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December 31, 2007

my architecture

Here, then, is what I wanted to tell you of my architecture, I created it with courage and idealism, but also with an awareness of the fact that what is important is life, friends, and attempting to make this unjust world a better place in which to live.

Oscar Niemeyer

Posted by amin at 12:57 PM

December 30, 2007

surrender and suffering

As for the way to true manhood, the way to the immortals, he has, it is true, an inkling of it and starts upon it now and then for a few hesitating steps and pays for them with much suffering and many pangs of loneliness. But as for striving with assurance, in response to that supreme demand, towards the genuine manhood of the spirit, and going the one narrow way to immortality, he is deeply afraid of it. He knows too well that it leads to still greater sufferings, to proscription, to the last renunciation, perhaps to the scaffold, and even though the enticement of immortality lies at the journey’s end, he is still unwilling to suffer all these sufferings and to die all these deaths. Though the goal of manhood is better known to him than to the bourgeois, still he shuts his eyes. He is resolved to forget that the desperate clinging to life are the surest way to eternal death, while the power to die, to strip one’s self naked, and the central surrender of the self bring immortality with them. When he worships his favorites among the immortals, Mozart, perchance, he always looks at him in the long run through bourgeois eyes. His tendency is to explain Mozart’s perfected being, just as a schoolmaster would, as a supreme and special gift rather than as the outcome of his immense powers of surrender and suffering, of his indifference to the ideals of the bourgeois, and of his patience under that last extremity of loneliness which rarefies the atmosphere of the bourgeois world to an ice-cold ether, around those who suffer to become men, that loneliness of the Garden of Gethsemane.

Hesse - Steppenwolf

Posted by amin at 11:49 PM


There is much to be said for contentment and painlessness for these bearable and submissive days, on which neither pain nor pleasure is audible, but pass by whispering and on tiptoe. But the worst of it is that it is just this contentment that I cannot endure. After a short time it fills me with irrepressible hatred and nausea. In desperation I have to escape and throw myself on the road to pleasure, or, if that cannot be, on the road to pain. When I have neither pleasure or pain and have been breathing for a while the lukewarm insipid air of these so-called good and tolerable days, I feel so bad in my childish soul that I smash my moldering lyre of thanksgiving in the face of the slumbering god of contentment and would rather feel the very devil burn in me than this warmth of a well-heated room. A wild longing for strong emotions and sensations seethes in me, a rage against this toneless, flat, normal and sterile life…What I always hated and detested and cursed above all things was this contentment, this healthiness and comfort, this carefully preserved optimism of the middle classes, this flat and prosperous brood of mediocrity.

Hesse - Steppenwolf

Posted by amin at 11:45 PM

December 29, 2007

moral loneliness

Writers do not have to be professors of morals, but they do have to express the human condition. And nothing concerns human life so essentially, for every man at every moment, as good and evil. When literature becomes deliberately indifferent to the opposition of good and evil it betrays its function and forfeits all claims to excellence.

If our present suffering ever leads to a revival, this will not be brought about through slogans but in silence and moral loneliness, through pain, misery, and terror, in the profoundest depths of each man's spirit.

Simone Weil

Posted by amin at 9:24 PM

man's final end

Man’s final end is to subordinate to himself all that is irrational, to master it freely and according to his own laws. This is a final end which is completely inachievable and must always remain so- so long, that is, as man is to remain man and is not supposed to become God. It is part of the concept of man that his ultimate goal be unobtainable and his path thereto be infinitely long. Thus it is not man’s vocation to reach this goal. But he can and he should draw nearer to it, and his true vocation qua man, that is, in so far as he is a rational but finite, a sensuous but free being, lies in endless approximation toward this goal. Now if, as we surely can, we call this total harmony with oneself “perfection,” in the highest sense of the word, then perfection is man’s highest and unattainable goal. His vocation, however, is to perfect himself without end.

Fichte - Lectures Concerning the Scholar's Vocation

Posted by amin at 2:18 AM

the state of grace

Artistic perception had to overcome itself to the point of realizing that even something horrible, something that seems no more than disgusting, is, and shares the truth of its being with everything else that exists. Just as the creative artist is not allowed to choose, neither is he permitted to turn his back on anything: a single refusal, and he is cast out of the state of grace and becomes sinful all the way through.

Rilke - Letters on Cezanne

Posted by amin at 2:16 AM

state of unity and calm

The more tranquil the state of the body the more capable it is of portraying the true character of the soul. In all positions too removed from this tranquility, the soul is not in its most essential condition, but in one that is agitated and forced. A soul is more apparent and distinctive when seen in violent passion, but it is great and noble when seen in a state of unity and calm.


Posted by amin at 2:03 AM

he was weary of himself

He was weary of himself, of cold ideas and brain dreams. Life a poem? Not when you went about forever poetizing about your own life instead of living it. How innocuous it all was, and empty, empty, empty! This chasing after yourself, craftily observing your own tracks--in a circle, of course. This sham diving into the stream of life while all the time you sat angling after yourself, fishing yourself up in one curious disguise or another! If he could only be overwhelmed by something--life, love, passion--so that he could no longer shape it into poems, but had to let it shape him!

Jens Peter Jacobsen - Niels Lyhne

Posted by amin at 2:02 AM

the life that has been lived

There was a stormy rejoicing in these young souls, and there was faith in the light of the great stars of thought; they had hope fathomless as the ocean. Enthusiasm bore them on the wings of the eagle, and their hearts expanded with the courage of thousands. No doubt life would in time wear it all out, lull most of it to sleep; worldly wisdom would break down much, and cowardice would sweep away the rest--but what of it? The time that passes with goodness will not return with evil, and nothing the future may bring can wither a day or wipe out an hour in the life that has been lived.

Jens Peter Jacobsen - Niels Lyhne

Posted by amin at 1:39 AM

love of a boy

Among all the emotional relationships of life is there any that is finer, more sensitive, and more fervent than the exquisitely modest love of one boy for another boy? It is a love that never speaks and never dares to vent itself in a caress or a look, a seeing love that grieves bitterly over every fault in the loved one, a love made up of longing and admiration and self-forgetfulness, of pride and humility and calmly breathing happiness.

Jens Peter Jacobsen - Niels Lyhne

Posted by amin at 1:37 AM

bear your grief

There are those who can take up their grief and bear it, strong natures who feel their own powers through the very heaviness of their burden. Weaker people give themselves up to their sorrow passively, as they would submit to a sickness; and like a sickness their sorrow pervades them, drinks itself into their innermost being and becomes a part of them, is assimilated in them through a slow struggle, and finally loses itself in them, as they return to perfect health.

But there are yet others to whom sorrow is a violence done them, a cruelty which they never learn to accept as a trial or chastisement or as simple fate. It is to them an act of tyranny, an expression of personal hate, and it always leaves a sting in their hearts.

Jens Peter Jacobsen - Niels Lyhne

Posted by amin at 1:34 AM

you must exert yourself

'Give strength to my good resolutions' is a plea that could stand in the Lord's Prayer.

We are only too inclined to believe that if we possess a little talent work must come easily to us. You must exert yourself, man, if you want to do something great.

Like a great philosophical babbler he is concerned not so much with the truth as with the sound of his prose.

God created man in his own image, says the Bible; the philosophers do the exact opposite, they create God in theirs.

The oracles have not so much ceased to speak, rather men have ceased to listen to them.

We say that someone occupies an official position, whereas it is the official position that occupies him.

George Lichtenberg

Posted by amin at 1:21 AM

the final paradox

The final paradox which defines our humanity prevails: there is always, there always will be, a sense in which we do not know what it is we are experiencing and talking about when we experience and talk about that which is. There is a sense in which no human discourse, however analytic, can make final sense of sense itself…Whether we would or not, these overwhelming, commonplace inexplicabilities and the imperative of questioning which is the core of man make us close neighbors to the transcendent. Poetry, art, music are the medium of that neighborhood.

George Steiner - Real Presences

Posted by amin at 1:17 AM

the highest good

Inasmuch as virtue and happiness together constitute the possession of the highest good for one person, and happiness in exact proportion to morality (as the worth of a person and his worthiness to be happy) constitutes that of a possible world, the highest good means the whole, the perfect good, wherein virtue is always the supreme good, being the condition having no condition superior to it, while happiness, though something always pleasant to him who possesses it, is not of itself absolutely good in every respect but always presupposes conduct in accordance with the moral law as its condition.

Kant - Critique of Practical Reason

Posted by amin at 12:56 AM

only what is good makes us happy

It is not true that the desire for happiness destines man for ethical goodness. It is rather the case that the concept of happiness itself and the desire for happiness first arise from man’s moral nature. Not what makes us happy is good, but rather, only what is good makes us happy. No happiness is possible apart from morality. Of course, feelings of pleasure are possible without morality and even in opposition to it. But pleasurable feelings are not happiness, they often even contradict happiness.

Fichte - Lectures Concerning the Scholar's Vocation

Posted by amin at 12:52 AM

December 28, 2007

the admirer and the follower

It is well known that Christ consistently used the expression “follower.” He never asks for admirers, worshipers, or adherents. No, he calls disciples. It is not adherents of a teaching but follower of a life Christ is looking for.

When then, is the difference between an admirer and follower? A follower is or strives to be what he admires. And admirer, however, keeps himself personally detached. He fails to see that what is admired involves a claim upon him, and thus he fails to be or strives to be what he admires.

Admirers are related to the admired only through the excitement of the imagination. To them he is like an actor on the stage except that, this being real life, the effect he produces is somewhat stronger. But for their part, admirers make the same demands that are made in the theater: to sit safe and calm.

If you have any knowledge at all of human nature, who can doubt that Judas was an admirer of Christ! And we know that Christ at the beginning of his work had many admirers. Judas was precisely an admirer and thus later became a traitor. It is just as easy to reckon as the stars that those who only admire the truth will, when danger appears, become traitors.

The difference between an admirer and a follower still remains, no matter where you are. The admirer never makes any true sacrifices. He always plays it safe. Though in words, phrases, songs, he is inexhaustible about how highly he prizes Christ, he renounces nothing, gives up nothing, will not reconstruct his life, will not be what he admirers, and will let his life express what it is he supposedly admires. Not so for the follower. No, no. the follower aspires with all his strength, with all his will to be what he admires.


Posted by amin at 2:01 PM

he is the ultimate

Everything in this world-like wealth, women, and cloths-is sought because of something else, not in and for itself. Don’t you see that if you had a hundred thousand dirhems and were hungry or unable to find food, you couldn’t eat those dirhems? Sexuality if for producing children and satisfying passion. Clothing is to ward of the cold. Thus do all things form links in a chain to God. It is He who is sought for His own sake and who is desired for Himself, and not for any other reason. Since He is beyond everything and is nobler and more subtle than anything, why would He be sought for the sake of what is less than Him? Therefore it can be said that He is the ultimate. When one reaches Him, one has reached the final goal; there is no surpassing there.

Rumi - Fihi Ma Fih

Posted by amin at 1:58 PM

philosophy of happiness

You ask me where one can find happiness in this world. After many experiments, I have convinced myself that it rests entirely in feeling satisfied with oneself. The passions can never make us happy, we always want the impossible, and are never content with what we have. I suppose that some people, blessed with unfailingly virtuous natures, possess a good deal of the contentment that I think of as being a condition of happiness, but for myself, since I'm not good enough to be self-satisfied, I make up for it by the real satisfaction that work can give. Work does afford a genuine sense of wellbeing and increases one's indifference to pleasures that are pleasures in name only, the amusements that society people have to be content with. And there, my dear, you have my small philosophy and it's a certainty, especially when I'm feeling well. At the same time, it should not prevent us from snatching such little diversions as may come our way from time to time; an occasional love affair, a beautiful countryside, travel, such things have enchanting memories, and you think of them when you are far away and can no longer enjoy them. They make a little store of happiness against whatever the future may bring.

Delacroix - The Journal

Posted by amin at 1:25 PM

only you know

My God, I thought with sudden vehemence, so you really are. There are proofs of your existence. I have forgotten them all and never ever wanted any, for what a huge obligation would lay in the certainty of you. And yet that is what has just been shown to me. This, then, is what tastes good to you; this is what gives you pleasure. That we should learn to endure everything and never judge. What things are filled with gravity? What things with grace? Only you know.

Rilke - The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge

Posted by amin at 11:56 AM

eternal thoughts

It must be a good thing to die conscious of having performed some real good, and to know that by this good one will live, at least in the memory of some, and will have left a good example to those that come after. A work that is good-it may not be eternal, but the thought expressed in it is, and the work itself will certainly remain in existence for a long, long time; and if afterwards others arise, they can do no better than to follow in the footsteps of such predecessors and do their work in the same way.

Van Gogh

Posted by amin at 1:18 AM

making time expand

There is another way of lengthening one's life that lies wholly within our power. Rise early, purposeful employment of our time, selection of the most suitable means for achieving an end we have in view and its vigorous employment once it is selected. It is possible to grow very old in this way provided we have ceased to measure our life by the calendar...Once you have decided to undertake a piece of work it is not a good thing to keep the whole of it before your mind; I at least have found doing so very disheartening. What you should do is work at that which lies immediately to hand, and when that is finished go on to the next...To start on a thing straightaway without putting it off for a minute, much less an hour or a day, is likewise a way of making time expand.

George Lichtenberg

Posted by amin at 1:05 AM

December 27, 2007

the sentence of life

For the first time he was afraid of life. For the first time his mind grasped the fact that when life has sentenced you to suffer, the sentence is neither a fancy nor a threat, but you are dragged to the rack, and you are tortured, and there is no marvelous rescue at the last moment, no awakening as from a bad dream.

Jens Peter Jacobsen - Niels Lyhne

Posted by amin at 6:43 PM

the meeting with death

However inspired, no poem, no painting, no musical piece – though music comes closest – can make us at home with death, let alone “weep it from its purpose”. But it is within the compass of the arts that the metaphor of resurrection is given the edge of felt conjecture. The central conceit of the artist that the work shall outlast his own death, the existential truth that great literature, painting, architecture, music have survived their creators, are not accidental or self-regarding. It is the lucid intensity of its meeting with death that generates in aesthetic forms that statement of vitality, of life-presence, which distinguishes serious thought and feeling from the trivial and the opportunistic.

George Steiner - Real Presences

Posted by amin at 6:40 PM

the force of gravity

There is something which has the power to awaken us to the truth. It is the works of writers of genius, or at least of those with genius of first order and when it has reached its full maturity. They are outside the realm of fiction and they release us from it. They give us, in the guise of fiction, something equivalent to the actual density of the real, that density which life offers us every day but which we are unable to grasp because we are amusing ourselves with lies.

Although the works of these men are made out of words there is present in them the force of gravity which governs our souls. It is present and manifest. In our souls, although this gravity is often felt, it is disguised by the very effects it produces; submission to evil is always accompanied by error and falsehood…But the works of authentic genius from past ages remain, and are available to us. Their contemplation is the ever-flowing source of an inspiration which may legitimately guide us. For this inspiration, if we know how to receive it, tends-as Plato said-to make us grow wings to overcome gravity.

Simone Weil

Posted by amin at 6:35 PM

to delight and instruct

All arts have a double aim: to delight and instruct. Hence many of the greatest landscape painters have believed that they would do only partial justice to their art if they did not include human figures in their landscapes.

Let the artist’s brush, like Aristotle’s pen, be imbued with reason. He should leave our minds with more than he has shown our eyes, and he will attain this goal if he has learned to use allegory not to conceal his ideas but to clothe them. Then, whether he has a poetical object of his own choice or someone else’s, his art will inspire him and kindle in him the flame which Prometheus took from the gods. The connoisseur will have food for thought and the mere admirer of art will learn to think.

Johann Joachim Winckelmann

Posted by amin at 12:57 AM

seven signs of the love of god

The first test is this: he should not dislike the thought of death, for no friend shrinks from going to see a friend.

The second test of sincerity is that a man should be willing to sacrifice his will to God’s, should cleave to what brings him nearer to God, and should shun what places him at a distant from God.

The third test is that the remembrance of God should always remain fresh in a man’s heart without effort, for what a man loves he constantly remembers, and if his love is perfect he never forgets it.

The forth test is that he will love the Koran, which is the word of God, and Muhammad, who is the prophet of God; if his love is really strong, he will love all men, for all are God’s servants, nay, his love will embrace the whole creation, for he who loves anyone loves the works he composes and his handwriting.

The fifth test is, he will be covetous of retirement and privacy for purposes of devotion; he will long for the approach of night, so that he may hold intercourse with his Friend without let or hindrance.

A sixth test that worship becomes easy. When love to God is complete no joy is equal to the joy of worship.

The seventh test is that lovers of God will love those who obey Him and hate the infidels and the disobedient.

Ghazali - The Alchemy of Happiness

Posted by amin at 12:48 AM

decisive moments

A road well begun is the battle half won. The important thing is to make a beginning and get under way. There is nothing more harmful for your soul than to hold back and not get moving.

The path of an honest fighter is a difficult one. And when the fighter grows cool in the evening of his life this is no excuse to retire into games and amusement. Whoever remains faithful to his decision will realize that his whole life is a struggle. Such a person does not fall into the temptation of proudly telling others of what he has done with his life. Nor will he talk about the “great decisions” he has made. He knows full well that at decisive moments you have to renew your resolve again and again and that this alone makes good the decision and the decision good.


Posted by amin at 12:44 AM

December 26, 2007

the moment of transition

Ideally a painter (and, generally, an artist) should not become conscious of his insights: without taking the detour through his reflective process, and incomprehensibly to himself, all his progress should enter so swiftly into the work that he is unable to recognize them in the moment of transition.

Rilke - Letters on Cezanne

Posted by amin at 2:07 PM

the first human being

One has to be able at every moment to place one’s hand on the earth like the first human being.

Rilke - Letters on Cezanne

Posted by amin at 2:05 PM

what a biography!

An art dealer, and since he somehow realizes after three years that that wasn’t it, a little school teacher in England. And in the midst of that the decision: to become a priest. He goes to Brussels and learns Greek and Latin. But why the detour? Aren’t there people somehow who don’t expect their priest to know Greek or Latin? And so he becomes what is called an evangelist, and he goes to a mining district and tells the people the story of the gospel. And while he talks, he begins to draw. And finally he doesn’t even notice how he’s stopped talking and is only drawing. And from then on, that’s all he does, until his last hour, when he decides to stop everything because he might not be able to paint for weeks; at that point it seems natural for him to give up everything, especially life. What a biography!

Ah, how he, too, renounced and renounced. His self-portrait in the portfolio looks shabby and tormented, almost desperate, but not devastated: the way a dog looks when it’s in a bad way. He holds out his face and you take note of the fact: he is in a bad way, day and night. But in his paintings (the arbre fleuri) poverty has already become rich: a great splendor from within. And that’s how he sees everything: as a poor man; just compare his parks. These too are expressed with such quietness and simplicity, as if for poor people, so they can understand; without going into the extravagance that’s in these trees; as if to do that would already be taking sides. He isn’t on anyone’s side, isn’t on the side of the parks, and his love for all these things is directed at the nameless, and that’s why he himself concealed it. He does not show it, he has it. And quickly takes it out of himself and puts it into the work, into the innermost and incessant part of the work: quickly: and no one has seen it.

Rilke - Letters on Cezanne

Posted by amin at 2:02 PM

intuition and feeling

What gives coherence and unity to the intuition is feeling: the intuition is really such because it represents a feeling, and can only appear from and upon that. Not the idea, but the feeling, is what confers upon art the airy lightness of the symbol: an aspiration enclosed in the circle of a representation-that is art: and in it the aspiration alone stands for the representation, and the representation alone for the aspiration.

Benedetto Croce

Posted by amin at 2:55 AM

life takes no account of dreams

You have done what so many people do: they close their eyes to the realities and stop their ears when life cries 'No' to their wishes. They want to forget the deep chasm fate has placed between them and the object of their ardent longing. They want their dream to be fulfilled. But life takes no account of dreams. There isn't a single obstacle that can be dreamed out of the world, and in the end we lie there crying at the edge of the chasm, which hasn't changed and is just where it always was. But we have changed, for we have let our dreams goad all our thoughts and spur all our longings to the very highest tension. The chasm is no narrower, and everything in us cries out with longing to reach the other side, but no, always no, never anything else. If we had only kept a watch on ourselves in time! But now it is too late, now we are unhappy.

Jens Peter Jacobsen - Niels Lyhne

Posted by amin at 2:53 AM

a sudden desire

No matter in how exalted a place a human being may set his throne, no matter how firmly he may press the crown of the exceptional, that is genius, upon his brow, he can never be sure that he may not, like Nebuchadnezzar, be seized with a sudden desire to go on all-fours and eat grass and herd with the common beasts of the field.

Jens Peter Jacobsen - Niels Lyhne

Posted by amin at 2:51 AM

music of the soul

The notes, he said, were not heard only with the ears, but with the whole body, eyes, fingers, and feet; if the ear failed sometimes, the hand would find the right note without its aid, by a strange, intuitive genius of its own. Besides, the audible tones were, after all, false, but he who possessed the divine gift of music carried within him an invisible instrument. On this instrument the soul played; its strings gave forth ideal notes, and upon it the great tone poets had composed their immortal works. The external music, which was borne on the air of reality and heard with the ears, was nothing but a wretched simulation, a stammering attempt to say the unsayable. It resembled the music of the soul as the statue modeled by hands, carved with a chisel, and meted with a measure, resembled the wondrous marble dream of the sculptor, which no eye ever beheld, and no lip ever praised.

Jens Peter Jacobsen - Niels Lyhne

Posted by amin at 2:48 AM

two opposing forces

I am perhaps a late follower of Zoroaster and I believe that the foundation of life is built upon the struggle between the two opposing forces of Good and Evil. I believe that all true poets have always fought in favor of Good, even when they seemed to exalt "les fleurs du mal". The greatest poet of all time, Dante, has indicated this path since the Fourteenth Century. After him it might well seem almost useless to write poetry and yet in spite of this, although with incomparative forces, many others have followed. I am among them, last and least.

I have always knocked at the door of that wonderful and terrible enigma which is life. I have been judged to be a pessimist but what abyss of ignorance and low egoism is not hidden in one who thinks that Man is the god of himself and that his future can only be triumphant?

Eugenio Montale

Posted by amin at 2:01 AM

December 25, 2007

he exists without proof

In the presence of Shamsuddin of Tabriz someone said, “I have proven the existence of God, indisputably.” O little man, God is a given fact. His existence needs no logical proof. If you must do something, then prove that you yourself have some dignity and rank in His presence. Otherwise He exists without proof. Neither is there anything which doth not celebrate His praise [17:44]. Of this there is no doubt.

Rumi - Fihi Ma Fih

Posted by amin at 3:13 AM

the eye of certitude

The pleasure that is derived from logical proof has no eternality. If you expound a logical argument to someone, he will be happy and rejoice in it; but when the memory of it fades, so do his happiness and joy. For instance, one may know through logical proof that this house had a maker, that the maker had eyes and was not blind, that he was strong and not weak, that he existed and was not non-existent, that he was alive and not dead, and that he had had previous experience in making houses. All these things one can know through logical proof, but the proof does not last. It can be soon forgotten. When “lovers” on the other hand, do servitude, know the Maker, see with the Eye of Certitude, break bread and mingle together, then the Maker is never absent from their imagination and sight. Such men have “passed away” into God; with regard to these men sin is not sin and crime is not crime. These men are dominated and consumed.

Rumi - Fihi Ma Fih

Posted by amin at 3:10 AM

December 22, 2007

to learn by heart

To learn by heart is to afford the text or music an indwelling clarity and life-force. Ben Jonson’s term, “ingestion”, is precisely right. What we know by heart becomes an agency in our consciousness, a ‘pace-maker’ in the growth and vital complication of our identity. No exegesis or criticism from without can so directly incorporate within us the formal means, the principles of executive organization of a semantic fact, be it verbal or musical. Accurate recollection and resort in remembrance not only deepen our grasp of the work: they generate a shaping reciprocity between ourselves and that which the heart knows. As we change, so does the informing context of the internalized poem or sonata. In turn, remembrance becomes recognition and discovery (to re-cognize is to know anew). The archaic Greek belief that memory is the mother of the Muses expresses a fundamental insight into the nature of the arts and of the mind.

George Steiner - Real Presences

Posted by amin at 12:02 AM

December 21, 2007


The person who knows how to prove the immortality of the soul but who is not himself convinced by it, and does not live by it will always be anxious. Despite all his proofs, he shrinks from the truth of immortality. He deceives both himself and others by pretending that the proof is enough. In the process of trying to prove immortality he forgets immortality, since immortality is precisely what he fears. He remains anxious and is thus forced to seek yet a further understanding of what it means to believe in the soul’s immortality.

He knows everything, but only like the person who can prove a mathematical proposition when the letters are ABC, but not when the letters are DEF. He is nonetheless anxious, especially whenever he hears something that is not exactly the same as his belief. He resembles the philosopher who has discovered a new proof for the immortality of the soul and then, in peril of his life, cannot produce the proof because he has forgotten his notebooks! What is it that both of them lack? It is certitude.

Kierkegaard - The Concept of Anxiety

Posted by amin at 11:59 PM

kiss the peddler woman!

Pond on the drum and don’t be afraid
And kiss the peddler woman!
That is all of philosophy
That’s what the books truly say.

Wake up the people with your drum
Drum the reveille with the force of youth,
March onward and onward, beating your drum,
That is all of philosophy.

Heinrich Heine

Posted by amin at 11:44 PM

the beginning of holiness

This lying-down-with-the-leper and sharing all one’s own warmth with him, including the heart-warmth of nights of love: this must at some point have been part of an artist’s experience, as a self-overcoming on the way to his new bliss…Behind this devotion, in small ways at first, lies the beginning of holiness: the simple life of a love that endured; that, without ever boasting of it, approaches everything, unaccompanied, inconspicuous, wordless.

Rilke - Letters on Cezanne

Posted by amin at 11:42 PM

noble simplicity and quiet grandeur

The general and most distinctive characteristics of the Greek masterpieces are, a noble simplicity and quiet grandeur, both in posture and expression. Just as the depths of the sea always remain calm however much the surface may rage, so does the expression of the figures of the Greeks reveal a great and composed soul even in the midst of passion.

Such a soul is reflected in the face of Laocoon. The physical pain and the nobility of soul are distributed with equal strength over the entire body and are, as it were, held in balance with one another. Laocoon suffers; his pain touches our very soul, but we wish that we could bear misery like this great man.

The expression of such nobility of soul goes far beyond the depiction of beautiful nature. The artist had to feel the strength of this spirit in himself and then impart it to his marble. Greece had artists who were at once philosophers. Wisdom extended its hand to art and imbued its figures with more than common souls.

Johann Joachim Winckelmann

Posted by amin at 11:36 PM

December 19, 2007

poetry is a ray of sunlight

Poetry is like a ray of sunlight shining upon this darkness, lending it its own light and making visible the hidden forms of things. Hence it cannot be produced by an empty and dull mind; hence those artists who embrace the creed of pure art or art for art’s sake, and close their hearts to the troubles of life and the cares of thought, are found to be wholly unproductive, or at most rise to the imitation of others or to an impressionism devoid of concentration. Hence the basis of all poetry is human personality, and, since human personality finds its completion in morality, the basis of all poetry is the moral consciousness. Of course this does not mean that the artist must be a profound thinker or an acute critic; nor that he must be a pattern of virtue or a hero; but he must have a share in the world of thought and action which will enable him, either in his own person or by sympathy with others, to live the whole drama of human life. He may sin, lose the purity of his heart, and expose himself, as a practical agent, to blame; but he must have a keen sense of purity and impurity, righteousness and sin, good and evil. He might not be endowed with great practical courage; he may even betray signs of timidity and cowardice; but he must feel the dignity of courage. Many artistic inspirations are due, not what the artist, as a man, is in practice, but to what he is not, and feels that he ought to be admiring and enjoying the qualities he lacks when he sees them in others. Many, perhaps the finest, pages of heroic and warlike poetry are by men who never had the nerve or skill to handle a weapon.

Benedetto Croce

Posted by amin at 11:21 AM

brotherhood with the suffeing men

To speak the truth, even with some austerity, to live with some rigor of temperance, or some extremes of generosity, seems to be an asceticism which common good-nature would appoint to those who are at ease and in plenty, in sign that they feel a brotherhood with the great multitude of suffering men. And not only need we breathe and exercise the soul by assuming the penalties of abstinence, of debt, of solitude, of unpopularity, but it behooves the wise man to look with a bold eye into those rarer dangers which sometimes invade men, and to familiarize himself with disgusting forms of disease, with sounds of execration, and the vision of violent death.

Emerson - Heroism

Posted by amin at 11:17 AM

the debt to my deity

God said to the Prophet David, “That servant is dearest to Me who does not seek Me from fear of punishment or hope of reward, but to pay the debt due to My Deity.” And in the Psalms it is written, “Who is a greater transgressor than he who worships me from fear of hell or hope of heaven? If I had created neither, should I not then have deserved to be worshiped?”

Ghazali - The Alchemy of Happiness

Posted by amin at 11:13 AM

stay within

Rodin does not “think about” his work but remains within it: within the attainable-that is just what we felt made him so exceptional, this humble, patient path he trod through the real: and I have not yet found another faith to replace this one. In art, you can only stay within the “well done,” and by your staying there, it increases and surpasses you again and again. It seems to me that the “ultimate intuitions and insights” will only approach one who lives in his work and remains there, and whoever considers them from afar gains no power over them.

Rilke - Letters on Cezanne

Posted by amin at 12:23 AM

December 18, 2007

to be...

Ah, we compute the years and divide them here and there and stop and begin and hesitate between both. But how of one piece is everything we encounter, how related one thing is to the next, how it gives birth to itself and grows up and is educated in its own nature, and all we basically have to do is to be, but simply, earnestly, the way the earth simply is, and gives her consent to the seasons, bright and dark and whole in space, not asking to rest upon anything other than the net of influences and forces in which the stars feel secure.

Rilke - Letters on Cezanne

Posted by amin at 11:04 PM

December 17, 2007

shoreline of the heart

A poem, being an instance of language, hence essentially dialogue, may be a letter in a bottle thrown out to sea with the – surely not always strong – hope that it may somehow wash up somewhere, perhaps on a shoreline of the heart. In this way, too, poems are en route: they are headed toward.

Toward what? Toward something open, inhabitable, an approachable you, perhaps, an approachable reality.

Such realities are, I think, at stake in a poem.

I also believe that this kind of thinking accompanies not only my own efforts, but those of other, younger poets. Effort of those who, with man made stars flying overhead, unsheltered even by the traditional tent of the sky, exposed in an unsuspected, terrifying way, carry their existence into language, racked by reality and in search of it.

Paul Celan

Posted by amin at 11:00 AM

December 16, 2007

artistic inspiration

All good poets, epic as well as lyric, compose their beautiful poems not by art, but because they are inspired and possessed. And as the Corybantian revellers when they dance are not in their right mind, so the lyric poets are not in their right mind when they are composing their beautiful strains: but when falling under the power of music and metre they are inspired and possessed. For the poet is a light and winged and holy thing, and there is no invention in him until he has been inspired and is out of his senses, and the mind is no longer in him: when he has not attained to this state, he is powerless and is unable to utter his oracles.

Many are the noble words in which poets speak concerning the actions of men; but they do not speak of them by any rules of art: they are simply inspired to utter that to which the Muse impels them, and that only; and when inspired, one of them will make dithyrambs, another hymns of praise, another choral strains, another epic or iambic verses- and he who is good at one is not good any other kind of verse: for not by art does the poet sing, but by power divine. Had he learned by rules of art, he would have known how to speak not of one theme only, but of all; and therefore God takes away the minds of poets, and uses them as his ministers, as he also uses diviners and holy prophets, in order that we who hear them may know them to be speaking not of themselves who utter these priceless words in a state of unconsciousness, but that God himself is the speaker, and that through them he is conversing with us. For in this way, the God would seem to indicate to us and not allow us to doubt that these beautiful poems are not human, or the work of man, but divine and the work of God; and that the poets are only the interpreters of the Gods by whom they are severally possessed. Was not this the lesson which the God intended to teach when by the mouth of the worst of poets he sang the best of songs?

Plato - Ion

Posted by amin at 5:50 PM

a bright halo

The way to solve the problem you see in life is to live in a way that will make what is problematic disappear.
The fact that life is problematic shows that the shape of your life does not fit into life’s mould. So you must change the way you live and, once your life does fit into the mould, what is problematic will disappear.
But don’t we have the feeling that someone who sees no problem in life is blind to something important, even to the most important thing of all? Don’t I feel like saying that a man like that is just living aimlessly – blindly, like a mole, and that if only he could see, he would see the problem?
Or shouldn’t I say rather: a man who lives rightly won’t experience the problem as sorrow, so for him it will not be a problem, but a joy rather; in other words for him it will be a bright halo round his life, not a dubious background.

Wittgenstein - Culture And Value

Posted by amin at 5:41 PM

the encounter with the aesthetic

Any thesis that would, either theoretically or practically, put literature and the arts beyond good and evil is spurious. The archaic in Rilke’s famous poem says to us: “change your life”. So do any poem, novel, play, painting, musical composition worth meeting. The voice of intelligible form, of the needs of direct address from which such forms springs, asks: ‘What do you feel, what do you think of the possibilities of life, of the alternative shapes of being which are implicit in your experience of me, in our encounter?’ The indiscretion of serious art and literature and music is total. It requires the last privacies of our existence. This interrogation, like the winding of the sudden horn at the dark tower in Browning’s emblematic text of the seeking out of being by art, is no abstract dialectic. It purposes change. Early Greek thought identified the Muses with the arts and wonder of persuasion. As the act of the poet is met, as it enters the precincts, special and temporal. Mental and physical, of our being, it brings with it a radical calling towards change. The waking, the enrichment, the complication, the darkening, the unsettling of sensibility and understanding which follow on our experience of art are incipient with action. Form is the root of performance. In a wholly fundamental, pragmatic sense, the poem, the statue, the sonata are not so much read, viewed or heard as they are lived. The encounter with the aesthetic is, together wit certain modes of religious and of metaphysical experience, the most ‘ingressive’, transformative summons available to human experiencing.

George Steiner - Real Presences

Posted by amin at 5:29 PM

the characteristic of heroism

The characteristic of heroism is its persistency. All men have wandering impulses, fits, and starts of generosity. But when you have chosen your part, abide by it, and do not weakly try to reconcile yourself with the world. The heroic cannot be the common, nor the common the heroic. Yet we have the weakness to expect the sympathy of people in those actions whose excellence is that they outrun sympathy, and appeal to a tardy justice. If you would serve your brother, because it is fit for you to serve him, do not take back your words when you find that prudent people do not commend you. Adhere to your own act, and congratulate yourself if you have done something strange and extravagant, and broken the monotony of a decorous age. It was a high counsel that I once heard given to a young person, -- "Always do what you are afraid to do." A simple, manly character need never make an apology, but should regard its past action with the calmness of Phocion, when he admitted that the event of the battle was happy, yet did not regret his dissuasion from the battle.

Emerson - Heroism

Posted by amin at 5:25 PM

virtue is enough

It is told of Brutus, that when he fell on his sword, after the battle of Philippi, he quoted a line of Euripides, -- "O virtue! I have followed thee through life, and I find thee at last but a shade." I doubt not the hero is slandered by this report. The heroic soul does not sell its justice and its nobleness. It does not ask to dine nicely, and to sleep warm. The essence of greatness is the perception that virtue is enough. Poverty is its ornament. It does not need plenty, and can very well abide its loss.

Emerson - Heroism

Posted by amin at 5:23 PM

the essence of heroism

Self-trust is the essence of heroism. It is the state of the soul at war, and its ultimate objects are the last defiance of falsehood and wrong, and the power to bear all that can be inflicted by evil agents. It speaks the truth, and it is just, generous, hospitable, temperate, scornful of petty calculations, and scornful of being scorned. It persists; it is of an undaunted boldness, and of a fortitude not to be wearied out. Its jest is the littleness of common life. That false prudence which dotes on health and wealth is the butt and merriment of heroism. Heroism, like Plotinus, is almost ashamed of its body

Emerson - Heroism

Posted by amin at 5:16 PM

December 13, 2007

the voice of feeling

Our philosophers hear too little of the voice of feeling; or rather, they seldom possess sufficient sensibility not to respond to every occurrence more with what they know than with what they feel; and that is worthless, it takes us not one step nearer to true philosophy. Is what man can know necessarily what he ought to know?

George Lichtenberg

Posted by amin at 10:12 PM

December 12, 2007

the gods are everywhere

In the elder days of art
Builders wrought with greatest care
Each minute and unseen part,
For the gods are everywhere.


Posted by amin at 4:23 PM

the divine rights of the human

We support the well-being of matter, the material happiness of peoples, not because we are contemptuous of the spirit, like the French materialists, but because we know that the divinity of the human being is also revealed in his bodily appearance, that misery destroys and demeans the body, the image of God, and that the spirit is destroyed thereby as well. The great motto of revolution expressed by Saint-Just: “Bread is the right of the people” reads for us “Bread is the divine right of the human being.” We do not fight for the humans rights of the people, but for the divine rights of the human.

Heinrich Heine - On the History of Religion and Philosophy in Germany

Posted by amin at 4:15 PM

the eyes of people

I like so much better to paint the eyes of people than to paint cathedrals; for there is something in the eyes that is not in the cathedral, however solemn and imposing it may be; a human soul, be it that of a poor beggar or a woman of the street, is more interesting.

I tell you the more I think, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people. If what one is doing looks out upon the infinite, and if one sees that the work has its vital principle and continuance beyond, one works with more serenity.

Van Gogh

Posted by amin at 4:02 PM

December 9, 2007

everything is he

People think that to say “I am God” is a claim of greatness, but it is actually extreme humility. Anyone who says “I am God’s servant” predicates two existences, his own and God’s, while the one who says “I am God” nullifies himself-that is, he gives up his own existence as nothing. It is said that “I am God” means: “I do not exist; everything is He. Existence is God’s alone; I am utter, pure nonexistence; I am nothing.” There is more humility in this than any claim to greatness, but people do not comprehend. When a man acknowledges his servitude to God, he is aware of his act of being a servant. It may be for God, but he still sees himself and his own act along with seeing God. He is not “drowned”; drowned is he in whom there is no motion or action but whose movement is the movement of the water.

Rumi - Fihi Ma Fih

Posted by amin at 12:50 AM

December 8, 2007

prayer and faith

Someone asked what is more excellent than prayer. The answer is, that the soul of prayer is better than prayer. Another answer is that faith is better than prayer, for prayer is obligatory at five specific times a day where as faith is uninterrupted. One can be excused from prayer for a valid reason, and it is also allowable to postpone prayer. Faith without prayer merits reward, whereas prayer without faith, such as the prayer of hypocrites, does not. Prayer differs according to religion, but faith does not change by religion. Its states, its focus, and so forth, are immutable. There are other differences too. One hears the Word in accordance with the degree to which one has been “attracted.” The hearer of the Word is like flour in the hands of a kneader; the Word is like water, and the “right amount of water must be mixed into flour.”

Rumi - Fihi Ma Fih

Posted by amin at 11:57 PM

word by word

Some people taunted the Prophet, saying, “Why does the Koran come down to Muhammad word by word and not chapter by chapter?”
The Prophet replied, “What are these fools saying? If it were all revealed to me at once I would melt and cease to exist.”

Rumi - Fihi Ma Fih

Posted by amin at 11:55 PM

two rak’as of prayer

It is said that two rak’as of prayer are better than the world and all it contains. This does not apply to every person. The person to whom this applies is one who considers it more serious to miss two rak’as than to lose the world and all it contains, that is, one for whom it would be harder to miss those two rak’as than to lose possession of the whole world.

Rumi - Fihi Ma Fih

Posted by amin at 11:54 PM

the sun of beauty

A king once said to a dervish, “When you enjoy glory and proximity at God’s court, make mention of me.” “When I am in that Presence,” said the dervish, “and am exposed to the radiance of that Sun of Beauty, I am unable to make mention of myself, much less of you!”

Rumi - Fihi Ma Fih

Posted by amin at 11:52 PM

the states of felt being

However artful, however inspired, the words of the poet, of the philosopher, will fall short of the numinous intensities of certain phenomena and states of felt being. The aura of certain settings in nature, of certain privacies of desire or of pain, resists communicative transfer into speech. The only just response to Helen’s mystery of loveliness and to the surge of Eros in her step is not speech but silence. It is not, says Kafka, the song of the Sirens, but their silence which carries the true charge of illumination and of menace.

George Steiner - Real Presences

Posted by amin at 11:42 PM

the ordered enlistment of intuition

No stupid literature, art, or music lasts. Aesthetic creation is intelligent in the highest degree. The intelligence of a major artist can be that of sovereign intellectuality. The minds of Dante or of Proust are among the most analytic, systematically informed, of which we have record. The political acumen of a Dostoevsky or a Conard is difficult to match. Witness the theoretical rigour of a Durer, of a Schoenberg. But intellectuality is only one facet of creative intelligence; it need not be dominant. More than the ordinary men or women, the significant painter, sculptor, musician or poet relates the raw material, the anarchic prodigalities of consciousness and sub-consciousness to the latencies, often unperceived, untapped before him, of articulation. This translation out of the inarticulate and the private into the general matter of human recognition requires the utmost crystallization and investment of introspection and control. We lack the right word for the extreme energizing and governance of instinct, for the ordered enlistment of intuition, which mark the artist.

George Steiner - Real Presences

Posted by amin at 11:38 PM

December 3, 2007

the lover of the world

Jesus said, “The lover of the world is like a man drinking sea-water; the more he drinks, the more thirsty he gets, till at last he perishes with thirst unquenched.” The Prophet said, “You can no more mix with the world without being contaminated by it than you can go into water without getting wet.”

Ghazali - The Alchemy of Happiness

Posted by amin at 8:48 PM


All Heaven is within thee, Man,
And all of Hell within thy heart:
What thou dost choose and will to have,
That hast thou wheresoe'er thou art.

Heaven is within thee. Stay! Why runn'st thou here and there?
Thou seekest God in vain seekest thou Him elsewhere.

All thou wouldst have lies now within thee, every whit
'Tis thine—so long as thou dost never strive for it.

Travel within thyself! The Stone
Philosophers with wisest arts
Have vainly sought, cannot be found
By traveling in foreign parts.

Christian, dost thou demand to know
Where God hath set His Throne?
Even there within thyself, where He
Gives birth to thee, His Son.

Though Jesus Christ in Bethlehem
A thousand times his Mother bore,
Is he not born again in thee
Then art thou lost for evermore.

In vain the Cross on Golgotha
Was raised—thou hast not any part
In its deliverance unless
It be raised up within thy heart.

Nothing external to thee, Man,
Can give thee Worth or Dignity:
Fine harness maketh not the horse,
Nor clothes the man's virility.

He who hath honor in himself
Seeketh no honor among men.
Seekest thou honor in the world,
'Tis not thine own but alien.

The Wise Man is that which he hath.
The precious Pearl of Paradise
Wouldst thou not lose, then must thou be
Thyself that Pearl of greatest price.

My Christian, whither runnest thou?
All Heaven within thy heart doth wait.
Why dost thou seek to find it then
By knocking at another's gate?

How is it possible for thee
To feel desire or suffer dearth?
Thou canst be all things in thyself—
A thousand Angels, Heaven and Earth!

God's Kingdom is within ourselves!
If, then, so great a Kingdom be
Already thine, how canst thou fear
The threatening of poverty?

The World doth not imprison thee.
Thou art thyself the World, and there,
Within thyself, thou hold'st thyself
Thy self-imprisoned Prisoner.

Naught is that moveth thee: thou art thyself the wheel
That runneth of itself and never standeth still.

Fetter me with a thousand chains, and though they be
Never so strong, I shall be fetterless and free.

Shut God up in thy heart. Let none else enter there,
So must He always bide with thee and be thy Prisoner.

I am amazed that thou dost yearn
For daylight to appear.
There is no sunset in my soul—
Day is already here.

Angelus Silesius

Posted by amin at 4:02 PM

recognizing what you know

What makes you push the shutter has to do with seeking a kind of perfection, a harmony in the world. You are instinctively aware it's there, but you've got to be completely alert and quick and so deeply awake that it moves you.

The work of the artist is not so much what you say or what you know, it's recognizing what you know. That's what life is about. That's what photography is about. You see something, or you hear someone say something, and you say 'That is a truth.' You know, deep in you. That's when you start shooting. That's when you write it down. That's when you start thinking, or that's when you start feeling, because you recognize it. You fall in love with that truth. That's what it is, it's falling in love.

Sylvia Plachy

Posted by amin at 12:56 AM

love is long-suffering

Love is swift, pure, tender, joyful, and pleasant. Love is strong, patient, faithful, prudent, long-suffering, vigorous, and never self-seeking. For when a man is self-seeking he abandons love. Love is watchful, humble, and upright; love is not fickle and sentimental, nor is it intent on vanities. It is sober, pure, steadfast, quiet, and guarded in all the senses. Love is submissive and obedient to superiors, mean and contemptible in its own sight, devoted and thankful to God, trusting and hoping in Him even when not enjoying his sweetness; for none can live in love without suffering.

Whoever, is not prepared to endure everything, and to stand firmly by the will of the Beloved, is not worthy to be called a lover. A lover must willingly accept every hardship and bitterness for the sake of his Beloved, and must never desert Him because of adversity.

Thomas a Kempis

Posted by amin at 12:06 AM

December 2, 2007

train your doubt

You must realize that something is happening to you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand and will not let you fall. Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any misery, any depression, since after all you don't know what work these conditions are doing inside you? Why do you want to persecute yourself with the question of where all this is coming from and where it is going? Since you know, after all, that you are in the midst of transitions and you wished for nothing so much as to change.

Just the wish that you may find in yourself enough patience to endure and enough simplicity to have faith; that you may gain more and more confidence in what is difficult and in your solitude among other people. And as for the rest, let life happen to you. Believe me: life is in the right, always.

And about feelings: All feelings that concentrate you and lift you up are pure; only that feeling is impure which grasps just one side of your being and thus distorts you. Everything you can think of as you face your childhood, is good. Everything that makes more of you than you have ever been, even in your best hours, is right. Every intensification is good, if it is in your entire blood, if it isn't intoxication or muddiness, but joy which you can see into, clear to the bottom. Do you understand what I mean?

And your doubt can become a good quality if you train it. It must become knowing, it must become criticism. Ask it, whenever it wants to spoil something for you, why something is ugly, demand proofs from it, test it, and you will find it perhaps bewildered and embarrassed, perhaps also protesting. But don't give in, insist on arguments, and act in this way, attentive and persistent, every single time, and the day will come when instead of being a destroyer, it will become one of your best workers - perhaps the most intelligent of all the ones that are building your life.

Rilke - Letters to a Young Poet

Posted by amin at 7:04 PM