« March 2008 | Main | May 2008 »

April 27, 2008

dread the loss of poverty

Do not flatter the rich for giving, nor blame them for withholding.
Dread the loss of poverty more than the rich man dreads the loss of wealth.

Posted by amin at 11:20 PM

experience, reflection, emotion

The poem, by displaying the interdependencies among experience, reflection, and emotion, awakens the reader to the principles of his own constitution, his own psychological organization. It puts his mind at ease-enlightens it-by holding up before it the laws by which it is governed.

Daniel Robinson - Toward A Science of Human Nature

Posted by amin at 11:17 PM

April 23, 2008

the outskirts of life

Those who are interested in overhearing what is said and watching what is done on the outskirts of life set an extraordinary value on the opportunity of communing with very old men, with the dying, and generally with men who are placed in exceptional conditions, above all when they are not afraid to speak the truth, and have by past experience developed in themselves the art and the courage-the former is as necessary as the latter-to look straight into the eyes of reality.

Lev Shestov

Posted by amin at 12:04 AM

April 21, 2008


Culture is, above all, unity of style in all the expressions of the life of a people. Much knowledge and learning is neither an essential means to culture nor a sign of it, and if needs be can get along very well with the opposite of culture, barbarism, which is lack of style or a chaotic jumble of all styles.

Nietzsche - David Strauss, the confessor and the writer

Posted by amin at 9:52 PM


The cultural philistine denies, secretes, stops his ears, averts his eyes, he is a negative being even in his hatred and hostility. The person he hates most of all, however, is him who treats him as a philistine and tells him what he is: a hindrance to the strong and creative, a labyrinth for all who doubt and go astray, a swamp to the feet of the weary, a fetter to all who would pursue lofty goals, a poisonous mist to new buds, a parching desert to the German spirit seeking and thirsting for new life. For it seeks, this German spirit! And you hate it because it seeks and refuses to believe you when you say you have already found what it is seeking. There has filed past us a whole line of great heroic figures whose every movement, every feature, whose questioning voice, whose burning eye, betrayed but one thing: that they were seekers, and that what they were seeking with such perseverance was precisely that which the cultural philistine fancied he already possessed: a genuine, original German culture. Is there a ground, they seemed to ask, so pure, so untouched, of such virginal holiness, that the German spirit may raise its house upon this ground and upon no other? Questioning thus, they made their way through the wilderness and thrones of wretched and meager ages, and as seekers they passed from our sight: so that one of them, speaking for all, could say in his old age; ‘I have toiled continually for half a century and allowed myself no rest, but have continually striven and sought and worked as well and as hard as I could.’

Nietzsche - David Strauss, the confessor and the writer

Posted by amin at 9:46 PM

April 19, 2008

all photography is exploitative

Diane Arbus? She's not an artist. Her work really is a voyeuristic freakshow. She wasn't an artist in my eyes. I guess her work is exploitative. You could say all photography is exploitative. Like I could take your image and do anything with it, that's exploitative. So the only thing you can do if you're an artist and you want to take photographs of people, is to take the photographs in such a good way that there's something else in them, there's like beauty or there's some kind of understanding. Then at least you've got something, that'll take your mind away from that exploitative element that is inherent in media. But with Diane Arbus it's just the exploitative thing. There's no visual ideas in them.

Richard Billingham

Posted by amin at 1:19 AM

April 18, 2008

the best gift of god

If one keeps on loving faithfully what is really worth loving, and does not waste one’s love on insignificant and unworthy and meaningless things, one will get more light by and by and grow stronger. Sometimes it is well to go into the world and converse with people, and at times one is obligated to do so, but he who would prefer to be quietly alone with his work, and who wants but very few friends, will go safest through the world and among people. And even in the most refined circles and with the best surroundings and circumstances, one must keep something of the original character of an anchorite, for otherwise one has no root in oneself; one must never let the fire go out in one’s soul; but keep it burning. And whoever chooses poverty for himself and loves it possesses a great reassure, and will always clearly hear the voice of his conscience; he who hears and obeys that voice, which is the best gift of God, finds at last a friend in it, and is never alone.

Van Gogh

Posted by amin at 11:00 PM

art is the result of one’s having been in danger

Surely all art is the result of one’s having been in danger, of having gone through an experience all the way to the end, to where no one can go any further. The further one goes, the more private, the more personal, the more singular an experience becomes, and the thing one is making is, finally, the necessary, irrepressible, and, as nearly as possible, definitive utterance of this singularity…Therein lies the enormous aid the work of art brings to the life of the one who must make it, -: that it is his epitome; the knot in the rosary at which his life recites a prayer, the ever-returning proof to himself of his unity and genuineness, which presents itself only to him while appearing anonymous to the outside, nameless, existing merely as necessity, as reality, as being -.

Rilke - Letters on Cezanne

Posted by amin at 10:42 PM

April 14, 2008

the handle

If a naked, hungry beggar has been taken from the cross-roads, brought into a building belonging to a beautiful establishment, fed, supplied with drink, and obliged to move a handle up and down, evidently, before discussing why he was taken, why he should move the handle, and whether the whole establishment is reasonably arranged - the beggar should first of all move the handle. If he moves the handle he will understand that it works a pump, that the pump draws water and that the water irrigates the garden beds; then he will be taken from the pumping station to another place where he will gather fruits and will enter into the joy of his master, and, passing from lower to higher work, will understand more and more of the arrangements of the establishment, and taking part in it will never think of asking why he is there, and will certainly not reproach the master.

So those who do his will, the simple, unlearned working folk, whom we regard as cattle, do not reproach the master; but we, the wise, eat the master's food but do not do what the master wishes, and instead of doing it sit in a circle and discuss: "Why should that handle be moved? Isn't it stupid?" So we have decided. We have decided that the master is stupid, or does not exist, and that we are wise, only we feel that we are quite useless and that we must somehow do away with ourselves.

Tolstoy - A Confession

Posted by amin at 1:25 AM

All men lie when they begin to speak

Truth exists only in order that men who are separated in time and space might establish between themselves some kind of communication at last. That is, a man must choose between absolute loneliness with truth, on the one side, and communion with his neighbors and falsehood, on the other.

All men lie when they begin to speak: our language is so imperfectly arranged that the principle of its arrangement presupposes a readiness to speak untruth. The more abstract the subject is, the more doe the disposition to lie increases, until, when we touch upon the most complicated questions, we have to lie incessantly, and the lie is the more intolerable an coarse the more sincere we are. For a sincere man is convinced that veracity is assured by the absence of contradictions, and in order to avoid all appearance of lie, he tries to make a logical agreement between his opinions: that is to raise his lie to Herculean heights.

Forgive him his lie, for he speaks it only with his lips. Let him say what he will, how he will; so long as we hear in his words the familiar note of the call to battle, and the fire of desperate inexorable resolution burns in his eyes, we will understand him. We are used to decipher hieroglyphs. But if he, lie the Germans of today, accepts truth and the norm as the final goal of human aspirations, we shall also know with whom we have to deal, were he by destiny endowed with the eloquence of Cicero. Better utter loneliness than communion with such a man. Yet such communion does not exclude utter loneliness; perhaps it even assists the hard achievement.

Lev Shestov

Posted by amin at 1:22 AM

at the gate of death

Choose a poem that finds you, as Coleridge says, and read it deeply and often, out loud to yourself and to others. Internalizing the poems of Shakespeare, Milton, Whitman will teach you to think more comprehensively than Plato can. We cannot all become philosophers, but we can follow the poets in their ancient quarrel with philosophy, which may be a way of life but whose study is death. I do not think that poetry offers a way of life (except for a handful like Shelley or Hart Crane); it is too large, too Homeric for that. At the gate of death, I have recited poems to myself, but not searched for an interlocutor to engage in dialectic.

Harold Bloom - Where Shall Wisdom Be Found?

Posted by amin at 1:20 AM

April 12, 2008


Sufism is not a system composed of rules or sciences but a moral disposition; i.e. if it were a rule, it could be made one’s own by strenuous exertion, and if it were a science, it could be acquired by instruction; but on the contrary it is a disposition, according to the saying, ‘Form yourselves on the moral nature of God’; and the moral nature of God cannot be attained either by means of rules or by means of sciences.

Posted by amin at 11:51 PM

philosophy and poetry

Philosophy has the advantage over poetry of being able to explain what it understands by wisdom. But poetry has the advantage over philosophy in that part of wisdom, and indeed, the regulative part, is poetic.

Stanley Rosen – The Quarrel Between Philosophy and Poetry

Posted by amin at 11:50 PM

aristotle's metaphysica

I read the Metaphysica of Aristotle, but did not understand its contents and was baffled by the author's intention; I read it over forty times, until I had the text by heart. Even then I did not understand it or what the author meant, and I despaired within myself, saying, “This is a book which there is no way of understanding.” But one day at noon I chanced to be in the booksellers’ quarter, and a broker was there with a volume in his hand which he was calling for sale. He offered it to me, but I returned it to him impatiently, believing that there was no use in this particular science. However he said to me, “Buy this book from me: it is cheap, and I will sell it to you for four dirhams. The owner is in need of the money.” So I bought it, and found that it was a book by Abu Nasr al-Farabi On the Objects of the Metaphysica. I returned home and hastened to read it; and at once the objects of that book became clear to me, for I had it all by heart. I rejoiced at this, and upon the next day distributed much in alms to the poor in gratitude to Almighty God.

Ibn Sina - Autobiography

Posted by amin at 11:47 PM

April 9, 2008

mr. mudd and mr. gold

Well, the wicked King of Clubs awoke; it was to his Queen he turned,
His lips were laughin' as they spoke; his eyes like bullets burned.
"The sun's upon a gamblin' day." His Queen smiled low and blissfully.
"Let's make some wretched fool to pay." Plain it was she did agree.

He sent his deuce down into diamond, his four to heart, and his trey to spade,
Three kings with their legions come and preparations soon were made.
They voted Club the day's commander. Give him an army, face, and number;
All but the outlaw Jack of Diamonds and the aces in the sky.

Well, he give his sevens first instruction: "Spirit me a game of stud
Stakes unscarred by limitation 'tween a man named Gold and a man named Mudd."
And Club filled Gold with greedy vapors 'till his long green eyes did glow.
Mudd was left with the sighs and trembles, watchin' his hard earned money go.

Flushes fell on Gold like water; tens they paired and paired again,
But the aces only flew through heaven and the diamo man friend.
The diamond Queen saw Mudd's ordeal; began to think of her long lost son,
Fell to her knees with a mother's mercy; Prayed to the angels, everyone.

The diamond queen, she prayed and prayed and the diamond angel filled Mudd's hole
Then the wicked King of Clubs himself fell face down in front of Gold.
Now three kings come to Club's command, but the angels from the sky did ride;
Three kings up on the streets of gold; three fireballs on the muddy side.

The club Queen heard her husband's call, but Lord, that Queen of Diamond's joy
When the outlaw in the heavenly hall turned out to be her wanderin' boy.
Now Mudd, he checked, and Gold bet all; Mudd he raised, and Gold did call
And his smile just melted off his face when Mudd turned over that Diamond Ace.

Now here's what this story's told: You feel like Mudd, you'll end up Gold;
Feel like lost, you'll end up found, so Amigo, lay them raises down.

Townes Van Zandt

Posted by amin at 12:08 AM

April 8, 2008

do not fasten upon contradictions

When you are listening to a friend or reading a book, do not assign great value to individual words or even to phrases. Forget separate thoughts, and give no great consideration even to logically arranged ideas. Remember that though your friend desires it, he cannot express himself save by ready-made forms of speech. Look well to the expression of his face, listen to the intonation of his voice-this will help you to penetrate through his words to his soul. Not only in conversation, but even in a written book, can one overhear the sound, even the timbre of the author’s voice, and notice the finest shades of expression in his eyes and face. Do not fasten upon contradictions, do not dispute, do not demand argument: only listen with attention.

Lev Shestov

Posted by amin at 10:40 PM

April 7, 2008

wing-footed wanderer

He only can create the greatest imaginable beauty who has endured all imaginable pangs, for only when we have seen and foreseen what we dread shall we be rewarded by that dazzling, unforeseen, wing-footed wanderer. We could not find him if he were not in some sense of our being, and yet of our own being but as water with fire, a noise with silence. He is of all things not impossible the most difficult, for that which comes easily can never be a portion of our being; soon got, soon gone, as the proverb says. I shall find the dark grown luminous, the void fruitful when I understand I have nothing, that the ringers in the tower have appointed for the hymen of the soul a passing bell.

W.B. Yeats

Posted by amin at 11:06 PM

April 6, 2008

be sincere with yourself

And yet there is no hiding place in the wide world where troubles may not find you, and there has never lived a man who was able to say more than you can say, that you do not know when sorrow will visit your house. So be sincere with yourself, fix your eyes upon Job; even though he terrifies you, it is not this he wishes, if you yourself do not wish it.


Posted by amin at 4:43 PM

the gospel of thomas

Whatever Gnosticism was, or is, it must clearly be an elitist phenomenon, an affair of intellectuals, or of mystical intellectuals. The Gospel of Thomas addresses itself only to a subtle elite, those capable of knowing, who then through knowing can come to see what Jesus insists is plainly visible before them, indeed all around them. This Jesus has not come to take away the sins of the world, or to atone for all humankind. As one who passes by, he urges his seekers to learn to be passerby, to cease hastening to the temporal death of business and busyness that the world miscalls life. It is the busy world of death-in-life that constitutes the whatness from which we are being freed by the Jesus of the Gospel of Thomas. There is no haste in this Jesus, no apocalyptic intensity. He does not teach the end time, but rather a transvaluation of time, in here of our moment.

Harold Bloom - Where Shall Wisdom Be Found?

Posted by amin at 4:38 PM

the bizarre being

Philosophy’s tonality is also tragic, because the bizarre being, the ‘philosopher,” is tortured and torn by the desire to attain this wisdom which escapes him, yet which he loves. Like Kierkegaard, the Christian who wanted to be a Christian but knew that only Christ is a Christian, the philosopher knows that he cannot reach his model and will never be entirely that which he desires. Plato thus establishes an insurmountable distance between philosophy and wisdom. Philosophy is defined by what it lacks-that is, by a transcendent norm which escapes it, yet which it nevertheless possess within itself in some way, as in the famous, and very platonic, words of Pascal: “You would not seek if you had not already found me.”

Pierre Hadot - What Is Ancient Philosophy?

Posted by amin at 4:31 PM

April 4, 2008

i saw tehura for the last time

As I left the quay, at the moment of going on board, I saw Tehura for the last time.
She had wept through many nights. Now she sat worn-out and sad, but calm, on a stone with her legs hanging down and her strong, lithe feet touching the soiled water.
The flower which she had put behind her ear in the morning had fallen wilted upon her knee.
Here and there were others like her, tired, silent, gloomy, watching without a thought the thick smoke of the ship which was bearing all of us-lovers of a day-far away, forever.
From the bridge of the ship as we were moving farther and farther away, it seemed to us that with the telescope we could still read on their lips these ancient Maori verses,

Ye gentle breezes of the south and east
That join in tender play above my head.
Hasten to the neighboring isle.
There you will find in the shadows of his favorite tree,
Him who has abandoned me.
Tell him that you have seen me weep.

Paul Gauguin - Noa Noa

Posted by amin at 1:42 AM

April 3, 2008

man must be ruined again!

Man must be ruined again! Every extraordinary man has a certain mission to accomplish. If he has fulfilled it, he is no longer needed upon the earth in the same form, and Providence uses him for something else. But as everything here below happens in a natural way, the daemons keep tripping him up till he falls at last.


Posted by amin at 10:37 AM

Sometimes Rachel came in so late at night that she could ask her former lover’s permission to lie down beside him until the morning. This was a great comfort to Robert, for it reminded him how intimately, after all, they had lived together, simply to see that even if he took the greater part of the bed for himself it did not in the least interfere with her sleep. He realized that she was more comfortable, lying close to his familiar body, than she would have been elsewhere, that she felt herself by his side-even in an hotel-to be in a bedroom known of old in which one has one’s habits, in which one sleeps better. He felt that his shoulders, his limbs, all of him, were for her, even when he was unduly restless from insomnia or thinking of the things he had to do, so entirely usual that they could not disturb her and that the perception of them added still further to her sense of repose.

Proust - In Search of Lost Time

Posted by amin at 10:33 AM

reasoning is the tongue of the angels

Reasoning is the tongue of the angels, who have no speech or utterance; reasoning belongs to them especially, which is perception without sensing and communication without words. Men’s relation to the world of Spirit is established by reasoning; speech follows after it. If a man possesses no knowledge of reasoning, he is incapable of expressing truth.

Ibn Sina - On Prayer

Posted by amin at 10:31 AM

April 1, 2008

true prayer

The true, inward part of prayer, which is unassociated with postures and divorced from all changes, is an abasement unto God through the rational soul, which knows and is aware of the Unicity of the True God. This kind of prayer has no reference to any direction, and is not in any way confounded with any physical element. It is an imploring of Absolute Being to perfect the soul through contemplation of Him, and to complete the worshiper’s felicity through the inner knowledge and apprehension of Him. The Intellectual Command and Holy Emanation descends from the Heavenly Void into the confines of the rational soul as a result of this prayer; this form of prayer is imposed without corporeal weariness or human imposition. Whoso prays after this fashion is delivered out of his physical faculties and natural vestiges, and climbs the intellectual steps until he beholds the mysteries of Eternity. It is to this that God refers in the words: Prayer fends off lewdness and evil. But your foremost duty is to remember God. God has knowledge of all your actions (Koran xxix. 44).

Ibn Sina - On Prayer

Posted by amin at 11:34 PM

the real nature of prayer

It is prayer which causes the human, rational soul to resemble the heavenly bodies, eternally worshiping Absolute Truth, and seeking the imperishable reward. The prophet of God declared, “Prayer is the foundation-stone of religion;” and religion is the purifying of the human soul of all devilish impurities and carnal suggestions, turned away from mean worldly interests. Prayer is the worship of the First Cause, the One Supreme and Mightiest Worshipful; adoration is to know Him Whose Being is Necessary. It needs not that we should interpret the text, ‘And jinns and men were not created save to worship me’ (Koran li. 56) as meaning, “to know Me.” For worship is knowledge, and to be aware of the existence of One Whose Being is Necessary and Absolute, being seized of His Being with a pure heart, a spirit undefiled, and a soul wholly devoted to Him. The real nature of prayer is therefore to know Almighty God in His Uniqueness, as a Being wholly Necessary, Whose Essence is infinitely exalted and Whose Qualities are infinitely holy, with habits of sincerely in prayer; by which sincerity I mean, that one should know the Qualities of God in such a manner that there remains no opening to a multiplicity of gods, no intends to join others to His worship.

Ibn Sina - On Prayer

Posted by amin at 11:30 PM