I said: 'A line will take us hours maybe;Yet if it does not seem a moment's thought,Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
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I said: ‘A line will take us hours maybe;Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought,Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.

-W.B. Yeats

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But figure his thought, when Death is now clutching at his own heart-strings, unlooked for, inexorable! Yes, poor Louis, Death has found thee. No palace walls or life-guards, gorgeous tapestries or gilt buckram of stiffest ceremonial could keep him out; but he is here, here at thy very life-breath, and will extinguish it. Thou, whose whole existence hitherto was a chimera and scenic show, at length becomest a reality: sumptuous Versailles bursts asunder, like a dream, into void Immensity; Time is done, and all the scaffolding of Time falls wrecked with hideous clangour round thy soul: the pale Kingdoms yawn open; there must thou enter, naked, all unking'd, and await what is appointed thee! Unhappy man, there as thou turnest, in dull agony, on thy bed of weariness, what a thought is thine! Purgatory and Hell-fire, now all-too possible, in the prospect; in the retrospect,--alas, what thing didst thou do that were not better undone; what mortal didst thou generously help; what sorrow hadst thou mercy on? Do the 'five hundred thousand' ghosts, who sank shamefully on so many battle-fields from Rossbach to Quebec, that thy Harlot might take revenge for an epigram,--crowd round thee in this hour? Thy foul Harem; the curses of mothers, the tears and infamy of daughters? Miserable man! thou 'hast done evil as thou couldst:' thy whole existence seems one hideous abortion and mistake of Nature; the use and meaning of thee not yet known. Wert thou a fabulous Griffin, devouring the works of men; daily dragging virgins to thy cave;--clad also in scales that no spear would pierce: no spear but Death's? A Griffin not fabulous but real! Frightful, O Louis, seem these moments for thee.--We will pry no further into the horrors of a sinner's death-bed.

-Thomas Carlyle

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One day about a month ago, I really hit bottom. You know, I just felt that in a Godless universe, I didn't want to go on living. Now I happen to own this rifle, which I loaded, believe it or not, and pressed it to my forehead. And I remember thinking, at the time, I'm gonna kill myself. Then I thought, what if I'm wrong? What if there is a God? I mean, after all, nobody really knows that. But then I thought, no, you know, maybe is not good enough. I want certainty or nothing. And I remember very clearly, the clock was ticking, and I was sitting there frozen with the gun to my head, debating whether to shoot.[The gun fires accidentally, shattering a mirror] All of a sudden, the gun went off. I had been so tense my finger had squeezed the trigger inadvertently. But I was perspiring so much the gun had slid off my forehead and missed me. And suddenly neighbors were, were pounding on the door, and, and I don't know, the whole scene was just pandemonium. And, uh, you know, I-I-I ran to the door, I-I didn't know what to say. You know, I was-I was embarrassed and confused and my-my-my mind was r-r-racing a mile a minute. And I-I just knew one thing.I-I-I had to get out of that house, I had to just get out in the fresh air and-and clear my head. And I remember very clearly, I walked the streets. I walked and I walked. I-I didn't know what was going through my mind. It all seemed so violent and un-unreal to me. And I wandered for a long time on the Upper West Side, you know, and-and it must have been hours. You know, my-my feet hurt, my head was-was pounding, and-and I had to sit down. I went into a movie house. I-I didn't know what was playing or anything.I just, I just needed a moment to gather my thoughts and, and be logical and put the world back into rational perspective. And I went upstairs to the balcony, and I sat down, and, you know, the movie was a-a-a film that I'd seen many times in my life since I was a kid, and-and I always, uh, loved it. And, you know, I'm-I'm watching these people up on the screen and I started getting hooked on the film, you know. And I started to feel, how can you even think of killing yourself. I mean isn't it so stupid? I mean, l-look at all the people up there on the screen. You know, they're real funny, and-and what if the worst is true.What if there's no God, and you only go around once and that's it. Well, you know, don't you want to be part of the experience? You know, what the hell, it's-it's not all a drag. And I'm thinkin' to myself, geez, I should stop ruining my life - searching for answers I'm never gonna get, and just enjoy it while it lasts. And, you know, after, who knows? I mean, you know, maybe there is something. Nobody really knows. I know, I know maybe is a very slim reed to hang your whole life on, but that's the best we have. And then, I started to sit back, and I actually began to enjoy myself.

-Woody Allen

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Put it on record--I am an ArabAnd the number of my card is fifty thousandI have eight childrenAnd the ninth is due after summer.What's there to be angry about?Put it on record.--I am an ArabWorking with comrades of toil in a quarry.I have eight childernFor them I wrest the loaf of bread,The clothes and exercise booksFrom the rocksAnd beg for no alms at your doors,--Lower not myself at your doorstep.--What's there to be angry about?Put it on record.--I am an Arab.I am a name without a tide,Patient in a country where everythingLives in a whirlpool of anger.--My roots--Took hold before the birth of time--Before the burgeoning of the ages,--Before cypess and olive trees,--Before the proliferation of weeds.My father is from the family of the plough--Not from highborn nobles.And my grandfather was a peasant--Without line or genealogy.My house is a watchman's hut--Made of sticks and reeds.Does my status satisfy you?--I am a name without a surname.Put it on Record.--I am an Arab.Color of hair: jet black.Color of eyes: brown.My distinguishing features:--On my head the 'iqal cords over a keffiyeh--Scratching him who touches it.My address:--I'm from a village, remote, forgotten,--Its streets without name--And all its men in the fields and quarry.--What's there to be angry about?Put it on record.--I am an Arab.You stole my forefathers' vineyards--And land I used to till,--I and all my childern,--And you left us and all my grandchildren--Nothing but these rocks.--Will your government be taking them too--As is being said?So!--Put it on record at the top of page one:--I don't hate people,--I trespass on no one's property.And yet, if I were to become starved--I shall eat the flesh of my usurper.--Beware, beware of my starvation.--And of my anger!

-Mahmoud Darwish

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In the stillest hour of the night, as I lay half asleep, my seven selves sat together and thus conversed in whispers:First Self: Here, in this madman, I have dwelt all these years, with naught to do but renew his pain by day and recreate his sorrow by night. I can bear my fate no longer, and now I rebel.Second Self: Yours is a better lot than mine, brother, for it is given to me to be this madman's joyous self. I laugh his laughter and sing his happy hours, and with thrice winged feet I dance his brighter thoughts. It is I that would rebel against my weary existence.Third Self: And what of me, the love-ridden self, the flaming brand of wild passion and fantastic desires? It is I the love-sick self who would rebel against this madman.Fourth Self: I, amongst you all, am the most miserable, for naught was given me but odious hatred and destructive loathing. It is I, the tempest-like self, the one born in the black caves of Hell, who would protest against serving this madman.Fifth Self: Nay, it is I, the thinking self, the fanciful self, the self of hunger and thirst, the one doomed to wander without rest in search of unknown things and things not yet created; it is I, not you, who would rebel.Sixth Self: And I, the working self, the pitiful labourer, who, with patient hands, and longing eyes, fashion the days into images and give the formless elements new and eternal forms- it is I, the solitary one, who would rebel against this restless madman.Seventh Self: How strange that you all would rebel against this man, because each and every one of you has a preordained fate to fulfil. Ah! could I but be like one of you, a self with a determined lot! But I have none, I am the do-nothing self, the one who sits in the dumb, empty nowhere and nowhen, while you are busy re-creating life. Is it you or I, neighbours, who should rebel?When the seventh self thus spake the other six selves looked with pity upon him but said nothing more; and as the night grew deeper one after the other went to sleep enfolded with a new and happy submission.But the seventh self remained watching and gazing at nothingness, which is behind all things.

-Kahlil Gibran

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We kissed for two hours. Eventually, I led him into my bedroom and pulled off both of our shirts. He stopped me."This might sound weird; it's not typical guy response." I froze, suddenly awkward. "I mean, if I didn't feel the way I do with you I would be all for it, but I kind of think maybe it would be good to wait. I've rushed into sex, and had it be a mistake." He shrugged apologetically. "I mean, if it's safe to assume you are experiencing the same date that I am, then I think we will have time."I was a little flabbergasted and more than a little embarrassed. How could I explain that the idea sounded like a huge relief to me, that I didn't quite understand where the impulse to start taking my clothes off came from? I had had the same experience. I rarely enjoyed first-time sex with partners, largely because I usually did it before I really knew or trusted them. Here was where the difference between what I knew and did remained wide. The shame I felt wash over me was tinged with that hatred of my own innocence. Was I still so green? So unconfident? Had I gone straight out of the extremity of sex work to the innocence of my adolescence? Where was my self-knowledge? Still, I was relieved. "Of course. I agree totally." I clutched my T-shirt to my chest and smiled at him. "And yes, I am on the same date you are on.""I thought so," he said. "I mean, I don't think you can feel like this when it's not reciprocal."He left at 2:00 A.M. and called me at 11:00 the next morning to schedule our second date.

-Melissa Febos

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I have always been interested in this man. My father had a set of Tom Paine's books on the shelf at home. I must have opened the covers about the time I was 13. And I can still remember the flash of enlightenment which shone from his pages. It was a revelation, indeed, to encounter his views on political and religious matters, so different from the views of many people around us. Of course I did not understand him very well, but his sincerity and ardor made an impression upon me that nothing has ever served to lessen.I have heard it said that Paine borrowed from Montesquieu and Rousseau. Maybe he had read them both and learned something from each. I do not know. But I doubt that Paine ever borrowed a line from any man...Many a person who could not comprehend Rousseau, and would be puzzled by Montesquieu, could understand Paine as an open book. He wrote with a clarity, a sharpness of outline and exactness of speech that even a schoolboy should be able to grasp. There is nothing false, little that is subtle, and an impressive lack of the negative in Paine. He literally cried to his reader for a comprehending hour, and then filled that hour with such sagacious reasoning as we find surpassed nowhere else in American letters - seldom in any school of writing.Paine would have been the last to look upon himself as a man of letters. Liberty was the dear companion of his heart; truth in all things his object....we, perhaps, remember him best for his declaration:'The world is my country; to do good my religion.'Again we see the spontaneous genius at work in 'The Rights of Man', and that genius busy at his favorite task - liberty. Written hurriedly and in the heat of controversy, 'The Rights of Man' yet compares favorably with classical models, and in some places rises to vaulting heights. Its appearance outmatched events attending Burke's effort in his 'Reflections'.Instantly the English public caught hold of this new contribution. It was more than a defense of liberty; it was a world declaration of what Paine had declared before in the Colonies. His reasoning was so cogent, his command of the subject so broad, that his legion of enemies found it hard to answer him.'Tom Paine is quite right,' said Pitt, the Prime Minister, 'but if I were to encourage his views we should have a bloody revolution.'Here we see the progressive quality of Paine's genius at its best. 'The Rights of Man' amplified and reasserted what already had been said in 'Common Sense', with now a greater force and the power of a maturing mind. Just when Paine was at the height of his renown, an indictment for treason confronted him. About the same time he was elected a member of the Revolutionary Assembly and escaped to France.So little did he know of the French tongue that addresses to his constituents had to be translated by an interpreter. But he sat in the assembly. Shrinking from the guillotine, he encountered Robespierre's enmity, and presently found himself in prison, facing that dread instrument.But his imprisonment was fertile. Already he had written the first part of 'The Age of Reason' and now turned his time to the latter part.Presently his second escape cheated Robespierre of vengeance, and in the course of events 'The Age of Reason' appeared. Instantly it became a source of contention which still endures. Paine returned to the United States a little broken, and went to live at his home in New Rochelle - a public gift. Many of his old companions in the struggle for liberty avoided him, and he was publicly condemned by the unthinking.{The Philosophy of Paine, June 7, 1925}

-man

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The hoopoe said: 'Your heart's congealed like ice;When will you free yourself from cowardice?Since you have such a short time to live here,What difference does it make? What should you fear?The world is filth and sin, and homeless menMust enter it and homeless leave again.They die, as worms, in squalid pain; if weMust perish in this quest, that, certainly,Is better than a life of filth and grief.If this great search is vain, if my beliefIs groundless, it is right that I should die.So many errors throng the world - then whyShould we not risk this quest? To suffer blameFor love is better than a life of shame.No one has reached this goal, so why appealTo those whose blindness claims it is unreal?I'd rather die deceived by dreams than giveMy heart to home and trade and never live.We've been and heard so much - what have we learned?Not for one moment has the self been spurned;Fools gather round and hinder our release.When will their stale, insistent whining cease?We have no freedom to achieve our goalUntil from Self and fools we free the soul.To be admitted past the veil you mustBe dead to all the crowd considers just.Once past the veil you understand the WayFrom which the crowd's glib courtiers blindly stray.If you have any will, leave women's stories,And even if this search for hidden gloriesProves blasphemy at last, be sure our questIs not mere talk but an exacting test.The fruit of love's great tree is poverty;Whoever knows this knows humility.When love has pitched his tent in someone's breast,That man despairs of life and knows no rest.Love's pain will murder him and blandly askA surgeon's fee for managing the task -The water that he drinks brings pain, his breadIs turned to blood immediately shed;Though he is weak, faint, feebler than an ant,Love forces him to be her combatant;He cannot take one mouthful unawareThat he is floundering in a sea of care.

-Farid Al-Din

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Ser? My lady?" said Podrick. "Is a broken man an outlaw?" "More or less," Brienne answered. Septon Meribald disagreed. "More less than more. There are many sorts of outlaws, just as there are many sorts of birds. A sand piper and a sea eagle both have wings, but they are not the same. The singers love to sing of good men forced to go outside the law to fight some wicked lord, but most outlaws are more like this ravening Hound than they are the lightning lord. They are evil men, driven by greed, sourced by malice, despising the gods and caring only for themselves. Broken men are more deserving of our pity, though they may be just as dangerous. Almost all are common born, simple folk who had never been more than a mile from the house they were born until the day some lord came around to take them off to war. Poorly shod and poorly clad, they march away beneath his banners, ofttimes with no better arms than a sickle or sharpened hoe, or a maul they made themselves by lashing a stone to a stick with stripes of hide. Brothers march with brothers, fathers with sons, friends with friends. They've heard the songs and stories, and go off with eager hearts, dreaming of the wonders they will see, of the glory and wealth they will win. War seems a fine adventure, greater than the most of them will ever know. "Then they get a taste of battle. For some, that one taste is enough to break them. Others may go on for years, until they lose count of all the battles they have fought in, but even a man who has survived a hundred fights can break on his hundred and first. Brothers watch brothers die, fathers lose their sons, and friends see their friends trying to hold their entrails in after being gutted by an axe. "They see the lord that led them there cut down, and some other lord shouts that they are his now. They take a wound, and when it is still half healed they take another. There is never enough to eat, their shoes fall to pieces from the marching, their clothes are torn and rotting, and half of them are shitting in their breeches from drinking bad water. "If they want new boots or a warmer cloak or maybe a rusted iron half helm, they need to take them from a corpse, and before long they are stealing from the living too, from the smallfolk whose lands they're fighting in, men very like the men they used to be. They slaughter their sheep and steal their chickens, and from there it's just a short step to carrying off their daughters too. And one day they look around and realize all their friends and kin are gone, that they are fighting beside strangers beneath a banner that they hardly recognize. They don't know where they are or how to get back home and the lord they're fighting for does not know their names, yet here he comes, shouting for them to form up, to make a line with their spears and scythes and sharpened hoes, to stand their ground. And the knights come down on them, faceless men clad all in steel, and the iron thunder of their charge seems to fill the world... And the man breaks. He turns and runs, or crawls off afterward over the corpses of the slain, or steals away in the black of night, and he finds someplace to hide. All thought of home is gone by then, and kings and lords and gods mean less to him than a haunch of spoiled meat that will let him live another day, or a skin of bad wine that might drown his fear for a few hours. the broken man lives from day to day, meal to meal, more beast than man. Lady Brienne is not wrong. In times like these, the traveler must beware of broken men, and fear them... but he should pity them as well.

-George R.R.

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How strange! This bed on which I shall lie has been slept on by more than one dying man, but today it does not repel me! Who knows what corpses have lain on it and for how long? But is a corpse any worse than I? A corpse too knows nothing of its father, mother or sisters or Titus. Nor has a corpse a sweetheart. A corpse, too, is pale, like me. A corpse is cold, just as I am cold and indifferent to everything. A corpse has ceased to live, and I too have had enough of life…. Why do we live on through this wretched life which only devours us and serves to turn us into corpses? The clocks in the Stuttgart belfries strike the midnight hour. Oh how many people have become corpses at this moment! Mothers have been torn from their children, children from their mothers - how many plans have come to nothing, how much sorrow has sprung from these depths, and how much relief!… Virtue and vice have come in the end to the same thing! It seems that to die is man’s finest action - and what might be his worst? To be born, since that is the exact opposite of his best deed. It is therefore right of me to be angry that I was ever born into this world! Why was I not prevented from remaining in a world where I am utterly useless? What good can my existence bring to anyone? … But wait, wait! What’s this? Tears? How long it is since they flowed! How is this, seeing that an arid melancholy has held me for so long in its grip? How good it feels - and sorrowful. Sad but kindly tears! What a strange emotion! Sad but blessed. It is not good for one to be sad, and yet how pleasant it is - a strange state…

-Frédéric Chopin

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The hours I spent in this anachronistic, bibliophile, Anglophile retreat were in surreal contrast to the shrieking horror show that was being enacted in the rest of the city. I never felt this more acutely than when, having maneuvered the old boy down the spiral staircase for a rare out-of-doors lunch the next day—terrified of letting him slip and tumble—I got him back upstairs again. He invited me back for even more readings the following morning but I had to decline. I pleaded truthfully that I was booked on a plane for Chile. 'I am so sorry,' said this courteous old genius. 'But may I then offer you a gift in return for your company?' I naturally protested with all the energy of an English middle-class upbringing: couldn't hear of such a thing; pleasure and privilege all mine; no question of accepting any present. He stilled my burblings with an upraised finger. 'You will remember,' he said, 'the lines I will now speak. You will always remember them.' And he then recited the following:What man has bent o'er his son's sleep, to broodHow that face shall watch his when cold it lies?Or thought, as his own mother kissed his eyes,Of what her kiss was when his father wooed?The title (Sonnet XXIX of Dante Gabriel Rossetti)—'Inclusiveness'—may sound a trifle sickly but the enfolded thought recurred to me more than once after I became a father and Borges was quite right: I have never had to remind myself of the words. I was mumbling my thanks when he said, again with utter composure: 'While you are in Chile do you plan a call on General Pinochet?' I replied with what I hoped was equivalent aplomb that I had no such intention. 'A pity,' came the response. 'He is a true gentleman. He was recently kind enough to award me a literary prize.' It wasn't the ideal note on which to bid Borges farewell, but it was an excellent illustration of something else I was becoming used to noticing—that in contrast or corollary to what Colin MacCabe had said to me in Lisbon, sometimes it was also the right people who took the wrong line.

-Christopher Hitchens

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