In the good ol’ days, these “sequences” (short essays) were published in annual chapbooks, on the back of which could be found, in place of the usual blurbs from logrolling or generous writers, quotations. Among those that have seemed worth preserving, as they speak to the inspirations for and moods of this work, are the following:
- Either the future would resemble the present in which case it would not listen to him, or it would be different from it, and his predicament would be meaningless. (Winston Smith, beginning his journal, in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four).
- That the education of young people at the present day conceals from them the part which sexuality will play in their lives is not the only reproach which we are obliged to make against it. Its other sin is that it does not prepare them for the aggressiveness of which they are destined to become the objects. Education is behaving as though one were to equip people starting on a Polar expedition with summer clothing and maps of the Italian Lakes. In this it becomes evident that a certain misuse is being made of ethical demands. The strictness of those demands would not do so much harm if education were to say: ’This is how people ought to be, in order to be happy and to make others happy; but you have to reckon on their not being like that.’ Instead of this the young are made to believe that everyone else fulfills those ethical demands—that is, that everyone else is virtuous. It is on this that the demand is based that the young, too, shall become virtuous. (Sigmund Freud, Civilization and its Discontents, in James Strachey’s translation)
- Our readers must be made to understand that life is a complicated thing of negatives and positives. (Boris Orlov, deputy editor of a Soviet business magazine). See “In 1982.”
- [T]his is the crime of which I accuse my country and my countrymen, and for which neither I nor time nor history will ever forgive them, that they have destroyed and are destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and do not know it and do not want to know it. (James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time)
- The disparity between what the United States thinks it is and what it actually is is now too great to be reconciled. One can only chip away at the edges. (Gore Vidal)
And NUH is the letter I use to spell Nutches
Who live in small caves, known as Nitches, for hutches,
These Nutches have troubles, the biggest of which is
the fact there are many more Nutches than Nitches.
Each Nutch in a Nitch knows that some other Nutch
Would like to move into his Nitch very much.
So each Nutch in a Nitch has to watch that small Nitch
Or Nutches who haven’t got Nitches will snitch.
(Dr. Seuss, On Beyond Zebra!)
- The individual has gained as much in richness, differentiation and vigor as . . . the socialization of society has enfeebled and undermined him. In the period of his decay, the individual’s experience of himself and what he encounters contributes once more to knowledge. (Theodor Adorno)
- It is difficult to understand that two times two does not equal four; but does that make it any the more true? (Freidrich Nietzsche, Letter to Elisabeth Nietzsche, as translated by Christopher Middleton)
- The world of any moment is the merest appearance. . . . Let [the scholar] not quit his belief that a popgun is a popgun, though the ancient and honorable of the earth affirm it to be the crack of doom. In silence, in steadiness, in severe abstraction, let him hold by himself; add observation to observation, patient of neglect, patient of reproach; and bide his own time,—happy enough, if he can satisfy himself alone, that this day he has seen something truly. (Ralph Waldo Emerson, The American Scholar)
- [D]ialogue does not have an end in consensus; rather, it essentially presupposes dissensus of a certain kind . . . whereby every interlocutor retains his position and attempts to clarify (and possibly modify) it for himself, and, at the same time, for the other, thus also clarifying the other’s position for himself and for the other. . . . [D]ialogue’s main intention is not that of winning an argument for the sake of establishing oneself or one’s own ego—as if one’s subjectivity were only achieved once it has been imposed upon the other — but rather it is to provide the chance for opening up a conversational clearing whereby that which every interlocutor already has may appear even though he did not yet have the chance to present it, either to himself or to others, or thus to realize it. (Dmitri Nikulin, On Dialogue)
- I always believed in myself. But one could become an atheist. (Baal in Bertolt Brecht’s Baal, in Eric Bentley and Martin Esslin’s English version)
- And, almost finally, two short poems:
Publication—is the Auction
Of the Mind of Man—
For so foul a thing
Possibly—but We—would rather
From Our Garret go
White—Unto the White Creator—
Than invest—Our Snow—
Thought belong to Him who gave it—
Then—to Him Who bear
Its Corporeal illustration—Sell
The Royal Air—
In the Parcel—Be the Merchant
Of the Heavenly Grace—
But reduce no Human Spirit
To Disgrace of Price—
Distance—is not the Realm of Fox
Nor by Relay of Bird
Until thyself, Beloved.
- “Pas de récit de rêve pas de citations” (no dreams and no quotes) is a line from Camier in Samuel Beckett’s novel Mercier et Camier (in French).
- The photograph is of George Orwell.