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Showing posts from January, 2018

Tomorrow will bring us shame

"Eventually, all of our heroes become villains. George Washington owned slaves. Famed suffragette Nellie McClung was a vocal advocate for sterilizing women with disabilities. Eleanor Roosevelt was wildly anti-Semitic. Winston Churchill? Utterly racist. Christopher Columbus? You don’t want to know.
Even the most virtuous among us right now, the pink-hatted protesters and the hemp-wearing vegans, will one day be seen as contemptibly, perhaps even criminally unethical. One ate meat. The other owned a car.... We have no reason to feel smug and self-righteous with our enlightened, modern sensibilities. Tomorrow is guaranteed to bring us all dishonour and shame."
James Bond was a rapist

Ontological Unease

"We live somewhere queasier—a world in which technology is developing in ways that make it increasingly hard to distinguish human beings from artificial things. The world that the Internet and social media have created is less a system than an ecology, a proliferation of unexpected niches, and entities created and adapted to exploit them in deceptive ways.... In other words, we live in Philip K. Dick’s future, not George Orwell’s or Aldous Huxley’s.... what he captured with genius was the ontological unease of a world in which the human and the abhuman, the real and the fake, blur together. 
In his novels Dick was interested in seeing how people react when their reality starts to break down. A world in which the real commingles with the fake, so that no one can tell where the one ends and the other begins, is ripe for paranoia. The most toxic consequence of social media manipulation, whether by the Russian government or others, may have nothing to do with its success as propagan…

Past Selves

"My eyes welled up. There was some sadness — the memory of a fall that had been so hard. And an aching sympathy for a woman who was so heartbroken that she fantasized about throwing her body off a bridge.
Who was that woman? I had come so far that I felt like I no longer knew her."
Elaisha Stokes, writing for Modern Love

Ingredients of Temptation

"We’re often the most stubbornly attracted to those who represent forbidden, or unresolved, aspects of our personality.... Perhaps being with this man allows you to indulge certain darker aspects of his personality that dwell within you while also disavowing them.... Nobody knows the precise ingredients of temptation. We can only attempt to know ourselves."
Steve Almond and Cheryl Strayed

Delusions

"[The Americans] is about delusions—romantic, political, bureaucratic, tactical, marital, fashion (the year is 1981). And parental: Can Elizabeth really think that her children “understand” a father whom they believe is a travel agent but is actually a spy and assassin who’s just staged a sham wedding with a deluded F.B.I. secretary at which their mother pretended to be his sister? Can the K.G.B. really think that Al Haig might attempt a military coup after John Hinckley shoots Ronald Reagan—a major plot element in an early episode? Maybe they can.
It’s often said, admiringly, that “The Americans” is a show about marriage that is dressed up as a spy drama. One of its premises is that marriage itself is a matter of dressing up and performing, and that those enactments, particularly when children are watching, can be its most genuine part." 
New Yorker: The Secret of “The Americans”

I live my life in widening circles

by Rainer Maria Rilke

I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not ever complete the last one,
but I give myself to it.

I circle around God, that primordial tower.
I have been circling for thousands of years,
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?

Witch Trials

"... the Salem witchcraft trials, in which a person was guilty because accused, since the rules of evidence were such that you could not be found innocent....
This structure – guilty because accused – has applied in many more episodes in human history than Salem. It tends to kick in during the "Terror and Virtue" phase of revolutions – something has gone wrong, and there must be a purge, as in the French Revolution, Stalin's purges in the USSR, the Red Guard period in China, the reign of the Generals in Argentina and the early days of the Iranian Revolution. The list is long and Left and Right have both indulged. Before "Terror and Virtue" is over, a great many have fallen by the wayside. Note that I am not saying that there are no traitors or whatever the target group may be; simply that in such times, the usual rules of evidence are bypassed.
Such things are always done in the name of ushering in a better world. Sometimes they do usher one in, for a tim…

Gazing Out of the Window

"Plato suggested a metaphor for the mind: our ideas are like birds fluttering around in the aviary of our brains. But in order for the birds to settle, Plato understood that we needed periods of purpose-free calm. Staring out the window offers such an opportunity. We see the world going on: a patch of weeds is holding its own against the wind; a grey tower block looms through the drizzle. But we don’t need to respond; we have no overarching intentions, and so the more tentative parts of ourselves have a chance to be heard, like the sound of church bells in the city once the traffic has died down at night. 
The potential of daydreaming isn’t recognised by societies obsessed with productivity. But some of our greatest insights come when we stop trying to be purposeful and instead respect the creative potential of reverie. Window daydreaming is a strategic rebellion against the excessive demands of immediate (but ultimately insignificant) pressures – in favour of the diffuse, but v…