quotes + excerpts

“If people injure you grieve not
Because neither rest nor grief come from the people.
Be aware that the contrasts of friend and foe are from God
Because the hearts of both are in His keeping.
Although the arrow is shot from the bow
Wise men look at the archer.”

— Sa’adi, The Gulistan (Rose Garden)

“Severity and mildness together are best
Like a bleeder who is a surgeon and also applies a salve.
A wise man uses neither severity to excess
Nor mildness; for it lessens his authority.
He neither exalts himself too much
Nor exposes himself at once to contempt.

A youth said to his father: ‘O wise man,
Give me for instruction one advice like an aged person.’
He said: ‘Be kind but not to such a degree
That a sharp-toothed wolf may become audacious.’”

— Sa’adi, The Gulistan (Rose Garden)

“We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn’t, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares.

But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell’s dark vision, there was another – slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us.

This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.”

— Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death

“You can say anything you want, yessir, but it’s the words that sing, they soar and descend ….. I bow to them .. l love them, I cling to them, I run them down, I bite into them, I melt them down ….. I love words so much ….. The unexpected ones ….. The ones I wait for greedily or stalk until, suddenly, they drop ….. Vowels I love ….. They glitter like colored stones, they leap like silver fish, they are foam, thread, metal, dew ….. I run after certain words… They are so beautiful that I want to fit them all into my poem ….. I catch them in mid-flight, as they buzz past, I trap them, clean them, peel them, I set myself in front of the dish, they have a crystalline texture to me, vibrant, ivory, vegetable, oily, like fruit, like algae, like agates, like olives ….. And then I stir them, I shake them, I drink them, I gulp them down, I mash them, I garnish them, I let them go ….. I leave them in my poem like stalactites, like slivers of polished wood, like coals, pickings from a shipwreck, gifts from the waves ….. Everything exists in the word …”

— Pablo Neruda