Alan Watts was a British-born philosopher, writer, and speaker. Best known for making Eastern philosophy digestible to Western minds, his radio broadcasts, books and talks turned people on to new ways of thinking. He introduced the youth culture to The Way of Zen, he put forward the idea that Buddhism could be seen as a form of psychotherapy rather than a religion, he engaged with and explored ideas of human consciousness as well as man’s relationship with nature…to me at least he embodies the world-thinker, astride cultures, taking what is relevant or useful and leaving the dogma. He died in 1973 at the age of 58, at his cabin on Mount Tamalpais. Recently though, people have been setting extracts from his lectures to animations and montages, uploading them to YouTube where his words are enjoying a renaissance...
Beautiful letter here discovered by the wonderful Letters of Note. In May of 2006, 46 years after the publication of her only novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, reclusive author Harper Lee (seen below with Gregory Peck) wrote the following letter to Oprah Winfrey, on the subject of reading and her love of books. It was subsequently published in Oprah’s magazine, “O.”
May 7, 2006
Do you remember when you learned to read, or like me, can you not even remember a time when you didn’t know how? I must have learned from having been read to by my family. My sisters and brother, much older, read aloud to keep me from pestering them; my mother read me a story every day, usually a children’s classic, and my father read from the four newspapers he got through every evening. Then, of course, it was Uncle Wiggily at bedtime.
So I arrived in the first grade, literate, with a curious cultural assimilation of American history, romance, the Rover Boys, Rapunzel, and The Mobile Press. Early signs of genius? Far from it. Reading was an accomplishment I shared with several local contemporaries. Why this endemic precocity? Because in my hometown, a remote village in the early 1930s, youngsters had little to do but read. A movie? Not often — movies weren’t for small children. A park for games? Not a hope. We’re talking unpaved streets here, and the Depression.
Books were scarce. There was nothing you could call a public library, we were a hundred miles away from a department store’s books section, so we children began to circulate reading material among ourselves until each child had read another’s entire stock. There were long dry spells broken by the new Christmas books, which started the rounds again.
As we grew older, we began to realize what our books were worth: Anne of Green Gables was worth two Bobbsey Twins; two Rover Boys were an even swap for two Tom Swifts. Aesthetic frissons ran a poor second to the thrills of acquisition. The goal, a full set of a series, was attained only once by an individual of exceptional greed — he swapped his sister’s doll buggy.
We were privileged. There were children, mostly from rural areas, who had never looked into a book until they went to school. They had to be taught to read in the first grade, and we were impatient with them for having to catch up. We ignored them.
And it wasn’t until we were grown, some of us, that we discovered what had befallen the children of our African-American servants. In some of their schools, pupils learned to read three-to-one — three children to one book, which was more than likely a cast-off primer from a white grammar school. We seldom saw them until, older, they came to work for us.
Now, 75 years later in an abundant society where people have laptops, cell phones, iPods, and minds like empty rooms, I still plod along with books. Instant information is not for me. I prefer to search library stacks because when I work to learn something, I remember it.
And, Oprah, can you imagine curling up in bed to read a computer? Weeping for Anna Karenina and being terrified by Hannibal Lecter, entering the heart of darkness with Mistah Kurtz, having Holden Caulfield ring you up — some things should happen on soft pages, not cold metal.
The village of my childhood is gone, with it most of the book collectors, including the dodgy one who swapped his complete set of Seckatary Hawkinses for a shotgun and kept it until it was retrieved by an irate parent.
Now we are three in number and live hundreds of miles away from each other. We still keep in touch by telephone conversations of recurrent theme: “What is your name again?” followed by “What are you reading?” We don’t always remember.
From Lists of Note, 27 June 2012: The great Nora Ephron passed away yesterday, aged 71, following a battle with leukemia that began in 2006. She had many strings to her bow, but most notably wrote the screenplays to some of the best loved films ever to grace the big screen, many of which she also directed and produced. She wrote the following lists — of things she won't and will miss — in 2010 and used them to close her book, I Remember Nothing.
What I Won't Miss
Dry skin Bad dinners like the one we went to last night E-mail Technology in general My closet Washing my hair Bras Funerals Illness everywhere Polls that show that 32 percent of the American people believe in creationism Polls Fox TV The collapse of the dollar Bar mitzvahs Mammograms Dead flowers The sound of the vacuum cleaner Bills E-mail. I know I already said it, but I want to emphasize it. Small print Panels on Women in Film Taking off makeup every night
What I Will Miss
My kids Nick Spring Fall Waffles The concept of waffles Bacon A walk in the park The idea of a walk in the park The park Shakespeare in the Park The bed Reading in bed Fireworks Laughs The view out the window Twinkle lights Butter Dinner at home just the two of us Dinner with friends Dinner with friends in cities where none of us lives Paris Next year in Istanbul Pride and Prejudice The Christmas tree Thanksgiving dinner One for the table The dogwood Taking a bath Coming over the bridge to Manhattan Pie
His "pansexuality" stopped him getting into politics, he was punched by Norman Mailer, described Truman Capote's death as "a good career move" and he never quite hit the same literary orbit as some of his peers (Updike, Bellow, Roth et al), but Gore Vidal was a stunning essayist, a brilliant speaker and a glittering wit. The following comes from his obituary in The Guardian, but if you're interested, read the one in Time too:
For as long as democracy lasts, people will quote the most brilliant of his many epigrams – "Politics is just showbusiness for ugly people" – and, for as long as competitive endeavour exists, will parrot his cruel but psychologically astute observation that: "It is not enough to succeed; others must fail." It is rare for a week to pass without one or both of these remarks being quoted approvingly somewhere.
He was open to the charge of namedropping, but claims of famous acquaintance were never faked: he had been a friend and relative of the Kennedys and, when I went to interview Vidal at his breathtaking clifftop villa on the coast of the Amalfi coast, there were photographs of him with Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, who were reputed to have taken refuge there during one of the presidential scandals. However, though distantly related to Clinton's vice-president, Al Gore, Vidal delighted in declining to meet a branch of the family he regarded as dull, grey sheep.
As often with Vidal, the remark about politics compensating the plain was double-edged. Famously attractive as a young man, he would have been a beautiful politician but, with the American electorate reluctant even now to back for most high offices candidates known to be gay, he was surely doomed to fail in the profession of his influential grandfather, Senator Gore of Oklahoma, who, being blind, relied on the newspapers being read to him by a group of assistants who included his grandson[...]But, even had he been straight, a mainstream political career would likely have been undermined by the savagery of his analysis of America. Politically, she was a corrupt and failing empire with a government that ruled through paranoid invocation of national security, he felt. However, he liked to reassure people that there was no risk of American culture dying – because it had never existed.
Despite the extremity of these opinions – and the fact that early novels such as The City and the Pillar (1948) and Myra Breckinridge (1968) were censored and banned because of their sexual content – Vidal later achieved mainstream bestseller and Book of the Month club status with a fictional sequence designed to correct what he saw as the deficient historical knowledge of his fellow Americans.
The Narratives of Empire books, from Burr (1973) to The Golden Age (2000), combined fact, gossip and waspish commentary in the most entertaining and subversive history lessons until the advent of David Starkey, whose style somewhat echoes Vidal's.
These popular works and lucratively paid but cheaply produced screenplays for projects including Bob Guccone's Caligula permitted Vidal to live in some splendour in Italy and California, while writing the essays on politics, literature and culture. They were premiered in periodicals and later preserved in book-form and had the feel of his true vocation. It was in one of these pieces that he characteristically claimed to have sneaked a gay sub-text into the screenplay of Charlton Heston's Ben-Hur.
A walking rejection of the claim that America has no class system, Vidal had the manner of an aristocrat. During the BBC coverage of the 2008 election, he spectacularly blanked David Dimbleby, whom he seemed to feel was pulling rank on him. Often, while interviewing Vidal, it struck me as a minor tragedy that no director had ever cast him as Lady Bracknell, for no actress has ever managed the levels of hauteur that this author could summon.
A few years ago, when I mentioned a passage in his memoirs that admits to being unable to express any open distress after the death of Howard Austen, his supportive partner for almost 50 years, he drawled: "Have you seen that film with Helen Mirren? The Queen? Our class are brought up not to show emotion."
This effortless identification with one of the highest-born figures in history was very Vidal: both in its social self-confidence and the fact that a question about emotional evasion was itself emotionally evaded through a provocative aphorism.
With a writer who was such a brilliant speaker and a natural entertainer, it is fitting that he has left a more durable record on film than most writers do: through occasional acting turns such as the arrogant senator in the political satire Bob Roberts. That part was a vision of another life he might have led. But anyone who relishes elegant and incisive writing and speech will be glad that Vidal was fated to explain, rather than practise, politics.
“The planet Venus, a circle of silver in a green sky, pierced the edge of the evening while the wintry woods darkened about me and in the stillness the regular sound of my footsteps striking the pavement was like a the rhythmic beating of a giant stone heart.” ― Gore Vidal, Clouds and Eclipses: The Collected Short Stories
“Because there is no cosmic point to the life that each of us perceives on this distant bit of dust at galaxy's edge, all the more reason for us to maintain in proper balance what we have here. Because there is nothing else. Nothing. This is it. And quite enough, all in all.”
“Love it or loathe it, you can never leave it or lose it.”
"Politics is just showbusiness for ugly people"
"You hear all this whining going on, 'Where are our great writers?' The thing I might feel doleful about is: 'Where are the readers?'"
"A writer must always tell the truth, unless he is a journalist."
"The four most beautiful words in our common language: I told you so."
“I suspect that one of the reasons we create fiction is to make sex exciting.”
“How marvelous books are, crossing worlds and centuries, defeating ignorance and, finally, cruel time itself.”
"The corporate grip on opinion in the United States is one of the wonders of the Western world. No First World country has ever managed to eliminate so entirely from its media all objectivity - much less dissent."
“The American press exists for one purpose only, and that is to convince Americans that they are living in the greatest and most envied country in the history of the world. The Press tells the American people how awful every other country is and how wonderful the United States is and how evil communism is and how happy they should be to have freedom to buy seven different sorts of detergent.”
"Never miss a chance to have sex or appear on television."
“[Professor] Frank recalled my idle remark some years ago: 'Never pass up the opportunity to have sex or appear on television.' Advice I would never give today in the age of AIDS and its television equivalent Fox News.”
"At a certain age, you have to live near good medical care — if, that is, you're going to continue. You always have the option of not continuing, which, I fear, is sometimes nobler."
"All children alarm their parents, if only because you are forever expecting to encounter yourself."
"Democracy is supposed to give you the feeling of choice, like Painkiller X and Painkiller Y. But they're both just aspirin."
"It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail."
(on Norman Mailer) "You know, he used the word 'existential' all the time, to the end of his life, and never even learned what it meant. I heard Iris Murdoch once at dinner explain to Norman what existential meant, philosophically. He was stunned."
“Little Bush says we are at war, but we are not at war because to be at war Congress has to vote for it. He says we are at war on terror, but that is a metaphor, though I doubt if he knows what that means. It's like having a war on dandruff, it's endless and pointless.”
"As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too. Words are used to disguise, not to illuminate, action: you liberate a city by destroying it. Words are to confuse, so that at election time people will solemnly vote against their own interests."
"There is no such thing as a homosexual or a heterosexual person. There are only homo- or heterosexual acts. Most people are a mixture of impulses if not practices."
“Anyone who sings about love and harmony and life [John Lennon] is dangerous to someone who sings about death and killing and subduing [Nixon]”
"A narcissist is someone better looking than you are."
“In America, the race goes to the loud, the solemn, the hustler. If you think you're a great writer, you must say that you are.”
“I believe there's something very salutary in, say, beating up a gay-bashing policeman. Preferably one fights through the courts, through the laws, through education, but if at a neighborhood level violence is necessary, I'm all for violence. It's the only thing Americans understand.”
"Any American who is prepared to run for president should automatically by definition be disqualified from ever doing so."
"Democracy is supposed to give you the feeling of choice like, Painkiller X and Painkiller Y. But they're both just aspirin."
"Envy is the central fact of American life."
“There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party … and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat.”
"In America, if you want a successful career in politics, there is one subject you must never mention, and that is politics. If you talk about standing tall, and it's morning in America, and you press the good-news buttons, you're fine. If you talk about budgets, tax reform, bigotry, and so on, you are in trouble. So if we aren't going to talk issues, what can we talk about? Well, the sex lives of the candidates, because that is about the most meaningless thing that you can talk about."
(on Ronald Reagan) "He is not clear about the difference between Medici and Gucci. He knows Nancy wears one of them."
"I'm all for bringing back the birch, but only between consenting adults."
"There is something about a bureaucrat that does not like a poem."
"Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little."
"The United States was founded by the brightest people in the country — and we haven't seen them since."
"Today's public figures can no longer write their own speeches or books, and there is some evidence that they can't read them either."
"Until the rise of American advertising, it never occurred to anyone anywhere in the world that the teenager was a captive in a hostile world of adults."
"We must declare ourselves, become known; allow the world to discover this subterranean life of ours which connects kings and farm boys, artists and clerks. Let them see that the important thing is not the object of love, but the emotion itself."
"Every four years the naive half who vote are encouraged to believe that if we can elect a really nice man or woman President everything will be all right. But it won't be."
"Never have children, only grandchildren."
"Andy Warhol is the only genius I've ever known with an IQ of 60"
“The unfed mind devours itself.”
"A good deed never goes unpunished."
“I’m not sentimental about anything. Life flows by, and you flow with it or you don’t. Move on and move out.”
"All children alarm their parents, if only because you are forever expecting to encounter yourself."
"Apparently, a democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates."
"Fifty percent of people won't vote, and fifty percent don't read newspapers. I hope it's the same fifty percent."
"Some writers take to drink, others take to audiences."
"The genius of our ruling class is that it has kept a majority of the people from ever questioning the inequity of a system where most people drudge along, paying heavy taxes for which they get nothing in return"
"Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn."
“If one starts with the anatomical difference, which even a patriarchal Viennese novelist was able to see was destiny, then one begins to understand why men and women don't get on very well within marriage, or indeed in any exclusive sort of long-range sexual relationship. He is designed to make as many babies as possible with as many different women as he can get his hands on, while she is designed to take time off from her busy schedule as astronaut or role model to lay an egg and bring up the result. Male and female are on different sexual tracks, and that cannot be changed by the Book or any book. Since all our natural instincts are carefully perverted from birth, it is no wonder that we tend to be, if not all of us serial killers, killers of our own true nature.”
“Write what you know will always be excellent advice for those who ought not to write at all. Write what you think, what you imagine, what you suspect!”
"The more money an American accumulates, the less interesting he becomes."
"The four most beautiful words in our common language: I told you so."
"Congress no longer declares war or makes budgets. So that's the end of the constitution as a working machine."
"We should stop going around babbling about how we're the greatest democracy on earth, when we're not even a democracy. We are a sort of militarised republic."
"As the age of television progresses the Reagans will be the rule, not the exception. To be perfect for television is all a President has to be these days."
"Sex is. There is nothing more to be done about it. Sex builds no roads, writes no novels and sex certainly gives no meaning to anything in life but itself."
"Think of the earth as a living organism that is being attacked by billions of bacteria whose numbers double every forty years. Either the host dies, or the virus dies, or both die."
"There is no such thing as a homosexual or a heterosexual person. There are only homo- or heterosexual acts. Most people are a mixture of impulses if not practices."
"There is no human problem which could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise."
He described Reagan during the 1980s as “a triumph of the embalmer’s art”. – Clarence
The Buddhist view takes the function of work to be at least threefold: to give man a chance to utilise and develop his faculties; to enable him to overcome his ego-centredness by joining with other people in a common task; and to bring forth the goods and services needed for a becoming existence.…To organise work in such a manner that it becomes meaningless, boring, stultifying, or nerve-wracking for the worker would be little short of criminal; it would indicate a greater concern with goods than with people, an evil lack of passion, and a soul-destroying degree of attachment to the most primitive side of his worldly existence. Man is small, and, therefore, small is beautiful.
-Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered by E.F. Schumacher (via)
Do you ever wonder what is the greatest enemy of the free press? One might mention a few conspicuous foes, such as the state censor, the monopolistic proprietor, the advertiser who wants either favorable coverage or at least an absence of unfavorable coverage, and so forth. But the most insidious enemy is the cowardly journalist and editor who doesn't need to be told what to do, because he or she has already internalized the need to please - or at least not to offend - the worst tyranny of all, which is the safety-first version of public opinion.
--Christopher Hitchens, Slate, 18 February 2008
Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865) was the 16th President of the United States, well clever and well tall. He was only president for four years, from 1861 until his assassination in 1865, but in that short time he led his country through enormous change and adversity. We're talking constitutional, military and moral crisis (American Civil War), during which he preserved the Union, ended slavery, sorted out the economy and the financial system. And this on top of a brutal route to office. I liked doing this post. His quotes aren't too fancy, they're practical and meaty and some of them are very funny. He must have been a very skilled judge of character. Wonder what his voice sounded like. "Some day I shall be President." No silver spoons here. Lincoln was born into a poor family on the western frontier. Mostly self-educated, he started out as a country lawyer, then became a state legislator and a one-term member of the House of Representatives...the rest was grind.
[this next bit is edited from Wikipedia] In 1859-60, he opposed the expansion of slavery in the US in his campaign debates and speeches, secured the Republican nomination and was elected president in 1860. Before Lincoln took office in March, seven southern slave states declared their secession and formed the Confederacy. When war began with the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, Lincoln concentrated on both the military and political dimensions of the war effort, seeking to reunify the nation. He vigorously exercised unprecedented war powers, including the arrest and detention without trial of thousands of suspected secessionists. He prevented British recognition of the Confederacy by skillfully handling the Trent affair late in 1861. His efforts toward abolition include issuing his Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and encouraging Congress to propose what would become the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Lincoln closely supervised the war effort, especially the selection of top generals, including commanding general Ulysses S. Grant. He brought leaders of various factions of his party into his cabinet and pressured them to cooperate...Each time a general failed, Lincoln substituted another until finally Grant succeeded in 1865.
As the leader of the moderate faction of the Republican party, Lincoln found his policies and personality were "blasted from all sides": Radical Republicansdemanded harsher treatment of the South, War Democrats desired more compromise, Copperheads despised him, and irreconcilable secessionists plotted his death. Politically, Lincoln fought back with patronage, pitted his opponents against each other, and appealed to the American people with his oratory. His Gettysburg Address of 1863 became the most quoted speech in American history. It was an iconic statement of America's dedication to the principles of nationalism, equal rights, liberty, and democracy.
At the close of the war, Lincoln held a moderate view of Reconstruction, seeking to reunite the nation speedily through a policy of generous reconciliation in the face of lingering and bitter divisiveness. But six days after the surrender of Confederate commanding general Robert E. Lee, Lincoln was assassinated by Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theatre.
A woman is the only thing I am afraid of that I know will not hurt me.
Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be. I don't like that man. I must get to know him better.
You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man's initiative and independence. Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?
You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today. Don't worry when you are not recognised, but strive to be worthy of recognition.
I walk slowly, but I never walk backward. Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail. Without it, nothing can succeed.
Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether it be true or not, I can say for one that I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem. All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.
As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Every one desires to live long, but no one would be old.
I can make more generals, but horses cost money. My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power. To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.
Everybody likes a compliment. I will prepare and some day my chance will come.
What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself. Whatever you are, be a good one.
No matter how much cats fight, there always seem to be plenty of kittens. Important principles may, and must, be inflexible.
Avoid popularity if you would have peace. I don't know who my grandfather was; I am much more concerned to know what his grandson will be.
Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm. You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.
You have to do your own growing no matter how tall your grandfather was. When I hear a man preach, I like to see him act as if he were fighting bees.
When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That's my religion. These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert, to fleece the people.
The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep's for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as his liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty. Plainly, the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of liberty. Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren't very new at all.
The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who'll get me a book I ain't read. When I am getting ready to reason with a man, I spend one-third of my time thinking about myself and what I am going to say and two-thirds about him and what he is going to say.
There is another old poet whose name I do not now remember who said, "Truth is the daughter of Time." Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.
He has a right to criticise, who has a heart to help. Marriage is neither heaven nor hell, it is simply purgatory.
It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues. How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.
The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time. It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt.
The Gettysburg address:
NB. read it out loud, don't just read it to yourself.
(short backstory - an amazing piece of oratory delivered to commemorate soldiers who fell in the war, ten sentences and two minutes in which he redefined the Civil War as a struggle not just for preserving the Union but as "a new birth of freedom", also compare it with Pericles' Funeral Speech if you like this sort of thing)
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Freud was born in Berlin but his father, Ernst, moved the family to England in 1933 to skip the rise of Nazism. Grandson of Sigmund Freud, elder brother of Clement Freud (who told the world's funniest joke), he seems to have chosen to paint without much fuss or fanfare - it's what he was meant to do. He was one of a group of artists in Britain at the time, the "School of London", which along with Francis Bacon and a few others concentrated on figurative painting. He had a pretty crazy personal life (many lovers, at least 14 kids) - but there's plenty on that elsewhere.
Freud's subjects, who needed to make a very large and uncertain commitment of their time, were often the people in his life; friends, family, fellow painters, lovers, children. He said, "The subject matter is autobiographical, it's all to do with hope and memory and sensuality and involvement, really." However the titles were mostly anonymous, and the identity of the sitter not always disclosed; the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire had a portrait of one of Freud's daughters as a baby for several years before he mentioned who the model was.
In the 1970s Freud spent 4,000 hours on a series of paintings of his mother, about which art historian Lawrence Gowing observed "it is more than 300 years since a painter showed as directly and as visually his relationship with his mother. And that was Rembrandt." For me, the ones of his mum are the most emotive of all. She was in a deep depression at the time as Ernst had died, and you can instantly feel that mood in the room, almost disengaged (he couldn't paint her before because she was too animated and interested in him) as she stares into space.
A prodigious worker, Freud spent a huge amount of time on his paintings, and always needed to have the subject in the room. He'd work in five-hour sessions, and a single painting easily take over two thousand hours to complete. He'd start by drawing in charcoal, then paint a small area of the canvas, and gradually work outward from there. For a new sitter, he often started with the head as a means of "getting to know" the person, then painted the rest of the figure, eventually returning to the head as his comprehension of the model deepened. A section of canvas was intentionally left bare until the painting was finished, as a reminder that the work was in progress. The finished painting is an accumulation of richly worked layers of pigment, as well as months of intense observation.
It's crazy - the closer you get, the more abstract the paint becomes. I can't imagine how he could stare intently at someone's mouth, say, then go to the canvas and carve a green slash into a thick layer of paint on it, and yet, from a metre away, it looks exactly perfectly right in tone and texture and everything. Astonishing. And a lot of people talk about the distance between artist and subject, or the odd perspective (he often painted from above) and the inherent anger, but to be honest I didn't necessarily get that. To me it almost makes things more intimate, like he's there, but not necessarily intruding, a bit like Dad coming in and waking you up for school or something. There's a familiarity to it and passion, but I'm not sure anger is the word I'd use.
I also really like the way he does people's foreheads. Quotes below - and they're relevant for all types of artist, writers, singers, painters, the works.
"There is a distinction between fact and truth. Truth has an element of revelation about it. If something is true, it does more than strike one as merely being so."
"I would wish my portraits to be of the people, not like them. Not having a look of the sitter, being them."
"The model should only serve the very private function for the painter of providing the starting point for his excitement. The picture is all he feels about it, all he thinks worth preserving of it, all he invests it with."
"A painter must think of everything he sees as being there entirely for his own use and pleasure."
"Now that I know what I want, I don't have to hold on to it quite so much."
"Painting is sometimes like those recipes where you do all manner of elaborate things to a duck, and then end up putting it on one side and only using the skin."
"Full, saturated colours have an emotional significance I want to avoid."
"The aura given out by a person or object is as much a part of them as their flesh."
"The painter must give a completely free rein to any feeling or sensations he may have and reject nothing to which he is naturally drawn."
"I remember Francis Bacon would say that he felt he was giving art what he thought it previously lacked. With me, it's what Yeats called the fascination with what's difficult. I'm only trying to do what I can't do."
"A painter's tastes must grow out of what so obsesses him in life that he never has to ask himself what it is suitable for him to do in art."
"The subject matter is autobiographical, it's all to do with hope and memory and sensuality and involvement really."
"The longer you look at an object, the more abstract it becomes, and, ironically, the more real."
"I paint people, not because of what they are like, not exactly in spite of what they are like, but how they happen to be."
"What do I ask of a painting? I ask it to astonish, disturb, seduce, convince."
(To Martin Gayford about his portrait) “The picture of you has always been linked in my head with the one of the back end of the skewbald mare."
"I think half the point of painting a picture is that you don't know what will happen. Perhaps if painters did know how it was going to turn out they wouldn't bother actually to do it."
"The only secret I can claim to have is concentration, and that's something that can't be taught."
"I could never put anything into a picture that wasn't actually there in front of me. That would be a pointless lie, a mere bit of artfulness."
"The painting is always done very much with [the model's] co-operation. The problem with painting a nude, of course, is that it deepens the transaction. You can scrap a painting of someone's face and it imperils the sitter's self-esteem less than scrapping a painting of the whole naked body."
"I don't want any colour to be noticeable... I don't want it to operate in the modernist sense as colour, something independent... Full, saturated colours have an emotional significance I want to avoid."
"The aura given out by a person or object is as much a part of them as their flesh. The effect that they make in space is as bound up with them as might be their colour or smell ... Therefore the painter must be as concerned with the air surrounding his subject as with the subject itself. It is through observation and perception of atmosphere that he can register the feeling that he wishes his painting to give out."
"A painter must think of everything he sees as being there entirely for his own use and pleasure."
(On Models) "And, since the model he faithfully copies is not going to be hung up next to the picture, since the picture is going to be there on its own, it is of no interest whether it is an accurate copy of the model."
"Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never, in nothing, great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense."Winston Churchill
"Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail." Ralph Waldo Emerson
"The miracle, or the power, that elevates the few is to be found in their industry, application, and perseverance under the prompting of a brave, determined spirit." Mark Twain
"I have learned, that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours." Henry David Thoreau
"A rolling stone gathers no moss." Publilius Syrus
"If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how - the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what's said against me won't amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference." Abraham Lincoln
"Apply yourself both now and in the next life. Without effort, you cannot be prosperous. Though the land be good, You cannot have an abundant crop without cultivation." Plato
"To be worn out is to be renewed." Lao Tzu
"I will prepare and some day my chance will come." Abraham Lincoln
"All endeavor calls for the ability to tramp the last mile, shape the last plan, endure the last hours toil. The fight to the finish spirit is the one... characteristic we must posses if we are to face the future as finishers." Henry David Thoreau
"It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something." Franklin D. Roosevelt
"When I was young, I observed that nine out of ten things I did were failures. So I did ten times more work." George Bernard Shaw
"It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer." Albert Einstein
"Sure I am of this, that you have only to endure to conquer. You have only to persevere to save yourselves." Winston Churchill
"It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog." Mark Twain
"If your determination is fixed, I do not counsel you to despair. Few things are impossible to diligence and skill. Great works are performed not by strength, but perseverance." Samuel Johnson
"It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness." Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Happy 200th birthday, Charles Dickens (so much nicer to celebrate a birthday than a deathday). Dickens was nothing if not a prolific writer. Author of A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations, the Pickwick Papers...even if you haven't read much of his work, you will have heard of some of it. And while many artists struggle for recognition in their lifetimes, he was wildly successful while alive - since then his books have never been out of print. Most of his work was published serially, in instalments - rather like a soap opera today. Rather than write them all up in one go, he'd write to the same pace as the publishing, giving his stories a real rhythm, complete with cliff hangers. He'd have been perfectly happy writing today, I reckon.
His early life sounds like something out of one of his books - indeed characters from it found their way in. He was the second of eight children. His father lived beyond his means and ended up in debtors prison with the rest of the family while young Charles, aged 12, was sent to a family friend. Then he was moved to the back attic of a court-insolvency clerk (a fat, good-natured old man).
To pay his way and help his family, he had to leave school and work 10 hours a day in a blacking warehouse, pasting labels on shoe polish. Unsurprisingly, this treatment etched itself on his memory. Not just in characters for his books (one of the other boys there was called Bob Fagin, which he used in Oliver Twist), but in his thoughts on labour conditions and the economy - and the unreasonable work-load that was foisted on the poor and dispossessed.
An unexpected inheritance got his family out of prison, but his mother didn't take him straight out of the workhouse. Unsurprisingly, he never really forgave her. Eventually though young Charles worked his way to a job at a law firm, learnt short hand and then became a freelance reporter...the rest writes itself.
To give you an idea of his popularity - on a trip to America, a "Boz Ball" (his early nom de plume was Boz) was held in his honour, 3,000 people came. He called in on the President. When he got back, Angela Coutts, heir to the Coutts Bank fortune, approached him to help set up a house for fallen women in Shepherds Bush, Great Ormond Street asked him to help with funding...he was a great philanthropist.
He died in 1870 after a series of strokes. He had wanted to be buried at Rochester Cathedral "in an inexpensive, unostentatious, and strictly private manner," but was instead interred in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey. A printed epitaph that went around during the time of his funeral says: "To the Memory of Charles Dickens (England's most popular author) who died at his residence, Higham, near Rochester, Kent, 9 June 1870, aged 58 years. He was a sympathiser with the poor, the suffering, and the oppressed; and by his death, one of England's greatest writers is lost to the world."
Dickens's last words, as reported in his obituary in The Times were: “Be natural my children. For the writer that is natural has fulfilled all the rules of art.”
Accidents will occur in the best regulated families.
I do not know the American gentleman, god forgive me for putting two such words together.
'Tis love that makes the world go round, my baby.
Minds, like bodies, will often fall into a pimpled, ill-conditioned state from mere excess of comfort.
No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.
Reflect on your present blessings, of which every man has many; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.
Subdue your appetites, my dears, and you've conquered human nature.
Train up a fig tree in the way it should go, and when you are old sit under the shade of it.
With affection beaming out of one eye, and calculation shining out of the other.
It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known. (A Tale of Two Cities)
Any man may be in good spirits and good temper when he's well dressed. There ain't much credit in that.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. (A Tale of Two Cities)
Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery. (David Copperfield)
We need never be ashamed of our tears.
A boy's story is the best that is ever told.
Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own; and from morning to night, as from the cradle to the grave, it is but a succession of changes so gentle and easy that we can scarcely mark their progress.
The first rule of business is: Do other men for they would do you.
A day wasted on others is not wasted on one's self.
There is a wisdom of the head, and a wisdom of the heart.
This is a world of action, and not for moping and droning in.
There is nothing so strong or safe in an emergency of life as the simple truth.
A loving heart is the truest wisdom.
The men who learn endurance, are they who call the whole world, brother.
A person who can't pay gets another person who can't pay to guarantee that he can pay. Like a person with two wooden legs getting another person with two wooden legs to guarantee that he has got two natural legs. It don't make either of them able to do a walking-match.
The civility which money will purchase, is rarely extended to those who have none.
May not the complaint, that common people are above their station, often take its rise in the fact of uncommon people being below theirs?
Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a Swiss farm, and live entirely surrounded by cows - and china.
No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it to anyone else. Charles Dickens
Oh the nerves, the nerves; the mysteries of this machine called man! Oh the little that unhinges it, poor creatures that we are!
Papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes and prism, are all very good words for the lips.
It opens the lungs, washes the countenance, exercises the eyes, and softens down the temper; so cry away.
The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again.
It's my old girl that advises. She has the head. But I never own to it before her. Discipline must be maintained.
There are only two styles of portrait painting; the serious and the smirk.
Reflect upon your present blessings of which every man has many - not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.
We forge the chains we wear in life.
Regrets are the natural property of grey hairs.
Renunciation remains sorrow, though a sorrow borne willingly.
Subdue your appetites, my dears, and you've conquered human nature.
In the little world in which children have their existence, whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt, as injustice.
That sort of half sigh, which, accompanied by two or three slight nods of the head, is pity's small change in general society.
The age of chivalry is past. Bores have succeeded to dragons.
Send forth the child and childish man together, and blush for the pride that libels our own old happy state, and gives its title to an ugly and distorted image.
The one great principle of English law is to make business for itself.
There are strings in the human heart that had better not be vibrated.
To conceal anything from those to whom I am attached, is not in my nature. I can never close my lips where I have opened my heart.
Vices are sometimes only virtues carried to excess!
We are so very 'umble.
A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.
I only ask to be free. The butterflies are free.
Whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do it well; whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself completely; in great aims and in small I have always thoroughly been in earnest.
Fan the sinking flame of hilarity with the wing of friendship; and pass the rosy wine.
Great men are seldom over-scrupulous in the arrangement of their attire.
Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.
When a man bleeds inwardly, it is a dangerous thing for himself; but when he laughs inwardly, it bodes no good to other people.
I have known a vast quantity of nonsense talked about bad men not looking you in the face. Don't trust that conventional idea. Dishonesty will stare honesty out of countenance any day in the week, if there is anything to be got by it.
You don't carry in your countenance a letter of recommendation.
It is a pleasant thing to reflect upon, and furnishes a complete answer to those who contend for the gradual degeneration of the human species, that every baby born into the world is a finer one than the last.
The whole difference between construction and creation is exactly this: that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists.
There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast.
Although a skillful flatterer is a most delightful companion if you have him all to yourself, his taste becomes very doubtful when he takes to complimenting other people.
An idea, like a ghost, must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself.
Dignity, and even holiness too, sometimes, are more questions of coat and waistcoat than some people imagine.
Bring in the bottled lightning, a clean tumbler, and a corkscrew.
Charity begins at home, and justice begins next door.
Credit is a system whereby a person who can not pay gets another person who can not pay to guarantee that he can pay.
Do you spell it with a "V" or a "W"?' inquired the judge. 'That depends upon the taste and fancy of the speller, my Lord'.
He had but one eye and the pocket of prejudice runs in favor of two.
Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration.
I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time.
If there were no bad people, there would be no good lawyers.
Most men are individuals no longer so far as their business, its activities, or its moralities are concerned. They are not units but fractions.
It is a melancholy truth that even great men have their poor relations.
Let us be moral. Let us contemplate existence.
It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.
Life is made of ever so many partings welded together.
Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true.
If you enjoy The Guy Quote, find more in the series by clicking here or on the tag to the right.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBemzu1Fchk&w=700] "I'm just going to be happy to be buffeted, by whatever comes along, and then seize some things and try to work on them. But, we live for such a ridiculously short time in this life, even those of us who are fortunate to have health and all that sort of stuff...to not add being with people one loves and spending time with them - you know my parents now are eighty - so to spend time with them, and my nieces, and myself and, I hope, with someone who I can make a life with...this is as important to me as literary inspiration or [learning] Welsh or pottery."
Vikram Seth, author of A Suitable Boy, interviewed on Desert Island Discs.
Founder of analytical psychiatry, Jung was the first to view the human psyche as "by nature religious". He is also famous for his research into dream analysis. As well as his own clinic, he also explored Eastern and Western philosophy, alchemy, astrology and sociology, as well as literature and the arts. Many psychological concepts were first proposed by the Swiss-born doctor, including the archetype, the collective unconscious, the complex, and synchronicity. He collaborated - and then had a massive falling out - with Freud (more here, and pictures of the two of them hanging about in the slideshow below come from here) and was fascinated by Nietzche. While doing all of that, he also studied masonry, to balance out his thinking. All in all an amazing guy.
One of my favourite things about him is that, for someone who is such a star in a field often pigeonholed as the very definition of sober analysis and the pursuit of the rational, he was fascinated by mysticism (and saw spirits as a child, as well as having shaman-y leanings) and had a crazy episode in his late 30s which inspired him to write The Red Book. When he and Freud had a massive barney, Jung found the end of their father-son relationship so traumatic he had prophetic(?) dreams about a mighty flood washing over Europe - this just before the First World War broke out.
It would do too great a disservice to him to attempt to summarise his core beliefs myself - and I'd be way out of my depth - but use this page and this one to find out more and get to other links (this page is fun too). In the mean time... enjoy The Guy Quotes.
ps - if you like this sort of thing, I've done other similar posts which you can find listed here.
Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain. (on being 36 yrs old) The time is a critical one, for it marks the beginning of the second half of life, when a metanoia, a mental transformation, not infrequently occurs.
An understanding heart is everything in a teacher, and cannot be esteemed highly enough. One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feeling. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child. Midlife is the time to let go of an overdominant ego and to contemplate the deeper significance of human existence.
Children are educated by what the grown-up is and not by his talk. Image is psyche.
One of the most difficult tasks men can perform, however much others may despise it, is the invention of good games. I have never since entirely freed myself of the impression that this life is a segment of existence which is enacted in a three-dimensional boxlike universe especially set up for it.
The acceptance of oneself is the essence of the whole moral problem and the epitome of a whole outlook on life. That I feed the hungry, that I forgive an insult, that I love my enemy in the name of Christ -- all these are undoubtedly great virtues. What I do unto the least of my brethren, that I do unto Christ. But what if I should discover that the least among them all, the poorest of all the beggars, the most impudent of all the offenders, the very enemy himself -- that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness -- that I myself am the enemy who must be loved -- what then? As a rule, the Christian's attitude is then reversed; there is no longer any question of love or long-suffering; we say to the brother within us "Raca," and condemn and rage against ourselves. We hide it from the world; we refuse to admit ever having met this least among the lowly in ourselves. Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.
The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed. Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.
The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases. We cannot change anything unless we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.
Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol, morphine or idealism. Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.
You are what you do, not what you say you'll do. Astrology is assured of recognition from psychology, without further restrictions, because astrology represents the summation of all the psychological knowledge of antiquity.
A creative person has little power over his own life. He is not free. He is captive and driven by his daimon. Nobody, as long as he moves about among the chaotic currents of life, is without trouble.
As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being. The least of things with a meaning is worth more in life than the greatest of things without it.
Where love rules, there is no will to power, and where power predominates, love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other. I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.
Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes. Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.
Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate. Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you.
If one does not understand a person, one tends to regard him as a fool. I have treated many hundreds of patients. Among those in the second half of life - that is to say, over 35 - there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life. It is safe to say that every one of them fell ill because he had lost that which the living religions of every age have given their followers, and none of them has really been healed who did not regain his religious outlook.
The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are. There's no coming to consciousness without pain.
In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order. Mistakes are, after all, the foundations of truth, and if a man does not know what a thing is, it is at least an increase in knowledge if he knows what it is not.
The pendulum of the mind oscillates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong. I am astonished, disappointed, pleased with myself. I am distressed, depressed, rapturous. I am all these things at once, and cannot add up the sum. I am incapable of determining ultimate worth or worthlessness; I have no judgment about myself and my life. There is nothing I am quite sure about. I have no definite convictions - not about anything, really. I know only that I was born and exist, and it seems to me that I have been carried along. I exist on the foundation or something I do not know.
Wholeness is not achieved by cutting off a portion of one’s being, but by integration of the contraries. I have frequently seen people become neurotic when they content themselves with inadequate or wrong answers to the questions of life. They seek position, marriage, reputation, outward success of money, and remain unhappy and neurotic even when they have attained what they were seeking. Such people are usually confined within too narrow a spiritual horizon. Their life has not sufficient content, sufficient meaning. If they are enabled to develop into more spacious personalities, the neurosis generally disappears.
Art is a kind of innate drive that seizes a human being and makes him its instrument. The artist is not a person endowed with free will who seeks his own ends, but one who allows art to realize its purpose through him. As a human being he may have moods and a will and personal aims, but as an artist he is "man" in a higher sense— he is "collective man"— one who carries and shapes the unconscious, psychic forms of mankind. It is often tragic to see how blatantly a man bungles his own life and the lives of others yet remains totally incapable of seeing how much the whole tragedy originates in himself, and how he continually feeds it and keeps it going.
Deep down, below the surface of the average man's conscience, he hears a voice whispering, "There is something not right," no matter how much his rightness is supported by public opinion or moral code. If there is anything that we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves.
The best political, social, and spiritual work we can do is to withdraw the projection of our shadow onto others. It all depends on how we look at things, and not on how things are in themselves. The least of things with a meaning is worth more in life than the greatest of things without it.
Words are animals, alive with a will of their own. The true leader is always led.
Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. Sensation tell us a thing is. Thinking tell us what it is this thing is. Feeling tells us what this thing is to us.
The personality is seldom, in the beginning, what it will be later on. For this reason the possibility of enlarging it exists, at least during the first half of life. The enlargement may be affected through an accretion from without, by new vital contents finding their way into the personality from outside and being assimilated. In this way a considerable increase in personality may be experienced. We therefore tend to assume that this increase comes only from without, thus justifying the prejudice that one becomes a personality by stuffing into oneself as much as possible from outside. But the more assiduously we follow this recipe, and the more stubbornly we believe that all increase has to come from without, the greater becomes our inner poverty. Therefore, if some great idea takes hold of us from outside, we must understand that it takes hold of us only because something in us responds to it and goes out to meet it. Richness of mind consists in mental receptivity, not in the accumulation of possessions. What comes to us from outside, and, for that matter, everything that rises up from within, can only be made our own if we are capable of an inner amplitude equal to that of the incoming content. Real increase of personality means consciousness of an enlargement that flows from inner sources. Without psychic depth we can never be adequately related to the magnitude of our object. It has therefore been said quite truly that a man grows with the greatness of his task. But he must have within himself the capacity to grow; otherwise even the most difficult task is of no benefit to him. More likely he will be shattered by it.
Woke to the sad news that Christopher Hitchens has passed away. Since his diagnosis with oesophageal cancer he wrote fearlessly and frankly about what he faced. But never, ever forget that before he "passed into the land of malady" (and also after) he was a fabulous polemicist and one of the leading voices of secularism. So as well as the quotes I suggest you read a tribute to him by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, for whom he wrote for many years. Do take time to discover the rest of his career though, because you should be defined by how you live, not what kills you, and if you don't happen to agree with what he says, he'll at least make you think. There's an excellent obituary from The Guardian here and a full profile on Wikipedia - get stuck in. “Cancer victimhood contains a permanent temptation to be self-centered and even solipsistic,” Hitchens wrote nearly a year ago in Vanity Fair, but his own final labors were anything but: in the last 12 months, he produced for this magazine a piece on U.S.-Pakistani relations in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death, a portrait of Joan Didion, an essay on the Private Eyeretrospective at the Victoria and Albert Museum, a prediction about the future of democracy in Egypt, a meditation on the legacy of progressivism in Wisconsin, and a series of frank, graceful, and exquisitely written essays in which he chronicled the physical and spiritual effects of his disease. At the end, Hitchens was more engaged, relentless, hilarious, observant, and intelligent than just about everyone else—just as he had been for the last four decades.
“My chief consolation in this year of living dyingly has been the presence of friends,” he wrote in the June 2011 issue. He died in their presence, too, at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. May his 62 years of living, well, so livingly console the many of us who will miss him dearly. (VanityFair.com)
“That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”
“Everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that's where it should stay.”
“[O]wners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are god. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realize that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are gods.”
“The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism. It is not a creed. Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more.”
“Human decency is not derived from religion. It precedes it.”
“Exceptional claims demand exceptional evidence.”
“[Mother Teresa] was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction.”
“The governor of Texas, who, when asked if the Bible should also be taught in Spanish, replied that 'if English was good enough for Jesus, then it's good enough for me.”
“What do you most value in your friends? Their continued existence.”
“To 'choose' dogma and faith over doubt and experience is to throw out the ripening vintage and to reach greedily for the Kool-Aid.”
“What is it you most dislike? Stupidity, especially in its nastiest forms of racism and superstition.”
“Organised religion is violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism, tribalism, and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children.”
“Nothing optional--from homosexuality to adultery--is ever made punishable unless those who do the prohibiting (and exact the fierce punishments) have a repressed desire to participate. As Shakespeare put it in 'King Lear', the policeman who lashes the whore has a hot need to use her for the very offense for which he plies the lash.”
“The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks.” “Who are your favorite heroines in real life? The women of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran who risk their lives and their beauty to defy the foulness of theocracy. Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Azar Nafisi as their ideal feminine model.”
“You should be nicer to him,' a schoolmate had once said to me of some awfully ill-favoured boy. 'He has no friends.' This, I realised with a pang of pity that I can still remember, was only true as long as everybody agreed to it.”
“She's got no charisma of any kind [but] I can imagine her being mildly useful to a low-rank porn director.”
“Everything about Christianity is contained in the pathetic image of 'the flock.”
“Your least favorite virtue, or nominee for the most overrated one? Faith. Closely followed—in view of the overall shortage of time—by patience.”
“Your favorite virtue? An appreciation for irony.”
“How dismal it is to see present day Americans yearning for the very orthodoxy that their country was founded to escape.”
“There are days when I miss my old convictions as if they were an amputated limb. But in general I feel better, and no less radical, and you will feel better too, I guarantee, once you leave hold of the doctrinaire and allow your chainless mind to do its own thinking.”
“What is your idea of earthly happiness? To be vindicated in my own lifetime.”
“The finest fury is the most controlled.”
“Cheap booze is a false economy.”
“The search for Nirvana, like the search for Utopia or the end of history or the classless society, is ultimately a futile and dangerous one. It involves, if it does not necessitate, the sleep of reason. There is no escape from anxiety and struggle.”
“My own view is that this planet is used as a penal colony, lunatic asylum and dumping ground by a superior civilisation, to get rid of the undesirable and unfit. I can't prove it, but you can't disprove it either.”
“How is the United States at once the most conservative and commercial AND the most revolutionary society on Earth?”
“As the cleansing ocean closes over bin Laden's carcass, may the earth lie lightly on the countless graves of those he sentenced without compunction to be burned alive or dismembered in the street.”
“Where would you like to live? In a state of conflict or a conflicted state.”
“I have not been able to discover whether there exists a precise French equivalent for the common Anglo-American expression 'killing time.' It's a very crass and breezy expression, when you ponder it for a moment, considering that time, after all, is killing us.”
“Your ideal authors ought to pull you from the foundering of your previous existence, not smilingly guide you into a friendly and peaceable harbor.”
“How ya doin'?' I always think, What kind of a question is that?, and I always reply, 'A bit early to tell.”
“There either is a god or there is not; there is a 'design' or not.”
“Forget it. Never explain; never apologise. You can either write posthumously or you can't.”
“Time spent arguing is, oddly enough, almost never wasted.”
“There can be no progress without head-on confrontation.”
“I became a journalist because I did not want to rely on newspapers for information.”
“A melancholy lesson of advancing years is the realisation that you can't make old friends.”
“What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? (Just to give you an idea, Proust's reply was 'To be separated from Mama.') I think that the lowest depth of misery ought to be distinguished from the highest pitch of anguish. In the lower depths come enforced idleness, sexual boredom, and/or impotence. At the highest pitch, the death of a friend or even the fear of the death of a child.”
“In a Pyongyang restaurant, don't ever ask for a doggie bag.”
“My little ankle-strap sandals curled with embarrassment for her.”
“And now behold what this pious old trout hath wrought.”
“The essence of tyranny is not iron law. It is capricious law.”
“Part of the function of memory is to forget; the omni-retentive mind will break down and produce at best an idiot savant who can recite a telephone book, and at worst a person to whom every grudge and slight is as yesterday's.”
“What word or expression do you most overuse? Re-reading a collection of my stuff, I was rather startled to find that it was 'perhaps.”
“I have been called arrogant myself in my time, and hope to earn the title again, but to claim that I am privy to the secrets of the universe and its creator - that's beyond my conceit.”
“So this is where all the vapid talk about the 'soul' of the universe is actually headed. Once the hard-won principles of reason and science have been discredited, the world will not pass into the hands of credulous herbivores who keep crystals by their sides and swoon over the poems of Khalil Gibran. The 'vacuum' will be invaded instead by determined fundamentalists of every stripe who already know the truth by means of revelation and who actually seek real and serious power in the here and now. One thinks of the painstaking, cloud-dispelling labor of British scientists from Isaac Newton to Joseph Priestley to Charles Darwin to Ernest Rutherford to Alan Turing and Francis Crick, much of it built upon the shoulders of Galileo and Copernicus, only to see it casually slandered by a moral and intellectual weakling from the usurping House of Hanover. An awful embarrassment awaits the British if they do not declare for a republic based on verifiable laws and principles, both political and scientific.”
"Whenever I hear some bigmouth in Washington or the Christian heartland banging on about the evils of sodomy or whatever, I mentally enter his name in my notebook and contentedly set my watch. Sooner, rather than later, he will be discovered down on his weary and well-worn knees in some dreary motel or latrine, with an expired Visa card, having tried to pay well over the odds to be peed on by some Apache transvestite".
Blending satire, gallows humour and science fiction, Kurt Vonnegut was one of the twentieth century's great pacifists. You'll understand why when you know about his time in WWII as soldier and prisoner of war.
He was captured in 1944 at the Battle of the Bulge, where he was an an infantry private. His regiment got cut off from the rest of the army. As he said: "The other American divisions on our flanks managed to pull out: We were obliged to stay and fight. Bayonets aren't much good against tanks..."
Imprisoned in Dresden, Vonnegut was chosen as a leader of the POWs because he spoke some German. After telling the German guards "...just what I was going to do to them when the Russians came..." he was beaten and had his position as leader taken away. While a prisoner, he witnessed the fire bombing of Dresden in February 1945 which destroyed most of the city.
Vonnegut was one of a group of American prisoners of war to survive the attack in an underground slaughterhouse meat locker used by the Germans as an ad hoc detention facility. The Germans called the building Schlachthof Fünf (Slaughterhouse Five), which the Allied POWs adopted as the name for their prison. Vonnegut said the aftermath of the attack was "utter destruction" and "carnage unfathomable." This experience was the inspiration for his famous novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, and is a central theme in at least six of his other books.
In Slaughterhouse-Five he recalls that the remains of the city resembled the surface of the moon, and that the Germans put the surviving POWs to work, breaking into basements and bomb shelters to gather bodies for mass burial, while German civilians cursed and threw rocks at them. Vonnegut eventually remarked, "There were too many corpses to bury. So instead the Germans sent in troops with flamethrowers. All these civilians' remains were burned to ashes."
Vonnegut was liberated by Red Army troops in May 1945 at the Saxony-Czechoslovakian border. Upon returning to America, he was awarded a Purple Heart for what he called a "ludicrously negligible wound," later writing that he was given the decoration after suffering a case of "frostbite".
When he got home, he jobbed around as a writer whilst studying for an anthropology degree. Then carried on writing his own stories on the side. In the mid 1950s, he worked very briefly for Sports Illustrated magazine, where he was assigned to write a piece on a racehorse that had jumped a fence and attempted to run away. After staring at the blank piece of paper on his typewriter all morning, he typed, "The horse jumped over the fucking fence," and left.
A word on "so it goes". The amazing thing about "so it goes", the repeated refrain from Slaughterhouse Five, isn't so much its plainness as the way it can pack so much emotion — and dismissal of emotion — into three simple, world-weary words. It neatly encompasses a whole way of life. More crudely put: "Shit happens, and it's awful, but it's also okay. We deal with it because we have to." Damn right.
Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armour and attacked a hot fudge sundae.
I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the center.
Literature should not disappear up its own asshole, so to speak.
If you can do a half-assed job of anything, you're a one-eyed man in a kingdom of the blind.
Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.
Life happens too fast for you ever to think about it. If you could just persuade people of this, but they insist on amassing information.
Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile!
Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why.
Human beings will be happier - not when they cure cancer or get to Mars or eliminate racial prejudice or flush Lake Erie but when they find ways to inhabit primitive communities again. That's my utopia.
I really wonder what gives us the right to wreck this poor planet of ours.
Those who believe in telekinetics, raise my hand.
About astrology and palmistry: they are good because they make people vivid and full of possibilities. They are communism at its best. Everybody has a birthday and almost everybody has a palm.
All this happened, more or less. The war parts, anyway, are pretty much true. From "Slaughterhouse Five"
Beware of the man who works hard to learn something, learns it, and finds himself no wiser than before... He is full of murderous resentment of people who are ignorant without having come by their ignorance the hard way. From "Cat's Cradle"
One of the few good things about modern times: If you die horribly on television, you will not have died in vain. You will have entertained us. From "Cold Turkey"
Thanks to TV and for the convenience of TV, you can only be one of two kinds of human beings, either a liberal or a conservative. From "Cold Turkey"
There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution, and I don't know what can be done to fix it. This is it: Only nut cases want to be president. From "Cold Turkey"
Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you've been to college. From "A Man without a Country"
Humor is an almost physiological response to fear. From "A Man without a Country"
I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.' A Man without a Country
I think that novels that leave out technology misrepresent life as badly as Victorians misrepresented life by leaving out sex. From "A Man without a Country"
1492. As children we were taught to memorize this year with pride and joy as the year people began living full and imaginative lives on the continent of North America. Actually, people had been living full and imaginative lives on the continent of North America for hundreds of years before that. 1492 was simply the year sea pirates began to rob, cheat, and kill them. From "Breakfast of Champions"
New knowledge is the most valuable commodity on earth. The more truth we have to work with, the richer we become. From "Breakfast of Champions"
The chief weapon of sea pirates, however, was their capacity to astonish. Nobody else could believe, until it was too late, how heartless and greedy they were. From "Breakfast of Champions"
Charm was a scheme for making strangers like and trust a person immediately, no matter what the charmer had in mind. From "Breakfast of Champions"
I can have oodles of charm when I want to. From "Breakfast of Champions"
Maturity is a bitter disappointment for which no remedy exists, unless laughter can be said to remedy anything. From "Cat's Cradle"
Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God. From "Cat's Cradle"
Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly; Man got to sit and wonder, 'Why, why, why?' Tiger got to sleep, bird got to land; Man got to tell himself he understand. From "Cat's Cradle"
Here's what I think the truth is: We are all addicts of fossil fuels in a state of denial, about to face cold turkey. From "Cold Turkey"
Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you've got to be kind. From "God Bless You Mr Rosewater"
Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance. From "Hocus Pocus"
During my three years in Vietnam, I certainly heard plenty of last words by dying American footsoldiers. Not one of them, however, had illusions that he had somehow accomplished something worthwhile in the process of making the Supreme Sacrifice. From "Hocus Pocus"
Well, the telling of jokes is an art of its own, and it always rises from some emotional threat. The best jokes are dangerous, and dangerous because they are in some way truthful. From an interview on Mcsweeneys.net
We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be. From "Mother Night"
There are plenty of good reasons for fighting, but no good reason ever to hate without reservation, to imagine that God Almighty Himself hates with you, too. From "Mother Night"
Just because some of us can read and write and do a little math, that doesn't mean we deserve to conquer the Universe. From "Hocus Pocus"
A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved. From "Sirens of Titan"
Since Alice had never received any religious instruction, and since she had led a blameless life, she never thought of her awful luck as being anything but accidents in a very busy place. Good for her. From "Slapstick"
Like so many Americans, she was trying to construct a life that made sense from things she found in gift shops. From "Slaughterhouse Five"
All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I've said before, bugs in amber. From "Slaughterhouse Five"
How nice--to feel nothing, and still get full credit for being alive. From "Slaughterhouse Five"
Many people need desperately to receive this message: 'I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.' From "Timequake" (his last novel)
All persons, living and dead, are purely coincidental. From "Timequake"
EDIT: An excellent late addition, spotted by Charlie: "Moderate giftedness has been made worthless by the printing press and radio and television and satellites and all that. A moderately gifted person who would have been a community treasure a thousand years ago has to give up, has to go into some other line of work, since modern communications put him or her into daily competition with nothing but world's champions."
(thanks for the idea to do Kurt, Adam - good shout!) +
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8sFqfbrsZbw&w=700] "The birds are outbursts of raw, maternal energy." Slavoj Žižek from his upcoming film, The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, an investigation into what psychoanalysis can tell us about film (I just like what he says about Mitch). More clips here.
Zizek rocks. Here's him on why Love is Evil (which is pretty darned brilliant).
And here's a Q&A he did in The Guardian:
Slavoj Zizek, 59, was born in Ljubljana, Slovenia. He is a professor at the European Graduate School, international director of the Birkbeck Institute for Humanities in London and a senior researcher at the University of Ljubljana's institute of sociology. He has written more than 30 books on subjects as diverse as Hitchcock, Lenin and 9/11, and also presented the TV series The Pervert's Guide To Cinema.
When were you happiest? A few times when I looked forward to a happy moment or remembered it - never when it was happening.
What is your greatest fear? To awaken after death - that's why I want to be burned immediately.
What is your earliest memory? My mother naked. Disgusting.
Which living person do you most admire, and why? Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the twice-deposed president of Haiti. He is a model of what can be done for the people even in a desperate situation.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Indifference to the plights of others.
What is the trait you most deplore in others? Their sleazy readiness to offer me help when I don't need or want it.
What was your most embarrassing moment? Standing naked in front of a woman before making love.
Aside from a property, what's the most expensive thing you've bought? The new German edition of the collected works of Hegel.
What is your most treasured possession? See the previous answer.
What makes you depressed? Seeing stupid people happy.
What do you most dislike about your appearance? That it makes me appear the way I really am.
What is your most unappealing habit? The ridiculously excessive tics of my hands while I talk.
What would be your fancy dress costume of choice? A mask of myself on my face, so people would think I am not myself but someone pretending to be me.
What is your guiltiest pleasure? Watching embarrassingly pathetic movies such as The Sound Of Music.
What do you owe your parents? Nothing, I hope. I didn't spend a minute bemoaning their death.
To whom would you most like to say sorry, and why? To my sons, for not being a good enough father.
What does love feel like? Like a great misfortune, a monstrous parasite, a permanent state of emergency that ruins all small pleasures.
What or who is the love of your life? Philosophy. I secretly think reality exists so we can speculate about it.
What is your favourite smell? Nature in decay, like rotten trees.
Have you ever said 'I love you' and not meant it? All the time. When I really love someone, I can only show it by making aggressive and bad-taste remarks.
Which living person do you most despise, and why? Medical doctors who assist torturers.
What is the worst job you've done? Teaching. I hate students, they are (as all people) mostly stupid and boring.
What has been your biggest disappointment? What Alain Badiou calls the 'obscure disaster' of the 20th century: the catastrophic failure of communism.
If you could edit your past, what would you change? My birth. I agree with Sophocles: the greatest luck is not to have been born - but, as the joke goes on, very few people succeed in it.
If you could go back in time, where would you go? To Germany in the early 19th century, to follow a university course by Hegel.
How do you relax? Listening again and again to Wagner.
How often do you have sex? It depends what one means by sex. If it's the usual masturbation with a living partner, I try not to have it at all.
What is the closest you've come to death? When I had a mild heart attack. I started to hate my body: it refused to do its duty to serve me blindly.
What single thing would improve the quality of your life? To avoid senility.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? The chapters where I develop what I think is a good interpretation of Hegel.
What is the most important lesson life has taught you? That life is a stupid, meaningless thing that has nothing to teach you.
Tell us a secret. Communism will win.
The book is beautifully written, but beauty can be cruel, unmerciful - there's no soft edge to it. Powerful and lyrical, there's a sort of inevitability to Ahab's rage, railing at his fate as he gets closer and closer to the edge of reason. While the sea suffuses every page - Melville is (quite rightly) in awe of it. These weren't day sailors, they were men who fought the elements every minute of every in brutal, unmitigating combat.
Plus, Ahab was nuts, mad at the world. His own brother had pushed him overboard so he could steal his girl, and in the process, Ahab's leg had been chomped off by Moby Dick. There's your motive right there, bub.
So, in no particular order (but my favourite at the end):
These are the times of dreamy quietude, when beholding the tranquil beauty and brilliancy of the ocean's skin, one forgets the tiger heart that pants beneath it; and would not willingly remember, that this velvet paw but conceals a remorseless fang.
Though amid all the smoking horror and diabolism of a sea-fight, sharks will be seen longingly gazing up to the ship's decks, like hungry dogs round a table where red meat is being carved, ready to bolt down every killed man that is tossed to them.
However baby man may brag of his science and skill, and however much, in a flattering future, that science and skill may augment; yet for ever and for ever, to the crack of doom, the sea will insult and murder him, and pulverize the stateliest, stiffest frigate he can make; nevertheless, by the continual repetition of these very impressions, man has lost that sense of the full awfulness of the sea which aboriginally belongs to it.
By this, he seemed to mean, not only that the most reliable and useful courage was that which arises from the fair estimation of the encountered peril, but that an utterly fearless man is a far more dangerous comrade than a coward.
At last the anchor was up, the sails were set, and off we glided. It was a sharp, cold Christmas; and as the short northern day merged into night, we found ourselves almost broad upon the wintry ocean, whose freezing spray cased us in ice, as in polished armor.
"Come, Ahab’s compliments to ye; come and see if ye can swerve me. Swerve me? ye cannot swerve me, else ye swerve yourselves! man has ye there. Swerve me? The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails, whereon my soul is grooved to run. Over unsounded gorges, through the rifled hearts of mountains, under torrents’ beds, unerringly I rush! Naught’s an obstacle, naught’s an angle to the iron way!"
Truly to enjoy bodily warmth,some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself.
"There is a wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness. And there is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces. And even if he for ever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains; so that even in his lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still higher than other birds upon the plain, even though they soar." Ignorance is the parent of fear.
It smells like the left wing of the day of judgment.
"Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee. Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool! and since neither can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee, though tied to thee, thou damned whale! Thus, I give up the spear!"
- Moby Dick, Herman Melville
ps - it helps if you shout that last one out loud, shaking your fist at the heavens
ppps - Led Zep did a song called Moby Dick, with some kick-arse drums:
Right, well with the origins of Valentine's day covered, it would be churlish not to get into at least some of the better bon mots and billets doux.
"A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave." Mahatma Gandhi
"A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous." Ingrid Bergman
"A lady of forty-seven who had been married twenty-seven years and has six children knows what love really is and once described it for me like this: 'Love is what you've been through with somebody.'" James Thurber
"All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love." Leo Tolstoy
"And now here is my secret, a very simple secret; it is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye." Antoine de Saint-Exupery
"And think not you can Direct the course of love, For love, If it finds you worthy, Directs your course." Kahlil Gibran
"I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts, then there is no hurt, but only more love." Mother Teresa
"A loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge." Thomas Carlyle
"How is it that she can sleep when I am so near? We must stoke the furnace of love, must we not?" Pepe Le Pew
"But madame! I have overstoked the furnace, yes? Madame! Your conduct is unseemly! Control yourself! Madame!" Pepe Le Pew "At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet." Plato
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." Martin Luther King, Jr
"I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes" James Joyce (Molly Bloom in Ulysses) "I met in the street a very poor young man who was in love. His hat was old, his coat worn, his cloak was out at the elbows, the water passed through his shoes, - and the stars through his soul." Victor Hugo
"I was about half in love with her by the time we sat down. Every time they do something pretty, even if they're not much to look at, or even if they're sort of stupid, you fall half in love with them, and then you never know where the hell you are." J. D. Salinger (Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye)
And, girls, a little tip if anyone is being too persistent:
"I was nauseous and tingly all over. I was either in love or I had smallpox." Woody Allen
ps - can't have love poems without Pablo Neruda. This one is called "Your hands"
When your hands leap towards mine, love, what do they bring me in flight? Why did they stop at my lips, so suddenly, why do I know them, as if once before, I have touched them, as if, before being, they travelled my forehead, my waist?
Their smoothness came winging through time, over the sea and the smoke, over the Spring, and when you laid your hands on my chest I knew those wings of the gold doves, I knew that clay, and that colour of grain.
The years of my life have been roadways of searching, a climbing of stairs, a crossing of reefs. Trains hurled me onwards waters recalled me, on the surface of grapes it seemed that I touched you. Wood, of a sudden, made contact with you, the almond-tree summoned your hidden smoothness, until both your hands closed on my chest, like a pair of wings ending their flight.
Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That’s Relativity.
Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction.
Imagination is more important than knowledge
A person starts to live when he can live outside himself.
Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.
The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.
The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.
If A is a success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut.
The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.
He who joyfully marches to music rank and file, has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action. It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder. A human being is a part of a whole, called by us _universe_, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
As an actor, the (now in his Eighties) comedian was Major Major in Catch-22 and Papa Elf in Elf, but his stand-up is what made him. After the war he worked as a copywriter in New York, and then became the first wave of performers to really make an act as a solo straight-man - he'd do one end of a conversation (usually a phone call), playing the straightest of comedic straight men and implying what the other person was saying. Several of his routines involve hearing one half of a conversation as he speaks to someone over the phone. In a bit called King Kong, a rookie security guard at the Empire State Building seeks guidance as to how to deal with an ape who is "18 to 19 stories high, depending on whether we have a 13th floor or not".
But then he also did more...obvious stand-up, taking on things that irked him about the day to day. This is a good MP3 of him getting stuck into English expressions that wind him up (spot the ex-copywriter!): [audio http://dysonology.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/english-expressions.mp3]
All I can say about life is, 'Oh God, enjoy it!'
I don't like country music, but I don't mean to denigrate those who do. And for the people who like country music, denigrate means 'put down'.
I'm most proud of the longevity of my marriage, my kids, and my grandchildren. If you don't have that, you really don't have very much.
I don't know how many sacred cows there are today. I think there's a little confusion between humor and gross passing for humor. That's kind of regrettable. Laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it and then move on.
Funny is funny is funny