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January 19, 2008


Poems amount to so little when you write them too early in your life. You ought to wait and gather sense and sweetness for a whole lifetime, and a long one if possible, and then, at the very end, you might perhaps be able to write ten good lines. For poems are not, as people think, simply emotions (one has emotions early enough)—they are experiences. For the sake of a single poem, you must see many cities, many people and things, you must understand animals, must feel how birds fly, and know the gesture which small flowers make when they open in the morning. You must be able to think back to streets in unknown neighborhoods, to unexpected encounters, and to partings you had long seen coming; to days of childhood whose mystery is still unexplained, to parents whom you had to hurt when they brought in a joy and you didn’t pick it up (it was a joy meant for somebody else—); to childhood illnesses that began so strangely with so many profound and difficult transformations, to days in quite, retrained rooms and to mornings by the sea, to the sea itself, to seas, to nights of travel that rushed along high overhead and went flying with all the stars,—and it is still not enough to be able to think of all that. you must have memories of many nights of love, each one different from all the others, memories of women screaming in labor, and of light, pale, sleeping girls who have just given birth and are closing again. But you must also have been beside the dying, must have sat beside the dead in the room with the open window and the scattered noises. And it is not yet enough to have memories. You must be able to forget them when they are many, and you must have the immense patience to wait until they return. For the memories themselves are not important. Only when they have changed into our very blood, into glance and gesture, and are nameless, no longer to be distinguished from ourselves—only then can it happen that some very rare hour the first word of a poem arises in their midst and goes forth from them.

Rilke - The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge

Posted by amin at 1:54 AM

living is at life’s expense

Death is the condition of your creation, it is a part of you; you are fleeting from your own selves. This being of yours that you enjoy is equally divided between death and life. The first day of your birth leads you toward death as toward life:

The hour which gave us life led to its end. SENECA
Even in birth we die; the end is there from the start. MANILUS

All the time you live you steal from life; living is at life’s expense. The constant work of your life is to build death. You are in death while you are in life; for you are after death when you are no longer in life. Or, if you prefer it this way, you are dead after life; but during life you are dying; and dead affects the dying much more roughly than the dead, and more keenly and essentially.

Montaigne - That To Philosophize Is To Learn To Die

Posted by amin at 1:53 AM


An image should be quiet, strong and appeal to the heart at the first glance of the eye.

Images cannot be read as a sort of hidden truth. Images should not be read at all. We discover them through the development of our whole being and not through the involvement of our intellectual faculty.

The great thing about an image-it produces no solutions and relies on no solutions.

To get into the essence of an image, one has to stand clear of the meaning. The meaning can be and often is, quite superficial-the essence never is.

Images and music. Listening we often close our eyes. Looking we shut out our ears.

Josef Hermann - Journals

Posted by amin at 1:44 AM

we must bear and forbear

We must set limits to our wishes, curb our desires, moderate our anger, always remembering that an individual can attain only an infinitesimal share in anything that is worth having; and that, on the other hand, everyone must incur many of the ills of life; in a word we must bear and forbear; and if we fail to observe this rule, no position of wealth or power will prevent us from feeling wretched. This is what Horace means when he recommends us to study carefully and inquire diligently what will best promote a tranquil life-not to be always agitated by fruitless desires and fears and hopes for things, which, after all, are not worth very much.

Schopenhauer - Maxims and Counsels

Posted by amin at 1:35 AM

the king shall endure

I know that if I am destined for the worst, it won’t help me at all to disguise myself in my better cloths. Didn’t he, even though he was a king, slide down among the lowest of men? He, who instead of rising sank to the very bottom. It’s true that at times I have believed in the other kings, although their magnificent parks no longer prove anything. But it is night; it is winter; I am freezing; I believe in him. For glory stays just for a moment, and we have never seen anything more lasting than wretchedness. But the King shall endure.

Rilke - The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge

Posted by amin at 1:33 AM

true ethical enthusiasm

True ethical enthusiasm consists in willing to the uttermost of one’s capability, but also, uplifted in divine jest, in never thinking that one thereby achieves something.


Posted by amin at 1:31 AM

to philosophize is to learn to die

Cicero says that to philosophize is nothing else but to prepare for death. This is because study and contemplation draw our soul out of us to some extent and keep it busy outside the body; which is a sort of apprenticeship and semblance of death. Or else because all the wisdom and reasoning in the world boils down finally to this point: to teach us not to be afraid to die. In truth, either reason is a mockery, or it must aim solely at our contentment, and the sum of its labors must tend to make us live well and at our ease, as Holy Scripture says.

Among the principle benefits of virtue is disdain for death, a means that furnishes our life with a soft tranquility and gives us a pure and pleasant enjoyment of it, without which all other pleasures are extinguished. That is why all rules meet and agree at this point.

It is uncertain where death awaits us; let us await it everywhere. Premeditation of death is premeditation of freedom. He who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave. Knowing how to die frees us from all subjection and constraint. There is nothing evil in life for the man who has thoroughly grasped the fact that to be deprived of life is not an evil.

Montaigne - That To Philosophize Is To Learn To Die

Posted by amin at 1:28 AM

January 17, 2008

die to yourself!

You must first die to every earthly hope, to every merely human confidence. You must die to your selfishness, and to the world, because it is only through your selfishness that the world has power over you. Naturally there is nothing a human being hangs on to so firmly – indeed, with his whole self – as to his selfishness! Ah, the separation of soul and body at the hour of death is not as painful as being forced to be separated from our flesh when we are alive! Yes, we human beings do not hang on to this physical life as firmly as we do to our selfishness!

What does it mean to die to yourself? It is more than not seeing your wish fulfilled or to be deprived of the one that is dearest to you. True, this is painful enough, and selfishness is wounded. But it does not follow that you are dying. No, but personally to shatter your own fulfilled desire, personally to deprive yourself of the dearly desired one who is now your own: this is what it means to wound your selfishness at the root, as it was with Abraham when God demanded that he sacrifice Isaac.

But then, my listener, remember that then comes the life-giving Spirit. When? When you are dead to everything else. When does the Comforter come? Not until you have died to your selfishness and come to the end of your own strength. Not until you in love to God have learned to hate yourself, even your ability, not until then can there be talk of the Spirit, of life, of new life.


Posted by amin at 5:53 PM

a sure sign of a good book

What you have to do to learn to write like Shakespeare is very far removed from reading him.

It is necessary for a writer to go out into the world, not so much to observe many situations as to get into many situations himself.

A sure sign of a good book is that the older we grow the more we like it.

I ceased in the year 1764 to believe that one can convince one’s opponents with arguments printed in books. It is not to do that, therefore, that I have taken up my pen, but merely so as to annoy them, and to bestow strength and courage on those on our own side, and to make it known to the others that they have not convinced us.

George Lichtenberg - Aphorisms

Posted by amin at 5:50 PM

the idea within the work of art

All great artwork is about a preceding and underlying idea and this idea is what gives meaning and, more importantly, importance to the artwork. It is this meaning that facilitates the connection between audience and the artwork. If a picture is more than just a picture, it must relate to the viewer. This relationship is often defined by the idea within the work of art.

Photographs - at least good ones- are always about ideas; without ideas photographs are merely images. For an image to be idealess is as emasculating as a paragraph without a thought. It is as easy to make a photograph without content as it is to write a sentence that doesn't say anything. Both are common, both are prevalent, and both are useless.

Brooks Jensen - Letting Go of the Camera

Posted by amin at 4:48 PM

the school of spirit

In prayerful silence you must look into your own heart. No one can tell you better than yourself what comes between you and God. Ask yourself. Then listen!

If we really want to achieve true prayer, we must turn our backs upon everything temporal, everything external, everything that is not divine.

In the school of the Spirit man learns wisdom through humility, knowledge by forgetting, how to speak by silence, how to live by dying.

You have within you many strong and cruel enemies to overcome. You must know that there are still a thousand ties which you must break. No one can tell you what they are; only you can tell by looking at yourself and into your heart.

Johannes Tauler

Posted by amin at 4:44 PM

learn to recognize beauty

Seek not to discover the deficiencies and imperfections in works of art before you have learned to recognize and find beauty. This memorandum is based on my daily experience of observing that beauty goes unrecognized by the majority of people because they wish to play the critic before they have begun to be students. They are like schoolboys who are all clever enough to discover the weaknesses of the schoolmaster. Our vanity will not allow us to pass by with only an idle gaze, and our self-complacency wants to be flattered; therefore we seek to pass judgment. But just as it is easier to make a negative statement than a positive one, so imperfections are much more easy to observe and detect than perfection; and it takes less effort to judge others than it takes to improve ourselves.


Posted by amin at 4:38 PM

January 16, 2008

eternal beings

It’s not that I want to distinguish myself from the poor, when I walk around in better cloths that have always belonged to me, and when I insist on having somewhere to live. It’s just that I haven’t gotten as far as they have. I don’t have the courage to live that kind of life.

No, it’s not that I want to distinguish myself from them; but I would be overvaluing myself if I tried to be like them. I’m not. I have neither their strength nor their proportions. I eat three meals a day, and in between, my life doesn’t need any miracle to sustain it; but they exist on their own, almost like eternal beings. They stand on their daily corners, even in November, and don’t cry out when winter comes. The fog envelopes them and makes them indistinct and uncertain: they exist nevertheless. I went on a long journey, I got sick, many things went wrong in my life: but they didn’t die.

Rilke - The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge

Posted by amin at 12:36 AM

our task is endless

You are in the process of learning by means of philosophical inquiry how men should be, though you have not yet entered into any intimate, close, and indissoluble relationship with men. You will enter such relationships, and you will find that men are quite different from what is prescribed by your ethical theory. The nobler and better you are, the more painful this future experience is going to be. Do not allow yourself to be overcome by this pain; instead, overcome it through deeds. This pain has a purpose. It is part of the plan for improving the human race. It is womanish to stand there and complain about human corruption without lifting a finger to diminish it. It is unkind to censure men and to mock them bitterly without telling them how they can improve. Act! Act! That is what we are here for. Should we complain that others are not as perfect as we are, as long as we ourselves are only more perfect than they are? Isn’t our greater perfection precisely this calling we have received to work for the improvement of others. Let us rejoice over the prospect of the immense field that is ours to cultivate! Let us rejoice because we feel our own strength and because our task in endless!

Fichte - Lectures Concerning the Scholar's Vocation

Posted by amin at 12:32 AM

transform shame into honor

If it is hard to bear the world’s persecution, it is harder still to bear the responsibility for not having acted, to stand ashamed in eternity because you did not win the bold confidence that transforms shame into honor.


Posted by amin at 12:31 AM

the compensations of calamity

The compensations of calamity are made apparent to the understanding also, after long intervals of time. A fever, a mutilation, a cruel disappointment, a loss of wealth, a loss of friends, seems at the moment unpaid loss, and unpayable. But the sure years reveal the deep remedial force that underlies all facts. The death of a dear friend, wife, brother, lover, which seemed nothing but privation, somewhat later assumes the aspect of a guide or genius; for it commonly operates revolutions in our way of life, terminates an epoch of infancy or of youth which was waiting to be closed, breaks up a wonted occupation, or a household, or style of living, and allows the formation of new ones more friendly to the growth of character. It permits or constrains the formation of new acquaintances, and the reception of new influences that prove of the first importance to the next years; and the man or woman who would have remained a sunny garden-flower, with no room for its roots and too much sunshine for its head, by the falling of the walls and the neglect of the gardener, is made the banian of the forest, yielding shade and fruit to wide neighborhoods of men.

Emerson - Compensation

Posted by amin at 12:27 AM

the makers of systems

The fact was that Frithjof, who had a very positive nature, a good head for systems, and a broad back for dogmas, had read a little too much Heiberg, and had taken it all for gospel truth, never suspecting that the makers of systems are clever folk who fashion their systems from their books and not their books from their systems. It is a well-known fact that young people who have committed themselves to a system generally become great dogmatists, because of the praiseworthy affection youth often bears to what is finished and finite. And when you have become the possessor of the whole truth, it would be unpardonable to keep it for yourself alone and to allow less fortunate fellow creatures to go their own misguided way, instead of leading and instructing them, pruning away their wild shoots with loving severity, forcing them up against the wall with gentle coercion, and pointing out to them the lines along which they must grow, in order that they may sometime, when they have been formed into correct and artistic espaliers, thank you, even if tardily, for the trouble you have taken.

Jens Peter Jacobsen - Niels Lyhne

Posted by amin at 12:23 AM


Poetry: impossible pain and joy. A poignant touch, nostalgia. A joy which by reason of its unmixed purity hurts, a pain which by reason of its unmixed purity brings peace.

Simone Weil

Posted by amin at 12:19 AM

the greatest wisdom and folly

Every moment of our life belongs to the present only for a moment; then it belongs for ever to the past. Every evening we are poorer by a day. We would perhaps grow frantic at the sight of this ebbing away of our short span of time were we not secretly conscious in the profoundest depths of our being that we share in the inexhaustible well of eternity, out of which we can for ever draw new life and renewed time.

You could, to be sure, base on considerations of this kind a theory that the greatest wisdom consists in enjoying the present and making this enjoyment the goal of life, because the present is all that is real and everything else merely imaginary. But you could just as well call this mode of life the greatest folly: for that which in a moment ceases to exist, which vanishes as completely as a dream, cannot be worth any serious effort.

Schopenhauer - On The Vanity of Existence

Posted by amin at 12:16 AM

January 15, 2008


Those who take an official, business-like attitude towards other people’s sufferings, like judges, policemen, doctors, from force of habit, as time goes by, become callous to such a degree that they would be unable to treat their clients otherwise than formally even if they wanted to; in this respect they are no different from the peasant who slaughters sheep and calves in his backyard without noticing the blood. With this formal, heartless attitude towards the person, a judge needs only one thing to deprive an innocent man of all his property rights and sentence him to hard labor: time.

Chekhov - A Boring Story

Posted by amin at 11:15 AM

January 14, 2008

moderation and simplicity

The use and the application of art preserved it in its grandeur. As art was dedicated only to deities and reserved for the homeland’s holiest and most useful functions, and as moderation and simplicity dwelt in the houses of the citizens, so the artist was constrained neither to trifles or playthings nor by the limitations of the place or the lewdness of the owner; rather his work conformed to the proud concepts of the whole people.


Posted by amin at 12:25 AM

the infinite outlook

When a rich man goes driving at night on his carriage, he sees a small area better than the poor man who drives in the dark – but he does not see the stars. The lights prevent that. It is the same with all intellectual understanding. It sees well close at hand but takes away the infinite outlook.


Posted by amin at 12:24 AM

the love of real life

How sweet it was to love for once with the love of real life; for now he knew that nothing of what he had imagined to be love was real love, neither the turgid longing of the lonely youth, nor the passionate yearning of the dreamer, nor yet the nervous foreboding of the child. These were currents in the ocean of love, single reflections of its full light, fragments of love as the meteors rushing through space are splinters of a world--for that was love; a world complete in itself, fully rounded, vast, and orderly. It was no medley of confused sensations and moods rushing one upon another! Love was like nature, ever changing, ever renewing; no feeling died and no emotion withered without giving life to the seed of something still more perfect which was imbedded in it. Quietly, sanely, with full, deep breaths--it was good to love so and love with all his soul. The days fell bright and new-coined, down from heaven itself; they no longer followed one upon another as a matter of course like the hackneyed pictures in a peep show. Every one was a revelation. With each day that passed, he felt stronger, greater, and nobler. He had never known such strength and fullness of feeling; there were moments when he seemed to himself titanic, much more than man, so inexhaustible was the well spring of his soul, so broad-winged the tenderness that swelled his heart, so wondrous the sweep of his vision, so infinite the gentleness of his judgments.

Jens Peter Jacobsen - Niels Lyhne

Posted by amin at 12:19 AM


Man like the matter of which he is made, is naturally lazy and indolent. Hence the hard struggle between need and indolence begins. The former is the victor, but the later complains bitterly. By the sweat of his brow man cultivates his field, and he is angered when it also bears thorns and thistles which he has to uproot. Need is not the mother of vice; need is the impetus toward activity and virtue. The source of vice is laziness. To enjoy just as much pleasure as possible and to do just as little as possible: this is the concern of a corrupted nature. The various attempts to accomplish this constitute the vices of such a nature. There is no salvation for man until he successfully conquers his natural indolence and finds all of his joy and his pleasure in activity alone. This is the purpose served by all of that agony which accompanies the feeling of need. It should spur us into action.

Fichte - Lectures Concerning the Scholar's Vocation

Posted by amin at 12:16 AM

the martyr cannot be dishonored

The martyr cannot be dishonored. Every lash inflicted is a tongue of fame; every prison, a more illustrious abode; every burned book or house enlightens the world; every suppressed or expunged word reverberates through the earth from side to side. Hours of sanity and consideration are always arriving to communities, as to individuals, when the truth is seen, and the martyrs are justified.

Emerson - Compensation

Posted by amin at 12:13 AM

we are monads haunted by communion

It is the poet, the composer, the painter, it is the religious thinker and metaphysician when they give to their findings the persuasion of form, who instruct us that we are monads haunted by communion. They tell us of the irreducible weight of otherness, of enclosedness, in the texture and phenomenality of the material world. Only art can go some way towards making accessible, towards waking into some measure of communicability, the sheer inhuman otherness of matter. It is poetics, in the full sense, which inform us of the visitor’s visa in place and in time which defines our status as transients in a house of being whose foundations, whose future history, whose rationale – if any – lie wholly outside our will and comprehension.

George Steiner - Real Presences

Posted by amin at 12:11 AM

January 9, 2008

a laughing-stock

Outside, much has changed. I don’t know how. But inside and before you, Lord, inside before you, Spectator: aren’t we without action? We discover, indeed, that we don’t know our part; we look for a mirror; we want to rub off the make-up and remove everything that is artificial, and become real. But somewhere the piece of our disguise still sticks to us, which we forgot. A trace of exaggeration remains on our eyebrows; we don’t notice that the corners of our mouth are twisted. And this is how we go around, a laughing-stock and a half-truth: neither real beings nor actors.

Rilke - The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge

Posted by amin at 2:11 AM

beauty is recognized by reason

Beauty is experienced by the senses, but it is recognized and understood by reason, which in most cases renders, or should render, the senses less susceptible but more correct. As to form in general, the most numerous and the most civilized peoples in Europe, as well as those in Asia and Africa, invariably agree; hence, their conceptions of beauty are not to be regarded as arbitrarily adopted, even though we cannot give a reason for all of them.


Posted by amin at 2:09 AM

the heart in thee is the heart of all

You are preparing with eagerness to go and render a service to which your talent and your taste invite you, the love of men and the hope of fame. Has it not occurred to you, that you have no right to go, unless you are equally willing to be prevented from going? O, believe, as thou livest, that every sound that is spoken over the round world, which thou oughtest to hear, will vibrate on thine ear! Every proverb, every book, every byword that belongs to thee for aid or comfort, shall surely come home through open or winding passages. Every friend whom not thy fantastic will, but the great and tender heart in thee craveth, shall lock thee in his embrace. And this, because the heart in thee is the heart of all; not a valve, not a wall, not an intersection is there anywhere in nature, but one blood rolls uninterruptedly an endless circulation through all men, as the water of the globe is all one sea, and, truly seen, its tide is one.

Emerson - Compensation

Posted by amin at 2:05 AM

January 7, 2008

st julian hospitator

With his candle Julian set light to a bundle of bracken in the middle of the hut.
The Leper came near to warm himself. Squatting on his heels, he began trembling all over. His strength was flagging, his eyes had stopped shining, his sores were running, and in an almost inaudible voice he murmured: ‘Your bed!’
Julian tenderly helped him to drag himself to it, even spreading the sail of his boat over him to cover him.
The Leper lay there groaning. His teeth showed at the corners of his mouth, his chest heaved as his dying breath came more and more quickly, and at every gasp his belly was sucked in as far as his backbone.
Then he closed his eyes.
‘My bones are like ice. Come here beside me!’
And Julian, lifting the sail, lay down side by side with him on the dead leaves.
The Leper turned his head.
‘Take off your cloths so that I may feel the warmth of your body.’
Julian stripped, and then, naked as on the day he was born, he lay down on the bed again. And against his thigh he felt the Leper’s skin, colder than a snake and as rough as a file.
He spoke encouragingly to him, and the other gasped out in reply:
‘Ah, I am dying! Come closer and warm me! No, not with your hands, with your whole body!’
Julian stretched himself out on top of him, mouth to mouth, breast to breast.
Then the Leper clasped him in his arms. And all at once his eyes took on the brightness of the stars, his hair spread out like the rays of the sun, and the breath of his nostrils had the sweetness of roses. A cloud of incense rose from the hearth and the waves outside began to sing.
Meanwhile an abundance of delight, a superhuman joy swept like a flood into Julian’s soul as he lay there in a swoon. And the one whose arms still held him tight grew and grew, until his head and his feet touched the walls of the hut. The roof flew off, the heavens unfolded – and Julian rose towards the blue, face to face with Our Lord Jesus Christ, who bore him up to Heaven.

And that is the story of St Julian Hospitator, more or less as it is depicted on a stained-glass window in a church in my part of the world.

Gustave Flaubert - The Legend of St Julian Hospitator

Posted by amin at 6:30 PM

the thing really counts in life

What really counts in life is that at some time you have seen something, felt something which is so great, so matchless, that everything else is nothing by comparison, that even if you forgot everything you would never forget this.


Posted by amin at 6:29 PM

life’s examination

See to it that you take your life’s examination, obediently submitting to the final test, to be sacrificed. Don’t worry about the ill treatment that will be meted out to you by your contemporaries. No, see to it that you take your examination. If you take it, this is eternally and infinitely decisive. Maybe it will then happen, maybe not, that an individual in the next generation can be inspired by your life to be willing to take his life’s examination. There will happen to him what happened to you, and perhaps in thinking of you he will find some encouragement.


Posted by amin at 6:26 PM

conversations about art

“Generally…I don’t like these conversations about art!” she goes on nervously. “I really don’t! It has been trivialized enough, thank you!”
“Trivialized by whom?”
“Some have trivialized it by drunkenness, the newspapers by familiarity, clever people by philosophy.”
“Philosophy has nothing to do with it.”
“Yes, it has. If anybody starts philosophizing, it means he doesn’t understand.”

Chekhov - A Boring Story

Posted by amin at 6:24 PM

for the sake of truth

I frankly admit that I would like to use this position in which providence has placed me in order to disseminate a more manly way of thinking, a stronger sense of elevation and dignity, and a more intense desire to fulfill one’s vocation despite every danger. I would like to broadcast this in every direction, as far as the German language extends and even further if I could. This I would like to do, so that after you have left this place and have scattered in all directions I could know that I all those places you are scattered there will live men whose chosen friend is truth: men who will cling to truth in life and in death; men who provide a refuge for truth when all the world thrusts it out; men who will publicly defend the truth when it is slandered and maligned; men who will gladly suffer the cleverly concealed hatred of the great, the insipid smiles of the conceited, and the pitying shrugs of the narrow-minded – all for the sake of truth.

Fichte - Lectures Concerning the Scholar's Vocation

Posted by amin at 4:21 PM

star of a life’s goal

A person may well feel anguished and forsaken if on the whole enormous earth there is not one small place he can bless and wish well, someplace he can turn his heart toward when his heart insists on swelling, a place he can long for when longing insists on spreading its wings; but if he has the clear, steady star of a life’s goal shining overhead, then there is no night so lonely that he is entirely alone. But Niels Lyhne had no star. He didn’t know what to do with himself and his abilities. He did have talent, but he just couldn’t use it; he went around feeling like a painter without hands. How he envied the others, great and small, who, no matter where they reached in life, always found something to hold on to! Because he could not find anything to hold on to.

Jens Peter Jacobsen - Niels Lyhne

Posted by amin at 12:53 AM

the kingdom of truth

It is what I call eternity. The pious call it the kingdom of god. I say to myself: all we who ask too much and have a dimension too many could not contrive to live at all if there were not another air to breathe outside the air of this world, if there were not eternity at the back of time; and this is the kingdom of truth. The music of Mozart belongs there and the poetry of your great poets. The saints, too, belong there, who have worked wonders and suffered martyrdom and given a great example to men. But the image of every true act, the strength of every true feeling, belongs to eternity just as much, even though no one knows of it or sees it or records it or hands it down to posterity. In eternity there is no posterity.

Hesse - Steppenwolf

Posted by amin at 12:50 AM

suffering and obedience

Suffering seeks to turn a person inward. If this happens, the school of suffering begins. You will not in despair mount a resistance, or seek to drown yourself and forget the suffering in the world’s distractions, in amazing enterprises or in indifferent knowledge. Admittedly, suffering often comes from the outside, but it is not until you take the suffering into your inner being that the schooling begins.

Only when a person suffers and wills to learn from what he suffers does he come to know something about himself and about his relationship to God. This is the sign that he is being educated for eternity. Through suffering a person can come to know a great deal about the world – how deceitful and treacherous it is – but all this knowledge is not the schooling of suffering. No, just as we speak of a child being weaned from his mother’s breast, so also, in the most profound sense, a person must be weaned by suffering, weaned from the things of this world, from loving it and from being embittered by it, in order to learn from eternity. For this reason, the school of suffering consists in a dying to – a dying to the world and to yourself. And in this school the lessons are always quiet. Here the attention is not dispersed by many subjects. No, here only one thing, the essential thing, is needful. Only one thing is learned: obedience.

This is the key to finding rest in your suffering. There is only one way in which rest is to be found: to let God rule in everything. Whatever else you might come to learn only pertains to how God has willed to rule. But as soon as unrest begins, the cause for it is due to your unwillingness to obey, your unwillingness to surrender yourself to God.

Where there is suffering, but also obedience in suffering, then you are being educated for eternity. Then there will be no impatient hankering in your soul, no restlessness, neither of sin nor of sorrow. If you will but let it, suffering is the guardian angel who keeps you from slipping out into the fragmentariness of the world; the fragmentariness that seeks to rip apart the soul. And for this reason, suffering keeps you in school – this dangerous schooling – so that you may be properly educated for eternity.


Posted by amin at 12:49 AM

i only live to do thy will

I live only to do Thy will,
My lips move only in praise of Thee.
O Lord, whoever becomes aware of Thee
Casts out all else other than Thee.
O Lord, give me a heart
That I may pour it out in Thanksgiving.
Give me life
That I may spend it
In working for the salvation of the world.
O Lord, give me understanding
That I stray not from the path.
Give me light
To avoid pitfalls.
O Lord, give me eyes
Which see nothing but Thy glory.
Give me a mind
That finds delight in Thy service.
Give me a soul
Drunk in the wine of Thy wisdom.

Khawjah Abdullah Ansari

Posted by amin at 12:43 AM

January 6, 2008

the burden of truth

Talent alone can not make a writer. There must be a man behind the book; a personality which by birth and quality is pledged to the doctrines there set forth, and which exists to see and state things so, and not otherwise; holding things because they are things. If he can not rightly express himself to-day, the same things subsist and will open themselves to-morrow. There lies the burden on his mind,- the burden of truth to be declared,- more or less understood; and it constitutes his business and calling in the world to see those facts through, and to make them known. What signifies that he trips and stammers; that his voice is harsh or hissing; that his method or his tropes are inadequate? That message will find method and imagery, articulation and melody. Though he were dumb it would speak. If not,- if there be no such God's word in the man,- what care we how adroit, how fluent, how brilliant he is?

Emerson - Goethe; or, the Writer

Posted by amin at 12:32 AM

take this waltz

Now in Vienna there's ten pretty women
There's a shoulder where death comes to cry.
There's a lobby with nine hundred windows.
There's a tree where the doves go to die.
There's a piece that was torn from the morning,
And it hangs in the Gallery of Frost --
Ay, ay, ay, ay
Take this waltz, take this waltz,
Take this waltz with the clamp on its jaws.

I want you, I want you, I want you
On a chair with a dead magazine.
In the cave at the tip of the lily,
In some hallway where love's never been.
On a bed where the moon has been sweating,
In a cry filled with footsteps and sand --
Ay, ay, ay, ay
Take this waltz, take this waltz,
Take its broken waist in your hand.

This waltz, this waltz, this waltz, this waltz
With its very own breath
Of brandy and death,
Dragging its tail in the sea.

There's a concert hall in Vienna
Where your mouth had a thousand reviews.
There's a bar where the boys have stopped talking,
They've been sentenced to death by the blues.
Ah, but who is it climbs to your picture
With a garland of freshly cut tears?
Ay, ay, ay, ay
Take this waltz, take this waltz,
Take this waltz, it's been dying for years.

There's an attic where children are playing,
where I've got to lie down with you soon,
In a dream of Hungarian lanterns,
In the mist of some sweet afternoon.
And I'll see what you've chained to your sorrow,
All your sheep and your lilies of snow --
Ay, ay, ay, ay
Take this waltz, take this waltz,
With its "I'll never forget you, you know!"

And I'll dance with you in Vienna,
I'll be wearing a river's disguise.
The hyacinth wild on my shoulder,
My mouth on the dew of your thighs.
And I'll bury my soul in a scrapbook,
With the photographs there, and the moss.
And I'll yield to the flood of your beauty,
My cheap violin and my cross.
And you'll carry me down on your dancing
To the pools that you lift on your wrist --
O my love, O my love
Take this waltz, take this waltz,
It's yours now. It's all that there is.

Leonard Cohen

Posted by amin at 12:26 AM

i am a priest of truth

Here is an invigorating thought, one which elevates the soul and which each of us who is worthy of his vocation can have: “Within my special area the culture of my age and of future ages is entrusted to me. My labors will help determine the course of future generations and the history of the nations still to come. I am called to testify to the truth. My life and destiny do not matter at all, but infinitely much depends upon the results of my life. I am a priest of truth. I am in its pay, and thus I have committed my self to do, to risk, and to suffer anything for its sake. If I should be pursued and hated for the truth’s sake, or if I should die in its service, what more would I have done than what I simply had to do?”

Fichte - Lectures Concerning the Scholar's Vocation

Posted by amin at 12:22 AM

unity and simplicity

All beauty is enhanced by unity and simplicity, as is everything we say and do: for what is great in itself is enhanced when realized and presented with simplicity. It will not be narrowly constrained or lose any of its greatness if our mind can survey and measure it at a glance, contain and comprehend it in a single concept. Instead, it is just this conceivability that enables us to imagine it in its full greatness, and our spirit is expanded and at the same time elevated by comprehending it.

According to this conception, beauty should be like the purest water drawn from the source of a spring: the less taste it has, the healthier it is seen to be, because it is clear of all the foreign particles. Just as the state of happiness, that is, the absence of pain and the enjoyment of contentment, is the easiest one in nature, and the path to it is the straightest and can be maintained without trouble or cost, so also the idea of the highest beauty seems the simplest and the easiest, and it requires no philosophical knowledge of man, no investigation of the passions of the soul and their expression. Yet as human nature has no state midway between pain and pleasure, to cite Epicurus, and as the passions are the winds propelling our ship on the sea of life, by which the poet sets sail and the artist elevates himself, so pure beauty alone cannot be the only object of our consideration; we must also put it in a state of action and passion, which in art we understand by the word expression.


Posted by amin at 12:18 AM

January 5, 2008

art is a way of living

It must be immense, this silence, in which sounds and movements have room, and if one thinks that along with all this the presence of the distant sea also resounds, perhaps as the innermost note in this prehistoric harmony, then one can only wish that you are trustingly and patiently letting the magnificent solitude work upon you, this solitude which can no longer be erased from your life; which, in everything that is in store for you to experience and to do, will act as an anonymous influence, continuously and gently decisive, rather as the blood of our ancestors incessantly moves in us and combines with our own to form the unique, unrepeatable being that we are at every turning of our life.

Yes: I am glad you have that firm, sayable existence with you, that title, that uniform, that service, all that tangible and limited world, which in such surroundings, with such an isolated and not numerous body of men, takes on seriousness and necessity, and implies a vigilant application, above and beyond the frivolity and mere timepassing of the military profession, and not only permits a self-reliant attentiveness but actually cultivates it. And to be in circumstances that are working upon us, that from time to time place us in front of great natural Things - that is all we need.

Art too is just a way of living, and however one lives, one can, without knowing, prepare for it; in everything real one is closer to it, more its neighbor, than in the unreal half-artistic professions, which, while they pretend to be close to art, in practice deny and attack the existence of all art - as, for example, all of journalism does and almost all criticism and three quarters of what is called (and wants to be called) literature. I am glad, in a word, that you have overcome the danger of landing in one of those professions, and are solitary and courageous, somewhere in a rugged reality. May the coming year support and strengthen you in that.

Rilke - Letters To A Young Poet

Posted by amin at 2:45 AM

the dignity of being human

When a person is content with the dignity of being human, then he understands that his heavenly Father feeds him. This he learns from the birds of the air. He does not live like the tame birds in the house of the wealthy farmer, but in the house of him who is richer than everyone, for heaven and earth are the house and possession of God, and humankind is his guest.

A person must be content to be as he is; a dependent being, as little capable of sustaining himself as of creating himself. If we choose to forget God and look after our own sustenance, then we are overcome with anxiety. It is certainly praiseworthy and pleasing to God when a person works for his food. But if he forgets God, and thinks hat he himself is supporting himself, then he becomes burdened with the necessities of life. Let us not foolishly and small-mindedly say that the wealthy are spared this anxiety, while the poor are not. On the contrary, only he is spared who is content with being human and understands that his heavenly Father feeds him. And this is as possible for the wealthy as it is for the poor.


Posted by amin at 2:42 AM

the unwritten theology

Music and the metaphysical, in the root sense of that term, music and religious feeling, have been virtually inseparable. It is in and through music that we are most immediately in the presence of the logically, of the verbally inexpressible but wholly palpable energy in being that communicates to our senses and to our reflection what little we can grasp of the naked wonder of life. I take music to be the naming of the naming of life. This is, beyond any liturgical or theological specificity, a sacramental motion. Or, as Leibniz put it: ”music is a secret arithmetic of the soul unknowing of the fact that it is counting.”

What every human being whom music moves, to whom it is a life-giving energy, can say of it is platitudinous. Music means. It is brimful of meanings which will not translate into logical structures or verbal expression. In music form is content, content form.

Music brings to our daily lives an immediate encounter with a logic of sense other than that of reason. It is, precisely, the truest name we have for the logic at work in the springs of being that generate vital forms. Music has celebrated the mystery of intuitions of transcendence from the songs of Orpheus, counter-creative to death, to the Missa Solemnis, from Sschubert’s late piano sonatas to Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron and Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la fin du temps. Countless times, this celebration has had manifest relations to religion. But the core-relation far exceeds any specific religious motive or occasion. In ways so obvious as to make any statement a tired cliché, yet of a undefinable and tremendous nature, music puts our being as men and women in touch with that which transcends the sayable, which outstrips the analyzable. The meanings of the meaning of music transcend. It has long been, it continues to be, the unwritten theology of those who lack or reject any formal creed. Or to put it reciprocally: for many human beings, religion has been the music which they believe in.

George Steiner - Real Presences

Posted by amin at 2:37 AM

your personality grows with your knowledge

Your personality grows with your knowledge and is clarified and unified through it. To learn is as beautiful as to live. Do not be afraid to lose yourself in minds greater than your own! Do not sit brooding anxiously over your own individuality or shut yourself out from influences that draw you powerfully for fear that they may sweep you along and submerge your innermost pet peculiarities in their mighty surge! Never fear! The individuality that can be lost in the sifting and reshaping of a healthy development is only a flaw; it is a branch grown in the dark, which is distinctive only so long as it retains its sickly pallor. And it is by the sound growth in yourself that you must live. Only the sound can grow great.

Jens Peter Jacobsen - Niels Lyhne

Posted by amin at 2:06 AM

grieving is like vomiting

So long as you have an iota of self-love within you, no beloved would pay any attention to you. Neither would you be worthy of union nor would any beloved grant you admittance. One must become totally indifferent to the self and inimical to the world in order for the beloved to show his face. Now, our religion will not turn loose of a heart that has found stability until it brings it to God and divorces it from everything that is unsuitable. The Prophet said the reason you find no peace and constantly grieve is because grieving is like vomiting. So long as any of those original joys remain in your stomach you will not be given anything to eat. While a person is vomiting he cannot eat anything. When he has finished vomiting, then he can eat. You too must wait and suffer grief, for grieving is vomiting. After the vomiting is over, a joy will come that has no grief, a rose that has no thorns, a wine that causes no hangover.

Rumi - Fihi Ma Fih

Posted by amin at 2:01 AM

my existence is not in vain

My existence is not in vain and without any purpose. I am a necessary link in that great chain which began at that moment when man first became fully conscious of his own existence and stretches into eternity. All of these people have labored for my sake. All that were ever great, wise, or noble-those benefactors of the human race whose names I find recorded in world history, as well as the many more whose services have survived their names: I have reaped their harvest. Upon the earth on which they lived I tread in the footsteps of those who bring blessings upon all who follow them. Whenever I wish, I can assume that lofty task which they had set for themselves: the task of making our fellowmen ever wiser and happier. Where they had to stop, I can build further, I can bring nearer to completion that noble temple that they had to leave unfinished.

Fichte - Lectures Concerning the Scholar's Vocation

Posted by amin at 1:58 AM

the bourgeois

Now what we call “bourgeois,” when regarded as an element always to be found in human life, is nothing else than the search for a balance. It is the striving after a mean between the countless extremes and opposites that arise in human conduct. If we take any one of these coupled opposites, such as piety and profligacy, the analogy is immediately comprehensible. It is open to a man to give himself up wholly to spiritual views, to seeking after God, to the ideal of saintliness. On the other hand, he can equally give himself up entirely to the life of instinct, to the lusts of the flesh, and so direct all his efforts to the attainment of momentary pleasures. The one path leads to the saint, to the martyrdom of the spirit and surrender to God. The other path leads to the profligate, to the martyrdom of the flesh, the surrender to corruption. Now it is between the two, in the middle of the road, that the bourgeois seeks to walk. He will never surrender himself either to lust or to asceticism. He will never be a martyr or agree to his own destruction. On the contrary, his ideal is not to give up but to maintain his own identity. He strives neither for the saintly nor its opposite. The absolute is his abhorrence. He may be ready to serve God, but not by giving up the fleshpots. He is ready to be virtuous, but likes to be easy and comfortable in this world as well. In short, his aim is to make a home for himself between two extremes in a temperate zone without violent storms and tempests; and in this he succeeds though it be at the cost of that intensity of life and feeling which an extreme life affords. A man cannot live intensely except at the cost of the self. Now the bourgeois treasures nothing more highly than the self. And so at the cost of intensity he achieves his own preservation and security. His harvest is a quiet mind which he prefers to being possessed by God, as he does comfort to pleasure, convenience to liberty, and a pleasant temperature to that deathly inner consuming fire. The bourgeois is consequently by nature a creature of weak impulses, anxious, fearful of giving himself away and easy to rule. Therefore, he has substituted majority for power, law for force, and the polling booth for responsibility.

Hesse - Steppenwolf

Posted by amin at 1:49 AM

the eternal cause

Let a man learn to look for the permanent in the mutable and fleeting; let him learn to bear the disappearance of things he was wont to reverence without losing his reverence; let him learn that he is here, not to work but to be worked upon; and that, though abyss open under abyss, and opinion displace opinion, all are at last contained in the Eternal Cause:-
"If my bark sink, 'tis to another sea."

Emerson - Montaigne; Or, The Skeptic

Posted by amin at 1:44 AM

art is one's heart-blood

I do not believe in any other art than that which is forced out by the human need to open one's heart. All art - literature as well as music - must be generated from the blood of one's heart. Art is one's heart-blood.

Through my art I have tried to explain my life and its meanings. I have also intended to help others to clarify their lives.

Edvard Munch

Posted by amin at 1:27 AM

January 4, 2008

the presence of god

Beauty captivates the flesh in order to obtain permission to pass right to the soul.

A work of art has an author and yet, when it is perfect, it has something which is essentially anonymous about it. It imitates the anonymity of divine art. In the same way the beauty of the world proves there to be a God who is personal and impersonal at the same time, and is neither the one nor the other separately.

In everything which gives us the pure authentic feeling of beauty there is really the presence of God. There is, as it were, an incarnation of God in the world, and it is indicated by beauty. The beautiful is the experimental proof that the incarnation is possible. Hence all art of the highest order is religious in essence (That is what people have forgotten today). A Gregorian melody is as powerful as the death of a martyr.

Simone Weil

Posted by amin at 4:26 PM

January 3, 2008


In times past the speaking of epigrams at burials was a custom used to inspire in
mourners a sense of confidence and hope in the future.


(for Marc)

The child I was the child
Plays without ever thinking about
The unlit turnings of time

Never ending he plays for fun
He keeps safe his spring
His stream is a torrent

My pleasures were sheer delight
But I died when I was nine.


Pain is like a knife
That cuts into living flesh
And I suffered the agony of pain
Like the bird the shock of the arrow
Like the plant the heart of the desert
Like ice on the water

My heart suffered the wrongs
Of injustice and unhappiness
I lived in an unclean time
When some would find their pleasure
By forgetting their sons and brothers
Chance sealed me in its walls

But in my nights I dreamed only of the blue sky.


I could do anything I could do nothing
I could love anything but not enough.


Sky sea earth
Swamped over me

Man brought me to life again.


Here lies one who lived never doubting
That dawn is good at every age
When he died he thought of birth
For the sun was rising again.


I lived tired for myself and others
But I always wished to free my shoulders
And the shoulders of my poorest brothers
Of that burden we all bear that leads us to the grave
For my hopes sake I set my face against the dark.


Stop and remember the forest
The meadow brightest in the shining sun
Remember the faces without remorse or mist of tears

Mine faded away yours took its place
For this survival we alive remain
We crown the wish to last and to abide.


You have forgotten them those who put me to death
Those who feared only to lack my heart

I am in your every day as the light is there
Like a living man who is only warm on earth

Only my hope and my courage have remained
You utter my name and you breathe more freely

I had believed in you we are bountiful
We go our way and happiness burns the past

And our strength grows younger for all to see.

Paul Eluard

Posted by amin at 11:08 PM

the human being is spirit

The human being is essentially spirit. But what is spirit? Spirit is to be a self. But what is the self? In short, the self is a synthesis of the infinite and the finite, of the temporal and the eternal, of freedom and necessity. The self is the conscious unity of these factors, which relates itself to itself, whose task is to become itself. This, of course, can only be done in relationship to God, who holds the synthesis together.

When is despair completely eradicated? It occurs when the self, in relating to itself and in wanting to be itself, is grounded nakedly in the power that established it. In other words, when it is related openly to and dependently on God. To transcend despair is neither to become finite nor to become infinite but to become an individual in their synthesis, which God alone holds together. In so far as the self does not become itself in this way, it is not itself. And not to be oneself, as God created you, is despair.


Posted by amin at 10:51 PM

no one dreams of himself as empty-handed

People may differ, but in their dreams they do not differ; there they always attain the three or four things that they desire--it may be with more or less speed and completeness, but they always attain them in the end. No one seriously dreams of himself as empty-handed. Therefore no one ever discovers himself in his dreams or becomes conscious through them of his individuality. Our dreams tell nothing of how we are satisfied when we win the treasure, how we relinquish it when lost, how we feast on it while it is ours, where we turn when it is taken from us.

Jens Peter Jacobsen - Niels Lyhne

Posted by amin at 2:11 PM

the spanish main of life!

This living on at half speed in quiet waters, always in sight of land, seemed so paltry. Would that the storm and waves would come! If he only knew how, his sails should fly to the yards for a merry run over the Spanish Main of life! Farewell to the slowly dripping days, farewell to the pleasant little hours! Peace be with you, you dull moods that have to be furbished with poetry before you can shine, you lukewarm emotions that have to be clothed in warm dreams and yet freeze to death! May you go to your own place! I am headed for a coast where sentiments twine themselves like luxuriant vines around every fiber of the heart--a rank forest; for every vine that withers, twenty are in blossom; for each one that blossoms, a hundred are in bud.

Jens Peter Jacobsen - Niels Lyhne

Posted by amin at 2:08 PM

still and again

There is a great difference between still believing something and again believing it. Still to believe that the moon influences the plants betrays stupidity and superstition, but again to believe it displays philosophy and reflection.

George Lichtenberg

Posted by amin at 2:03 PM

January 1, 2008

the one thing that surpasses everything else

One is still so far away from being able to work at all times. Van Gogh could perhaps lose his composure, but behind it there was always his work; he could no longer lose that. And Rodin, when he’s not feeling well, is very close to his work, writes beautiful things on countless pieces of paper, reads Plato and follows him in his thought. But I have a feeling that this is not just the result of discipline or compulsion (otherwise it would be tiring, the way I have been tired from working in recent weeks); it is all joy; it is natural well-being in the one thing that surpasses everything else. Perhaps one has to have a clearer insight into the nature of one’s “task,” get a more tangible hold on it, recognize in it a hundred details. I believe I do feel what van Gogh must have felt at a certain juncture, and it is a strong and great feeling: that everything is yet to be done: everything. But this devotion to what is nearest, this is something I can’t do as yet, or only in my best moments, while it is at one’s worst moments that one really needs it. Van Gogh could paint an Interieur d’hopital, and in his most anxious days he painted the most disquieting objects. How else could he have survived. This is what has to be attained, and I have a feeling it can’t be forced. It must come out of insight, from pleasure, from no longer being able to postpone the work in view of all the many things that have to be done.

Rilke - Letters on Cezanne

Posted by amin at 3:57 PM

transcend above and below

The saints themselves have no need of glorification. They are glorified in and of themselves. If a lamp wants to be placed on high, it wants it for the sake of others, not for its own sake. Whether above or below, wherever it is, a lamp sheds light. It only wants its light to reach others. If the sun above in the sky were below, it would be the same sun but the world would remain in darkness. It is therefore above, not for its own sake, but for the sake of others. In short, the saints transcend “above” and “below” and the glorification of people.

Rumi - Fihi Ma Fih

Posted by amin at 3:45 PM