A Theme

"The more one thus follows his life, the more apparent it becomes that alongside the thread of achievement running through it runs another thread, as dark as the other is bright, and as fraught with consequences for history: a hunger for power in its most naked form, for power not to improve the lives of others, but to manipulate and dominate them, to bend them to his will. For the more one learns — from his family, his childhood playmates, his college classmates, his first assistants, his congressional colleagues — about Lyndon Johnson, the more it becomes apparent not only that this hunger was a constant throughout his life but that it was a hunger so fierce and consuming that no consideration of morality or ethics, no cost to himself — or to anyone else — could stand before it."

Robert Caro, The Years of Lyndon Johnson, xix

Age, Pain, Meaning

"As your perspective of the world increases not only is the pain it inflicts on you less but also its meaning.

[…]

Throughout our childhood and teenage years, we strive to attain the correct distance to objects and phenomena. We read, we learn, we experience, we make adjustments. Then one day we reach the point where all the necessary distances have been set, all the necessary systems have been put into place. That is when time begins to pick up speed. It no longer meets any obstacles, everything is set, time races through our lives, the days pass by in a flash and before we know what is happening we are forty, fifty, sixty. “

Karl Ove Knausgaard, “My Struggle” 

Living Provisionally

The near future had made up its mind to mince me into sausage-meat. What was I to do in the meanwhile? Read books? File the rough corners off my character? Earn money? I was sitting in a great waiting-room, and its name was Europe. The train was due to leave in a week. I knew that. But no one could tell me where it was going or what would become of me. And now we are again seated in the waiting-room, and again its name is Europe! And again we do not know what will happen. We live provisionally, the crisis goes on without end!”

Erich Kästner, Going to the Dogs, tr. Cyrus Brooks

For the New Year

276

For the new year —  I still live, I still think: I still have to live, for I still have to think. Sum, ergo cogito, cogito, ergo sum. Today everybody permits himself the expression of his wish and his dearest thought; hence I, too, shall say what it is that I wish from myself today, and what was the first thought to run across my heart this year — what thought shall be for me the reason, warranty, and sweetness of my life henceforth! I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse. Looking away shall be my only negation. And all in all and on the whole: some day I wish to be only a Yes-sayer. 

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, tr. Walter Kaufmann. 

Know Then

Know then that art is: the means by which singular, solitary individuals fulfill themselves. What Napoleon was outwardly, every artist is inwardly. One climbs higher with each victory, as if with each new tread of a stair. But did Napolean ever win a battle to please the public?

Know then that art is: a path toward freedom. We have all been born in chains. A few forget their chains: they have them silver-plated or gilded. But we want to rend them; not through ugly and brute force; our desire is to grow out of them.

Know then that the artist creates for himself — only for himself. What for you becomes laughter or weeping, he must shape with the hands of a wrestler and raise it up out of himself. In him there is no room for his past; and so he gives it a separate, independent existence in works of art.

Rainer Marie Rilke The Florence Diary trans. Edward Snow