“Perhaps this is what we mean by sanity: that, whatever our self-admitted eccentricities might be, we are not villains of our own stories.”
“Each neighborhood of the city appeared to be made of a different substance, each seemed to have a different air pressure, a different psychic weight: the bright lights and shuttered shops, the housing projects and luxury hotels, the fire escapes and city parks.”
“I couldn't remember what life was like before I started walking.”
“I became aware of just how fleeting the sense of happiness was, and how flimsy its basis: a warm restaurant after having come in from the rain, the smell of food and wine, interesting conversation, daylight falling weakly on the polished cherrywood of the tables. It took so little to move the mood from one level to another, as one might push pieces on a chessboard. Even to be aware of this, in the midst of a happy moment, was to push one of those pieces, and to become slightly less happy.”
“But a book suggests conversation: one person is speaking to another, and audible sound is, or should be, natural to that exchange. So I read aloud with myself as the audience, and gave voice to another's words.”
“Each person must, on some level, take himself as the calibration point for normalcy, must assume that the room of his own mind is not, cannot be, entirely opaque to him. Perhaps this is what we mean by sanity: that, whatever our self-admitted eccentricities might be, we are not the villains of our own stories. In fact, it is quite the contrary: we play, and only play, the hero, and in the swirl of other people’s stories, insofar as those stories concern us at all, we are never less than heroic. Who, in the age of television, hasn’t stood in front of a mirror and imagined his life as a show that is already perhaps being watched by multitudes? Who has not, with this consideration in mind, brought something performative into his everyday life? We have the ability to do both good and evil, and more often than not, we choose the good. When we don’t, neither we nor our imagined audience is troubled, because we are able to articulate ourselves to ourselves, and because we have through our other decisions, merited their sympathy. They are ready to believe the best about us, and not without good reason.”
“We experience life as a continuity, and only after it falls away, after it becomes the past, do we see its discontinuities. The past, if there is such a thing, is mostly empty space, great expanses of nothing, in which significant persons and events float.”
“I had hoped for grace," I said, "not immortality"
I wonder why so many people view sickness as a moral test. It has nothing to do with morals or grace. It's a physical test, and usually we lose.”
“The site was a palimpsest, as was all the city, written, erased, rewritten.”
“You must have been determined, I said. Well, no, no, you don't think of it like that, she said, you just find what you must do, and you do it.”
“I adore imaginary monsters, but I am terrified of real ones.”
“Malcolm X recognized that difference contains its own value, and that the struggle must be to advance that value. Martin Luther King is admired by everyone, he wants everyone to join together, but this idea that you should let them hit you on the other side of your face, this makes no sense to me.”
“It is dangerous to live in a secure world.”
“It wasn't a deception: all lovers live on partial knowledge.”
“It was I, no less solitary than he but having made the lesser use of the morning, who was to be pitied.”
“Dignified refusal can only take you so far. Ask the Congolese.”
“Then he said, Let me tell you a story from our tradition, a story about King Solomon. King Solomon gave a teaching once about the snake and the bee. The snake, King Solomon said, defends itself by killing. But the bee defends itself by dying. You know how a bee dies after a sting? Like that. It dies to defend. So, each creature has a method that is suitable to its strength.”
“We have for too long been taught that the sight of a man speaking to himself is a sign of eccentricity or madness; we are no longer at all habituated to our own voices, except in conversation or from within the safety of a shouting crowd. But a book suggests conversation: one person is speaking to another, and audible sound is, or should be, natural to that exchange. So I read aloud with myself as my audience, and gave voice to another’s words.”
“It’s a test case of what I believe; people can live together but still keep their own values intact. Seeing this crowd of individuals from different places, it appeals to the human side of me, and the intellectual side of me.”
“I know the tells of those who blame others, those who are unable to see that they themselves, and not the others, are the common thread in all their bad relationships.”
“There’s always the expectation that the victimized Other is the one that covers the distance, that has the noble ideas; I disagree with this expectation. It’s an expectation that works sometimes, I said, but only if your enemy is not a psychopath. You need an enemy with a capacity for shame. I wonder sometimes how far Gandhi would have gotten if the British had been more brutal. If they had been willing to kill masses of protesters. Dignified refusal can only take you so far. Ask the Congolese.”
“This is why Said means so much to me, he said. You see, Said was young when he heard that statement made by Golda Meir, that there are no Palestinian people, and when he heard this, he became involved in the Palestinian question. He knew then that difference is never accepted. You are different, okay, but that difference is never seen as containing its own value. Difference as orientalist entertainment is allowed, but difference with its own intrinsic value, no. You can wait forever, and no one will give you that value.”
“My presentation—the dark, unsmiling, solitary stranger—made me a target for the inchoate rage of the defenders of Vlaanderen. I could, in the wrong place, be taken for a rapist or “Viking.” But the bearers of the rage could never know how cheap it was. They were insensitive to how common, and how futile, was their violence in the name of a monolithic identity. This ignorance was a trait angry young men, as well as their old, politically powerful rhetorical champions, shared the world over.”
“Perhaps this is what we mean by sanity: that, whatever our self-admitted eccentricities might be, we are not the villains of our own stories. In fact, it is quite the contrary: we play, and only play, the hero, and in the swirl of other people’s stories, insofar as those stories concern us at all, we are never less than heroic.”
“I often paint a detailed picture in my mind of what I would like the end of my life to look like. I think of saying goodbye to Clara and other people I love, then I picture an empty house, perhaps a large, rambling rural mansion somewhere near the marshes where I grew up; I imagine a bath upstairs, which I can fill with warm water; and I think of music playing all through this big house, Crescent, maybe, or Ascension, filling the spaces not taken up by my solitude, reaching me in the bath, so that when I slip across the one-way border, I do so to the accompaniment of modal harmonies heard from far away.”
“I must say, I’m ready to go into the forest. I am ready to go in. It is time for me to enter the forest and lie down, and let the lions come for me. I’ve done enough, I think, I’ve had a good life, and I’m in such terrible pain just now.”
“In a sense I’m so far gone, I don‘t know what to say,” I begin. “I love you so much, and there are so many things that I didn’t get to tell you. I was so scared of the way that you loved me, Caleb.” I swipe at a tear that is leaking from my eye and continue.
“You changed everything. I was so frightened of losing you that I did everything in my power to drive you away. I thought that if I didn’t, eventually you would see that
you were wasting your time with me and leave anyway. I miss you. No, not just miss
you, my heart aches every day because you’re not there. I am so sorry for what I did. All of it. Please, please don’t forget me, because the possibility of that hurts more than anything else.”
“This much is already known: for every sensible line of straightforward statement, there are leagues of senseless cacophonies, verbal jumbles and incoherences. (I know of an uncouth region whose librarians repudiate the vain and superstitious custom of finding a meaning in books and equate it with that of finding a meaning in dreams or in the chaotic lines of one's palm . . . They admit that the inventors of this writing imitated the twenty-five natural symbols, but maintain that this application is accidental and that the books signify nothing in themselves. This dictum, we shall see, is not entirely fallacious.)”
“I've always envied people who sleep easily. Their brains must be cleaner, the floorboards of the skull well swept, all the little monsters closed up in a steamer trunk at the foot of the bed.”
“Male werewolves treat their mates like beloved slaves. the thought set my back up. It was just a good thing I wasn't a werewolf or there would be a slave rebellion.”
“real strength is not hitting when what you most want to do is kill.”
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