“At the moments when we are at a turning point, we are permitted to look out across all the curves of the road to see the end hanging down almost within our grasp; but when we come to the top of the first incline, we find that the road cuts back and we can only see what is straight in front of us, and that doesn’t even seem to be going in the right direction.” – William Irwin Thompson, At the Edge of History

“There are only two choices open to those who have discovered that society is a madhouse. In the tradition of Plato’s cave, they can withdraw and seek light elsewhere to discover the larger landscape in which the madhouse is located. Or, if that Platonic tradition of the Good seems merely an infantile fantasy, they can deny self-determination to the insane majority and burn the madhouse to the ground to force people out into the open.” – William Irwin Thompson, At the Edge of History

“In the literary sphere we grapple with one mind at a time; in the digital sphere there is always a mass of other minds. If all forms of reading might be imagined as variations on the simple act of driving down a road, then reading a novel might be like driving down a lonely, very long, very straight one-lane desert road in the isolation of a perfectly soundless night, whereas reading online is like being on an eight-lane, twisting superhighway full of bumper-to-bumper traffic consisting of drivers all honking uproariously at you while in your car shriek innumerable cell phones all calling for you and four unruly passengers scream at your face.” – Veronica Scott Esposito, “Attention & the Future of Narrative”

What is it good for

“A war doesn’t merely kill off a few thousand or a few hundred thousand young men. It kills off something in a people that can never be brought back. And if a people goes through enough wars, pretty soon all that’s left is the brute, the creature that we—you and I and others like us—have brought up from the slime.” – John Williams, Stoner

Playing with matches

“Memory is an arsonist, setting fires cell-deep at ungovernable intervals of time and space. Lights go on, searching out pain. The hands of another. The mother voice, singing to block out the noise. Titanic laughter and with it confusion. Clouds, white, grey striations, disposed across the eye. The folded heron in the reed bed, the river drifting deeply, its world mirroring still.” – David Hayden, “Wonder Meadow”

Snapped in two like a pencil

“All the hours, all the days, the months in figurative seclusion, all the sentences written that’ll never be read, and all the books published that’ll never reach any more than a handful. And yet it’s still in the act of solitude that I look to make a connection, to be something other than alone. There’s something so broken about it, but look, I’m still here. I’m writing in the darkness of a room, shortly after dusk.” – Michael J. Seidlinger, “Every Time You’re Alone: An Incomplete List”

And that’s why we do it

“Philosophy in the end is an intellectual game. At limits unattainable by mathematics and the empirical sciences, it constructs all sorts of intricate structures. And as a structure is completed, the game ends. Fiction is different from philosophy because it is the product of sensory perceptions. If a futile self-made signifier is saturated in a solution of lust and at a particular time transforms into a living cell capable of multiplying and growing, it is much more interesting than games of the intellect.” – Gao Xingjian, Soul Mountain (trans. Mabel Lee)

Especially having to apologize for it later

“It’s what musicians do when they don’t know what to do anymore. They take out a wineglass or a handkerchief and try to play their cellos with that. Or they rub a balloon and tell people that this is their new instrument. Or they hang on to the bow and toss the cello, and they play their bow on the radiator or piano or a piece of wood. They make a sliding or scratching sound and this is their new music. Or artists, they do it too. They put away their pads and pull stuff out of the garbage. They’ve been doing that for so long, it’s unnerving—this little segment of the population going around, saying that they see art everywhere: trash bin, mountain, sidewalk, plank, person, disease. Some people find it almost annoying.” – Deb Olin Unferth, “Abandon Normal Instruments”

Please don’t talk about love tonight

“There’s a reason people in foodwork stay up late, drinking and drugging. Your shift ends and hours later you’re still sweating from those burners, amped up and pissed at whichever customer or coworker screwed you the hardest.” – Kimberly King Parsons, “Wisdom to Know the Difference”

What’s love got to do with it

“I went on through the post town of Sekimoto, where the citizens in their rows of houses offer lodgings and wait upon the traveler as their master for a night, while the girls singing in the windows entice him in to treat him as a husband. How sad, to pin such vows of eternal love on a night’s transient dream, a long life’s faithful bond on the desires of a passing traveler. Though so different from all the rich trappings of bridal jade-green curtains and scarlet boudoir, life together in a humble hut with rustic brushwood door is the same, for both are no more than brief pleasures of a passing lifetime.” – Anonymous Monk, “Journey Along the Sea Road” (trans. Meredith McKinney)

Would you like fries with that

“The fisherman hauls his nets, tiring his body in the very act of shielding it from starvation; the starving fish takes the bait, its very need for life condemning it to death. Just how much can a man profit in this world; how much can a little fish consume? Each feels the same about existence, each treasures life. Further, the woodsman sweating on the hillside, who returns at evening bearing the north wind at his back, the limping seller plying his trade through the fields, who sets out at dawn through the thick white dew—their work may differ but for all, the sufferings of this life are one.” – Anonymous Monk, “Journey Along the Sea Road” (trans. Meredith McKinney)