A civilisation is a heritage of beliefs, customs, and knowledge slowly accumulated in the course of centuries, elements difficult at times to justify by logic, but justifying themselves as paths when they lead somewhere, since they open up for man his inner distance.
After all the great endeavours, all the crossing and recrossing of oceans and continents, all the battles and victories and strivings, adventure at last was a voyage of a few miles up an English river…
I think my mom is manic, but Chinese people don’t believe in psychologists. We just drink more tea when things go bad. Sometimes I agree; I think we’re all overdiagnosed. Maybe that’s just how we are, and people should leave us alone. My mom was entertaining! If you met my family, you’d prescribe Xanax for all of them, but then what? We’d be boring.
When the body sinks into death, the essence of man is revealed. Man is a knot, a web, a mesh into which relationships are tied. Only those relationships matter. The body is an old crock that nobody will miss. I have never known a man to think of himself when dying. Never.
‘Never love a wild thing, Mr Bell,’ Holly advised him. ‘That was doc’s mistake. He was always lugging home wild things. A hawk with a hurt wing. One time it was a full-grown bobcat with a broken leg. But you can’t give your heart to a wild thing: the more you do, the stronger they get. Until they’re strong enough to run into the woods. Or fly into a tree. Then a taller tree. Then the sky. That’s how you’ll end up, Mr Bell. If you let yourself love a wild thing. You’ll end up looking at the sky.’
A somewhat Machiavellian argument for the freedom of conscience from the 18th century. 🙂
It is useless to claim that it is not in the prince’s interest to permit several religions coexist in his realm. If every sect in the world assembled there together, it would in no way harm the prince, because there is not a single religion that does not prescribe obedience, and preach submission.
Man’s spirit is not concerned with object; that is the business of our analytical faculties. Man’s spirit is concerned with the significance that relates objects to one another. With their totality, which only the piercing eye of the spirit can perceive. The spirit, meanwhile, alternates between total vision and absolute blindness.
Here is a man, for example, who loves his farm – but there are moments when he sees in it only a collection of unrelated objects. Here is a man who loves his wife – but there are moments when he sees in love nothing but burdens, hindrances, constraints. Here is a man who loves music – but there are moments when it cannot reach him.
What we call a nation is certainly not the sum of the regions, customs, cities, farms, and the rest that man’s intelligence is able at any moment to add up. It is a Being. But there are moments when I find myself blind to beings – even to the being called France.
“You know what the fellow said – in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”
(Graham Greene: The Third Man)
«En los treinta años que estuvieron los Borgia en Italia hubo guerra, terror, asesinato y derramamiento de sangre —le explica—. Pero de ahí salieron Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci y el Renacimiento. En Suiza tenían amor fraternal, quinientos años de paz y democracia. Y, ¿qué salió de todo eso? El reloj de cuco».
El problema no es que alguien con poder sobre vidas y economías mienta. Todos lo hacen, tarde o temprano. El problema, grave, es cuando a demasiada gente no le importa en absoluto que les mientan.
(Arturo Pérez-Reverte, @perezreverte 11 mayo 2020, Twitter)
The problem is not that someone who has power over lives and economies lies. They all do it, sooner or later. The problem, serious, arises when too many people don’t give a toss about the fact that they are being lied to.
This war, in which I played so ineffectual a part, has left me with memories that are mostly evil, and yet I do not wish that I had missed it. When you have has a glimpse of such disaster as this – and however it ends the Spanish war will turn out to have been an appalling disaster, quite apart from the slaughter and physical suffering – the result is not necessarily disillusionment and cynicism.
Curiously enough, the whole experience has left me with not less but more belief in the decency of human beings.
(George Orwell: Homage to Catalonia)
Esta guerra, en la que desempeñé un papel tan ineficaz, me ha dejado recuerdos en su mayoría funestos, pero aun así no hubiera querido perdérmela. Cuando se ha podido atisbar un desastre como éste -y, cualquiera que sea el resultado, la guerra española habrá sido un espantoso desastre, aun sin considerar las matanzas y el sufrimiento físico-, el saldo no es necesariamente desilusión y cinismo.
Por curioso que parezca; toda esta experiencia no ha socavado mi fe en la decencia de los seres humanos, sino que, por el contrario, la ha fortalecido.
Only he can understand what a farm is, what a country is, who shall have sacrificed part of himself to his farm or country, fought to save it, struggled to make it beautiful. Only then will the love of farm or country fill his heart.
Sólo comprenderá lo que es un dominio aquel que le haya sacrificado una parte de sí mismo, aquel que haya luchado para salvarlo, y penado por embellecerlo. Entonces vendrá a él el amor del dominio.
(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Flight to Arras / Piloto de guerra)
The eggs had already been eaten, shells and all. Now Captain Michales with a blow from his fist, smashed the pottery egg-cups, and distributed them to his guests to eat. Bertódolus was terrified, took his piece and clung breathless to a cask. With goggling eyes he watched the Cretans at his feet bit their bits of clay and chew them until they became sand and grit, which they swallowed with a snigger.
There are three sorts of men, Bertódolus slowly explained to himself: those who eat eggs without the shells; those who eat eggs with the shells; and those who gobble them up with the shell and the egg-cups as well. Those of the third kind are called Cretans.
(Nikos Kazantzakis: Freedom and Death)
Image Credit: Kazantzakis Museum via Wikimedia Commons CC BY 3.0
…when I see men that creep about over an atom, the earth, which is simply a dot in the universe, propose themselves as models of Providence, I do not know how to reconcile such extravagance with such insignificance.
There is a cheap literature that speaks to us of the need of escape. It is true that when we travel we are in search of distance. But distance is not to be found. It melts away. And escape has never led anywhere. The moment a man finds that he must play the races, go the Arctic, or make war in order to feel himself alive, that man has begun to spin the strands that bind him to other men and to the world. But what wretched strands! A civilisation that is really strong fills man to the brim, though he never stir. What are we worth when motionless, is the question.
Hay una mala literatura que nos ha hablado de la necesidad de evasión. Por supuesto, uno emprende viaje en busca de extensión; pero la extensión no se encuentra, se funda; y la evasión nunca lleva a ninguna parte.
Cuando el hombre, para sentirse hombre, tiene necesidad de correr carreras, de cantar en coro, de hacer la guerra, se impone lazos para anudarse al otro y al mundo. ¡Pero qué pobres lazos! Si una civilización es grande, colma al hombre, aunque éste permanezca inmóvil.
En este pueblecito silencioso, bajo el gris de un día de lluvia, diviso una inválida recluida que medita junto a su ventana. ¿Quién es? ¿Qué han hecho de ella? Yo juzgaría la civilización del pueblecito por la densidad de esta presencia. ¿Qué valemos, una vez inmóviles?
(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Flight to Arras/ Piloto de guerra)