As life in general constituted much pain in the form of struggles against poverty, disease, ignorance, and emotional anguish, what more civilized way for people to alleviate the same than by giving themselves to one another as brothers and sisters in deed as well as in word? A society of people hoping to become politically superior needed first to become spiritually valid.
The case for the humanities is not hard to make, though it can be difficult--to such an extent have we been marginalized, so long have we acceded to that marginalization--not to sound either defensive or naive. The humanities, done right, are the crucible in which our evolving notions of what it means to be fully human are put to the test; they teach us, incrementally, endlessly, not what to do, but how to be. Their method is confrontational, their domain unlimited, their product not truth but the reasoned search for truth, their success something very much like Frost's momentary stay against confusion.
You are a hater of activity in life; quite right, for before there can be any meaning in activity, life must have continuity, and this your life lacks. You occupy yourself with your studies, that is true, you are even industrious. But it is only for your own sake and is done with as little teleology as possible. Otherwise you are unoccupied; like those workers in the Gospel, you stand idle in the marketplace (Matthew 20:3). You stick your hands in your pockets and observe life. Then you rest in despair, nothing occupies you, you don’t step aside for anything: “if someone were to throw a tile down from the roof I wouldn’t get out of the way.” You are like someone dying, you die daily, not in the profound, serious sense in which one usually takes that word, but life has lost its reality and “you always reckon your lifetime from one day’s notice to quit to the next”. You let everything pass you by, it makes no impression, but then suddenly something comes which grips you, an idea, a situation, a smile from a young girl, and then you are “in touch”; for just as on some occasions you are not in touch, so at others you are in touch and of service in every way. Wherever something is going on you are “in touch”. You conduct your life as it is your custom to behave in a crowd, you “work your way into the thickest of it, trying if possible to be forced up above the others so as to be able to lie on top of them”; if you manage to get up there you “make yourself as comfortable as possible”, and this is also the way you let yourself be carried along through life. But when the crowd disperses, when the event is over, you stand once more at the street corner and look at the world. A dying person possesses, as you know, a supernatural energy, and so too with you. If there is an idea to be thought through, a work to be read through, a plan to be carried out, a little adventure to be experienced - yes, a hat to be bought, you take hold of the matter with an immense energy. According to circumstance, you work on untiringly for a day, for a month; you are happy in the assurance that you still have the same abundance of strength as before, you take no rest, “no Satan can keep up with you”. If you work together with others, you work them into the ground. But then when the month or, what you always consider the maximum, the six months have gone, you break off and say, “and that’s the end of the story”. You retire and leave it all to the other party, or if you have been working alone you talk to no one about what you were doing. You then pretend to yourself and others that you have lost the desire and flatter yourself with the vain thought that you could have kept working with the same intensity if that is what you desired. But that is an immense deception. You would have succeeded in finishing it, as most others, if you had patiently willed it so, but you would have found out at the same time that it needs a kind of perseverance quite different from yours.
Every article and review and book that I have ever published has constituted an appeal to the person or persons to whom I should have talked before I dared to write it. I never launch any little essay without the hope—and the fear, because the encounter may also be embarrassing—that I shall draw a letter that begins, 'Dear Mr. Hitchens, it seems that you are unaware that…' It is in this sense that authorship is collaborative with 'the reader.' And there's no help for it: you only find out what you ought to have known by pretending to know at least some of it already.It doesn't matter how obscure or arcane or esoteric your place of publication may be: some sweet law ensures that the person who should be scrutinizing your work eventually does do so.
I'm a writer by profession and it's totally clear to me that since I started blogging, the amount I write has increased exponentially, my daily interactions with the views of others have never been so frequent, the diversity of voices I engage with is far higher than in the pre-Internet age—and all this has helped me become more modest as a thinker, more open to error, less fixated on what I do know, and more respectful of what I don't. If this is a deterioration in my brain, then more, please.The problem is finding the space and time when this engagement stops, and calm, quiet, thinking and reading of longer-form arguments, novels, essays can begin. Worse, this also needs time for the mind to transition out of an instant gratification mode to me a more long-term, thoughtful calm. I find this takes at least a day of detox. Getting weekends back has helped. But if there were a way to channel the amazing insights of blogging into the longer, calmer modes of thinking ... we'd be getting somewhere.I'm working on it.
A friend once told me that the real message Bram Stoker sought to convey in 'Dracula' is that a human being needs to live hundreds and hundreds of years to get all his reading done; that Count Dracula, basically nothing more than a misunderstood bookworm, was draining blood from the necks of 10,000 hapless virgins not because he was the apotheosis of pure evil but because it was the only way he could live long enough to polish off his extensive reading list. But I have no way of knowing if this is true, as I have not yet found time to read 'Dracula.
...were these Essays of mine considerable enough to deserve a critical judgment, it might then, I think, fallout that they would not much take with common and vulgar capacities, nor be very acceptable to the singular and excellent sort of men; the first would not understand them enough, and the last too much; and so they may hover in the middle region.
It is usually unbearably painful to read a book by an author who knows way less than you do, unless the book is a novel.
You are more likely to find three TVs inside a randomly selected house than you are to find a single book that is or was not read to pass an exam, to please God, or to be a better cook.
It wasn’t enough that I had to worry about playing well and winning the game, but I also had to deal with possibility that one of my teammates could be dragged off the field by the inhabitants of the mental hospital.
All writers are demonic dreamers. Writing is an act of sharing experiences and offering of an individualistic perspective of our private attitudes pertaining to whatever topics of thought intrigues the author. Writing is a twitchy art, which attempts to employ linguist building blocks handed-down from past generations. Writers’ word choices form a structure of conjoined sentences when overlaid with the lingua of modern culture. Writers attempt to emulate in concrete form the synesthesia of our personal pottage steeped in our most vivid feelings. Writing a personal essay calls for us to sort out a jungle of lucid observations and express in a tangible technique our unique interpretation of coherent observations interlaced with that effusive cascade of yearning, the universal spice of unfilled desire, which turmoil of existential angst swamps us.
It was masturbation, not willpower, that made it possible for gazillions of women to walk down the aisle with their reputation and their hymen still intact.
Some women have been faking orgasms for so long that they sometimes fake one when they are masturbating.
Some women do not masturbate for pleasure, they masturbate to make a political statement: to remind us that women do not really need men (or at least not as much and as frequently as every single male chauvinist and every single misogynist believes).
Most if not all sexually active people do not really love having sex, they merely love experiencing an orgasm every now and then.
The primary goal of a righteous parent who has a daughter is to minimize the number of boys and men for whom their daughter will have willingly opened her legs come her wedding day; the closer to zero, the more righteous they will seem.
Coco Chanel is said to have said that a girl should be two things: who and what she is. I say a girl should do two things: what and who she wants.
Whether people need nature or not, it was clear that nature needed people. But perhaps nature needs us like a hostage needs her captors: nature needs us not to annihilate her, not to run her over, not to cover her with cement, not to chop her down. We can hardly admire ourselves, then, when we stop to accommodate nature's needs: we are dubious heroes who create peril and then save it's victims, we who rescue the animals and the trees from ourselves.
Fiction, with its preference for what is small and might elsewhere seem irrelevant; its facility for smuggling us into another skin and allowing us to live a new life there; its painstaking devotion to what without it might go unnoticed and unseen; its respect for contingency, and the unlikely and odd; its willingness to expose itself to moments of low, almost animal being and make them nobly illuminating, can deliver truths we might not otherwise stumble on.
Feminism is an endeavor to change something very old, widespread, and deeply rooted in many, perhaps most, cultures around the world, innumerable institutions, and most households on Earth—and in our minds, where it all begins and ends. That so much change has been made in four or five decades is amazing; that everything is not permanantly, definitively, irrevocably changed is not a sign of failure. A woman goes walking down a thousand-mile road. Twenty minutes after she steps forth, they proclaim that she still has nine hundred ninety-nine miles to go and will never get anywhere.
Writing and other efforts to produce an enduring piece of artwork is a gallant response to the prospect of death. Every person knows that they must die, and consequently people build elaborate symbolic defenses mechanism to shield themselves from knowledge of their impermanence. Every person possesses autonomy of the will, the ability to choose how to conduct their life. The freedom to act towards objects is ultimately useless; it provides a person with no sense of meaning and supplies no purpose to life because a mere collection of objects will not transcend their physical demise. An artist does not deny their impermanence but embraces the prospect of their death by laboring to create a monument of their existence that will survive their expiry.
For him that stealeth, or borroweth and returneth not, this book from its owner, let it change into a serpent in his hand and rend him. Let him be struck with palsy, and all his members blasted. Let him languish in pain, crying aloud for mercy, and let there be no surcease to this agony till he sing in dissolution. Let bookworms gnaw his entrails…and when at last he goeth to his final punishment, let the flames of Hell consume him forever.”— Anonymous Curse on Book Theives from the Monaster of San Pedro, Barcelona, Spain
Then you look at her and smile a smile your dissembling face will remember until the day you die. Baby, you say, baby, this is part of my novel. This is how you lose her.
Gazing from the moon, we see one earth, without borders, Mother Earth, her embrace encircling one people, humankind.
I am alive to a usual objection to what is clearly part of my programme for the metier of poetry. The objection is that the doctrine requires a ridiculous amount of erudition (pedantry), a claim which can be rejected by appeal to the lives of poets in any pantheon. It will even be affirmed that much learning deadens or perverts poetic sensibility. While, however, we persist in believing that a poet ought to know as much as will not encroach upon his necessary receptivity and necessary laziness, it is not desirable to confine knowledge to whatever can be put into a useful shape for examinations, drawing rooms, or the still more pretentious modes of publicity. Some can absorb knowledge, the more tardy must sweat for it. Shakespeare acquired more essential history from Plutarch than most men could from the whole British Museum. What is to be insisted upon is that the poet must develop this consciousness throughout his career. What happens is a continual surrender of himself as he is at the moment to something which is more valuable. The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality.
For the modern consciousness, the artist (replacing the saint) is the exemplary sufferer. And among artists, the writer, the man of words, is the person to whom we look to be able best to express his suffering.
A shaman and a writer each serve as their communities’ seers by engaging in extraordinary acts of conscientious study of the past and the present and predicting the future. An inner voice calls to the shaman and an essayistic writer to answer the call that vexes the pernicious spirit of their times. Shamanistic writers induce a trance state of mind where they lose contact with physical reality through a rational disordering of the senses, in an effort to encounter for the umpteenth time the great unknown and the unutterable truths that structure existence. An afflicted person seeking clarification of existence cannot ignore the shamanistic calling of narrative exposition. Thus, I shall continue this longwinded howl – making a personal immortality vessel – into the darkness of night forevermore.
Writing is an exhausting and demoralizing task that destroys human conceits. Writing an elongated series of personal essay opens a person’s mind to explore paradoxes and discover previously unrealized personal truths. Writing is as arduous as any trek into the wilderness. Every sentence takes a writer deeper into the jungle of the mind, a world of frightening inconsistencies created by our waking life’s desire that the world of chaos conform to our convenience.
Storytelling creates a healing serum. The thematic unguent of our personal story represents a fusion of the ineffable truths that each of us must discover within ourselves.
So in this Hemisphere when the moon goes down, I sit in one of those all-night-into-mornings cafes, watching short short skies below the skyscrapers and low-rises and sense the big turntables turning and the roadies setting up from stadium to stadium from L.A. to New York and all north and south and east and west and in between – and i know there must be a lot of kids who aren't sleeping but listening to their muse – iPad-ing and YouTubing...and the final shore ain't no shore at all but a long ether cable cyperspacing us together – cutting the continent in half.
The womb of the world births us. My filth comes from the same earthwork that gives rise to all stories. My interior light connects me with all the other creatures that inhabit this world of rocks, air, grass, woods, and water. My genetic code links me inextricably with all of nature. I enter the medley in the river of life with the ability to respond as life unfolds before my childlike eyes. My homemade medicinal poultice might not be of any benefit to other people. Nonetheless, we should each write our stories because each of us aims to attain a greater degree of awareness of our own authenticity. We owe a moral obligation to our family, friends, and ourselves as well as to the community to make a determined effort to wring the most out of life. We must applaud all efforts to investigate the human condition. Even if my writing amounts to nothing more than a clumsy attempt to travel the same tracks other people burnished with much more insight, clarity, precision, and style, it is an act of self-definition to ascribe to any philosophy. Philosophy represents a living charter; it is a life of action.
Had I been placed among those nations which are said to live still in the sweet freedom of nature's first laws, I assure you I should very gladly have portrayed myself here entire and wholly naked.Thus, reader, I am myself the matter of my book; you would be unreasonable to spend your leisure on so frivolous and vain a subject.
Dante Alighieri wrote his first book in the prosimetrum genre – La Vita Nuova – in 14th century Florence. Since I’m compiling this collection – my first indie publication – in Florence, just blocks from Dante’s house, and since his book involves a lost love, and ‘A New Life,’ I thought it fitting to emulate this style in my own casual, intuitive fashion. My hope is that the juxtaposition of poems, journal entries, essays and prose will create a story; a memoir in anarchistic vignettes.