Everything in the universe is older than it seems. Blame Einstein for that. We see what a thing was when the light left it, and that was long ago. Nothing in the night sky is contemporary, not to us, not to one another. Ancient stars exploded into ruin before their sparkle ever caught our eyes; those glimpsed in glowing “nurseries” were crones before we witnessed their birth. Everything we marvel at is already gone.
Yet, light rays go out forever, so that everything grown old and decayed retains somewhere the appearance of its youth. The universe is full of ghosts.
But images are light, and light is energy, and energy is matter; and matter is real. So image and reality are the same thing, after all. Blame Einstein for that, as well.—Michael Flynn
—from The January Dancer
Concise, compelling works and excerpts from antiquity until today. A commonplace book of sorts.
All men, at some moment in their lives, feel them selves to be alone. And they are. To live is to be separated from what we were in order to approach what we are going to be in the mysterious future. Solitude is the profoundest fact of the human condition. Man is the only being who knows he is alone, and the only one who seeks out another. His nature — if that word can be used in reference to man, who has “invented” him self by saying “No” to nature — consists in his longing to realize himself in another. Man is nostalgia and a search for communion. Therefore, when he is aware of himself he is aware of his lack of another, that is, of his solitude.
—from The Labyrinth of Solitude
from “Teen-age Gangs Speak Strange Tongue; Here’s a Glossary of Common Expressions”
- Bop—To fight.
- Bopping Club—A fighting gang.
- Diddly bop—First-class gang fighter.
- Gig—A party.
- Jitterbug—To fight.
- Rank—To insult (usually profanity concerning a boy’s mother).
- Shin battle—Intra-gang practice or test-of-mettle fight among gang members.
- Snag—To attack an individual.
- Sneaky Pete—Cheap wine.
- To sound—To joke or needle.
—found in The New York Times (March 24, 1958)
Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.
—W. S. Merwin
—from The Second Four Books of Poems
You remember having friends who used to lampoon the world so effortlessly, crouching at the verge of every joke and waiting to pounce on it, and you remember how they changed as they grew older and the joy of questioning everything slowly became transformed into the pain of questioning everything, like a star consuming its own core.
Who was it who said that every virtue contains its corresponding vice? C. S. Lewis? Virginia Woolf? You forget. But it has always worried you that what the virtue of wit contained was the vice of scorn.—Kevin Brockmeier
—from “The Human Soul as a Rube Goldberg Device”
—found in The View from the Seventh Layer
I ran down eleven flights with a pen in my hand today. And suddenly I stopped, you hear me? And in the middle of that office building, do you hear this? I stopped in the middle of that building and I saw—the sky. I saw the things that I love in this world. The work and the food and time to sit and smoke. And I looked at the pen and said to myself, what the hell am I grabbing this for? Why am I trying to become what I don’t want to be? What am I doing in an office, making a contemptuous, begging fool of myself, when all I want is out there, waiting for me the minute I say I know who I am! Why can’t I say that, Willy?—Arthur Miller
—from “Death of a Salesman” (1949)
As a serial abuser of parentheses, I warn you against their overuse, particularly in the conveyance of elbow-nudging joshingness. One too many coy asides and you, in the person of your writing, will seem like a dandy in a Restoration comedy stepping down to the footlights and curling his hand around his mouth to confidentially address the audience. One rather needs a beauty mark and a peruke to get away with that sort of thing.—Benjamin Dreyer
—from Dreyer’s English : an utterly correct guide to clarity and style (2019)