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Showing posts from September, 2020

Mentions of eunuchs in 'The Dance of Genghis Cohn' (1968)

Quotes from Romain Gary's 1968 novel The Dance of Genghis Cohn that allude to eunuchs.“He was...inoffensive. He had been the victim of a shooting accident in France...you see what I mean?”
”What was he doing in France?”
“Well, he is a German, isn’t he? He was doing his duty.”
“Why should the Baroness have gone off with a eunuch?”
“Because he is harmless.”
“Then one might just as well stay with one’s husband.” (p. 53)“Who was that gentleman, Florian?”
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“Just another small-timer, my darling. There was no need for you to bother. I’ve told you a million times: they can’t deliver. They don’t have what it takes. Eunuchs, all of them.” (p. 95, pp. 118-119)“Florian, you’re crying? You!”
“This dog’s life!” wails Florian. “I get fed up with it sometimes.”
“But what is it? What’s the matter now?”
“What’s the matter, what’s the matter? ... There are moments when I would like to...well, when I too would like to be able to...Watching them do it all the time...it’s upsetting, in…

Quotes on developing a self

"Selfhood — an obsolete idea, according to Bateson and other proponents of the ‘new consciousness’ — is precisely the inescapable awareness of man’s contradictory place in the natural order of things. … The distinguishing characteristic of selfhood, however, is not rationality but the critical awareness of man’s divided nature. Selfhood expresses itself in the form of a guilty conscience, the painful awareness of the gulf between human aspirations and human limitation. “Bad conscience is inseparable from freedom,” Jacques Ellul reminds us. “There is no freedom without an accompanying critical attitude to the self..."
Christopher Lasch. The Minimal Self: Psychic Survival in Troubled Times. New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1984. p. 257-258."Similar in concept to theologian James Fowler’s stages of faith (even Campbell’s hero’s journey), [M. Scott] Peck’s framework [in his book The Different Drum] consists of four systematic or hierarchical stages of spiritual growth and de…

Quotes on seeking oneself

”We all come into existence as a single cell, smaller than a speck of dust. Much smaller. Divide. Multiply. Add and subtract. Matter changes hands, atoms flow in and out, molecules pivot, proteins stitch together, mitochrondria send out their oxidative dictates; we begin as a microscopic electrical swarm. The lungs the brain the heart. Forty weeks later, six trillion cells get crushed in the vise of our mother’s birth canal and we howl. Then the world starts in on us.”
Anthony Doerr. All the Light We Cannot See. New York: Scribner, 2014.“Half her work is tricking him into trusting himself and the other half is giving him the tools to make the right decisions. She doesn’t know it yet, but she will find that these are the first steps toward being an adult.”
Lindsey Drager. The Archive of Alternate Endings. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Dzanc, 2019."Denied the Sought-After,
He longed to deserve
To be the Sought-After."
Dag Hammarskjöld. Markings [Vägmärken], (1963) Translated by Leif Sjöbe…

Quotes on finding one's 'self' within community

It may be claimed that we are singularities..."And it isn't a culture of individualism, but its lack, that makes for social tension. George Packer wrote of this in his book The Assassins' Gate about Iraq, where people's group identities overwhelmed their identities as individuals, with bloody results. In contrast, it is where people have a strong sense of themselves as individuals, rather than as subordinated to some larger social amalgam, that they can have a deep and genuine respect for other human beings, their individual worth, and their rights.
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Those who believe human evil has to be controlled by a powerful state may not have noticed that the worst evils ever perpetrated have been the projects of powerful governments--from the Inquisition to the Holocaust to the Gulag. This is why we need to hold the state in check, curbing the power of a few to work their will upon the many."
Frank S. Robinson. The Case for Rational Optimism. New Brunswick, N.J. and …

Political parties are supposed to present positions and uphold principles. Ideally.

Why do political parties exist? Not only for politicians to mutually support each other, but for the public to have a shorthand method of understanding what positions are being discussed at any given time and to give voters an easy way to accept a "package deal" of positions that they don't otherwise fully understand.Chris Hayes explained it in 2012: “Choose nearly any important public issue — the long-term solvency of Social Security, the effect of taxes on growth, the importance to student performance of merit pay for teachers — and you will find smart, well-credentialed, and energetic advocates arguing for mutually exclusive positions. In this way, the voter is asked to referee a series of contests for which he or she has absolutely no independent expertise. That’s why political parties are such a useful part of liberal democracy; they take on much of this informational burden. Citizens come to associate themselves with a party for myriad reasons — affiliation of worl…

Quotes on the benefits of quiet, solitary reflection to connect with oneself

"What we do during our working hours determines what we have; what we do during our leisure hours determines what we are."
Philanthropist George Eastman, quoted in the Buffalo Law Journal, quoted in The Week, June 14, 2013, p. 19."When you stop thinking about yourself all the time, a certain sense of repose overtakes you."
Leonard Cohen, quoted in the Montreal Gazette, quoted in The Week, Dec. 21, 2012, p. 15."What solitary icebergs we are, Miss Vinrace! How little we can communicate!"
Virginia Woolf. The Voyage Out (1915)."Silence is the cornerstone of character."
Ohhiyesa, Santee Sioux. Quoted in Sharon Franquemont. You Already Know What to Do: 10 Invitations to the Intuitive Life. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 2000. p. 117.”Like most deadly attractive people, he had a hollow at the center of him. What people loved most about her husband was how mellifluous their own voices sounded when they echoed back.”
Lauren Groff. Fates and Fu…

Quotes on selfishness

”Psychology has distinctions only between good and bad forms of selfishness, like Rousseau's deliciously candid distinction between amour de soi and amour-propre, untranslatable into English because we would have to use self-love for both terms.”
Allan Bloom. The Closing of the American Mind. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987. p. 178.The puzzle in this seeming contradiction is easy to solve. Selfishness is rooted in this very lack of fondness for oneself. The person who is not fond of himself, who does not approve of himself, is in constant anxiety concerning his own self. He has not the inner security which can exist only on the basis of genuine fondness and affirmation. He must be concerned about himself, greedy to get everything for himself, since basically he lacks security and satisfaction.
Erich Fromm. Escape from Freedom. New York: Avon, 1941. pp. 136-137.“The ego and soul are two wheels of the same bike, each necessary, both important. Without soul, the ego would be com…

'Zusya, why were you not Zusya?' (quotes)

“Rabbi Zusya of Hanipol used to say, ‘If they ask me in the next world, ‘Why were you not Moses?’ I will know the answer. But if they ask me, ‘Why were you not Zusya?’ I will have nothing to say.”
Martin Buber. Quoted by Ronald S. Miller and the editors of the New Age Journal.As Above, So Below: Paths to Spiritual Renewal in Daily Life. Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1992. p. 28.“My best answer to the question ‘Are you Sam Keen?’ is ‘Not yet.’”
Sam Keen. In the Absence of God: Dwelling in the Presence of the Sacred. New York: Harmony Books, 2010. p. 118."The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself."
Anna Quindlen, quoted in Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, Center City, Minn.: Hazelden Publishing, 2010."Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yoursel…

Quotes on the 'midlife crisis' and the sense of self

“This is the essence of the story of Pinocchio, I take it, who is a puppet and a person at the same time. Or, better: he is a puppet who does not know that he is already a person.”
Will Eaves. Murmur. Bellevue (2019).“What is this ill spirit in you all of a sudden? I said I have been to the Darklands. It’s a place of bad enchantments. You stop being yourself. You won’t even know what that self is.”
“Self is what men tell themselves they are. I am just a cat.”
Marlon James. Black Leopard, Red Wolf. New York: Riverhead, 2019. Chapter 9.“The experience of this kind of confusion — confusion around not just career, but identity itself — feels anything but frivolous. It is paralyzing.
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It’s subtle, but we can translate What do you want to be when you grow up? to You are allowed one identity in this life, so which is it? How terrifying is that? When phrased that way, it’s no wonder the question stresses us out.”
Emilie Wapnick. How to Be Everything: A Guide for Those Who (Still) Do…