Thursday, September 28, 2017

Cabbage Soup

The man from the upland village went away first, and as the landlady took him out to the door our Irish friend said to the woman from the foothills, “He seems very nice.”  “Do you think so?” said the woman.  Her nose seemed literally to turn up.  “Well, don’t you?” asked our friend.  “We-e-e-ell,” said the woman, “round about here we don’t care much for people from that village”  “Why not?” asked our friend.  “We-e-e-ell, for one thing, you sometimes go up there and you smell cabbage soup, and you say, ‘That smells good,’ and they say, ‘Oh, we’re just having cabbage soup.’”  A pause fell, and our friend inquired, “Then don’t they offer you any?”  “Oh, yes.”  “And isn’t it good?”  “It’s very good.  But, you see, we grow cabbages down here and they can’t up there, and they never buy any from us, and we’re always missing ours.  So, really, we don’t know what to think.”
 - Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon

Thursday, September 21, 2017

On Believing in God

Believing in God dispenses one from believing in anything else - which is an estimable advantage.  
  - E. M. Cioran, Anathemas and Admirations

Thursday, September 14, 2017

War and Criminality

The idea of a legal war or, indeed, a just war, relies on the controllability of the instruments of destruction.  But because uncontrollability is part of that very destructiveness, there is no war that fails to commit a crime against humanity, a destruction of civilian life.  In other words, the international law that prohibits crimes against civilians presupposes that there can be a war without such crimes, reproduced the idea of a “clean” war whose destruction has perfect aim.  Only on such a condition can we distinguish between war and crimes of war.  But if there is no stable way to distinguish permissible collateral damage from the destruction of civilian life, then such crimes are inevitable, and there is no non-criminal war.  In other words, wars become permissible forms of criminality, but they are never non-criminal.
 - Judith Butler, Frames of War

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Reading Dickens

Most people read Dickens before they are out of their teens and seldom look at him again.  How mistakenly?  For Dickens’s work is like a wine that improves with age - the age not of the bottle but of the taster.  The richer the experience of the reader, the riper seems Dickens.  At sixteen one enjoys the extravagant impossibility of his caricatures; at thirty-five what one appreciates is their absolute fidelity to nature.
 - Aldous Huxley “The Critic in the Crib”