Death is impatient and thoughtless. It barges into your room when you are right in the middle of something, and it doesn't bother to wipe its boots.
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Death is impatient and thoughtless. It barges into your room when you are right in the middle of something, and it doesn’t bother to wipe its boots.

-Tom Robbins

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So what's your doll's name?" Boo asked me."Barbie," I said. "All their names are Barbie.""I see," she said. "Well, I'd think that would get boring, everyone having the samename."I thought about this, then said, "Okay, then her name is Sabrina.""Well, that's a very nice name," Boo said. I remember she was baking bread,kneading the doughbetween her thick fingers. "What does she do?""Do?" I said."Yes." She flipped the dough over and started in on it from the other side. "Whatdoes she do?""She goes out with Ken," I said."And what else?""She goes to parties," I said slowly. "And shopping.""Oh," Boo said, nodding."She can't work?""She doesn't have to work," I said."Why not?""Because she's Barbie.""I hate to tell you, Caitlin, but somebody has to make payments on that town houseand the Corvette,"Boo said cheerfully. "Unless Barbie has a lot of family money."I considered this while I put on Ken's pants.Boo started pushing the dough into a pan, smoothing it with her hand over the top."You know what Ithink, Caitlin?" Her voice was soft and nice, the way she always spoke to me."What?""I think your Barbie can go shopping, and go out with Ken, and also have aproductive and satisfyingcareer of her own." She opened the oven and slid in the bread pan, adjusting itsposition on the rack."But what can she do?" My mother didn't work and spent her time cleaning thehouse and going to PTA.I couldn't imagine Barbie, whose most casual outfit had sequins and go-go boots,doing s.uch things.Boo came over and plopped right down beside me. I always rememberher being on my level; she'd siton the edge of the sandbox, or lie across her bed with me and Cass as we listened tothe radio."Well," she said thoughtfully, picking up Ken and examining his perfect physique."What do you want todo when you grow up?"I remember this moment so well; I can still see Boo sitting there on the floor, cross-legged, holding myKen and watching my face as she tried to make me see that between my mother'sPTA and Boo'sstrange ways there was a middle ground that began here with my Barbie, Sab-rina,and led right to me."Well," I said abruptly, "I want to be in advertising." I have no idea where this camefrom."Advertising," Boo repeated, nodding. "Okay. Advertising it is. So Sabrina has to goto work every day,coming up with ideas for commercialsand things like that.""She works in an office," I went on. "Sometimes she has to work late.""Sure she does," Boo said. "It's hard to get ahead. Even if you're Barbie.""Because she wants to get promoted," I added. "So she can pay off the town house.And the Corvette.""Very responsible of her," Boo said."Can she be divorced?" I asked. "And famous for her commercialsand ideas?""She can be anything," Boo told me, and this is what I remember most, her freckledface so solemn, as ifshe knew she was the first to tell me. "And so can you.

-Sarah Dessen

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But the Esquire passage I found most poignant and revealing was this one: Mister Rogers' visit to a teenage boy severely afflicted with cerebral palsy and terrible anger. One of the boys' few consolations in life, Junod wrote, was watching Mister Rogers Neighborhood. 'At first, the boy was made very nervous by the thought that Mister Rogers was visiting him. He was so nervous, in fact, that when Mister Rogers did visit, he got mad at himself and began hating himself and hitting himself, and his mother had to take him to another room and talk to him. Mister Rogers didn't leave, though. He wanted something from the boy, and Mister Rogers never leaves when he wants something from somebody. He just waited patiently, and when the boy came back, Mister Rogers talked to him, and then he made his request. He said, 'I would like you to do something for me. Would you do something for me?' On his computer, the boy answered yes, of course, he would do anything for Mister Rogers, so then Mister Rogers said: I would like you to pray for me. Will you pray for me?' And now the boy didn't know how to respond. He was thunderstruck... because nobody had ever asked him for something like that, ever. The boy had always been prayed for. The boy had always been the object of prayer, and now he was being asked to pray for Mister Rogers, and although at first he didn't know how to do it, he said he would, he said he'd try, and ever since then he keeps Mister Rogers in his prayers and doesn't talk about wanting to die anymore, because he figures if Mister Rogers likes him, that must mean that God likes him, too.As for Mister Rogers himself... he doesn't look at the story the same way the boy did or I did. In fact, when Mister Rogers first told me the story, I complimented him on being smart - for knowing that asking the boy for his prayers would make the boy feel better about himself - and Mister Rogers responded by looking at me first with puzzlement and then with surprise. 'Oh heavens no, Tom! I didn't ask him for his prayers for him; I asked for me. I asked him because I think that anyone who has gone through challenges like that must be very close to God. I asked him because I wanted his intercession.

-Tim Madigan

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I love you,' Buttercup said. 'I know this must come as something of a surprise to you, since all I've ever done is scorn you and degrade you and taunt you, but I have loved you for several hours now, and every second, more. I thought an hour ago that I loved you more than any woman has ever loved a man, but a half hour after that I knew that what I felt before was nothing compared to what I felt then. But ten minutes after that, I understood that my previous love was a puddle compared to the high seas before a storm. Your eyes are like that, did you know? Well they are. How many minutes ago was I? Twenty? Had I brought my feelings up to then? It doesn't matter.' Buttercup still could not look at him. The sun was rising behind her now; she could feel the heat on her back, and it gave her courage. 'I love you so much more now than twenty minutes ago that there cannot be comparison. I love you so much more now then when you opened your hovel door, there cannot be comparison. There is no room in my body for anything but you. My arms love you, my ears adore you, my knees shake with blind affection. My mind begs you to ask it something so it can obey. Do you want me to follow you for the rest of your days? I will do that. Do you want me to crawl? I will crawl. I will be quiet for you or sing for you, or if you are hungry, let me bring you food, or if you have thirst and nothing will quench it but Arabian wine, I will go to Araby, even though it is across the world, and bring a bottle back for your lunch. Anything there is that I can do for you, I will do for you; anything there is that I cannot do, I will learn to do. I know I cannot compete with the Countess in skills or wisdom or appeal, and I saw the way she looked at you. And I saw the way you looked at her. But remember, please, that she is old and has other interests, while I am seventeen and for me there is only you. Dearest Westley--I've never called you that before, have I?--Westley, Westley, Westley, Westley, Westley,--darling Westley, adored Westley, sweet perfect Westley, whisper that I have a chance to win your love.' And with that, she dared the bravest thing she'd ever done; she looked right into his eyes.

-William Goldman

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Anyhow, I had found something out about an unknown privation, and I realized how a general love or craving, before it is explicit or before it sees its object, manifests itself as boredom or some other kind of suffering. And what did I think of myself in relation to the great occasions, the more sizable being of these books? Why, I saw them, first of all. So suppose I wasn't created to read a great declaration, or to boss a palatinate, or send off a message to Avignon, and so on, I could see, so there nevertheless was a share for me in all that had happened. How much of a share? Why, I knew there were things that would never, because they could never, come of my reading. But this knowledge was not so different from the remote but ever-present death that sits in the corner of the loving bedroom; though it doesn't budge from the corner, you wouldn't stop your loving. Then neither would I stop my reading. I sat and read. I had no eye, ear, or interest for anything else--that is, for usual, second-order, oatmeal, mere-phenomenal, snarled-shoelace-carfare-laundry-ticket plainness, unspecified dismalness, unknown captivities; the life of despair-harness or the life of organization-habits which is meant to supplant accidents with calm abiding. Well, now, who can really expect the daily facts to go, toil or prisons to go, oatmeal and laundry tickets and the rest, and insist that all moments be raised to the greatest importance, demand that everyone breathe the pointy, star-furnished air at its highest difficulty, abolish all brick, vaultlike rooms, all dreariness, and live like prophets or gods? Why, everybody knows this triumphant life can only be periodic. So there's a schism about it, some saying only this triumphant life is real and others that only the daily facts are. For me there was no debate, and I made speed into the former.

-Saul Bellow

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I am an urchin, standing in the cold, elbowed aside by the glossy rich visitors in their fur coats and ostentatious jewellery, being fussed into the hotel by pompous-looking doormen.'No problem. I'd better get home, actually Mr – Gustav. A drink is very tempting, but maybe not such a good idea after all.' I pat my pockets. 'And I'm skint.' 'Pavements not paved with gold yet, eh?' He moves on along the facade of the grand hotel to the corner, and waits. He's staring not back at me but down St James Street. I wage a little war with myself. He's a stranger, remember. The newspaper headlines, exaggerated by the time they reach the office of Jake's local rag: Country girl from the sticks raped and murdered in London by suave conman.Even Poppy would be wagging her metaphorical finger at me by now. Blaming herself for not being there, looking out for me. But we're out in public here. Lots of people around us. He's charming. He's incredibly attractive. He's got a lovely deep, well spoken voice. And he's an entrepreneur who must be bloody rich if he owns more than one house. What the hell else am I going to do with myself when everyone else is out having fun?One thing I won't tell him is that my pockets might be empty, but my bank account is full. 'One drink. Then I must get back.'He doesn't answer or protest, but with a courtly bow he crooks his elbow and escorts me down St James. We turn right and into the far more subtle splendour of Dukes Hotel. 'Dress code?' I ask nervously, wiping my feet obediently on the huge but welcoming doormat and drifting ahead of him into the smart interior where domed and glassed corridors lead here and there. The foyer smells of mulled wine and candles and entices you to succumb to its perfumed embrace.

-Primula Bond

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What is so often said about the solders of the 20th century is that they fought to make us free. Which is a wonderful sentiment and one witch should evoke tremendous gratitude if in fact there was a shred of truth in that statement but, it's not true. It's not even close to true in fact it's the opposite of truth. There's this myth around that people believe that the way to honor deaths of so many of millions of people; that the way to honor is to say that we achieved some tangible, positive, good, out of their death's. That's how we are supposed to honor their deaths. We can try and rescue some positive and forward momentum of human progress, of human virtue from these hundreds of millions of death's but we don't do it by pretending that they'd died to set us free because we are less free; far less free now then we were before these slaughters began. These people did not die to set us free. They did not die fighting any enemy other than the ones that the previous deaths created. The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper names. Solders are paid killers, and I say this with a great degree of sympathy to young men and women who are suckered into a life of evil through propaganda and the labeling of heroic to a man in costume who kills for money and the life of honor is accepting ordered killings for money, prestige, and pensions. We create the possibility of moral choice by communicating truth about ethics to people. That to me is where real heroism and real respect for the dead lies. Real respect for the dead lies in exhuming the corpses and hearing what they would say if they could speak out; and they would say: If any ask us why we died tell it's because our fathers lied, tell them it's because we were told that charging up a hill and slaughtering our fellow man was heroic, noble, and honorable. But these hundreds of millions of ghosts encircled the world in agony, remorse will not be released from our collective unconscious until we lay the truth of their murders on the table and look at the horror that is the lie; that murder for money can be moral, that murder for prestige can be moral. These poor young men and woman propagandized into an undead ethical status lied to about what is noble, virtuous, courageous, honorable, decent, and good to the point that they're rolling hand grenades into children's rooms and the illusion that, that is going to make the world a better place. We have to stare this in the face if we want to remember why these people died. They did not die to set us free. They did not die to make the world a better place. They died because we are ruled by sociopaths. The only thing that can create a better world is the truth is the virtue is the honor and courage of standing up to the genocidal lies of mankind and calling them lies and ultimate corruptions. The trauma and horrors of this century of staggering bloodshed of the brief respite of the 19th century. This addiction to blood and the idea that if we pour more bodies into the hole of the mass graves of the 20th century, if we pour more bodies and more blood we can build some sort of cathedral to a better place but it doesn't happen. We can throw as many young men and woman as we want into this pit of slaughter and it will never be full. It will never do anything other than sink and recede further into the depths of hell. We can’t build a better world on bodies. We can’t build peace on blood. If we don't look back and see the army of the dead of the 20th century calling out for us to see that they died to enslave us. That whenever there was a war the government grew and grew. We are so addicted to this lie. What we need to do is remember that these bodies bury us. This ocean of blood that we create through the fantasy that violence brings virtue. It drowns us, drowns our children, our future, and the world. When we pour these endless young bodies into this pit of death; we follow it.

-Stefan Molyneux

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I can believe things that are true and things that aren't true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they're true or not. I can believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and the Beatles and Marilyn Monroe and Elvis and Mister Ed. Listen - I believe that people are perfectable, that knowledge is infinite, that the world is run by secret banking cartels and is visited by aliens on a regular basis, nice ones that look like wrinkled lemurs and bad ones who mutilate cattle and want our water and our women. I believe that the future sucks and I believe that the future rocks and I believe that one day White Buffalo Woman is going to come back and kick everyone's ass. I believe that all men are just overgrown boys with deep problems communicating and that the decline in good sex in America is coincident with the decline in drive-in movie theaters from state to state. I believe that all politicians are unprincipled crooks and I still believe that they are better than the alternative. I believe that California is going to sink into the sea when the big one comes, while Florida is going to dissolve into madness and alligators and toxic waste. I believe that antibacterial soap is destroying our resistance to dirt and disease so that one day we'll all be wiped out by the common cold like martians in War of the Worlds. I believe that the greatest poets of the last century were Edith Sitwell and Don Marquis, that jade is dried dragon sperm, and that thousands of years ago in a former life I was a one-armed Siberian shaman. I believe that mankind's destiny lies in the stars. I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid, that it's aerodynamically impossible for a bumble bee to fly, that light is a wave and a particle, that there's a cat in a box somewhere who's alive and dead at the same time (although if they don't ever open the box to feed it it'll eventually just be two different kinds of dead), and that there are stars in the universe billions of years older than the universe itself. I believe in a personal god who cares about me and worries and oversees everything I do. I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion and went off to hang with her girlfriends and doesn't even know that I'm alive. I believe in an empty and godless universe of causal chaos, background noise, and sheer blind luck. I believe that anyone who says sex is overrated just hasn't done it properly. I believe that anyone who claims to know what's going on will lie about the little things too. I believe in absolute honesty and sensible social lies. I believe in a woman's right to choose, a baby's right to live, that while all human life is sacred there's nothing wrong with the death penalty if you can trust the legal system implicitly, and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system. I believe that life is a game, that life is a cruel joke, and that life is what happens when you're alive and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it.

-Neil Gaiman

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Loftus grew up with a cold father who taught her nothing about love but everything about angles. A mathematician, he showed her the beauty of the triangle's strong tip, the circumference of the circle, the rigorous mission of calculus. Her mother was softer, more dramatic, prone to deep depressions. Loftus tells all this to me with little feeling "I have no feelings about this right now," she says, "but when I'm in the right space I could cry." I somehow don't believe her; she seems so far from real tears, from the original griefs, so immersed in the immersed in the operas of others. Loftus recalls her father asking her out to see a play, and in the car, coming home at night, the moon hanging above them like a stopwatch, tick tick, her father saying to her, "You know, there's something wrong with your mother. She'll never be well again. Her father was right. When Loftus was fourteen, her mother drowned in the family swimming pool. She was found floating face down in the deep end, in the summer. The sun was just coming up, the sky a mess of reds and bruise. Loftus recalls the shock, the siren, an oxygen mask clamped over her mouth as she screamed, "Mother mother mother," hysteria. That is a kind of drowning. "I loved her," Loftus says. "Was it suicide?" I ask. She says, "My father thinks so. Every year when I go home for Christmas, my brothers and I think about it, but we'll never know," she says. Then she says, "It doesn't matter." "What doesn't matter?" I ask. "Whether it was or it wasn't," she says. "It doesn't matter because it's all going to be okay." Then I hear nothing on the line but some static. on the line but some static. "You there?" I say. "Oh I'm here," she says. "Tomorrow I'm going to Chicago, some guy on death row, I'm gonna save him. I gotta I gotta testify. Thank God I have my work," she says. "You've always had your work," I say. "Without it," she says, "Where would I be?

-Lauren Slater

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What did we talk about?I don't remember. We talked so hard and sat so still that I got cramps in my knee. We had too many cups of tea and then didn't want to leave the table to go to the bathroom because we didn't want to stop talking. You will think we talked of revolution but we didn't. Nor did we talk of our own souls. Nor of sewing. Nor of babies. Nor of departmental intrigue. It was political if by politics you mean the laboratory talk that characters in bad movies are perpetually trying to convey (unsuccessfully) when they Wrinkle Their Wee Brows and say (valiantly--dutifully--after all, they didn't write it) "But, Doctor, doesn't that violate Finagle's Constant?" I staggered to the bathroom, released floods of tea, and returned to the kitchen to talk. It was professional talk. It left my grey-faced and with such concentration that I began to develop a headache. We talked about Mary Ann Evans' loss of faith, about Emily Brontë's isolation, about Charlotte Brontë's blinding cloud, about the split in Virginia Woolf's head and the split in her economic condition. We talked about Lady Murasaki, who wrote in a form that no respectable man would touch, Hroswit, a little name whose plays "may perhaps amuse myself," Miss Austen, who had no more expression in society than a firescreen or a poker. They did not all write letters, write memoirs, or go on the stage. Sappho--only an ambiguous, somewhat disagreeable name. Corinna? The teacher of Pindar. Olive Schriener, growing up on the veldt, wrote on book, married happily, and ever wrote another. Kate Chopin wrote a scandalous book and never wrote another. (Jean has written nothing.). There was M-ry Sh-ll-y who wrote you know what and Ch-rl-tt- P-rk-ns G-lm-an, who wrote one superb horror study and lots of sludge (was it sludge?) and Ph-ll-s Wh--tl-y who was black and wrote eighteenth century odes (but it was the eighteenth century) and Mrs. -nn R-dcl-ff- S-thw-rth and Mrs. G--rg- Sh-ld-n and (Miss?) G--rg-tt- H-y-r and B-rb-r- C-rtl-nd and the legion of those, who writing, write not, like the dead Miss B--l-y of the poem who was seduced into bad practices (fudging her endings) and hanged herself in her garter. The sun was going down. I was blind and stiff. It's at this point that the computer (which has run amok and eaten Los Angeles) is defeated by some scientifically transcendent version of pulling the plug; the furniture stood around unknowing (though we had just pulled out the plug) and Lady, who got restless when people talked at suck length because she couldn't understand it, stuck her head out from under the couch, looking for things to herd. We had talked for six hours, from one in the afternoon until seven; I had at that moment an impression of our act of creation so strong, so sharp, so extraordinarily vivid, that I could not believe all our talking hadn't led to something more tangible--mightn't you expect at least a little blue pyramid sitting in the middle of the floor?

-Joanna Russ

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