Thursday, November 28, 2019

Respectable People

Respectable people…What bastards! 
    - Emile Zola, The Belly of Paris (1873)

Thursday, November 21, 2019

The Danger of Indignation

Indignation and goodwill are not enough to make the world better.  Clarity is needed, as well as charity, however difficult this may be to imagine, much less sustain, toward the other side.  Perhaps the worst thing that can be said about social indignation is that it so frequently leads to the death of personal humility.  Once that has happened, one has ceased to live in that world of men which one is striving so mightily to make over.  One has entered into a dialogue with that terrifying deity, sometimes called History, previously, and perhaps again, to be referred to as God, to which no sacrifice in human suffering is too great.
            - James Baldwin, “The Crusade of Indignation” (1956)

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Cousinly Love

The Americans and the English are bound together at present by the ties of war, and by that sort of cousinly love which expresses itself in private by foaming at the mouth.
- Bernard Shaw, “Why Devolution Will Not
              Do”, The Irish Statesman, November 15,


Thursday, November 07, 2019

The Problem with Opinions

The problem with opinions is that one is stuck with them.
      - Susan Sontag, “The Conscience of Words” (2001)

Thursday, October 31, 2019

A Walk in the Rain

I find it good to be out this still, dark, mizzling afternoon; my walk or voyage is more suggestive and profitable than in bright weather.  The view is contracted by the misty rain, the water is perfectly smooth, and the stillness is favorable to reflection.  I am more open to impressions, more sensitive (not calloused or indurated by sun and wind), as if in a chamber still.  My thoughts are concentrated; I am all compact.  The solitude is real, too, for the weather keeps other men at home.  This mist is like a roof and walls over and around, and I walk with a domestic feeling.  The sound of a wagon going over an unseen bridge is louder than ever, and so of other sounds.  I am compelled to look at near objects.  All things have a soothing effect; the very clouds and mists brood over me.  My power of observation and contemplation is much increased.  My attention does not wanter.  The world and my life are simplified.  What now of Europe and Asia?
- Henry David Thoreau, Journals, November 7, 1855

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Marxism & the US

Marxism in this country had ever been an eccentric and quixotic passion.  One oppressed class after another had seemed finally to miss the point.  The have-nots, it turned out, aspired mainly to having.

- Joan Didion, “The Women’s Movement” (1972)

Thursday, October 17, 2019

The Most Important Fact in All History

 The abject patience of the oppressed is perhaps the most inexplicable, as it is also the most important, fact in all history.
- Aldous Huxley, “Boundaries of Utopia” (1931)

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Life at Sea

If I could have secured this advantage without the horrid prolonged trials that produced it, I might have gladly become a sailor.  I love moving water, I love ships, I love the sharp definition, the concentrated humanity, the sublime solitude of life at sea.  The dangers of it only make present to us the peril inherent in all existence, which the stupid, ignorant, untravelled land-worm never discovers; and the art of it, so mathematical, so exact, so rewarding to intelligence appeals to courage and clears the mind of superstition, while filling it with humility and true religion.  Our world is a cockleshell in the midst of overwhelming forces and everlasting realities; but those forces are calculable and those realities helpful, if we can manage to understand and obey them.
George Santayana, The Background of My Life (1944)

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Barbarian Invaders

A nation may beget its own barbarian invaders.
- Wilhelm Röpke, International Economic Disintegration (1942)