Thursday, November 03, 2016

we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others

-- Etty Hillesum, from Etty Hillesum: An Interrupted Life the Diaries, 1941-1943 and Letters from Westerbork, p. 218

Quote in context

29 September. You often said, "This is a sin against the spirit, it will be avenged." Every sin against the spirit will be avenged, in man himself and in the world outside. 
Let me just note down one more thing for myself: Matthew 6:34: Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. 
We have to fight them daily, like fleas, those many small worries about the morrow, for they sap our energies. We make mental provision for the days to come, and everything turns out differently, quite differently. Sufficient unto the day. The things that have to be done must be done, and for the rest we must not allow ourselves to become infested with thousands of petty fears and worries, so many motions of no confidence in God. Everything will turn out all right with my residence permit and with my ration book; right now there's no point in brooding about it, and I would do much better to write a Russian essay. Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others. And the more there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world


Sunday, October 23, 2016

It is nice to know that the computer understands the problem. But I would like to understand it too.

--- Eugene Wigner, quoted in Physics Today, July 1993 according to quote-wise.com

Found via a letter to New Scientist from Richard Cragg (13 Aug 2016, issue #3086):
Thank you for Regina Peldszus's review of Samuel Arbesman's book warning that we have reached the stage where very few “experts” really understand the complexity of the software systems they have installed to control critical parts of our infrastructure (23 July, p 42). This reminds me of the lament of Nobel laureate Eugene Wigner: “It is nice to know that the computer understands the problem. But I would like to understand it too.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

opinions embedded in math

--- Cathy O'Neil, author of Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy, in an interview with IEEE Spectrum, October 2016

Quote in context

One of the things that makes big data so attractive is the assumption that it’s eliminating human subjectivity and bias. After all, you’re basing everything on hard numbers from the real world, right? Wrong. Predictive models and algorithms, says O’Neil, are really just “opinions embedded in math.” Algorithms are written by human beings with an agenda. The very act of defining what a successful algorithm looks like is a value judgement; and what counts as success for the builders of the algorithm (frequently profit, savings, or efficiency) is not always good for society at large.

Monday, October 03, 2016

I suspect that whatever cannot be said clearly is probably not being thought clearly either

--- Peter Singer in "Ethics in the Real World: 82 Brief Essays on Things That Matter" (2016), quoted in The Economist review 17 September 2016

In the context of the review:

Mr Singer’s latest book, “Ethics in the Real World”, is a collection of 82 essays, each rarely more than three or four pages long. As such, it is an accessible introduction to the work of a philosopher who would not regard being described as “accessible” as an insult. As Mr Singer notes drily in the introduction, “I suspect that whatever cannot be said clearly is probably not being thought clearly either.”

Monday, September 26, 2016

not just San Francisco, but the entirety of Earth, is becoming uninhabitable to anyone who doesn’t make their living writing code all goddamned day

--- comedian/writer Megan Koester, quoted in The boho-drain: bohemians say goodbye San Francisco, hello LA, The Guardian, 26 September 2016

In context

A tip for newcomers: don’t marvel at cheap LA rents, because they’re not. Rents have soared in recent years. They still lag San Francisco but average incomes lag even more, so on that basis LA is actually less affordable.
 “Whenever anyone, from anywhere, moves into my city with a Camry and a dream, I can feel my cost of living increase,” Megan Koester, a comedian and writer, said via email. Even unglamorous San Fernando Valley has become pricey. “I tried to find an apartment there ... and everything was out of my range. Do you know how humbling it is to be priced out of the fucking Valley?”
San Francisco-esque cafes and restaurants were mushrooming, lamented Koester. “The kinds of places where pour over coffee is $7 and every table has a succulent on it. I don’t know if this can be blamed on the transplants, or on the fact that not just San Francisco, but the entirety of Earth, is becoming uninhabitable to anyone who doesn’t make their living writing code all goddamned day.”

Reforms by advances, that is, by new methods or gadgets, are of course impressive at first, but in the long run they are dubious and in any case dearly paid for

--- CG Jung, from The Tower, chapter VIII in Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1961,revised edition,  ppbk 1989), recorded and edited by Aniela Jaffé, transl. Richard and Clara Winston

In context:

… We refuse to recognize that everything better is purchased at the price of something worse; that, for example, the hope of greater freedom is canceled out by increased enslavement to the state, not to speak of the terrible perils to which the most brilliant discoveries of science expose us. The less we understand of what our fathers and forefathers sought, the less we understand ourselves, and thus we help with all our might to rob the individual of his roots and his guiding instincts, so that he becomes a particle in the mass, ruled only by what Nietzsche called the spirit of gravity. 
Reforms by advances, that is, by new methods or gadgets, are of course impressive at first, but in the long run they are dubious and in any case dearly paid for. They by no means increase the contentment or happiness of people on the whole. Mostly, they are deceptive sweetenings of existence, like speedier communications which unpleasantly accelerate the tempo of life and leave us with less time than ever before. Omnis festinatio ex parte diaboli est—all haste is of the devil, as the old masters used to say.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The goal of personal growth should be to gain that deathbed clarity while your life is still happening so you can actually do something about it.

--- Tim Urban, in Religion for the Nonreligious, Wait But Why 2014

In context:

Nothing clears fog like a deathbed, which is why it’s then that people can always see with more clarity what they should have done differently—I wish I had spent less time working; I wish I had communicated with my wife more; I wish I had traveled more; etc. The goal of personal growth should be to gain that deathbed clarity while your life is still happening so you can actually do something about it.
An interesting resonance with S.N. Goenka's book, The Art of Dying.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Just as a pot filled with water if overturned by anyone, pours out all its water … when you see those in need … then give like the overturned pot

--- The Buddha, Jātaka Nidānakathā 128, 129, quoted in Gemstones of the Good Dhamma, An Anthology of Verses from the Pali Scriptures, compiled and translated by Ven. S. Dhammika, The Wheel Publication No. 342/344

31. Yathapi kumbho sampunno
yassa kassaci adhokato
vamate udakam nissesam
na tattha parirakkhati.

Just as a pot filled with water
if overturned by anyone,
pours out all its water
and does not hold any back.


32. Tath'eva yacke disva
hinamukkatthamajjhime
dadahi danam nissesam
kumbho viya adhokato.

Even so, when you see those in need,
whether low, middle or high,
then give like the overturned pot,
holding nothing back.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

He was a born columnist – keen to tell people what to think, and very good at expressing it in 800 words"

--- George Brock, former managing editor at The Times, about Michael Gove, in "A Leaver's lesson in political justice" by Henry Mance, The Financial Times, 2/3 July 2016

Sunday, August 21, 2016

[the bed where] we forget, for one half of our life's duration, the sorrows of the other half

---  Xavier de Maistre, "Voyage Around My Room" (1794)

In context:

Heading north from my armchair, we discover my bed, which sits at the back of the room and creates a most agreeable perspective: it is most  felicitously situated, receiving the morning sun's first rays as they shine  through my curtains. . . . ls there any theater that better quickens the imagination, that more effectively awakens thoughts of tenderness, than  the piece of furniture in which I sometimes find oblivion? . . . And it is in this cradle of delight that we forget, for one half of our life's duration, the sorrows of the other  half.—Yet what a host of thoughts both pleasant and sad rush all at once  into my brain! What a bewildering mix of frightful and delightful situations! A bed witnesses our birth and it witnesses our death: it is the ever-changing theater where the human species enacts, by turns, . . . 

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

a wonderful little spot, a quaint and ceremonious village of puny demi-gods on stilts

--- Albert Einstein, in Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb (2012, ppbk), p. 196

Quote in context:
Princeton, Einstein reported to his friend Elizabeth, the Queen of Belgium, "is a wonderful little spot, a quaint and ceremonious village of puny demi-gods on stilts. Yet, by ignoring certain social conventions, I have been able to create for myself an atmosphere conducive to study and free from dis- traction."

Sunday, June 05, 2016

He did a great deal of good —far too much—and as a result was usually irritable

--- Carl Jung, from "Memories, Dreams, Reflections", transl. by Richard and Clara Winston, p. 91 (from the chapter, Student Years)

Quote in context:
During the years 1892—94 I had a number of rather vehement discussions with my father. He had studied Oriental languages in Göttingen and had done his dissertation on the Arabic version of the Song of Songs. His days of glory had ended with his final examination. Thereafter he forgot his linguistic talent. As a country parson he lapsed into a sort of sentimental idealism and into reminiscences of his golden student days, continued to smoke a long student's pipe, and discovered that his marriage was not all he had imagined it to be. He did a great deal of good —far too much—and as a result was usually irritable. Both parents made great efforts to live devout lives, with the result that there were angry scenes between them only too frequently.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

a book must be an ice-axe to break the seas frozen inside our soul

--- Franz Kafka, quoted by Irina Bukova on the occasion of World Book and Copyright Day, 23 April 2016 (pdf)

According to Cori Schumacher: "From a letter to Oskar Pollak dated January 27, 1904. It was written in Russian and there are various translations for it."

This is also stated on https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Franz_Kafka, where a variety of variant translations are given:


  • I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn't wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? ...we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.
  • If the book we are reading does not wake us, as with a fist hammering on our skulls, then why do we read it? Good God, we also would be happy if we had no books and such books that make us happy we could, if need be, write ourselves. What we must have are those books that come on us like ill fortune, like the death of one we love better than ourselves, like suicide. A book must be an ice axe to break the sea frozen inside us.
  • What we need are books that hit us like a most painful misfortune, like the death of someone we loved more than we love ourselves, that make us feel as though we had been banished to the woods, far from any human presence, like a suicide. A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us.
  • A book should be an ice-axe to break the frozen sea within us.
  • A book must be an ice-axe to break the seas frozen inside our soul.
  • A book should serve as the ax for the frozen sea within us.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

the whole world is drowned in the permanent present

--- Johnny Clegg, NPR interview, April 9, 2016, at 5:36

"I think also, the whole world is drowned in the permanent present. I don't think people have a sense of history, any more. I think everyone needs a refresher course in understanding that things, as we have them today, we went through quite a struggle to get here. . . It didn't arrive here on its own."

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Computers are not great for storing secrets

--- The Economist, Data breaches in America: The rise of the hacker, 7 Nov 2015

In context:

Computers are not great for storing secrets. The number of reported data breaches at organisations in America hit a record high of 783 in 2014 according to the Identity Theft Resource Centre, an industry body. It defines a data breach as the loss of information from computers or storage media that could potentially lead to identity theft, including social-security numbers, bank-account details, driving-licence numbers and medical information. 
Since 2005 there have been more than 5,000 known incidents of this type, involving an estimated 675m individual records. The real figures are likely to be far higher: many firms fail to report data thefts, since the consequences of disclosure can be severe. 

Friday, November 06, 2015

Rather than building ‘superfast’ networks, what we are really building are ‘superidle’ ones

--- Martin Geddes, My Great Telco Debate homework, 23 Sep 2015

Quote in context
There is a ‘cycle of doom’ that telcos are stuck in, whereby they are attempting to use capacity to overcome contention effects. With each cycle, the effectiveness of the over-provisioning declines. Rather than building ‘superfast’ networks, what we are really building are ‘superidle’ ones.

Please don’t tell the investors though, as they might cut off the supply of pension funds that we are busy turning into muddy holes and underused equipment. That might be a bit too uncomfortable. The way to avoid their ire is to treat contention issues with better scheduling, not cheaper capital.
More from this piece
The issue they face is that the industry is configured to be supply-led with one-size-fits-all products. We have been a ‘built it and they will (and did) come’ business. The primary task has been to build capacity, and the primary risk has been that there won’t be enough customers to pay back the sunk investment. The roles, responsibilities and incentives inside an operator are all configured towards managing those two goals.
The power and profit going forward is in the systems that match supply to demand, and the markets that form around them. Networks are going from a ‘pipe’ metaphor to a ‘resource trading platform’ one. SDN and NFV are just a part of this puzzle. They offer the mechanisms needed to exploit some of the 'trades' at some of the timescales. Much more is possible.


Whatever you do, when they're talking to you: For god's sakes, lie!

=== 3 Dead Trolls in a Baggie, The Privacy Song, video

A few more excerpts
"We can beat them back with bullshit"
"They can take away or privacy, but they can't have the truth"
"Let's face it, there's only one magical person who knows all our secrets -- and if Santa ever does sell his database, we're all screwed"

Afrikaans moet vrede maak en uitreik en deel word van die swartheid van die land

--- Antjie Krog gedurende die Vierde Swart Afrikaanse Skrywersimposium, Universiteit van Wes-Kaapland, 2 - 3 Oktober 2015. Bron: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Rq4vTGEdEE&t=1m16s.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Science is an ongoing race between our inventing ways to fool ourselves, and our inventing ways to avoid fooling ourselves

--- Saul Perlmutter, astrophysicist, quoted in How scientists fool themselves – and how they can stop, Nature News October 7,2015

Context

“People forget that when we talk about the scientific method, we don't mean a finished product,” says Saul Perlmutter, an astrophysicist at the University of California, Berkeley. “Science is an ongoing race between our inventing ways to fool ourselves, and our inventing ways to avoid fooling ourselves.” So researchers are trying a variety of creative ways to debias data analysis — strategies that involve collaborating with academic rivals, getting papers accepted before the study has even been started and working with strategically faked data.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The art of not reading is a very important one

--- Arthur Schopenhauer, Essays & Aphorisms 16

Quote in context

The art of not reading is a very important one. It consists in not taking an interest in whatever may be engaging the attention of the general public at any particular time. When some political or ecclesiastical pamphlet, or novel, or poem is making a great commotion, you should remember that he who writes for fools always finds a large public. — A precondition for reading good books is not reading bad ones: for life is short.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will

--- Epictetus, quoted by Leo Babauta in How to Deal with Your Family’s Bad Habits, from zenhabits August 26, 2015.

I couldn't find a citation for this quote, which appears everywhere on the web. It appears to be a paraphrase of a section in the Discourses; from the Project Gutenberg "A Selection from the Discourses of Epictetus with the Encheiridion, translated by George Long":

HOW WE MUST EXERCISE OURSELVES AGAINST APPEARANCES ([Greek: phantasias]).—As we exercise ourselves against sophistical questions, so we ought to exercise ourselves daily against appearances; for these appearances also propose questions to us. A certain person's son is dead. Answer; the thing is not within the power of the will: it is not an evil. A father has disinherited a certain son. What do you think of it? It is a thing beyond the power of the will, not an evil. Cæsar has condemned a person. It is a thing beyond the power of the will, not an evil. The man is afflicted at this. Affliction is a thing which depends on the will: it is an evil. He has borne the condemnation bravely. That is a thing within the power of the will: it is a good. If we train ourselves in this manner, we shall make progress; for we shall never assent to anything of which there is not an appearance capable of being comprehended. Your son is dead. What has happened? Your son is dead. Nothing more? Nothing. Your ship is lost. What has happened? Your ship is lost. A man has been led to prison. What has happened? He has been led to prison. But that herein he has fared badly, every man adds from his own opinion. But Zeus, you say, does not do right in these matters. Why? because he has made you capable of endurance? because he has made you magnanimous? because he has taken from that which befalls you the power of being evils? because it is in your power to be happy while you are suffering what you suffer? because he has opened the door to you, when things do not please you? Man, go out and do not complain!


Sunday, August 23, 2015

deep blue clarities of a delighting mind

--- Robert Conquest, quoted in the obituary by Charlemagne in The Economist, 15 August 2015.

From the column:

When the Soviet archives opened, his meticulous work was utterly vindicated. His books were published in Russia, and he brought out updated editions in English. Mulling a new title for “The Great Terror”, his pal Kingsley Amis suggested “I told you so, you fucking fools”. He preferred derision to self-righteousness, summarising Soviet Communism in a much-quoted limerick:
There was a great Marxist called Lenin
Who did two or three million men in.
That’s a lot to have done in,
But where he did one in
That grand Marxist Stalin did ten in.
The kind of people who overlooked such trifles, he reckoned, were also willing to scrub their minds on other issues. He despised much modern literary criticism: it used “important” freely but shunned “beautiful”. For him, the great pursuit was the “deep blue clarities of a delighting mind”. He wrote: “Just as it is people who think they have discovered the laws of history who have, in our time, inflicted our major public catastrophes so—in a lesser field, or at least one in which the results are not so literally bloody—it is those who think they have discovered the laws of literature who have been the destroyers.”

Another lovely little poem quoted, "Sooner or Later", introduced as follows: "Having seen where grand designs led, he cherished scepticism and moderation."

What’s helpful? Not much. Nothing?
But to fill in the time
There’s little harm in clothing
Such nude truths with a rhyme.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

with Moore’s law of technological progress comes Moore’s outlaw

--- Marc Goodman, interviewed in New Scientist, A cybercrime wave is coming – brace yourself, 8 April 2015

Quote in context:
In the old days, you buy a gun or a knife, you go hide in a dark alley until some sucker walks by and you say, “Give me your wallet”. Good business model, but you can only rob four or five people a day. However, with Moore’s law of technological progress comes Moore’s outlaw, and so we’re seeing a paradigm shift in crime. In one hack of the US retailer Target in 2013, over a third of Americans were victims, including tens of millions of people who had their bank details stolen. So one individual can now rob 100 million people. That has never been possible before and it’s because we’re all connected via vulnerable technology.

Another good quote:
The internet is about to get a whole lot bigger. . . . Every grain of sand on our planet could have its own internet address a trillion times over. Previously, I never had to worry about a hackable television, a hackable pacemaker, a hackable car, a hackable pet. But now all of this is possible. We’ve wired the world but failed to secure it.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Jewish is not a religion, it is an opportunity to travel

--- Ilya Kaminsky, quoted by Breyten Breytenbach in Dancing in Other Words, 'n Nabetragting van 'n Klein Reis, Versindaba, May 2014

Source:

Ilya says : « Jewish is not a religion, it is an opportunity to travel. »

The blog this is taken from appears to be a record of the 2014 "Dancing in Other Words" poetry festival near Stellenbosch, South Africa; see e.g. http://slipnet.co.za/view/event/dancing-in-other-words-2/.

Jy moet diffuus wees soos kladpapier

--- Breyten Breytenbach, in Dancing in Other Words, 'n Nabetragting van 'n Klein Reis, Versindaba, May 2014

In context:
Dis die tussen-inne wat tel, die gleuwe, die voeë en die voue, die kreukels, die epentese in woorde, die amperse epigrawe en die epiloë en die epitawe en die epsomsout, die insetsels en (tot ‘n mate) die byvoegsels.
Wat bly oor wanneer jy jou tussen wêrelde/ideologië/geskiedenisse/tale/stoele bevind ? Nog net beweging en ‘n absolute sin van syn. Oftewel, dat jy jou aanmekaar moet posisioneer. Die gat sal moet leer om van draad te hou.
Maar wat is die dissipline ? Hoe word dit gedoen ?
Dis om die fokus net effens te verskuif, om laterale visie te ontwikkel, om te hoor sonder om te luister in watter boom uit watter kloof die nagtegaal sing. Die beweging wat jy dan optel, die stoornis, is met verwysing na die sentrale fokuspunt, sê maar die doelwit, die bekende of die verwagte. Die betekenis…
Jy moet diffuus wees soos kladpapier. Die belange-hiërargie van wat jy waarneem moet ontdaan en ongedaan gemaak word.
The centre must no longer hold in order for new shapes to emerge.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

It is an illusion to believe that you can be happy when no one else is. Or that other people will not be affected by your unhappiness.

--- Tor Nørretranders, in Altruismhttps://edge.org/response-detail/25500

A few excerpts:

What needs to go away is the basic idea behind the concept of altruism: the idea that there is a conflict of interest between helping yourself and helping others.
The starting point is neither selfishness nor altruism, but the state of being bound together. It is an illusion to believe that you can be happy when no one else is. Or that other people will not be affected by your unhappiness.
Therefore a simple rules applies: Everyone feels better when you are well. You feel better when everyone is well.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Difficult is life for the modest one

--- Dhammapada 18.245, via Daily Words of the Buddha for September 27, 2013
Hirīmatā ca dujjīvaṃ
niccaṃ sucigavesinā,
alīnenāppagabbhena,
suddhājīvena passatā.
Difficult is life for the modest one
who always seeks purity,
is detached and unassuming,
clean in life, and discerning.
View Pāli on Tipitaka.org

Thursday, August 06, 2015

There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things

--- Nicolo Machiavelli, The Prince (1532), Ch. 6, transl. George Bull., Penguin Classics, fourth printing (1995), pg. 19

Quote in context:
There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things.  For the reformer has enemies in all who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order.  This lukewarmness arises partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the law in their favor; and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experience of it.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

You must respect the means at your disposal

--- Breyten Breytenbach, in Dancing in other words: Die Nabetragting van ‘n Klein Reis, Versindaba, May 16th, 2014
Quote in context
You must have confidence and a knowledge of self in order to engage the non-self, so as to do away with the self step by step. The self is a way of being, of interacting with the non-self. You must respect the means at your disposal – the movements of interaction – and treat these with understanding and compassion, learning how to listen to the soft rubbing away of skin by skin, so as to be effaced. Being is migration.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Admiration, reflection, comparison with other works—the things that perpetuate a book are the very things that flatten or equalize it

--- Maurice Blanchot, quoted by Ammiel Alcalay in Perplexity Index (1986), a review of Golden Doves with Silver Dots by José Faur (1986), collected in Alcalay's Memories of Our Future: Selected Essays 1982-1999 (2001)

Quote in context
Maurice Blanchot has written of “exchanging a few emotional words” with Georges Bataille after “being convinced (over-whelmed to the point of silence) at what was unique” about one of Bataille’s works: “I spoke not in the way you talk to an author about a book of his you admire, but in order to make him understand that such an encounter was enough for my entire life, just as the fact of having written the book should have been enough for his.” But Blanchot goes on to say: “Admiration, reflection, comparison with other works—the things that perpetuate a book are the very things that flatten or equalize it.” Herein, it seems to me, lies the raw, even aching problematic occupying the margins of Faur’s remarkable work.”

Friday, July 10, 2015

All Southern literature can be summed up in these words: ‘On the night the hogs ate Willie, Mama died when she heard what Daddy did to Sister.’

--- Pat Conroy reporting his mother's saying, quoted in Why Southern writers still captivate, 55 years after 'To Kill a Mockingbird', Christian Science Monitor, July 5, 2015

Quote in context:

In fact, for many contemporary writers, the old traditions of the South have become burdensome clichés. Pat Conroy, author of “The Prince of Tides,” joked in 1985 that his mother, “Southern to the bone,” once told him, “All Southern literature can be summed up in these words: ‘On the night the hogs ate Willie, Mama died when she heard what Daddy did to Sister.’

Sunday, June 28, 2015

gedigte is eintlik maar net intieme korrespondensie, berigte of briewe aan enkelinge gerig

--- Breyten Breytenbach, in Klein Reis (ex Africa, ex nihil…), Versindaba, January 10th, 2014; datelined Gorée, October/November 2013

Context:

Desperate mense probeer vlug uit die ellende. . . . Ek wens ek kon vir jou sê ek weet hoe hierdie dinge werk – die angs, die aanvaarding, die byna klewerige weerstand wat verhoed dat mense afstand kan neem, die verskriklike kontradiksie (en dis ‘n verskrikking) dat die menselewe tegelyk die opperwaarde is en as van geen belang geag word nie. Dit waartoe ons in staat is, die dun lagie van wete (van self of van die ander)…  Al hoe meer dink ek gedigte is eintlik maar net intieme korrespondensie, berigte of briewe aan enkelinge gerig, en dat dit so gelees en ‘verstaan’ word. Eintlik is dit ook die enigste manier om die ander, die jek, te leer ken. Of deur die kors te breek. Terwyl ‘n narratief of ‘n verhaal tog meer gemeenskaplik is en ʼn huid oor die chaos span.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

if we can never be right, it is better that we should from time to time change our way of being wrong

--- T.S. Eliot (1927), quoted by Jason Harding in "T. S. Eliot's Shakespeare", Essays in Criticism, 65 (2) pp. 160-177 (2015)

Eliot quote:

About anyone so great as Shakespeare, it is probable that we can never be right; and if we can never be right, it is better that we should from time to time change our way of being wrong.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

many of the secrets of 'style' could ... be shown to be matters of tone

--- I.A. Richards, in Practical Criticism: A study of literary judgment (1930), p. 207, on Thomas Gray's "Elegy in a Country Churchyard"

Quote in context:

Gray, however, without overstressing any point, composes a long address, perfectly accommodating his familiar feelings towards the subject and his awareness of the inevitable triteness of the only possible reflections, to the discriminating attention of his audience. And this is the source of his triumph, which we may misunderstand if we treat it simply as a question of 'style'. Indeed, many of the secrets of 'style' could, I believe, be shown to be matters of tone, of the perfect recognition of the writer's relation to the reader in view of what is being said and their joint feelings about it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Religion is man’s way of accepting life as an inevitable defeat

--- Leszek Kolakowski, in an essay titled “The Revenge of the Sacred in Secular Culture” (1973), quoted by Jack Miles in "Why God Will Not Die", The Atlantic, December 2014

The Kolakowski passage quoted in Miles's essay:

Religion is man’s way of accepting life as an inevitable defeat. That it is not an inevitable defeat is a claim that cannot be defended in good faith. One can, of course, disperse one’s life over the contingencies of every day, but even then it is only a ceaseless and desperate desire to live, and finally a regret that one has not lived. One can accept life, and accept it, at the same time, as a defeat only if one accepts that there is sense beyond that which is inherent in human history—if, in other words, one accepts the order of the sacred.

Why is it that when people begin to relinquish the world, the first thing they relinquish is common sense?

--- Sri Aurobindo. Quoted by Robert A. Johnson, Inner Work (1986, ppbk 1989), p. 109.

mense met ʼn aptyt / vir vuurvreet sal vonke skyt

-- TT Cloete, in Karnaval en Lent (2014), quoted by Andries Visagie in an interview/review with Ilse Salzwedel on Skrywers en Boeke, 30 April 2014, around time code 19:09 ff.; also quoted in the the Versindaba review by Zandra Bezuidenhout, 17 March 2014

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

if we meditate on a dream sufficiently long and thoroughly, if we carry it around with us and turn it over and over, something almost always comes of it

--- C. G. Jung, "The Aims of Psychotherapy," 1933. In The Collected Works of C.G. Jung; Read, H.,
Fordham, M., Adler, G., McGuire, W., Eds.; Hull, R.F.C., Trans.; Princeton University Press:
Princeton, NJ, USA, 1954; Volume 16. Para 86. Quoted by Caifang ZHU in "Jung on the Nature and Interpretation of Dreams: A Developmental Delineation with Cognitive Neuroscientific Responses," Behav. Sci. 2013, 3(4), 662-675; doi:10.3390/bs3040662.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage and those who manage what they do not understand

--- Putt's Law, from Putt's Law and the Successful Technocrat (1981)

The book apparently also draws Putt's Corollary, "Every technical hierarchy, in time, develops a competence inversion." The wikipedia entry glosses this as incompetence being "flushed out of the lower levels" of a technocratic hierarchy, ensuring that technically competent people remain directly in charge of the actual technology while those without technical competence move into management.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

What is most difficult to resolve and cure is the patient’s practice of self-cure

--- psychoanalyst Masud Khan, in The Privacy of the Self, quoted by Adam Phillips in Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life, p. 194

In context (Phillips):

What is most difficult to resolve and cure,’ the psychoanalyst Masud Khan wrote in The Privacy of the Self, ‘is the patient’s practice of self-cure. To cure a cure is the paradox that faces us . . .’ Symptoms are always a form of self-cure; you first hear about your problem from your proposed solutions to it. The alcoholic is suffering from whatever conflict alcohol was initially a solution to, and then the solution becomes the problem. The real question is not, how can someone stop drinking, but rather what was the alcohol a self-cure for in the first case?

anxiety makes people jump to conclusions

--- Adam Phillips in Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life (2012), p. 175

In context:

It becomes more and more difficult to be ‘originally’ mad; to avoid having a recognizable condition (and when we use the word ‘mad’ we don’t mean idiosyncratic). It is both comforting and confining — and can, indeed, be life-saving – when people in the know claim to know what we are suffering from. But mad people, as all these plays dramatize, make people jump to conclusions about them (anxiety makes people jump to conclusions); madness tempts people to be more knowing than they are. It certainly makes people work because they have something about someone that has to be dealt with (the mad are trying to make themselves impossible to ignore and impossible not to want to ignore).

Big Data (n): A system for documenting statistical coincidences

--- Martin Geddes, tweet, 21 March 2015

Sunday, March 08, 2015

A ritual acts on us in a way that is deeper than words, deeper even than conscious thought.

--- Benjamin Dueholm, in "The host", Aeon Magazine, 25 November 2014

In context:

A ritual acts on us in a way that is deeper than words, deeper even than conscious thought. The words and thoughts change, after all, the scholars of religion tell us. As it is in the history of a religion, so it is in the course of a human life: the etiologies, the just-so stories, the philosophical and ideological layering all arrive late and leave early. The act itself somehow lingers underneath it all. Like a pebble in the shoe or a warm bath, it changes our minds despite our minds.
Another excerpts:
Whatever else one wishes to claim for this ritual, it is a communing with the dead. Every religious ritual is. It’s a way of putting on a self we can never be, of identifying with people otherwise lost to us, of inhabiting a past we can probably never understand. That might be the last radical lunge of this shrunken supper in a life that is starved for, if not love, then at least for connection.

If the goal of the United States is to be “ending tyranny in our world”, then is encouraging “the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture” the best way to go about it?

--- John Lewis Gaddis, in "Ending Tyranny," The American Interest, vol. 4, no. 1, Sep 1, 2008

In context

If that’s right, then President Bush may have proclaimed a doctrine for the 21st century comparable to the Monroe Doctrine in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and to the Truman Doctrine during the Cold War. Only historians not yet born will be able to say for sure. Even that possibility, however, should earn Bush’s memorable sentence greater scrutiny than it has so far received. For it raises an issue that future administrations—whether those of Obama, McCain or their successors—are going to have to resolve: If the goal of the United States is to be “ending tyranny in our world”, then is encouraging “the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture” the best way to go about it?
A few more excerpts from the piece:
The objective of ending tyranny, therefore, is as deeply rooted in American history as it is possible to imagine. President Bush, in a time of crisis for the future of democratization, followed Lincoln’s example in a much greater crisis for the future of the Union: He looked back for guidance to the Founders.
Spreading democracy suggests knowing the answer to how people should live their lives. Ending tyranny suggests freeing them to find their own answers. The Oxford philosopher Isaiah Berlin best explained this distinction half a century ago in his great essay “Two Concepts of Liberty.”
 But was it ever likely that democracy would root itself in those parts of the world where people fear anarchy more than they do authority? Where the struggle to survive is a more urgent priority than securing the right to vote? Where the immense power of the United States gives rise to greater uneasiness than it does reassurance?

Monday, March 02, 2015

Every gift is a demand, usually for love

--- unknown. I saw it in a piece by Martin Geddes where he said,

As a wise person once told me, “every gift is a demand, usually for love”. 

He also tweeted it a couple of times:
second in January 2015: "@nntaleb "Every gift is a demand, usually for love", so a wise person once told me."
first in May 2014: "@NurtureGirl Every gift is a demand, usually for love... Sayeth a friend's therapist."

Saturday, February 28, 2015

You get more done if you don't have to take the credit

--- I learned this from Dennis Stevenson.

However, similar quotes are ascribed to a variety of people according to Quote Investigator, S/he lists four basic versions, and assigns them as follows

A man may do an immense deal of good, if he does not care who gets the credit for it: In a diary entry for 1863, ascribed to a Jesuit Priest named Father Strickland.
This was the opportunity for a man who likes to do a good thing in accordance with the noble maxim … “Never mind who gets the credit.” Published 1896, and the phrase “Never mind who gets the credit” was dubbed the noble maxim of Edward Everett Hale.
The way to get things done is not to mind who gets the credit of doing them: Published 1905, ascribed to Benjamin Jowett, though later reassigned by one of the authors to a "Jesuit Father".
There is no limit to what a man can do who does not care who gains the credit for it: Used by Charles Edward Montague in 1906, who didn't take credit for it, ascribing it to a friend who often used it.

For a full discussion with references, see http://quoteinvestigator.com/2010/12/21/doing-good-selfless/.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

[re Google Street View] The German reaction is, ‘Oh my God, how can they do that?’

--- John Emerson, US ambassador to Germany, quoted on the Christian Science Monitor, "Europe pivots between safety and privacy online", 18 January 2015

Quote:

“What’s the first thing an American says when [he or she] sees Google Street View?” he says on a recent day at the US Embassy next to the Brandenburg Gate. “An American will go, ‘Hey, there’s Billy in the front yard.’ The German reaction is, ‘Oh my God, how can they do that?’ ”

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought... and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit

--- Ecclesiastes 2:11, King James Bible

Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.