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Sentiment and life are eternal. Someone who lives has always lived and will continue to live forever. The only difference I know between death and life is that now you live as a single entity (mass) and that later, after dissolution, twenty years from now, you will live in scattered distinct molecules . . .
The rest of the evening I was teased about my paradox. They offered me beautiful living pears, thinking grapes, but I said : Those who love each other during their life and who insist on being buried side by side are perhaps not as crazy as you might think. Perhaps their ashes touch, blend, and join together. Que scays-je? What do I know? Perhaps they have kept a residue of warmth and life that gives them pleasure deep in the cold urn that encloses them . . .
Oh, my Sophie, then I could keep the hope of touching you, feeling you, loving you, seeking for you, joining with you and becoming one with you when we are no more! . . . Let me keep this fantasy; it’s sweet; it guarantees me eternity in you and with you.
–Denis Diderot, letter to Sophie Volland, Oct. 17, 1759 in: Correspondence de Diderot, vol. 2, pp. 283-84 (Georges Roth, ed. 1956) (S.H./E.H. transl.)
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”