Axioms

Writing is to write for oneself.

Marguerite Duras, Motherhood Makes You Obscene

The best places for writing are those that fade from consciousness as the landscapes of the imagination take over.

Linda Jaivin, Caught Mapping

To banish imperfection is to destroy expression, to check exertion, to paralyze vitality.

John Ruskin

The critic is not the one who debunks, but the one who assembles. The critic is not the one who lifts the rugs from under the feet of the naive believers, but the one who offers the participants arenas in which to gather. The critic is not the one who alternates haphazardly between antifetishism and postivism like the drunk iconoclast drawn by Goya, but the one for whom, if something is constructed, then it means it is fragile, and thus in great need of care and caution. I am aware that to get at the heart of this argument one would have to renew also what it means to be a constructivist, but I have said enough to indicate the direction of critique, not away but toward the gathering, the Thing.

Bruno Latour, Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern

After a cup of tea (two spoonsful for each cup, and don’t let it stand more than three minutes,) it says to the brain, “Now, rise, and show your strength. Be eloquent, and deep, and tender; see, with a clear eye, into Nature and into life; spread your white wings of quivering thought, and soar, a god-like spirit, over the whirling world beneath you, up through long lanes of flaming stars to the gates of eternity!

Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat

The rationalists regularly fail to reckon with power as it is practiced, or history as it has been experienced, and they indulge themselves in … contests with the freedom of those who have largely escaped discrimination.

Gideon Lewis-Kraus, Slate Star Codex and Silicon Valley’s War Against the Media

We were hungry before we were born.

Fever Ray, Keep the Streets Empty for Me

With my feet upon the ground I lose myself
Between the sounds and
Open wide to suck it in, I
Feel it move across my skin, I’m
Reaching up and reaching out, I’m
Reaching for the random or what-
Ever will bewilder me, what-
Ever will bewilder me
And following our will and wind, we
May just go where no one’s been
We’ll ride the spiral to the end and
May just go where no one’s been

Tool, Lateralus

If you don’t see that what you are working on is almost obvious, then you are not ready to work on that yet. Prepare the way.

Arthur Ogus

Can you call yourself a coward simply because the courage of others seems to you out of proportion to the triviality of the occasion? Thus wisdom creates cowards. And thus you miss opportunity while spending your life on the lookout for it.

Umberto Eco, Foucault’s Pendulum

“Nobody does anything cool anymore, and everybody is afraid of everything,” Vinson Cunningham said in a recent roundtable about the death of the sex scene for the New Yorker. “We are in a decadent, post-excitement world.” The impetus of the discussion was a comment by filmmaker Paul Verhoeven on our culture’s “general shift towards Puritanism,” and similarly, the article reads like a diagnosis for sexlessness in more than just the movies. They talk about the proliferation of art made solely for profit, the increasing infantilization of adults, the politicization of everything, the metaverse, the dumbed-down appeal of literalism. “So much of our culture right now is really earnest and de-sexed,” said Doreen St. Félix. 

It seems appropriate to me that they were having this discussion during a time when sex has never been more flagrantly depicted and available. The point is that sex, or eros, is about more than just people fucking on camera. To take that further, it’s about more than just fucking. “Sexuality is the most essential element of nature,” Verhoeven told Variety. It is the ultimate euphemism for earthly pleasures and all its attendant qualities: desire, touch, anguish, longing, satisfaction, thrill, connection, presence. Essentially everything the internet can’t meaningfully give us.

Haley Nahman, The Death of Sex

Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it’s to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential-as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth.

You’ll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you’ll hear about them.

To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.

Bill Watterson, Kenyon College Commencement, May 1990

… prose of any consequence invariably arrives far later in a culture’s history than does great poetry. Poetry entered the world almost as early as words did; it is the first flowering of language’s intrinsic magic—its powers of invocation and apostrophe, of making the absent present and the present mysterious, of opening one mind to another. It comes most naturally to languages in their first dawn, when something elemental—something somehow pre-linguistic and not quite conscious—is still audible in them. Prose, however, evolves only when that force has been subdued by centuries upon centuries of refinement, after unconscious enchantment has been largely mastered by conscious artistry, and when the language has acquired a vocabulary of sufficient richness and a syntax of sufficient subtlety, and has fully discovered its native cadences.

David Bentley Hart, How To Write English Prose

When companies say they’re a family, it’s a veiled way of demanding total sacrifice. Nights, weekends, whatever it takes for, you know, “the family”. But great companies aren’t fake families — they’re allies of real families. They don’t eat into people’s personal time, they don’t ask people to dial-in during vacations, and they don’t push them to work Sundays to prep for the meeting on Monday.

37signals, Companies Aren’t Families

A noteworthy fact is the extraordinary disproportion between the consequences of an invention and the invention itself. We have said that intelligence is modeled on matter and that it aims in the first place at fabrication. But does it fabricate in order to fabricate or does it not pursue involuntarily, and even unconsciously, something entirely different? Fabricating consists in shaping matter, in making it supple and in bending it, in converting it into an instrument in order to become master of it. It is. this mastery that profits humanity, much more even than the material result of the invention itself. Though we derive an immediate advantage from the thing made, as an intelligent animal might do, and though this advantage be all the inventor sought, it is a slight matter compared with the new ideas and new feelings that the invention may give rise to in every direction, as if the essential part of the effect were to raise us above ourselves and enlarge our horizon. Between the effect and the cause the disproportion is so great that it is difficult to regard the cause as producer of its effect. It releases it, whilst settling, indeed, its direction. Everything happens as though the grip of intelligence on matter were, in its main intention, to let something pass that matter is holding back.

Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution

The secret of a good old age is simply an honourable pact with solitude.

Gabriel García Márquez

To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.

Howard Zinn