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20th September 2014

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The problem lies not in the nature of man but in the nature of power.
— Mark Kurlansky, Nonviolence: The History of a Dangerous Idea

Tagged: bookspoliticspowerphilosophyethicshistorynonviolenceactivism

20th September 2014


The trees are different trees

We are no longer in the forest but in an enclosed garden surrounded by a stone wall and the trees are different trees. I do not know them. There are steps leading upwards. It is too dark to see the wall or the steps, but I know they are there and I think, ‘It will be when I go up these steps. At the top.’ I stumble over my dress and cannot get up. I touch a tree and my arms hold on to it. ‘Here, here.’ But I think I will not go any further.

Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea (1966)

Tagged: bookswritingliteraturetreesalienationJean Rhys

16th September 2014

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Feet that feel the sway of it

I stand there. Eyes mist to the wind feel the fresh rush past. Up my nose. That sting. That new day it’s so early in the morning. I see the white and clear. Rising up of the waters. Running round my feet. My gravel feet. My earthbound feet that feel the sway of it. Water. Of the world that’s changing now no changed. It’s changed and this is looking back. The past a flash front.

Eimear McBride, A Girl is a Half-formed Thing (2013)

Tagged: bookswritingwaterliteratureIrish literatureEimear McBride

7th September 2014

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On intentionality in natural systems

[S]ystems, and especially a system as vast as Gaia, are all but impossible to discuss without employing purposive language. One asks why something behaves as it does within a system, and the answer automatically comes out “in order to.” The parts within a system act as if they had a sense of the whole. We have no other intelligible way to discuss such matters. Critics might argue that we are committing the empathic fallacy by reading intentionality into nature. They overlook the possibility that, first of all, nature has read intentionality into us. We see what it was given to us to see.

Theodore Roszak, The Voice of the Earth: An Exploration of Ecopsychology (1992)

Tagged: booksnatureecologysystemssystems theoryGaiaphilosophyecophilosophyTheodore Roszak

5th September 2014

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5 billion years from now

Around 5 billion years from now, give or take, the sun will expand into a red giant, absorbing all the inner planets back into its fiery womb. At that point, water ice will thaw on Saturn’s moon Titan, where the temperature is currently 290°F, and some interesting things may eventually crawl out of its methane lakes. One of them, pawing through organic silt, might come across the Huygens probe that parachuted there from the Cassini space mission in January, 2005, which, during its descent, and for 90 minutes before its batteries died, sent us pictures of steambed-like channels cutting down from orange, pebbled highlands to Titan’s sand-dune seas.

Sadly, whatever finds Huygens won’t have any clue where it came from, or that we once existed. Bickering among project directors at NASA nixed a plan to include a graphic explanation that Jon Lomberg designed, this time encased in a diamond that would preserve a shred of our story at least 5 billion years – long enough for evolution to provide another audience.

Alan Weisman, The World Without Us (2007)

Tagged: futurefuturismbooksspaceSaturnCassinievolutionlifespace explorationAlan Weisman

22nd August 2014


A hedge of thorns around the palace

A large hedge of thorns soon grew round the palace, and every year it became higher and thicker, till at last the whole palace was surrounded and hid, so that not even the roof or the chimneys could be seen. But there went a report through all the land of the beautiful sleeping Rose-Bud (for so was the king’s daughter called); so that from time to time several kings’ sons came, and tried to break through the thicket into the palace. This they could never do; for the thorns and bushes laid hold of them as it were with hands, and there they stuck fast and died miserably.

From ‘Rose-Bud’ in Grimms’ Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm (Penguin Popular Classics, 1996)

Tagged: booksliteratureallegoryplantsfairy talesBrothers Grimm

19th August 2014


Too beautiful to be examined

I remain a student of history, more of one than ever, now that our century has torn its way out of its chrysalis and become too beautiful to be examined, too alive to be debated and exploited by played-out intellectuals. The important thing is no longer to predict in what way its grand convulsions might next shake us. Now the important thing is to ride it into the sky.

Denis Johnson, The Name of the World (2000)

Tagged: bookswritinghistoryliteratureDenis Johnson

18th August 2014


She had a funny way at the ends of her sentences. Rather than a pause, she created a plunge.
— Denis Johnson, The Name of the World (2000)

Tagged: bookswritingspeechlanguageliteratureDenis Johnson

16th August 2014

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Police brutality is only one facet of the crystal of terror and oppression. Behind police brutality there is social brutality, economic brutality, and political brutality.
— Eldridge Cleaver, Soul On Ice (1968)

Tagged: booksracepoliticseconomicsEldridge Cleaver

15th August 2014

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Dying before dying

I understand that the ancient mysteries of death and rebirth, and also the rites of passage of the native cultures, enabled people to go through a kind of dying before dying. The 17th-century German Augustinian monk Abraham of Santa Clara put it very succinctly: The man who dies before he dies does not die when he dies. Once you have this experience, you do not see death as the end of who you are, but as a fantastic journey, as a transition to a different mode and level of existence. Whether this is a profound cosmic truth or a merciful delusion, as some of the materialistic critics of transpersonal psychology assert, it can certainly transform people’s lives.

Stanislav Grof, The Consciousness Revolution: A Transatlantic Dialogue (1999)

Tagged: bookspsychologydeathmysticismtranspersonalStanislav Grof