Illusions commend themselves to us because they save us pain and allow us to enjoy pleasure instead. We must therefore accept it without complaint when they sometimes collide with a bit of reality against which they are dashed to pieces.
The voice of the intellect is a soft one, but it does not rest until it has gained a hearing.
On Death, without Exaggeration
It can't take a joke,
find a star, make a bridge.
It knows nothing about weaving, mining, farming,
building ships, or baking cakes.
In our planning for tomorrow,
it has the final word,
which is always beside the point.
It can't even get the things done
that are part of its trade:
dig a grave,
make a coffin,
clean up after itself.
Preoccupied with killing,
it does the job awkwardly,
without system or skill.
As though each of us were its first kill.
Oh, it has its triumphs,
but look at its countless defeats,
and repeat attempts!
Sometimes it isn't strong enough
to swat a fly from the air.
Many are the caterpillars
that have outcrawled it.
All those bulbs, pods,
tentacles, fins, tracheae,
nuptial plumage, and winter fur
show that it has fallen behind
with its halfhearted work.
Ill will won't help
and even our lending a hand with wars and coups d'etat
is so far not enough.
Hearts beat inside eggs.
Babies' skeletons grow.
Seeds, hard at work, sprout their first tiny pair of leaves
and sometimes even tall trees fall away.
Whoever claims that it's omnipotent
is himself living proof
that it's not.
There's no life
that couldn't be immortal
if only for a moment.
always arrives by that very moment too late.
In vain it tugs at the knob
of the invisible door.
As far as you've come
can't be undone.
From "The People on the Bridge", 1986
Translated by S. Baranczak & C. Cavanagh
The job is to ask questions-it always was-and to ask them as inexorably as I can. And to face the absence of precise answers with a certain humility.
If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.
-Henry David Thoreau
There are some things so serious you have to laugh at them.
All government, of course, is against liberty.
-H. L. Mencken
Any dictator would admire the uniformity and obedience of the U.S. media.
It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it; but the young know they are wretched for they are full of the truthless ideal which have been instilled into them, and each time they come in contact with the real, they are bruised and wounded.
Maugham, 'Of Human Bondage', 1915
I love men, not for what unites them, but for what divides them, and I want to know most of all what gnaws at their hearts.
Without poets, without artists, men would soon weary of nature's monotony. The sublime idea men have of the universe would collapse with dizzying speed. The order which we find in nature, and which is only an effect of art, would at once vanish. Everything would break up in chaos. There would be no seasons, no civilization, no thought, no humanity; even life would give way, and the impotent void would reign everywhere.
A lie does not consist in the indirect position of words, but in the desire and intention, by false speaking, to deceive and injure your neighbour.
Nothing is so hard for those who abound in riches as to conceive how others can be in want.
Poor nations are hungry, and rich nations are proud; and pride and hunger will ever be at variance.
When a true genius appears, you can know him by this sign: that all the dunces are in a confederacy against him.
Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.