"There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers."
- Richard Feynman
How do other people bear
what you are still afraid of? The answer
is that when big things happen
you do go through the looking glass,
but it is still you who goes through,
the inner text is all still right to left,
so you just keep reading.
- Jennifer Michael Hecht
from Steady, Steady
"Democracy is cancerous, and bureaus are its cancer. A bureau takes root anywhere in the state, turns malignant like the Narcotic Bureau, and grows and grows, always reproducing more of its own kind, until it chokes the host if not controlled or excised. Bureaus cannot live without a host, being true parasitic organisms.
Bureaucracy is wrong as a cancer, a turning away from the human evolutionary direction of infinite potentials and differentiation and independent spontaneous action to the complete parasitism of a virus. (It is thought that the virus is a degeneration from a more complex life-form. It may at one time have been capable of independent life. Now it has fallen to the borderline between living and dead matter. It can exhibit living qualities only in a host, by using the life of another - the renunciation of life itself, a falling towards inorganic, inflexible machine, towards dead matter.) Bureaus die when the structure of the state collapses. They are as helpless and unfit for independent existence as a displaced tapeworm, or a virus that has killed the host."
- William S. Burroughs
Naked Lunch: The Restored Text
"With the passage of days in this godly isolation, my heart grew calm. It seemed to fill with answers. I did not ask questions any more; I was certain. Everything - where we came from, where we are going, what our purpose is on earth - struck me as extremely sure and simple in this God-trodden isolation. Little by little my blood took on the godly rhythm. Matins, Divine Liturgy, vespers, psalmodies, the sun rising in the morning and setting in the evening, the constellations suspended like chandeliers each night over the monastery: all came and went, came and went in obedience to eternal laws, and drew the blood of man into the same placid rhythm. I saw the world as a tree, a gigantic poplar, and myself as a green leaf clinging to a branch with my slender stalk. When God's wind blew, I hopped and danced, together with the entire tree."
- Nikos Kazantzakis
After we come to see it and know we scarcely live without it we begin trying to describe what art is and it seems to be something we believe is human whatever that is something that says what we are but then the same beam of recognition stops at one penguin choosing a pebble to offer to the penguin he hopes to love and later the dance of awkwardness holding an egg on one foot away from the snow of summer the balancing on one foot in the flash of summer
- W. S. Merwin
thank you five branch tree
"Once upon a time, there was a boy. He lived in a village that no longer exists, in a house that no longer exists, on the edge of a field that no longer exists, where everything was discovered, and everything was possible. A stick could be a sword, a pebble could be a diamond, a tree, a castle. Once upon a time, there was a boy who lived in a house across the field, from a girl who no longer exists. They made up a thousand games. She was queen and he was king. In the autumn light her hair shone like a crown. They collected the world in small handfuls, and when the sky grew dark, they parted with leaves in their hair."
- Nicole Krauss
The History of Love
"In case you haven't noticed, you have a mental dialogue going on inside your head that never stops. It just keeps going and going. Have you ever wondered why it talks in there? How does it decide what to say and when to say it? How much of what it says turns out to be true? How much of what it says is even important? And if right now you are hearing, "I don't know what you're talking about. I don't have any voice inside my head!" - that's the voice we're talking about."
- Michael A. Singer
The Untethered Soul
Your Boat Your Words
Your boat, they will tell you,
cannot leave the harbor
But they will neglect to mention
that discipline has a vanishing point,
an invisible horizon where belief takes over.
They will not whisper to you the secret
that they themselves have not fully understood: that
belief is the only wind with breath enough
to take you past the deadly calms, the stopped motion
toward that place you have imagined,
the existence of which you cannot prove
except by going there.
- Pat Schneider
wait - what?
"Or maybe a person is just made up of a lot of people. Maybe we're accumulating these new selves all the time. Hauling them in as we make choices, good and bad, as we screw up, step up, lose our minds, find our minds, fall apart, fall in love, as we grieve, grow, retreat from the world, dive into the world, as we make things, as we break things."
- Jandy Nelson
I'll Give You the Sun
For intervals, then, throughout our lives
we savor a concurrence, the great blending
of our chance selves with what sustains
all chance. We ride the wave and are
the wave. And with renewed belief
inner and outer we find our talk
turned to prayer, our prayer into truth:
for an interval, early, we become at home in the world.
- William Stafford
the beauty we love
love is a place
"A normal existence - what could be more irrational? It's fantastic the number of things you're forced not to think about in order to go from one end of the day to the other without jumping the track! And the number of memories that have to be driven from your mind, the truths that have to be evaded!"
- Simone de Beauvoir
life is full of beauty
With the mistake your life goes in reverse.
Now you can see exactly what you did
Wrong yesterday and wrong the day before
And each mistake leads back to something worse
And every nuance of your hypocrisy
Towards yourself and every excuse
Stands solidly on the perspective lines
And there is perfect visibility.
What an enlightenment. The colonnade
Rolls past on either side. You needn't move.
The statues of your errors brush your sleeve.
You watch the tale turn back - and you're dismayed.
And this dismay at this, this big mistake
Is made worse by the sight of all those who
Knew all along where these mistakes would lead -
Those frozen friends who watched the crisis break.
Why didn't they say? Oh but they did indeed -
Said with a murmur when the time was wrong
Or by a mild refusal to assent
Or told you plainly but you would not heed.
Yes, you can hear them now. It hurts. It's worse
Than any sneer from an enemy.
Take this dismay. Lay claim to this mistake.
Look straight along the lines of this reverse.
- James Fenton
Out of Danger
London Review of Books
It would be an endless battle if it were all up to ego
because it does not destroy and is not destroyed by itself
It is like a wave
it makes itself up, it rushes forward getting nowhere really
it crashes, withdraws and makes itself up again
pulls itself together with pride
towers with pride
rushes forward into imaginary conquest
crashes in frustration
withdraws with remorse and repentance
pulls itself together with new resolution.
- Agnes Martin
"My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself. There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate - the genetic and neural fate - of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death."
- Oliver Sacks
The American Sublime
How does one stand
To behold the sublime,
To confront the mockers,
The mickey mockers
And plated pairs?
When General Jackson
Posed for his statue
He knew how one feels.
Shall a man go barefoot
Blinking and blank?
But how does one feel?
One grows used to the weather,
The landscape and that;
And the sublime comes down
To the spirit itself,
The spirit and space,
The empty spirit
In vacant space.
What wine does one drink?
What bread does one eat?
- Wallace Stevens
"What hope is there for individual reality or authenticity, when the forces of violence and orthodoxy, the earthly powers of guns and bombs and manipulated public opinion make it impossible for us to be authentic and fulfilled human beings?
The only hope, is in the creation of alternative values, alternative realities. The only hope is in daring to redream one's place in the world - a beautiful act of imagination, and a sustained act of self becoming. Which is to say that in some way or another we breach and confound the accepted frontiers of things."
- Ben Okri
beyond the fields we know
Who isn't selfish enough
to love zoos? Flamingos, baboons,
Surely evolution has a sense of humor.
Surely the world would be something to love
if it weren't for us, insatiate,
our history of harm.
How hard even to love oneself,
all those things I've done
or dreamed of. Those vengeances.
- Stephen Dunn
Landscape at the End of the Century
"My argument with so much of psychoanalysis, is the preconception that suffering is a mistake, or a sign of weakness, or a sign even of illness. When in fact, possibly the greatest truths we know, have come out of people's suffering. The problem is not to undo suffering, or to wipe it off the face of the earth, but to make it inform our lives, instead of trying to "cure" ourselves of it constantly, and avoid it, and avoid anything but that lobotomized sense of what they call "happiness". There's too much of an attempt, it seems to me, to think in terms of controlling man, rather than freeing him - of defining him, rather than letting him go! It's part of the whole ideology of this age, which is power-mad!"
- Arthur Miller
Seven Simple Rules for Life in Hiding
1) Never trust a cop in a raincoat.
2) Beware of enthusiasm and of love, both are temporary and quick to sway.
3) If asked if you care about the world's problems, look deep into the eyes of he who asks, he will never ask you again.
4) Never give your real name.
5) If ever asked to look at yourself, don't look.
6) Never do anything the person standing in front of you can't understand.
7) Never create anything, it will be misinterpreted, it will chain you and follow you for the rest of your life.
- Hunter S. Thompson
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Money is our madness, our vast collective madness.
And of course, if the multitude is mad
the individual carries his own grain of insanity around with him.
I doubt if any man living hands out a pound note with-out a pang;
and a real tremor, if he hands out a ten-pound note.
We quail, money makes us quail.
It has got us down, we grovel before it in strange terror.
And no wonder, for money has a fearful cruel power among men.
But it is not money we are so terrified of,
it is the collective money-madness of mankind.
For mankind says with one voice: How much is he worth?
Has he no money? Then let him eat dirt, and go cold. -
And if I have no money, they will give me a little bread
so I do not die,
but they will make me eat dirt with it.
I shall have to eat dirt, I shall have to eat dirt
if I have no money.
It is that that I am frightened of.
And that fear can become a delirium.
It is fear of my money-mad fellow-men.
We must have some money
to save us from eating dirt.
And this is all wrong.
Bread should be free,
shelter should be free,
fire should be free
to all and anybody, all and anybody, all over the world.
We must regain our sanity about money
before we start killing one another about it.
It's one thing or the other.
- D. H. Lawrence
"Even now, all possible feelings do not yet exist, there are still those that lie beyond our capacity and our imagination. From time to time, when a piece of music no one has ever written or a painting no one has ever painted, or something else impossible to predict, fathom or yet describe takes place, a new feeling enters the world. And then, for the millionth time in the history of feeling, the heart surges and absorbs the impact."
- Nicole Krauss
The History of Love
How Angels Sleep
Unsoundly. They toss and turn, trying to understand the mystery of the living. They know so little about what it's like to fill a new prescription for glasses and suddenly see the world again, with a mixture of disappointment and gratitude.
Also, they don't dream. For this reason, they have one less thing to talk about. In a backward way, when they wake up they feel as if there is something they are forgetting to tell each other. There is disagreement among the angels as to whether this is a result of something vestigial, or whether it is the result of the empathy they feel for the Living, so powerful it sometimes makes them weep. In general, they fall into these two camps on the subject of dreams. Even among the angels, there is the sadness of division.
- Nicole Krauss
The History of Love