Some of my favorite texts, in no particular order, and some quotations from therewithin.
- The Myth of Sisyphus
- The Sound and the Fury
- As I Lay Dying
- The Heart of Darkness
- The Unbearable Lightness of Being
- Brave New World
- The Sense of an Ending
- Leaves of Grass
- The Stranger
- The Symposium
- The Apology of Socrates
- Flash Boys
- A Tale of Two Cities
- The Smartest Kids in the World
- The Awakening
- The Artist of the Beautiful
- Don Quijote
- Consider the Lobster
- To The Lighthouse
- The Art of Loving
- Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion
- The Invisible Man
- The Sound and the Fury
- My Name is Asher Lev
The mind’s deepest desire even in its most elaborate operations, parallels man’s unconscious feeling in the face of his universe: it is an insistence upon familiarity, an appetite for clarity…That nostalgia for unity, that appetite for the absolute, illustrates the essential impulse of the human drama.
It isn’t only art that is incompatible with happiness, it’s also science. Science is dangerous, we have to keep it most carefully chained and muzzled.
Since I had peeped over the edge myself [and had had nothing to say], I understand better the meaning of [Kurtz’s] stare, that could not see the flame of the candle, but was wide enough to embrace the whole universe, piercing enough to penetrate all the hearts that beat in the darkness. He had summed up—he had judged. ‘The horror!’ He was a remarkable man. After all, this was the expression of some sort of belief; it had candour, it had conviction, it had a vibrating note of revolt in its whisper, it had the appalling face of a glimpsed truth—the strange commingling of desire and hate.
In particular those who are condemned to stagnation are often pronounced happy on the pretext that happiness consists in being at rest. This notion we reject, for our perspective is that of existentialist ethics. Every subject plays his part as such specifically through exploits or projects that serve as a mode of transcendence; he achieves liberty only through a continual reaching out towards other liberties. There is no justification for present existence other than its expansion into an indefinitely open future.
The lovers were just entering the grounds of the pension. They were leaning toward each other as the water oaks bent from the sea. There was not a particle of earth beneath their feet. Their heads might have been turned upside down, so absolutely did they tread upon blue ether.
I am wiser than this human being. For probably neither of us knows anything noble and good, but he supposes he knows something when he does not know, while I, just as I do not know, do not even suppose that I do. I am likely to be a little bit wiser than he in this very thing: that whatever I do not know, I do not even suppose I know.
I resist anything better than my own diversity, and Breathe the air and leave plenty after me, and am not stuck up, and am in my place.
Everything is down to chance, the world exists in a state of perpetual chaos, and only some primitive storytelling instinct... retrospectively [imposes] meaning on what might or might not have happened.
I think it is undying virtue and glorious fame of this sort that motivates everyone in all they do, and the better they are, the more true this is; it’s immortality they are in love with.
What is the meaning of life? That was all- a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years, the great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead, there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one.
I can imagine that the oceanic feeling became connected with religion later on. The ‘oneness with the universe’ which constitutes its ideational content sounds like a first attempt at a religious consolation, as though it were another way of disclaiming the danger which the ego recognizes as threatening it from the eternal world.
November 3, 2019:
By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features of the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in him, which is not yet actualized but yet ought to be actualized.
Take for instance a man driven to incessant work by a sense of deep insecurity and loneliness; or another one driven by ambition, or greed for money. In all these cases, the person is the slave of a passion, and his activity is in reality a 'passivity' because he is driven; he is the sufferer, not the 'actor'. On the other hand, a man sitting quietly and contemplating, with no purpose or aim expect that of experiencing himself and his oneness with the world, is considered to be 'passive', because he is not 'doing' anything. In reality, this attitude of concentrated meditation is the highest activity there is, an activity of the soul, which is possible only under the condition of inner freedom and independence.
December 9, 2019:
To have faith requires courage, the ability to take a risk, the readiness even to accept pain and disappointment. Whoever insists on safety and security as primary conditions of life cannot have faith; whoever shuts himself off in a system of defense, where distance and possession are his means of security, makes himself a prisoner. To be loved, and to love, need courage, the courage to judge certain values as of ultimate concern – and to take the jump and to stake everything on these values.
January 5, 2020:
One must find the source within one's own Self, one must possess it. Everything else was seeking—a detour, an error
February 16, 2020:
Today’s best-known heroines are often also writers—giving them a built-in reason to be hyperconscious of the story lines at play in their lives.
Sometimes I could put myself to sleep saying that over and over until after the honeysuckle got all mixed up in it the whole thing came to symbolize the night and unrest I seemed to be lying neither asleep nor awake looking down a long corridor of gray halflight where all stable things had become shadowy paradoxical all I had done shadows all I had felt suffered taking visible form antic and perverse mocking without relevance inherent themselves with the denial of the significance they should have affirmed thinking I was I was not who was not was not who (113).
I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire...I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all of your breath trying to conquer it. Because no battle is ever won he said. They are not even fought. The field only reveals to man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools (50).
Some days in late August at home are like this, the air thin and eager like this, with something in it sad and nostalgic and familiar. Man the sum of his climatic experiences Father said. Man the sum of what have you. A problem in impure properties carried tediously to an unvarying nil: stalemate of dust and desire, but now I know I’m dead I tell you (82).
Of his niece he did not think at all, nor of the arbitrary valuation of the money. Neither of them had had entity or individuality for him for ten years; together they merely symbolised the job in the bank of which he had been deprived before he ever got it.
[Dell] kept even him from [Mother]. He didn’t answer. He just stood and looked at his dying mother, his heart too full for words (25)
I said You don't know what worry is. I don't know what it is. I don't know whether I am worrying or not. Whether I can or not . I don't know whether I can cry or not. I don't know whether I have tried to or not. I feel like a wet seed wild in the hot blind earth.
July 23, 2020:
And since sleep is is-not and rain and wind are was, it is not. Yet the wagon is, because when the wagon is was, Addie Bundren will not be. And Jewel is, so Addie Bundren must be. And then I must be, or I could not empty myself for sleep in a strange room. And so if I am not emptied yet, I am is. How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.
The truth is the light and the light is the truth.
I was looking for myself and asking everyone except myself questions which I, and only I, could answer.
Power doesn't have to show off. Power is confident, self-assuring, self-starting and self-stopping, self-warming and self-justifying. When you have it, you know it.
I see nothing for the treatment of my misery but the melancholy and very local palliative of articulate art. To quote an old oet: The moral sense in mortals is the duty / We have to pay on mortal sense of beauty.
Sula was distinctly different. Eva’s arrogance and Hannah’s self-indulgence merged in her and, with a twist that was all her own imagination, she lived out her days exploring her own thoughts and emotions, giving them full reign, feeling no obligation to please anybody unless their pleasure pleased her. As willing to feel pain as to give pain, to feel pleasure as to give pleasure, hers was an experimental life – ever since her mother’s remarks sent her flying up those stairs, ever since her one major feeling of responsibility had been exorcised on the bank of a river with a closed place in the middle. The first experience taught her there was no other that you could count on; the second that there was no self to count on either. She had no center, no speck around which to grow. […] She was completely free of ambition, with no affection for money, property or things, no greed, no desire to command attention or compliments – no ego. For that reason she felt no compulsion to verify herself – be consistent with herself
Such evil must be avoided, they felt, and precautions must naturally be taken to protect themselves from it. But they let it run its course, fulfill itself, and never invented ways either to alter it, to annihilate it, or to prevent its happening again. So also were they with people.
Was there anyone else before whom she could never be foolish?... Sula never competed; she simply helped others define themselves
Her strangeness, her naivete, her craving for the other half of her equation was the consequence of an idle imagination. Had she paints, or clay, or knew the discipline of the dance, or strings; had she anything to engage her tremendous curiosity and her gift for metaphor, she might have exchanged the restlessness and preoccupation with whim for an activity that provided her with all she yearned for. And like any artist with no art form, she became dangerous
There was an unearthly quality to the way he sang the melody that night--as if he were winging through unknown worlds in searcho f sources of strength beyond himself. His eyes were open, fixed, but gazing inward. There was a sweetness and sadness, a sense of pain and yearning in his voice--soft, tremulous, climibng and falling and climbing again. And when he was done there was a long silence--and in that silence I thought I heard distant cries, and I was afraid.
We thought we were saving time; instead we revved up the treadmill of life to ten times its former speed and made our days more anxious and agitated.