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I know that it is a hopeless undertaking to debate about fundamental value judgements. For instance, if someone approves, as a goal, the extirpation of the human race from the earth, one cannot refute such a viewpoint on rational grounds. But if there is agreement on certain goals and values, one can argue rationally about the means by which these objectives may be obtained.
It’s an irritating reality that many places and events defy description. Angkor Wat and Machu Picchu, for instance, seem to demand silence, like a love affair you can never talk about. For a while after, you fumble for words, trying vainly to assemble a private narrative, an explanation, a comfortable way to frame where you’ve been and whats happened. In the end, you’re just happy you were there – with your eyes open – and lived to see it.
I wish it were possible, from this instance, to invent a method of embalming drowned persons in such a manner that they may be recalled to life at any period, however distant; for having a very ardent desire to see and observe the state of America a hundred years hence, I should prefer to any ordinary death the being immersed in a cask of Madeira wine with a few friends till that time, to be then recalled to life by the solar warmth of my dear country!
Disassemble the cells of a sponge (by passing them through a sieve, for instance), then dump them into a solution, and they will find their way back together and build themselves into a sponge again. You can do this to them over and over, and they will doggedly reassemble because, like you and me and every other living thing, they have one overwhelming impulse: to continue to be.
When describing nature, a writer should seize upon small details, arranging them so that the reader will see an image in his mind after he closes his eyes. For instance: you will capture the truth of a moonlit night if you’ll write that a gleam like starlight shone from the pieces of a broken bottle, and then the dark, plump shadow of a dog or wolf appeared. You will bring life to nature only if you don’t shrink from similes that liken its activities to those of humankind.
In fifty years time, the need for true psychics and conscious mediums (such as H.P.B., for instance [Helena Petrova Blavatsky]) will be very great if the Masters’ plans are to be carried through to fruition, and the movement must be set on foot in preparation for the coming of Him for Whom all nations wait
One of the unique aspects of rowing is that novices strive to perfect the same motions as Olympic contenders. Few other sports can make this claim. In figure skating, for instance, the novice practices only simple moves. After years of training, the skater then proceeds to the jumps and spins that make up an elite skater’s program. But the novice rower, from day one, strives to duplicate a motion that he’ll still be doing on the day of the Olympic finals.
…stories about [the German composer Johannes] Brahms’s rudeness and wit amused me in particular. For instance, I loved the one about how a great wine connoisseur invited the composer to dinner. ‘This is the Brahms of my cellar,’ he said to his guests, producing a dust-covered bottle and pouring some into the master’s glass. Brahms looked first at the color of the wine, then sniffed its bouquet, finally took a sip, and put the glass down without saying a word. ‘Don’t you like it?’ asked the host. ‘Hmm,’ Brahms muttered. ‘Better bring your Beethoven!’
I think I wish I had never spanked my children, but I have. And they remember every instance like they tattooed it on their palms. I think it’s a terrible lesson, to use physical punishment to make a point about not behaving, not being kind to their siblings, to other people. I mean that’s just absurd. But I’ve lost it, I understand it.
Not every action or emotion however admits of the observance of a due mean. Indeed the very names of some directly imply evil, for instance malice, shamelessness, envy, and, of actions, adultery, theft, murder. All these and similar actions and feelings are blamed as being bad in themselves; it is not the excess or deficiency of them that we blame. It is impossible therefore ever to go right in regard to them – one must always be wrong.
Whatever we learn to do, we learn by actually doing it; men come to be builders, for instance, by building, and harp players by playing the harp. In the same way, by doing just acts we come to be just; by doing self-controlled acts, we come to be self-controlled ; and by doing brave acts, we become brave.
It is well for civilization that human beings constantly strive to gain greater and greater rewards, for it is this urge, this ambition, this aspiration that moves men and women to bestir themselves to rise to higher and higher achievement. Individual success is to be won in most instances by studying and diagnosing the kind of rewards human hearts seek today and are likely to seek tomorrow.
People can do great things. However, there are somethings they just can’t do. I, for instance, have not been able to transform myself into a Popsicle, despite years of effort. I could, however, make myself insane, if I wished. (Though if I achieved the second, I might be able to make myself think I’d achieved the first….) Anyway, if there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s this: great success often depends on being able to distinguish between the impossible and the improbable. Or, in easier terms, distinguishing between Popsicles and insanity. Any questions?