Month: June 2013

Dance the blight awayDance the blight away

“I ask myself what my body really wants from music generally.  I believe it wants to have relief: so that all animal functions should be accelerated by means of light, bold, unfettered, self-assured rhythms; so that brazen, leaden life should be gilded by means of golden, good, tender harmonies.  My melancholy would fain rest its head in the hiding-places and abysses of perfection: for this reason I need music.” – Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science (trans. Common)

Do your homeworkDo your homework

“There is only one way to learn to write and that is by reading.  Don’t read for duty, try all the good stuff though, sample it, then devour what stimulates and enriches you.  This will seep in to your own work, which may be derivative at first but this does not matter.  Your own style will develop later.” – Mary Renault (quoted by Daniel Mendelsohn in “The American Boy”)

Our freedom is in our ignoranceOur freedom is in our ignorance

“It behoveth thee not to grieve for that which must happen: for who can avert, by his wisdom, the decrees of fate?  No one can leave the  way marked out for him by Providence.  Existence and non-existence, pleasure and pain all have Time for their root.  Time createth all things and Time destroyeth all creatures.  It is Time that burneth creatures and it is Time that extinguisheth the fire.  All states, the good and the evil, in the three worlds, are caused by Time.  Time cutteth short all things and createth them anew.  Time alone is awake when all things are asleep: indeed, Time is incapable of being overcome.  Time passeth over all things without being retarded.  Knowing, as thou dost, that all things past and future and all that exist at the present moment, are the offspring of Time, it behoveth thee not to throw away thy reason.” — Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa, The Mahabharata: Adi Parva (trans. Roy)

Nice blendNice blend

“There are in all nine virtues, and when we say that a man possesses these virtues it is as much as to say that he begins to do such and such things. They are liberality combined with dignity, mildness combined with firmness, bluntness combined with respect, aptness for government combined with caution, docility combined with boldness, straightforwardness combined with gentleness, easy negligence combined with discrimination, resolution combined with sincerity, and courage combined with justice. If these are apparent, and that continuously, how fortunate it will be.” — Sima Qian, Records of the Grand Historian (trans. Allen)

The lifelong search for the perpetually recedingThe lifelong search for the perpetually receding

“In our youth we take our teachers and guides from the time in which we happen to live and the circle in which we happen to move: we are thoughtlessly confident that the times we live in are bound to have teachers better suited to us than to anyone else and that we are bound to find them without much trouble.  For this childishness we have in later years to pay a heavy price: we have to expiate our teachers in ourself.  We then perhaps go in search of our true guides throughout the whole world, the world of the past included—but perhaps it is too late.  And in the worst case we discover that they were living when we were young—and that we missed them.” — Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak (emphasis in original; trans. Hollingdale)

Glad this doesn’t happen to anyone we knowGlad this doesn’t happen to anyone we know

“Poor, happy and independent!—these things can go together; poor, happy and a slave!—these things can also go together—and I can think of no better news I could give to our factory slaves: provided, that is, they do not feel it to be in general a disgrace to be thus used, and used up, as a part of a machine and as it were a stopgap to fill a hole in human inventiveness!  To the devil with the belief that higher payment could lift from them the essence of their miserable condition—I mean their impersonal enslavement!  To the devil with the idea of being persuaded that an enhancement of this impersonality within the mechanical operation of a new society could transform the disgrace of slavery into a virtue!  To the devil with setting a price on oneself in exchange for which one ceases to be a person and becomes a part of a machine!  Are you accomplices in the current folly of the nations—the folly of wanting above all to produce as much as possible and to become as rich as possible?  What you ought to do, rather, is hold up to them the counter-reckoning: how great a sum of inner value is thrown away in pursuit of this external goal!  But where is your inner value if you no longer know what it is to breathe freely? if you no longer possess the slightest power over yourselves? if you all too often grow weary of yourselves like a drink that has been left too long standing? if you pay heed to the newspapers and look askance at your wealthy neighbour, made covetous by the rapid rise and fall of power, money and opinions? if you no longer believe in philosophy that wears rags, in the free-heartedness of him without needs? if voluntary poverty and freedom from profession and marriage, such as would very well suit the more spiritual among you, have become to you things to laugh at?  If, on the other hand, you have always in your ears the flutings of the Socialist pied-pipers whose design is to enflame you with wild hopes? which bid you to be prepared and nothing further, prepared day upon day, so that you wait and wait for something to happen from outside and in all other respects go on living as you have always lived—until this waiting turns to hunger and thirst and fever and madness, and at last the day of the bestia triumphans dawns in all its glory?”– Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak (emphasis in original; trans. Hollingdale)

A maxim we’ve been minimizingA maxim we’ve been minimizing

“It is a general maxim in democracies, oligarchies, monarchies, and indeed in all governments, not to let any one acquire a rank far superior to the rest of the community, but rather to endeavour to confer moderate honours for a continuance than great ones for a short time; for these latter spoil men, for it is not every one who can bear prosperity: but if this rule is not observed, let not those honours which were conferred all at once be all at once taken away, but rather by degrees.  But, above all things, let this regulation be made by the law, that no one shall have too much power, either by means of his fortune or friends.” — Aristotle, A Treatise on Government (trans. Ellis)

Snowden & Manning, LTD.Snowden & Manning, LTD.

“Governments are sometimes preserved not only by having the means of their corruption at a great distance, but also by its being very near them; for those who are alarmed at some impending evil keep a stricter hand over the state; for which reason it is necessary for those who have the guardianship of the constitution to be able to awaken the fears of the people, that they may preserve it, and not like a night-guard to be remiss in protecting the state, but to make the distant danger appear at hand.” — Aristotle, A Treatise on Government (trans. Ellis)

So whadderya gonna do about it?So whadderya gonna do about it?

“Those who would establish aristocratical governments are mistaken not only in giving too much power to the rich, but also in deceiving the common people; for at last, instead of an imaginary good, they must feel a real evil, for the encroachments of the rich are more destructive to the state than those of the poor.” — Aristotle, A Treatise on Government (trans. Ellis)

Probably, on some of thoseProbably, on some of those

“How little Christianity educates the sense of honesty and justice can be gauged fairly well from the character of its scholars’ writings: they present their conjectures as boldly as if they were dogmas and are rarely in any honest perplexity over the interpretation of a passage in the Bible.  Again and again they say ‘I am right, for it is written—’ and then follows an interpretation of such imprudent arbitrariness that a philologist who hears it is caught between rage and laughter and asks himself: is it possible?  Is this honourable?  Is it even decent?—How much dishonesty in this matter is still practised in Protestant pulpits, how grossly the preacher exploits the advantage that no one is going to interrupt him here, how the Bible is pummelled and punched and the art of reading badly is in all due form imparted to the people: only he who never goes to church or never goes anywhere else will underestimate that.  But after all, what can one expect from the effects of a religion which in the centuries of its foundation perpetrated that unheard-of philological farce concerning the Old Testament: I mean the attempt to pull the Old Testament from under the feet of the Jews with the assertion it contained nothing but Christian teaching and belonged to the Christians as the true people of Israel, the Jews being only usurpers.  And then there followed a fury of interpretation and construction that cannot possibly be associated with a good conscience: however much the Jewish scholars protested, the Old Testament was supposed to speak of Christ and only of Christ, and especially of his Cross; wherever a piece of wood, a rod, a ladder, a twig, a tree, a willow, a staff is mentioned, it is supposed to be a prophetic allusion to the wood of the Cross; even the question of the one-horned beast and the brazen serpent, even Moses spreading his arms in prayer, even the spits on which the Passover lamb was roasted—all allusions to the Cross and as it were preludes to it!  Has anyone who asserted this ever believed it?”– Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak (emphasis in original; trans. Hollingdale)

A stake to be burned atA stake to be burned at

“Of all pleasures, which is the greatest for the men of that little, constantly imperilled community which is in a constant state of war and where the sternest morality prevails?—for souls, that is to say, which are full of strength, revengefulness, hostility, deceit and suspicion, ready for the most fearful things and made hard by deprivation and morality?  The pleasure of cruelty: just as it is reckoned a virtue in a soul under such conditions to be inventive and insatiable in cruelty.  In the act of cruelty the community refreshes itself and for one throws off the gloom of constant fear and caution.  Cruelty is one of the oldest festive joys of mankind.”– Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak (emphasis in original; trans. Hollingdale)

Loving the bounding mainLoving the bounding main

“Maybe it wouldn’t much matter where we ended up.  Chinese ports are busy, and if the time in port is too short no one would get off anyway.  Some of the men said they wouldn’t go ashore even if there was time.  It was expensive, and possibly dangerous.  Ordinary Seaman Alvin Piamonte said the Mafia had taken root in China, and he wasn’t going ashore unless he had two or three guys with him, which could be impossible to arrange given everyone’s schedules.  The ports the men most loved—the ones in Brazil, Australia, Vietnam—were friendly, warm, and relaxed.  They used to like American ports, but after 2001, as part of the Global War on Terror, the United States abrogated centuries of international practice by severely restricting foreign seafarers’ ability to go ashore.  The men of the Odyssey always became agitated when discussing this.  The only country as restrictive as the U.S., they said, was Saudi Arabia.  In the words of the second mate, ‘It has taken the little happiness we had, and made it less.’  The only way to cheer the men at such points was to remind them of Bangkok.  In Bangkok, as soon as you arrive, a boat comes alongside and disgorges a portable bar, a restaurant, and many friendly young women.  If you pay in advance, a woman will move into your cabin for several days, sleep with you, and get up in the morning and iron your shirts—all for about thirty dollars a day.  In some ports, the authorities turn a blind eye to this sort of thing.  In Bangkok, according to [Chief Mate] Vadim, if you try to kick the party off your ship, your cargo simply won’t get unloaded.  For this reason, seamen love Bangkok.” – Keith Gessen, “Polar Express”

That candy bar sure looks goodThat candy bar sure looks good

“A lack of self-mastery in small things brings about a crumbling of the capacity for it in great ones.  Every day is ill employed, and a danger for the next day, in which one has not denied oneself some small thing at least once: this gymnastic is indispensable if one wants to preserve in oneself the joy of being one’s own master.” — Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human (trans. Hollingdale)

Wailing in the high court of the atavistWailing in the high court of the atavist

“All criminals force society back to a stage of culture earlier than the one at which it happens to be standing: they have a retrogressive effect.  Consider the instruments society is obliged to create and maintain for itself for the sake of its own defence: the sly police agents, the prison warders, the executioners; do not overlook the public prosecutors and defence lawyers; and ask yourself, finally, whether the judges themselves, and punishment, and the whole process of the courts, are not phenomena much more likely to produce a depressive than an elevating effect on the non-criminal: for no one will ever succeed in covering self-defence and revenge with the cloak of innocence; and whenever man is employed and sacrificed as a means to an end of society’s all higher humanity mourns.” — Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human (trans. Hollingdale)