“Naming racism and segregation as a problem merely acknowledges and passively describes a fact. However, the challenge is to elevate the problem’s mere existence to the level of reality, to shape it through thought and action into a material that, because consciously formed, can be transformed and overcome.”—Benjamin Blumberg
“I don’t like the shrug. It’s an abdication of responsibility for making sure that art keeps doing the things that art should do. If you shrug, that keeps the wheels turning the way they’re turning. It lets corporations turn you into selfish consumers. It lets them fit you for a new pair of blinkers. And that means that predictability keeps getting prized over experimentation and product keeps getting prized over art.”—Questlove
“Discipline is necessary so we can have meaningful lives based on a relationship with desire, not just pleasure. The point is not to be good or happy but never to give in with respect to your desire, i.e. never to deny it, nor to accept it as just given, but instead to follow it upstream, to traverse the fantasy, to encounter the edge of the subjective abyss from which infinitely fractal and beautifully perverse desire flows.”—Luke Pagarani
“Both rejections and affirmations of the couple are skewered on this doubleness: It is the fullest expression of love and proximity available to us, and it bears all the insufficiencies of present social relations. Monogamous romantic commitment, like infallible lifelong attraction to only men or only women, is surely a minority tendency expediently elevated to a general social principle. But knowing that isn’t enough to undo the power of either. The couple represents an unforgiveable privatization of love, but refusing it doesn’t necessarily make love any more freely available. Despite the efforts of radical groups and the bravery of marginalized communities, it mostly remains the case that in turning away from couple-form love, we are turning toward nothing. The hope or mirage of kindness among strangers, of love among friends, is at war with the intensive familiarity of romantic love.”—Hannah Black
“Nothing evokes the end of the world more than a man running straight ahead on a beach, swathed in the sounds of his walkman, cocooned in the solitary sacrifice of his energy, indifferent even to catastrophes since he expects destruction to come only as the fruit of his own efforts, from exhausting the energy of a body that has in his own eyes become useless. Primitives, when in despair, would commit suicide by swimming out to sea until they could swim no longer. The jogger commits suicide by running up and down the beach. His eyes are wild, saliva drips from his mouth. Do not stop him.”—Jean Baudrillard, America
“Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.”—Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind (via bookmania)
“It seems that we routinely overestimate what we know. We fail to predict what we will want in the future. We are inconsistent about our preferences. We value the objects we possess over the ones we lack in ways that don’t make any objective sense. And having better or more extensive information does not necessarily improve matters. That’s because when making choices, we also tend to ignore facts that do not jibe with the outcome we desire; we focus on information that is irrelevant, or see patterns where they do not exist, or get distracted by our fleeting emotions. Then, if the possibilities are presented differently, our choices will shift accordingly, suggesting that on top of it all, we are easily manipulated by those in the business of manufacturing situations bloated with options. By and large, when it comes time to choose, the impulsive, unreflective parts of the brain dominate the analytic parts.”—Sophia Rosenfeld
“The uncanny likeness is a fantasy of the actual. As such, it is a lesson in looking; and also in the collapse of the dichotomy between the ideal and the real. They are barren without each other. Realists can also be blind and idealists can also see.”—Leon Wieseltier
“I can still hear it in my head, and feel the way I wanted it to never stop, though the beauty in it is that it did end—it was a moment that was never likely to repeat, and only possible there.”—Alexander Chee
“There is no way to leave history. There is no other place to go. As a diasporic person I’ve learned that it’s in fact really easy to leave your country. What is difficult is leaving its history, as it follows (or leads) you like a shadow. That kind of history is in your body (as it was in Lazarus’s) and cannot be relegated to a museum or, as in America, to entertainment.”—
“I’ve always found the insistent distinction between fiction and nonfiction in Anglo-American writing very annoying, indeed troubling. For one thing, it implies that nonfiction is all the stuff outside of fiction, or the other way around, the yin and yang of writing. Another problem: it marks a text in terms of its relation to “truth,” a category that is presumably self-evident and therefore stable. But narration cannot contain stable truth, because it unfolds, and it does so before the narrator in one way, and before the listener/reader in another way. Narration is creation of truth, which is to say that truth does not precede it.”—Aleksandr Hemon
“The difficulty, as always with popular chronicles of ideas, is not that ideas don’t matter; it’s that we too readily skip over the question of how they come to matter. Who seeded the ground is the historian’s easy question; what made the ground receive the seed is the hard one.”—Adam Gopnik
“There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution.”—Aldous Huxley (via theministryoftruth)
“Remembering is not the re-excitation of innumerable fixed, lifeless and fragmentary traces. It is an imaginative reconstruction, or construction, built out of the relation of our attitude towards a whole active mass of organized past reactions or experience… . It is thus hardly ever really exact.”—Frederic Bartlett (via theministryoftruth)
“A denied dream is something that matters; it is not something to be dismissed for anyone, regardless where they come from or whose “fault” people believe it is. Mistaking bad luck for bad character is one of the great cruelties of our time.”—Sara Kendizor
There is $118 trillion of wealth in the United States alone, or about $375,000 per American. For every homeless person in the country, there are 28 empty homes waiting for them right now. Laws and culture deny them a roof over their head, not a dearth of roofs. It is our legal system that funnels a disproportionate amount of wealth to a small handful of people, not the benevolent hand of a just and caring god.
Even by the standard of 20th century capitalism, things are pretty not okay. If income had kept pace with growth in the economy since 1970, the median household would be making around $92,000. The actual number is $50,000 and falling. A record 46 million Americans are living below the U.S. government’s official poverty line.
“Narrative therapy assumes that the articulation of experience and its subsequent evaluation in the context of one’s values facilitates the construction and performance of a preferred identity. A patient is encouraged to conceptualize her past self as nonessentialized, to see herself in relation to her problems without seeing herself as defined by them.”—Melissa Petro
The vast majority of practicing scientists (except for a few propagandists like Pinker) probably do not embrace scientism, but it is the idiom journalists use to popularize scientific findings for a nonscientific audience. It is not, to be sure, an outlook based on the scientific method—the patient weighing of experimental results, the reframing of questions in response to contrary evidence, the willingness to live with epistemological uncertainty. Quite the contrary: scientism is a revival of the nineteenth-century positivist faith that a reified “science” has discovered (or is about to discover) all the important truths about human life. Precise measurement and rigorous calculation, in this view, are the basis for finally settling enduring metaphysical and moral controversies—explaining consciousness and choice, replacing ambiguity with certainty. The most problematic applications of scientism have usually arisen in the behavioral sciences, where the varieties and perversities of experience have often been reduced to quantitative data that are alleged to reveal an enduring “human nature.”
The scientism on display in the happiness manuals offers a strikingly vacuous worldview, one devoid of history, culture or political economy. Its chief method is self-reported survey research; its twin conceptual pillars are pop evolutionary psychology, based on just-so stories about what human life was like on the African savannah 100,000 years ago, and pop neuroscience, based on sweeping, unsubstantiated claims about brain function gleaned from fragments of contemporary research.
“I sometimes thought that he was ruled by his aversions; chief among them—worse than waste, haste, carelessness to details, hugging, and even germs—was bullshit in all its proliferating manifestations, subtle and gross, from the flabby political face telling lies on TV to the most private, much more devastating lies we tell ourselves. Culture lies were especially revolting. Hypocrisy was not some petty human foible, it was the corrupted essence of our predicament, which for Stanley was purely an existential predicament. In terms of narrative, since movies are stories, the most contemptible lie was sentimentality, and the most disgusting lie was sanctimoniousness.”—Michael Herr on Stanley Kubrick
“Computers served as transitional objects. They bring us back to the feelings of being “at one” with the world. Musicians often hear the music in their minds before they play it, experiencing the music from within and without. The computer similarly can be experienced as an object on the border between self and not-self. Just as musical instruments can be extensions of the mind’s construction of sound, computers can be extensions of the mind’s construction of thought.”—Sherry Turkle
“It’s simply my conscious getting in the way. I would be better off saying things more wildly, then looking at what I’d said. Do first, think later; many things can benefit from this method — falling in love, taking your first job, speaking up for what you believe in. Write first, think later. Repeat.”—Woody Allen