...the place I was bound for on my latest pilgrimage was filled with living, first-hand memories of all the enchanted years that lie between two and eighteen. How enchanted those years are is made more and more clear to me the older I grow. There has been nothing in the least like them since; and though I have forgotten most of what happened six months ago, every incident, almost every day of those wonderful long years is perfectly distinct in my memory.
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…the place I was bound for on my latest pilgrimage was filled with living, first-hand memories of all the enchanted years that lie between two and eighteen. How enchanted those years are is made more and more clear to me the older I grow. There has been nothing in the least like them since; and though I have forgotten most of what happened six months ago, every incident, almost every day of those wonderful long years is perfectly distinct in my memory.

-Elizabeth von

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I feel to that the gap between my new life in New York and the situation at home in Africa is stretching into a gulf, as Zimbabwe spirals downwards into a violent dictatorship. My head bulges with the effort to contain both worlds. When I am back in New York, Africa immediately seems fantastical – a wildly plumaged bird, as exotic as it is unlikely.Most of us struggle in life to maintain the illusion of control, but in Africa that illusion is almost impossible to maintain. I always have the sense there that there is no equilibrium, that everything perpetually teeters on the brink of some dramatic change, that society constantly stands poised for some spasm, some tsunami in which you can do nothing but hope to bob up to the surface and not be sucked out into a dark and hungry sea. The origin of my permanent sense of unease, my general foreboding, is probably the fact that I have lived through just such change, such a sudden and violent upending of value systems.In my part of Africa, death is never far away. With more Zimbabweans dying in their early thirties now, mortality has a seat at every table. The urgent, tugging winds themselves seem to whisper the message, memento mori, you too shall die. In Africa, you do not view death from the auditorium of life, as a spectator, but from the edge of the stage, waiting only for your cue. You feel perishable, temporary, transient. You feel mortal. Maybe that is why you seem to live more vividly in Africa. The drama of life there is amplified by its constant proximity to death. That’s what infuses it with tension. It is the essence of its tragedy too. People love harder there. Love is the way that life forgets that it is terminal. Love is life’s alibi in the face of death. For me, the illusion of control is much easier to maintain in England or America. In this temperate world, I feel more secure, as if change will only happen incrementally, in manageable, finely calibrated, bite-sized portions. There is a sense of continuity threaded through it all: the anchor of history, the tangible presence of antiquity, of buildings, of institutions. You live in the expectation of reaching old age.At least you used to.But on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, those two states of mind converge. Suddenly it feels like I am back in Africa, where things can be taken away from you at random, in a single violent stroke, as quick as the whip of a snake’s head. Where tumult is raised with an abruptness that is as breathtaking as the violence itself.

-Peter Godwin

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I began to recall my own experience when I was Mercutio’s age (late teens I decided, a year or two older than Romeo) as a pupil at a public school called Christ’s Hospital. This school is situated in the idyllic countryside of the Sussex Weald, just outside Horsham. I recalled the strange blend of raucousness and intellect amongst the cloisters, the fighting, the sport, and general sense of rebelliousness, of not wishing to seem conventional (this was the sixties); in the sixth form (we were called Grecians) the rarefied atmosphere, the assumption that of course we would go to Oxford or Cambridge; the adoption of an ascetic style, of Zen Buddhism, of baroque opera, the Velvet Underground, Frank Zappa, and Mahler; of Pound, Eliot and e. e. cummings. We perceived the world completely through art and culture. We were very young, very wise, and possessed of a kind of innocent cynicism. We wore yellow stockings, knee breeches, and an ankle length dark blue coat, with silver buttons. We had read Proust, we had read Evelyn Waugh, we knew what was what. There was a sense, fostered by us and by many teachers, that we were already up there with Lamb, Coleridge, and all the other great men who had been educated there. We certainly thought that we soared ‘above a common bound’. I suppose it is a process of constant mythologizing that is attempted at any public school. Tom Brown’s Schooldays is a good example. Girls were objects of both romantic and purely sexual, fantasy; beautiful, distant, mysterious, unobtainable, and, quite simply, not there. The real vessel for emotional exchange, whether sexually expressed or not, were our own intense friendships with each other. The process of my perceptions of Mercutio intermingling with my emotional memory continued intermittently, up to and including rehearsals. I am now aware that that possibly I re-constructed my memory somewhat, mythologised it even, excising what was irrelevant, emphasising what was useful, to accord with how I was beginning to see the part, and what I wanted to express with it. What I was seeing in Mercutio was his grief and pain at impending separation from Romeo, so I suppose I sensitised myself to that period of my life when male bonding was at its strongest for me.

-Roger Allam

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I saw a banner hanging next to city hall in downtown Philadelphia that read, "Kill them all, and let God sort them out." A bumper sticker read, "God will judge evildoers; we just have to get them to him." I saw a T-shirt on a soldier that said, "US Air Force... we don't die; we just go to hell to regroup." Others were less dramatic- red, white, and blue billboards saying, "God bless our troops." "God Bless America" became a marketing strategy. One store hung an ad in their window that said, "God bless America--$1 burgers." Patriotism was everywhere, including in our altars and church buildings. In the aftermath of September 11th, most Christian bookstores had a section with books on the event, calendars, devotionals, buttons, all decorated in the colors of America, draped in stars and stripes, and sprinkled with golden eagles. This burst of nationalism reveals the deep longing we all have for community, a natural thirst for intimacy... September 11th shattered the self-sufficient, autonomous individual, and we saw a country of broken fragile people who longed for community- for people to cry with, be angry with, to suffer with. People did not want to be alone in their sorrow, rage, and fear. But what happened after September 11th broke my heart. Conservative Christians rallies around the drums of war. Liberal Christian took to the streets. The cross was smothered by the flag and trampled under the feet of angry protesters. The church community was lost, so the many hungry seekers found community in the civic religion of American patriotism. People were hurting and crying out for healing, for salvation in the best sense of the word, as in the salve with which you dress a wound. A people longing for a savior placed their faith in the fragile hands of human logic and military strength, which have always let us down. They have always fallen short of the glory of God. ...The tragedy of the church's reaction to September 11th is not that we rallied around the families in New York and D.C. but that our love simply reflected the borders and allegiances of the world. We mourned the deaths of each soldier, as we should, but we did not feel the same anger and pain for each Iraqi death, or for the folks abused in the Abu Ghraib prison incident. We got farther and farther from Jesus' vision, which extends beyond our rational love and the boundaries we have established. There is no doubt that we must mourn those lives on September 11th. We must mourn the lives of the soldiers. But with the same passion and outrage, we must mourn the lives of every Iraqi who is lost. They are just as precious, no more, no less. In our rebirth, every life lost in Iraq is just as tragic as a life lost in New York or D.C. And the lives of the thirty thousand children who die of starvation each day is like six September 11ths every single day, a silent tsunami that happens every week.

-Shane Claiborne

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My son, you are just an infant now, but on that day when the world disrobes of its alluring cloak, it is then that I pray this letter is in your hands.Listen closely, my dear child, for I am more than that old man in the dusty portrait beside your bed. I was once a little boy in my mother’s arms and a babbling toddler on my father's lap.I played till the sun would set and climbed trees with ease and skill. Then I grew into a fine young man with shoulders broad and strong. My bones were firm and my limbs were straight; my hair was blacker than a raven's beak. I had a spring in my step and a lion's roar. I travelled the world, found love and married. Then off to war I bled in battle and danced with death.But today, vigor and grace have forsaken me and left me crippled.Listen closely, then, as I have lived not only all the years you have existed, but another forty more of my own.My son, We take this world for a permanent place; we assume our gains and triumphs will always be; that all that is dear to us will last forever.But my child, time is a patient hunter and a treacherous thief: it robs us of our loved ones and snatches up our glory. It crumbles mountains and turns stone to sand. So who are we to impede its path?No, everything and everyone we love will vanish, one day.So take time to appreciate the wee hours and seconds you have in this world. Your life is nothing but a sum of days so why take any day for granted? Don't despise evil people, they are here for a reason, too, for just as the gift salt offers to food, so do the worst of men allow us to savor the sweet, hidden flavor of true friendship.Dear boy, treat your elders with respect and shower them with gratitude; they are the keepers of hidden treasures and bridges to our past. Give meaning to your every goodbye and hold on to that parting embrace just a moment longer--you never know if it will be your last.Beware the temptation of riches and fame for both will abandon you faster than our own shadow deserts us at the approach of the setting sun. Cultivate seeds of knowledge in your soul and reap the harvest of good character.Above all, know why you have been placed on this floating blue sphere, swimming through space, for there is nothing more worthy of regret than a life lived void of this knowing.My son, dark days are upon you. This world will not leave you with tears unshed. It will squeeze you in its talons and lift you high, then drop you to plummet and shatter to bits . But when you lay there in pieces scattered and broken, gather yourself together and be whole once more. That is the secret of those who know.So let not my graying hairs and wrinkled skin deceive you that I do not understand this modern world. My life was filled with a thousand sacrifices that only I will ever know and a hundred gulps of poison I drank to be the father I wanted you to have.But, alas, such is the nature of this life that we will never truly know the struggles of our parents--not until that time arrives when a little hand--resembling our own--gently clutches our finger from its crib.My dear child, I fear that day when you will call hopelessly upon my lifeless corpse and no response shall come from me. I will be of no use to you then but I hope these words I leave behind will echo in your ears that day when I am no more. This life is but a blink in the eye of time, so cherish each moment dearly, my son.

-Shakieb Orgunwall

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...What I have denied and what my reason compels me to deny, is the existence of a Being throned above us as a god, directing our mundane affairs in detail, regarding us as individuals, punishing us, rewarding us as human judges might.When the churches learn to take this rational view of things, when they become true schools of ethics and stop teaching fables, they will be more effective than they are to-day... If they would turn all that ability to teaching this one thing – the fact that honesty is best, that selfishness and lies of any sort must surely fail to produce happiness – they would accomplish actual things. Religious faiths and creeds have greatly hampered our development. They have absorbed and wasted some fine intellects. That creeds are getting to be less and less important to the average mind with every passing year is a good sign, I think, although I do not wish to talk about what is commonly called theology.The criticisms which have been hurled at me have not worried me. A man cannot control his beliefs. If he is honest in his frank expression of them, that is all that can in justice be required of him. Professor Thomson and a thousand others do not in the least agree with me. His criticism of me, as I read it, charged that because I doubted the soul’s immortality, or ‘personality,’ as he called it, my mind must be abnormal, ‘pathological,’ in other, words, diseased... I try to say exactly what I honestly believe to be the truth, and more than that no man can do. I honestly believe that creedists have built up a mighty structure of inaccuracy, based, curiously, on those fundamental truths which I, with every honest man, must not alone admit but earnestly acclaim.I have been working on the same lines for many years. I have tried to go as far as possible toward the bottom of each subject I have studied. I have not reached my conclusions through study of traditions; I have reached them through the study of hard fact. I cannot see that unproved theories or sentiment should be permitted to have influence in the building of conviction upon matters so important. Science proves its theories or it rejects them. I have never seen the slightest scientific proof of the religious theories of heaven and hell, of future life for individuals, or of a personal God. I earnestly believe that I am right; I cannot help believing as I do... I cannot accept as final any theory which is not provable. The theories of the theologians cannot be proved. Proof, proof! That is what I always have been after; that is what my mind requires before it can accept a theory as fact. Some things are provable, some things disprovable, some things are doubtful. All the problems which perplex us, now, will, soon or late, be solved, and solved beyond a question through scientific investigation. The thing which most impresses me about theology is that it does not seem to be investigating. It seems to be asserting, merely, without actual study....Moral teaching is the thing we need most in this world, and many of these men could be great moral teachers if they would but give their whole time to it, and to scientific search for the rock-bottom truth, instead of wasting it upon expounding theories of theology which are not in the first place firmly based. What we need is search for fundamentals, not reiteration of traditions born in days when men knew even less than we do now.[Columbian Magazine interview]

-Thomas A. Edison

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Mind you, I cannot swear that my story is true. It may have been a dream; or worse, a symptom of some severe mental disorder. But I believe it is true. After all, how are we to know what things there are on earth? Strange monstrosities still exist, and foul, incredible perversions. Every war, each new geographical or scientific discovery, brings to light some new bit of ghastly evidence that the world is not altogether the same place we fondly imagine it to be. Sometimes peculiar incidents occur which hint of utter madness.How can we be sure that our smug conceptions of reality actually exist? To one man in a million dreadful knowledge is revealed, and the rest of us remain mercifully ignorant. There have been travelers who never came back, and research workers who disappeared. Some of those who did return were deemed mad because of what they told, and others sensibly concealed the wisdom that had so horribly been revealed. Blind as we are, we know a little of what lurks beneath our normal life. There have been tales of sea serpents and creatures of the deep; legends of dwarfs and giants; records of queer medical horrors and unnatural births. Stunted nightmares of men's personalities have blossomed into being under the awful stimulus of war, or pestilence, or famine. There have been cannibals, necrophiles, and ghouls; loathsome rites of worship and sacrifice; maniacal murders, and blasphemous crimes. When I think, then, of what I saw and heard, and compare it with certain other grotesque and unbelievable authenticities, I begin to fear for my reason.

-Robert Bloch

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I'd finally reached the end of myself, all my self-reliance and denial and pride unraveling into nothingness, leaving only a blank Alison-shaped space behind. It was finished. I was done.But just as I felt myself dissolving on the tide of my own self-condemnation, the dark waves receded, and I floated into a celestial calm.I saw the whole universe laid out before me, a vast shining machine of indescribable beauty and complexity. Its design was too intricate for me to understand, and I knew I could never begin to grasp more than the smallest idea of its purpose. But I sensed that every part of it, from quark to quasar, was unique and - in some mysterious way - significant. I heard the universe as an oratorio sung by a master choir of stars, accompanied by the orchestra of the planets and the percussion of satellites and moons. The aria they performed was a song to break the heart, full of tragic dissonance and deferred hope, and yet somewhere beneath it all was a peircing refrain of glory, glory, glory. And I sensed that not only the grand movements of the cosmos, but everything that had happened in my life, was a part of that song. Even the hurts that seemed most senseless, the mistakes I would have done anything to erase - nothing could make those things good, but good could still come out of them all the same, and in the end the oratorio would be no less beautiful for it.I realized then that even though I was a tiny speck in an infinite cosmos, a blip on the timeline of eternity, I was not without purpose. And as long as I had a part in the music of the spheres, even if it was only a single grace not, I was not worthless. Nor was I alone.God help me, I prayed as I gathered up my raw and weary sense, flung them into the wormhole - And at last, found what I'd been looking for.

-R.J. Anderson

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My identity as Jewish cannot be reduced to a religious affiliation. Professor Said quoted Gramsci, an author that I’m familiar with, that, and I quote, ‘to know thyself is to understand that we are a product of the historical process to date which has deposited an infinity of traces, without leaving an inventory’. Let’s apply this pithy observation to Jewish identity. While it is tempting to equate Judaism with Jewishness, I submit to you that my identity as someone who is Jewish is far more complex than my religious affiliation. The collective inventory of the Jewish people rests on my shoulders. This inventory shapes and defines my understanding of what it means to be Jewish. The narrative of my people is a story of extraordinary achievement as well as unimaginable horror. For millennia, the Jewish people have left their fate in the hands of others. Our history is filled with extraordinary achievements as well as unimaginable violence. Our centuries-long Diaspora defined our existential identity in ways that cannot be reduced to simple labels. It was the portability of our religion that bound us together as a people, but it was our struggle to fit in; to be accepted that identified us as unique. Despite the fact that we excelled academically, professionally, industrially, we were never looked upon as anything other than Jewish. Professor Said in his book, Orientalism, examined how Europe looked upon the Orient as a dehumanized sea of amorphous otherness. If we accept this point of view, then my question is: How do you explain Western attitudes towards the Jews? We have always been a convenient object of hatred and violent retribution whenever it became convenient. If Europe reduced the Orient to an essentialist other, to borrow Professor Said’s eloquent language, then how do we explain the dehumanizing treatment of Jews who lived in the heart of Europe? We did not live in a distant, exotic land where the West had discursive power over us. We thought of ourselves as assimilated. We studied Western philosophy, literature, music, and internalized the same culture as our dominant Christian brethren. Despite our contribution to every conceivable field of human endeavor, we were never fully accepted as equals. On the contrary, we were always the first to be blamed for the ills of Western Europe. Two hundred thousand Jews were forcibly removed from Spain in 1492 and thousands more were forcibly converted to Christianity in Portugal four years later. By the time we get to the Holocaust, our worst fears were realized. Jewish history and consciousness will be dominated by the traumatic memories of this unspeakable event. No people in history have undergone an experience of such violence and depth. Israel’s obsession with physical security; the sharp Jewish reaction to movements of discrimination and prejudice; an intoxicated awareness of life, not as something to be taken for granted but as a treasure to be fostered and nourished with eager vitality, a residual distrust of what lies beyond the Jewish wall, a mystical belief in the undying forces of Jewish history, which ensure survival when all appears lost; all these, together with the intimacy of more personal pains and agonies, are the legacy which the Holocaust transmits to the generation of Jews who have grown up under its shadow. -Fictional debate between Edward Said and Abba Eban.

-R.F. Georgy

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From the perspective of my old laptop,I am a numbers man,something like thatevery instruction he gives me is a one or a zeroI remember wellI have information about him before he left for his new toythinner, younger, able to keep up with him,I have information about himmay 15th 2008, he listened to a songfive times in succession it was titled Everybody, open parenthesis, Backstreet's Back, close parenthesisit included the lyric'Am I sexual, yeaaaaah'He said once, computers like a sense of finality to themwhen I write something I don't want to be able to run from itthis was a liehe was addicted to my ability to keep his secretsI am a numbers man,every instruction he gives me is a one, or a zeroI remember wellJanuary, 7th 2007I was youngjust two week awakehe gave me, a new series of one's and zerosthe most sublime sequence I have ever seenit had curves, and shadow, it was himhe gave his face in numbersand trusted me to be the artist, and I wasdo not laughI have read about your Godyou kill each other over your grand fathers memory of himI still remember the fingertips of my God dancing across my bodyAfter I learnt to draw himhe trusted with more art rubricjpeg 1063 was his favouriteHim, and that woman, resting her head in the curve of his nickI read his correspondenceshe hasn't written him back in yearsbut he asks for it, constantly,jpeg 1063, jpeg 1063, jpeg 1063it was my master piece it looked so, .., life likeI wanted to tell himThat's not herthat is methat is not her facethose are my ones and zeroswaltzing in space for youshe is nothing more than my shadow puppetyou do not miss her, you miss me,I am a numbers man,every instruction he gives is a one or a zeroI remember wellbut he taught me to be a Da Vinci and I sit here, with his portraits waiting for him to returnI do not think he willIs that what it means to be humanto be all powerful, to build a temple to yourselfand leaveonly the walls to pray

-Phil Kaye

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As Mollie said to Dailey in the 1890s: "I am told that there are five other Mollie Fanchers, who together, make the whole of the one Mollie Fancher, known to the world; who they are and what they are I cannot tell or explain, I can only conjecture." Dailey described five distinct Mollies, each with a different name, each of whom he met (as did Aunt Susan and a family friend, George Sargent). According to Susan Crosby, the first additional personality appeared some three years after the after the nine-year trance, or around 1878. The dominant Mollie, the one who functioned most of the time and was known to everyone as Mollie Fancher, was designated Sunbeam (the names were devised by Sargent, as he met each of the personalities). The four other personalities came out only at night, after eleven, when Mollie would have her usual spasm and trance. The first to appear was always Idol, who shared Sunbeam's memories of childhood and adolescence but had no memory of the horsecar accident. Idol was very jealous of Sunbeam's accomplishments, and would sometimes unravel her embroidery or hide her work. Idol and Sunbeam wrote with different handwriting, and at times penned letters to each other.The next personality Sargent named Rosebud: "It was the sweetest little child's face," he described, "the voice and accent that of a little child." Rosebud said she was seven years old, and had Mollie's memories of early childhood: her first teacher's name, the streets on which she had lived, children's songs. She wrote with a child's handwriting, upper- and lowercase letters mixed. When Dailey questioned Rosebud about her mother, she answered that she was sick and had gone away, and that she did not know when she would be coming back. As to where she lived, she answered "Fulton Street," where the Fanchers had lived before moving to Gates Avenue.Pearl, the fourth personality, was evidently in her late teens. Sargent described her as very spiritual, sweet in expression, cultured and agreeable: "She remembers Professor West [principal of Brooklyn Heights Seminary], and her school days and friends up to about the sixteenth year in the life of Mollie Fancher. She pronounces her words with an accent peculiar to young ladies of about 1865." Ruby, the last Mollie, was vivacious, humorous, bright, witty. "She does everything with a dash," said Sargent. "What mystifies me about 'Ruby,' and distinguishes her from the others, is that she does not, in her conversations with me, go much into the life of Mollie Fancher. She has the air of knowing a good deal more than she tells.

-Michelle Stacey

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A few years ago I spent Christmas and New Years alone. No family. No friends. No gifts. A little tree with some lights on it. A small Christmas dinner (in a can). Far from home but with a lot of good memories of it. I didn't feel too sad because I knew things would change for the better because I knew I would change them for the better. It was all up to me, not fate, or luck (although understand that those are big players in this game too). If I didn't like where I was at that moment I couldn't feel sorry myself and blame someone else, play the victim. I was the one who put myself there and I knew I was the one that had to change. So I did. See, misery is never very far away from us (it lurks around every dark corner) but neither is joy. You've got to roll with that black horse when it visits, ride that bitch out if you can but you've got to enjoy the hell out of the other too, when it chances to come your way. Above all, you've got to recognize joy when it shows up to dance with you and, sorry, that's not nearly as easy as it sounds. You've got to fight tooth and nail in this life to try and be as happy as you can with the circumstances you've been given. You've got to fight with every inch of your being for that and grit your teeth and stick out your chin while you're doing it too because although without a doubt it's the right fight to be in, it's going to be hard sometimes. So hard that maybe you'll be blind to everything else. Along the way however, always remember one thing: even though there are people out there in the world who will take the heart right out of you...there are those who will put it right back in again (let them). Learn to recognize who they are because that's something really worth knowing. But it's up to you in the end. It's up to you to embrace the wonders in this life and to deny the darkness (and there are plenty of both). Be strong, be brave, be kind, be noble and above all, slay your dragons and keep on moving. Don't stop. And finally, even if happiness forgets you for a little while, never completely forget about it. It's there waiting for the other to pass. Even in your darkest hour don't ever doubt that for a second.

-Noel James Riggs

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Asking a writer why they like to write {in the theoretical sense of the question} is like asking a person why they breathe. For me, writing is a natural reflex to the beauty, the events, and the people I see around me. As Anais Nin put it, "We write to taste life twice." I live and then I write. The one transfers to the other, for me, in a gentle, necessary way. As prosaic as it sounds, I believe I process by writing. Part of the way I deal with stressful situations, catty people, or great joy or great trials in my own life is by conjuring it onto paper in some way; a journal entry, a blog post, my writing notebook, or my latest story. While I am a fair conversationalist, my real forte is expressing myself in words on paper. If I leave it all chasing round my head like rabbits in a warren, I'm apt to become a bug-bear to live with and my family would not thank me. Some people need counselors. Some people need long, drawn-out phone-calls with a trusted friend. Some people need to go out for a run. I need to get away to a quiet, lonesome corner--preferably on the front steps at gloaming with the North Star trembling against the darkening blue. I need to set my pen fiercely against the page {for at such moments I must be writing--not typing.} and I need to convert the stress or excitement or happiness into something to be shared with another person.The beauty of the relationship between reading and writing is its give-and-take dynamic. For years I gathered and read every book in the near vicinity and absorbed tale upon tale, story upon story, adventures and sagas and dramas and classics. I fed my fancy, my tastes, and my ideas upon good books and thus those aspects of myself grew up to be none too shabby. When I began to employ my fancy, tastes, and ideas in writing my own books, the dawning of a strange and wonderful idea tinged the horizon of thought with blush-rose colors: If I persisted and worked hard and poured myself into the craft, I could create one of those books. One of the heart-books that foster a love of reading and even writing in another person somewhere. I could have a hand in forming another person's mind. A great responsibility and a great privilege that, and one I would love to be a party to. Books can change a person. I am a firm believer in that. I cannot tell you how many sentiments or noble ideas or parts of my own personality are woven from threads of things I've read over the years. I hoard quotations and shadows of quotations and general impressions of books like a tzar of Russia hoards his icy treasures. They make up a large part of who I am. I think it's worth saying again: books can change a person. For better or for worse. As a writer it's my two-edged gift to be able to slay or heal where I will. It's my responsibility to wield that weapon aright and do only good with my words. Or only purposeful cutting. I am not set against the surgeon's method of butchery--the nicking of a person's spirit, the rubbing in of a salty, stinging salve, and the ultimate healing-over of that wound that makes for a healthier person in the end. It's the bitter herbs that heal the best, so now and again you might be called upon to write something with more cayenne than honey about it. But the end must be good. We cannot let the Light fade from our words.

-Rachel Heffington

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I remember, in no particular order:—a shiny inner wrist;—steam rising from a wet sink as a hot frying pan is laughingly tossed into it;—gouts of sperm circling a plughole, before being sluiced down the full length of a tall house;—a river rushing nonsensically upstream, its wave and wash lit by half a dozen chasing torchbeams;—another river, broad and grey, the direction of its flow disguised by a stiff wind exciting the surface;—bathwater long gone cold behind a locked door.This last isn’t something I actually saw, but what you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed.We live in time—it holds us and moulds us—but I’ve never felt I understood it very well. And I’m not referring to theories about how it bends and doubles back, or may exist elsewhere in parallel versions. No, I mean ordinary, everyday time, which clocks and watches assure us passes regularly: tick-tock, click-clock. Is there anything more plausible than a second hand? And yet it takes only the smallest pleasure or pain to teach us time’s malleability. Some emotions speed it up, others slow it down; occasionally, it seems to go missing—until the eventual point when it really does go missing, never to return.I’m not very interested in my schooldays, and don’t feel any nostalgia for them. But school is where it all began, so I need to return briefly to a few incidents that have grown into anecdotes, to some approximate memories which time has deformed into certainty. If I can’t be sure of the actual events any more, I can at least be true to the impressions those facts left. That’s the best I can manage.

-Julian Barnes

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Today, acknowledgement of the prevalence and harms of child sexual abuse is counterbalanced with cautionary tales about children and women who, under pressure from social workers and therapists, produce false allegations of ‘paedophile rings’, ‘cult abuse’ and ‘ritual abuse’. Child protection investigations or legal cases involving allegations of organised child sexual abuse are regularly invoked to illustrate the dangers of ‘false memories’, ‘moral panic’ and ‘community hysteria’. These cautionary tales effectively delimit the bounds of acceptable knowledge in relation to sexual abuse. They are circulated by those who locate themselves firmly within those bounds, characterising those beyond as ideologues and conspiracy theorists. However firmly these boundaries have been drawn, they have been persistently transgressed by substantiated disclosures of organised abuse that have led to child protection interventions and prosecutions. Throughout the 1990s, in a sustained effort to redraw these boundaries, investigations and prosecutions for organised abuse were widely labelled ‘miscarriages of justice’ and workers and therapists confronted with incidents of organised abuse were accused of fabricating or exaggerating the available evidence. These accusations have faded over time as evidence of organised abuse has accumulated, while investigatory procedures have become more standardised and less vulnerable to discrediting attacks. However, as the opening quotes to this introduction illustrate, the contemporary situation in relation to organised abuse is one of considerable ambiguity in which journalists and academics claim that organised abuse is a discredited ‘moral panic’ even as cases are being investigated and prosecuted.

-Michael Salter

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