Resistance training

“My freedom will be so much the greater and more meaningful the more narrowly I limit my field of action and the more I surround myself with obstacles.  Whatever diminishes constraint, diminishes strength.  The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees oneself of the chains that shackle the spirit.” – Igor Stravinsky, Poetics of Music (quoted by Bridget Riley in “At the End of My Pencil”)

Toiling up

“No men living are more worthy to be trusted than those who toil up from poverty—none less inclined to take, or touch, aught which they have not honestly earned.  Let them beware of surrendering a political power which they already possess, and which, if surrendered, will surely be used to close the door of advancement against such as they, and to fix new disabilities and burdens upon them, till all of liberty shall be lost.” – Abraham Lincoln, “Annual Message to Congress,” December 3, 1861

Straightening the relations

“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital.  Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed.  Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.  Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights.  Nor is it denied that there is, and probably always will be, a relation between labor and capital, producing mutual benefits.  The error is in assuming that the whole labor of community exists within that relation.” – Abraham Lincoln, “Annual Message to Congress,” December 3, 1861

Yeah, so calm down, all you virtuous vigilant folk

“While the people retain their virtue and vigilance, no administration, by any extreme of wickedness or folly, can very seriously injure the government in the short space of four years.” – Abraham Lincoln, “First Inaugural Address”

Litmus testing

“The candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the government upon vital questions, affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made, in ordinary litigation between parties, in personal actions, the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.  Nor is there in this view any assault upon the court or the judges.  It is a duty from which they may not shrink, to decide the cases properly brought before them; and it is no fault of theirs if others seek to turn their decisions to political purposes.” – Abraham Lincoln, “First Inaugural Address”

Long live the king

“A majority, held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people.  Whoever rejects it does, of necessity, fly to anarchy or to despotism.  Unanimity is impossible; the rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissable; so that rejecting the majority principle, anarchy or despotism in some form is all that is left.” – Abraham Lincoln, “First Inaugural Address”

Mightier than the sword, able to leap long centuries in a single bound

Writing—the art of communicating thoughts to the mind, through the eye—is the great invention of the world.  Great in the astonishing range of analysis and combination which necessarily underlies the most crude and general conception of it—great, very great in enabling us to converse with the dead, the absent, and the unborn, at all distances of time and space.” – Abraham Lincoln, “Lecture on Discoveries and Inventions” (emphasis in original)

A nation of hothouse flowers

“As if it weren’t ludicrous enough for every child to be ‘gifted’, now they have to be ill as well: a touch of Asperger’s, a little autism; dyslexia stalks the playground; the poor little gifted things have been ‘bullied’ at school; if they can’t confess to being abused, they must confess to being abusive.” — Edward St. Aubyn, At Last

There is seething

“Behaviours could be changed, attitudes modified, mentalities transformed, but it was hard to have a dialogue with the somatic habits of infancy.  How could an infant express himself before he had a self to express, or the words to express what he didn’t yet have?  Only the dumb language of injury and illness was abundantly available.  There was screaming of course, if it was allowed.” – Edward St. Aubyn, At Last

The reptilian brain awaits

“Neither a soul nor a personal identity was needed to precipitate a human life, just a cluster of habits clinging to the hollow concept of independent existence, like a crowd of grasping passengers sinking the lifeboat they imagined would save them.  In the background was the ever-present opportunity to slip away into the glittering ocean of a true nature that was not personal either.” – Edward St. Aubyn, At Last

Getting pretty crowded down there

“Before they became masters of the universe, usurers were consigned to the seventh circle of Hell.  Under a rain of fire, their perpetually restless hands were a punishment for hands that had made nothing useful or good in their lifetime, just exploited the labor of others.” – Edward St. Aubyn, At Last

Give me what I want or I’ll kill myself

“Suicide wore the mask of self-rejection; but in reality nobody took their personality more seriously than the person who was planning to kill himself on its instructions.  Nobody was more determined to stay in charge at any cost, to force the most mysterious aspect of life into their own imperious schedule.” – Edward St. Aubyn, At Last

It’s good we finally got that straight

“All sex was prostitution for both participants, not always in the commercial sense, but in the deeper etymological sense that they stood in for something else.  The fact that this was sometimes done so effectively that there were weeks or months in which the object of desire and the person one happened to be in bed with seemed identical could not prevent the underlying model of desire from beginning to drift away, sooner or later, from its illusory home.” — Edward St. Aubyn, Mother’s Milk

The chosen people, the promised land, the cattle to the slaughter

“Would America be just like he’d imagined it?  Along with the rest of the world, Robert had lived under a rain of American images most of his life.  Perhaps the place had already been imagined for him and he wouldn’t be able to see anything at all.

“The first impression that came his way, while the plane was still on the ground at Heathrow, was a sense of hysterical softness.  The flow of passengers up the aisle was blocked by a red-haired woman sagging at the knees under her own weight.

“‘I cannot go there.  I cannot get in there,’ she panted.  ‘Linda wants me to sit by the window, but I cannot fit in there.’

“‘Get in there, Linda,’ said the enormous father of the family.

“‘Dad!’ said Linda, whose size spoke for itself.

“That certainly seemed typical of something he had seen before in London’s tourist spots: a special kind of tender American obesity; not the hard-won fat of a gourmet, or the juggernaut body of a truck driver, but the apprehensive fat of people who had decided to become their own airbag systems in a dangerous world.  What if their bus was hijacked by a psychopath who hadn’t brought any peanuts?  Better have some now.  If there was going to be a terrorist incident, why go hungry on top of everything else?

“Eventually, the Airbags dented themselves into their seats.  Robert had never seen such vague faces, mere sketches on the immensity of their bodies.  Even the father’s relatively protuberant features looked like the remnants of a melted candle.  As she squeezed into her aisle seat, Mrs. Airbag turned to the long queue of obstructed passengers, a brown smudge of tiredness radiating from her faded hazel eyes.

“‘Thank you for your patience,’ she groaned.

“‘It’s sweet of her to thank us for something we haven’t given her,’ said Robert’s father.  ‘Perhaps I should thank her for her agility.’

“Robert’s mother gave him a warning look.  It turned out they were in the row behind the Airbags.

“‘You’re going to have to put the armrests down for takeoff,’ Linda’s father warned her.

“‘Mom and me are sharing these seats,’ giggled Linda.  ‘Our tushes are expanding!’

“Robert peeped through the gap in the seats.  He didn’t see how they were going to get the armrests down.

“After meeting the Airbags, Robert’s sense of softness spread everywhere.  Even the hardness of some of the faces he saw on that warm and waxy arrival afternoon, in the flag-strewn mineral crevasses of mid-town Manhattan, looked to him like the embittered softness of betrayed children who had been told to expect everything.  For those who were prepared to be consoled there was always something to eat; a pretzel stall, an ice-cream cart, a food-delivery service, a bowl of nuts on the counter, a snack machine down the corridor.  He felt the pressure to drift into the mentality of grazing cattle, not just ordinary cattle but industrialized cattle, neither made to wait nor allowed to.” — Edward St. Aubyn, Mother’s Milk

How to ensure success, or something

“It’s important not to treat children too well–they won’t be able to compete in the real world.  If you want your children to become television producers, for instance, or chief executives, it’s no use filling their little heads with ideas of trust and truth-telling and reliability.  They’ll just end up being somebody’s secretary.” — Edward St. Aubyn, Mother’s Milk

Oh, well…

“Looking after children can be a subtle way of giving up.  They become the whole ones, the well ones, the postponement of happiness, the ones who won’t drink too much, give up, get divorced, become mentally ill.  The part of oneself that’s fighting against decay and depression is transferred to guarding them from decay and depression.  In the meantime one decays and gets depressed.” — Edward St. Aubyn, Mother’s Milk