"Believe me, every man has his secret sorrows,
which the world knows not; and oftimes
we call a man cold, when he is only sad."
Hyperion, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
"There are only a few acts which the human language specifically and narrowly calls works of love, but heaven is such that no act can be pleasing there unless it is an act of love - sincere in self-renunciation, impelled by love itself, and for this very reason claiming no compensation."
Prayer, Works of Love (1847). Søren Kierkegaard. Translated by Howard and Edna Hong, 1962.
Rainie: You see. Sometimes I have to look normal, and then I grow faces. But they dry up, and fall off, but I couldn’t throw them away. They’re a part of me. So I hang on to them. I… I’m probably not making much sense.
Death: No. You’re making sense. You people always hold onto old identities, old faces and masks, long after they’ve served their purpose. But you’ve got to learn to throw things away eventually.
"Façade", Sandman #20, Neil Gaiman.
"…that two solitudes protect and border and salute each other."
It takes courage
Letters to a Young Poet. Rainer Maria Rilke to Franz Xaver Kappus, May 14th 1904. Translation by M.D. Herter Norton (Norton, 1954, pg. 45)
In March 2008 I was in bed recovering and reading Mark Doty - Dog Years.
It is a memoir about living with dogs - actually it is a story about living with life. Living with life is very hard. Mostly we do our best to stifle life - to be tame or to be wanton. To be tranquillised or raging. Extremes have the same effect; they insulate us from the intensity of life.
And extremes - whether of dullness or of fury - successfully prevent feeling. I know our feelings can be so unbearable that we employ ingenious strategies - unconscious strategies - to keep those feelings away. We do a feelings-swap, where we avoid feeling sad or lonely or afraid or inadequate, and feel angry instead. It can work the other way too - sometimes you need to feel angry, not inadequate; sometimes you do need to feel love and acceptance, and not the tragic drama of your life.
It takes courage to feel the feeling - and not trade it on the feelings-exchange, or even transfer it altogether to another person. You know how in couples one person is always doing the weeping or the raging while the other one seems so calm and reasonable?
I understood that feelings were difficult for me although I was overwhelmed by them.
Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal?
Vintage: 2012, pp 169-170.
"The bowsprit, the arrow, the longing, the lunging heart—
the flight to a target whose aim we’ll never know,
vain search for one island that heals with its harbour
and a guiltless horizon, where the almond’s shadow
doesn’t injure the sand. There are so many islands!
As many islands as the stars at night
on that branched tree from which meteors are shaken
like falling fruit around the schooner Flight.
But things must fall, and so it always was,
on one hand Venus, on the other Mars;
fall, and are one, just as this earth is one
island in archipelagoes of stars."
The Schooner Flight, '11. After the Storm', by Derek Walcott.
"…But the office tower rises, straight
as the law, and everyone standing
in its shadow, …"
Alvin Pang, ‘To Go to S’pore’. From When the Barbarians Arrive.
John Lanchester reviews Flash Boys by Michael Lewis -
…In a New York Times op-ed, Paul Krugman argued that the important point isn’t so much the specifics of Lewis’s story, as the big picture of a dysfunctional and predatory financial sector: ‘Never mind the debate about exactly how much damage high-frequency trading does. It’s the whole financial industry, not just that piece, that’s undermining our economy and our society.’
Lewis would disagree with the ‘never mind’ part, but I suspect he’d agree with the rest. The story about finance that he began to tell in his first book, Liar’s Poker, the exuberant and uproarious account of his time as a bond salesman at Salomon Brothers, and continued with his credit crunch book, The Big Short, is getting steadily darker. In the prologue to The Big Short, Lewis wrote that when he sat down to write his first book, ‘I hoped that some bright kid at Ohio State University who really wanted to be an oceanographer would read my book, spurn the offer from Goldman Sachs, and set out to sea.’ Instead, and of course, ‘six months after Liar’s Poker was published, I was knee-deep in letters from students at Ohio State University who wanted to know if I had any other secrets to share about Wall Street. They’d read my book as a how-to manual.’ After finishing Flash Boys, I found it hard not to think about those missing oceanographers, the computer geniuses and engineers and physicists and entrepreneurs, all those brilliant minds, all that passion and energy disappearing into the black hole of money, lost to all the more productive and interesting things that we humans can do. It’s hard not to feel a sense of loss when you think of what these people would have done, if they hadn’t been sucked into the enterprise of making money out of money. If we ever get enough distance to look back with some sense of perspective on the delirium of modern finance, I think this is what will stand out clearly: that sense of human and intellectual waste.
'Scalpers Inc.', John Lanchester. LRB, 5 June 2014.