Quotation

No Comment, Quotation — March 23, 2012, 2:17 pm

Merton: The Distortion of Dogma

It seems a little strange that we [Catholics] are so wildly exercised about the “murder” (and the word is of course correct) of an unborn infant by abortion, or even the prevention of conception which is hardly murder, and yet accept without a qualm the extermination of millions of helpless and innocent adults, some of whom may be Christians and even our friends rather than our enemies. I submit that we ought to fulfill the one without omitting the other. —Thomas Merton, Cold War Letters, p. 38 (letter to Dorothy Day, Dec. 20, 1961). The U.S. Department of Health and …

No Comment, Quotation — February 13, 2012, 10:18 am

Schopenhauer: Causality and Synchronicity

Alle Ereignisse im Leben eines Menschen standen demnach in zwei grundverschiedenen Arten des Zusammenhangs: erstlich, im objektiven, kausalen Zusammenhange des Naturlaufs; zweitens, in einem subjektiven Zusammenhange, der nur in Beziehung auf das sie erlebende Individuum vorhanden und so subjektiv wie dessen eigene Träume ist, in welchem jedoch ihre Succession und Inhalt ebenfalls nothwendig bestimmt ist, aber in der Art, wie die Succession der Scenen eines Drama‘s, durch den Plan des Dichters. Daß nun jene beiden Arten des Zusammenhangs zugleich bestehn und die nämliche Begebenheit, als ein Glied zweier ganz verschiedener Ketten, doch beiden sich genau einfügt, in Folge wovon jedes …

No Comment, Quotation — January 23, 2012, 10:41 am

Lessing: In Praise of Laziness

Faulheit, jetzo will ich dir Auch ein kleines Loblied bringen.— O—wie—sau—er—wird es mir,— Dich—nach Würden—zu besingen! Doch, ich will mein Bestes tun, Nach der Arbeit ist gut ruhn.   Höchstes Gut! wer dich nur hat, Dessen ungestörtes Leben— Ach!—ich—gähn’—ich—werde matt— Nun—so—magst du—mir’s vergeben, Daß ich dich nicht singen kann; Du verhinderst mich ja dran.   Laziness, now I’ll sing you A little song of praise, Oh what a challenge it will be To craft a song worthy of you But I’ll do my best For after work comes the soundest rest.   The highest good! He who possesses you Will …

No Comment, Quotation — January 16, 2012, 11:07 am

Martin Luther King Jr.: Nonviolence and the Struggle Between Rich and Poor

The emergency we now face is economic, and it is a desperate and worsening situation. For the 35 million poor people in America—not even to mention, just yet, the poor in other nations—there is a kind of strangulation in the air. In our society it is murder, psychologically, to deprive a man of a job or an income. You are in substance saying to that man that he has no right to exist. You are in a real way depriving him of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, denying in his case the very creed of his society. Now, …

No Comment, Quotation — January 13, 2012, 11:38 am

Donne: An Anatomy of the World

And new philosophy calls all in doubt, The element of fire is quite put out, The sun is lost, and th’ earth, and no man’s wit Can well direct him where to look for it. And freely men confess that this world’s spent, When in the planets and the firmament They seek so many new; they see that this Is crumbled out again to his atomies. ‘Tis all in pieces, all coherence gone, All just supply, and all relation; Prince, subject, father, son, are things forgot, For every man alone thinks he hath got To be a phoenix, and that …

No Comment, Quotation — December 28, 2011, 7:26 pm

Tolstoy: The Chain of Ideas that Constitutes Art

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In February 1947, Harper’s Magazine published Henry L. Stimson’s “The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb.” As secretary of war, Stimson had served as the chief military adviser to President Truman, and recommended the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The terms of his unrepentant apologia, an excerpt of which appears on page 35, are now familiar to us: the risk of a dud made a demonstration too risky; the human cost of a land invasion would be too high; nothing short of the bomb’s awesome lethality would compel Japan to surrender. The bomb was the only option. Seventy years later, we find his reasoning unconvincing. Entirely aside from the destruction of the blasts themselves, the decision thrust the world irrevocably into a high-stakes arms race — in which, as Stimson took care to warn, the technology would proliferate, evolve, and quite possibly lead to the end of modern civilization. The first half of that forecast has long since come to pass, and the second feels as plausible as ever. Increasingly, the atmosphere seems to reflect the anxious days of the Cold War, albeit with more juvenile insults and more colorful threats. Terms once consigned to the history books — “madman theory,” “brinkmanship” — have returned to the news cycle with frightening regularity. In the pages that follow, seven writers and experts survey the current nuclear landscape. Our hope is to call attention to the bomb’s ever-present menace and point our way toward a world in which it finally ceases to exist.

Illustration by Darrel Rees. Source photographs: Kim Jong-un © ITAR-TASS Photo Agency/Alamy Stock Photo; Donald Trump © Yuri Gripas/Reuters/Newscom
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The Ambassador Bridge arcs over the Detroit River, connecting Detroit to Windsor, Ontario, the southernmost city in Canada. Driving in from the Canadian side, where I grew up, is like viewing a panorama of the Motor City’s rise and fall, visible on either side of the bridge’s turquoise steel stanchions. On the right are the tubular glass towers of the Renaissance Center, headquarters of General Motors, and Michigan Central Station, the rail terminal that closed in 1988. On the left is a rusted industrial corridor — fuel tanks, docks, abandoned warehouses. I have taken this route all my life, but one morning this spring, I crossed for the first time in a truck.

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But the exercise of labor is the worker’s own life-activity, the manifestation of his own life. . . . He works in order to live. He does not even reckon labor as part of his life, it is rather a sacrifice of his life.

— Karl Marx

Photograph from the United Arab Emirates by the author. This page: Ruwais Mall
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To look at him, Sweet Macho was a beautiful horse, lean and strong with muscles that twitched beneath his shining black coat. A former racehorse, he carried himself with ceremony, prancing the field behind our house as though it were the winner’s circle. When he approached us that day at the edge of the yard, his eyes shone with what might’ve looked like intelligence but was actually a form of insanity. Not that there was any telling our mother’s boyfriend this — he fancied himself a cowboy.

“Horse 1,” by Nine Francois. Courtesy the artist and AgavePrint, Austin, Texas
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What We Think About When We Think About Soccer, by Simon Critchley. Penguin Books. 224 pages. $20.

Begin, as Wallace Stevens didn’t quite say, with the idea of it. I so like the idea of Simon Critchley, whose books offer philosophical takes on a variety of subjects: Stevens, David Bowie, suicide, humor, and now football — or soccer, as the US edition has it. (As a matter of principle I shall refer to this sport throughout as football.) “All of us are mysteriously affected by our names,” decides one of Milan Kundera’s characters in Immortality, and I like Critchley because his name would seem to have put him at a vocational disadvantage compared with Martin Heidegger, Søren Kierkegaard, or even, in the Anglophone world, A. J. Ayer or Richard Rorty. (How different philosophy might look today if someone called Nobby Stiles had been appointed as the Wykeham Professor of Logic.)

Tostão, No. 9, and Pelé, No. 10, celebrate Carlos Alberto’s final goal for Brazil in the World Cup final against Italy on June 21, 1970, Mexico City © Heidtmann/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Chances that a U.S. House or Senate race last year was won by the candidate whose campaign spent the most:

9 in 10

Roman Britons had less gum disease than today’s Britons.

The prosecution told the jury that the officer, Philip Brailsford, was a “killer” for forcing Shaver, who was unarmed and intoxicated, into the hallway and then shooting him as he crawled on the floor crying and asking not to be shot.

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"Gun owners have long been the hypochondriacs of American politics. Over the past twenty years, the gun-rights movement has won just about every battle it has fought; states have passed at least a hundred laws loosening gun restrictions since President Obama took office. Yet the National Rifle Association has continued to insist that government confiscation of privately owned firearms is nigh. The NRA’s alarmism helped maintain an active membership, but the strategy was risky: sooner or later, gun guys might have realized that they’d been had. Then came the shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, followed swiftly by the nightmare the NRA had been promising for decades: a dedicated push at every level of government for new gun laws. The gun-rights movement was now that most insufferable of species: a hypochondriac taken suddenly, seriously ill."

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