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Favorite passages, quotes, poems

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"Experience is not what happens to you; it's what you do with what happens to you." Aldous Huxley  

“Ah,” Said Mr Pin. “Right. I remember. You are concerned citizens.” He knew about concerned citizens. Wherever they were, they all spoke the same private language, where ‘traditional values’ meant ‘hang someone’.


-— Terry Pratchett - The Truth

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To fling my arms wide

In some place of the sun,

To whirl and to dance

Till the white day is done.

Then rest at cool evening

Beneath a tall tree

While night comes on gently,

Dark like me—

That is my dream!


To fling my arms wide

In the face of the sun,

Dance! Whirl! Whirl!

Till the quick day is done.

Rest at pale evening . . .

A tall, slim tree . . .

Night coming tenderly

Black like me.


-Langston Hughes

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Another day, which is usually how they come:

A cat at the foot of the bed, noncommittal

In its blankness of mind, with the morning light

Slowly filling the room, and fragmentary

Memories of last night’s video and phone calls.

It is a feeling of sufficiency, one menaced

By the fear of some vague lack, of a simplicity

Of self, a self without a soul, the nagging fear

Of being someone to whom nothing ever happens.

Thus the fantasy of the narrative behind the story,

Of the half-concealed life that lies beneath

The ordinary one, made up of ordinary mornings

More alike in how they feel than what they say.

They seem like luxuries of consciousness,

Like second thoughts that complicate the time

One simply wastes. And why not? Mere being

Is supposed to be enough, without the intricate

Evasions of a mystery or offstage tragedy.

Evenings follow on the afternoons, lingering in

The living room and listening to the stereo

While Peggy Lee sings “Is That All There Is?”

Amid the morning papers and the usual

Ghosts keeping you company, but just for a while.

The true soul is the one that flickers in the eyes

Of an animal, like a cat that lifts its head and yawns

And looks at you, and then goes back to sleep.


-John Koethe, Chester

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Let us go now into the forest.

Trees will pass by your face,

and I will stop and offer you to them,

but they cannot bend down.

The night watches over its creatures,

except for the pine trees that never change:

the old wounded springs that spring

blessed gum, eternal afternoons.

If they could, the trees would lift you

and carry you from valley to valley,

and you would pass from arm to arm,

a child running

from father to father.


-Gabriela Mistral

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Drink deep, drink deep of quietness,

And on the margins of the sea

Remember not thine old distress

Nor all the miseries to be.

Calmer than mists, and cold

As they, that fold on fold

Up the dim valley are rolled,

Learn thou to be.


-Robinson Jeffers

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Strange how I remember standing on a limb

that curved out over open space that fell

away down slopes I’d never climb back out of

had I fallen. And once, when I was six,

I almost left my mother’s car—outside a bar—

because I knew the nearby bottomlands

would reach the river, and I could disappear

from her and find another family—just

show up at some stranger’s door, be taken

in, and live a different life. That’s how

I thought back then—a determined little cuss,

I’m told, who hid my fossils in the snaky

roots of trees and sometimes climbed up

high inside a thick magnolia, where I

refused to answer when my name was

called. I think about the times I might have

died, my infant brother sliding from the seat

to slam against the floorboard, the car

stuck sideways down a ditch embankment,

the icy nights near swollen creeks and rivers,

the woods a child could lose his life in

trying to escape. I guess that’s why I

listen toward the farthest trees as if a prayer

were stirring only I can hear. Perhaps its

single word is mend, a word that all my

other words have felt a kinship with.

Evenings when I sit out back, I think my

thoughts have always been inclining toward

a self whose soul has found a place to be

alone, away from others I don’t trust,

content to watch the falling leaves. Dull

image—perhaps cliché—but I’ll take it

nonetheless. The truth is: here we are

inside these lives we sometimes do not

recognize, these lives we don’t deserve.

So many selves we almost came to be

never came to be. So many words too true

to whisper to ourselves we go on listening

toward. So many bridges never crossed,

others stepped back from. So much I’ll

never understand about the reasons

I survived when others didn’t. Years

ago I found a book, like a gift, fallen

between two shelves. Inside, someone

had penciled, Language isn’t sad but

meaning is. I’ve held those words as

close as any I have known, having felt

a pull toward nothingness, toward lack

of anyone or anything that might repair

my ruined thoughts, and just as often

I have stood in shallow creeks, waiting

on my world to end, assured I have no

place, no name, no face, no words to say

the source of what I’m always reaching

toward. I have followed driftwood,

imagined my own dead self assigned

to stir above the silt. I’ve watched

the motions course along through shadows,

soon to reach a bend and carry on unseen.

Still, I have a faith that what is next is what

the story most requires so that the shape

of time allotted, ordained to be, can then

reveal itself. Bend, mend—the echo isn’t

lost on me—and giving in to where I’m

being taken has been the way I’ve come

to know my life, to speak its mysteries.

My guess is such an explanation overlooks

as much as it imagines. I’m sure I’ve

simplified the coarser parts, smoothed

them over as a stream refines a stone

through centuries. I’ve left out what is

obvious to anyone who knows or cares

to know the fullness of my life. Even so,

once I hid beneath a car, half an hour,

refusing to be left somewhere I didn’t

want to be—knowing days would pass,

my mother drunk. I was caged and fierce

despite the gravel shards that scraped

my arms and face when finally she caught

my leg and jerked my body out. So many

times another story line became the thing

that almost did me in. My papaw

snatched me from a pigpen where I

tumbled in one morning while he milked

the cows. So many times I’ve wondered

what the reasons are for why my life

was spared. Curses were all around me—

guns, dynamite, darkening fields, coyotes,

waterfalls, snake dens, hard-driven men.

I stood on snowy hillsides and almost

turned to follow logging roads wherever

they might lead. I guess I’m saying that

I came to where I am by way of almost

going somewhere else. I hope you’ll see

how I have tried to find a word to hold

between our broken souls, a word no voice

has ever found that sounds like wind that

bends and mends the sage grass in its wake,

perhaps the Holy Spirit’s whispering

revealing countless mercies granted all

the times I didn’t see its presence leading

me to where I am, to who I am, this self

I never thought I’d be, who found a language

meaning can rejoice in—a kingdom I’m still


the only home I call my own.


-Jeff Hardin

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Girls blush, sometimes, because they are alive, half wishing they were dead to save the shame. The sudden blush devours them, neck and brow; They have drawn too near the fire of life, like gnats, and flare up bodily, wings and all. What then? Who's sorry for a gnat? Or a girl?


-Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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“The city was asleep on its right side and shaking with violent nightmares. Long puffs of snoring came out of the chimneys.

Its feet were sticking out because the clouds did not cover it altogether. There was a hole in them and the white feathers

were falling out. The city had untied all its bridges like so many buttons to feel at ease. Wherever there was a lamplight the city scratched itself until it went out.”


-Anais Nin, Under a Glass Bell

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“She walked quickly through the darkness with the frank stride of someone who was at least certain that the forest, on this damp and windy night, contained strange and terrible things and she was it.”


-Terry Pratchett, Wyrd Sisters

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“As soon as one is engaged in a productive process, however circumscribed, total pessimism becomes improbable. This has nothing to do with the dignity of labour or any other such crap; it has to do with the nature of physical and psychic human energy. Expenditure of this energy creates a need for food, sleep and brief moments of respite. This need is so acute that, when it is satisfied or partly satisfied, the satisfaction, however fleeting, produces a hope for the next break. It is thus that the fatigued survive; fatigue plus total pessimism condemns to extinction.


Something similar happens at the level of imagination. The act of participating in the production of the world, even if the particular act in itself seems absurd, creates the imaginative perspective of a potential, more desired production. When in the old (halcyon?) days, a worker on an assembly line, tied to meaningless repetition, dreamt of a colour television or a new fishing-rod, it was wrong to explain this only in terms of consumerism or misplaced hopes. Inexorably, work, because it is productive, produces in man a productive hope. Hence one of the reasons why unemployment is so inhuman.”


— John Berger, “Leopardi” (1983)

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You’re hungry enough to eat a horse. A word from a friend ties your stomach in knots. Embarrassment shrinks you, amazement strikes you dead. Wasn’t the miracle enough? Why do humans need to say everything in speech’s stockhouse except what they mean?


-Richard Powers, Galatea 2.2

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For the cynic, there is no such thing as real enjoyment, no object that has more value than any other.

The cynic…avoids the anxiety that emerges from its encounter with the enjoying other. To the extent that it works as it hopes to work, cynicism produces a world free of anxiety because it produces a world bereft of enjoyment.

While they disbelieve in the possibility of enjoyment or authentic commitment, they do believe in belief.

they believe that there are others who really believe. Despite the cynical knowledge that this belief is false, the cynical subject does believe in the enjoyment that comes from belief, and as a result, cynicism doesn’t offer the respite from anxiety that it initially promises.


--Todd McGowan

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“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.


"That's some catch, that Catch-22," he observed.


"It's the best there is," Doc Daneeka agreed.”


― Joseph Heller, Catch-22

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I went to the summit and stood in the high nakedness:

the wind tore about this

way and that in confusion and its speech could not

get through to me nor could I address it:

still I said as if to the alien in myself

I do not speak to the wind now:

for having been brought this far by nature I have been

brought out of nature

and nothing here shows me the image of myself:

for the word tree I have been shown a tree

and for the word rock I have been shown a rock

for stream, for cloud, for star

this place has provided firm implication and answering

but where here is the image for longing:

so I touched the rocks, their interesting crusts:

I flaked the bark of stunt-fir:

I looked into space and into the sun

and nothing answered my word longing:

goodbye, I said, goodbye, nature so grand and

reticent, your tongues are healed up into their own element

and as you have shut up you have shut me out: I am

as foreign here as If I had landed, a visitor:

so I went back down and gathered mud

and with my hands made an image for longing:

I took the image to the summit: first

I set it here, on the top rock, but it completed

nothing; then I set it there among the tiny firs

but It would not fit:



so I returned to the city and built a house to set

the image in

and men came into my house and said

that is an image for longing

and nothing will ever be the same again


A. R. Ammons

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They said to me no, don't take any, no, don't touch, that is burning

hot. No, don't try to touch, to hold, that weighs too much, that



They said to me: Read, write. And I tried, I took up a word, but it

struggled, it clucked like a frightened hen, wounded, in a cage of

black straw, spotted with old traces of   blood.



Yves Bonnefoy

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the Real for Lacan is almost the opposite of reality, reality being for Lacan just a low-grade place of fantasy in which we shelter from the terrors of the Real, a Soho of the psyche. The natural state of the human animal is to live a phantasmal lie. Fantasy is not the opposite of reality: it is what plugs the void in our being so that the set of fictions we call reality are able to emerge. The Real is rather the primordial wound we incurred by our fall from the pre-Oedipal Eden, the gash in our being where we were torn loose from Nature, and from which desire flows unstaunchably. Though we repress this trauma, it persists within us as the hard core of the self. Something is missing inside us which makes us what we are, a muteness which resists being signified but which shows up negatively as the outer limit of our discourse, the point at which our representations crumble and fail.



Eagleton T. - Enjoy! LRB - Vol. 19 No. 23 · 27 November 1997

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What if we shift the question from ‘who do I want to be?’ to the question, ‘what kind of life do I want to live with others?’? It seems to me that then many of the questions you pose about happiness, but perhaps also about ‘the good life’ – very ancient yet urgent philosophical questions – take shape in a new way. If the I who wants this name or seeks to live a certain kind of life is bound up with a ‘you’ and a ‘they’ then we are already involved in a social struggle when we ask how best any of us are to live.


— Judith Butler interviewed by Sara Ahmed

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in this last period, Lacan taught that wherever thought fades or becomes feeble, wherever consciousness thinks itself at its own limits, one encounters unconscious desire hiding in the void, behind representations.


-Ellie Ragland, The Paternal Metaphor

Edited by RainyCoast
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At the end of Faust, Goethe was already asserting that “the eternal feminine takes us Above”. I’m sorry, but i find such statements rather obscene. Love doesn’t take me “above” or indeed “below”.

It is an existential project: to construct a world from a decentered point of view other than that of my mere impulse to survive or re-affirm my own identity.


A. Badiou, In Praise of Love

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