JAMES BOYER SMITH
Here then, already definitely established, we have indications of images, flying about everywhere, extremely fine in texture and individually invisible.
Lucretius, Sensation & Sex, c. 99 – c. 55 bc.
Ðu eart to heafodmen geset? Ne ahefe ðu ðe, ac beo betwux mannum swa swa an man of him.
So you are made a leader of men? Do not exalt yourself, but be as a man among them.
Ælfric, The Life of Saint Edmund, c.1000 c.e.
In fact, when I consider any social system that prevails in the modern world, I can’t, so help me God, see it as anything but a conspiracy of the rich to advance their own interests under the pretext of organizing society. They think up all sorts of tricks and dodges, first for keeping safe their ill-gotten gains, and then for exploiting the poor by buying their labour as cheaply as possible. Once the rich have decided that these tricks and dodges shall be officially recognized by society – which includes the poor as well as the rich – they acquire the force of law. Thus an unscrupulous minority is led by its insatiable greed to monopolise what would have been enough to supply the needs of the whole population.
Sir Thomas More, Utopia, 1516.
They owe their Greatness and wealth to Sodomy or Incest, others to the prostitution of their Wives and Daughters; Others to the betraying of their Country or their Prince; some to poisoning, more to the perverting of Justice to destroy the innocent: I hope I may be pardoned if these Discoveries inclined me a little to abate of that profound Veneration which I am naturally apt to pay to Persons of high rank, who ought to be treated with the utmost Respect due to their sublime dignity, by us their Inferiors.
Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, 1726.
The tree has entered my hands,
The sap has ascended my arms,
The tree has grown in my breast -
The branches grow out of me, like arms.
Tree you are,
Moss you are,
You are violets with wind above them.
A child - so high - you are,
And all this is folly to the world.
Ezra pound, A Girl, 1913.
I exist with equal ease in the abstract world of principle and in the concrete world of fact. As I can express myself equally well in either, I will stick to the latter here, as then I am more likely to be understood. So I will show you myself in action, manœuvering in the heart of the reality.
Wyndham Lewis, A Soldier of Humour, 1927.
A young man said to me:
I am interested in the problem of Reality.
I said: Really!
Then I saw him turn to glance, surreptitiously,
in the big mirror, at his own fascinating shadow.
D. H. Lawrence, Ultimate Reality, 1930.
He told me… that all men believed in God, even those who didn’t face up to Him. That was his belief, and if he should ever doubt it, his life would become meaningless. ‘Do you want my life to be meaningless?’ he cried. As far as I was concerned, it had nothing to do with me…
Albert Camus, L’Etranger, 1942.
All I ask is that, in the midst of a murderous world, we agree to reflect on murder and make a choice. After that, we can distinguish those who accept the consequences of being murderers themselves or the accomplices of murderers, and those who refuse to do so with all their force and being. Since this terrible dividing line does actually exist, it will be a gain if it be clearly marked. Over the expanse of five continents throughout the coming years an endless struggle is going to be pursued between violence and friendly persuasion, a struggle in which, granted, the former has a thousand times the chances of success than that of the latter. But I have always held that, if he who bases his hopes on human nature is a fool, he who gives up in the face of circumstances is a coward. And henceforth, the only honourable course will be to stake everything on a formidable gamble: that words are more powerful than munitions.
Albert Camus, Neither Victims nor Executioners, 1946.
I have walked by stalls in the market-place where books, dog-eared and faded from their purple, have burst with a white hosanna. I have seen people crowned with a double crown, holding in either hand the crook and flail, the power and the glory. I have understood how the scar becomes a star. I have felt the flake of fire fall, miraculous and pentecostal. My yesterdays walk with me.
William Golding, Freefall, 1959.
Wow, and blown over Chinese cemetery flowers in a San Francisco hill being hammered by a potatopatch fog on a march night I’d say nobody there but the rubber cat-
Anybody doesn’t like these pitchers dont like potry, see? Anybody dont like potry go home see Television shots of big hatted cowboys being tolerated by kind horses.
Robert Frank, Swiss, unobtrusive, nice, with that little camera that he raises and snaps with one hand he sucked a sad poem right out of America onto film, taking rank among the tragic poets of the world.
To Robert Frank I now give this message: You got eyes.
And I say: That little ole lonely elevator girl looking up sighing in an elevator full of blurred demons, what’s her name and address?
Jack Kerouac, Introduction to The Americans by Robert Frank, 1959.
i said to mehitabel
the cat i suppose you are
going to the swell cat
show i am not archy
she said i have as
much lineage as any
of those society
cats but i never could
see the conventional
social stuff archy
i am a lady
but i am bohemian
too archy i
live my own life
Don Marquis, archy’s life of mehitabel, 1961.
‘Luminous bliss.’ From the shallows of his mind the words rose like bubbles, came to the surface and vanished into the infinite spaces behind his closed eyelids. ‘Luminous bliss.’ That was as near as one could come to it. But it – this timeless and yet ever changing Event - was something that words could only caricature and diminish, never convey. It was not only bliss, it was also understanding. Understanding of everything, but without knowledge of anything. Knowledge involved a knower and all the infinite diversity of known and knowable things. But here, behind his closed lids, there was neither spectacle nor spectator. There was only this experienced fact of being blissfully one with oneness.
Aldous Huxley, Island, 1962.
Then, brothers, it came. Oh, bliss, bliss and heaven. I lay all nagoy to the ceiling, my gulliver on my rookers on the pillow, glazzies closed, rot open in bliss, slooshying the sluice of lovely sounds. Oh, it was georgeousness and georgeosity made flesh. The trombones crunched redgold under my bed, and behind my gulliver the trumpets threewise silverflamed, and there by the door the timps rolling through my guts and out again crunched like candy thunder. Oh, it was wonder of wonders. And then, a bird of like rarest spun heavenmetal, or like silvery wine flowing in a spaceship, gravity all nonsense now, came the violin solo above all the other strings, and those strings were like a cage of silk round my bed. Then flute and oboe bored, like worms of like platinum, into the thick thick toffee gold and silver. I was in such bliss, my brothers.
Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange, 1962.
Know Thy Enemy,
he does not care what colour you are,
provided you work for him;
he does not care how much you earn,
provided you earn more for him;
he does not care who lives in the room at the top,
provided he owns the building;
he will let you say whatever you want against him,
provided you do not act against him,
he sings the praises of humanity,
but knows machines cost more than men;
bargain against him - he laughs and beats you at it;
and he kills;
sooner than lose the things he owns,
he will destroy the world.
Christopher Logue, Know Thy Enemy, 1968.
The line is made up of an infinite number of points; the plane of an infinite number of lines; the volume of an infinite number of planes; the hypervolume of an infinite number of volumes... No, unquestionably this is not - more geometrico - the best way of beginning my story. To claim that is it true is nowadays the convention of every made-up story. Mine, however, is true.
Jorge Luis Borges, The Book of Sand, 1975.
A traveller is in the desert. He has lost his way. He has no water. And he is near death. Far off he sees a mountain. In the distance. Far away. Ice encapsulates its top and flows in freshets down its sides, and becomes springs and rivers. Cool, fresh water, redolent of trout. Clean, unpolluted, there for all to drink, to bathe in, to enjoy. And he knows it is a mirage. (Pause.) There is no mountain there. There is but desert. But he trudges on toward it in any case. (Pause.) Whom should we identify with in this story? (Pause.) How many thought the trout? It’s not the trout. It’s not the trout at all. We’ve all been down. We’ve all been at the end of our rope. We all know what it is to call on powers - and let’s pray that they exist - far greater than ourselves; to call out, “Lord. . . Lord, this world of yours sucks hippo dick, I just can’t hack it anymore.” And what answer was forthcoming? (Pause.) Exactly.
David Mamet, A Sermon, 1979.
But this is not a place of words. Each syllable as it comes out, is caught and filled with water and diffused. This is a place where bodies are their own signs. It is the home of Friday.
He turns and turns till he lies at full length, his face to my face. The skin is tight against his bones, his lips are drawn back. I pass a fingernail across his teeth , trying to find a way in.
His mouth opens. From inside him comes a slow stream, without breath, without interruption. It flows up through his body and out upon me; it passes through the cabin, through the wreck; washing the cliffs and shores of the island, it runs northward and southward to the ends of the earth. Soft and cold, dark and unending, it beats against my eyelids, against the skin of my face.
J. M. Coetzee, Foe, 1986.
But so successful was this venture that Magrathea itself soon became the richest planet of all time and the rest of the Galaxy was reduced to abject poverty. And so the system broke down, the Empire collapsed, and a long sullen silence settled over a billion hungry worlds, disturbed only by the pen scratchings of scholars as they laboured into the night over smug little treatises on the value of a planned political economy.
Magrathea itself disappeared and its memory soon passed into the obscurity of legend.
In these enlightened days of course, no one believes a word of it.
Excerpt from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Page 634784, Section 5a. Entry: Magrathea.
The world is like a ride in an amusement park. And when you choose to go on it, you think it's real because that's how powerful our minds are. And the ride goes up and down and round and round. It has thrills and chills and it's very brightly coloured and it's very loud and it's fun, for a while. Some people have been on the ride for a long time and they begin to question, is this real, or is this just a ride? And other people have remembered, and they come back to us, they say, "Hey, don't worry, don't be afraid, ever, because, this is just a ride..."
And we kill those people.
"Shut him up! We have a lot invested in this ride. Shut him up. Look at my furrows of worry. Look at my big bank account and my family. This just has to be real."
Just a ride. But we always kill those good guys who try and tell us that... And let the demons run amok. But it doesn't matter because: It's just a ride. And we can change it anytime we want. It's only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings and money. A choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love, instead, see all of us as one.
Bill Hicks, Live at the London Dominion Theatre, 1993.
The surf was high and I felt a combination of fear and eagerness as I took off my clothes and walked toward it. In the backlash of a huge wave I plunged in and let it suck me out to sea. Moments later I was hurtling back toward the beach on top of a long white breaker that carried me along like a torpedo. Then it spun me around like a dead fish and slammed me on to the sand so hard my back was raw for days afterward.
I kept it up as long as I could stand up, riding out with the riptide and waiting for the next big one to throw me back at the beach.
It was getting dark when I quit and the bugs were coming out, millions of diseased little gnats impossible to see. I felt a thick black taste in my mouth as I stumbled toward my car.
Hunter S. Thompson, The Rum Diary, 1998.
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