There was no need for more than two

“Seat thyself sultanically among the moons of Saturn, and take high abstracted man alone; and he seems a wonder, a grandeur, and a woe. But from the same point, take mankind in mass, and for the most part, they seem a mob of unnecessary duplicates, both contemporary and hereditary.” – Herman Melville, Moby Dick

It all depends on your point of view

“There is a wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness. 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.” – Herman Melville, Moby Dick

You probably think this post is about you

“The truest of all men was the Man of Sorrows, and the truest of all books is Solomon’s, and Ecclesiastes is the fine hammered steel of woe. ‘All is vanity.’ ALL. This willful world hath not got hold of unchristian Solomon’s wisdom yet.” – Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Don’t look over there — look over here

“Look not too long in the face of fire, O man! Never dream with thy hand on the helm! Turn not thy back to the compass; accept the first hint of the hitching tiller; believe not the artificial fire, when its redness makes all things look ghastly. To-morrow, in the natural sun, the skies will be bright; those who glared like devils in the forking flames, the morn will show in far other, at least gentler, relief; the glorious, golden, glad sun, the only true lamp—all others but liars!” – Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Keeping it simple and direct

“By many prolonged, repeated experiences, I have perceived that in all cases man must eventually lower, or at least shift, his conceit of attainable felicity; not placing it anywhere in the intellect or the fancy; but in the wife, the heart, the bed, the table, the saddle, the fire-side, the country.” – Herman Melville, Moby Dick

It’s just a hunch

“All have doubts; many deny; but doubts or denials, few along with them, have intuitions. Doubts of all things earthly, and intuitions of some things heavenly; this combination makes neither believer nor infidel, but makes a man who regards them both with equal eyes.” – Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Joke’s on everyone

“There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody’s expense but his own. However, nothing dispirits, and nothing seems worth while disputing. He bolts down all events, all creeds, and beliefs, and persuasions, and hard things visible and invisible, never mind how knobby; as an ostrich of potent digestions gobbles down bullets and gun flints. And as for small difficulties and worryings, prospects of sudden disaster, peril of life and limb; all these, and death itself, seem to him only sly, good-natured hits, and jolly punches in the side bestowed by the unseen and unaccountable old joker. That odd sort of wayward mood I am speaking of, comes over a man only in some time of extreme tribulation; it comes in the very midst of his earnestness, so that what just before might have seemed to him a thing most momentous, now seems but a part of the general joke.” – Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Straight from the belly

“A good laugh is a mighty good thing, and rather too scarce a good thing; the more’s the pity. So, if any one man, in his own proper person, afford stuff for a good joke to anybody, let him not be backward, but let him cheerfully allow himself to spend and to be spent in that way. And the man that has anything bountifully laughable about him, be sure that there is more in that man than you perhaps think for.” – Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Sunday services at the Church of Mammon

“There is all the difference in the world between paying and being paid. The act of paying is perhaps the most uncomfortable infliction that the two orchard thieves entailed upon us. But being paid,—what will compare with it? The urbane activity with which a man receives money is really marvellous, considering that we so earnestly believe money to be the root of all earthly ills, and that on no account can a monied man enter heaven. Ah! How cheerfully we consign ourselves to perdition!” – Herman Melville, Moby Dick (emphasis in original)

Quash it!

“Every bourgeois in the flush of his youth, were it but for a day, a moment, has believed himself capable of immense passions, of lofty enterprises. The most mediocre libertine has dreamed of sultanas; every notary bears within him the debris of a poet.” – Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary (trans. Marx-Aveling)

We all work for the banks

“Writing appears to be easy, and physically of course it is. But the same could be said for science and finance and other relatively sedentary jobs that require mental discipline, and you don’t see anyone expecting those guys to work for free.” – Averil Dean, “Un-Job”

We can’t hardly sell it, anyway

“Writers need to have an attitude. Not an ego, but we need to have more of a we-can-do-this-and-you-can’t attitude that lets the rest of the world know that we’re good at this because we’ve practiced and trained and we do it every goddam day. And that it has value because in this world where all that seems to matter is selling stuff, writing and art are the only things that remind us what it is to be a human.” – Joe Ponepinto, “Un-Job”

Skipping the trial

“Aerial bombing of those who have no chance to retaliate is not a war but an unequal exchange, which by its very nature accelerates the process through which war becomes a policing action and the adversary becomes a criminal or a mere object of violent reprisal. Policing action both begins and ends with the criminalization of the enemy. The overhead shot, coeval with air power itself, both produces and solidifies asymmetry and criminalization, which in turn produces a moral and legal justification of the violence.” – Nasser Hussain, “The Sound of Terror: Phenomenology of a Drone Strike”

Good luck with that

“Some bribe, importune, solicit, rise early, pray, insist, and yet at the end do not obtain what they desire, while another comes and without knowing why or wherefore finds himself spirited into a position of rank and authority that many others had sought in vain. There is indeed much truth in the saying that ‘Merit does much, but fortune more.’” – Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote (trans. Starkie)

Once more, into the breach. Go on, now.

“It is far better for the brave man to mount to the height of rashness than to sink into the depths of cowardice, for just as it is easier for the generous than for the miser to be prodigal, so it is easier for the daring than for the cowardly to become truly valiant.” – Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote (trans. Starkie)

Why?

“I am certain that amorality is the natural condition of the psyche, the unconscious—or of whatever name you give that mysterious wellspring. Our dreams are evidence enough for me. I can’t argue the case for freedom in art as persuasively as Freud did, or as Jung did, or as any of their heirs did and do. Psychic freedom is crucial to our sanity and to our humanity—so nothing differentiates an amoral piece of writing from one concerned with truth, justice and morals. A great work of art that can deliver Hell has a purifying effect. Why?  Ask why.” – Diane Williams, “Now Find a Free Mind” (interview by Alec Niedenthal)

Sometimes cold, sometimes cloudy

“The sentence is the site of your enterprise with words, the locale where language either comes to a head or does not. The sentence is a situation of words in the most literal sense: words must be situated in relation to others to produce an enduring effect on a reader. As you situate the words, you are of course intent on obeying the ordinances of syntax and grammar, unless any willful violation is your purpose—and you are intent as well on achieving in the arrangements of words as much fidelity as is possible to whatever you believe you have wanted to say or describe. A lot of writers—many of them—unfortunately seem to stop there. They seem content if the resultant sentence is free from obvious faults and is faithful to the lineaments of the thought or feeling or whatnot that was awaiting deathless expression. But some other writers seem to know that it takes more than that for a sentence to cohere and flourish as a work of art. They seem to know that the words inside the sentence must behave as if they were destined to belong together—as if their separation from each other would deprive the parent story or novel, as well as the readerly world, of something life-bearing and essential. These writers recognize that there needs to be an intimacy between the words, a togetherness that has nothing to do with grammar or syntax but instead has to do with the very shapes and sounds, the forms and contours, of the gathered words. This intimacy is what we mean when we say of a piece of writing that it has a felicity—a fitness, an aptness, a rightness about the phrasing. The words in the sentence must bear some physical and sonic resemblance to each other—the way people and their dogs are said to come to resemble each other, the way children take after their parents, the way pairs and groups of friends evolve their own manner of dress and gesture and speech. A pausing, enraptured reader should be able to look deeply into the sentence and discern among the words all of the traits and characteristics they share. The impression to be given is that the words in the sentence have lived with each other for quite some time, decisive time, and have deepened and grown and matured in each other’s company—and that they cannot live without each other.” – Gary Lutz, “The Sentence Is a Lonely Place” (emphasis in original)

Secrets the boys don’t tell

“Love in most young men is not love but lust, and as its ultimate end is pleasure, it ceases once that end has been attained; and what appears to be love must disappear because it cannot pass the limits assigned to it by nature, whereas true affection knows none such limitations.” – Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote (trans. Starkie)