Friday, October 28, 2011 the shadows

Painting: By AlexRa 2011 "Aztec Memory" - Acrylic on canvas board, 16" x 22" 2011

"I'm standing in the shadows with an aching heart
I'm looking at the world tear itself apart
Minutes turn to hours, hours turn to days
I'm still loving you in a million ways"

Bob Dylan (from Mississippi Version 3)

July 18

Bob Dylan Lyrics on my mind today (July 14):

"Well, these times and these tunnels are haunted
The bottom of the barrel is too
I waited years sometimes for what I wanted
Everybody can't be as lucky as you
Never no more do I wonder
Why you don't never play with me any more
At any moment you could go under
Cause you're driftin' too far from shore
Driftin' too far from shore
Driftin' too far from shore.

You and me we had completeness
I give you all of what I could provide
We weren't on the wrong side sweetness
We were the wrong side"

Heart of mine be still
You can play with fire but you’ll get the bill
Don’t let her know
Don’t let her know that you love her
Don’t be a fool, don’t be blind
Heart of mine

Heart of mine go back home
You got no reason to wander, you got no reason to roam
Don’t let her see
Don’t let her see that you need her
Don’t put yourself over the line
Heart of mine

Heart of mine go back where you been
It’ll only be trouble for you if you let her in
Don’t let her hear
Don’t let her hear you want her
Don’t let her think you think she’s fine
Heart of mine

Heart of mine you know that she’ll never be trueShe’ll only give to others the love that she’s gotten from you
Don’t let her know
Don’t let her know where you’re going
Don’t untie the ties that bind
Heart of mine

Heart of mine so malicious and so full of guile
Give you an inch and you’ll take a mile
Don’t let yourself fall
Don’t let yourself stumble
If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime
Heart of mine

In the lonely night, in the blinking stardust
Of a pale blue light
You're coming through to me in black and white
When we were made of dreams
You're blowin' down a shaky street
You're hearing my heart beatIn the record breaking heat
Where we were born in time
Not one more night, not one more kiss,
And not this time, babe, no more of this.
Takes too much skill, takes too much will, it's too revealing
Problem being, one cannot never, ever put it aside, love that is. Try it sometime and see.

Lyrics posted on internet are often not as they were on the original album (maybe from live versions), but even a word or two different shades the entire tone, as the man himself will tell you.


"The nonexistent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired…

I said to the almond tree: "Speak to me of God"
and the almond tree blossomed

Everything you do reverberates throughout a thousand destinies. As you walk, you cut open and create that river bed into which the stream of your descendants shall enter and flow"

Nikos Kazantzakis

The Glass House

“….The conversation goes on.  It is one of those conversations that are the norm these days, partly apocalyptic, occasionally optimistic, usually full of foreboding.

…he stands there indecisively, part intruder, part acolyte, wholly captivated by the small hints of her presence.

…he who is always in control, who always has a plan, who is a man of singular qualities – those of reason and decision and power – feels quite powerless now.

There is the question of whether to make it cautious and safe or open and incriminating.  ‘I want to see you,’ he writes, ‘but cannot find the way.’

  The weasel words of a coward.

What does he think?  He thinks the immediate thoughts of a liar:  how to react appropriately, how to make the unnatural appear natural, a process that carries with it the seeds of its own destruction, the premeditated act betraying itself as unnatural precisely because it is premeditated.  A conundrum.
There is nothing much more to say, really.  Whether it is going to go wrong is not up to her or to him.  The wrongness or rightness of the future is a matter of the purest contingency.  Viktor has always worked on the principle that the future is there to be handled, manipulated, bent and twisted to one’s own desires but now he knows how untrue that is.  The future just happens.  It is happening now….

It was not the way Viktor and Katalinlooked at each other, it was the way they didn’t look.  It wasn’t the notes, it was the silences between the notes.  Some music is the very enemy of silence, keeping sounds coming so that the listener has no time to reflect.  But other music, the music she played for herself, was different.  In that music – the music of  Janacek, for example –the silence matter.  They are silences of foreboding, anticipatory echoes of the sounds that are yet to come

Raoul Dufy.

'When I was just as far as I could walk From here today, There was an hour All still When leaning with my head again a flower I heard you talk. Don't say I didn't, for I heard you say-- You spoke from that flower on the window sill- Do you remember what it was you said?' 'First tell me what it was you thought you heard.' 'Having found the flower and driven a bee away, I leaned on my head And holding by the stalk, I listened and I thought I caught the word-- What was it? Did you call me by my name? Or did you say-- Someone said "Come" -- I heard it as I bowed.' 'I may have thought as much, but not aloud.' "Well, so I came.'

Robert Frost

 “For whom does the bell toll for, love? It tolls for you and me”  (from Moonlight) by Bob Dylan
"No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee."  John Donne 1624

Mabel Collins, Light on the Path:

Kill out all sense of separateness. Do not fancy you can stand aside from the bad man or the foolish man. They are yourself, though in a less degree than your friend or your master. But if you allow the idea of separateness from any evil thing or person to grow up within you, by doing so you create karma which will bind you to that thing or person till your soul recognizes that it cannot be isolated. Remember that the sin and the shame of the world are your sin shame; for you are part of it; your karma is inextricably interwoven with the great karma. And before you can attain knowledge you must have passed though all places, foul and clean alike. Therefore, remember that the soiled garment you shrink from touching may have been yours yesterday, may be yours tomorrow. And if you turn with horror from it, when it is flung upon your shoulders, it will cling more closely to you. The self righteous man makes for himself a bed of mire. Abstain because it is right to abstain - not that you yourself shall be kept clean.

T. S. Eliot, The Cocktail Party:

To approach the stranger is to invite the unexpected, release a new force, let the genie out of the bottle. It is to start a new train of events that is beyond your control....You will change your mind, but you are not free… You made a decision. You set in motion forces in your life and in the lives of others.

“A Death in the Family” by James Agee

Knoxville: Summer of 1915
A Prose Poem by James Agee

“It has become the time of evening
when people sit on their porches,
rocking gently and talking gently
and watching the street
and the standing up
into their sphere of possession of the trees,
of birds' hung havens, hangers.
People go by; things go by.
A horse, drawing a buggy, breaking his hollow iron music on the asphalt;
a loud auto; a quiet auto;
people in pairs, not in a hurry,
scuffling, switching their weight of aestival body, talking casually,
the taste hovering over them of vanilla, strawberry, pasteboard and starched milk,
the image upon them of lovers and horsemen, squared with clowns in hueless amber.

A streetcar raising its iron moan:
stopping, belling and starting; stertorous; rousing and raising again its iron increasing moan
and swimming its gold windows and straw seats on past and past and past,
the bleak spark crackling and cursing above it like a small malignant spirit set to dog its tracks;
the iron whine rises on rising speed;
still risen, faints; halts; the faint stinging bell;
rises again, still fainter, fainter, lifting, lifts, faints forgone: forgotten.
Now is the night one blue dew.
Now is the night one blue dew,
my father has drained,
now he has coiled the hose.
Low on the length of lawns,
a frailing of fire who breathes ...
Parents on porches: rock and rock.
From damp strings morning glories hang their ancient faces.
The dry and exalted noise of the locusts from all the air at once enchants my eardrums.
On the rough wet grass of the backyard my father and mother have spread quilts.
We all lie there, my mother, my father, my uncle, my aunt, and I too am lying there ...
They are not talking much, and the talk is quiet,
of nothing in particular, of nothing at all in particular, of nothing at all.
The stars are wide and alive, they seem each like a smile of great sweetness, and they seem very near.

All my people are larger bodies than mine, ...
with voices gentle and meaningless like the voice of sleeping birds.
One is an artist, he is living at home.
One is a musician, she is living at home.
One is my mother who is good to me.
One is my father who is good to me.
By some chance, here they are, all on this earth;
and who shall ever tell the sorrow of being on this earth,
lying, on quilts, on the grass, in a summer evening, among the sounds of the night.
May God bless my people, my uncle, my aunt, my mother, my good father,
oh, remember them kindly in their time of trouble;
and in the hour of their taking away.

After a little I am taken in and put to bed.
Sleep, soft smiling, draws me unto her:
and those receive me, who quietly treat me,
as one familiar and well-beloved in that home:
but will not, no ,will not, not now, not ever;
but will not ever tell me who I am.


Also from “Death in the Family”

And here I thought sugar baby was one-of-a kind! LOL

I got a gallon an a sugarbabe too, my honey , my baby,

I got a gallon an a sugarbabe too, my honey, my sweet thing

I got a gallon an a sugarbabe took,

Gal don’t love me but my sugarbabe do

This morning,

This evenin,

So soon.


There’s a good old sayin, as you all know,

That you can’t track a rabbit when there ain’t no snow

Sugar Babe



Cakes and Ale” by  W. Somerset Maugham (1930)

“Do you call that love?”

“Well, then, the act of love.  She was naturally affectionate.  When she liked anyone it was quite natural for her to go to bed with him.  She never thought twice about it.  It was not vice; it wasn’t lasciviousness; it was her nature.  She gave herself as naturally as the sun gives heat or the flowers their perfume.  It was a pleasure to her and she liked to give pleasure to others.  IT had no effect on her character she remained sincere, unspoiled, and artless.”

“Re: beauty

The ideal has many names and beauty is but one of them.  I wonder if this clamour is anything more than the cry of distress of those who cannot make themselves at home in our heroic world of machines, and I wonder if their passion for beauty, the Little Nell of this shamefaced day, is anything more than sentimentality.  IT may be that another generation, accommodating itself more adequately to the stress of life, will look for inspiration not in a flight from reality, but in an eager acceptance of it.”

Ghost Light, Joseph O’Connor

He was a great man, Miss O’Neill?
He was a great artist, yes.
And also a great man?
What is that?
Well—how it feel being his inspiration? His muse?
I dislike that word.  It belongs to mythology. A great artist needs northing but his own woundedness, I have found.  I was merely his servant.  If that.
His servant?
In the sense that an actor is the servant of the text…….

The sort of man who makes you think the movement of foliage might be causing the breeze.  Nothing was clear and everything was clear.  Impossible, particularly, to know what he wanted from you  Perhaps he himself did not know.  Looks that lingered too long, abashed glancings-away, and sentences that seemed in retrospect to have been calculated for ambiguity but at the time of their delivery sounded daringly direct.  You would get queer intimations sometimes; maybe you imagined them:  that the pain of wanting you and being denied had become an addiction, better than the pain of having you and becoming disillusioned, or better than the pain of having you at all.  How could such a character be met halfway?  Only by loving him.  How else would you survive?  His unpardonable faults, his crippling fear of happiness; you would never call him normal, he must be forgiven or left.  What he wanted was a degree of powerlessness in you that was too much to ask, a surrendering without terms, then a withdrawal from the field, and the fact that he posed as someone immobilized by the blaze of your charms was merely a subtler mode of domination.

Strangers & Making Things Better – Anita Brookner -

Drop City – T. C. Boyle – the way it was.

American Rust – Philipp Meyer – How true, how true.

Just after Sunset, Stephen King – typical enjoyable page turning grisler.


Body & Soul by Frank Conroy

Begins in 1940s New York City and is about a child prodigy (piano) and his subsequent successful career..  Despite a lot of technical classical musical notations, some excellent descriptions of the discipline involved and the love and meaning of music.   Bob Dylan once said something to the effect that he “believes” in the songs and that the only time he’s really happy is on stage.  This book in some ways reminded me of him.

“It doesn’t sound like fun”
“Fun will only take you so far.” ….”there are deeper pleasures than fun.  Fun is good, it helps things, helps to forget things.  But it isn’t everything.”

“It’s the other side of the wall“  (page 100)

Re: What the kid learned from movies: 

Westerns:  Do not approach the campfire without first announcing yourself from a distance.  Do not brag, bully or lie.  Do not draw on an unarmed man, shoot anyone in the back, or steal a horse.  Be respectful to women, regardless of their situation in life.
War movies:  Democracy is worth dying for.  Germans are intelligent, arrogant, ruthless, and sadistic.  Japanese are treacherous, cowardly, fanatical and devoid of individuality.  Russians are brave, emotional and crude.  Chinese are simple, domestic, gentle, and the keepers of ancient wisdom. Italians are childlike, the French weak, the British brave and noble.  War could be conducted in a civilized manner.  Americans are the best because of their obedience to authority, without any concomitant sacrifice of individual initiative and courage.
Gangster movies:  Crime does not pay.  Low criminals are stupid and brutal.  High criminals are greedy, reckless rebels against the beneficent forces of organized society.  The police are good, unless corrupted from by money or from above by political power.  Women are weak, venal, decorative, and irrelevant.  Guns, large automobiles, conspicuous consumption in public places, and familiarity with the uses of terror are potent symbols of real power.
Horror movies.  Death is obscene.  The unknown is dangerous.  Destructive forces surround the visible world, and protection is afforded by religion, moral purity, light, and banding together in groups.  Luck is an important factor.  Courage is foolhardy.
Private-eye movies.  The individual is isolated in a hostile world.  Anyone may shoot anyone else in the back at any moment. Everyone lies.  Greed prevails.  It is necessary to be extremely careful at all times.
Cartoons.  The weak can prevail of the strong through applied intelligence.  Humiliation is intrinsically comic.

“Now in the grip of reckless exhilaration he embraced every stride tune he could think of, keeping up the pulse, playing through mistakes as if they’d never happened, faking bridges when he had to, his hands flying, his body moving like a warm, oiled machine.   He became aware that people were dancing, and he began blending Art Tatum into Fats A. Waller into Jelly roll Morton in a continuous avalanche of jazz.  He rocked back and forth and poured it on, his mind now empty of everything but the music.  He felt he play forever, but the sweat got in his eyes and he stopped after an elaborate up-temp arrangement of “Is You Is or IS you Ain’t my Baby?”

“…How strange people were, he thought, subject to all kinds of invisible forces, dealing with hidden devils and al l the while keeping up appearances.  He wondered if he was capable of that kind of bravery.”

“…These are very good reviews.  These are what you call money reviews.  But they don’t say anything.  I get tired of the gushing, always the same words that don’t really say anything.”  …..”Remember when you get a bad review.  Most of them don’t know every much, and they are full of fakery.”  “Understand it now, when they praise you,:”….”so you can keep a sense of proportion when the damn you.  IT is just words, just words, caro.”

Claude followed into the growing applause.  …Stage fright or no, (which the proponent did not have)  it was always an especially charged moment.  The dazzle of light over his shoulder, a whip of instantaneous brightness.  The sense of exposure, as if walking into a giant x-ray machine.  The sudden change of acoustics and the opening up of space, like being in the center of a rapidly expanding sphere.  The blur of oval faces, pale in reflected light, two-dimensional paper makes rising in a low wave to the indistinctness of  the back of the house.  Dust motes glow in the arc over the stage.  Utter darkness above.

Educated by the movies, he had believed love would conquer all.  It was not easy for him to give up that hope.

“Past what?  It seems natural enough to me.”
“Sure its natural.  It’s also not very important.  What you are looking for is authentication, Claude.  But you’re looking outside, to the system, and that; the wrong place to look.  Bad music gets played every day and good music gets ignored.  Everybody knows that.  Forget abut authentication.  When it comes to writing music, all you can do is sign on for a way of life, and do the work. Do the work for its own sake.”

“…You never know till’ it’s over – and then a lot of good it does you.”

…”Passion was a force to be fed, eagerly and gratefully fed like some hungry angel with them in the room possess of the power to lift them out of themselves.  Out of the body, out of the world to some deep blue otherness where their souls would join, in and with the blue.  Sailing along together in the blue, the blue insupportable to a soul alone.  Which cannot be known alone.”

Cost by Roxana Robinson

Primarily about heroin addiction, difficult family dynamics and the oft times tragedy of aging. It does not end happily.  Depressing, of course, but a fairly accurate account and redeemed by good writing.  I was reminded to be profoundly grateful after reading it.

“…There was nothing you could believe about your work from other people, nothing.  Praise sounded false; criticism, mean.  Everything was biased, of course, there was nothing objective about responses to art. There were a few friends you could trust to tell you the truth, but it was only their truths.  Nothing made you certain of your place in the world of art.  You had to find yourself and then make it your own.  You had to create your own balance, your own certainty.  No one else knew what you were trying to do.  You had to find your own faith, you had to stand up for it against the assaults of logic and fear and the articulations of the whole critical world.  You had to close your eyes to everything else, repeating your personal creed, reminding yourself fof what you were doing, why you were doing it.”

Books 2009

John Lennon/Philip Norman
Garlands of Gold/ Rosalind Laker
All Together in One Place/Jane Kirkpatrick
Queen Bee of Mimosa Beach/Haywood Smith
An Inconvenient Wife/Megan Chance

The Sister/Poppy Adams

About a worldly outgoing sister who returns after 50 years to see her introverted scholarly sister, a virtual recluse, who in the interim had sold all the family heirlooms in their estate, preferring to be free of “clutter” and reminders of the past.  This novel began with an interesting premise, but did drag on. 

Re possessions:

“But it’s completely, absolutely, entirely empty, she complains, as if there are recognizable degrees of emptiness.  “No pictures, no clothes, no photos.  I mean, you’ve wiped out every reference to our past.  Our family might not have happened.  There was no point in its existing for the last two hundred years if it’s got nothing to show for itself.”

It is an interesting view but not one I share.  Is it really necessary to record your life in order to make it worthwhile or commendable?  Is it worthless to die without reference?  Surely those testimonials last another generation or two at most, and even then they don’t offer much meaning.  We all know we’re a mere fleck in the tremendous universal cycle of energy, but no one can abide the thought of their life, lived so intensively and exhaustively, being lost when they die, as swiftly and as meaningless as an unspoken idea.”

…”To distinguish between e eccentricity and genius may be difficult, but it is surely better than to bear with singularity than to crush originality.”  Well, Maud thought, surely not.  She said it was better to admit who you were even if it meant admitting you were dull and had a dull little hobby, rather than covering it up in a pathetic attempt at some sort of singularity.

She May Not Leave/Fay Weldon

….to look at what artists, then and now, were actually painting.  The model takes a bird’s eye view of what goes onto the canvas and it is a very limited eye.  Being painted sucks something out of your very being – as mediums complain happens when they channel the spirits of the departed for the benefit of those still on the earth.  It’s an exhausting business.  You are left with what’s over when the essence of you has gone into the painting and the better the painter the less left of you there is.”

This was the 1940s, just after the war; and the drink was rum and cider, the drugs were unsophisticated –Benzedrine mainly, army surplus – and the sex, though plentiful,, was straightforward and mostly in the missionary position.  The body was still the temple of the soul.  That there were such thins as blow jobs did not enter our young comprehension.  Sodomy was unthinkable.  Pornography no doubt existed but not any we had ever seen.  Brief flares of love and emotion, translated into lust, could lead –if you were me—to one-night stands in shoddy hotels with exciting strangers, but seldom down alleyways on your knees in exchange for money.  By the mid-fifties all that had changed. Everybody knew everything.

Regarding leaving the wife for a mistress in the past…

“If that sort of thing happens far less nowadays it is because everyone is so guilt-ridden and self-conscious they can’t have a sexual relationship without thinking it’s the real thing and confessing all: scarcely are they out of the wrong bed than they’re determined to make it the right one and planning a divorce.  All the parties involved talking about authenticity of feeling and agreeing that for the sale of the children everyone must be amicable and always come to Christmas dinner.  And the children with another set of step-parents to take on, the busiest Christmas Days ever, partners and children flitting here and there.  And the cycle starts again,.  The registry offices are full of people marrying second, third, fourth wives only because they’ve been taught that secrecy and lying are bad (inauthentic), and a flicker of feeling is registered as life-long emotion.  Good Lord, in sexual matters secrecy is the only way society survives.”

“In the beginning I used to tot up the number of men I’d slept with,” Serena once said to me, “until I grew ashamed, and began to forget the names.  I used to think you did not know what a man was like until you had been to bed with him, but I soon came to realize you’d never get to know him anyway, so that should nto enter into your calculations.  Not that there was ever much calculation:  lust and love were motivation enough: alcohol loosened restraint – self interest did nto enter in.”


A Fool’s Errand by Albion W. Tourgee

The North, that portion of the country which for four years had constituted alone the United states of America, was full of rejoicing and gladness, which even the death of its martyr President could not long repress.  Sorrow for the dead was lost in joy for the living.  Banners waved; drums beat; the  quick step of homeward-marching columns echoed through every corner of the land.  The clamor of rejoicing drowned the sighs of those who wept for their unreturning dead.  All was light and joy, and happy, peaceful anticipation.  The soldier had no need to beat his spear into a plowshare, or his sword into a pruning-hook.  He found the plow waiting for him in the furrow,.  Smiling, peaceful homes, full of plenty and comfort, invited him to new exertion; and the prospect of rich returns for his labor enabled him all the more easily to forgive and forget, to let bygones by bygones, and throwing away the laurels, and forgetting the struggles and lessons of the past, contentedly grow fat on the abundance of the present and the glowing promise of the future.

At the South it was far different.  Sadness and gloom covered the face of the land.  The returning braves brought no joy to the loving hearts who had sent them forth.  Nay, their very presence kept alive the chagrin of defeat.  Instead of banners and music and gay greeting, silence tears were their welcome home.  Not only for the dead were these lamentations, but also for the living.  If the past was sorrowful, the future was scarcely less so.  If that which went before was embittered by disappointment and the memory of vain sacrifice, that which was to come was darkened by uncertainty and apprehension.  The good things of the past were apples of Sodom in the hand of the present.  The miser’s money was as dust of the highway in value; the obligor, in his indefinite promise to pay, had vanished, and the hoarder only had a gray piece of paper stamped with the fair pledge of a ghostly nation. The planter’s slaves had become freedmen while he was growing into a hero, and no longer owed fealty or service to him or his family.  The home where he had lived in luxury was almost barren of necessities: even the ordinary comforts of life were wanting at his fireside.  A piece of cornbread, with a glass of milk, and bit of bacon, was, perhaps, the richest welcome-feast that wifely love could devise for the returning hero.  Time and the scath of war had wrought ruin in his home.  The hedgerows were upgrown, and the ditches stopped.  Those whom he had been wont to see in delicate array were clad in homespun.  His love ones who had been reared in luxury were living in poverty.  While he had fought interest had run.  War had not extinguished debt.  What was a mere bagatelle when slaves and stock were at their highest was a terrible incubus when slaves were no more, and bank were broken.  The army of creditors was even more terrible than the army with banners, to whom he had surrendered. If the past was dark, the future was Cimmerian.  Shame and defeat were behind, gloom and apprehension before.


Anne LaMott "Blue Shoe,"

about new relationships:  "Maggie noticed how many secrets she kept from William, so that he wouldn't see her as someone with a lot of problems.  She wanted him to see her as someone with just a few pieces of colorful carry-on luggage, instead of multiple  body bags requiring special cargo fees and handling."

about expectations:  "...expectations were premeditated resentments."

about reality:  "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away."

about older parents:  "Sometimes having an elderly mother was like having a toddler, only you felt like attacking her more often."

about family:  "Everyone had known.  The game had been to keep from knowing what you knew--and certainly never to say what might be true.  If you let even a trickle in, it might wash you away.  The game was to hope that everyone else would agree not to know what they knew too."

Bertrand Russell

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a deep ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair. I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy—ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness—that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it, finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what—at last—I have found. With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved. Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a hated burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate the evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer. This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.
p. 27, "[T]o be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness."

p. 29, "The habit of looking to the future and thinking that the whole meaning of the present lies in what it will bring forth is a pernicious one. There can be no value in the whole unless there is value in the parts."

p. 43, "I do not deny that the feeling of success makes it easier to enjoy life.... Nor do I deny that money, up to a certain point, is very capable of increasing happiness. What I do maintain is that success can only be one ingredient in happiness, and is too dearly purchased if all the other ingredients have been sacrificed to obtain it."

p. 74, "The essentials of human happiness are simple, so simple that sophisticated people cannot bring themselves to what it is that they really lack."

p. 94, "[R]emember that your motives are not always as altruistic as they seem to yourself... don't overestimate your own merits... don't expect others to take as much interest in you as you do in yourself."

p. 99, "No satisfaction based upon self-deception is solid, and however unpleasant the truth may be, it is better to face it once and for all, to get used to it, and to proceed to build your life in accordance with it."

p. 107, "One should respect public opinion in so far as is necessary to avoid starvation and to keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny, and is likely to interfere with happiness in all kinds of ways."

p. 109, "Happiness is promoted by associations of persons with similar tastes and similar opinions."

p. 123, "The secret of happiness is this: let your interests be as wide as possible, and let your reactions to the things and persons that interest you be as far as possible friendly rather than hostile."

p. 142, "In the best kind of affection a man hopes for a new happiness rather than for an escape from an old unhappiness."

p. 175, "To ignore our opportunities for knowledge, imperfect as they are, is like going to the theater and and not listening to the play."

Russell’s key concept is zest. Zest is an “appetite for possible things, upon which all happiness, whether of men or animals, ultimately depends.” (5) “What hunger is in relation to food, zest is in relation to life.” (111) As hunger does not automatically lead to satiation, zest does not automatically lead to happiness. Nor can happiness come from gratification obtained without effort. “Happiness is not, except in very rare cases, something that drops into the mouth, like a ripe fruit, by the mere operation of fortunate circumstances. That is why I have called this book The conquest of happiness.” (162-163) “The human animal, like others, is adapted to a certain amount of struggle for life [and] the mere absence of effort from his life removes an essential ingredient of happiness. [. . .] He forgets that to be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.” (15) The things we want need to be difficult, but not too difficult, to obtain. “Pleasures of achievement demand difficulties such that beforehand success seems doubtful although in the end it is usually achieved.” (101)

Having zest is the natural human condition. It is destroyed by “mistaken views of the world, mistaken
ethics, mistaken habits of life.” (5) One enemy of zest is boredom. The desire for excitement runs deep, says Russell, and it should be honored. In ancestral society, men (and perhaps women), found excitement in hunting and courtship. Agriculture changed that. Farming is boring. Sitting in an office is boring. Living in the suburbs is boring. During “happy family time [. . .] paterfamilias went to sleep, his wife knitted, and the daughters wished they were dead or in Timbuktu.” (36)

Anxiety—Russell calls it “fatigue”—is a kind of excitement that is incompatible with zest. Contemporary humans often feel overwhelmed and overworried. To stop worrying and start living, Russell advises that “when you have looked for some time steadily at the worst possibility and have said to yourself with real conviction, ‘Well, after all, that would not matter so very much’, you will find that your worry diminishes to a quite extraordinary extent.” (50)

For those who find that even “the exercise of choice is in itself tiresome,” (147) Russell has a remedy that anticipates the smart
unconscious. “I have found, for example, that if I have to write upon some rather difficult topic the best plan is to think about it with very great intensity—the greatest intensity of which I am capable—for a few hours or days, and at the end of that time to give orders, so to speak, that the work is to proceed underground. After some months I return consciously to the topic and find that the work has been done.” (49-50)

Perhaps the greatest obstacle to happiness is “the disease of self-absorption.” (173)
Russell offers that his own conquest of happiness was due “very largely [. . . ] to a diminishing preoccupation with myself.” (6) A happy person knows that “one’s ego is no very large part of the world.” (48) “One of the great drawbacks to self-centered passions is that they afford so little variety in life. The man who loves only himself cannot, it is true, be accused of promiscuity in his affections, but he is bound in the end to suffer intolerable boredom from the invariable sameness of the object of his devotion.” (172)

To the self-absorbed person, other people primarily serve as objects of comparison. “What people
fear [. . .] is not that they will fail to get their breakfast next morning, but that they will fail to outshine their neighbors.” (27) Russell warns that “the habit of thinking in terms of comparisons is a fatal one.” (57) To overcome it, “teach yourself that life would still be worth living even if you were not, as of course you are, immeasurably superior to all your friends in virtue and intelligence.” (173) “You can get away from envy by enjoying the pleasures that come your way, by doing the work that you have to do, and by avoiding comparisons with those whom you imagine, perhaps quite falsely, to be more fortunate than yourself.” (58-59)

Likewise, Russell advises not to worry too much about what others think of you. On the one hand, he suspects that “if we were all given by magic the power to read each other’s thoughts, I suppose the first effect would be that almost all friendships would be dissolved.” (76) On the other hand, he doubts that “most people give enough thought to you to have any special desire to persecute you.” (79) This is a nice example of regression to the mean: Chances are you overestimate the love of your friends and the disdain of your foes.

Once you start retreating from self-absorption, you need not entirely ignore what others think. “One should as a rule respect public opinion in so far as is necessary to avoid starvation and to keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny, and is likely to interfere with happiness in all kinds of ways.” (92) Here Russell anticipates an underappreciated danger of
conformity. A conformist society is not necessarily evil (though it may be vulnerable to evil influence), but it is certainly boring. “A society composed of men and women who do not bow too much to the conventions is a far more interesting society than one in which all behave alike.” (93)

Russell knows that “a civilized society is impossible without a very considerable restraint upon spontaneous impulse.” (120) Yet, societies that extract conformity by instilling a sense of sin create unhappiness on a large scale. “There is in the sense of sin something abject, something lacking in self-respect.” (70) The emotion underlying the sense of sin is guilt, which, in turn, is driven by fear. “The man who entirely accepts the morality of the herd while acting against it suffers great unhappiness when losing caste.” (64) In contrast, “the ideally virtuous man [. . .] permits the enjoyment of all good things whenever there is no evil consequence to outweigh the enjoyment.” (66) Russell rejects categorical morality as “sickly nonsense” (70) because it entails the idea of sin. A rational person weighs the pros and cons of each decision. Unlike Moses and Kant, who proscribed
lying categorically, Russell chooses to lie when it leads to more good than evil. He tells how he encountered a wounded fox and later lied to the hunters to save the animal. Once a rational choice is made, it is absurd to feel remorse.

Russell is a hedonist. To him, a theory of happiness that is mute on love and
sex is unthinkable. “To be unable to inspire sex love is a grave misfortune to any man or woman, since it deprives him or her of the greatest joys that life has to offer.” (126) If you love, love with abandon, for “of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.” (129) How do you find love? On this question, Russell wisely counsels to take the indirect approach. “Human nature is so constructed that it gives affection most readily to those who seem least to demand it.” (122) And, “the man who receives affection is, broadly speaking, the man who gives it.” (172)

The Alchemy of Desire by Tarun Tepal

“The world survives by those who have generosity of spirit
But is owned by those who have none.”

“I think she had some notion of maintaining a hard and perfectionist view of the world.   There are very intelligent people like that, who equate soft with weak, and are vehemently opposed to both.  Empirical learning – and often wealth – give them contempt for sentimentality.  The world is a hard place; it has evolved on Darwinian principles; it does not help to be woolly-headed about it.  The vast vocabularies of articulation they acquire have no palce for the ooze of  ordinary niceness.

Ms Meanqueen had everything – degrees, dollars, comforts, class, children, cerebration.  But she made no allowances for herself or anyone.  Her life as the product of her own endeavours.  She owed no one anything.  Those who had nothing had only themselves to question.  She set her hatchet against the world and hacked her way through it.”

‘Sorrow must not be cultivated.  IT is a poor lifestyle choice.”

“….In India they don’t worry about the world ending.  They believe the world is a playful illusion set up by a playful god.  It goes on forever.  Lifetimes are like sports matches.  You win some, you lose some, but you are never debarred from playing.  If you play well you move to a major league, if hyou play badly you go down to a minor.  It’s up to you where you want to try and play.  God is not a grim judge and executioner; he is a benign referee, establishing the rules and keeping the score.  And you can, if you wish, even argue with the referee and disagree with him.  The referee himself, by the way, is not above some facetious foul play and rule bending.”

“You tracked your life between the god of reason and the god of unreason.  There was no contradiction there.  Only the vain saw any.”

“The master says we are all here to solve our own riddles.”
“The memories of men can be as dangerous as their fantasies.”
“….All stories must end at the right moment before they drown in inanities.  And if anyone tells you every inanity has value, you can be sure they have never known the exhilaration of the unordinary moment”

Not Dead Yet
By Herbert Gold (A Feisty Bohemian Explores the Art of Growing Old)

“The expectation of eternal youth, like the expectation of eternal life, is a plan to slide up a slippery slope.  Up doesn’t normally occur in nature’s flow.  Immortality only lasts for a little while in the world of human fact; yet imagination, even one of lyrical pessimism, struggles with the concept of non-being.  The evidence of disappearance might seem to brook no argument.  The notion of heaven suits some, answering their needs, supplying a future without argument, although sometimes depending on good behavior.  Hell and the recently defunct doctrine of limbo are efforts to deal with the subject.
In old age we treasure life because, by God, we still have it, and suffer suspicion of life because it fails us and we are losing it.  We take pride in our history; we see our past dreams and striving as futile.  Probably there are as many ways to be old as there are old folks practicing the game. 
Pouring words over trouble sometimes calms, sometimes adds gunpowder to the fire.  Rehearsing rage, inventing, elaborating, remembering idiocies, remembering regret, blaming another, blaming myself, pleading, denouncing, sorting out, muddling, telling a story was fulfilling and exhausting.  Telling this story was a moral aerobic exercise “Loveless Love” rumbled and growled in my head.  Moral aerobic exercise doesn’t necessarily bring the sleep of the just or any other variety of peace.  I had nightmares despite telling myself that self-pity was about as useless as jealousy.  Love oh love oh loveless love.
Like my children, like everyone, I entered the world noisily, but most likely will go out in silence, nobody slapping my rump.  Betweentimes, most of us do our best to stir things up in such a way that others – family friends, lovers, even adversaries and enemies – accompany our departure with their thoughts.  They make comments.  They may be preoccupied for a time with our images.  They glimpse reminders in the street, styles of walking or the familiar shape of a head.  Flashbacks are evidence of our existence.  Someone has a loving dream.  Someone else dreams of an event, waking to realize that it’s too late for reverence, and hatred can bring no further satisfaction.
We can’t imagine a drop into nothingness, what happens to insects, animals or fruit falling from the tree, without consoling ourselves with a dream of everlasting heaven, as some do, or everlasting memory, as I do.  When I look into the eyes of my children, I believe something of me will endure.  When I looked into the eyes of the wife I loved, I knew it absolutely.  But then life teaches us to stare at doubt, pain, loss; deal with it.  Joy lurks somewhere.  I discover a less oblivious zest than that which I found in moments of ecstasy.  All must be saved, or maybe not.”

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