Jan 162013
 

Prowling the meanings of a word, prowling the history of a person, no use expecting a flood of light. Human words have no main switch. But all those little kidnaps in the dark. And then the luminous, big, shivering, discandied, unrepentant, barking web of them that hangs in your mind when you turn back to the page you were trying to translate.

-from Nox

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Jan 022013
 

King Antigonus had not for a long time seen Cleanthes, the philosopher, said to him, “Do you still, Cleanthes, continue to grind?” “Yes, sir,” replied Cleanthes, “I still grind, and that I do to gain my living, and not to depart from philosophy.” How great and generous was the courage of this man, who, coming from the mill and the kneading-trough, did with the same hand which had been employed in turning the stone and moulding the dough, write of the nature of the gods, moon, stars, and sun.

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Dec 182012
 

Work is what we do by the hour. It begins and, if possible, we do it for money. Welding car bodies on an assembly line is work; washing dishes, computing taxes, walking the rounds in a psychiatric ward, picking asparagus–these are work. Labor, on the other hand, sets its own pace. We may get paid for it, but it’s harder to quantify… Writing a poem, raising a child, developing a new calculus, resolving a neurosis, invention in all forms — these are labors.

Work is an intended activity that is accomplished through the will. A labor can be intended but only to the extent of doing the groundwork, or of not doing things that would clearly prevent the labor. Beyond that, labor has its own schedule.

There is no technology, no time-saving device that can alter the rhythms of creative labor. When the worth of labor is expressed in terms of exchange value, therefore, creativity is automatically devalued every time there is an advance in the technology of work.

-From The Gift

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Dec 182012
 

“Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.” — A Man Without a Country

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Nov 222012
 

Unlike Mitt, I loathe Sesame Street. It bears primary responsibility for what the Canadian blogger Binky calls the de-monsterization of childhood – the idea that there are no evil monsters out there at the edges of the map, just shaggy creatures who look a little funny and can sometimes be a bit grouchy about it because people prejudge them until they learn to celebrate diversity and help Cranky the Friendly Monster go recycling. That is not unrelated to the infantilization of our society. Marinate three generations of Americans in that pabulum, and it’s no surprise you wind up with unprotected diplomats dragged to their deaths from their “safe house” in Benghazi. Or as J. Scott Gration, the president’s Special Envoy to Sudan, said in 2009, in the most explicit Sesamization of American foreign policy: “We’ve got to think about giving out cookies. Kids, countries – they react to gold stars, smiley faces, handshakes.” The butchers of Darfur aren’t blood-drenched machete-wielding genocidal killers but just Cookie Monsters whom we haven’t given enough cookies. I’m not saying there’s a direct line between Bert & Ernie and Barack & Hillary … well, actually, I am.

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