"Spaces survive the passage of time in the same way a person survives his death: in the close alliance between the memory and the imagination that others forge around it. They exist as long as we keep thinking of them, imagining in them; as long as we remember them, remember ourselves there, and, above all, as long as we remember what we imagined in them. A relingo—an emptiness, an absence—is a sort of depository for possibilities, a place that can be seized by the imagination and inhabited by our phantom-follies. Cities need those vacant lots, those silent gaps where the mind can wander freely."
- From “Relingos” by Varleria Luiselli, tr. Christina MacSweeney in The Brooklyn Quarterly
"However, there is nothing wrong with envy, maintained the philosopher. What matters is how we handle it. Greatness comes from being able to learn from our envious crises. Nietzsche thought of envy as a confused but important signal from our deeper selves about what we really want. Everything that makes us envious is a fragment of our true potential, which we disown at our peril. We should learn to study our envy forensically, keeping a diary of envious moments, and then sift through episodes to discern the shape of a future, better self."
- The Great Philosophers 4: Nietzsche
I cannot recommend this travel narrative about the American South enough. Read it. You must read it.
I encountered it first online and then drove to a bookstore to pick up a physical copy of the issue of Smithsonian Magazine. It’s Paul Theroux at the top of his game: a gorgeously written piece chronicling an important story about the underbelly of poverty in the South. And it’s a critical companion to one of my other favorite reads of late: this piece on reparations in The Atlantic by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
If Theroux’s piece doesn’t prove Coates’ premise right, then I don’t know what does.
But it was a particular section of the essay that caught my attention,
You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.
This life is yours. Take the power to choose what you want to do and do it well. Take the power to love what you want in life and love it honestly. Take the power to walk in the forest and be a part of nature. Take the power to control your own life. No one else can do it for you. Take the power to make your life happy.
I am a happy camper so I guess I’m doing something right. Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.
"I’m sometimes asked by a literary intellectual in an on-stage discussion – often through the medium of a puzzled frown – why I’m interested in science. As if I was being asked why I had a particular fascination for designs of differential gears in old Volkswagens, or car-parking regulations in Chicago in the 1940s. Science is simply organised human curiosity and we should all take part. It’s a matter of beauty. Just as we treasure beauty in our music and literature, so there’s beauty to be found in the exuberant invention of science."
- Ian McEwan
"Nostalgia is one thing, but making art out of the past is another thing altogether, a Herculean effort in that known and unknown landscape we might as well call the metaphysical."
"In her lovely memoir, Smile, Please, the Carribean-born writer Jean Rhys says that she considered her writing to be the tiniest stream, one that trickles into the vast ocean that is world literature. But without those streams there would be no ocean, and if there is no ocean there is no short, and if there is no shore there is no place for our ghosts to gather in the sunlight, those artistic forebears who wave us back to dry land when a project seems beyond us and we lose our way, which is at least half the time.”
"I offer all of this not by way of aimless self-revelation, but as a way of provoking you to remember your stories about similar incidents in your life, stories about the night, and who smoked what and who was doing who mixed with outside events, such as the politics of your time, mixed in with the books you were reading, the films you were seeing, the poems you were memorizing, because all of it is your source material."
"…take it from me: memory is your greatest ally and your primary source material, because memory is your body as it was in the world and the world as it was and will be; memory is the people you have loved or wanted to love in the world, and what are we if not bodies filled with reminiscences about all those ghosts in the sunlight?
"The artist’s memory is a dangerous, necessary thing. Never disavow what you see and remember—it’s your brilliant stock-in-trade: remembering, and making something out of it. Artists remember the world as it is, first, because you have to know what it is you’re reinventing; that’s a rule, perhaps the only one: being cognizant of your source material."
Favorite passages from Hilton Als’ commencement talk at Columbia University School of Arts on May 21, 2014 via The New York Review of Books