Thursday, July 13, 2006

Some of the perils of thinking

From Georg Christoph Lichtenberg’s The Waste Books (1800-06)we
With all my indolence I have ever grown in knowledge of myself without possessing the power to effect an improvement; indeed, the fact that I could perceive how indolent I was has often seemed to me sufficient recompense for it, and the pleasure I received from the exact observation of a fault was often greater than the vexation aroused in me by the fault itself. So very much more did I account the professor in me than I did the man. Strange are the ways Heaven directs its saints.

From Soren Kierkegaard’s Either/Or (1843), collected in The Living Thoughts of Kierkegaard (1952)
The act of choosing is essentially a proper and stringent expression of the ethical. Whenever in a stricter sense there is a question of an either/or, one can always be sure that the ethical is involved. The only absolute either/or is the choice between good and evil, but that is also absolutely ethical.

From Cyril Connolly's The Unquiet Grave (1951)
I am now forced to admit that anxiety is my true condition, occasionally intruded upon by work, pleasure, melancholy, or despair.

From Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy (1621)
Leonartus Fuchsius, Felix Plater, Herc. de Saxonia, speak of a peculiar fury which comes by overmuch study. Fernelius puts study, contemplation, and continual meditation as an especial cause of madness: and in his 86th consul. cites the same words. Jo. Arculanus amongst other causes reckons up studium vehemens [passionate study]: so doth Levinus Lemnius. “Many men” (saith he) “come to this malady by continual study, and night-waking, and of all other men, scholars are most subject to it”; and such, Rhasis adds, “that have commonly the finest wits.” Marsilius Ficinus puts melancholy amongst one of those five principal plagues of students, ’tis a common moll unto them all, and almost in some measure an inseparable companion.

From Cyril Connolly's The Unquiet Grave (1951)
As we grow older, in fact, we discover that the lives of most human beings are worthless except in so far as they contribute to the enrichment and emancipation of the spirit. However attractive in our youth the animal graces may seem, if by out maturity they have not led us to emend one character in the corrupt text of existence, then our time has been wasted. No one over thirty-five is worth meeting who has not something to teach us, something more than we could learn by ourselves, from a book.

From Cicero’s De Senectute
For my part, in truth, I should rather be old less long than to be old before my time.

From James Jones’s From Here to Eternity (1951)
Warden sighed. “I believe the only sin is a conscious waste of energy. I believe all conscious dishonesty, such as religion, politics and the real estate business, are a conscious waste of energy. I believe that at a remarkable cost in energy people agree to pretend to believe each other’s lies so they can prove to themselves their own lies are the truth, like my brother. Since I cannot forget what the truth is, I gravitated, naturally, along with the rest of the social misfits who are honest into the Army as an EM. Now what do you say we have another drink? Since we’ve settled the problems of God, Society, and the Individual I really think we should have another drink.”

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