Monthly Archives: February 2016

Essays of Schopenhauer

On Reading and Books

 

Repetitio est mater studiorum. ‘Repetition is the mother of learning.’

***

the man who writes for fools always finds a large public

***

One can never read too little of bad, or too much of good books: bad books are intellectual poison; they destroy the mind.

***

Works are the quintessence of a mind, and are therefore always of by far greater value than conversation, even if it be the conversation of the greatest mind. In every essential a man’s works surpass his conversation and leave it far behind. Even the writings of an ordinary man may be instructive, worth reading, and entertaining, for the simple reason that they are the quintessence of that man’s mind — that is to say, the writings are the result and fruit of his whole thought and study; while we should be dissatisfied with his conversation. Accordingly, it is possible to read books written by people whose conversation would give us no satisfaction; so that the mind will only by degrees attain high culture by finding entertainment almost entirely in books, and not in men.

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Hamlet – Shakespeare

HAMLET
Denmark’s a prison.

 

ROSENCRANTZ
Then is the world one.

 

HAMLET
A goodly one; in which there are many confines,
wards and dungeons, Denmark being one o’ the worst.

 

ROSENCRANTZ
We think not so, my lord.

 

HAMLET
Why, then, ’tis none to you; for there is nothing
either good or bad, but thinking makes it so: to me
it is a prison.

 

ROSENCRANTZ
Why then, your ambition makes it one; ’tis too
narrow for your mind.

 

HAMLET
O God, I could be bounded in a nut shell and count
myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I
have bad dreams.

 

GUILDENSTERN
Which dreams indeed are ambition, for the very
substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream.

 

HAMLET
A dream itself is but a shadow.

 

ROSENCRANTZ
Truly, and I hold ambition of so airy and light a
quality that it is but a shadow’s shadow.

 

HAMLET
Then are our beggars bodies, and our monarchs and
outstretched heroes the beggars’ shadows. Shall we
to the court? for, by my fay, I cannot reason.

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Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace

(On life and tennis)

“You seek to vanquish and transcend the limited self whose limits make the game possible in the first place.”

 

(On One Hitters)

A one-hitter, sort of like a long FDR-type cigarette holder whose end is packed with a pinch of good dope, gets hot and is hard on the mouth — the brass ones especially — but one-hitters have the advantage of efficiency: every particle of ignited pot gets inhaled; there’s none of the incidental secondhand-type smoke from a party bowl’s big load, and Hal can take every iota way down deep and hold his breath forever, so that even his exhalations are no more than slightly pale and sick-sweet-smelling.

Total utilization of available resources = lack of publicly detectable waste.

Plus one-hitters are small, which is good, because let’s face it, anything you use to smoke high-resin dope with is going to stink. A bong is big, and its stink is going to be like commensurately big, plus you have the foul bong-water to deal with. Pipes are smaller and at least portable, but they always come with only a multi-hit party bowl that disperses nonutilized smoke over a wide area. A one-hitter can be wastelessly employed, then allowed to cool, wrapped in two baggies and then further wrapped and sealed in a Ziploc and then enclosed in two sport-socks in a gear bag along with the lighter and eyedrops and mint-pellets and the little film-case of dope itself, and it’s highly portable and odor-free and basically totally covert.

**

(On Suicide)

Kate Gompert stared at a point over the man’s left shoulder. ‘I wasn’t trying to hurt myself. I was trying to kill myself. There’s a difference.’
The doctor asked whether she could try to explain what she felt the difference was between those two things.

‘Do you guys see different kinds of suicides?’

‘I think there must be probably different types of suicides. I’m not one of the self-hating ones. The type of like “I’m shit and the world’d be better off without poor me” type that says that but also imagines what everybody’ll say at their funeral. I’ve met types like that on wards. Poor-me-I-hate-me-punish-me-come-to-my-funeral. Then they show you a 20 X 25 glossy of their dead cat. It’s all self-pity bullshit. It’s bullshit. I didn’t have any special grudges. I didn’t fail an exam or get dumped by anybody. All these types. Hurt themselves.’

‘I didn’t want to especially hurt myself. Or like punish. I don’t hate myself. I just wanted out. I didn’t want to play anymore is all.’

‘I wanted to just stop being conscious. I’m a whole different type. I wanted to stop feeling this way. If I could have just put myself in a really long coma I would have done that. Or given myself shock I would have done that. Instead.’

‘The last thing more I’d want is hurt. I just didn’t want to feel this way anymore. I don’t… I didn’t believe this feeling would ever go away. I don’t. I still don’t. I’d rather feel nothing than this.’

The way she suddenly shook her head was vehement, exasperated. ‘The feeling is why I want to. The feeling is the reason I want to die. I’m here because I want to die. That’s why I’m in a room without windows and with cages over the lightbulbs and no lock on the toilet door. Why they took my shoelaces and my belt. But I notice they don’t take away the feeling do they.’

The resumed study of the movement of her feet. ‘When people call it that I always get pissed off because I always think depression sounds like you just get like really sad, you get quiet and melancholy and just like sit quietly by the window sighing or just lying around. A state of not caring about anything. A kind of blue kind of peaceful state.’
‘Well this’ — she gestured at herself— ‘isn’t a state. This is a feeling. I feel it all over. In my arms and legs.’
‘That would include your carp—your hands and feet?’
‘All over. My head, throat, butt. In my stomach. It’s all over everywhere. I don’t know what I could call it. It’s like I can’t get enough outside it to call it anything. It’s like horror more than sadness. It’s more like horror. It’s like something horrible is about to
happen, the most horrible thing you can imagine — no, worse than you can imagine because there’s the feeling that there’s something you have to do right away to stop it but you don’t know what it is you have to do, and then it’s happening, too, the whole horrible time, it’s about to happen and also it’s happening, all at the same time.’

Kate Gompert finally took a real breath. ‘And then but no matter what I do it gets worse and worse, it’s there more and more, this filter drops down, and the feeling makes the fear of the feeling way worse, and after a couple weeks it’s there all the time, the feeling, and I’m totally inside it, I’m in it and everything has to pass through it to get in, and I don’t want to smoke any Bob, and I don’t want to work, or go out, or read, or watch TP, or go out, or stay in, or either do anything or not do anything, I don’t want anything except for the feeling to go away. But it doesn’t. Part of the feeling is being like willing to do anything to make it go away. Understand that. Anything. Do you understand? It’s not wanting to hurt myself it’s wanting to not hurt.’

**

(On Addiction)

That a little-mentioned paradox of Substance addiction is: that once you are sufficiently enslaved by a Substance to need to quit the Substance in order to save your life, the enslaving Substance has become so deeply important to you that you will all but lose your mind when it is taken away from you. Or that sometime after your Substance of choice has just been taken away from you in order to save your life, as you hunker down for required a.m. and P.M. prayers, you will find yourself beginning to pray to be allowed literally to lose your mind, to be able to wrap your mind in an old newspaper or something and leave it in an alley to shift for itself, without you.

That most Substance-addicted people are also addicted to thinking, meaning they have a compulsive and unhealthy relationship with their own thinking. That the cute Boston AA term for addictive-type thinking is: Analysis-Paralysis. That cats will in fact get violent diarrhea if you feed them milk, contrary to the popular image of cats and milk. That it is simply more pleasant to be happy than to be pissed off. That 99% of compulsive thinkers’ thinking is about themselves; that 99% of this self-directed thinking consists of imagining and then getting ready for things that are going to happen to them; and then, weirdly, that if they stop to think about it, that 100% of the things they spend 99% of their time and energy imagining and trying to prepare for all the contingencies and consequences of are never good. Then that this connects interestingly with the early-sobriety urge to pray for the literal loss of one’s mind. In short that 99% of the head’s thinking activity consists of trying to scare the everliving shit out of itself.

**

and then you’re in serious trouble, very serious trouble, and you know it, finally, deadly serious trouble, because this Substance you thought was your one true friend, that you gave up all for, gladly, that for so long gave you relief from the pain of the Losses your love of that relief caused, your mother and lover and god and compadre, has finally removed its smily-face mask to reveal centerless eyes and a ravening maw, and canines down to here, it’s the Face In The Floor, the grinning root-white face of your worst nightmares, and the face is your own face in the mirror, now, it’s you, the Substance has devoured or replaced and become you, and the puke-, drool-and Substance-crusted T-shirt you’ve both worn for weeks now gets torn off and you stand there looking and in the root-white chest where your heart (given away to It) should be beating, in its exposed chest’s center and center-less eyes is just a lightless hole, more teeth, and a beckoning taloned hand dangling something irresistible, and now you see you’ve been had, screwed royal, stripped and fucked and tossed to the side like some stuffed toy to lie for all time in the posture you land in. You see now that It’s your enemy and your worst personal nightmare and the trouble It’s gotten you into is undeniable and you still can’t stop. Doing the Substance now is like attending Black Mass but you still can’t stop, even though the Substance no longer gets you high. You are, as they say, Finished. You cannot get drunk and you cannot get sober; you cannot get high and you cannot get straight. You are behind bars; you are in a cage and can see only bars in every direction. You are in the kind of a hell of a mess that either ends lives or turns them around.

**

“It did what all ads are supposed to do: create an anxiety relievable by purchase.”

**

For, you, if you attain your goal and cannot find some way to transcend the experience of having that goal be your entire existence, your raison de faire, so, then, one of two things we see will happen.’

‘One, one is that you attain the goal and realize the shocking realization that attaining the goal does not complete or redeem you, does not make everything for your life “OK” as you are, in the culture, educated to assume it will do this, the goal. And then you face this fact that what you had thought would have the meaning does not have the meaning when you get it, and you are impaled by shock. We see suicides in history by people at these pinnacles;

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Dreaming

I was born to dream.

Head in the sky

While life flashes by.

I was born to dream.

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Leaves of Grass – Whitman

And I know I am solid and sound;
To me the converging objects of the universe perpetually flow;
All are written to me, and I must get what the writing means.

***

I know I am august;
I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or be understood;

 

 

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Eugene Onegin – Pushkin

“For careless youth’s without regret,

And life’s horizons broad as yet,

While age, in spectacles, can see

Its fate in death’s gaping portal,

Knowing all our joy is mortal,

And life a transient mystery:

No matter, hope in childish guise

Beguiles, with its seductive lies.”

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Eugene Onegin – Pushkin

“All poets, it seems to me,

Love in imagination,

To dream affection constantly

Was once my sole preoccupation.

My soul preserved its memory

The Muse gave it eternity”

 

 

 

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