time, the basic function of managing the poor, foreign and nonwhite on behalf of a system of economic and political inequality remains.
Ellie Andrews: You know, this is the first time in years I’ve ridden piggyback.
Peter Warne: This isn’t piggyback.
E: Of course it is.
P: You’re crazy.
E: I remember distinctly my father taking me for a piggyback ride.
P: And he carried you like this?
P: Your father didn’t know beans about piggyback riding.
E: My uncle, mother’s brother, has four children and I’ve seen them ride piggyback.
P: I’ll bet there isn’t a good piggyback rider in your whole family. I never knew a rich man yet who could piggyback ride.
E: You’re prejudiced.
P: You show me a good piggybacker and I’ll show you a real human. Now you take Abraham Lincoln for instance. A natural born piggybacker. Where do you get all of that stuffed-shirts family of yours?
E: My father was a great piggybacker.
My shit doesn’t work in the playoffs. My job is to get us to the playoffs. What happens after that is fucking luck.
I do love watching sports though, which is something you have to develop as a Knicks fan. There’s an art and more than a bit of sadism in looking forward to watching a game you have no chance of winning.
Something I know is overrated is looking for a partner who makes you laugh. That’s all well and good when things are um, well and good, but you can’t pay the light bill with laughter.
We have slain a large dragon, but we live now in a jungle filled with a bewildering variety of poisonous snakes. And in many ways, the dragon was easier to keep track of.
It was snowing. And it was going to snow.
But what is a few days of feeling cold compared to a new albatross in the World?
When you’ve got 400 quarts of greens and gumbo soup canned for the winter, nobody can push you around or tell you what to say or do.
Got my house in order but never quite could give up / The drink, the way it confects me, the way I stay spoked / With what wrecks me.
“Everything breaks at a billion,” to quote an anonymous Instagram executive.
Art is how we decorate space; music is how we decorate time.
Instagram is a place where people can share beautiful photos of their lives, and when you engage in self-promotional behavior of any kind on Instagram it makes users who have shared that moment with you feel sad inside.
“Isn’t your superior God?” “Yes, but it’s his lieutenants who call the shots.”
It’s ok to spend some of your time on snacks to keep yourself motivated between bigger accomplishments, but you have to keep yourself honest about how much time you’re spending on high-impact work versus low-impact work. In senior roles, you’re more likely to self-determine your work and if you’re not deliberately tracking your work, it’s easy to catch yourself doing little to no high-impact work.
No, no, let us work just one more hour; let us compose just one more page. Of course we shall not get the book done, but we must keep on trying to finish a little more…When you have a great and difficult task, something perhaps almost impossible, if you only work a little at a time, every day a little, without faith and without hope, suddenly the work will finish itself.
You know, I never feel comfortable on these sort of things. Victims? Don’t be melodramatic. Look down there. Tell me. Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever? If I offered you twenty thousand pounds for every dot that stopped, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money, or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spare? Free of income tax, old man. Free of income tax - the only way you can save money nowadays.
You started out with nothing and you’ve made it far. I started out with eight million dollars, and I’ve still got eight million dollars — I just can’t seem to get ahead.
The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
Knowledge which gives a new manufacturing process that turns inventory into throughput is operational expense; which we intend to sell is inventory; which is used to build the system is investment.
Every time I open the door somebody walks in.
You have 100 crows on a tree. You shoot 50 crows and feed all the food to remaining crows. How many crows will be there on the tree now?
Improving daily work is even more important than doing daily work.
Provider, parent, spouse, change agent.
When my friend does something stupid, he is just my friend doing something stupid. When I do something stupid, I have deeply betrayed myself.
It gets harder and harder to be free. Every time I need a larger labor to be at the end of.
Believe stupid praise, deserve stupid criticism.
Most power just looks like an easier-than-average life.
Legitimacy is a function of capacity.
The social industry doesn’t just eat our time with endless stimulus and algorithmic scrolling; it eats our time by creating and promoting people who exist only to be explained to, people to whom the world has been created anew every morning, people for whom every settled sociological, scientific, and political argument of modernity must be rehashed, rewritten, and re-accounted, this time with their participation.
A cartoon in the daily Lidové Noviny showed two men talking in front of the parliament in Prague: I am not worried about lustrations’, says one of them.’ I was not an informer. ‘I was just giving orders’.
As in the past, so today: the real boundaries in central and eastern Europe are not between countries but between prosperous urban centers and a neglected hinterland.
everyone else, minds rotted from overconsumption of narrative media: conviction! passion! belief!
me, only reading nonfiction and poetry (a kind of nonfiction): administrative capacity
I do think that people who confess to ten illegitimate children probably have more.
We should not indulge the sirens of retrospective determinism, however seductive.
new liver, same eagles
The very act of forming a political grouping forces one to start playing a power game, instead of giving truth priority. Thee are perhaps impractical methods in today’s world and very difficult to apply in daily life. Nevertheless, I know no better alternative.
Ted Mosby : Okay, I’m gonna say something out loud that I’ve been doing a pretty good job not saying out loud lately. What you and Tony have… What I thought for a second you and I had… What I know that Marshall and Lily have… I want that. I do. I keep waiting for it to happen, I wait for it to happen and… I guess I’m just… I’m tired of waiting. And that is all I’m going to say on that subject.
Stella Zinman : You know that once I talked my way out of a speeding ticket?
Ted Mosby : Really?
Stella Zinman : I was heading upstate to my parents’ house and was doing, like, 90 on this country road and got pulled over. So this cop gets out of his car and he kinda swaggers all over and he’s all, like: “Young lady, I have been waiting for you all day.” So I looked up at him and I said: “I’m so sorry, officer. I got here as fast as I could.”
…the onanistic satisfaction of producing samizdat for the same two thousand intellectuals, all of whom also write it.
Success will fit you like a shroud.
I’m back at the primal source of poems: wind, sea / and rain, the market and the salmon
There is no finer investment for any community than putting milk into babies.
That’s sweet of you to look out for me, but I liked the job I had. And when I lost it, I didn’t pitch anything. I didn’t stage a nutty. I fought you, I lost, I had a drink, I took a shower. ‘Cause that’s how it is in the NBA. You know what I do when I win? Two drinks!
Contrary to popular opinion, you can read too many books. It did something to my brain at an impressionable age. It left me not quite adjusted to real life; always one step removed. An observer, always seeking out dramas, consciously or otherwise, but in a dislocated way. I would look out of the windows of cars, buses, trains and see the projections of cinema on the panes, rather than a solid world go by. It seemed to instil in me a dangerous curiosity and an even more dangerous hesitancy.
Home is where one starts from. As we grow older The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated Of dead and living. Not the intense moment Isolated, with no before and after, But a lifetime burning in every moment And not the lifetime of one man only But of old stones that cannot be deciphered. There is a time for the evening under starlight, A time for the evening under lamplight (The evening with the photograph album).
A helpful thing to remember is that large companies spend thousands of dollars a day just on printer paper.
If everything you do is easy, you’re underachieving.
No, I spend my days so passively because of my very sensitivity to such things—I lack the energy to withstand the toll they take on my nerves. And so once I make a promise, it distresses me deeply if I do not fulfill it.
In the old days children fed their parents, but these days they devour them.
But I believe that a commonplace idea stated with passionate conviction carries more living truth than some novel observation expressed with cool indifference. It is the force of blood that drives the body, after all. Words are not just vibrations in the air, they work more powerfully than that, and on more powerful objects.
[To move on from twitter, one must] deeply invest in your personal and professional relationships—even boring parts—and decide to master your disciplines. As a result your healthier daily life begins to offer more engagement and stimulus than can be provided by this platform, until you forget to visit.
Upon being asked by the prosecuting counsel whether this was a novel he would let his ‘wife or maidservant’ (sic) read, one witness replied that this would not trouble him in the least: but he would never let it into the hands of his gamekeeper.
Our nation stands for democracy and proper drains.
Imagine taking the very sharpest thought you had each day for two years and then adding it to a pile. If someone walked by and looked at your pile of best thoughts, they’d think you were a genius. They might see your thoughts and feel things. It might be an encounter with the sublime. This is the promise of revision and the good news. The bad news is that to get there, you have to start by rereading your own work.
“A lot of time in the studio, we’d be working on songs and there’d be a version that might be, you know, uber minimalist. And then I’d say like, ‘Ah, I want it to be shaggier, I want it to be crunchier.’ Those were words that came up a lot. ‘Shaggy’. ‘Crunchy’. And I think really what I was saying is, ‘I want to feel a little more alive’. Those are the things that signified life to me.”
my enthusiasm has been greater than my competence and it’s the people that bet on the enthusiasm more than the competence.
Because in the intervening 20 years, remember, you’ve got this incredible training program for the mind: they are working every hour in the startup, they’re talking with the smartest people, they’re constantly getting new information, they’re hiring, they’re firing, that pattern recognition of the executives get so much better. They’ve got a million failed initiatives. So they have all these learnings of what not to do
Morty Applebaum bought a donkey from an old farmer for $100. The farmer agreed to deliver the mule the next day. The next day, the farmer drove up and said, “Sorry, but I have some bad news. The donkey died.”
“Well, then, just give me my money back,” said Morty.
“Can’t do that,” replied the farmer. “I went and spent it already.”
“OK, then. Just unload the donkey.”
“What ya gonna do with him?”
“I’m going to raffle him off.”
“You can’t raffle off a dead donkey!”
“Sure I can. Watch me. I just won’t tell anybody he’s dead.”
A month later the farmer met up with Morty and asked, “Whatever happened with that dead donkey?”
“I raffled him off. I sold five hundred tickets at two dollars apiece and made a profit of $998.”
“Didn’t anyone complain?” asked the farmer.
“Just the guy who won,” said Morty. “So I gave him his two dollars back.”
- Nobody figures out how to code perfectly their first time.
- It’s mostly luck.
- Learn just the right skills, in the right order.
- Avoid perfectionism.
- Not doing something is sometimes the best way to learn something.
Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked
There are no leopards in the state of Connecticut.
The manipulation of fervor is the germ of bondage.
The sense that there was no choice and that the government knew best made the first generation of post-war England, in novelist David Lodge’s recollections of his youth, ‘cautious, unassertive, grateful for small mercies and modest in our ambition,’ in marked contrast to the generation that would succeed them.
In 1828, the German poet Heinrich Heine made the already familiar observation that ‘it is rarely possible for the English, in their parliamentary debates, to give utterance to a principle. They discuss only the utility or disutility of a thing, and produce facts, for and against.’
The genre is dead. Invent something new. Invent a man and a woman naked in a garden, invent a child that will save the world, a man who carries his father out of a burning city. Invent a spool of thread that leads a hero to safety, invent an island on which he abandons the woman who saved his life with no loss of sleep over his betrayal.
Invent us as we were before our bodies glittered and we stopped bleeding: invent a shepherd who kills a giant, a girl who grows into a tree, a woman who refuses to turn her back on the past and is changed to salt, a boy who steals his brother’s birthright and becomes the head of a nation. Invent real tears, hard love, slow-spoken, ancient words, difficult as a child’s first steps across a room.
My next poem will be happy, I promise myself. Then you come with your deep eyes, your tall jeans, your narrow hands, your wit, your uncanny knowledge, and your loneliness. All the flowers your father planted, all the green beans that have made it, all the world’s recorded pianos and this exhilarating day cannot change that.
I would have liked to have made a difference, to thunder my opinions loudly, so all would listen, all would understand, but all I can do is whisper, sometimes.
I am 62 this weekend, so will probably die soon, or get alzheimers or be rendered insane. I would love my 5 mins of fame while I can appreciate it all, please retweet, I would love to go global.. just once, one last chance to prove I existed.
IT’S WORTH PAUSING to acknowledge that the real Hillary Clinton is a charming person of moderate intellect and ability whose true talent lies in convincing college-educated people that her ambition, and by extension theirs, is a genuine expression of competence.
But this is not juice; it is sugar in water
Indeed, one could define science as reason’s attempt to compensate for our inability to perceive big numbers. If we could run at 280,000,000 meters per second, there’d be no need for a special theory of relativity: it’d be obvious to everyone that the faster we go, the heavier and squatter we get, and the faster time elapses in the rest of the world. If we could live for 70,000,000 years, there’d be no theory of evolution, and certainly no creationism: we could watch speciation and adaptation with our eyes, instead of painstakingly reconstructing events from fossils and DNA. If we could bake bread at 20,000,000 degrees Kelvin, nuclear fusion would be not the esoteric domain of physicists but ordinary household knowledge. But we can’t do any of these things, and so we have science, to deduce about the gargantuan what we, with our infinitesimal faculties, will never sense. If people fear big numbers, is it any wonder that they fear science as well and turn for solace to the comforting smallness of mysticism?
Say that the leaves are harvested when they have rotted into the mold. Call that profit. Prophesy such returns. Put your faith in the two inches of humus that will build under the trees every thousand years. Listen to carrion — put your ear close, and hear the faint chattering of the songs that are to come. Expect the end of the world. Laugh. Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful though you have considered all the facts. So long as women do not go cheap for power, please women more than men. Ask yourself: Will this satisfy a woman satisfied to bear a child? Will this disturb the sleep of a woman near to giving birth? Go with your love to the fields. Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head in her lap. Swear allegiance to what is nighest your thoughts. As soon as the generals and the politicos can predict the motions of your mind, lose it. Leave it as a sign to mark the false trail, the way you didn’t go. Be like the fox who makes more tracks than necessary, some in the wrong direction. Practice resurrection.
Home is everything. Home is not sex but also about it. Home is not a delicious meal but is also about it. Home is not a lighted bedroom but is also about it. Home is not a hot bath in the winter but it is also about it.
I love these old oily cafés around Hackney. Because you can see the smokes and steams coming out from the coffee machine or kitchen all day long. That means life is being blessed.
drugs shouldn’t taste good.
She looks at me and tilts her head and we are thinking the same thing. I am embarrassed by my happiness.
And regular stories couldn’t fool me anymore. I felt their falseness. Their rounded, finite arcs, tidy rise and fall, buttressing values, their little lessons, like solved equations. Insulting. I’d look up from a book, or away from a movie, and see the world again—its mutant patchwork, invalid formulas, no arcs—and feel akin. I started to read only nonfiction: honest history, deep science. Plain subjects, but not understood. At home in tangles of chemistry formulas, mute images of anatomy, senselessness, empty action of animals, clouds, the plates of earth shifting. The bloodless categorization of geology textbooks: metamorphic, sedimentary, igneous. The textbooks trusted me to learn the names of everything and to fix the equations. I loved them for that. I didn’t love what stories asked me to do: to join, to hope, to trust. Those books, the novels, felt like propaganda.
Work felt pure and right. I let it overtake every secret or lazy recess in my body. I wanted to see how good it could make me so I followed it all the way. It offered what I had been missing at home: structure, expectations, trust. The chance to show myself as a useful person. I discovered I loved to work. I wanted to be alone, so I wouldn’t have to talk and break the feeling, or pretend to not feel it in front of others.
And I wanted to become even less, a nothing, because I thought they could all at least have that, this one non-problem in the house, to not yell and not cry, to sweep the kitchen and pick up the thrown things and secretly restore order to whole fought-apart rooms and even to sometimes sing softly, happily, maybe for them to hear. I have kept quiet about all this my whole life.
“They were inveterate gamblers, and accomplished scroungers, who drank hair tonic in preference to post exchange beer (“horse piss”), cursed with wonderful fluency, and never went to chapel (“the Godbox”) unless forced to. Many dipped snuff, smoked rank cigars, or chewed tobacco (cigarettes were for women and children). They had little use for libraries or organized athletics…they could live on jerked goat, the strong black coffee they called “boiler compound,” and hash cooked in a tin hat.”
“Many wore expert badges with bars for proficiency in rifle, pistol, machine gun, hand grenade, auto-rifle, mortar and bayonet. They knew their weapons and they knew their tactics. They knew they were tough and they knew they were good. There were enough of them to leaven the Division and to impart to the thousands of younger men a share of both the unique spirit which animated them and the skills they possessed. They were like a drop of dye in a gallon of water, they gave the whole division an unmistakable hue and they stamped a nickname on the division: “the Old Breed.”
“I’d far rather be happy than right any day.” “And are you?” “No. That’s where it all falls down, of course.” “Pity”, said Arthur. “It sounded like rather a good lifestyle otherwise.”
He was good at this sort of affection, general and unbinding.
I had known contentment before, brief snatches of time in which I pursued solitary pleasure: skipping stones or dicing or dreaming. But in truth, it had been less a presence than an absence, a laying aside of dread: my father was not near, nor boys. I was not hungry, or tired, or sick.
This feeling was different. I found myself grinning until my cheeks hurt, my scalp prickling till I thought it might lift off my head.
God, what a good vassal
You know the best part, Frasier? It wasn’t at all like I imagined it.
I learned that feeling victorious makes you victorious, and that once you lose heart or let yourself be discouraged the feeling of defeat will stay with you for the rest of your life, and you’ll never get back on your feet again, especially in your own country and your own surroundings, where you’re considered a runt, an eternal busboy.
I cannot hide my anger to spare you guilt, nor hurt feelings, nor answering anger; for to do so insults and trivializes all our efforts. Guilt is not a response to anger; it is a response to one’s own actions or lack of action. If it leads to change then it can be useful, since it is then no longer guilt but the beginning of knowledge. Yet all too often, guilt is just another name for impotence, for defensiveness destructive of communication; it becomes a device to protect ignorance and the continuation of things the way they are, the ultimate protection for changelessness.
Hatred is the fury of those who do not share our goals, and its object is death and destruction. Anger is a grief of distortions between peers, and its object is change.
The Difference between poetry and rhetoric is being ready to kill yourself instead of your children.
And yes, there is a hierarchy. There is a difference between painting a back fence and writing a poem, but only one of quantity. And there is, for me, no difference between writing a good poem and moving into sunlight against the body of a woman I love.
When I started to work at the Golden Prague Hotel, the boss took hold of my left ear, pulled me up, and said, You’re a busboy here, so remember, you don’t see anything and you don’t hear anything. Repeat what I just said. So I said I wouldn’t see anything and I wouldn’t hear anything. Then the boss pulled me up by my right ear and said, But remember too that you’ve got to see everything and hear everything. Repeat it after me. I was taken aback, but I promised I would see everything and hear everything.
lack of hard rules lets errors accumulate, without any ‘global’ understanding of the drift into disaster (or at least inefficiency)
I unapologetically think a bias in favor of boring technology is a good thing, but it’s not the only factor that needs to be considered. Technology choices don’t happen in isolation. They have a scope that touches your entire team, organization, and the system that emerges from the sum total of your choices.
It’s too easy to continue doing what we’ve always done. I want to question all the constants in my programming career. The things that are already status quo are don’t need cheerleading: they’re already winning. But the weird ideas, the undersung ones, those are the ones we should be championing.
A flower is beauty. But it’s just a beauty flower - nothing more. There is nothing special around it. You are a human who can program. Maybe you are good. There is nothing special around you. You are of the same kind as I am or all the others on this planet. You need to go in the loo and you need to eat. Of course you need to sleep. After (hopefully) a long time you will die and everything you have created will be lost. Even pyramids get lost, after a long time. Do you know the names of the people who build up a pyramid? And if you do, is it important that you know? It’s not. Pyramids are there, or not. Nothing special.
Essentially, engineering is all about cooperation, collaboration, and empathy for both your colleagues and your customers. If someone told you that engineering was a field where you could get away with not dealing with people or feelings, then I’m very sorry to tell you that you have been lied to. Solitary work is something that only happens at the most junior levels, and even then it’s only possible because someone senior to you — most likely your manager — has been putting in long hours to build up the social structures in your group that let you focus on code.
In my version of you there is winter with a perfect hiding place. I don’t see any obvious rules to a river. I’m watching seagulls dizzy themselves over half a bagel thrown in the parking lot. I’m always embarassed to say I think it’s beautiful. Or hoping it is. Other birds, the more sophisticated ones, form a circle in the back of the buildings. I can’t say what they are doing or what I am doing. I am looking for someone to say I know better than this, instead unexpected wind gets blown apart against its own trophy speed. In every field I walk in, is a bigger field I’ve been.
Her head is turned sharply to the left, her line of sight passing right over the woman’s bowed head in the direction of some unseen source of light—I always thought it was a window, but who’s to say it’s not a mirror? I see that now. Face beaming or reflecting from the depths of resignation, with a small exhausted smile of utmost sweetness, an unmistakable expression of gladness toward the outer world, the sight of things exactly as they are, and expressing the sum of all knowledge regarding that world: it is still there. I gaze at her as in a mirror. This world was here before me, is now here, and will be when I am not. There is no sadness in my face, not my true face. My blanket is green, with here and there patches of brown showing through. So the grave has come into the bedroom. I am sitting up in my grave, I knew it. It comes right up to my waist; but it is not covering my face. It is still very far from covering my face.
7 A.M. first frost, the nurse who works all night / walks home, feet splayed gingerly in two directions. / Last night the old man who sells papers by day and flowers by night / sold us roses, five for a dollar. And the world / sways a little on its stem at how people have to shuffle / to survive.
The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.
The whole he can endure; at the parts he baulks.
All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event — in the living act, the undoubted deed — there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that wall, shoved near to me. Sometimes I think there’s naught beyond. But ‘tis enough. He tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him. Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I’d strike the sun if it insulted me. For could the sun do that, then could I do the other; since there is ever a sort of fair play herein, jealousy presiding over all creations. But not my master, man, is even that fair play. Who’s over me? Truth hath no confines.
The wonderful writer Albert Murray, who is a jazz historian among other things, told me that, during the era of slavery in this country, an atrocity from which we can never fully recover, the suicide rate per capita among slave owners was much higher than the suicide rate among slaves. Al Murray says he thinks this was because slaves had a way of dealing with depression, which their white owners did not. They could play the blues.
He says something else which also sounds right to me. He says the blues can’t drive depression clear out of a house, but they can drive it into the corners of any room where they are being played.
If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:
The only proof he needed of the existence of God was music.
Say surrender. Say alabaster. Switchblade. / Honeysuckle. Goldenrod. Say autumn. / Say autumn despite the green / in your eyes. Beauty despite / daylight. Say you’d kill for it. Unbreakable dawn / mounting in your throat. / My thrashing beneath you / like a sparrow stunned / with falling.
The body was made soft / to keep us / from loneliness. / You said that / as if the car were filling / with river water.
But now it seems possible that the truth about getting older is that there are fewer and fewer things to make fun of until finally there is nothing you are sure you will never be.
This is another way in which he is an admirable person. If he notices something is broken, he will try to fix it. He won’t just think about how unbearable it is that things keep breaking, that you can never fucking outrun entropy.
I want you to know, if you ever read this, there was a time when I would rather have had you by my side than any one of these words; I would rather have had you by my side than all the blue in the world.
But now you are talking as if love were a consolation. Simone Weil warned otherwise. “Love is not consolation,” she wrote. “It is light.”
All right then, let me try to rephrase. When I was alive, I aimed to be a student not of longing but of light.”
And suddenly his soul was filled with joy, and for a moment he had to pause to recover his breath. “The past,” he thought, “is linked to the present by an unbroken chain of events all flowing from one to the other.” And it seemed to him that he had just seen both ends of the chain, and when he touched one end the other trembled.
You found yourself breathing deeply, and you imagined that somewhere else, somewhere beneath the sky and above the treetops, somewhere in the open fields and the forests far from the town—somewhere there the spring was burgeoning with its own mysterious and beautiful life, full of riches and holiness, beyond the comprehension of weak, sinful man.
And for some reason you found yourself wanting to cry.
Do not wander. We are all apportioned a certain measure of stillness.
The willow branches swayed in the early-summer breeze. In a small dark room, somewhere inside Kino, a warm hand was reaching out to him. Eyes shut, he felt that hand on his, soft and substantial. He’d forgotten this, had been apart from it for far too long. Yes, I am hurt. Very, very deeply. He said this to himself. And he wept.
All the while the rain did not let up, drenching the world in a cold chill.
We are healthy only to the extent that our ideas are humane.
“Ah!” said Lee. “I’ve wanted to tell you this for a long time. I even anticipated your questions and I am well prepared. Any writing which has influenced the thinking and the lives of innumerable people is important. Now, there are many millions in their sects and churches who feel the order, ‘Do thou,’ and throw their weight into obedience. And there are millions more who feel predestination in ‘Thou shalt.’ Nothing they may do can interfere with what will be. But ‘Thou mayest’! Why, that makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win.” Lee’s voice was a chant of triumph.
Adam said, “Do you believe that, Lee?”
“Yes, I do. Yes, I do. It is easy out of laziness, out of weakness, to throw oneself into the lap of deity, saying, ‘I couldn’t help it; the way was set.’ But think of the glory of the choice! That makes a man a man. A cat has no choice, a bee must make honey. There’s no godliness there. And do you know, those old gentlemen who were sliding gently down to death are too interested to die now?”
Adam said, “Do you mean these Chinese men believe the Old Testament?”
Lee said, “These old men believe a true story, and they know a true story when they hear it. They are critics of truth. They know that these sixteen verses are a history of humankind in any age or culture or race. They do not believe a man writes fifteen and three-quarter verses of truth and tells a lie with one verb. Confucius tells men how they should live to have good and successful lives. But this—this is a ladder to climb to the stars.” Lee’s eyes shone. “You can never lose that. It cuts the feet from under weakness and cowardliness and laziness.”
Adam said, “I don’t see how you could cook and raise the boys and take care of me and still do all this.”
“Neither do I,” said Lee. “But I take my two pipes in the afternoon, no more and no less, like the elders. And I feel that I am a man. And I feel that a man is a very important thing—maybe more important than a star. This is not theology. I have no bent toward gods. But I have a new love for that glittering instrument, the human soul. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe. It is always attacked and never destroyed— because ‘Thou mayest.’”
It smelled of coffee—of the striving toward consciousness.
Please do not misunderstand. We had been mothers, fathers. Had been husbands of many years, men of import, who had come here, that first day, accompanied by crowds so vast and sorrowful that, surging forward to hear the oration, they had damaged fences beyond repair. Had been young wives, diverted here during childbirth, our gentle qualities stripped from us by the naked pain of that circumstance, who left behind husbands so enamored of us, so tormented by the horror of those last moments (the notion that we had gone down that awful black hole pain-sundered from ourselves) that they had never loved again. Had been bulky men, quietly content, who, in our first youth, had come to grasp our own unremarkableness and had, cheerfully (as if bemusedly accepting a heavy burden), shifted our life’s focus; if we would not be great, we would be useful; would be rich, and kind, and thereby able to effect good: smiling, hands in pockets, watching the world we had subtly improved walking past (this empty dowry filled; that education secretly funded). Had been affable, joking servants, of whom our masters had grown fond for the cheering words we managed as they launched forth on days full of import. Had been grandmothers, tolerant and frank, recipients of certain dark secrets,who, by the quality of their unjudging listening, granted tacit forgiveness, and thus let in the sun. What I mean to say is, we had been considerable. Had been loved. Not lonely, not lost, not freakish, but wise, each in his or her own way. Our departures caused pain. Those who had loved us sat upon their beds, heads in hand; lowered their faces to tabletops, making animal noises. We had been loved, I say, and remembering us, even many years later, people would smile, briefly gladdened at the memory.
With great and solemn portent, my teacher announced she would tell us something that her teacher had told her, and that her teacher’s teacher had told him, and so on, back to Yeats: The thing to remember is that no one ever finds out that you don’t know what you’re doing.
As a writer, I have mistaken how to use words. I write too much. I write like some people talk to fill silence. When I write, I am trying through the movement of my fingers to reach my head. I’m trying to build a word ladder up to my brain. Eventually these words help me come to an idea, and then I rewrite and rewrite and rewrite what I’d already written (when I had no idea what I was writing about) until the path of thinking, in retrospect, feels immediate. What’s on the page appears to have busted out of my head and traveled down my arms and through my fingers and my keyboard and coalesced on the screen. But it didn’t happen like that; it never happens like that.
And though your joined personal histories are supposed to save you from misunderstandings, they usually cause you to understand all too well what is meant.
What can you expect from a pyre but a pyre?
The Soviets set out to find evidence that did not exist and, when they failed to find it, assumed this must be proof of how well that evidence had been hidden.
The men stood and watched the spectacle, eyes bright. When the geese had all departed, they saw the reason they had left; a herd of giant deer had come to the lake to drink. The stags had huge racks of antlers. They stared across the water at the men, vigilant but undeterred. For a moment, all was still. In the end the giant deer stepped away. Reality awoke again. “All sentient beings,” said I-Chin, who had been muttering his Buddhist sutras all along. Kheim normally had no time for such claptrap, but now, as the day continued, and they hiked over the hills on their hunt, seeing great numbers of peaceful beaver, quail, rabbits, foxes, seagulls and crows, ordinary deer, a bear and two cubs, a slinky long-tailed gray hunting creature, like a fox crossed with a squirrel—on and on—simply a whole country of animals, living together under a silent blue sky—nothing disturbed, the land flourishing on its own, the people there just a small part of it—Kheim began to feel odd. He realized that he had taken China for reality itself. Taiwan and the Mindanaos and the other islands he had seen were like scraps of land, leftovers; China had seemed to him the world. And China meant people. Built up, cultivated, parceled off ha by ha, it was so completely a human world that Kheim had never considered that there might once have been a natural world different to it. But here was natural land, right before his eyes, full as could be with animals of every kind, and obviously very much bigger than Taiwan; bigger than China; bigger than the world he had known before. “Where on Earth are we?” he said to I-Chin. I-Chin said, “We have found the source of the peach-blossom stream.”
Language is what eases the pain of living with other people, language is what makes the wounds come open again. I have heard that anthropologists prize those moments when a word or bit of language opens like a keyhole into another person, a whole alien world roars past in some unarranged phrase. You remember Proust so appalled when Albertine lets fall “get her pot broken.” Or you hear a Berliner say “squat town”—and suddenly see sunset, winter, lovers cooking eggs in a grimy kitchen with the windows steaming up, river runs coldly by, little cats go clicking over the snow. You can fill your district notebook with these jottings, exciting as the unwary use of a kinship term.
I asked her whether she would mind telling me about the incident, and her face took on a look of alarm. She put her hands to her throat, where two blue veins stood out.
‘Bloke jumped out of a bush,’ she squawked. ‘Tried to strangle me.’
She hoped I would understand, she added, but despite what she’d said earlier she was in fact trying not to talk about it any more. She was trying her very best to sum it up. Let’s just say that drama became something real to me that day, she said. It ceased to be theoretical, was no longer an internal structure in which she could hide and look out at the world. In a sense, her work had jumped out of a bush and attacked her.
Zembla, a distant northern land.
We are absurdly accustomed to the miracle of a few written signs being able to contain immortal imagery, involutions of thought, new worlds with live people, speaking, weeping, laughing. We take it for granted so simply that in a sense, by the very act of brutish routine acceptance, we undo the work of the ages, the history of the gradual elaboration of poetical description and construction, from the treeman to Browning, from the caveman to Keats. What if we awake one day, all of us, and find ourselves utterly unable to read? I wish you to gasp not only at what you read but at the miracle of its being readable (so I used to tell my students).
Pale Fire is a Jack-in-the-box, a Faberge gem, a clockwork toy, a chess problem, an infernal machine, a trap to catch reviewers, a cat-and-mouse game, a do-it-yourself novel. It consists of a 999-line poem of four cantos in heroic couplets together with an editor’s preface, notes, index, and proof-corrections. When the separate parts are assembled, according to the manufacturer’s directions, and fitted together with the help of clues and cross-references, which must be hunted down as in a paper-chase, a novel on several levels is revealed, and these “levels” are not the customary “levels of meaning” of modernist criticism but planes in a fictive space, rather like those houses of memory in medieval mnemonic science, where words, facts, and numbers were stored till wanted in various rooms and attics, or like the Houses of astrology into which the heavens are divided.
If she asks you, you will tell her what you know. You do not lie. But do not say he was murdered or he was killed. Yes, I know that he was, but that is not what you say. You say that he died; that is the part that you saw and that you know. When she asks if he felt any pain, you must be very careful. If he did not, you assure her quickly. If he did, you do not lie. But his pain is over now. Do not ever say he was lucky that he did not feel pain. He was not lucky. She is not lucky. Don’t make that face. The depth of the stupidity of the things you will say sometimes is unimaginable.
The Historical Point of View, put briefly, means that when a learned man is presented with any statement in an ancient author, the one question he never asks is whether it is true. He asks who influenced the ancient writer, and how far the statement is consistent with what he said in other books, and what phase in the writer’s development, or in the general history of thought, it illustrates, and how it affected later writers, and how often it has been misunderstood (specially by the learned man’s own colleagues) and what the general course of criticism on it has been for the last ten years, and what is the ‘present state of the question’. To regard the ancient writer as a possible source of knowledge—to anticipate that what he said could possibly modify your thoughts or your behaviour—this would be rejected as unutterably simple-minded.
We have trained them to think of the Future as a promised land which favoured heroes attain—not as something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.
But flippancy is the best of all. In the first place it is very economical. Only a clever human can make a real Joke about virtue, or indeed about anything else; any of them can be trained to talk as if virtue were funny. Among flippant people the Joke is always assumed to have been made. No one actually makes it; but every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies that they have already found a ridiculous side to it. If prolonged, the habit of Flippancy builds up around a man the finest armour-plating against the Enemy that I know, and it is quite free from the dangers inherent in the other sources of laughter. It is a thousand miles away from joy: it deadens, instead of sharpening, the intellect; and it excites no affection between those who practise it.
A good line graph is a fusion of right and left brain, of literacy and numeracy. Just numbers alone aren’t enough to explain the truth, but accurate numbers, represented truthfully, are a check on our anecdotal excesses, confirmation biases, tribal affiliations.
Nowadays, companies hang flat screen TVs hanging on the walls, all them running 24/7 to display a variety of charts. Most everyone ignores them. The spirit is right, to be transparent all the time, but the understanding of human nature is not. We ignore things that are shown to us all the time. However, if once a month, a huge packet of charts dropped on your desk, with a cover letter summarizing the results, and if the CEO and your peers received the same package the same day, and that piece of work included charts on how your part of the business was running, you damn well paid attention, like any person turning to the index of a book on their company to see if they were mentioned. Ritual matters.
Many things which appear of little imp⟨ortance in⟩ themselves and at the beginning, may have ⟨great and⟩ durable consequences from their having be⟨en establis⟩hed at the commencement of a new general ⟨Govern⟩ment. It will be much easier to comme⟨nce the adm⟩inistration, upon a well adjusted system ⟨built on⟩ tenable grounds, than to correct errors or alter inconveniences after they shall have been confirmed by habit. The President in all matters of business & etiquette, can have no object but to demean himself in his public character, in such a manner as to maintain the dignity of Office, without subjecting himself to the imputation of superciliousness or unnecessary reserve. Under these impressions, he asks for your candid and undisguised opinions.
I think it’s one of the most beautiful pieces of jazz ever composed. Listening to it is like watching snow through a window. The room is warm, something is roasting in the oven, and outside the flakes are falling faintly through the universe and upon the trees, the hedges, the rain gutters, the telephone poles, and the rooftops of a thousand apartment buildings in a very big city. This is where you want to be forever. This is Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time Is Here.” It opens with a trembling bass, like someone coming out of the cold, stamping their feet, brushing the snow off their shoulders, hanging up their winter coat, rubbing and blowing on numb fingers, and entering the living room where there is a window for watching the flakes falling faintly upon all the buildings of the living.
I drove away from the house of Mable Jones thinking of all of this. I drove away, as always, thinking of you. I do not belive that we can stop them, Samori, because they must ultimately stop themselves. And still I urge you to struggle. Struggle for the memory of your ancestors. Struggle for wisdom. Struggle for the warmth of The Mecca. Struggle for your grandmother and grandfather, for your name. But do not struggle for the Dreamers. Hope for them. Pray for them, if you are so moved. But do not pin your struggle on their conversion. The Dreamers will have to learn to struggle themselves, to understand that the field for their Dream, the stage where they have painted themselves white, is the deathbed of us all. The Dream is the same habit that endangers the planet, the same habit that sees our bodies stowed away in prisons and ghettos. I saw these ghettos driving back from Dr. Jones’s home. They were the same ghettos I had seen in Chicago all those years ago, the same ghettos where my mother was raised, where my father was raised. Through the windshield I saw the marks of the ghettos—the abundance of beauty shops, churches, liquor stores, and crumbling houses—and I felt the old fear. Through the windshield I saw the rain coming down in sheets.
Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do—the actual act of writing—turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.
The stories Chance tells, they all suggest he understands his unique position, his purpose, and perhaps even his duty. But even if he’s seen and done a lot, all roads lead back home. It’s what Jeremih meant on “Summer Friends”: “Even when I change, a nigga never changed up / I always bring my friends, my friends, my friends, my friends up.” This album isn’t just the story of Chance, it’s the story of his people, a love letter to his neighborhood. He knows he’s blessed, so much so he said it twice. But he also knows he’s no more special than the people he grew up around; he simply is the one who lived to tell everyone’s story.
War is conducted with a fury that requires abstraction—that turns a planeful of peaceful passengers, children included, into a missile the faceless enemy deserves.
An ad that pretends to be art is—at absolute best—like somebody who smiles warmly at you only because he wants something from you. This is dishonest, but what’s sinister is the cumulative effect that such dishonesty has on us: since it offers a perfect facsimile or simulacrum of goodwill without goodwill’s real spirit, it messes with our heads and eventually starts upping our defenses even in cases of genuine smiles and real art and true goodwill. It makes us feel confused and lonely and impotent and angry and scared. It causes despair.
I am now 33 years old, and it feels like much time has passed and is passing faster and faster every day. Day to day I have to make all sorts of choices about what is good and important and fun, and then I have to live with the forfeiture of all the other options those choices foreclose. And I’m starting to see how as time gains momentum my choices will narrow and their foreclosures multiply exponentially until I arrive at some point on some branch of all life’s sumptuous branching complexity at which I am finally locked in and stuck on one path and time speeds me through stages of stasis and atrophy and decay until I go down for the third time, all struggle for naught, drowned by time. It is dreadful. But since it’s my own choices that’ll lock me in, it seems unavoidable—if I want to be any kind of grownup, I have to make choices and regret foreclosures and try to live with them.
It is a luxury to see some violence as terror and other violence as necessary.
First leave nothing to the imagination, and then leave everything to the imagination.
This is the difficult work: convincing a room full of people to set their sadness aside and, for a night, bring out whatever joy remains underneath—in a world where there is so much grief to be had, leading the people to water and letting them drink from your cupped hands.
This is about hope, sure, but not in the way that it is often packaged as an antithesis to that which is burning.
Meaning is like music; it catches and is carried. It returns. Refrains, phrases, the names of passing boats. Stuck in my head, it’s stuck in my head. The way stories fasten themselves to words, words fasten themselves to vulnerable rhythms, impressionable tunes. Ann is skilled in the archaeology of carried music. It holds on like fear, like love.
He knows the name of the moment to come, like the baby knew the name of the crow. To die is to simply remember how to die.
“What if the cat wants in when we’re gone?” he asks. There is no cat, like there is no raven, like there is no one-eyed dog. But she knows the right answer.
“You carved him a door.”
Be patient, don’t give up, and always be learning. You can turn even the most crappy situation into valuable lessons. Teach them to others. Be happy with what you have yet always strive to improve things. Don’t let people flatter you into playing their games. When things get weird, keep a log. Love and respect good people. Learn to keep the assholes at a distance. Don’t get hung-up on the past. Be nice to people, even those trying to hurt you. Speak up when things are bad, and tell the truth. Trust your emotions yet check where they come from. Don’t be afraid of taking risks, and learn to identify and manage risks. Solve one problem at a time. Be generous. Teach others whenever you can. Remember Sturgeon’s Law.
As a minority, no sooner do you learn to polish and cherish one chip on your shoulder than it’s taken off you and swapped for another. The jewellery of your struggles is forever on loan.
I did not know then that this is what life is - just when you master the geometry of one world, it slips away, and suddenly again, you’re swarmed by strange shapes and impossible angles.
We know what we are, that we walk like we are not long for this world, that this world has never longed for us.
Now, I / demand a love that is stupid and beautiful / like a pilot turning off her engines mid-flight / to listen for rain on wings.
Now the chief and, though we betray our personal predilection by saying so, the most monstrous characteristic of our time is that the methods of manufacture which we employ and of which we are proud are such as make it impossible for the ordinary workman to be an artist, that is to say a responsible workman, a man responsible not merely for doing what he is told but responsible also for the intellectual quality of what his deeds effect
The abnormality of our time, that which makes it contrary to nature, is its deliberate and stated determination to make the working life of men & the product of their working hours mechanically perfect, and to relegate all the humanities, all that is of its nature humane, to their spare time, to the time when they are not at work.
Romance is a grotto of eager stones / anticipating light, or a girl whose teeth / you can always see.
The easiest response to all this, to the yelling and the lying and the pain, the natural response, is apathy. To lie down in a pastel heap of heavy blankets and sleep this whole thing away like Rip Van Winkle. But you remember what happens to Rip Van Winkle. He comes home to find his house in ruins. So we don’t get to sleep. We have to fight to keep our eyes open, and we have to take small victories, and we have to stay engaged in making society function.
My dream for the web is for it to feel like big city. A place where you rub elbows with people who are not like you. Somewhere a little bit scary, a little chaotic, full of everything you can imagine and a lot of things that you can’t. A place where there’s room for chain stores, room for entertainment conglomerates, but also room for people to be themselves, to create their own spaces, and to learn from one another.
Like a lot of nerdy kids of my generation, I spent half adolescence at the library, or at home reading library books. Along with schoolbooks and crappy 90’s TV, the Glenview Public Library was my window on the world.
I never reflected on why this unremarkable suburban library existed, who funded it, where its values had come from, or how long it would be around. It was as immutable a part of the world to me as Lake Michigan.
But it taught me that like everyone else, I had a right to learn and was welcome. That I could ask questions, and learn how to find my way to the answers. It taught me the importance of being quiet in public places.
I find it helpful to think of algorithms as a dim-witted but extremely industrious graduate student, whom you don’t fully trust. You want a concordance made? An index? You want them to go through ten million photos and find every picture of a horse? Perfect.
You want them to draw conclusions on gender based on word use patterns? Or infer social relationships from census data? Now you need some adult supervision in the room.
Recently, a friend observed that watching this show, often enough, we do not laugh anymore. I supposed that was right, and we wondered why, agreeing that its humor had not diminished with age. “It’s like being with an old friend,” I ventured. “With whom you can be comfortable in silence.”
“No,” he said, making a face. It wasn’t like that at all.
“Well, what then?” I said. “It’s like something.”
“Yes,” he said. “Do you know what it’s like? It’s something like being home.”
I feel: the grass is sad everywhere, but at least we can kiss?
“It’s not disillusion, sir. I see now, though I hadn’t considered the matter before, that there are two different ways of writing history: one is to persuade men to virtue and the other is to compel men to truth. The first is Livy’s way and the other is yours: and perhaps they are not irreconcilable.”
You don’t realize how much of your sense of self is bound up in how you use your time until you have a lot of it. An important part of myself had been propped up not on a title or a vocation but on a hundred quiet daily rites from which I was now an apostate: Slack chats, email exchanges, mid-afternoon coffees, bags of Haribo, glasses of warm vodka drunk after work at a friend’s desk
Every time I’m in an airport, I think I should drastically change my life: Kill the kid stuff, start to act my numbers, set fire to the clutter and creep below the radar like an escaped canine sneaking along the fence line. I’d be cable-knitted to the hilt, beautiful beyond buying, believe in the maker and fix my problems with prayer and property. Then, I think of you, home with the dog, the field full of purple pop-ups– we’re small and flawed, but I want to be who I am, going where I’m going, all over again.
This question—“Does it hold up?”—permeates our cultural discourse these days. I don’t say that judgmentally. It’s a question we ask ourselves and each other because we’re self-conscious. En route to a screening of When Harry Met Sally last Valentine’s Day, an old friend told me she thought the gender politics of the movie aged horribly. To watch it made her uncomfortable and sad. It didn’t hold up. I felt my cheeks flush with anger. Of course it didn’t hold up. It wasn’t made to hold up. It was made as it was, with care and concern and whip-smart jokes.
He feels the truth: the thing that has left his life has left irrevocably; no search would recover it. No flight would reach it. It was here, beneath the town, in these smells and these voices, forever behind him. The fullness ends when we give Nature her ransom, when we make children for her. Then she is through with us, and we become, first inside, and then outside, junk.
The past was a vine hanging on by just these five tendrils and it tore away easily, leaving her clean and blue and blank.
Everybody who tells you how to act has whiskey on their breath.
Laws aren’t ghosts in this country, they walk around with the smell of earth on them.
So, I’ll pick up a book, put it down. Someone says, “How long did it take you to read that book?” And I’ll say, “Fifty-two years,” because I’ve been reading since I was three, and that’s the correct answer. People don’t get that. It took me 52 years to read that book. So I’m not a fast reader. I’m a very, very slow reader. You’re just mis-measuring the unit if you think I read something quickly.
All labor has dignity.
I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.
Make sure that by the time the fisherman returns you are gone.
She was the first “nice” girl he had ever known. In various unrevealed capacities he had come in contact with such people, but always with indiscernible barbed wire between. He found her excitingly desirable. He went to her house, at first with other officers from Camp Taylor, then alone. It amazed him — he had never been in such a beautiful house before, but what gave it an air of breathless intensity, was that Daisy lived there — it was as casual a thing to her as his tent out at camp was to him. There was a ripe mystery about it, a hint of bedrooms up-stairs more beautiful and cool than other bedrooms, of gay and radiant activities taking place through its corridors, and of romances that were not musty and laid away already in lavender but fresh and breathing and redolent of this year’s shining motor-cars and of dances whose flowers were scarcely withered.
I want to have married a man who wanted to be in a body, who wanted to live in it so much that he marked it up like a book, underlining, highlighting, writing in the margins, I was here.
To do this requires you to divorce process from outcome. You can be right for the wrong reasons. In our business, you’re often lionized for it. You can be wrong for the right reasons. This may well prove to be Joel Embiid.
There has been much criticism of our approach. There will be more. A competitive league like the NBA necessitates a zig while our competitors comfortably zag. We often chose not to defend ourselves against much of the criticism, largely in an effort to stay true to the ideal of having the longest view in the room. To attempt to convince others that our actions are just will serve to paint us in a different light among some of our competitors as progressives worth emulating, versus adversaries worthy of their disdain. Call me old-fashioned, but sometimes the optimal place for your light is hiding directly under a bushel.
The majority of VCs deserve neither criticism or praise, but the majority want praise without exposure to criticism.
There are two fundamental rules of taxes:
It is always better to have more money than less money. It is always better to die later than sooner.
SEA BEARS FOAM, SLEEP BEARS DREAMS. BOTH END IN THE SAME WAY CRASSSH!
Thinking about what I should say to you made me think about what we learn in college; and what we unlearn in college; and then how we learn to unlearn what we learned in college and relearn what we unlearned in college, and so on. And I thought how I have learned, more or less well, three languages, all of them English; and how one of these languages is the one I went to college to learn …
It is a language always on the verge of silence and often on the verge of song.
It is rare indeed that people give. Most people guard and keep; they suppose that it is they themselves that they are guarding and keeping, whereas what they are actually guarding and keeping is their system of reality and what they assume themselves to be. One can give nothing whatever without giving oneself–that is to say, risking oneself. If one cannot risk oneself, then one is simply incapable of giving.
In all jazz, and especially the blues, there is something tart and ironic, authoritative and double-edged. White Americans seem to feel that happy songs are happy and sad songs are sad, and that, God help us, is exactly the way most white Americans sing them—sounding, in both cases, so helplessly, defenselessly fatuous that one dare not speculate on the temperature of the deep freeze from which issue their brave and sexless little voices. Only people who have been “down the line,” as the song puts it, know what this music is about. White Americans do not understand the depths out of which such an ironic tenacity comes, but they suspect that the force is sensual, and they are terrified of sensuality, and do not any longer understand it. The word “sensual” is not intended to bring to mind quivering dusky maidens or priapic black studs. I am referring to something much simpler and much less fanciful. To be sensual, I think, is to respect and rejoice in the force of life, of life itself, and to be present in all that one does, from the effort of loving to the breaking of bread.
I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.
Get better every day through fast, frequent improvements. Optimize for performance. Features are the enemy. Design is code/code is design. Assume all users are smart. Constrain scope, except when you shouldn’t. Minimalism. Ship.
with the animals dying around us our lost feelings we are saying thank you with the forests falling faster than the minutes of our lives we are saying thank you with the words going out like cells of a brain with the cities growing over us we are saying thank you faster and faster with nobody listening we are saying thank you we are saying thank you and waving dark though it is
Poetry is the only art form where the space for breath is built right in.
A garden is not an object but a process.
Take a shower. Use nice-smelling soap. Put on a clean, soft bathrobe. I suggest slipper socks as well - the ones with little rubber dots on the bottom. Make another breakfast Maybe a poached egg, or slice of quiche. Brew a fresh pot of tea. Read the news or twitter or the next chapter in a book.
Oh, I thought, for the first time: children are pregnant with themselves.
It’s true what they say, that a baby gives you a reason to live. But also, a baby is a reason that it is not permissible to die. There are days when this does not feel good.
Renouncing things is less difficult than people believe: it’s all a matter of getting started. Once you’ve succeeded in dispensing with something you thought essential, you realize you can also do without something else, then without many other things.
One reads alone, even in another’s presence.
The past is like a tapeworm, constantly growing, which I carry curled up inside me and I can be sure that even in this tiny, insignificant episode there is implicit everything I have experienced, all the past, the multiple pasts I have tried in vain to leave behind me.
It’s not easy: they teach us to read as children, and for the rest of our lives we remain the slaves of all the written stuff they fling in front of us. I may have had to make some effort myself, at first, to learn not to read, but now it comes quite naturally to me. The secret is not refusing to look at the written words. On the contrary, you must look at them, intensely, until they disappear.
Make it a rule never to rise from the table without an unsatisfied longing for just one little thing more.
The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap / Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge / Through living roots awaken in my head. / But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb / The squat pen rests. / I’ll dig with it.
Like the starlight that travels millions of years before we see it, the four little boys stand in their underpants at Coney Island on an August day in 1978, and it is only now, in a found photograph, that we behold them.
The ocean has not quite left their hair. Four decades later, they are still flexing their muscles, still just about 10-going-on-11.
oh god it’s wonderful / to get out of bed / and drink too much coffee / and smoke too many cigarettes / and love you so much
A book I read when I was young recommended an easy way to find caterpillars to rear: you simply find some fresh caterpillar droppings, look up, and there’s your caterpillar.
We know Lilith ate / the bones of her enemies. We know / a bitch learns to love her own ghost.
“It’s hard not to become self-satisfied,” he said, “with so much self-satisfaction around you.”
You can’t be dead if you have a sequel coming.
You see, Wally, the trouble with always being active and doing things is that it’s quite possible to do all sorts of things and at the same time be completely dead inside. I mean, you’re doing all these things, but are you doing them because you really feel an impulse to do them, or are you doing them mechanically, as we were saying before? Because I do believe that if you’re just living mechanically, then you have to change your life.
You do not have to be good. / You do not have to walk on your knees / For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. / You only have to let the soft animal of your body / love what it loves.
On its own, when you see one person slip, you automatically assume that person slipped, was clumsy or not playing attention. But when you look at the aggregate, you realize that the failure isn’t on the individual at all, rather the structures that cause certain people to fail with almost no fault of their own. And yet, without this data, they will very quickly ascribe the mistake to themselves.
It difficult to explain to someone that the reason they live their life the way they do because of the structures built to help them live that way. But imagine, instead of a stupid mislaid step, the faulty structure is a punitive late policy on a credit card, or a bank that has a minimum balance fee and very quickly the maintenance of the status-quo is laid bare.
A good watch celebrates time.
“I am going to a commune in Vermont and will deal with no unit of time shorter than a season.”
When the queen was newly crowned we wore pink hats and the city was small; when she died we wore no hats and the city was thriving.
I keep wondering why we don’t double down on calendars. Why don’t we put our documents inside calendar entries? Why don’t our emails pop up inside the calendar, at the time they wer sent? Why is there any form of communications software that isn’t, at its essence, a calendar? Calendars are, I believe, the single greatest wasted opportunity in all of software.
Besides privacy, another thing people are said to luxuriate in is hot water – a bath, a shower, a hot springs. Part of this is the pleasure of not having to expend energy maintaining temperature homeostasis. The pleasure of privacy is similar: freedom from having to expend cognitive energy in modeling others and conforming one’s behavior to the standards of public self-presentation, in order to maintain status homeostasis. Privacy is a form of rest.
opsec will get you through times of no crypto better than crypto will get you through times of no opsec.
Knowing the odds, Battier can pursue an inherently uncertain strategy with total certainty. He can devote himself to a process and disregard the outcome of any given encounter. This is critical because in basketball, as in everything else, luck plays a role, and Battier cannot afford to let it distract him.
Battier’s game is a weird combination of obvious weaknesses and nearly invisible strengths. When he is on the court, his teammates get better, often a lot better, and his opponents get worse — often a lot worse. He may not grab huge numbers of rebounds, but he has an uncanny ability to improve his teammates’ rebounding. He doesn’t shoot much, but when he does, he takes only the most efficient shots. He also has a knack for getting the ball to teammates who are in a position to do the same, and he commits few turnovers. On defense, although he routinely guards the N.B.A.’s most prolific scorers, he significantly reduces their shooting percentages. At the same time he somehow improves the defensive efficiency of his teammates — probably, Morey surmises, by helping them out in all sorts of subtle ways. “I call him Lego,” Morey says. “When he’s on the court, all the pieces start to fit together. And everything that leads to winning that you can get to through intellect instead of innate ability, Shane excels in. I’ll bet he’s in the hundredth percentile of every category.”
I am sorry / to hold you again / for so long / I am in the mood / to be forgotten.
Under the pavement, pavement. Hoaxes, failures, porches, archaeological strata spread out on a continuous thin plane; softness and speed, echoes, spores, tropes, fonts; not identity but incident and the accumulation of air miles; unmarked solitude absorbing time, bloating to become an environment, indexical euphorias, the unraveling of laughter; a brief history of escalators; memory manifest, brindled, loosening; a crumpling of automotive glass; the pornographic, the wrapped; Helvetica’s black dust: All doctrine is foreign to us. Forget the journals, conferences, salons, textbooks and media of dissemination. We say thought’s object is not knowledge but living. We do not like it elsewhere.
I don’t think people come to a Frightened Rabbit show to feel sad, and I don’t think they feel sad at the show. That struck me quite early on. There is a release there. Private little moments of excitement for all of us in the band become this outpouring of celebratory, “we’re all fucked, but it’s okay!” sort of thing. I really enjoy that feeling. I guess that’s what life has come to mean to me: It’s not ever quite right, but that’s okay.
“My only closing Janos thoughts are that he’s awesome,” Karalis says. “I just want Janos to exist in this plane where we know it’s kind of a joke, but we’re all going to pretend it’s not, and this is just the perfect zone for Janos. I just hope this stays. I don’t want Janos to be revealed.
“I just want Janos to be this forever.”
The more complicated a theory is, the more ways there are for it to go wrong.
Voters, activists, and political leaders of the present day are in the position of medieval doctors. They hold simple, prescientific theories about the workings of society and the causes of social problems, from which they derive a variety of remedies–almost all of which prove either ineffectual or harmful. Society is a complex mechanism whose repair, if possible at all, would require a precise and detailed understanding of a kind that no one today possesses. Unsatisfying as it may seem, the wisest course for political agents is often simply to stop trying to solve society’s problems.
For the Vikings, this was the essence of war: it’s a mystery that comes out of nowhere and grows for reasons nobody can control, until it shakes the whole world apart.
Maybe buying in is really the punk rock choice.
There’s no such thing as bad guys and good guys! We’re all just guys! Who do good stuff, sometimes. And bad stuff, sometimes. And all we can do is try to do less bad stuff and more good stuff. But you’re never going to be good! Because you’re not bad! So you need to stop using that as an excuse.
It gets easier. Every day it gets a little easier. But you got to do it every day. That’s the hard part. But it does get easier.
I just wanted to tell you… I know. I know you wanna be happy, but you won’t be, and… I’m sorry. It’s not just you, you know. Your father and I, we, well… You come by it, honestly, the ugliness inside you. You were born broken. That’s your birthright. And now you can fill your life with projects–your books, and your girlfriends, and your little movies–but that won’t make you whole. You’re BoJack Horseman. There’s no cure for that.
If you’re making a procedural argument, your soul already knows you’ve lost.
IT IS IN YOUR SELF-INTEREST TO FIND A WAY TO BE VERY TENDER
“I’m not scared of dying, I’m scared of breaking my mother’s heart”
fandom is infrastructure, a million people clapping for tinkerbell, an attempt to take an unstable, ephemeral value and through repetition and manipulation make it solid enough to look at. you don’t know why you like football, or a celebrity, or a tv show, but when you wear your jersey or look at your autograph or buy the box set of dvd’s you feel a little bit, inexplicably, like this value you can’t articulate is more real. when you draw art or write stories about the thing you’re a fan of, you flesh the value out, or refine it, and this stabilizes it as well
Drowning is almost always a deceptively quiet event.
This reminds me of the old saying about cars, that Americans buy horsepower, but drive torque.
In computers, it seems to me that we buy throughput, but feel latency.
When nothing becomes something, it defies death. It puts to rest our fear that all that awaits us is a void. This is the essential appeal of social media, that each of the internet’s billion hashtags is a tiny cri de coeur, a yooooooooooooo into a mirror world that we cannot touch, a door slamming in a draftless room.
In a 2011 paper on the medical effects of scurvy, author Jason C. Anthony offers a remarkable detail about human bodies and the long-term presence of wounds. “Without vitamin C,” Anthony writes, “we cannot produce collagen, an essential component of bones, cartilage, tendons and other connective tissues. Collagen binds our wounds, but that binding is replaced continually throughout our lives. Thus in advanced scurvy”—reached when the body has gone too long without vitamin C—“old wounds long thought healed will magically, painfully reappear.”
In a sense, there is no such thing as healing. From paper cuts to surgical scars, our bodies are mere catalogs of wounds: imperfectly locked doors quietly waiting, sooner or later, to spring back open.
Our daily lives are structured by screens and a rational approach to instability, without any semblance of meaning. We shrug off threats like climate change and nuclear war. We check our phone a combined 8 billion times a day. And with rates of depression & anxiety higher than ever before, people are searching for new ways to bond, new ways to interface, new ways to build collectivity.
Astrology puts our temporary bodies in context with the universe’s vastness, allowing irrationality to invade our techno-rationalist ways of living. It adds mystery and madness to an increasingly clinical and confusing world, situating us in the vast cosmos, among the planets and stars.
The water is clear all the way down. Nothing ever polished it. That is the way it is.
Audrey Rouget: What Jane Austen novels have you read?
Tom Townsend: None. I don’t read novels. I prefer good literary criticism. That way you get both the novelists’ ideas as well as the critics’ thinking. With fiction I can never forget that none of it really happened, that it’s all just made up by the author.
If the system can be gamed, well then, our ability to game the system has become the new test of merit.
We all go way back and I owe you from the thing with the guy in the place.
“Nothing was learned from this,” he says. “A culture not willing to think hard and test itself does not augur well for the future.” The exercise, he says, was rigged almost from the outset.
We are powered by fear and guile and a contact high and it feels amazing.
I have pulled tinsel from your hair and called it mistletoe, led you into the woods wearing cheap underwear and handed you the switchblade from my boot. I worshiped the myth I made of you, but I’m off my knees now. I want your hands to become language and make me offer you one thigh at a time. Let it sting loud and sweetly. Let bruise be proof. Let the smell of your hands.
If research on the 2 sigma problem yields practival methods, it would be an educational contribution of the greatest magnitude. It would change popular notions about human potential and have significant effects on what the schools can and should dow ith the educational years each society requires of its young people.
Evil is unspectacular and always human, And shares our bed and eats at our own table.
Some people will say that words like scum and rotten are wrong for Objective Journalism – which is true, but they miss the point. It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place. He looked so good on paper that you could almost vote for him sight unseen. He seemed so all-American, so much like Horatio Alger, that he was able to slip through the cracks of Objective Journalism. You had to get Subjective to see Nixon clearly, and the shock of recognition was often painful.
But how shall we educate men to goodness, to a sense of one another, to a love of the truth? And more urgently, how shall we do this in a bad time?
IT’S CHRISTMASTIME; I’m older, I’m elsewhere. On the train to work, I swipe through social media and hit on a post from the start-up’s holiday party, which has its own hashtag. The photograph is of two former teammates, both of them smiling broadly, their teeth as white as I remember. “So grateful to be part of such an amazing team,” the caption reads, and I tap through. The hashtag unleashes a stream of photographs featuring people I’ve never met — beautiful people, the kind of people who look good in athleisure. They look well rested. They look relaxed and happy. They look nothing like me. There’s a photograph of what can only be the pre-dinner floor show: an acrobat in a leotard kneeling on a pedestal, her legs contorted, her feet grasping a bow and arrow, poised to release. Her target is a stuffed heart, printed with the company logo. I scroll past animated photo-booth GIFs of strangers, kissing and mugging for the camera, and I recognize their pride, I empathize with their sense of accomplishment — this was one hell of a year, and they have won. I feel gently ill, a callback to the childhood nausea of being left out.
What is it like to be fun? What is it like to feel like you’ve earned this?
We get ourselves out of the office and into a bar. We have more in common than our grievances, but we kick off by speculating about our job security, complaining about the bureaucratic double-downs, casting blame for blocks and poor product decisions. We talk about our IPO like it’s the deus ex machina coming down from on high to save us — like it’s an inevitability, like our stock options will lift us out of our existential dread, away from the collective anxiety that ebbs and flows. Realistically, we know it could be years before an IPO, if there’s an IPO at all; we know in our hearts that money is a salve, not a solution. Still, we are hopeful. We reassure ourselves and one another that this is just a phase; every start-up has its growing pains. Eventually we are drunk enough to change the subject, to remember our more private selves. The people we are on weekends, the people we were for years.
With a sufficient number of users of an API, it does not matter what you promise in the contract: all observable behaviors of your system will be depended on by somebody.
Happiness writes white: it doesn’t show up on the page.
No, I was not busy when you came! I was not preparing to be busy. That’s the armor everyone put on to pretend they had a purpose in the world.
When I’m back, I want a body like a slash of lightning.
But research still confirms what this Court suggested over a century ago: Years on end of near-total isolation exacts a terrible price.
The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prison.
Writing anything is a treason of sorts. Even the cold recitation of facts is never the thing itself. And the events described are somehow diminished in the telling. A perfect bowl of bouillabaisse, that first, all-important oyster, plucked from the Bassin d’Arcachon, both are made cheaper, less distinct in my memory, once I’ve written about them. Whether I missed a few other things, or described them inadaquately, like the adventures of the Amazing Steven Tempel, or my Day in the Life, are less important. Our movements through time and space seem somehow trivial compared to a heap of boiled meat in broth, the smell of saffron, garlic, fishbones and Pernod.
Assume the worst. About everybody. But don’t let this poisoned outlook affect your job performance. Let it all roll off your back. Ignore it. Be amused by what you see and suspect. Just because someone you work with is a miserable, treacherous, self-serving, capricious and corrupt asshole shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying their company, working with them or finding them entertaining.
People silently struggle from all kinds of terrible things. They suffer from depression, ambition, substance abuse, and pretension. They suffer from family tragedy, Ivy-League educations, and self-loathing. They suffer from failing marriages, physical pain, and publishing. The good thing about politeness is that you can treat these people exactly the same. And then wait to see what happens. You don’t have to have an opinion. You don’t need to make a judgment. I know that doesn’t sound like liberation, because we live and work in an opinion-based economy. But it is. Not having an opinion means not having an obligation. And not being obligated is one of the sweetest of life’s riches.
Baking time depends on the fire and your patience.
I myself am probably too washed to pinpoint the moment that “washed”—an existential description that has become ubiquitous in the past few years, as the American empire ebbs and exhaustion sets in—first entered the culture. It’s not quite “washed up,” with its connotations of lounge singers in Vegas reflecting on their glory days. It’s more about that transitive moment: There you are in the train station of life, waving goodbye to your edge and your youth as they depart. You are Eli Manning, and you are no longer a plausible NFL starter in the eyes of some, but you are not yet ready to go to the bench. You haven’t been to that particular new restaurant yet, but you’ve heard it’s nice.
say: that boy he look like a hollowed-out grandfather clock. he look like a million-dollar god with a two-cent heaven. like all it takes is one kiss & before morning, you could scatter his whole mind across a field.
an apartment filled with music, hiss of damp clothes drying on the radiator, a prayer made with a record’s broken needle to become beaming and undone.
At first, the boy was made very nervous by the thought that Mister Rogers was visiting him. He was so nervous, in fact, that when Mister Rogers did visit, he got mad at himself and began hating himself and hitting himself, and his mother had to take him to another room and talk to him. Mister Rogers didn’t leave, though. He wanted something from the boy, and Mister Rogers never leaves when he wants something from somebody. He just waited patiently, and when the boy came back, Mister Rogers talked to him, and then he made his request. He said, “I would like you to do something for me. Would you do something for me?” On his computer, the boy answered yes, of course, he would do anything for Mister Rogers, so then Mister Rogers said, “I would like you to pray for me. Will you pray for me?” And now the boy didn’t know how to respond. He was thunderstruck. Thunderstruck means that you can’t talk, because something has happened that’s as sudden and as miraculous and maybe as scary as a bolt of lightning, and all you can do is listen to the rumble. The boy was thunderstruck because nobody had ever asked him for something like that, ever. The boy had always been prayed for. The boy had always been the object of prayer, and now he was being asked to pray for Mister Rogers, and although at first he didn’t know if he could do it, he said he would, he said he’d try, and ever since then he keeps Mister Rogers in his prayers and doesn’t talk about wanting to die anymore, because he figures Mister Rogers is close to God, and if Mister Rogers likes him, that must mean God likes him, too.
As for Mister Rogers himself…well, he doesn’t look at the story in the same way that the boy did or that I did. In fact, when Mister Rogers first told me the story, I complimented him on being so smart—for knowing that asking the boy for his prayers would make the boy feel better about himself—and Mister Rogers responded by looking at me at first with puzzlement and then with surprise. “Oh, heavens no, Tom! I didn’t ask him for his prayers for him; I asked for me. I asked him because I think that anyone who has gone through challenges like that must be very close to God. I asked him because I wanted his intercession.”
Who was it who said, uh, “even if life is forever, each moment of it is a miracle?” I think that’s just something we tell ourselves. We’re just ordinary and forever, I think. There’s a leveling out that happens if you live forever and ever without anything to lose.
My throat, it still tastes like house fire and salt water
love is a burning house we built from scratch. love keeps us busy while the smoke clears.
These are all toys from my childhood. They’re my fond memories of growing up here. We used to play in this ruin before it got infested by monsters. As a child, I thought every moment would last forever. But as time went by, I grew up, and now I’m an adult. I only have a week left before I go away to a faraway land to work. That means I only have one week left of my childhood. To tell you the truth… I’m scared to death. Would I be able to adapt to an unknown place? Moreover, would I be able to stay true to who I am? I’m scared I won’t be myself anymore. That’s why I want to take with me the memories of who I am now, so I won’t forget.
A good historian can find precedent for everything. But an even better historian knows when these precedents are but curiosities that cloud the big picture.
We pray for ridiculous things, we humans. And so often are indulged.
It is a rugged land, but good at raising children.
I disapprove of crying during dinner. Dawn will soon come; weep then.
The houses before us were far from identical. They were painted every color you could think of, yet in the weak light, reduced to basic shapes, their resemblance was striking. All were wooden, with prominent picture windows. All had staircases leading to the beach, and all had the air of a second home, one devoted to leisure rather than struggle.
I stand at the counter slicing cheese, salami, rye bread, spreading mayonnaise, tamping down the lettuce, wrapping the sandwiches carefully in waxed paper for tomorrow’s slunch the exact way my grandmother taught me years before, humming one of my grandfather’s tunes, one he groans out when he sings himself to sleep, tapping his foot, swinging from side to side as though he were burning.
Now in the cool of evening I catch a hint of the forest, of that taking of sudden breath that pines demand; it’s on my skin, a light oil, a sweat born of some forgotten leaning into fire.
Here dwell together still two men of note / who never lived and so can never die.
But you, Roman, remember, rule with all your power the peoples of the earth — these will be your arts: to put your stamp on the works and ways of peace, to spare the defeated, break the proud in war.
Philanthropy is the gateway to power.
“There is still one of which you never speak.’
Marco Polo bowed his head.
‘Venice,’ the Khan said.
Marco smiled. ‘What else do you believe I have been talking to you about?’
The emperor did not turn a hair. ‘And yet I have never heard you mention that name.’
And Polo said: ‘Every time I describe a city I am saying something about Venice.”
There is the city where you arrive for the first time; and there is another city which you leave never to return. Each deserves a different name; perhaps I have already spoken of Irene under other names; perhaps I have spoken only of Irene.
Marco Polo describes a bridge, stone by stone. “But which is the stone that supports the bridge?” Kublai Khan asks.
“The bridge is not supported by one stone or another,” Marco answers, “but by the line of the arch that they form.”
Kublai Khan remains silent, reflecting. Then he adds: “Why do you speak to me of the stones? It is only the arch that matters to me.”
Polo answers: “Without stones there is no arch.”
Your gaze scans the streets as if they were written pages: the city says everything you must think, makes you repeat her discourse, and while you believe you are visiting Tamara you are only recording the names with which she defines herself and all her parts.
We have children because we can’t remember our own first taste of ambrosia.
Men spoke of the glory of Japan and the weakness of China, that Japan wants the best for Asia, and that China should accept what Japan wants and give up. But what do these words mean? How can ‘Japan’ want something? ‘Japan’ and ‘China’ do not exist. They are just words, fiction. An individual Japanese may be glorious, and an individual Chinese may want something, but how can you speak of ‘Japan’ or ‘China’ wanting, believing, accepting anything? It is all just empty words, myths. But these myths have powerful magic, and they require sacrifices. They require the slaughter of men like sheep.
I was given a gun and ten bullets, and told that if I wanted more bullets, I had to get them from the dead bodies.
The most certain sign of wisdom is cheerfulness
“I’ll tell you what is convenient,” he said after a moment. “To sleep until noon and have someone bring you your breakfast on a tray. To cancel an appointment at the very last minute. To keep a carriage waiting at the door of one party, so that on a moment’s notice it can whisk you away to another. To sidestep marriage in your youth and put off having children altogether. These are the greatest of conveniences, Anushka—and at one time, I had them all. But in the end, it has been the inconveniences that have mattered to me most.”
don’t be clever code is a liability ask, learn, and teach design and architecture matter first make it correct then make it fast only make it fast if you know it matters it’s not done until customers are getting value it’s not done until there’s nothing left to take away don’t automate something you haven’t done manually quick incremental progress is better than the alternative code is shared by the team. there is no such thing as my code it’s easier to change a dry-erase board than a production system code is written to be understood by humans first, computers second
I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.
“But what does craziness give you?” he said. “What does negative demeanor give you as a person? It doesn’t give you anything. You know that something happened. Your life happened to go in that particular route. If you know that you’re innocent, know it. But at the same time you know you are in trouble & this is how it’s going to be.” To which he added, “To some extent I’m glad this happened to me. I think it strengthened my understanding of what living is all about.” At the end of his trial, when the original jury returned with its guilty verdict, Serge had turned to his lawyer, Kevin Marino, & said, “You know, it did not turn out the way we had hoped. But I have to say, it was a pretty good experience.”
The best way to manage people, he thought, was to convince them that you were good for their careers. He further believed that the only way to get people to believe that you were good for their careers was actually to be good for their careers.
If this story has a soul, it is in the decisions made by its principal characters to resist the temptation of easy money and to pay special attention to the spirit in which they live their working lives. I didn’t write about them because they were controversial. I wrote about them because they were admirable.
When people say, “Oh my god, a book, you must feel great!” most writers get a little half-smile that tells you books are hard to hug close.
The next thing he said I wrote on a slip of paper in his office and have carried it around with me since. It’s our choice, whether to hate something in our lives or to love every moment of them, even the parts that bring us pain. “At every moment, we are volunteers.”
I asked him if he could help me understand that better, and he described a letter from Tolkien in response to a priest who had questioned whether Tolkien’s mythos was sufficiently doctrinaire, since it treated death not as a punishment for the sin of the fall but as a gift. “Tolkien says, in a letter back: ‘What punishments of God are not gifts?’ ” Colbert knocked his knuckles on the table. “ ‘What punishments of God are not gifts?’ ” he said again. His eyes were filled with tears. “So it would be ungrateful not to take everything with gratitude. It doesn’t mean you want it. I can hold both of those ideas in my head.”
Have you carried that theme in your head these years in the faint hope you might know it when it finds you, in a far-flung café, as you stand to pay, frozen, and the barista has to ask if you’re okay?
We should have a more conscious attitude toward the sounds – other than music —that we listen to. Presently, the levels of sound and music in the environment have clearly exceeded man’s capacity to assimilate them, and the audio ecosystem is beginning to fall apart. Background music, which is supposed to create ‘atmosphere’, is far too excessive. In our present condition, we find that within certain areas and spaces, aspects of visual design are well attended to, but sound design is completely ignored. It is necessary to treat sound and music with the same level of daily need as we treat architecture, interior design, food, or the air we breathe. In any case, the “Wave Notation” series has begun. I hope it will be used and judged for what I had in mind as ‘sound design’, but of course the listener is free to use it in any way. However, I would hope this music does not become a partner in crime to the flood of sounds and music which inundate us at present.
We’re just two punks, Frank. God kissed us on the brow that night. He gave us all that two people can ever have. And we just weren’t the kind that could have it. We had all that love, and we just cracked up under it. It’s a big airplane engine, that takes you through the sky, right up to the top of the mountain. But when you put it in a Ford, it just shakes it to pieces. That’s what we are, Frank, a couple of Fords.
“Chambers, I think this is the last murder you’ll have a hand in for some time, but if you ever try another, for God’s sake leave insurance companies out of it. They’ll spend five times as much as Los Angeles County will let me put into a case. They’ve got detectives five times as good as any I’ll be able to hire.”
you can’t tell if the ache is bitter or sweet, it returns to the melody, rinsed pure and clean of the past, you almost can’t bear it, the deliverance, the song come home
No reply. It’s just a corpse.
As we know a lot of people think of art as something pretty stuffy, but don’t let them kid you. True art has something to say to everyone. Great art unites the masses at every age in every country.
If you’re dumb, surround yourself with smart people. And if you’re smart, surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you.
When I open the door, the brightly lit box awaits me—a dependable, normal world that keeps turning. I have faith in the world inside the light-filled box.
Decisions are made by those who show up.
“When the weather is settled, and I have recovered my strength,” said she, “we will take long walks together every day. We will walk to the farm at the edge of the down, and see how the children go on; we will walk to Sir John’s new plantations at Barton Cross, and the Abbeyland; and we will often go to the old ruins of the Priory, and try to trace its foundations as far as we are told they once reached. I know we shall be happy. I know the summer will pass happily away. I mean never to be later in rising than six, and from that time till dinner I shall divide every moment between music and reading. I have formed my plan, and am determined to enter on a course of serious study. Our own library is too well known to me, to be resorted to for anything beyond mere amusement. But there are many works well worth reading, at the Park; and there are others of more modern production which I know I can borrow of Colonel Brandon. By reading only six hours aday, I shall gain in the course of a twelvemonth a great deal of instruction which I now feel myself to want.”
How do mountains?
Wyatt doesn’t have much interest in pressing for a trial or other remedy after all this time. Even if she did, it would be impossible; Lucero’s files indicate that all the physical evidence relating to Wyatt’s case was destroyed — common with no-billed cases — in 2009. All that remains are the urban legends and the memories, the wounds and their scars, a stack of documents in a Texas public safety office, what you know now, and the hope that you will carry it with you into the world.
What deeds have sprung from plow and pick! What bank-rolls from tomatoes! No dainty crop of rhetoric Can match one of potatoes.
i guess night is just when the thoughts grow longer
Once, when I was younger, I thought I could be someone else. I’d move to Casablanca, open a bar, and I’d meet Ingrid Bergman. Or more realistically - whether actually more realistic or not - I’d tune in on a better life, something more suited to my true self. Toward that end, I had to undergo training. I read The Greening of America, and I saw Easy Rider three times. But like a boat with a twisted rudder, I kept coming back to the same place. I wasn’t anywhere. I was myself, waiting on the shore for me to return.
Music brings a warm glow to my vision, thawing mind and muscle from their endless wintering.
In a letter you cannot listen. You must always be speaking.
Every time you meet someone it’s hard not to wonder
who they’ve been—one story breaking so much
into the next: memory engraves its hesitations—
but that night you found yourself unafraid.
Please Sir, Mr God of Death Don’t make it my turn today Not today There is fish curry for dinner.
What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.
What’s written remains.
just write a poem like a secondhand store full of dishes & leather jackets. vibrating with the leftovers of people. bleeding in solidarity with a woman in a ripped red sweater like an ear, wailing in the street one summer night. a poem full of peach seeds & lightning bugs. a poem that can change the color of the sky.
I ain’t a doctor, but when you grow up running from gunshots all the time, I think there’s something inside you that never leaves.
The secret, he pointed out to me, was that the soap was more than soap. It was a behavior-change delivery vehicle.
“That’s not my problem” is possibly the worst thing people can think, whether they are start- ing an operation, taxiing an airplane full of passengers down a runway, or building a thousand-foot-tall skyscraper. But in medi- cine, we see it all the time. I’ve seen it in my own operating room.
He loved lightning He lived on an island His mother was a Nymph of a river that ran to the sea His father was a gold Cutting tool Old scholia say that Stesichoros says that Geryon had six hands and six feet and wings He was red and His strange red cattle excited envy Herakles came and Killed him for his cattle The dog too
The red world And corresponding red breezes Went on Geryon did not
They were two superior eels / at the bottom of the tank / and they recognized each other like italics.
Words bounce. Words, if you let them, will do what they want to do and what they have to do.
I want to do what a grass stain does.
Dance until your bones clatter. What a prize you are. What a lucky sack of stars.
You will be fooled by a trick if it involves more time, money and practice than you (or any other sane onlooker) would be willing to invest.
Even under winter’s tightest fist some light still slips through to you, and isn’t that a miracle?
Steal something worthless, something small, / every once in a while. A lighter from the counter. / Call it a gift from the gods of fire. / Call it your due.
We know nothing of how it all works, / how we end up in one bed or another, / speak one language instead of the others, / what heat draws us to our life’s work / or keeps us from a dream until it’s nothing / but a blister we scratch in our sleep.
Even until quite recently, many of the world’s inhabitants were not quite sure of what country they were citizens, or why it should matter. My mother, who was born a Jew in Poland, once told me a joke from her childhood: There was a small town located along the frontier between Russia and Poland; no one was ever quite sure to which it belonged. One day an official treaty was signed and not long after, surveyors arrived to draw a border. Some villagers approached them where they had set up their equipment on a nearby hill. “So where are we, Russia or Poland?” “According to our calculations, your village now begins exactly thirty-seven meters into Poland.” The villagers immediately began dancing for joy. “Why?” the surveyors asked. “What difference does it make?” “Don’t you know what this means?” they replied. “It means we’ll never have to endure another one of those terrible Russian winters!
This is a great trap of the twentieth century: on one side is the logic of the market, where we like to imagine we all start out as individuals who don’t owe each other anything. On the other is the logic of the state, where we all begin with a debt we can never truly pay. We are constantly told that they are opposites, and that between them they contain the only real human possibilities. But it’s a false dichotomy. States created markets. Markets require states.
I don’t want to fabricate a perfect love anymore. I just want to live a little better. To not be hurt anymore, and to not hurt others. I don’t like it that there’s so much wounding in the world. If there persists in being so much wounding in the world, I don’t want to live in it. My need for true love isn’t so important now. The important thing is to lead a life where no one can wound me anymore.
“You are wise,” he said.
“If it is so,” I said, “it is only because I have been fool enough for a hundred lifetimes.”
Humbling women seems to me a chief pastime of poets. As if there can be no story unless we crawl and weep.
Better, I guess, than the slaughter, is the many-handed god.
In an effort to survive the internet age, the Times has stooped to tracking tweets, chasing the sound and fury of never-ending online spectacles that rarely mean anything to anyone, save for an online microculture dedicated to “the discourse.”
The plebs were us. The plebs were that fight for food and wine, that quarrel over who should be served first and better, that dirty floor on which the waiters clattered back and forth, those increasingly vulgar toasts. The plebs were my mother, who had drunk wine and now was leaning against my father’s shoulder, while he, serious, laughed, his mouth gaping, at the sexual allusions of the metal dealer. They were all laughing, even Lila, with the expression of one who has a role and will play it to the utmost.
We are flying over a ball of fire. The part that has cooled floats on the lava. On that part we construct the buildings, the bridges, and the streets, and every so often the lava comes out of Vesuvius or causes an earthquake that destroys everything. There are microbes everywhere that make us sick and die. There are wars. There is a poverty that makes us all cruel. Every second something might happen that will cause you such suffering that you’ll never have enough tears. And what are you doing? A theology course in which you struggle to understand what the Holy Spirit is? Forget it, it was the Devil who invented the world, not the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Do you want to see the string of pearls that Stefano gave me?”
The conclusion we drew from this convinced us that it was best to do everything on purpose, deliberately, so that you would know what to expect.
Children don’t know the meaning of yesterday, of the day before yesterday, or even of tomorrow, everything is this, now: the street is this, the doorway is this, the stairs are this, this is Mamma, this is Papa, this is the day, this the night.
He was a being created out of some unidentifiable material, iron, glass, nettles, but alive, alive, the hot breath streaming from his nose and mouth.
Only hands can wash hands.
One man’s vulgarity is another man’s lyric.
The core problem with the medicolegal system in Mississippi is that it’s easily manipulated—it serves those in power. Historically, it has served as a means of preserving the state’s white power structure. But that’s only because those in power wanted it that way.
You understand, Lenù, what happens to people: we have too much stuff inside and it swells us, breaks us.
Without these rasping hands, professor, not a chair would exist, or a building, a car, nothing, not even you; if we workers stopped working everything would stop, the sky would fall to earth and the earth would shoot up to the sky, the plants would take over the cities, the Arno would flood your fine houses, and only those who have always worked would know how to survive, and as for you two, you with all your books, the dogs would tear you to pieces.
How clever we were to guess that you were clever.
And this is how I see it today: it’s not the neighborhood that’s sick, it’s not Naples, it’s the entire earth, it’s the universe, or universes. And shrewdness means hiding and hiding from oneself the true state of things.
Safety is an emergent property of systems; it does not reside in a person, device or department of an organization or system. Safety cannot be purchased or manufactured; it is not a feature that is separate from the other components of the system. This means that safety cannot be manipulated like a feedstock or raw material. The state of safety in any system is always dynamic; continuous systemic change insures that hazard and its management are constantly changing.
Catastrophe is always just around the corner.
Overt catastrophic failure occurs when small, apparently innocuous failures join to create opportunity for a systemic accident.
It sometimes seems to me that if I could persuade everyone to say “systematize” each time he wanted to say “liberate” and to say “mobilization” every time he wanted to say “reform” or “progress” I would not have to write long books about government-peasant interaction in Russia.
Don’t misunderstand: being a good person requires much more than being a good craftsman. But there is honor among craftsmen, and becoming a good craftsman necessarily entails acquiring certain virtues also essential to becoming a good person.
This is something you do for a billion years or not at all.
Unlike stories, real life, when it has passed, inclines toward obscurity, not clarity.
One can’t go on anymore, she said, electronics seems so clean and yet it dirties, dirties tremendously, and it obliges you to leave traces of yourself everywhere as if you were shitting and peeing on yourself continuously: I want to leave nothing, my favorite key is the one that deletes.
To write, you have to want something to survive you.
“Things are told or not told: you remained in the middle.”
I’m a scribble on a scribble, completely unsuitable for one of your books; forget it, Lenù, one doesn’t tell the story of an erasure.
One might, on the basis of experience, derive a few rules of thumb that, if observed, could make development planning less prone to disaster. While my main goal is hardly a point-by-point reform of development practice, such rules would surely include something along the following lines.
Take small steps. In an experimental approach to social change, presume that we cannot know the consequences of our interventions in advance. Given this postulate of ignorance, prefer wherever possible to take a small step, stand back, observe, and then plan the next small move. As the biologist J. B. S. Haldane metaphorically described the advantages of smallness: “You can drop a mouse down a thousand-yard mineshaft; and on arriving at the bottom, it gets a slight shock and walks away. A rat is killed, a man broken, a horse splashes.”
Favor reversibility. Prefer interventions that can easily be undone if they turn out to be mistakes. Irreversible interventions have irreversible consequences.Interventions into ecosystems require particular care in this respect, given our great ignorance about how they interact. Aldo Leopold captured the spirit of caution required: “The first rule of intelligent tinkering is to keep all the parts.”
Plan on surprises. Choose plans that allow the largest accommodation to the unforeseen. In agricultural schemes this may mean choosing and preparing land so that it can grow any of several crops. In planning housing, it would mean “designing in” flexibility for accommodating changes in family structures or living styles. In a factory it may mean selecting a location, layout, or piece of machinery that allows for new processes, materials, or product lines down the road.
Plan on human inventiveness. Always plan under the assumption that those who become involved in the project later will have or will develop the experience and insight to improve on the design.
A brief example comparing war memorials may be helpful. The Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., is surely one of the most successful war memorials ever built, if one is to judge by the quantity and intensity of the visits it receives. Designed by Maya Lin, the memorial consists simply of a gently undulating site marked (not dominated) by a long, low, black marble wall listing the names of the fallen. The names are listed neither alphabetically nor by military unit but chronologically, in the order in which they fell—thus grouping those who had fallen on the same day in the same engagement. No larger claim is made about the war either in prose or in sculpture—which is hardly surprising, in view of the stark political cleavages the war still inspires. What is most remarkable, however, is the way that the Vietnam Memorial works for those who visit it, particularly those who come to pay their respects to the memory of a comrade or loved one. They touch the names incised on the wall, make rubbings, and leave artifacts and mementos of their own—everything from poems and a woman’s highheeled shoe to a glass of champagne and a poker hand of a full house, aces high. So many of these tributes have been left, in fact, that a museum has been created to house them. The scene of many people together at the wall, touching the names of particular loved ones who fell in the same war, has moved observers regardless of their position on the war itself. I believe that a great part of the memorial’s symbolic power is its capacity to honor the dead with an openness that allows visitors to impress upon it their own meanings, their own histories, their own memories. The memorial virtually requires participation in order to complete its meaning. Although one would not compare it to a Rorschach test, the memorial nevertheless does achieve its meaning as much by what citizens bring to it as by what it imposes.
Compare the Vietnam Memorial to a very different American war memorial: the sculpture depicting the raising of the American flag at the summit of Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima in World War II. Moving in its own right, referring as it does to the final moment of a victory gained at an enormous cost in lives, the Iwo Jima statue is manifestly heroic. Its patriotism (symbolized by the flag), its reference to conquest, its larger-than-life scale, and its implicit theme of unity in victory leave little room for wondering what is expected from the viewer. Given the virtual unanimity with which that war was, and is, viewed in the United States, it is hardly surprising that the Iwo Jima memorial should be monumental and explicit about its message. Although not exactly “canned,” the Iwo Jima site is more symbolically self-sufficient, as are most war memorials. Visitors can stand in awe, gazing on an image that through photographs and sculpture has become a virtual icon for the War in the Pacific, but they receive its message rather than completing it.
The discovery of the things that matter is three quarters of the battle.
Tomorrow when the farm boys find this freak of nature, they will wrap his body in newspaper and carry him to the museum.
But tonight he is alive and in the north field with his mother. It is a perfect summer evening: the moon rising over the orchard, the wind in the grass. And as he stares into the sky, there are twice as many stars as usual.
Writing about illness is a form of travel writing.
“You’ve had a strange journey.”
“Stranger than most.”
“I would like to hear about it.”
“It’s a long story.”
“If only we were trapped in a castle, in the middle of winter, with nowhere to go.”
When things were going well, I was reading newspapers articles and they were calling me Romelu Lukaku, the Belgian striker.
When things weren’t going well, they were calling me Romelu Lukaku, the Belgian striker of Congolese descent.
For eight euros — about the price of a sandwich — tourists can see some building foundations of the ancient Gallo-Roman town of Lutetia in the “archaelogical crypt” of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. Visitors’ puzzled glances reveal the unspoken question “why are we looking at these bits and pieces?” The answer is: because that’s all that’s left.
Being struck by lightning is increasingly unlikely.
It boils down to this: you aren’t allowed to tell them what their problem is, and in return, they aren’t allowed to tell you what to build. They own the problem, you own the solution.
The world’s most deadly fluff is: “I would definitely buy that.”
Trying to learn from customer conversations is like excavating a delicate archaeological site. The truth is down there somewhere, but it’s fragile. While each blow with your shovel gets you closer to the truth, you’re liable to smash it into a million little pieces if you use too blunt an instrument.
It was — tragic. …What will we do til spring?
Why must things have meanings? This is what America means to me: I imagine a prairie.
I only want a patron saint to protect me. / I only want someone else to bleed.
Spend twice as long looking at it as drawing it.
Our jobs make relentless calls on a narrow band of our faculties, reducing our chances of achieving rounded personalities and leaving us to suspect (often in the gathering darkness of a Sunday evening) that much of who we are, or could be, has gone unexplored.
What we call a home is merely any place that succeeds in making more consistenly available to us the important truths which the wider world ignores, or which our distracted and irresolute selves have trouble holding onto. As we write, so we build: to keep a record of what matters to us.
It is in dialogue with pain that many beautiful things acquire their value. Acquaintance with grief turns out to be one of the more unusual prerequisites of architectural appreciation. We might, quite aside from all other requirements, need to be a little sad before buildings can properly touch us.
In short, bureaucracy creates for managers a Calvinist world without a Calvinist God, a world marked with the same profound anxiety that characterized the old Protestant ethic but one stripped of that ideology’s comforting illusions. Bureaucracy poses for managers an intricate set of moral mazes that are paradigmatic of the quandaries of public life in our social order. Within this framework, the puzzle for many individual managers becomes: How does one act in such a world and maintain a sense of personal integrity?
Striking, distinctive characteristics of any sort, in fact, are dangerous in the corporate world. One of the most damaging things, for instance, that can be said about a manager is that he is brilliant. This almost invariably signals a judgment that the person has publicly asserted his intelligence and is perceived as a threat to others. What good is a wizard who makes his colleagues and his customers uncomfortable?
Work becomes more ambiguous, directed as it is toward maneuvering money, symbols, organizational structures, and especially people.
What is right in the corporation is not what is right in a man’s home or in his church. What is right in the corporation is what the guy above you wants from you. That’s what morality is in the corporation.
Have fun. If you are not having fun with a puzzle, then move to a different one. If you are tired, take a break, or get sleep. But do not let yourself dread what you are doing. You win Mystery Hunt by having fun; if you are not having fun, you are not playing by the rules.
Strange things are usually a good sign that there’s treachery afoot.
Do things that are straightforward first. If there is a set of word clues, solve them. If there are snippets of music, identify them.
All men are allowed to have a secret or two.
[What is your writing process like?] Panic; panic; hope.
[We] couldn’t go on across the Eiffestrasse because the asphalt road had melted. There were people on the roadway, some already dead, some still lying alive but stuck in the asphalt. They must have rushed onto the roadway without thinking. Their feet had got stuck and then they had put out their hands to try to get out again. They were on their hands and knees screaming.
If we find poetry in the service station and motel, if we are drawn to the airport or train carriage, it is perhaps because, in spite of their architectural compromises and discomforts, in spite of their garish colours and harsh lighting, we implicitly feel that these isolated places offer us a material setting for an alternative to the selfish ease, the habits and confinement of the ordinary, rooted world.
What people love is not words that they don’t know but words they forgot they knew.
“If it were meant to be illegal,” you remind him sagely, “Sun Microsystems would have made it unrepresentable.”
The purpose of a park, Moses had been telling his designers for years, wasn’t to overawe or impress; it was to encourage the having of a good time.
Keeping something because it would be a waste to get rid of it is a kind of torture.
Presumably man’s spirit should be elevated if he can better review his shady past and analyze more completely and objectively his present problems. He has built a civilization so complex that he needs to mechanize his records more fully if he is to push his experiment to its logical conclusion and not merely become bogged down part way there by overtaxing his limited memory. His excursions may be more enjoyable if he can reacquire the privilege of forgetting the manifold things he does not need to have immediately at hand, with some assurance that he can find them again if they prove important.
A spider web of metal, sealed in a thin glass container, a wire heated to brilliant glow, in short, the thermionic tube of radio sets, is made by the hundred million, tossed about in packages, plugged into sockets—and it works! Its gossamer parts, the precise location and alignment involved in its construction, would have occupied a master craftsman of the guild for months; now it is built for thirty cents.
Had a Pharaoh been given detailed and explicit designs of an automobile, and had he understood them completely, it would have taxed the resources of his kingdom to have fashioned the thousands of parts for a single car, and that car would have broken down on the first trip to Giza.
There is a growing mountain of research. But there is increased evidence that we are being bogged down today as specialization extends. The investigator is staggered by the findings and conclusions of thousands of other workers—conclusions which he cannot find time to grasp, much less to remember, as they appear. Yet specialization becomes increasingly necessary for progress, and the effort to bridge between disciplines is correspondingly superficial.
Actually, having a jet is a really big deal. If I were queen of the world, I would pass a law against private jets, because they enable you to get around a certain reality. You don’t have to go through an airport terminal, you don’t have to interact, you don’t have to be patient, you don’t have to be uncomfortable. These are the things that remind us we’re human.
My dad’s plane was a 737, and it was insane to have a 737 as a private airplane. It had a queen-sized bed with one big long seatbelt across it, and a shower, and it was ridiculous. We would use the plane occasionally because I have four kids, so it was much easier, obviously, to ride on my dad’s plane with them. Then, at a certain point, I just said, “No, I think this is really bad for everybody.”
Like any other creative endeavour, software development can’t be sped up as much as we can eliminate the phenomena that slow it down. Advancements in process and tooling, and the computing resources to run them, can be interpreted as doing exactly this. The result is that developers can spend a larger fraction of their time on application logic.
The popular meme of maturing a product from skateboard, to bike, to motorcycle, to car is a cute story, but the way software tends to actually be made is more like going from engine, to drivetrain, to monocoque, to interior.
Except software isn’t like a car at all: if anything it’s more like a university campus, where different buildings are complete artifacts in their own right but loosely couple together to form a unified service. It is perfectly reasonable for some parts to be undergoing construction while others are being planned. Taken as a whole at any given moment, some parts of the system will have more detail and others will have less. Our notions of iteration and incrementality therefore have to also make room for media other than code.
”eww she fuck the weed man for weed” — a bitch that’s fucking the texts man for texts
(This also reminds me of something that Paul Ford said many moons ago, that if a company asks for a magazine design or a giant billboard poster then that’s relatively easy. You do the design and it doesn’t necessarily change the organization at all. But if they ask for a website then suddenly this bleeds into all other parts of their organization. The website will ask questions of them that require a fundamental change in how they work, how they think about their business.)
It is true that a computer, for example, can be used for good or evil. It is true that a helicopter can be used as a gunship and it can also be used to rescue people from a mountain pass. And if the question arises of how a specific device is going to be used, in what I call an abstract ideal society, then one might very well say one cannot know.
But we live in a concrete society, [and] with concrete social and historical circumstances and political realities in this society, it is perfectly obvious that when something like a computer is invented, then it is going to be adopted will be for military purposes. It follows from the concrete realities in which we live, it does not follow from pure logic. But we’re not living in an abstract society, we’re living in the society in which we in fact live.
If you look at the enormous fruits of human genius that mankind has developed in the last 50 years, atomic energy and rocketry and flying to the moon and coherent light, and it goes on and on and on – and then it turns out that every one of these triumphs is used primarily in military terms. So it is not reasonable for a scientist or technologist to insist that he or she does not know – or ca not know – how it is going to be used.
the best of life is life lived quietly, where nothing happens but our calm journey through the day, where change is imperceptible and the precious life is everything.
The most disturbing aspect of ‘morality’ seems to me to be the frequency with which the word now appears; in the press, on television, in the most perfunctory kinds of conversation. Questions of straightforward power (or survival) politics, questions of quite indifferent public policy, questions of almost anything; they are all assigned these factitious moral burdens. There is something facile going on, some self-indulgence at work. Of course we would all like to ‘believe’ in something, like to assuage our private guilts in public causes, like to lose our tiresome selves; like, perhaps, to transform the white flag of defeat at home into the brave white banner of battle away from home…. [But] when we start deceiving ourselves into thinking not we want something or need something, not that it is a pragmatic necessity for us to have it, but that it is a moral imperative that we have it, then is when we join the fashionable madmen, and then is when the thin whine of hysteria is heard in the land, and then is when we are in bad trouble. And I suspect we are already there.
You might protest that no family has been in the Sacramento Valley for anything approaching “always.” But it is characteristic of Californians to speak grandly of the past as if it has simultaneously begun, tabula rasa, and reached a happy ending on the day the wagons headed west. Eureka—“I Have Found It”—as the state motto has it.
It all comes back. Perhaps it is difficult to see the value in having one’s self back in that kind of mood, but I do see it; I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were. I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be; one of them, a seventeen-year-old, presents little threat, although it would be of some interest to me to know again what it feels like to sit on a river levee drinking vodka-and-orange-juice and listening to Les Paul and Mary Ford and their echoes sing “How High the Moon” on the car radio. (You see I still have the scenes, but I no longer perceive myself among those present, no longer could ever improvise the dialogue.) The other one, a twenty-three-year-old, bothers me more. She was always a good deal of trouble, and I suspect she will reappear when I least want to see her, skirts too long, shy to the point of aggravation, always the injured party, full of recriminations and little hurts and stories I do not want to hear again, at once saddening me and angering me with her vulnerability and ignorance, an apparition all the more insistent for being so long banished. It is a good idea, then, to keep in touch, and I suppose that keeping in touch is what notebooks are all about. And we are all on our own when it comes to keeping those lines open to ourselves: your notebook will never help me, nor mine you.
Communication often interrupts, so good communication is often about saying the right thing at the right time in the right way with the fewest side effects.
Poor communication creates more work.
Internal communication based on long-form writing, rather than a verbal tradition of meetings, speaking, and chatting, leads to a welcomed reduction in meetings, video conferences, calls, or other real-time opportunities to interrupt and be interrupted.
But what after all is one night? A short space, especially when the darkness dims so soon, and so soon a bird sings, a cock crows, or a faint green quickens, like a turning leaf, in the hollow of the wave. Night, however, succeeds to night. The winter holds a pack of them in store and deals them equally, evenly, with indefatigable fingers. They lengthen; they darken. Some of them hold aloft clear planets, plates of brightness. The autumn trees, ravaged as they are, take on the flash of tattered flags kindling in the gloom of cool cathedral caves where gold letters on marble pages describe death in battle and how bones bleach and burn far away in Indian sands. The autumn trees gleam in the yellow moonlight, in the light of harvest moons, the light which mellows the energy of labour, and smooths the stubble, and brings the wave lapping blue to the shore. It seemed now as if, touched by human penitence and all its toil, divine goodness had parted the curtain and displayed behind it, single, distinct, the hare erect; the wave falling; the boat rocking; which, did we deserve them, should be ours always. But alas, divine goodness, twitching the cord, draws the curtain; it does not please him; he covers his treasures in a drench of hail, and so breaks them, so confuses them that it seems impossible that their calm should ever return or that we should ever compose from their fragments a perfect whole or read in the littered pieces the clear words of truth. For our penitence deserves a glimpse only; our toil respite only. The nights now are full of wind and destruction; the trees plunge and bend and their leaves fly helter skelter until the lawn is plastered with them and they lie packed in gutters and choke rain pipes and scatter damp paths. Also the sea tosses itself and breaks itself, and should any sleeper fancying that he might find on the beach an answer to his doubts, a sharer of his solitude, throw off his bedclothes and go down by himself to walk on the sand, no image with semblance of serving and divine promptitude comes readily to hand bringing the night to order and making the world reflect the compass of the soul. The hand dwindles in his hand; the voice bellows in his ear. Almost it would appear that it is useless in such confusion to ask the night those questions as to what, and why, and wherefore, which tempt the sleeper from his bed to seek an answer.
[Mr. Ramsay, stumbling along a passage one dark morning, stretched his arms out, but Mrs. Ramsay having died rather suddenly the night before, his arms, though stretched out, remained empty.]
Who shall blame him, if, so standing for a moment he dwells upon fame, upon search parties, upon cairns raised by grateful followers over his bones? Finally, who shall blame the leader of the doomed expedition, if, having adventured to the uttermost, and used his strength wholly to the last ounce and fallen asleep not much caring if he wakes or not, he now perceives by some pricking in his toes that he lives, and does not on the whole object to live, but requires sympathy, and whisky, and some one to tell the story of his suffering to at once? Who shall blame him? Who will not secretly rejoice when the hero puts his armour off, and halts by the window and gazes at his wife and son, who, very distant at first, gradually come closer and closer, till lips and book and head are clearly before him, though still lovely and unfamiliar from the intensity of his isolation and the waste of ages and the perishing of the stars, and finally putting his pipe in his pocket and bending his magnificent head before her–who will blame him if he does homage to the beauty of the world?
Animorphs was always a war story. Wars don’t end happily. Not ever. Often relationships that were central during war, dissolve during peace. Some people who were brave and fearless in war are unable to handle peace, feel disconnected and confused. Other times people in war make the move to peace very easily. Always people die in wars. And always people are left shattered by the loss of loved ones.
That’s what happens, so that’s what I wrote. Jake and Cassie were in love during the war, and end up going their seperate ways afterward. Jake, who was so brave and capable during the war is adrift during the peace. Marco and Ax, on the other hand, move easily past the war and even manage to use their experience to good effect. Rachel dies, and Tobias will never get over it. That doesn’t by any means cover everything that happens in a war, but it’s a start.
Here’s what doesn’t happen in war: there are no wondrous, climactic battles that leave the good guys standing tall and the bad guys lying in the dirt. Life isn’t a World Wrestling Federation Smackdown. Even the people who win a war, who survive and come out the other side with the conviction that they have done something brave and necessary, don’t do a lot of celebrating. There’s very little chanting of ‘we’re number one’ among people who’ve personally experienced war.
I’m just a writer, and my main goal was always to entertain. But I’ve never let Animorphs turn into just another painless video game version of war, and I wasn’t going to do it at the end. I’ve spent 60 books telling a strange, fanciful war story, sometimes very seriously, sometimes more tongue-in-cheek. I’ve written a lot of action and a lot of humor and a lot of sheer nonsense. But I have also, again and again, challenged readers to think about what they were reading. To think about the right and wrong, not just the who-beat-who. And to tell you the truth I’m a little shocked that so many readers seemed to believe I’d wrap it all up with a lot of high-fiving and backslapping. Wars very often end, sad to say, just as ours did: with a nearly seamless transition to another war.
So, you don’t like the way our little fictional war came out? You don’t like Rachel dead and Tobias shattered and Jake guilt-ridden? You don’t like that one war simply led to another? Fine. Pretty soon you’ll all be of voting age, and of draft age. So when someone proposes a war, remember that even the most necessary wars, even the rare wars where the lines of good and evil are clear and clean, end with a lot of people dead, a lot of people crippled, and a lot of orphans, widows and grieving parents.
“In your labyrinth there are three lines too many,” he said at last. “I know of a Greek labyrinth which is a single straight line. Along this line so many philosophers have lost themselves that a mere detective might well do so too. Scharlach, when, in some other incarnation you hunt me, feign to commit (or do commit) a crime at A, then a second crime at B, eight kilometers from A, then a third crime at C, four kilometers from A and B, halfway enroute between the two. Wait for me later at D, two kilometers from A and C, halfway, once again, between both. Kill me at D, as you are now going to kill me at Triste-le-Roy.” “The next time I kill you,” said Scharlach, “I promise you the labyrinth made of the single straight line which is invisible and everlasting.” He stepped back a few paces. Then, very carefully, he fired.
Just as the worst slave-owners were those who were kind to their slaves, and so prevented the horror of the system being realised by those who suffered from it, and understood by those who contemplated it, so, in the present state of things in England, the people who do most harm are the people who try to do most good.
Power makes you lazy. Insofar as our earlier theoretical discussion of structural violence revealed anything, it was this: that while those in situations of power and privilege often feel it as a terrible burden of responsibility, in most ways, most of the time, power is all about what you don’t have to worry about, don’t have to know about, and don’t have to do. Bureaucracies can democratize this sort of power, at least to an extent, but they can’t get rid of it. It becomes forms of institutionalized laziness. Revolutionary change may involve the exhilaration of throwing off imaginative shackles, of suddenly realizing that impossible things are not impossible at all, but it also means most people will have to get over some of this deeply habituated laziness and start engaging in interpretive (imaginative) labor for a very long time to make those realities stick.