Posts in: Commonplace

A Matter of Style

Jim Dodge, from the Foreword, The Gary Snyder Reader:

The last question came from a young man who wanted to know what Gary meant by the paradoxical statement that ends the seminal Four Changes: “Knowing that nothing need be done is the place from which we begin to move.”

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Henry Adams, The Education:

All New York was demanding new men, and all the new forces, condensed into corporations, were demanding a new type of man,—a man with ten times the endurance, energy, will and mind of the old type,—for whom they were ready to pay millions at sight. As one jolted over the pavements or read the last week’s newspapers, the new man seemed close at hand, for the old one had plainly reached the end of his strength, and his failure had become catastrophic. Every one saw it, and every municipal election shrieked chaos. A traveller in the highways of history looked out of the club window on the turmoil of Fifth Avenue, and felt himself in Rome, under Diocletian, witnessing the anarchy, conscious of the compulsion, eager for the solution, but unable to conceive whence the next impulse was to come or how it was to act. The two-thousand-years failure of Christianity roared upward from Broadway, and no Constantine the Great was in sight.


Bachelard, The Poetics of Space:

If we were to give the imagination its due in the philosophical systems of the universe, we should find, at their very source, an adjective. Indeed, to those who want to find the essence of a world philosophy, one could give the following advice — look for its adjective.

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Laurie Anderson, Spending the War Without You:

I have to tell you: in these lectures, I’m not going to be explaining my work or describing who I am as an artist. In fact, I don’t care if you know who I am.

I’ve never really tried to express myself through my work. It’s more about curiosity, about how things are, what they are.

Plus, I’ve really made an effort for most of my life to just get rid of the idea of being anyone at all.

(From Pt 1: The River @ ±7:30–50)


John Ruskin:

The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something and tell what it saw in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see. To see clearly is poetry, prophecy and religion, all in one.


General George C. Marshall:

There is no limit to the good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.


Brian Eno:

Whatever you now find weird, ugly, uncomfortable and nasty about a new medium will surely become its signature. CD distortion, the jitteriness of digital video, the crap sound of 8-bit — all of these will be cherished and emulated as soon as they can be avoided. It’s the sound of failure: so much modern art is the sound of things going out of control, of a medium pushing to its limits and breaking apart. The distorted guitar sound is the sound of something too loud for the medium supposed to carry it. The blues singer with the cracked voice is the sound of an emotional cry too powerful for the throat that releases it. The excitement of grainy film, of bleached-out black and white, is the excitement of witnessing events too momentous for the medium assigned to record them.


Joseph Brodsky (via):

Pushkin called translators “the post-horses of enlightenment.” If we take this metaphor to its logical conclusion (which is always dangerous), we should note that horses run as hard as they can only when a whip is whistling over them.

Or when they’re free.


Aase Berg (via):

Shit on your readers, shit on acknowledgment. Poetry is not about making connections. You don’t need to be understood, you don’t even need to understand yourself. Poetry is only research into the unfathomable.


Alison Gopnik (via):

But here’s Hume’s really great idea: Ultimately, the metaphysical foundations don’t matter. Experience is enough all by itself. What do you lose when you give up God or “reality” or even “I”? The moon is still just as bright; you can still predict that a falling glass will break, and you can still act to catch it; you can still feel compassion for the suffering of others. Science and work and morality remain intact. Go back to your backgammon game after your skeptical crisis, Hume wrote, and it will be exactly the same game.

In fact, if you let yourself think this way, your life might actually get better. Give up the prospect of life after death, and you will finally really appreciate life before it. Give up metaphysics, and you can concentrate on physics. Give up the idea of your precious, unique, irreplaceable self, and you might actually be more sympathetic to other people.