October 08 2017

Putting Up with Yourself and the Race of Man

I would always sympathize with anyone who says . . . that he can't put up with Hamlet at all. But I am afraid it is within hail of the more painful question whether you can put up with yourself and the race of man.

- William Empson

October 08 2017

The Apple Was the Greatest Pleasure

The apple was the greatest pleasure the Garden had to offer . . . Without the forbidden fruit, the place would have been a prison. One requirement of a paradise is that you can leave it when you've had enough.

- Hans Magnus Enzensberger

October 05 2017

A Thousand and One

Literary experience heals the wound, without undermining the privilege, of individuality. There are mass emotions which heal the wound; but they destroy the privilege. In them our separate selves are pooled and we sink back into sub-individuality. But in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like a night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.​

- C.S. Lewis

September 18 2017

Hemingway on Wine

Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range of enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing that may be purchased.

One can learn about wines and pursue the education of one’s palate with great enjoyment, all of a lifetime, the palate becoming more educated and capable of appreciation and you having constantly increasing enjoyment and appreciation of wine, even though the kidneys may weaken, the big toe become painful, the finger joints stiffen, until finally, just when you love it the most, you are finally forbidden wine entirely.

Just as the eye, which is only a good healthy instrument to start with, becomes, even though it is no longer so strong and is weakened and worn by excesses, capable of transmitting constantly greater enjoyment to the brain, because of the knowledge or ability to see, that it has acquired.

Our bodies all wear out in some way and we die, and I would rather have a palate that will give me the pleasure of enjoying completely a Chateau Margaux or a Haut Brion, even though excesses indulged in, in the acquiring of it, have brought a liver that will not allow me to drink Richebourg, Corton or Chambertin, than to have the corrugated iron internals of my boyhood when all red wines were bitter except port and drinking was the process of getting down enough of anything to make you feel reckless.

The thing of course, is to avoid having to give up wine entirely, just as, with the eye, it is to avoid going blind. But there seems to be much luck in all these things and no man can avoid death by honest effort, nor say what use any part of his body will bear, until he tries it.

Ernest Hemingway

Wise: "there seems to be much luck in all these things and no man can avoid death by honest effort." 

August 11 2017

My Optimism

I’m an adult

My optimism is adult too

My optimism
Doesn’t smile all the time
It has rolled in the mud
It’s been struck on an anvil
It burst out into sparks under the hammer
It burned in a bonfire that almost went out
For a while people scornfully called it dead ash

It has been worked over with nightsticks
Jerked around every which way
Then floated downriver chilled to the bone
None of its fibres
Is tainted by even a speck of dust
It doesn’t wear coveralls
Not my optimism

My optimism
Isn’t a coat
That you sometimes put on and then take off
Nor does it have a pocket with a conscience inside
That you could sometimes bring with you
Or sometimes leave at home

My optimism
Leaped into my arms
And I warmed it up with my body heat
After it had been trampled when those
Who had once embraced it cast it aside

I warmed it up
And it warmed me

Double-crossed
And reported on in secret
It grew up step by step
Yet without encountering obstacles
Without a taste of mean tricks
How could my optimism become adult?

Adult optimism
Isn’t always sweet
Sometimes its face is bathed in tears
I once heard it choking back sobs
But it woke out of its grief
Caught my hand
Comforted my heart
Propped my head in both hands
And tried gently to console me
With a tune that only parents would use with a child
Hello old friend inseparable as body and shadow
My long-suffering weather-beaten optimism

- Shao Yanxiang (1984)

May 02 2017

True Democracy

I wave away, with wild gestures, that merely dingy and spiteful democracy which consists in declaring that every throne is only a chair. The true democracy consists in declaring that every chair is a throne.

- G.K. Chesterton

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