Man is the animal who weeps and laughs and writes. If the first Prometheus brought fire from heaven in a fennel-stalk, the last will take it back – in a book.
The great characters of fiction live as truly as the memories of dead men. For the life after death it is not necessary that a man or woman should have lived.
The purpose of the I Ching or the tarot … is to help you get access to yourself, by providing ambiguity for you to interpret. And this quality of ambiguity is shared with nearly all forms of divination — cast artifacts, or entrails, or weather formations, or events such as the flight of birds, that one could choose either to see as “omens” or to ignore. The very thing that makes these divination techniques seem so unscientific is what makes it possible for them to work.
A country is considered the more civilised the more the wisdom and efficiency of its laws hinder a weak man from becoming too weak and a powerful one too powerful.
Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.
Everyone is trying to reach for their own stars, and all of those stars aren’t light-years away. They are as close as our job, our family, our children, our next-door neighbors and our good friends.
The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death — however mutable man may be able to make them — our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.
People unfit for freedom — who cannot do much with it — are hungry for power. The desire for freedom is an attribute of a “have” type of self. It says: leave me alone and I shall grow, learn, and realize my capacities. The desire for power is basically an attribute of a “have-not” type of self. If Hitler had had the talents and the temperament of a genuine artist, if Stalin had had the capacity to become a first-rate theoretician, if Napoleon had had the makings of a great poet or philosopher they would hardly have developed the all-consuming lust for absolute power. Freedom gives us a chance to realize our human and individual uniqueness. Absolute power can also bestow uniqueness: to have absolute power is to have the power to reduce all the people around us to puppets, robots, toys, or animals, and be the only man in sight. Absolute power achieves uniqueness by dehumanizing others.
It’s life that matters, nothing but life — the process of discovering, the everlasting and perpetual process, not the discovery itself, at all. But what’s the use of talking! I suspect that all I’m saying now is so like the usual commonplaces that I shall certainly be taken for a lower-form schoolboy sending in his essay on “sunrise”, or they’ll say perhaps that I had something to say, but that I did not know how to “explain” it. But I’ll add, that there is something at the bottom of every new human thought, every thought of genius, or even every earnest thought that springs up in any brain, which can never be communicated to others, even if one were to write volumes about it and were explaining one’s idea for thirty-five years; there’s something left which cannot be induced to emerge from your brain, and remains with you forever; and with it you will die, without communicating to anyone perhaps the most important of your ideas.
We must daily decide whether the threats we face are real, whether the solutions we are offered will do any good, whether the problems we’re told exist are in fact real problems, or non-problems. Every one of us has a sense of the world, and we all know that this sense is in part given to us by what other people and society tell us; in part generated by our emotional state, which we project outward; and in part by our genuine perceptions of reality. In short, our struggle to determine what is true is the struggle to decide which of our perceptions are genuine, and which are false because they are handed down, or sold to us, or generated by our own hopes and fears.
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