Sunday, May 16, 2010

Quotes to remember

It is the deep conviction of vast numbers of individuals that they have no proper story. Their personal experience of storylessness, and hence of valuelessness, is very great. Dramatic resolutions are lacking — loves, no one believes in; flights, captivities, wilderness campaigns, the founding of colonies, explorations, the adventures which for centuries were made possible by an expanding world, all these are absent. Nevertheless people still conceive of themselves as actors and characters. They are prepared but they are not called into action. They feel like unemployed extras; they stand ready and have nothing to do but bear passive, humiliating witness to the greater significance of the new man-made world. Joyce meant to say, I think, that there is remaining significance in myth which sustains the individual. The collective life of mankind he does not admire. History, he agrees with Marx, is a nightmare from which we struggle to awaken. But myth, an extract from the experience of the race, can, he feels, give meaning to the life of the individual and sustain him invisibly. Art — the fresh feeling, new harmony, the transforming magic which by means of myth brings back the scattered distracted soul from its modern chaos — art, not politics, is the remedy.

— Saul Bellow, in "Writers" by Nancy Crampton, dated 1973

All government, in its essence, is a conspiracy against the superior man: its one permanent object is to oppress him and cripple him. If it be aristocratic in organization, then it seeks to protect the man who is superior only in law against the man who is superior in fact; if it be democratic, then it seeks to protect the man who is inferior in every way against both. One of its primary functions is to regiment men by force, to make them as much alike as possible and as dependent upon one another as possible, to search out and combat originality among them. All it can see in an original idea is potential change, and hence an invasion of its prerogatives. The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. And even if he is not romantic personally he is very apt to spread discontent among those who are.
— H. L. Mencken, Smart Set, December 1919

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