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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Early in the morning on June 28, 1969, New York police raided the Stonewall Inn at 53 Christopher Street, the city’s most popular gay bar. The police had raided Stonewall frequently since its opening two years before, but the local precinct usually tipped off the management and arrived in the early evening. This time they came unannounced, during peak hours. They swept through the bar, checking I.D.s and arresting anyone wearing attire that was not “appropriate to one’s gender,” carrying out the law of the time. Eyewitness accounts differ on what turned the unruly scene explosive. Whatever the inciting event, patrons and a growing crowd on the street began throwing coins, bottles, and bricks at the police, who were forced to retreat into the bar and call in the riot squad.

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The squat warehouse at Miami’s 5th Street Terminal was nearly obscured by merchandise: used car engines; tangles of coat hangers; bicycles bound together with cellophane; stacks of wheelbarrows; cases of Powerade and bottled water; a bag of sprouting onions atop a secondhand Whirlpool refrigerator; and, above all, mattresses—shrink-wrapped and bare, spotless and streaked with dust, heaped in every corner of the lot—twins, queens, kings. All this and more was bound for Port-de-Paix, a remote city in northwestern Haiti.

When I first arrived at the warehouse on a sunny morning last May, a dozen pickup trucks and U-Hauls were waiting outside, piled high with used furniture. Nearby, rows of vehicles awaiting export were crammed together along a dirt strip separating the street from the shipyard, where a stately blue cargo vessel was being loaded with goods.

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In 1989 I published a book about a plutonium-producing nuclear complex in En­gland, on the coast of the Irish Sea. The plant is called Sellafield now. In 1957, when it was the site of the most serious nuclear accident then known to have occurred, the plant was called Windscale. While working on the book, I learned from reports in the British press that in the course of normal functioning it released significant quantities of waste—plutonium and other transuranic elements—into the environment and the adjacent sea. There were reports of high cancer rates. The plant had always been wholly owned by the British government. I believe at some point the government bought it from itself. Privatization was very well thought of at the time, and no buyer could be found for this vast monument to dinosaur modernism.

Back then, I shared the American assumption that such things were dealt with responsibly, or at least rationally, at least in the West outside the United States. Windscale/Sellafield is by no means the anomaly I thought it was then. But the fact that a government entrusted with the well-being of a crowded island would visit this endless, silent disaster on its own people was striking to me, and I spent almost a decade trying to understand it. I learned immediately that the motives were economic. What of all this noxious efflux they did not spill they sold into a global market.

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My father decided that he would end his life by throwing himself from the top of the parking garage at the Nashville airport, which he later told me had seemed like the best combination of convenience—that is, he could get there easily and unnoticed—and sufficiency—that is, he was pretty sure it was tall enough to do the job. I never asked him which other venues he considered and rejected before settling on this plan. He probably did not actually use the word “best.” It was Mother’s Day, 2013.

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