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A scrapbook of stuff I'm reading / looking at / listening to / thinking about...



Posts tagged "life"

Jul 22, 2014
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It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: “And this, too, shall pass away.” How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction! “And this, too, shall pass away.”
Abraham Lincoln, 1859

Jul 18, 2014
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It seems like many people think that if you drive yourself crazy, then you can write. I’m absolutely not interested in that. It made sense to me to be as whole and well as I could be, and as happy. I wanted to see what a fortunate life would produce. What writing would come out of a mind that didn’t try to torment itself? What did I have to know? What did I have to do rather than what can I torment and bend myself into doing? What was the fruit on that tree?

Jul 03, 2014
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Jun 26, 2014
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If you can fall in love again and again, if you can forgive your parents for the crime of bringing you into the world, if you are content to get nowhere, just take each day as it comes, if you can forgive as well as forget, if you can keep from growing sour, surly, bitter and cynical, man you’ve got it half licked.
— Henry Miller on aging

Jun 19, 2014
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3 thoughts on kindness

1) “Real kindness is an exchange with essentially unpredictable consequences. It is a risk precisely because it mingles our needs and desires with the needs and desires of others…

2) “What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.”

3) “There are two ways to think about kindness. You can think about it as a fixed trait: either you have it or you don’t. Or you could think of kindness as a muscle. In some people, that muscle is naturally stronger than in others, but it can grow stronger in everyone with exercise.”

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9 good bits from Adam Phillips’ Paris Review interview

1) “I had never had any desire to be a writer. I wanted to be a reader.”

2) “One thing you discover in psychoanalytic treatment is the limits of what you can change about yourself or your life. We are children for a very long time.”

3) “Fortunately, I never recovered from my education, I’ve just carried on with it. If you happen to like reading, it can have a very powerful effect on you, an evocative effect, at least on me. It’s not as though when I read I’m gathering information, or indeed can remember much of what I read. I know the books that grip me, as everybody does, but their effect is indiscernible. I don’t quite know what it is. The Leavisite position, more or less, is that reading certain sentences makes you more alive and a morally better person, and that those two things go together. It seems to me that that isn’t necessarily so, but what is clear is that there are powerful unconscious evocative effects in reading books that one loves. There’s something about these books that we want to go on thinking about, that matters to us. They’re not just fetishes that we use to fill gaps. They are like recurring dreams we can’t help thinking about.”

4) “You can only recover your appetite, and appetites, if you can allow yourself to be unknown to yourself.”

5) “That’s what a life is, it’s the lives you don’t have.”

6) “I hope you read one of my books because it gives you pleasure or because you hate it—you read it for those sorts of reasons—and then you discover what you find yourself thinking, feeling, in the reading of it.”

7) “You can’t write differently, even if you want to. You just have to be able to notice when you are boring yourself.”

8) “Anybody who writes knows you don’t simply write what you believe. You write to find out what you believe, or what you can afford to believe.”

9) “[I]f you live in a culture which is fascinated by the myth of the artist, and the idea that the vocational artistic life is one of the best lives available, then there’s always going to be a temptation for people who are suffering to believe that to become an artist would be the solution when, in fact, it may be more of the problem. There are a number of people whom you might think of as casualties of the myth of the artist. They really should have done something else. Of course some people get lucky and find that art works for them, but for so many people it doesn’t. I think that needs to be included in the picture. Often one hears or reads accounts in which people will say, Well, he may have treated his children, wives, friends terribly, but look at the novels, the poems, the paintings. I think it’s a terrible equation. Obviously one can’t choose to be, as it were, a good parent or a good artist, but if the art legitimates cruelty, I think the art is not worth having. People should be doing everything they can to be as kind as possible and to enjoy each other’s company. Any art, any anything, that helps us do that is worth having. But if it doesn’t, it isn’t.’

Such a good read.

(Update: my friend Mark Larson has a great AdamPhillips tag.)

Jun 18, 2014
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Advertising is built on puffery — on, at heart, deception. And I don’t think anybody can go proudly into the next world with a career built on deception — no matter how well they do it.

Jun 17, 2014
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Seneca, On The Shortness of Life

I really love the Penguin Great Ideas series of nicely designed skinny paperbacks. (I particularly like the Montaigne edition.)

I didn’t finish this one, only read 2 out of the 3 essays. (One of the promises I’ve made myself this year is that I won’t continue on with a book if it’s become a chore reading it.) But I liked the title essay (well, not really an essay, but a letter to Seneca’s friend, Paulinus).

On guarding your time (“Nobody works out the value of time: men use it lavishly as if it cost nothing.):


  Men do not let anyone seize their estates, and if there is the slightest dispute about their boundaries they rush to stones and arms; but they allow others to encroach on their lives — why, they themselves even invite in those who will take over their lives. You will find no one willing to share out his money; but to how many does each of us divide up his life! People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.


This is followed by a passage that haunts me, when Seneca says to “hold an audit of your life”:


  Call to mind when you ever had a fixed purpose; how few days have passed as you had planned; when you were ever at your own disposal; when your face wore its natural expression; when your mind was undisturbed…


On not mistaking age for wisdom or a well-lived life:


  You must not think a man has lived long because he has white hair and wrinkles: he has not lived long, just existed long. For suppose you should think that a man had had a long voyage who had been caught in a raging storm as he left harbor, and carried hither and thither and driven round and round in a circle by the rage of opposing winds? He did not have a long voyage, just a long tossing about.


The case for reading:


  [Those who read] not only keep a good watch over their own lifetimes, but they annex every age to theirs. All the years that have passed before them are added to their own…. We are excluded from no age, but we have access to them all.. why not turn from this brief and transient spell of time and give ourselves wholeheartedly to the past, which is limitless and eternal and can be shared with better men than we?


On climbing your own family tree (realizing now I basically plagiarized Seneca for Steal Like An Artist):


  We are in the habit of saying that it was not in our power to choose the parents who were allotted to us, that they were given to us by chance. But we can choose whose children we would like to be. There are households of the noblest intellects: choose the one into which you wish to be adopted, and you will inherit not only their name but their property too. Nor will this property need to be guarded meanly or grudgingly: the more it is shared out, the greater it will become.


On worrying about your “legacy”:


  Some men, after they have crawled through a thousand indignities to the supreme dignity, have been assailed by the gloomy thought that all their labors were but for the sake of an epitaph.


And some good one-liners:

Life is long if you know how to use it.
We are not given a short life but we make it short.
You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire.
Learning how to live takes a whole life, and, which may surprise you more, it takes a whole life to learn how to die.
The man who… organizes every day as though it were his last, neither longs for nor fears the next day.
The present is short, the future is doubtful, the past is certain.
Life is very short and anxious for those who forget the past, neglect the present, and fear the future.
They lose the day in waiting for the night.
Filed under: my reading year 2014

Seneca, On The Shortness of Life

I really love the Penguin Great Ideas series of nicely designed skinny paperbacks. (I particularly like the Montaigne edition.)

I didn’t finish this one, only read 2 out of the 3 essays. (One of the promises I’ve made myself this year is that I won’t continue on with a book if it’s become a chore reading it.) But I liked the title essay (well, not really an essay, but a letter to Seneca’s friend, Paulinus).

On guarding your time (“Nobody works out the value of time: men use it lavishly as if it cost nothing.):

Men do not let anyone seize their estates, and if there is the slightest dispute about their boundaries they rush to stones and arms; but they allow others to encroach on their lives — why, they themselves even invite in those who will take over their lives. You will find no one willing to share out his money; but to how many does each of us divide up his life! People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.

This is followed by a passage that haunts me, when Seneca says to “hold an audit of your life”:

Call to mind when you ever had a fixed purpose; how few days have passed as you had planned; when you were ever at your own disposal; when your face wore its natural expression; when your mind was undisturbed…

On not mistaking age for wisdom or a well-lived life:

You must not think a man has lived long because he has white hair and wrinkles: he has not lived long, just existed long. For suppose you should think that a man had had a long voyage who had been caught in a raging storm as he left harbor, and carried hither and thither and driven round and round in a circle by the rage of opposing winds? He did not have a long voyage, just a long tossing about.

The case for reading:

[Those who read] not only keep a good watch over their own lifetimes, but they annex every age to theirs. All the years that have passed before them are added to their own…. We are excluded from no age, but we have access to them all.. why not turn from this brief and transient spell of time and give ourselves wholeheartedly to the past, which is limitless and eternal and can be shared with better men than we?

On climbing your own family tree (realizing now I basically plagiarized Seneca for Steal Like An Artist):

We are in the habit of saying that it was not in our power to choose the parents who were allotted to us, that they were given to us by chance. But we can choose whose children we would like to be. There are households of the noblest intellects: choose the one into which you wish to be adopted, and you will inherit not only their name but their property too. Nor will this property need to be guarded meanly or grudgingly: the more it is shared out, the greater it will become.

On worrying about your “legacy”:

Some men, after they have crawled through a thousand indignities to the supreme dignity, have been assailed by the gloomy thought that all their labors were but for the sake of an epitaph.

And some good one-liners:

  • Life is long if you know how to use it.
  • We are not given a short life but we make it short.
  • You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire.
  • Learning how to live takes a whole life, and, which may surprise you more, it takes a whole life to learn how to die.
  • The man who… organizes every day as though it were his last, neither longs for nor fears the next day.
  • The present is short, the future is doubtful, the past is certain.
  • Life is very short and anxious for those who forget the past, neglect the present, and fear the future.
  • They lose the day in waiting for the night.

Filed under: my reading year 2014

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John Cassavetes, Cassavetes on Cassavetes


  People are afraid to be themselves, until they become other people, and they can never become themselves again.


(via)

John Cassavetes, Cassavetes on Cassavetes

People are afraid to be themselves, until they become other people, and they can never become themselves again.

(via)

(Source: 5oclockcoffees)

May 19, 2014
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The artist doesn’t have to be suffering to portray suffering, he just has to UNDERSTAND suffering.
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