Friday, January 29
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"How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it; if you could really look at other men with common curiosity and pleasure; if you could see them walking as they are in their sunny selfishness and their virile indifference! You would begin to be interested in them, because they were not interested in you. You would break out of this tiny and tawdry theatre in which your own little plot is always being played, and you would find yourself under a freer sky, in a street full of splendid strangers."
  - Gilbert K. Chesterton
Orthodoxy




Thursday, January 28
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"Is there
any way we can purely touch the world again, the way
a salamander does, breathing through its skin? Can we
become the strands of this shrine we weave ourselves into
hoping to emerge into a world where - where what?
There is no end to desire, which means no end to regret,
no end to our need for an ending, so that even the sky refuses
our touch, that sky which, at its bluest, is the most empty."
 - Richard Jackson
Heartwall




Wednesday, January 27
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"Monster" is derived from the Latin noun monstrum, "divine portent," itself formed on the root of the verb monere, "to warn." It came to refer to living things of anomalous shape or structure, or to fabulous creatures like the sphinx who were composed of strikingly incongruous parts, because the ancients considered the appearance of such beings to be a sign of some impending supernatural event. Monsters, like angels, functioned as messengers and heralds of the extraordinary. They served to announce impending revelation, saying, in effect, "Pay attention; something of profound importance is happening."
 - Susan Stryker




Tuesday, January 26
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"What's true of all the evils in the world is true of the plague as well. It helps men to rise above themselves. All the same, when you see the misery it brings, you'd need to be a madman, or a coward, or stone blind, to give in tamely to the plague."
 - Albert Camus
The Plague



"You go on by doing the best you can. You go on by being generous. You go on by being true. You go on by offering comfort to others who can't go on. You go on by allowing the unbearable days to pass and allowing the pleasure in other days. You go on by finding a channel for your love and another for your rage."
 - Cheryl Strayed




Friday, January 22
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"I'll get used to it. Yes, we often hear it said, or we say it ourselves, I'll get used to it, we say or they say, with what seems to be genuine acceptance, because there really isn't any other way, at least none has yet been discovered, of expressing in as dignified a way as possible our sense of resignation, what no one asks is at what cost do we get used to things."
 - José Saramago
The Cave




Thursday, January 21
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"The narrator is well aware of how regrettable is his inability to record at this point something of a really spectacular order; some heroic feat, or memorable deed like those that thrill us in the chronicles of the past. The truth is that nothing is less sensational than pestilence and by reason of their very duration. Great misfortunes are monotonous. In the memories of those who lived through them, the grim days of plague do not stand out like vivid flames, ravenous and inextinguishable, beaconing a troubled sky, but rather like the slow, deliberate progress of some monstrous thing crushing out all upon its path."
 - Albert Camus
The Plague




Wednesday, January 20
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"I hate endings. Just detest them. Beginnings are definitely the most exciting, middles are perplexing and endings are a disaster.
The temptation towards resolution, towards wrapping up the package, seems to me a terrible trap. Why not be more honest with the moment? The most authentic endings are the ones which are already revolving towards another beginning. That's genius."
 - Sam Shepard




Tuesday, January 19
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"Imagine that the world is made out of love. Now imagine that it isn't. Imagine a story where everything goes wrong, where everyone has their back against the wall, where everyone is in pain and acting selfishly because if they don't, they'll die. Imagine a story, not of good against evil, but of need against need against need, where everyone is at cross-purposes and everyone is to blame. How are you supposed to fall asleep to this?"
 - Richard Siken




Sunday, January 17
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Directions
Take a plane to London.
From King's Cross take the direct train to York.
Rent a car and drive across the vale to Ripon,
then into the dales toward the valley of the Nidd,
a narrow road with high stone walls on each side,
and soon you'll be on the moors. There's a pub,
The Drovers, where it's warm inside, a tiny room,
you can stand at the counter and drink a pint of Old Peculier.
For a moment everything will be all right. You're back
at a beginning. Soon you'll walk into Yorkshire country,
into dells, farms, into blackberry and cloud country.
You'll walk for hours. You'll walk the freshness
back into your life. This is true. You can do this.
Even now, sitting at your desk, worrying, troubled,
you can gaze across Middlesmoor to Ramsgill,
the copses, the abbeys of slanting light, the fells,
you can look down on that figure walking toward Scar House,
cheeks flushed, curlews rising in front of him, walking,
making his way, working his life, step by step, into grace.
 - Joseph Stroud
Of this World




Friday, January 15
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"More than ever, I've come to see conspiracy theories as the refuge of those who have lost their natural curiosity and ability to cope with change. Is it any wonder that the world seems full of strange and implacable forces to someone who doesn't know how to look up a Zip Code, use a computerized card catalog, or even make a long-distance phone call? When my husband tended bar in Lemmon, he was often asked to place calls for people flustered by a pay phone. The night he telephoned a research library at a university in California to settle a barroom dispute about the planets is now part of local legend. He might as well have been a shaman."
 - Kathleen Norris
Dakota: A Spiritual Geography




Thursday, January 14
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Thoughts of a Solitary Farmhouse
And not to feel bad about dying.
Not to take it so personally -

it is only
the force we exert all our lives

to exclude death from our thoughts
that confronts us, when it does arrive,

as the horror of being excluded -
something like that, the Canadian wind

coming in off Lake Erie
rattling the windows, horizontal snow

appearing out of nowhere
across the black highway and fields
               like billions of white bees.
 - Franz Wright
Ill Lit




Wednesday, January 13
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"We have not overcome our condition, and yet we know it better. We know that we live in contradiction, but we also know that we must refuse this contradiction and do what is needed to reduce it. Our task as humans is to find the few principles that will calm the infinite anguish of free souls. We must mend what has been torn apart, make justice imaginable again in a world so obviously unjust, give happiness a meaning once more to peoples poisoned by the misery of the century. Naturally, it is a superhuman task. But superhuman is the term for tasks we take a long time to accomplish, that's all.

Let us know our aims then, holding fast to the mind, even if force puts on a thoughtful or a comfortable face in order to seduce us. The first thing is not to despair. Let us not listen too much to those who proclaim that the world is at an end. Civilizations do not die so easily, and even if our world were to collapse, it would not have been the first. It is indeed true that we live in tragic times. But too many people confuse tragedy with despair. "Tragedy," D. H. Lawrence said, "ought to be a great kick at misery." This is a healthy and immediately applicable thought. There are many things today deserving such a kick."
 - Albert Camus
commonplace



Monday, January 11
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"One day Dostoevsky threw out the enigmatic remark: "Beauty will save the world." What sort of a statement is that? For a long time I considered it mere words. How could that be possible? When in bloodthirsty history did beauty ever save anyone from anything? Ennobled, uplifted, yes - but whom has it saved?

There is, however, a certain peculiarity in the essence of beauty, a peculiarity in the status of art: namely, the convincingness of a true work of art is completely irrefutable and it forces even an opposing heart to surrender. It is possible to compose an outwardly smooth and elegant political speech, a headstrong article, a social program, or a philosophical system on the basis of both a mistake and a lie. What is hidden, what distorted, will not immediately become obvious.

Then a contradictory speech, article, program, a differently constructed philosophy rallies in opposition - and all just as elegant and smooth, and once again it works. Which is why such things are both trusted and mistrusted.

In vain to reiterate what does not reach the heart.

But a work of art bears within itself its own verification: conceptions which are devised or stretched do not stand being portrayed in images, they all come crashing down, appear sickly and pale, convince no one. But those works of art which have scooped up the truth and presented it to us as a living force - they take hold of us, compel us, and nobody ever, not even in ages to come, will appear to refute them.

So perhaps that ancient trinity of Truth, Goodness and Beauty is not simply an empty, faded formula as we thought in the days of our self-confident, materialistic youth?

In that case Dostoevsky's remark, "Beauty will save the world", was not a careless phrase but a prophecy? After all he was granted to see much, a man of fantastic illumination."
 - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn




Friday, January 8
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Most of the world are living by
creeds too odd, chancy, and habit-forming
to be worth arguing about by reason.

If you are oppressed, wake up about
four in the morning; most places
you can usually be free some of the time
if you wake up before other people.
 - William Stafford
from Freedom
The Way It Is




Thursday, January 7
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"Nietzsche scales staggering mountains, but he turns up ultimately in Tibet. He sits down beside Tolstoy in the land of nothing and Nirvana. They are both helpless - one because he must not grasp anything, and the other because he must not let go of anything. The Tolstoyan's will is frozen by a Buddhist instinct that all special actions are evil. But the Nietzscheite's will is quite equally frozen by his view that all special actions are good; for if all special actions are good, none of them are special. They stand at the crossroads, and one hates all the roads and the other likes all the roads. The result is - well, some things are not hard to calculate. They stand at the cross-roads."
 - G. K. Chesterton




Tuesday, January 5
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"Ancient maps of the world - when the world was flat - inform us, concerning that void where America was waiting to be discovered, HERE BE DRAGONS. Dragons may not have been here then, but they are certainly here now, breathing fire, belching smoke; or, to be less literary and biblical about it, attempting to intimidate the mores, morals, and morality of this particular and peculiar time and place. Nor, since this country is the issue of the entire globe and is also the most powerful nation currently to be found on it, are we speaking only of this time and place. And it can be said that the monumental struggles being waged in our time and not only in this place resemble, in awesome ways, the ancient struggle between those who insisted that the world was flat and those who apprehended that it was round."
 - James Baldwin
Here be Dragons




Monday, January 4
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"Starting from where you are now, you choose. And in choosing, you also choose who you will be. If this sounds difficult and unnerving, it's because it is. Sartre does not deny that the need to keep making decisions brings constant anxiety. He heightens this anxiety by pointing out that what you do really matters. You should make your choices as though you were choosing on behalf of the whole of humanity, taking the entire burden of responsibility for how the human race behaves. If you avoid this responsibility by fooling yourself that you are the victim of circumstances or of someone else's bad advice, you're failing to meet the demands of human life and choosing a fake existence, cut off from your own authenticity."
 - Sarah Bakewell
At the Existentialist Café
commonplace



Friday, January 1
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Initiation Song from the Finders' Lodge
Please bring strange things.
Please come bringing new things.
Let very old things come into your hands.
Let what you do not know come into your eyes.
Let desert sand harden your feet.
Let the arch of your feet be the mountains.
Let the paths of your fingertips be your maps
and the ways you go be the lines on your palms.
Let there be deep snow in your inbreathing
and your outbreath be the shining of ice.
May your mouth contain the shapes of strange words.
May you smell food cooking you have not eaten.
May the spring of a foreign river be your navel.
May your soul be at home where there are no houses.
Walk carefully, well loved one,
walk mindfully, well loved one,
walk fearlessly, well loved one.
Return with us, return to us,
be always coming home.
 - Ursula Le Guin
Always Coming Home
commonplace










  • ". . . as I have said often enough, I write for myself in multiplicate,
    a not unfamiliar phenomenon on the horizon of shimmering deserts."
    - Vladimir Nabokov