23 January 2019

A Fanatical Grievance

Eric Hoffer, The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements  (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1951):

Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. Thus people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance. A mass movement offers them unlimited opportunities for both.

An engraving after Charles Le Brun (1765), via The Met

18 January 2019

The Labors of Man That Are Great

Francis Jammes, "These Are the Labors," Selected Poems of Francis Jammes, tr. Barry Gifford and Bettina Dickie (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1976), pp. 56-57:
These are the labors...

These are the labors of man that are great:
he who puts milk in the wooden vessels,
he who gathers wheat-ears sharp and straight,
he who herds cattle near fresh alders,
he who bleeds birches in the forests,
he who twists willows near rushing brooks,
he who mends old shoes
near a dark hearth, an old mangy cat,
a sleeping blackbird and happy children;
he whose weaving makes a steady sound,
when at midnight the crickets sing shrilly;
he who bakes bread, he who makes wine,
he who sows garlic and cabbages in the garden,
he who gathers warm eggs.

François Bonvin, Nature morte à la bouilloire (1883)

Ce sont les travaux...

Ce sont les travaux de l'homme qui sont grands:
celui qui met le lait dans les vases de bois,
celui qui cueille les épis de blé piquants et droits,
celui qui garde les vaches près des aulnes frais,
celui qui fait saigner les bouleaux des forêts,
celui qui tord, près des ruisseaux vifs, les osiers,
celui qui raccommode les vieux souliers
près d'un foyer obscur, d'un vieux chat galeux,
d'un merle qui dort et des enfants heureux ;
celui qui tisse et fait un bruit retombant,
lorsque à minuit les grillons chantent aigrement ;
celui qui fait le pain, celui qui fait le vin,
celui qui sème l'ail et les choux au jardin,
celui qui recueille les oeufs tièdes.

17 January 2019


Jean-François Millet, L'Angélus (c. 1858)

A very faded reproduction of this painting used to hang over the bed where I slept in my grandmother's house. Knowing nothing of Millet, never mind the Angelus, I believed the two figures were praying over a dead child.

In university, years later, I learned that Salvador Dalí thought the same and had convinced the Louvre to have x-rays taken; they revealed the outline of a small coffin.

Not unrelated: The Happiest Thing I Know

8 January 2019

Upon a Maybe

William James, "Is Life Worth Living?" The Will to Believe (New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1903), p. 59:
Not a victory is gained, not a deed of faithfulness or courage is done, except upon a maybe; not a service, not a sally of generosity, not a scientific exploration or experiment or textbook, that may not be a mistake. It is only by risking our persons from one hour to another that we live at all. And often enough our faith beforehand in an uncertified result is the only thing that makes the result come true. Suppose, for instance, that you are climbing a mountain, and have worked yourself into a position from which the only escape is by a terrible leap. Have faith that you can successfully make it, and your feet are nerved to its accomplishment. But mistrust yourself, and think of all the sweet things you have heard the scientists say of maybes, and you will hesitate so long that, at last, all unstrung and trembling, and launching yourself in a moment of despair, you roll in the abyss. In such a case (and it belongs to an enormous class), the part of wisdom as well as of courage is to believe what is in the line of your needs, for only by such belief is the need fulfilled. Refuse to believe, and you shall indeed be right, for you shall irretrievably perish. But believe, and again you shall be right, for you shall save yourself. You make one or the other of two possible universes true by your trust or mistrust, — both universes having been only maybes, in this particular, before you contributed your act.
Carl Gustav Carus, Berggipfel in Wolken

3 January 2019

Old Acquaintance Should Be Forgot

Friedrich Nietzsche, Jest, Ruse and Revenge, a prelude to The Joyful Wisdom, tr. Thomas Common, in The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Vol. X (New York: Macmillan, 1924), p. 14:

A. Was I ill? and is it ended?
Pray, by what physician tended?
I recall no pain endured!

B. Now I know your trouble's ended:
He that can forget, is cured.

The original, from Alfred Kröner's edition of Nietzsche's works (Stuttgart, 1921), p. 16:

A. War ich krank? Bin ich genesen?
Und wer ist mein Arzt gewesen?
Wie vergaß ich alles Das!

B. Jetzt erst glaub' ich dich genesen:
Denn gesund ist, wer vergaß.

Dr. Nietzsche; he can cure what ails you.

Related posts:

Cf.  Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot?