Joseph Heller, Catch-22
Ask me a question.
“ All men live enveloped in whale-lines. All are born with halters round their necks; but it is only when caught in the swift, sudden turn of death, that mortals realize the silent, subtle, ever-present perils of life. And if you be a philosopher, though seated in the whale-boat, you would not at heart feel one whit more of terror, than though seated before your evening fire with a poker, and not a harpoon, by your side. ”
Herman Melville, Moby-Dick
“ ‘I hope tomorrow will be a fine day, Lane.’
‘It never is, sir.’
‘Lane, you’re a perfect pessimist.’
‘I do my best to give satisfaction, sir.’ ”
Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest
“ Down the toilet, lookit me,
What a silly thing ta do!
Hope nobody takes a pee,
Yippy dippy dippy doo … ”
Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow
“ To be wise, however, soberly to anticipate what might lie in store, was truly no easy task, for it was as is some vital yet undetectable modification had taken place in the eternally stable composition of the air, in the very remoteness of that hitherto faultless mechanism or unnamed principle — which, it is often remarked, makes the world go round and of which the most imposing evidence is the sheer phenomenon of the world’s existence — which had suddenly lost some of its power, and it was because of this that the troubling knowledge of the probability of danger was in fact less unbearable than the common sense of foreboding that soon anything at all might happen and that this ‘anything’ — the law governing its likelihood becoming less apparent in the process of disintegration — was leading to greater anxiety than the thought of any personal misfortune, thereby increasingly depriving people of the possibility of coolly appraising the facts. ”
Laszlo Krasznahorkai, The Melancholy of Resistance
This connection is part of contradiction. It is the tension I was talking about. Because tension isn’t about two opposite points, it’s about the line being stretched in between them. And we need to acknowledge and honor that tension and the connection that that tension is a part of. Our connection, not just to the people we love, but to everybody, including people we can’t stand and wish weren’t around.
The connection we have is part of what defines us on such a basic level. Freedom is not freedom from connection. Serial killing is freedom from connection. Certain large investment firms have established freedom from connection….
But we as people never do, and we’re not supposed to. We are individuals, obviously, but we are more than that.
So here’s the thing about changing the world. It turns out that’s not even the question, because you don’t have a choice. You are going to change the world because that is actually what the world is.
You do not pass through this life, it passes through you. You experience it, you interpret it, you act, and then it is different. That happens constantly. You are changing the world. You always have been.”
“ Don’t be amazed if you see my eyes always wandering. In fact, this is my way of reading, and it is only in this way that reading proves fruitful to me. If a book truly interests me, I cannot follow it for more than a few lines before my mind, having seized on a thought that the text suggests to it, or a feeling, or a question, or an image, goes off on a tangent and springs from thought to thought, from image to image, in an itinerary of reasonings and fantasies that I feel the need to pursue to the end, moving away from the book until I have lost sight of it. The stimulus of reading is indispensable to me, and of meaty reading, even if, of every book, I manage to read no more than a few pages. But those few pages already enclose for me whole universes, which I can never exhaust. ”
Italo Calvino, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller
“ There is a portion of reality which is offered to us without our making any special effort beyond opening our eyes and ears, and this we call the world of pure impressions. But there is another world built of structures of impressions, which, though hidden, is none the less real. If this other world is to exist for us, we need to open something more than our physical eyes, and to undertake a greater kind of effort. But the measure of our effort neither confers any reality on that world, nor takes it away. The deep world is as clear as the surface one, only it asks more of us. ”
Jose Ortega y Gasset, Meditations on Quixote
“ Oh, Theseus,
dear friend, only the gods can never age,
the gods can never die. All else in the world
almighty Time obliterates, crushes all
to nothing. The earth’s strength wastes away,
the strength of a man’s body wastes and dies —
faith dies, and bad faith comes to life,
and the same wind of friendship cannot blow forever,
holding steady and strong between two friends,
much less between two cities.
For some of us soon, for others later,
joy turns to hate and back again to love.
And even if all is summer sunshine now
between yourself and Thebes,
infinite Time, sweeping through its round
gives birth to infinite nights and days …
and a day will come when the treaties of an hour,
the pacts firmed with a handclasp will snap—
at the slightest word a spear will hurl them to the winds—
some far-off day when my dead body, slumbering, buried
cold in death, will drain their hot blood down,
if Zeus is still Zeus and Apollo the son of god
speaks clear and true ”
Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus
“ Lately I’ve noticed a disturbing tendency in myself to accept things the way they are. ”
Roberto Bolano, The Savage Detectives
“ I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what. ”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird