Only the poorest of people were crossing the plains and Mountains. Those who could afford it preferred to sail to Nicaragua and walk across the Isthmus, to then sail up to the West Coast. Yes, the mountains were tough to pass but not because they are mountains, but because the easiest paths are controlled by, the tolls enforced by, Indigenous nations across the West. It was not the Mountains that discouraged them, but instead the idea of following Indigenous laws. It’s a political barrier. This barrier prevents a western expansion, preferring instead, a Roman-esque style of invasion, i.e. build a fort around your enemy.

It’s the price we all have to pay for $1 margaritas at Applebee’s.

Journalist: M. Ben M’Hidi, don’t you think it’s a bit cowardly to use women’s baskets and handbags to carry explosive devices that kill so many innocent people?

Ben M’Hidi: And doesn’t it seem to you even more cowardly to drop napalm bombs on defenseless villages, so that there are a thousand times more innocent victims? Of course, if we had your airplanes it would be a lot easier for us. Give us your bombers, and you can have our baskets.

- The Battle of Algiers

I don’t know what I may seem to the world, but as to myself, I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered around me.

- Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton’s memorial at Westminster Abbey was proposed to bear the inscription: “If you doubt that such a man could exist, this monument bears witness”.

Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will. Antonio Gramsci

  • Pessimism of the Intellect: be a scientist: see the world as it really is, not as you might like it to be. Try to identify and overcome hidden biases or prior assumptions. Always ask yourself: What assumption am I making? What if it is incorrect? How do I know what I know?
    • In many cases, the correct answer is: I don’t know. Never be afraid to admit you don’t know.
  • Optimism of the Will: have the courage to attempt difficult things. Sometimes, Will can overcome the odds.
    • If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry. A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway

    • I’ll fight them, I’ll fight them until I die. The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway

no subtext
Cass, It’s been some time since I last wrote to you. I must confess an immense guilt, but the words have been difficult to find. I can scarcely explain it. The truth is that these days, most things seem to come at a great cost. I find myself struggling to find the meaning in anything. Life is much of the same. Which is to say, nothing much at all, really. A lazy haze — an indistinct, shapeless mass. Sleep evades me, I hardly work, don’t write (well) and rarely make it a point to see anyone. I read books of all kinds but tire of them as soon as I flip the cover open.
no subtext
Everyone is born with a certain disposition, burdened with the task to carry it with them for the rest of their lives. I am no different. As a child, I suffered from the afflictions of a deeply confused person. I wouldn't understand for years to come, but I would continue to fight this battle for the rest of my life. In me were two birds, each ravenous and begging to hatch. One bird sang the song of my parents, of my brother and sisters. Of my classmates. The other bird sang louder, and though its chant lacked harmony, it was equally charming; with a unique, solemn sound. Their chorus has brought me great pain. I've searched far and wide for a cure to this sickness, never understanding what it is that truly harms me. No book, nor film, nor art piece was able to reveal to me what the whispers of my blood suggested. Their spirit has taken me to many places, but none as desolate and poorly explored as myself. If I could tame these birds, would I be able to take control and rid myself of these beasts?
no subtext
Cass, I’ve long forgotten when it was exactly that I made you up. Some time ago, I decided to be alone. It didn’t take long to realize how impossible that was to maintain, so I conjured you out of my imagination. At times, I’ll forget you’re a figment. To me, this is all real. At least, profoundly more real than anything else. I write to you at my worst, not that anyone would know. Work is going well. I’m good at it. I’m much, much younger than everyone “at the office.” Some have kids my age, which is likely why they’re so impressed by my temperament. I suspect a couple of them resent me for it — that is, for being half their age and outperforming them. I do not say it to boast, mostly to demonstrate how utterly stress free my life should be.

Just try it once — a tree, or at least a considerable section of sky, is to be seen anywhere. It does not even have to be blue sky; in some way or another the light of the sun always makes itself felt. Accustom yourself every morning to look for a moment at the sky and suddenly you will be aware of the air around you, the scent of morning freshness that is bestowed on you between sleep and labor. You will find every day that the gable of every house has its own particular look, its own special lighting. Pay it some heed if you will have for the rest of the day a remnant of satisfaction and a touch of coexistence with nature. Gradually and without effort the eye trains itself to transmit many small delights, to contemplate nature and the city streets, to appreciate the inexhaustible fun of daily life. From there on to the fully trained artistic eye is the smaller half of the journey; the principal thing is the beginning, the opening of the eyes.

- Hermann Hesse, in a excerpt from Hermann Hesse on Little Joys, Breaking the Trance of Busyness, and the Most Important Habit for Living with Presence, The Marginalian, 6 March 2017

Seeking answers, Yedlin asked, “How can I learn the secret of life?”

“Friend, there are no secrets in our world. Life is made of open mysteries, each waiting patiently for you to explore. What you seek is not knowledge, but a cure to the blindness that ails you.”

“And how is it that I can come to see?”

“To witness the march of shadow and light, to see beyond your darkness and into the light that is promised, is not a matter of how but rather, a matter of what. It has been called by many names, the Will to Live by some, the Flow by others. Truly, what you must do is to cease merely existing and begin to live.”

I was a romantic and sentimental creature, with a tendency towards solitude.

- Isabel Allende, The House of the Spirits

I watched life and wanted to be a part of it but found it painfully difficult.

- Anais Nin, The Diary of Anais Nin, Vol. 6: 1955-1966

It was only a few years back that I would scold myself to sleep, pleading with a God for forgiveness. I tortured myself with the idea that every day I would resurrect You and in my sins, I would neglect You. Almost immediately, I cast you back to life, if only to beg for mercy and let you die all over again.

It came to me in a vision, walking through the dimly lit streets of a Boston winter. God is a vapor. With every breath, we draw him in and breathe him back out. It’s a cycle we’re doomed to repeat until the day we die.

…It should not be forgotten that the function of the workers’ unions in the United States is rather to serve as a buffer between the two forces in conflict, and to surreptitiously sap the revolutionary power of the masses. - The American Working Class: Friend or Foe? (1954), Che Guevara

I wouldn’t have thought about reading Goethe if we hadn’t been sitting in the rain last November talking about Nietzsche, and we wouldn’t have been talking about Nietzsche if Helen hadn’t been trying to explain Steiner to me for the hundredth time, and she wouldn’t have been trying to explain Steiner to me if someone hadn’t recently advised me to read Schopenhauer and I’d discovered that you couldn’t really understand Schopenhauer if you didn’t understand Kant, and she said the only thing she knew about Kant was that he’d influenced Goethe, who Nietzsche used as his model of the Ubermensch, and who’d also influenced Steiner very profoundly but in ways she didn’t fully understand because she’d never read Goethe, so I said I would.

I feel lonely. I feel worse - strange. And when I leave I cry in the car. And I say to myself that the trouble with life is that people are strangers. Anne…people are strangers. I don’t know if I can go on spilling myself out to people - those strange strangers. As I may have said, I am not at home in myself. I seem to be a ship that is sailing out of my own life.

- Anne Sexton, a letter to Anne Clarke dated 23 March 1964

Sitting across from me, armed with love,

It became clear to me that nearly every thought that’s ever crossed my mind became worthless if I failed to write it down or to live it out and place its stamp in reality. So many worthless thoughts, neglected and poorly explored.

Perhaps for this reason I missed our friendship — a place of refuge for my thoughts, where they could be acknowledged, accepted or refuted but nonetheless brought to life.

I overcame myself, the sufferer; I carried my own ashes to the mountains; I invented a brighter flame for myself.

- Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

He who delights in solitude is either a wild beast or a god.

- Aristotle, Politics

My jaw is sewn tightly. There are so many words I want to say, but no one near me to hear them. In time, I will be home; with the people who will listen eagerly. I cannot wait to be home.

I was drawn to all the wrong things: I liked to drink, I was lazy, I didn’t have a god, politics, ideas, ideals. I was settled into nothingness; a kind of non-being, and I accepted it. I didn’t make for an interesting person. I didn’t want to be interesting, it was too hard. What I really wanted was only a soft, hazy space to live in, and to be left alone.

- Charles Bukowski, Women

She’s speaking in dreams

I take her waist in my hands

When I turn to look her in the eyes, she melts away into sand

I will not be “famous,” “great.” I will go on adventuring, changing, opening my mind and my eyes, refusing to be stamped and stereotyped. The thing is to free one’s self: to let it find its dimensions, not be impeded.

- Virginia Woolf, A Writer’s Diary

It’s just that I belong in the quietest quiet, that’s what’s right for me.

- Franz Kafka, Letters to Milena

All of Dostoevsky’s heroes question themselves as to the meaning of life. In this they are modern: they do not fear ridicule. What distinguishes modern sensibility from classical sensibility is that the latter thrives on moral problems and the former on metaphysical problems. In Dostoevsky’s novels the question is propounded with such intensity that it can only invite extreme solutions. Existence is illusory or it is eternal. If Dostoevsky were satisfied with this inquiry, he would be a philosopher. But he illustrates the consequences that such intellectual pastimes may have in a man’s life, and in this regard he is an artist.

- Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus