“You’ve never seen anything as dramatic as these American trees, dying their thousand deaths. The giant beech next door intends to shiver off every hair of its pelt. The world strips and goes naked, the full year of arboreal effort piling on the sidewalks in flat, damp strata. The earth smells of smoke and rainstorms, calling everything to come back, lie down, submit to a quiet, moldy return to the cradle of origins. This is how we celebrate the Day of the Dead in America: by turning up our collars against the scent of earthworms calling us home.”—Barbara Kingsolver, The Lacuna
“If we really love children as we say, if we really think mothering future generations is one of the most important contributions to society, one of its critical social labors, then what would a societal support system look like that truly embraces mothers, mothering, and child-raising? It would require acknowledging the real, back-breaking, heart-breaking, soul-crushing work that is parenting, to not erase these things when we celebrate the ways parenting is life-giving, breathtaking, meaningful, and transformative. It would require expanding parenting into a social concern, a social good, because one woman cannot and should not do it all. In this way, child-raising becomes a community responsibility — and mothers, parents, the leaders of community child-raising. It would require creating structures that enable mothering in all its forms, and, most of all, enable mothers to be full people. Being a full person is foundational to being a good mother; we need to see and nurture the full personhoods of mothers. We need to love mothers as much as we love children.”—Mimi Khúc, ”What it Means to Love Mothers”
“We are all communists with our closest friends, and feudal lords when dealing with small children. It is very hard to imagine a society where people wouldn’t be both.”—David Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years
“Solitary pleasures will always exist, but for most human beings, the most pleasurable activities almost always involve sharing something: music, food, liquor, drugs, gossip, drama, beds. There is a certain communism of the senses at the root of most things we consider fun.”—David Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years
“In the Jain belief, there is a thing called ‘syadvada,’ which is roughly ‘the assertion of possibilities.’ There are seven statements that follow from syadvada:
‘in some ways it is’
’in some ways it is not’
‘in some ways it is and it is not’
‘in some ways it is and it is indescribable’
’in some ways it is not and it is indescribable’
’in some ways it is, it is not and it is indescribable’
’in some ways it is indescribable’”—Marcilla Elizabeth Smith
“The art of living is based on rhythm — on give and take, ebb and flow, light and dark, life and death. By acceptance of all aspects of life, good and bad, right and wrong, yours and mine, the static, defensive life, which is what most people are cursed with, is converted into a dance, ‘the dance of life,’ metamorphosis. One can dance to sorrow or to joy; one can even dance abstractly. … But the point is that, by the mere act of dancing, the elements which compose it are transformed; the dance is an end in itself, just like life. The acceptance of the situation, any situation, brings about a flow, a rhythmic impulse towards self-expression. To relax is, of course, the first thing a dancer has to learn. It is also the first thing a patient has to learn when he confronts the analyst. It is the first thing any one has to learn in order to live. It is extremely difficult, because it means surrender, full surrender.”—Henry Miller, The Wisdom of the Heart (via brainpickings.org)
“When I felt I’d had enough fresh air and it was time to get back to the bar, as I was climbing the three steps up to the door (stone steps, single blocks of a stone that had a granite-like consistency and the sheen of a gem), I ran into a guy who was shorter than me and dressed like a fifties gangster, a guy who had something of the caricature about him, the classic affable killer, who got me mixed up with someone he knew and greeted me, and I replied to his greeting although from the start I was sure that I didn’t know him and that he was mistaken, but I behaved as if I knew him, as if I, too, had mixed him up with someone else, so the two of us greeted each other as we attempted ineffectively to climb those shining (yet lowly) stone steps, but the hit man’s confusion lasted no more than a few seconds, he soon realized that he was mistaken, and then he looked at me in a different way, as if he were asking himself if I was confused too or if, on the contrary, I had been pulling his leg from the start, and since he was thick and suspicious (though sharp in his own paradoxical way), he asked me who I was, I remember, he asked me with a malicious smile on his lips, and I said, Shit, Jara, it’s me, Bolaño, and it would have been clear to anyone from his smile that he wasn’t Jara, but he played the game, as if suddenly, struck by a lightening bolt (and no, I’m not quoting one of Lihn’s poems, much less one of mine), he fancied the idea of living the life of that unknown Jara for a minute or two, the Jara he would never be, except right there, stalled on the highest of those radiant steps, and he asked me about my life, he asked me (thick as a plank) who I was, admitting de facto that he was Jara, but a Jara who had forgotten the very existence of Bolaño, which is perfectly understandable after all, so I explained to him who I was, and, while I was at it, who he was too, thereby creating a Jara to suit me and him, that is, to suit that moment – an improbable, intelligent, courageous, rich, generous, daring Jara, in love with a beautiful woman and loved by her in return – and then the gangster smiled, more and more deeply convinced that I was making fun of him but unable to bring the episode to a close and proceed to teach me a lesson, as if he had suddenly fallen in love with the image I was constructing for him, encouraging me to go on telling him not just about Jara but also about Jara’s friends and finally the world, a world which seemed too wide even for Jara, a world in which even the great Jara was an ant whose death on a shining step would not have mattered at all to anyone, and then, at last, his friends appeared, two taller hit men wearing light-colored double-breasted suits, who looked at me and at the false Jara as if to ask him who I was, and he had no choice to say it’s Bolaño, and the two hit men greeted me, I shook their hands (rings, expensive watches, gold bracelets), and when they invited me to have a drink with them, I said, I can’t, I’m with a friend, and pushed past Jara through the door and disappeared inside.”—Roberto Bolaño, from “Meeting with Enrique Lihn,” The Return
“We all make fun of one another behind one another’s backs, even the people we love. Of course we do — they’re ridiculous. Anyone worth knowing is inevitably also going to be exasperating: making the same obvious mistakes over and over, dating imbeciles, endlessly relapsing into their dumb addictions and self-defeating habits, blind to their own hilarious flaws and blatant contradictions and fiercely devoted to whatever keeps them miserable. (And those few people about whom there is nothing ridiculous are by far the most preposterous of all.)”—Tim Kreider, “I Know What You Think of Me”
“I’ve often thought that the single most devastating cyberattack a diabolical and anarchic mind could design would not be on the military or financial sector but simply to simultaneously make every e-mail and text ever sent universally public… . Civilization, which is held together by a fragile web of tactful phrasing, polite omissions and white lies, would collapse in an apocalypse of bitter recriminations and weeping, breakups and fistfights, divorces and bankruptcies, scandals and resignations, blood feuds, litigation, wholesale slaughter in the streets and lingering ill will.”—Tim Kreider, “I Know What You Think of Me”
“Years ago a friend of mine had a dream about a strange invention; a staircase you could descend deep underground, in which you heard recordings of all the things anyone had ever said about you, both good and bad. The catch was, you had to pass through all the worst things people had said before you could get to the highest compliments at the very bottom. There is no way I would ever make it more than two and a half steps down such a staircase, but I understand its terrible logic: if we want the rewards of being loved we have to submit to the mortifying ordeal of being known.”—Tim Kreider, “I Know What You Think of Me”
“What metro Boston AAs are trite but correct about is that both destiny’s kisses and its dope-slaps illustrate an individual person’s basic personal powerlessmess over the really meaningful events in his life: i.e., almost nothing important that ever happens to you happens because you engineer it. Destiny has no beeper; destiny always leans trenchcoated out of any alley with some sort of Psst that you usually can’t even hear because you’re in such a rush to or from something important that you’ve tried to engineer.”—David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest
“Meditation, even in the formal Buddhist lineages in which I’ve trained, is focused on what you do, not what you believe. Maybe all religion began this way. Nowadays, religion is about what you believe, not what you do, but once, it was entirely the other way around. A belief system is not needed to sit still, every day, and transform the ordinary light. Human freedom precedes dividing things up into beliefs and disbeliefs. Your freedom depends on what you can allow into awareness, without clinging, without resistance. To me, this is the same love that lies at the heart of any religious doctrine.”—Michael Stone
“You can’t just think your way to who you really are. You can say, ‘I’m an intellectual. I love a good argument. I love reading. I like tight logic,’ but no amount of reading is going to take you into that place below language where you can realize who you are in this moment; that place where the ego becomes more porous, more transparent.”—Michael Stone
“The orchestra, in blue and red uniforms, belonged to an Austrian regiment which had served on the Eastern front and recently been transferred to Trieste in anticipation of war with Italy. The players no longer believed, as they had before, in the time of the waltzes. They were playing them – not to fill the present moment – but to remind themselves bitterly of the past. All Viennese dance music was nostalgic. But this was no nostalgia for a vague past which could always be conjured up and induced to return. This was bitter simple regret for seven brief irrevocable months during which they had seen too much that they would like to forget. Without realizing it, without thinking of it, they played in order to exaggerate, like parodists.”—John Berger, G.
“The sun is in your mouth. The burst of an olive is breaking of a bright sky. The hot days when the rains come. Eat the day where the sand burned the soles of your feet before the thunderstorm brought up your skin in bubbles of rain.”—Jeanette Winterson, Written on the Body
“Don’t you think it’s strange that life, described as so rich and full, a camel-trail of adventure, should shrink to this coin-sized world? A head on one side, a story on the other. Someone you loved and what happened. That’s all there is when you dig in your pockets. The most significant thing is someone else’s face. What else embossed your hands but her?”—Jeanette Winterson, Written on the Body
“Being in love is an elaborate state of anticipation for the continual exchanging of certain kinds of gifts. The gifts can range from a glance to the offering of the entire self. But the gifts must be gifts: they cannot be claimed. One has no rights as a lover — except the right to anticipate what the other wishes to give. Most children are surrounded by their rights (their right to indulgence, to consolation, etc.): and so they do not and cannot fall in love. But if a child — as a result of circumstances — comes to realize that such rights as he does enjoy are not fundamental, if he has recognized, however inarticulately, that happiness is not something that can be assured and promised but is something that each has to try to find for himself, if he is aware of being essentially alone, then he may find himself anticipating pure, gratuitous and continual gifts offered by another and the state of that anticipation is the state of being in love.”—John Berger, G.
“It begins with a crisis of the state that enables a ‘dissident social bloc’ to mobilize the people into a political project. A ‘catastrophic stand-off’ develops between the bloc of power and the bloc of the people, which in the case of Latin America was able to be resolved for the moment on the side of the people. The new government must then ‘convert opposition demands into acts of state,’ and build a deeper and broader hegemony by ‘combining the ideas of mobilized society with material resources provided by or via the state.’ The turning point (‘point of bifurcation’), for Garcia Linera, comes through a ‘series of confrontations’ between the blocs that are resolved in unexpected ways, with either the consolidation of the new situation or the reconstitution of the old. We are at or near the point of bifurcation. What will come next cannot be predicted.”—VJ Prashad, The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South
“Some say of my writing that it is too overburdened with metaphor and simile: that nothing is ever what it is but is always like something else. This is true, but why is this so? Whatever I perceive or imagine amazes me by its particularity. The qualities it has in common with other things – leaves, a trunk, branches, if it is a tree: limbs, eyes, hair, if it is a person – appear to me to be superficial. I am deeply struck by the uniqueness of each event. From this arises my difficulty as a writer – perhaps the magnificent impossibility of my being a writer. How am I to convey such uniqueness? The obvious way is to establish uniqueness through development. To persuade you, for example, of the uniqueness of Leonie’s experence by telling you the story of what happened when Eduard discovered that Leonie had been unfaithful to him. In this way the uniqueness of an event can be explained by its causes and effects. But I have little sense of unfolding time. The relations which I perceive between things – and these often include casual and historical relations – tend to form in my mind a complex synchronic pattern. I see fields where others see chapters. And so I am forced to use another method to try to place and define events. A method which searches for co-ordinates extensively in space, rather than consequentially in time. I write in the spirit of a geometrician. One of the ways in which I establish co-ordinates extensively is by likening aspect with aspect, by way of metaphor. I do not wish to become a prisoner of the nominal, believing that things are what I name them.”—John Berger, G.
“When we’d been living together for a year she left me for a German, by the name of Kurt something or other. She told me she was in love and then she cried, because she felt sorry for me or just because she was happy, I don’t know. Come on, that’s enough, mala mujer, I said to her. She started laughing like she always did when I spoke my language. I started laughing too. We shared a bottle of vodka and said good-bye.”—Roberto Bolaño, “Snow,” The Return
“Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go. Three years ago I was giving a workshop in the Rockies. A student came in bearing a quote from what she said was the pre-Socratic philosopher Meno. It read, ‘How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?’ … The question she carried struck me the basic tactical question in life. The things we want are transformative, and we don’t know or only think we know what is on the other side of that transformation. Love, wisdom, grace, inspiration – how do you go about finding these things that are in some ways about extending the boundaries of the self into unknown territory, about becoming someone else?”—Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
“The vastly different sentences afforded drunk drivers and drug offenders tells us who is viewed as disposable - someone to be purged from the body politic - and who is not. Drunk drivers are predominantly white and male. White men comprised 78 percent of the arrests for this offense in 1990 when the new mandatory minimum sentences were adopted. They are generally charged with misdemeanors and typically receive sentences involving fines, license suspension, and community service. Although drunk driving contains a far greater risk of violent death than the use or sale of illegal drugs, the societal response to drunk drivers has generally emphasized keeping the person functional and in society, while attempting to respond to the dangerous behavior through treatment and counseling. People charged with drug offenses, though, are typically poor people of color. They are routinely charged with felonies and sent to prison”—Michelle Alexander, “On the Irrational Race Bias of the Criminal Justice and Prison Systems, Truthout.
“The thought of having to try to get excited about yet another minor quadrennial shift in the direction of one or the other pole of alienating corporate full-of-shitness is enough to make anyone want to smash his own hand flat with a hammer.”—Matt Taibbi, “How I learned to stop worrying and love the OWS protests,” Rolling Stone
“That you do not have to like a person in order to learn from him/her. That loneliness is not a function of solitude. That logical validity is not a guarantee of truth. That evil people never believe they are evil, but rather that everyone else is evil. That it is possible to learn valuable things from a stupid person. That it takes effort to pay attention to any one stimulus for more than a few seconds.
That boring activities become, perversely, much less boring if you concentrate intently on them. That if enough people in a silent room are drinking coffee it is possible to make out the sound of steam coming off the coffee. That sometimes human beings have to just sit in one place and, like, hurt. That you will become way less concerned with what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do. That there is such a thing as raw, unalloyed, agendaless kindness. That it is possible to fall asleep during an anxiety attack.
That concentrating intently on anything is very hard work.
That addiction is either a disease or a mental illness or a spiritual condition (as in ‘poor in spirit’) or an O.C.D.-like disorder or an affective or character disorder, and that over 75% of the veteran Boston AAs who want to convince you that it is a disease will make you sit down and watch them write DISEASE on a piece of paper and then divide and hyphenate the word so that it becomes DIS–EASE, then will stare at you as if expecting you to undergo some kind of blinding epiphanic realization, when really, changing DISEASE to DIS–EASE reduces a definition and explanation down to a simple description of a feeling, and rather a whiny insipid one at that.
That most Substance-addicted people are also addicted to thinking, meaning they have a compulsive and unhealthy relationship with their own thinking. That it is simply more pleasant to be happy than to be pissed off. That 99% of compulsive thinkers’ thinking is about themselves; that 99% of this self-directed thinking consists of imagining and then getting ready for things that are going to happen to them; and then, weirdly, that 100% of the things they spend 99% of their time and energy imagining and trying to prepare for all the contingencies and consequences of are never good. In short that 99% of the head’s thinking actively consists of trying to scare the everliving shit out of itself.
That the people to be most frightened of are the people who are the most frightened. That it takes great personal courage to let yourself appear weak. That no single, individual moment is in and of itself unendurable.
That the cliché ‘I don’t know who I am’ unfortunately turns out to be more than a cliché. That other people can often see things about you that you yourself cannot see, even if those people are stupid. That trying to dance sober is a whole different kettle of fish.
That cockroaches can, up to a certain point, be lived with.
That ‘acceptance’ is usually more a matter of fatigue than anything else.
That, perversely, it is often more fun to want something than to have it.
That if you do something nice for somebody in secret, anonymously, without letting the person you did it for know what it was you did or in any way or form trying to get credit for it, it’s almost its own form of intoxicating buzz.
That anonymous generosity, too, can be abused.
That having sex with someone you do not care for feels lonelier than not having sex in the first place, afterward.
That it is permissible to want.
That everybody is identical in their secret unspoken belief that way deep down they are different from everybody else. That this isn’t necessarily perverse.”—Partial list of the “many exotic new facts you will acquire” if “by virtue of charity or the circumstance of desperation, you ever chance to spend a little time around a Substance-recovery halfway facility,” David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest (p. 200-205)
“Humans appear to be designed to be paranoid; they are designed to see intentional agents behind natural phenomena. This is because making the mistake of thinking that a natural event has an intentional agent behind it is less potentially costly than being oblivious and thinking that an intentional event, like someone trying to kill you, has a coincidental cause. The paranoid outlive the oblivious. Belief in God may be a consequence of this tendency.”—Satoshi Kanazawa, “The disadvantage of smarts.”
“Intelligent people do well in almost every sphere of modern life, except for the most important things, like how to find a mate, how to raise a child, how to make friends. Intelligence does not confer any advantage for solving all the evolutionarily familiar problems that our ancestors encountered.”—Satoshi Kanazawa, “The disadvantage of smarts”
“The main determinants of childrens’ performance continues to be the socioeconomic conditions of their parents. Those unwilling to take the steps necessary to address the latter (e.g. promote full employment) are the ones who do not care about our children.”—Economist Dean Baker (via theamericanbear)
“Although I had felt my debt like a weight as soon as I took it on, it wasn’t until that interview that I saw it for what it was: a gap between me and the life I’d prepared for. I began to realize that debt would drive me harder than ambition, and in a different direction.”—Alexandra Kimball, “How to Succeed in Journalism when You Can’t Afford an Internship”
“All progress in capitalistic agriculture is a progress in the art, not only of robbing the labourer, but of robbing the soil; all progress in increasing the fertility of the soil for a given time, is a progress towards ruining the lasting sources of that fertility.”—Karl Marx, Capital
“there is a hidden order, mimicked by, or revealed by, art, which makes sense of our brief lives. Or perhaps there is not any order, except at the molecular level. Perhaps there is only kindness and tears.”—A.S. Byatt, reviewing David Mitchell’s novel Cloud Atlas
“White supremacy … actually necessitates and relies on a discourse that suggests that hate crimes are random. Otherwise, whites might just have to start racially profiling all other young and middle-aged white men at airports or who are walking while white. Whites might have to analyze what young white children are being taught about in schools and in their homes about privilege and entitlement. Whites might have to own up to and seek to repair the legacy of racialized empire, imperialism, and settler-colonialism that has devastated and continues to destroy the lives and lands of millions of people across the globe. Whites might actually have to start distancing themselves from white supremacy.”—Harsha Walia, “Hate Crimes Always Have a Logic”
“when Awlaki’s father sued in advance to try to prevent the U.S. Government from killing his American son without due process, the Obama DOJ told a federal court that Obama’s assassination program was too secret even to permit judicial adjudiciation of its legality.”—Glenn Greenwald, “Obama the Pioneer,”Salon.com
“Melancholic depression can be understood in relation to the circulation of sense. Faced with the abyss of nonsense, friends talk to friends, and together they build a bridge across the abyss. Depression questions the reliability of this bridge. Depression doesn’t see the bridge. It’s not on its radar. Or maybe it sees that the bridge does not exist. Depression doesn’t trust friendship, or doesn’t recognize it. This is why it cannot perceive sense, because there is no sense that isn’t made in shared spaces.”—Franco Berardi, After the Future
“Why are the cognitariat weak and disunited and unable to assert their rights as laborers, their knowledge as researchers? Because they live in a bifurcated form, because their brain is detached from their body, because their communication communicates less and less, while more and more freezing sensitivity to life. The new space of activism is here, in the connection of poetry, therapy, and the creation of new paradigms.”—Franco Berardi, After the Future
“Politics and therapy will be one and the same activity in the coming years. People will feel hopeless and depressed and panicky, because they are unable to deal with the post-growth economy, and because they will miss their dissolving modern identity. Our cultural task will be attending to those people and taking care of their insanity, showing them the way of a happy adaptation at hand. Our task will be the creation of social zones of human resistance that act like zones of therapeutic contagion.”—Franco “Bifo” Berardi, After the Future
“Common sense suggests that if you want to maximize scientific creativity, you find some bright people, give them the resources they need to pursue whatever idea comes into their heads, and then leave them alone. Most will turn up nothing, but one or two may well discover something. But if you want to minimize the possibility of unexpected breakthroughs, tell those same people they will receive no resources at all unless they spend the bulk of their time competing against each other to convince you they know in advance what they are going to discover.”—David Graeber, “Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit”
As marketing overwhelms university life, it generates documents about fostering imagination and creativity that might just as well have been designed to strangle imagination and creativity in the cradle. No major new works of social theory have emerged in the United States in the last thirty years. We have been reduced to the equivalent of medieval scholastics, writing endless annotations of French theory from the seventies, despite the guilty awareness that if new incarnations of Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, or Pierre Bourdieu were to appear in the academy today, we would deny them tenure.
There was a time when academia was society’s refuge for the eccentric, brilliant, and impractical. No longer. It is now the domain of professional self-marketers. As a result, in one of the most bizarre fits of social self-destructiveness in history, we seem to have decided we have no place for our eccentric, brilliant, and impractical citizens. Most languish in their mothers’ basements, at best making the occasional, acute intervention on the Internet.
“The transformation of the idea of justice into the industry of human rights has been a conceptual coup in which NGOs and Foundations have played a crucial part. The narrow focus of human rights enables an atrocity-based analysis in which the larger picture can be blocked out and both parties in a conflict—say for example the Maoists and the Indian Government, or the Israeli Army and Hamas, can both be admonished as Human Rights Violaters. The land-grab by mining corporations or the history of the annexation of Palestinian land by the State of Israel, then become footnotes with very little bearing on the discourse. This is not to suggest that human rights don’t matter. They do, but they are not a good enough prism through which to view or remotely understand the great injustices in the world we live in.”—Arundhati Roy, “Capitalism: A Ghost Story”
The poor of the subcontinent have always lived in debt, in the merciless grip of the local village usurer—the Baniya. But microfinance has corporatized that too. Microfinance companies in India are responsible for hundreds of suicides—200 people in Andhra Pradesh in 2010 alone. A national daily recently published a suicide note by an 18 year-old girl who was forced to hand over her last Rs150, her school fees, to bullying employees of the microfinance company. The note said, ‘Work hard and earn money. Do not take loans.’
There’s a lot of money in poverty, and a few Nobel Prizes too.