To Live By
To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funnybone.
When we’re aspiring, inarticulateness isn’t a sign of unreasonableness or incapacity. In fact, the opposite may be true. [...] If we couldn’t aspire to changes that we struggle to describe, we’d be trapped within the ideas that we already have. Our inability to explain our reasons is a measure of how far we wish to travel. It’s only after an aspirant has reached her destination, Callard writes, that “she will say, ‘This was why.’”
A small part of me still believes that to be the person in the room with the most feelings is to be the best person. I know it’s not wise or fashionable to say so, but it is one way of having maximum life.
He had become so caught up in building sentences that he had almost forgotten the barbaric days when thinking was like a splash of colour landing on the page.
Edward St. Aubyn
Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan
Had my credentials been in order I would never have become a writer. Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write. I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. Why did the oil refineries around Carquinez Straits seem sinister to me in the summer of 1956? Why have the night lights in the bevatron burned in my mind for twenty years? What is going on in these pictures in my mind?
Yes, my consuming desire to mingle with road crews, sailors and soldiers, bar room regulars—to be a part of a scene, anonymous, listening, recording—all is spoiled by the fact that I am a girl, a female always in danger of assault and battery. My consuming interest in men and their lives is often misconstrued as a desire to seduce them, or as an invitation to intimacy. Yet, God, I want to talk to everybody I can as deeply as I can. I want to be able to sleep in an open field, to travel west, to walk freely at night.
Your memory and your imagination must essentially be the same function [...] because when you remember something, obviously some cell in your mind is firing off information and you're having a memory and it's really not all that different from imagining something [...] And I think it's all kind of the same thing.
It could be just a figure of speech, but it is also a hyperbolic way of acknowledging the momentarily disruptive impact of art on the equilibrium of everyday consciousness. To say that something changed your life is also to say that it exceeded your available categories of experience. You are in a zone beyond the charm of the beautiful or even the terror of the sublime, in a territory that cannot be marked by the usual signs of I liked it or Hey, that was nice.
I always believed that it was the things you don’t choose that makes you who you are. Your city, your neighbourhood, your family. People here take pride in these things, like it was something they’d accomplished. The bodies around their souls; the cities wrapped around those.
Gone Baby Gone
I prefer to think of myself as being inside a tangled knot; tangled knots fascinate me. It’s necessary to recount the tangle of existence, both as it concerns individual lives and the life of generations.
All wars are fought twice, the first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory.
Viet Thanh Nguyen
At the end of hours of train-dreaming, we may feel we have been returned to ourselves—that is, brought back into contact with emotions and ideas of importance to us. It is not necessarily at home that we best encounter our true selves. The furniture insists that we cannot change because it does not; the domestic setting keeps us tethered to the person we are in ordinary life, but who may not be who we essentially are.
Alain de Botton
Then think of Florence, Paris, London, New York. Nobody visiting them for the first time is a stranger because he’s already visited them in paintings, novels, history books and films. But if a city hasn’t been used by an artist not even the inhabitants live there imaginatively.
Attention without feeling, I began to learn, is only a report. An openness—an empathy—was necessary if the attention was to matter.
“The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right.” We all need to think it possible that we may be mistaken; we all need to be not too sure that we are right.
My fundamental position is that women are human beings, with the full range of saintly and demonic behaviours this entails, including criminal ones.
It depends what you’re trying to do with your life. I could have a stronger portfolio by showing one thing, but I didn’t want to set myself up for that so I intentionally figured out a way to have flexibility. If the goal is just success, then maybe it’s consistency. If the goal is an interesting life, it’s flexibility.
Cheesy is one of the words banned in my world. I’m tired of sincerity being something we have to be afraid of doing. It’s been like that for 20 years, that the entertainment and art world has shied away from sincerity, real sincerity, because they feel they have to wink at the audience because that’s what the kids like. We have to do the real stories now. The world is in crisis.
You have to poke at a thing, sometimes, and find out where it squeaks. Any seemingly dull thing is made up of subsidiary things. It’s a composite—of smaller events or decisions. Or of atoms and molecules and prejudices and hunches that are fireflying around in unexpected and impossible trajectories. Everything is interesting because everything is not what it is, but is something on the way to being something else. Everything has a history and a secret stash of fascination.
Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry.
William Butler Yeats