"Changing the way we talk is not political correctness run amok. It reflects an admirable willingness to acknowledge others who once were barely visible to the dominant culture, and to recognize that something that may seem innocent to you may be painful to others."
— David Plotz, The Washington _________ (via prayingbuddha)
turns out to be
an invisible form of sadness.”
— Galway Kinnell, “Pure Balance” (from Strong Is Your Hold)
"In our culture, snails are not considered valiant animals — we are constantly exhorting people to ‘come out of their shells’ — but there’s a lot to be said for taking your home with you wherever you go."
— Susan Cain, The Power of Introverts: A Manifesto for Quiet Brilliance (an interview with Susan Cain by Gareth Cook)
"This world of dew
is a world of dew
and yet, and yet…”
― Kobayashi Issa
"Our words are too fragile. God’s silence is too deep. But oh, what gorgeous sounds our failures make: words flung against the silence like wine glasses pitched against a hearth. As lovely as they are, they were meant for smashing. For when they do, it is as if a little of God’s own music breaks through."
— Barbara Brown Taylor, “Restraint,” When God is Silent (via invisibleforeigner)
"Without limits, we would have no feel for the infinite. Without limits, we would be freed from our longing for what lies beyond. It is precisely our inability to say God that teaches us who God is. When we run out of words, we are very near the God whose name is unsayable. The fact that we cannot say it, however, does not mean we may stop trying. The trying is essential to our humanity. It is how we push language to the limit so that we may listen to it as it falls, exploding into scripture, sonnet, story, song. All these may fail in the end to name the living God, but they fail like shooting stars."
— Barbara Brown Taylor, “Restraint,” When God is Silent
"Emotions, in my experience, aren’t covered by single words. I don’t believe in ‘sadness,’ ‘joy,’ or ‘regret.’ Maybe the best proof that the language is patriarchal is that it oversimplifies feeling. I’d like to have at my disposal complicated hybrid emotions, Germanic traincar constructions like, say, ‘the happiness that attends disaster.’ Or: ‘the disappointment of sleeping with one’s fantasy.’ I’d like to show how ‘intimations of mortality brought on by aging family members’ connects with ‘the hatred of mirrors that begins in middle age.’ I’d like to have a word for ‘the sadness inspired by failing restaurants’ as well as for ‘the excitement of getting a room with a minibar.’ I’ve never had the right words to describe my life, and now that I’ve entered my story, I need them more than ever. I can’t just sit back and watch from a distance anymore. From here on in, everything I’ll tell you is colored by the subjective experience of being part of events. Here’s where my story splits, divides, undergoes meiosis. Already the world feels heavier, now I’m a part of it. I’m talking about bandages and sopped cotton, the smell of mildew in movie theaters, and of all the lousy cats and their stinking litter boxes, of rain on city streets when the dust comes up and the old Italian men take their folding chairs inside. Up until now it hasn’t been my world. Not my America. But here we are, at last."
— Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex (via bookofwriting)
"[Martin] Buber said that meeting another [human being] was a great thing, but not the greatest thing. The greatest thing any person can do for another is to confirm the deepest thing in him, in her—to take the time and have the discernment to see what’s most deeply there, most fully that person, and then confirm it by recognizing then encouraging it.
Each of us has contact with hundreds of people who never look beyond our surface appearance. We have dealings with hundreds of people who the moment they set eyes on us begin calculating what use we can be to them, what they can get out of us. We meet hundreds of people who take one look at us, make a snap judgement, and then slot us into a category so that they won’t have to deal with us as persons. They treat us as something less than we are; and if we’re in constant association with them, we become less.
And then someone enters our life who isn’t looking for someone to use, is leisurely enough to find out what’s really going on in us, is secure enough not to exploit our weaknesses or attack our strengths, recognizes our inner life and understands the difficulty of living out our inner convictions, confirms what’s deepest within us. A friend.”
— Eugene H. Peterson, “Friendship,” Leap Over a Wall: Earthy Spirituality for Everyday Christians (via discourseoflove)
"People who want to become English professors do so because, at one point in their lives, they found reading a story, poem, or play to be an emotionally rewarding experience. They somehow, someway were touched by what they read. Yet it is precisely this emotional response that the would-be professor must give up. Of course, the professor can and should have those feelings in private, but publicly, as a teacher or publisher, the professor must talk about the text in nonemotional, largely technical terms. No one ever won a National Endowment for the Humanities grant by weeping copiously for Little Nell, and no one will get tenure in a major department by sharing his powerful feelings about Housman’s Shropshire Lad with the full professors.”
— Brian McCrea, “The Profession and Its Canon: Four Typical Silences,” Addison and Steele are Dead: The English Department, Its Canon, and the Professionalization of Literary Criticism (via ayjay)
"Why should English majors exist? Well, there really are no whys to such things, anymore than there are to why we wear clothes or paint good pictures or live in more than hovels and huts or send flowers to our beloved on their birthday. No sane person proposes or has ever proposed an entirely utilitarian, production-oriented view of human purpose. We cannot merely produce goods and services as efficiently as we can, sell them to each other as cheaply as possible, and die. Some idea of symbolic purpose, of pleasure-seeking rather than rent seeking, of Doing Something Else, is essential to human existence. That’s why we pass out tax breaks to churches, zoning remissions to parks, subsidize new ballparks and point to the density of theatres and galleries as signs of urban life, to be encouraged if at all possible. When a man makes a few billion dollars, he still starts looking around for a museum to build a gallery for or a newspaper to buy. No civilization we think worth studying, or whose relics we think worth visiting, existed without what amounts to an English department—texts that mattered, people who argued about them as if they mattered, and a sense of shame among the wealthy if they couldn’t talk about them, at least a little, too. It’s what we call civilization.
Even if we read books and talk about them for four years, and then do something else more obviously remunerative, it won’t be time wasted. We need the humanities not because they will produce shrewder entrepreneurs or kinder C.E.O.s but because… they help us enjoy life more and endure it better. The reason we need the humanities is because we’re human. That’s enough.”
— Adam Gopnik, Why Teach English?
"The study of English, to be sure, suffers from its own discontents: it isn’t a science, and so the ‘research’ you do is, as my colleague Louis Menand has pointed out, archival futzing aside, not really research. But the best answer I have ever heard from a literature professor for studying literature came from a wise post-structuralist critic. Why was he a professor of literature? ‘Because I have an obsessive relationship with texts.’ You choose a major, or a life, not because you see its purpose, which tends to shimmer out of sight like an oasis, but because you like its objects. A good doctor said to me, not long ago, ‘You really sort of have to like assholes and ear wax to be a good general practitioner’; you have to really like, or not mind much, intricate and dull and occasionally even dumb arguments about books to study English.
The reward is that it remains the one kind of time travel that works, where you make a wish and actually become a musketeer in Paris or a used-car salesman in Pennsylvania. That one knows, of course, that the actuality is ‘fictional’ or artificial doesn’t change its reality. The vicarious pleasure of reading is, by the perverse principle of professions, one that is often banished from official discussion, but it remains the core activity.”
— Adam Gopnik, Why Teach English?
“[T]he critic Lee Siegel asks, quite pertinently, why don’t we just take books out of the academy, where they don’t belong, and put them back in the living room, where they do? The best answer is a conservative one: institutions don’t always have a good reason for existing, but there are very few institutions that do exist that didn’t get invented for a reason. The space between a practice and a profession is as wide as any social space can be. And what professions do that practices can’t is remain open to what used to be called ‘the talents.’ To have turned the habits of reading and obsessing over books from a practice mostly for those rich enough to have the time to do it into one that welcomes, for a time anyway, anyone who can is momentous. English departments democratize the practice of reading. When they do, they make the books of the past available to all. It’s a simple but potent act.”
— Adam Gopnik, Why Teach English?
"Free-floating anxiety is characteristic of dementia, and honoring the personhood of residents, as Thomas Kitwood recommended, also means acknowledging their distress. Gillian Hamilton, the medical director of Beatitudes [Campus, a retirement community in Phoenix, Arizona], told me that [Nancy Kay] Beck, who is physically sturdier than most of the residents, is her biggest challenge. ‘She just wants to go home,’ Hamilton said. ‘I’ve tried many different medications. I’ve tried sedating her. And I just can’t get anywhere. I would love a solution for her, but it’s not a medical solution. And we haven’t come up with something.’ Often, Hamilton told me, a resident’s distress abates as the disease progresses; the most difficult time is the period during which a person with dementia recognizes that something very unwelcome is happening, but is unable to understand it. Hamilton told me that, with Beck, they would just have to wait out this period. ‘She’ll be better when she’s worse,’ Hamilton said."
— Rebecca Mead, The Sense of an Ending