Artists know

“The great and tragic fact of experience is the fact of effort and passionate toil which never finds complete satisfaction. This eternal frustration of our ideals or will is an essential part of spiritual life, and enriches it just as the shadows enrich the picture or certain discords bring about richer harmony.” — Morris R. Cohen, The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Vol. XVII, Ch. XVI, Sec. 21

When science was king

“Commonly we fix beliefs by reiterating them, by surrounding them with emotional safeguards, and by avoiding anything which casts doubt upon them—by ‘the will to believe.’ This method breaks down when the community ceases to be homogeneous. Social effort, by the method of authority, to eliminate diversity of beliefs also fails in the end to prevent reflective doubts from cropping up. Hence we must finally resort to the method of free inquiry and let science stabilize our ideas by clarifying them. How can this be done?” — Morris R. Cohen, The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Vol. XVII, Ch. XVI, Sec. 18

The view from without the cave

“Intellectual pioneers are rarely gregarious creatures. In their isolation they lose touch with those who follow the beaten paths, and when they return to the community they speak strangely of strange sights, so that few have the faith to follow them and change their trails into high roads.” — Morris R. Cohen, The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Vol. XVII, Ch. XVI, Sec. 18

Ideas whose time came

“Out of unrestricted competition arise many wrongs that the State must redress and many abuses which it must check. It may become the duty of the State to reform its taxation, so that its burdens shall rest less heavily upon the lower classes; to repress monopolies of all sorts; to prevent and punish gambling; to regulate or control the railroads and telegraphs; to limit the ownership of land; to modify the laws of inheritance; and possibly to levy a progressive income-tax, so that the enormous fortunes should bear more rather than less than their share of the public burdens.” — Washington Gladden (quoted in The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Vol. XVII, Ch. XVI, Sec. 12)

Welcome to America

“Dishonest men can be bought and ignorant men can be manipulated. This is the kind of government which private capital, invested in public-service industries, naturally feels that it must have.” — Washington Gladden (quoted in The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Vol. XVII, Ch. XVI, Sec. 12)

Better that than cursing blind

“While the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard.  There isn’t any other tale to tell, it’s the only light we’ve got in all this darkness.” — James Baldwin, “Sonny’s Blues”

There’s always room for improvement, verdad?

“Americans have a special horror of giving up control, of letting things happen in their own way without interference.  They would like to jump down into their stomachs and digest the food and shovel the shit out.” — William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch

Looks like it’s metastasized

“Democracy is cancerous, and bureaus are its cancer.  A bureau takes root anywhere in the state, turns malignant like the Narcotic Bureau, and grows and grows, always reproducing more of its own kind, until it chokes the host if not controlled or excised.” — William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch

But it’s been so upliftingish

“There can be no doubt that American literature has considerably suffered from the platitudinous didactic note.” — George S. Hellman, The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Vol. XVII, Book III, Ch. XIII, Sec. 16

Look out, it’s right beside you

“It takes so little, so infinitely little, for a person to cross the border beyond which everything loses meaning: love, convictions, faith, history.  Human life–and herein lies its secret–takes place in the immediate proximity of that border, even in direct contact with it; it is not miles away, but a fraction of an inch.” — Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (trans. Heim)

In America, it’s called public education

“The first step in liquidating a people is to erase its memory.  Destroy its books, its culture, its history.  Then have somebody write new books, manufacture a new culture, invent a new history.  Before long the nation will begin to forget what it is and what it was.  The world around it will forget even faster.” — Milan Hubl (quoted in Milan Kundera’s The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, trans. Heim)

A plague upon the nation

“Graphomania (an obsession with writing books) takes on the proportions of a mass epidemic whenever a society develops to the point where it can provide three basic conditions: 1. a high enough degree of general well-being to enable people to devote their energies to useless activities; 2. an advanced state of social atomization and the resultant general feeling of the isolation of the individual; 3. a radical absence of significant social change in the internal development of the nation.” — Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (trans. Heim)

You can get a grant for that

“People are always shouting they want to create a better future.  It’s not true.  The future is an apathetic void of no interest to anyone.  The past is full of life, eager to irritate us, provoke and insult us, tempt us to destroy or repaint it.  The only reason people want to be masters of the future is to change the past.” — Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (trans. Heim)

Point zero-zero

“Each person must, on some level, take himself as the calibration point for normalcy, must assume that the room of his own mind is not, cannot be, entirely opaque to him.  Perhaps this is what we mean by sanity: that, whatever our self-admitted eccentricities might be, we are not the villains of our own stories.” — Teju Cole, Open City

Waterboarding, for instance

“Different people want different things in this world, and you have to be careful about taking risks.  Hungry people have the cunning of wild beasts.  A thing that seemed strange and wrong yesterday can seem perfectly reasonable tomorrow, or vice versa.” — Hunter S. Thompson, Kingdom of Fear

This will not make you feel safe

“Everybody you see these days might have the power to get you locked up….  Who knows why?  They will have reasons straight out of some horrible Kafka story, but in the end it won’t matter any more than a full moon behind clouds.” — Hunter S. Thompson, Kingdom of Fear (ellipsis in original)