Even fools say something worthwhile now and again. Even a blind pig finds an acorn sometimes.
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Even fools say something worthwhile now and again. Even a blind pig finds an acorn sometimes.

-Robert Jordan

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The Fool in the Tarot deck frequently depicted a boy with a dog at his heels, staring at the sky while he walked blithely off a cliff, burdened only by a bundle on a stick. The diabolist had admitted a relationship to the card.No single detail was quite right, but much as something might appear similar if one were to unfocus their vision…The young diabolist walked with the sparrow at his shoulder, eyes on the windows without looking through the windows, walking forward as if he were afraid to stop. His burden here was the gas containers.No, he was burdened not just by the gas containers, but by some notion of responsibility.A man, when facing death, aspires to finish what he started.What had the custodian of the Thorburn estate started? What drove him?She knew he sought to do good and to vanquish evil, and she could surmise that both good acts and the existence of evil had touched him deeply.The Fool card was akin to the ace. Depending on the game being played, it was often the lowest card or the highest. Valueless or highly valued. Powerless or powerful.It all depended on context. He sought to kill the demon, and he would either catastrophically fail or succeed.This Fool sought to slay the metaphorical dragon. He felt his own mortality, which was quite possibly her fault, in part, and now he rushed to finish the task he’d set for himself. To better the world.The Fool was wrought with air – the clouds he gazed at, the void beyond the cliff, the feather in his cap, even the dog could often be found mid-step, bounding, just above the ground.He was a Fool wrought with a different element. The familiar didn’t quite fit for the departure from the air, but the traditional dog didn’t conjure ideas of air right off the bat either.What was he wrought with? That was another question that begged an answer.

-Wildbow

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But then something happened, Ray, something amazing. Something..."That white cop sitting next to me? He took a long look at my mother when she came in, just like, absorbed her, and then without even turning to me, he just put his hand on my back, up between my neck and shoulder..."And all he did was squeeze. Give me a little squeeze of sympathy, then rubbed that same spot with his palm for maybe two, three seconds, and that was it."But I swear to you, nobody, in my entire life up to that point had ever touched me with that kind of tenderness. I had never experienced a sympathetic hand like that, and Ray, it felt like lightning."I mean, the guy did it without thinking, I'm sure. And when dinnertime rolled around he had probably forgotten all about it. Forgot about me, too, for that matter... But I didn't forget."I didn't walk around thinking about it nonstop either, but something like seven years later when I was at community college? The recruiting officer for the PD came on campus for Career Day, and I didn't really like college all that much to begin with, so I took the test for the academy, scored high, quit school and never looked back."And usually when I tell people why I became a cop I say because it would keep Butchie and Antoine out of my life, and there's some truth in that."But I think the real reason was because that recruiting officer on campus that day reminded me, in some way, you know, conscious or not, of that housing cop who had sat on the bench with me when I was thirteen."In fact, I don't think it, I know it. As sure as I'm standing here, I know I became a cop because of him. For him. To be like him. God as my witness, Ray. The man put his hand on my back for three seconds and it rerouted my life for the next twenty-nine years."It's the enormity of small things... Adults, grown-ups, us, we have so much power... And sometimes when we find ourselves coming into contact with certain kinds of kids? Needy kids? We have to be ever so careful...

-Richard Price

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Now, my dear little girl, you have come to an age when the inward life develops and when some people (and on the whole those who have most of a destiny) find that all is not a bed of roses. Among other things there will be waves of terrible sadness, which last sometimes for days; irritation, insensibility, etc., etc., which taken together form a melancholy. Now, painful as it is, this is sent to us for an enlightenment. It always passes off, and we learn about life from it, and we ought to learn a great many good things if we react on it right. (For instance, you learn how good a thing your home is, and your country, and your brothers, and you may learn to be more considerate of other people, who, you now learn, may have their inner weaknesses and sufferings, too.) Many persons take a kind of sickly delight in hugging it; and some sentimental ones may even be proud of it, as showing a fine sorrowful kind of sensibility. Such persons make a regular habit of the luxury of woe. That is the worst possible reaction on it. It is usually a sort of disease, when we get it strong, arising from the organism having generated some poison in the blood; and we mustn't submit to it an hour longer than we can help, but jump at every chance to attend to anything cheerful or comic or take part in anything active that will divert us from our mean, pining inward state of feeling. When it passes off, as I said, we know more than we did before. And we must try to make it last as short as time as possible. The worst of it often is that, while we are in it, we don't want to get out of it. We hate it, and yet we prefer staying in it—that is a part of the disease. If we find ourselves like that, we must make something ourselves to some hard work, make ourselves sweat, etc.; and that is the good way of reacting that makes of us a valuable character. The disease makes you think of yourself all the time; and the way out of it is to keep as busy as we can thinking of things and of other people—no matter what's the matter with our self.

-William James

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I’m going to tell you something once and then whether you die is strictly up to you," Westley said, lying pleasantly on the bed. "What I’m going to tell you is this: drop your sword, and if you do, then I will leave with this baggage here"—he glanced at Buttercup—"and you will be tied up but not fatally, and will be free to go about your business. And if you choose to fight, well, then, we will not both leave alive."You are only alive now because you said 'to the pain.' I want that phrase explained."My pleasure. To the pain means this: if we duel and you win, death for me. If we duel and I win, life for you. But life on my terms. The first thing you lose will be your feet. Below the ankle. You will have stumps available to use within six months. Then your hands, at the wrists. They heal somewhat quicker. Five months is a fair average. Next your nose. No smell of dawn for you. Followed by your tongue. Deeply cut away. Not even a stump left. And then your left eye—"And then my right eye, and then my ears, and shall we get on with it?" the Prince said.Wrong!" Westley’s voice rang across the room. "Your ears you keep, so that every shriek of every child shall be yours to cherish—every babe that weeps in fear at your approach, every woman that cries 'Dear God, what is that thing?' will reverberate forever with your perfect ears. That is what 'to the pain' means. It means that I leave you in anguish, in humiliation, in freakish misery until you can stand it no more; so there you have it, pig, there you know, you miserable vomitous mass, and I say this now, and live or die, it’s up to you: Drop your sword!"The sword crashed to the floor.

-William Goldman

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Let us fool ourselves no longer. At the very moment Western nations, threw off the ancient regime of absolute government, operating under a once-divine king, they were restoring this same system in a far more effective form in their technology, reintroducing coercions of a military character no less strict in the organization of a factory than in that of the new drilled, uniformed, and regimented army. During the transitional stages of the last two centuries, the ultimate tendency of this system might b e in doubt, for in many areas there were strong democratic reactions; but with the knitting together of a scientific ideology, itself liberated from theological restrictions or humanistic purposes, authoritarian technics found an instrument at hand that h as now given it absolute command of physical energies of cosmic dimensions. The inventors of nuclear bombs, space rockets, and computers are the pyramid builders of our own age: psychologically inflated by a similar myth of unqualified power, boasting through their science of their increasing omnipotence, if not omniscience, moved by obsessions and compulsions no less irrational than those of earlier absolute systems: particularly the notion that the system itself must be expanded, at whatever eventual co st to life.Through mechanization, automation, cybernetic direction, this authoritarian technics has at last successfully overcome its most serious weakness: its original dependence upon resistant, sometimes actively disobedient servomechanisms, still human enough to harbor purposes that do not always coincide with those of the system.Like the earliest form of authoritarian technics, this new technology is marvellously dynamic and productive: its power in every form tends to increase without limits, in quantities that defy assimilation and defeat control, whether we are thinking of the output of scientific knowledge or of industrial assembly lines. To maximize energy, speed, or automation, without reference to the complex conditions that sustain organic life, have become ends in themselves. As with the earliest forms of authoritarian technics, the weight of effort, if one is to judge by national budgets, is toward absolute instruments of destruction, designed for absolutely irrational purposes whose chief by-product would be the mutilation or extermination of the human race. Even Ashurbanipal and Genghis Khan performed their gory operations under normal human limits.The center of authority in this new system is no longer a visible personality, an all-powerful king: even in totalitarian dictatorships the center now lies in the system itself, invisible but omnipresent: all its human components, even the technical and managerial elite, even the sacred priesthood of science, who alone have access to the secret knowledge by means of which total control is now swiftly being effected, are themselves trapped by the very perfection of the organization they have invented. Like the Pharoahs of the Pyramid Age, these servants of the system identify its goods with their own kind of well-being: as with the divine king, their praise of the system is an act of self-worship; and again like the king, they are in the grip of an irrational compulsion to extend their means of control and expand the scope of their authority. In this new systems-centered collective, this Pentagon of power, there is no visible presence who issues commands: unlike job's God, the new deities cannot be confronted, still less defied. Under the pretext of saving labor, the ultimate end of this technics is to displace life, or rather, to transfer the attributes of life to the machine and the mechanical collective, allowing only so much of the organism to remain as may be controlled and manipulated.

-Lewis Mumford

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In the beginning was the Word'. I have taken as my text this evening the almighty Word itself. Now get this: 'There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.' Amen, brothers and sisters, Amen. And the riddle of the Word, 'In the beginning was the Word....' Now what do you suppose old John meant by that? That cat was a preacher, and, well, you know how it is with preachers; he had something big on his mind. Oh my, it was big; it was the Truth, and it was heavy, and old John hurried to set it down. And in his hurry he said too much. 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.' It was the Truth, all right, but it was more than the Truth. The Truth was overgrown with fat, and the fat was God. The fat was John's God, and God stood between John and the Truth. Old John, see, he got up one morning and caught sight of the Truth. It must have been like a bolt of lightning, and the sight of it made him blind. And for a moment the vision burned on the back of his eyes, and he knew what it was. In that instant he saw something he had never seen before and would never see again. That was the instant of revelation, inspiration, Truth. And old John, he must have fallen down on his knees. Man, he must have been shaking and laughing and crying and yelling and praying - all at the same time - and he must have been drunk and delirious with the Truth. You see, he had lived all his life waiting for that one moment, and it came, and it took him by surprise, and it was gone. And he said, 'In the beginning was the Word....' And man, right then and there he should have stopped. There was nothing more to say, but he went on. He had said all there was to say, everything, but he went on. 'In the beginning was the Word....' Brothers and sisters, that was the Truth, the whole of it, the essential and eternal Truth, the bone and blood and muscle of the Truth. But he went on, old John, because he was a preacher. The perfect vision faded from his mind, and he went on. The instant passed, and then he had nothing but a memory. He was desperate and confused, and in his confusion he stumbled and went on. 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.' He went on to talk about Jews and Jerusalem, Levites and Pharisees, Moses and Philip and Andrew and Peter. Don't you see? Old John had to go on. That cat had a whole lot at stake. He couldn't let the Truth alone. He couldn't see that he had come to the end of the Truth, and he went on. He tried to make it bigger and better than it was, but instead he only demeaned and encumbered it. He made it soft and big with fat. He was a preacher, and he made a complex sentence of the Truth, two sentences, three, a paragraph. He made a sermon and theology of the Truth. He imposed his idea of God upon the everlasting Truth. 'In the beginning was the Word....' And that is all there was, and it was enough.

-N. Scott

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This is a love story, Michael Deane says. But, really, what isn’t? Doesn’t the detective love the mystery, or the chase, or the nosy female reporter, who is even now being held against her wishes at an empty warehouse on the waterfront? Surely the serial murderer loves his victims, and the spy loves his gadgets or his country or the exotic counterspy. The ice trucker is torn between his love for ice and truck, and the competing chefs go crazy for scallops, and the pawnshop guys adore their junk just as the Housewives live for catching glimpses of their own Botoxed brows in gilded hall mirrors, and the rocked-out dude on ‘roids totally wants to shred the ass of the tramp-tatted girl on Hookbook, and because this is reality, they are all in love—madly, truly—with the body mic clipped to their back buckle, and the producer casually suggesting just one more angle, one more Jell-O shot. And the robot loves his master, alien loves his saucer, Superman loves Lois, Lex, and Lana, Luke love Leia (till he finds out she’s his sister), and the exorcist loves the demon even as he leaps out the window with it, in full soulful embrace, as Leo loves Kate and they both love the sinking ship, and the shark—God, the shark loves to eat, which is what the Mafioso loves, too—eating and money and Paulie and omerta` --the way the cowboy loves his horse, loves the corseted girl behind the piano bar, and sometimes loves the other cowboy, as the vampire loves night and neck, and the zombie—don’t even start with the zombie, sentimental fool; has anyone ever been more lovesick than a zombie, that pale, dull metaphor for love, all animal craving and lurching, outstretched arms, his very existence a sonnet about how much he wants those brains? This, too, is a love story.

-Jess Walter

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Is that a no?" I said. "No. I mean.." He struggled for the smile again. "I'm just waiting for the punch line. Something about making it date so I need to pay. Or you expecting flowers. Or.." He trailed off."There isn't a punch line," I said.I rose onto my knees and inched over, in front of him. Then I stopped about a foot away."No punch line, Daniel," I said. "I'm asking if you'll go out with me."He didn't answer. Just reched out, his hand sliding between my hair and face, pulling me toward him and..And he kissed me.His lips touched mine, tentatively, still unsure, and I eased closer, my arms going around his neck. He kissed me for real then, a long kiss that I felt in the bottom of my soul, a click, some deep part of me saying, "Yes, this is it."Even when the kiss broke off, it didn't end. It was like coming to the surface for a quick gasp of air, then plunging back down again, finding that sweet spot again, and holding onto it for as long as we could. Finally it tapered off, and we were lying on the picnic blanket, side by side, his hand on my hip, kissing slower now, with more breaks for air. until I said, "We should have done that sooner."He smiled, a lazy half smile, and he just looked at me for a moment, our gazes locked, lying there in drowsy happiness, before he said, "I think now's just fine." And he kissed me again, slower and softer now, as we rested there, eyes half closed."So, about Saturday, did you ask me?" he said after a minute, "Because I'm pretty sure that means yo're paying.""Nope. You were imaging it. Considering how you eat, the meal bill is all yours. But I will spring for the movie. And bring you flowers."He chuckled. "Will you?""Yep, a dozen pink roses, which you'll have to carry all night or risk offending me.""And what happens if I offend you?""You don't get any more of this."I leaned in and kissed him again. And we stayed out there, on the blanket, as the sun fell, talking and kissing mostly, just being together. We had a long road ahead of us, and I knew it wasn't going to be easy. But I had everything I wanted-everything I needed-and I'd get through it just fine. We all would.

-Kelley Armstrong

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There's a theme that appears in much of your work," I say to Maurice on my last visit to Connecticut, "and I can only hint at it because it's difficult to formulate or describe. It has something to do with the lines: 'As I went over the water/the water went over me' [from As I Went over the Water] or 'I'm in the milk and the milk's in me' [from Night Kitchen].""Obviously I have one theme, and it's even in the book I'm working on right now. It's not that I have such original ideas, just that I'm good at doing variations on the same idea over and over again. You can't imagine how relieved I was to find out that Henry James admitted he had only a couple of themes and that all of his books were based on them. That's all we need as artists - one power-driven fantasy or obsession, then to be clever enough to do variations… like a series of variations by Mozart. They're so good that you forget they're based on one theme. The same things draw me, the same images…""What is this one obsession?""I'm not about to tell you - not because it's a secret, but because I can't verbalize it.""There's a line by Bob Dylan in 'Just Like a Woman' which talks about being 'inside the rain.'""Inside the rain?""When it's raining outside," I explain, "I often feel inside myself, as if I were inside the rain… as if the rain were my self. That's the sense I get from Dylan's image and from your books as well.""It's strange you say that," Maurice answers, "because rain has become one of the potent images of my new book. It sort of scares me that you mentioned that line. Maybe that's what rain means. It's such an important ingredient in this new work, and I've never understood what it meant. There was a thing about me and rain when I was a child: if I could summon it up in one sentence, I'd be happy to. It's such connected tissue…

-Jonathan Cott

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Tonight, however, Dickens struck him in a different light. Beneath the author’s sentimental pity for the weak and helpless, he could discern a revolting pleasure in cruelty and suffering, while the grotesque figures of the people in Cruikshank’s illustrations revealed too clearly the hideous distortions of their souls. What had seemed humorous now appeared diabolic, and in disgust at these two favourites he turned to Walter Pater for the repose and dignity of a classic spirit.But presently he wondered if this spirit were not in itself of a marble quality, frigid and lifeless, contrary to the purpose of nature. ‘I have often thought’, he said to himself, ‘that there is something evil in the austere worship of beauty for its own sake.’ He had never thought so before, but he liked to think that this impulse of fancy was the result of mature consideration, and with this satisfaction he composed himself for sleep. He woke two or three times in the night, an unusual occurrence, but he was glad of it, for each time he had been dreaming horribly of these blameless Victorian works…It turned out to be the Boy’s Gulliver’s Travels that Granny had given him, and Dicky had at last to explain his rage with the devil who wrote it to show that men were worse than beasts and the human race a washout. A boy who never had good school reports had no right to be so morbidly sensitive as to penetrate to the underlying cynicism of Swift’s delightful fable, and that moreover in the bright and carefully expurgated edition they bring out nowadays. Mr Corbett could not say he had ever noticed the cynicism himself, though he knew from the critical books it must be there, and with some annoyance he advised his son to take out a nice bright modern boy’s adventure story that could not depress anybody. Mr Corbett soon found that he too was ‘off reading’. Every new book seemed to him weak, tasteless and insipid; while his old and familiar books were depressing or even, in some obscure way, disgusting. Authors must all be filthy-minded; they probably wrote what they dared not express in their lives. Stevenson had said that literature was a morbid secretion; he read Stevenson again to discover his peculiar morbidity, and detected in his essays a self-pity masquerading as courage, and in Treasure Island an invalid’s sickly attraction to brutality. This gave him a zest to find out what he disliked so much, and his taste for reading revived as he explored with relish the hidden infirmities of minds that had been valued by fools as great and noble. He saw Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë as two unpleasant examples of spinsterhood; the one as a prying, sub-acid busybody in everyone else’s flirtations, the other as a raving, craving maenad seeking self-immolation on the altar of her frustrated passions. He compared Wordsworth’s love of nature to the monstrous egoism of an ancient bellwether, isolated from the flock.

-Margaret Irwin

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