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Favorite passages, quotes, poems

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Do you know what makes poetry and philosophy seem dead today? It is because they are separated from life. Greece idealized life such that the life of an artist was already a poetic realization. The life of the philosopher, one who puts into action his philosophy such that it becomes mixed with life instead of ignoring it, sees to it that philosophy feeds poetry and poetry expresses philosophy. That was an admirable persuasion. Today beauty does not act anymore. Action only wants to be beautiful, and wisdom operates separately.

— Andre Gide, from The Immoralist

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There is a ticking underneath

everything— by which I mean

not only the dark pulling

at the edges, but also the light

reflecting off the surface.

Sometimes I tell myself

it’s only a crow in the yard,

savaging the last fruit

that clung past summer—

Other times I watch small

dark serifs travel across the sky

and wonder how a body can know

when it’s time to fold itself

into the long, hard distance.

— Luisa A. Igloria, “November”

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...when you’re slipping you tend to keep your eyes trained on your feet to keep from crashing; it’s hard to lift your eyes so that the world can be attended to. Easy to forget, the world is still occurring outside the drama of the self, and the poem of the self is going to be limited unless the world can enter in.


—Lucia Perillo, from “The Glimpse,” in I’ve Heard the Vultures Singing: Field Notes on Poetry, Illness, and Nature

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  • 2 weeks later...

The measuring of time produces anxiety when it serves to assign us to social tasks, but it makes us feel safe when it substantializes time and cuts it into slices like an object of consumption.

— Jean Baudrilard, “The System of Objects”

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If you wander far enough

you will come to it

and when you get there

they will give you a place to sit


for yourself only, in a nice chair

and all your friends will be there

with smiles on their faces

and they will likewise all have places.



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The yellow lab outside the coffee shop

today cannot sit still; but instead


radiates the ever-expectant energy

of a thousand hummingbirds,


tail sweeping back and forth

across the gray, littered sidewalk.


Sits without touching the ground,

knowing that any moment


the one who matters most will emerge,

slip his worn leash from the bench


and the day will suddenly fall into

place: every sound, sight, and aroma


discovered anew, the sun thrown

everywhere at once, with a cool lake


of shadow following, following,

as if it had somewhere to go.



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I was listening to a book on tape while driving

and when the author said, “Those days I delighted in everything,”

I pulled over and found a pencil and a parking ticket stub

because surely there was a passage of life where I thought

“These days I delight in everything,” right there in the

present, because they almost all feel like that now,

memory having markered only the outline while evaporating

the inner anxieties of earlier times. Did I not disparage

my body for years on end, for instance, although, in contrast

that younger one now strikes me as near-Olympian?

And the crushing preoccupations of that same younger self

might seem magically diluted, as though a dictator

in hindsight, had only been an overboard character —

but not so. Where went the fear, dense as the sudden

dark in the woods, of being alone, or the bruise of 3:30 pm

in a silent apartment, when the disenfranchised live

only with the sunlight through the blinds, just prey

caught betwixt and between, and also heartbreak, and

again, heartbreak. I didn’t have whatever that time of life

then demanded — a book, a wedding band, a baby —

but the present, like the lie of “fair and balanced” news reporting

where creationists are granted air time with the scientists,

the present might have me believe that “in those days

I delighted in everything.” But to be … fair and balanced …

I do trust the strict part of memory, the only archivist

to have savored a passage of time and have preserved it

with the translucent green hinges licked by stamp collectors,

attaching it without hurting it, so I wanted the quote

exactly, and go back to hunt and tag those months where I

delighted in everything — then I couldn’t find the ticket stub.

I rummaged through the recycling but no luck, and I

couldn’t go back to find the passage on tape, and then I realized

I had bought the book for my husband, so I started leafing through it,

not wanting to start too far back, and not wanting

my eyes to fall on a passage in the future, the one where

she realizes that “Those days I delighted in everything,”

but it was never to happen again, just the present, from here on in.



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It is possible that things will not get better

than they are now, or have been known to be.

It is possible that we are past the middle now.

It is possible that we have crossed the great water

without knowing it, and stand now on the other side.

Yes: I think that we have crossed it. Now

we are being given tickets, and they are not

tickets to the show we had been thinking of,

but to a different show, clearly inferior.


Check again: it is our own name on the envelope.

The tickets are to that other show.


It is possible that we will walk out of the darkened hall

without waiting for the last act: people do.

Some people do. But it is probable

that we will stay seated in our narrow seats

all through the tedious denouement

to the unsurprising end—riveted, as it were;

spellbound by our own imperfect lives

because they are lives,

and because they are ours.



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Even the most innocent actions can seem suspicious when they are carried out by someone already labelled as crazy, as David Rosenhan noted in his famous 1973 paper, ‘On being sane in insane places’. Rosenhan sent five healthy volunteers to several psychiatric hospitals in the United States and asked them to pretend to be mad. All were admitted and diagnosed with psychiatric disorders. After admission, the fake patients acted normally and told staff that they felt fine, and had not experienced any more hallucinations. Yet they were detained for an average of almost three weeks before being released. The nursing staff saw all their behaviour through the lens of mental illness. For example, when one volunteer was spotted making notes, nurses described him as engaging in ‘writing behaviour’, which they regarded with deep suspicion.



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“And these are your reasons my lord?”

“Do you think I have others?” Said lord Vetinari. “My motives, as ever, are entirely transparent.”

Hughnon reflected that ‘entirely transparent’ transparent meant either that you could see right through them, or that you couldn’t see them.


— Terry Pratchett - The Truth

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psychic investment in the promise of accumulation…is much more difficult to avoid than any financial investment because it infects even those who believe that they have opted out of the system and live off the grid. The psychic reach of capitalism far outstrips its socioeconomic reach.

— Todd McGowan

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We live in a society whose whole policy is to excite every nerve in the human body and keep it at the highest pitch of artificial tension, to strain every human desire to the limit and to create as many new desires and synthetic passions as possible, in order to cater to them with the products of our factories and printing presses and movie studios and all the rest.

— Thomas Merton

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"I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light."


Helen Keller



"A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow."


William Shakespeare

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Today’s men and women – who are stress-ridden and eager to achieve, to spend money, have fun, and die – dispense with the representation of their experience that we call psychic life… We have neither the time nor the space needed to create a soul for ourselves, and the mere hint of such activity seems frivolous and ill-advised.

— Julia Kristeva, New Maladies of the Soul

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