by James Ellroy
(Windmill Books, Penguin Random House, 2014)
(Registered Alien is a bibliomaniac.)
The Lost Book of the Grail
by Charlie Lovett
(Alma Books, Surrey, 2017)
He rode to the third floor of the humanities building in a lift that somehow managed to seem simultaneously sterile and unsanitary.
We teach a seminar in this department called ‘Anagnorisis in the Existential Hogwarts’, but we do not teach a seminar on Shakespeare.
The library smelt substantial; it smelt of both life and death.
He didn’t feel God in the library, but he felt something beyond himself.
Unlike paper, vellum was extremely difficult to tear.
Truth is not as simple as I supposed.
The purpose of a library is to disseminate information.
A book that no one wants to read today may be essential for someone in the future. So we save them, we protect them.
Libraries exist for the active sharing of information.
Libraries exist to preserve culture.
Books are safe online.
Text is text, but that’s not the same as saying books are books whether physical or digital.
A library is like an art museum where you’re allowed to touch the paintings and embrace the sculpture, run your fingers across every brushstroke and chisel mark.
The smell of a book can tell you more than you think.
The computer made it easy to find what you were looking for, but I never knew what I was looking for. The card catalogue had given me serendipity.
Her vision of the future depressed him, but he admired her ability to make her case.
“The gifts of God are rarely what we expect.”
You like talking to me. It allows you to be righteously indignant, and that’s your favourite state of being.
There is a difference between the blush of anger and the blush of affection.
It’s a true friend who sacrifices his dignity for the amusement of his walking companion.
Reading without books … was like playing cricket without dressing in white. It could be done, but why?
“Oh, my Lord in heaven.”
“Please don’t take the Lord’s name in vain.”
“I didn’t take his name in vain - only his address.”
The wonder of Barchester Cathedral to Arthur was the way it connected him to a thousand years of the past.
In his unbelief, he thought much more about the political and artistic history of the cathedral than about the fact that, for more than a millennium, people of faith had poured forth that faith on this spot. Tonight, Arthur felt as if he were swimming in a pool of that ancient belief.
A single parchment could so easily be lost or destroyed, but a book even an ancient and tattered book, was a thing of value.
Symbolism, in my opinion, is overrated.
Arthur opened to his bookmark, pressed his nose into the book and inhaled deeply.
“Just because I don’t believe in God doesn’t mean that I don’t want to.”
The Grail is about faith.
How the hell could she do this? Make him be in love with her one moment and infuriate himt he next.
Arthur had never imagined that guilt and relief could be so intertwined.
Love, he thought, was a mist inconvenient emotion.
A guy doesn’t take a girl for a walk in the countryside and then to a romantic old ruin, and then to the top of a crumbling wall, unless he has something pretty important to say.
Doubt is what makes belief and love gritty and dirty and complicated and worthwhile and life-changing.
“Faith doesn’t replace reason … Faith begins where reason leaves off.”
He doubted the nature of the Eucharist, but he also respected it. He was deeply moved by what it meant to those around him.
There was so much to say that Arthur found it easier to say nothing.
Some people are just wired to need proof.
Coming to the end of a journey, he thought, was a funny thing. You never knew when the end might come or how it might affect you.
I think about her sometimes and wonder if I chose well, but I’ve lived with my choice, and that’s enough.
Dangers come from unexpected places.
Thursday, June 8, 2017.
This book is the quarterly catalog from "Ogawa Tosho," the Ogawa Bookstore on Yasukuni dori in Tokyo's famous Jimbocho Booktown. It is a full-on antiquarian bookstore. It's a very small shop, but most of its business is done privately, to rich collectors who peruse this catalog that is printed and distributed four times a year and then purchase through representatives without actually visiting the store. I've bought a few things from the shop over the years - usually cheap liquidation stock from bins on the sidewalk in front of the store. But once I bought something that had to be shipped to my home by parcel delivery - a beautiful, illustrated six-volume Bible (in Spanish) that weighed a ton. Since then the store has had my name and address on record and it regularly sends me its catalog. The highest-priced item in its inventory is about a half million dollars.
Used books are the most dangerous kind there are. Because they have no permanent owners they roam the world uncontrolled, passing irregularly from one person to another spreading ideas. They are unpredictable. They are dissident. They are like me. I love them.
Edge of Eternity
by Ken Follett
(London, Pan Books, 2014)
It would be like checking herself into a lunatic asylum and pretending all the other inmates were sane.
Marriage is a promise. You can’t keep a promise only when it suits you. You have to keep it against your inclination. That’s what it means.
Communists were as conservative about art as Victorian matrons.
She watched the emotions ross his face: men were easy to read.
He had the look of a man desperately trying to think of a story and failing to come up with something that would meet all the facts.
Typing was as unique as handwriting. Every machine had its own characteristics. The letters were never perfectly aligned: some were a little raised, some off centre. Individual letters became worn or damaged in distinctive ways. In consequence, police experts could match a typewriter to its product.
Liberalization proceeded by two steps forward and one back.
A man hates the person he has wronged, paradoxically, I think it’s because the victim is a perpetual reminder that the behaved shamefully.
Moral rules must be obeyed when it doesn’t suit us. Otherwise, why would we need rules?
No one’s an angel - especially if he’s a man.
Women listen. Men talk.
Gorky Park was an oasis in the desert of earnest Communism, a place Muscovites could go simply to have fun. People put on their best clothes, bought ice cream and candy, flirted with strangers and kissed in the bushes.
Communism was supposed to be a joyous crusade to make a better world. Sometimes the Soviet Union was more like a medieval monastery where everyone had taken vows of poverty and obedience.
What Cuba really needed as to be left alone.
The unwritten rule was that ex-presidents did not attack their successors.
Jack Kennedy had won by calling Eisenhower weak and inventing a non-existent ‘missile gap’ in the Soviets’ favour.
In politics, everything was connected.
Medical details were of great interest to many women.
Old men who did not know when to quit were a major problem in the Soviet Union.
The Americans did not know it, but the Soviet Union had few nuclear weapons, nowhere near the numbers the US had. The Soviets could hurt the Americans, yes, but het Americans could wipe the Soviet Union off the face of the earth.
The greater their ignorance, the stronger their opinions.
In his memory he replayed their time together over and over.
It was a good thing women could not read men’s minds.
Sex with the one you love is the second best thing in the world.
To love someone, he now realized, was to have something so precious that you could not bear to lose it.
He helped her become calm by being calm himself.
Feeling responsible was not as comfortable as feeling outraged.
People were sometimes reluctant to share information, whereas they were always flattered to be asked for advice.
So widespread was queue-jumping that most Muscovites believed no one ever got to the top of a list just by waiting.
Influence is your reward for hard work.
Drafting legislation was a rational process; politics, by contrast, was an intuitive game.
Negroes described their suffering in the words of the Old Testament prophets, and bore their pain with the consolation of Jesus’ gospel of hope.
The older generation felt they had the right to be rude about young people’s clothes.
You’ll never make mine until you’re in control.
Angry words masked his pain.
Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom.
A person who breaks a promise diminishes herself. It’s like losing a finger. It’s worse than being paralysed, which is merely physical. Someone whose promises are worthless has a disabled soul.
I saw a medieval map once. It sowed the earth as a flat disc with Jerusalem in the centre. Rome was bigger than Africa, and America was not even shown, of course. The heart is that kind of map. The self is in the middle and everything else is out of proportion. You draw the friends of your youth large, then later it’s impossible to re-scale them when other more important people need to be added. Anyone who has done you wrong is shown too gig, and so is anyone you loved.
Promiscuity was adolescent. He demeaned himself by showing up at every literary party with a different date. By now he should have settled down in a serious relationship with a woman who was his equal. She could be younger, perhaps, but she should be able to match his intelligence and appreciate his work, perhaps even help him with it. He needed a partner, not a series of trophies.
Poles spoke boldly about the failings of Communist governments. They felt entitled to complain in a way that other Soviet subjects did not. Most people in the Soviet bloc treated communism as a religion that it was a sin to question. The Poles tolerated Communism as long as it served them, and protested as soon as it fell short of their expectations.
A man’s love should be a helpless passion, not a moral duty.
For all sorts of reasons, people wore clothes they hated.
The Prophets of Israel
by A.W.F. Blunt
(Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1929)
Children and adults alike are enslaved by the convention that it is somehow ‘wrong’ to talk about scriptural characters as if they were human people, and about scriptural incidents as if they might really have happened.
Until the convention is demolished in his own and his pupils’ minds, no living study r appreciation of the Bible is possible either for him or for them
Apart from isolated chapters or sections in the prophetical books, which by the glory of their language or the directness and universality of their message can go home without comment to the attentive reader or hearer the writings of the prophets are such as to need a large amount of commentary.
The general purport of a passage and its importance as a religious utterance is unintelligible to the reader who has not at least some acquaintance with the process by which the religion of the Hebrew people before Christ grew and developed.
The books of the Old Testament are badly arranged.
The Jews of Alexandria for a long time wanted also to include in their Bible the books which we know as the Apocrypha, and the decision to exclude these books was not finally taken till a synod of Jewish scholars in A.D. 90 so ruled.
We cannot study the prophets properly without more guidance than the mere Bible text will give us.
The prophets, as a group, are also very much the most important men in the Old Testament.
The chief value of the Old Testament is the story which we can read out of it of the way in which the Hebrew religion developed and made preparation for Christ.
Without the prophets, humanly speaking, the Hebrew religion would never have become what it did become.
The canonical prophets … come comparatively late in Hebrew history.
It has even been suggested, by inference from such passages as 1 Kings 20:38, 2 Kings 2;23, that they may have had regular tattoo-marks or tonsures to distinguish their professional status.
It is clear that from Samuel’s time there were many prophets among the Hebrews, that they held an important position, and that prophecy was a recognised profession,
The great prophets gained and held their reputation, not by any demonstrative guarantee from above; what they claimed for themselves their opponents among the prophets also claimed for themselves. It was merely by the spiritual power of their personality that they won their position.
Right through the history of Israel, the voices of prophecy were loud and numerous.
In general a ‘prophet’ in Israel had, as such, a prestige which gave him a licence to speak without suffering serious harm, even if his message was disliked and scouted.
For the most part Jerusalem persecuted and broke the hearts of her prophets, but did not actually kill them.
To appreciate the work of the prophets, and the way in which they influenced the development of Hebrew religion, it is necessary to know the general nature of the popular religion upon which they had to work.
The monotheistic idea, that there was no god but Yahweh, was possibly too abstract to be clearly formulated in Moses’ mind.
The Ten Commandments in their present form may be of later date than Moses; but it is very likely that Moses taught the idea of Yahweh’s concern in human morality, though his moral principles may have been of a simple and primitive kind.
It is probable that the cultus which Moses practised was of a very simple kind, and not dissimilar to the methods used in other primitive tribes.
In Canaan the tribes had to become agricultural, and the only people who could teach them agriculture ere the Canaanites.
The Canaanite religion was apparently of an agricultural type.
No religious teacher before the eighth-century prophets says any word against the high places. Samuel presides at one. David has images. Elijah and Elisha do not attack the methods of worship. No king before Hezekiah made any effort to remove the high places, and Hezekiah’s attempt failed; it was renewed by Josiah with more effect in 621 B.C., but the destruction of Jerusalem came too soon after his death in 608 B.C. to give time for his reformation to show whether it was going to be lasting or not.
In worshipping Him with Canaanite rites, the Hebrews were following the only methods of worship that were as yet known or available to them.
It is not certain that the Hebrews actually forsook Yahweh in order to worship the Canaanite godlets. But the name of one’s god matters less than the ideas which one entertains of his character.
It is probably that Jeroboam meant his bulls to be emblems of the strength of Yahweh, and that at the time nobody thought him wicked for setting them up.
No prophet has a word to say against the bull-images, until Hosea, two hundred years later, begins to condemn them. So far as we know, they lasted undisturbed until the fall of Samaria in 722 B.C.
Some scholars … question whether the religion of Moses’ time was anything more than a savage affair, whether it was any better than the religion of any of the other desert tribes; and they hold that, in Canaan, it only became more elaborate by the use of Canaanite methods of worship; it was still, they think, a very barbaric religion, destitute of even the germs of higher spiritual ideas, until Elijah and Elisha, or until Amos, came on the scene.
It is very likely that much of the so-called Mosaic law is of much later date than Moses’ time.
On the mere grounds of historical probability and of the character of our evidence, there can be very little doubt that a great man stands at the birth of the Hebrew nation.
All the great religious teachers of later tines look back to Moses as the founder of the religion of Yahweh.
The Hebrews were in danger of becoming polytheists in the cities, and mere heathen in the villages. Their standing weakness as a whole was that they had no definite law of worship, worthy of a higher religion. Their methods of worship were low, and these debased their religious ideas.
Elijah and Elisha laid the first stone, since Moses’ time, in the great edifice of Hebrew monotheism.
Elijah and Elisha … professed no systematic monotheistic creed; their chief work was to insist that Yahweh should be the only god that Israel worshipped; if other nations worshipped other gods, that was their affair.
Elijah and Elisha … are the first great agents in arresting the peaceful deterioration of Hebrew religion.
Amos is the prophet of moral and social righteousness. His denunciations of social iniquity are dreadful in their ruthlessness.
Because Yahweh is righteous, therefore he is concerned for righteousness and hostile to unrighteousness everywhere, and not only in Israel.
In a sense no Israelite until St. Pau ever attained to a philosophical conception of monotheism.
The basis of Amos’s prophetic message is the absolute conviction that Yahweh is righteous \it is from that truth that he reaches towards the monotheistic idea that Yahweh is the only God.
Amos does not start from the idea that there is only one God; he only reaches that idea, so far as he does reach it, by inference from his certainty that Yahweh is righteous.
… what he did, to enunciate the devastating truth that religion and morality are indissolubly connected, and that no worship of God can be acceptable to Him, which is not an offering in righteousness.
The reforms of Hezekiah and Josiah, and the legislation of Deuteronomy, are the practical outcome of the teaching of Amos and Hosea, and of their greater successor Isaiah.
One of the characteristics, which makes Hosea the most tender and human of prophets (Jeremiah alone rivals him in this quality), is that he felt the sins of Israel as if they were his won.
God’s Love which, because it is real love, must punish, though God’s heart breaks to do it.
A Love which is Pain because it is Love of the unloving, and yet a Love which cannot ceasr to bre loving. That is what Hosea saw in God. The revelation of Christ was well prepared for; in Christ, Hosea’s picture of God comes to life.
Amos and Hosea lay the foundations of the truth which Christ lived on earth.
When the oracles of the prophets began to be put together, many prophecies would be found without any name of an author attached to them.
The final formation of the Roll called ‘Isaiah’ was partly influenced by the desire to make it roughly equal in length to the other three Rolls of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve.
Isaiah’s view of God had not shaken off earth-bound limitations, and … he conceived of Zion as being more indispensable to the divine Will for the world than any earthly city can be.
We hold the higher belief that God’s kingdom is not of this world, that God’s Zion is no man-built fortress, but a spiritual tabernacle of any men in any place who are holy to the Lord.
The rise of nations and their fall are alike related to the will of Yahweh. … Yahweh is supreme over all the nations.
The Jew reached monotheism by so expanding his idea of the scope of Yahweh’s rule that at last there was no room for any competing deity. The formula of the Jewish faith is not so much ‘there is but one god’, as ‘Yahweh is the only god’. To him, the heathen are not men who are ‘ignorantly’ worshipping the one God under imperfect representations, but men who are worshipping gods that are nothing and vanity. This is the fundamental secret of the radical intolerance that Judaism has always shown for other faiths.
Isaiah … gives no hint in his writings that he led a crusade against the established methods of worship, bitterly as he denounces the idolatry of Judah, and the combination of religious observance with moral iniquity.
Isaiah’s great contribution to the Hebrew development of religion was a conception of the majesty and purity of Yahweh so transcendent that the old methods of worship became patently and ludicrously inadequate and unworthy.
Isaiah’s favourite conception of Yahweh’s nature is always that of holiness. … Holiness was, of course, an ancient term, in Hebrew as in other religions. It meant that which was set apart as unfit for human use and touch, and, in earlier thought, its connotation had been largely ritual. But Isaiah now enlarges it to express the thought of Yahweh’s moral purity, to with all sin is odious; and so he has yoked for ever the notions of religion and morality.
In his conception of holiness, he thus combines both justice and love, both majesty and mercy, and he is heir to both the older prophets.
Isaiah’s faith was of the sort which does ot doubt that sooner or later God will put all things under His feet.
The prophets gave Judaism its theology, the book of Deuteronomy now gives it its institutional setting.
We judge Jeremiah very shallowly if we think he was not a patriot, because he was not a Jingo, or that he did not weep for his country’s calamities, even though he had to predict them.
Surely Jeremiah has a claim to be considered, before Christ, the complete picture of the man of sorrows, whose life is a uniform treading of the dolorous way.
Jeremiah was a patriot; and yet he saw no hope for his country.
To later thinkers among the Jews, Jeremiah became the supreme type of the suffering servant of Yahweh.
To Christian, Jeremiah, as the sufferer for the evil of others, as the prophet of repentance, as the penitent who mourns for his brothers’ sins, has always seemed the most moving of the proto-types, in whom the suffering Saviour of mankind was prefigured.
Jeremiah’s teaching had the effect of lodging in the Jewish mind the idea that Yahwism without Temple or sacrifice was conceivable. It was this idea, or some form of it, which sponsored the growth of the synagogue system, in the times when the Jews began to be more and more a people living out of reach of Jerusalem.
Jeremiah has been called, and not undeservedly, ‘the father of the synagogue system’; for it was he who first enunciated the vital truth that where any one faithful servant of Yahweh was, or any two or three faithful men gathered together, there Yahweh could be found and worshipped in the way that was acceptable to Him.
One gets some idea of the wealth of prophecy which was available in Israel when one notes not only the number of anonymous oracles that have been included in the works of one or other of the well-known men, but also the fact that even Jeremiah did not swallow up entirely the fame of other prophets of his tine.
The doctrine of judgment after death, and of an after-life of reward and punishment, grew up later among the Jews as an attempt to vindicate thereby their belief in the moral government of God. It was after death that the final reward of goodness was to be apportioned.
Fidelity to God is its own sufficient reward. Plainly, such a conviction cannot be proved to another; it is a spiritual intuition, and its truth can only be confessed by those who share it. But it is the final word of religion on the subject of reward in this life; compared with it, all reckoning of other rewards seems mere self-seeking, however refined the mask which that self-seeking may wear.
The deportation of the Jews to Babylon was accomplished in two stages. The first section was deported in 596 B.C., and settled down in Babylonia, not as a colony of slaves, though they were set to public works, but with apparently some measure of homogenous life under their own ‘elders’, of whom we hear in Ezekiel.
The book of Ezekiel, as we have it, is more systematically arranged than any of te works of his predecessors. The reason for this fact is, that he was himself a writer, to an extent that no preceding prophet had been; and it is reasonable to suppose that he took some care to arrange his oracles.
Ezekiel’s habitual use of the ecstatic method is ne of the qualities which make his prophecies seem so remote and artificial to modern readers.
It is only the penitent who are to be redeemed, it is not the nation as a whole; and the groundwork of the hope is, not so much the favoured place of the nation in the divine concern (for, as a nation, it has forfeited by its sins), but the conviction that man’s penitence is sure of God’s pardon.
Any individual who repents, he says, will be saved; the national doom is not all-inclusive; it will not sweep away any member of the nation who turns from his evil way. It is the hopeful side of divine judgement.
His picture … of the river which, issuing from the Temple, was to water the earth, is best explained as symbolical of the blessing which a restored religion in Jerusalem is to confer on the whole surrounding world.
Ezekiel is a prophet who is also a priest, and who believes in the spiritual value of religious organization. In other words, he is an institutionalist.
The value of religious institutions; and the fancy of a religion which shall be wholly individual is one which modern speculation loves to indulge.
He probably is, of all the prophets, the one who is lest well known or admired by modern reads old the Old Testament.
If modern ideas dislike the sacramentalism of Ezekiel, it may be not because modern ideas are right, but because their view of religion is defective.
There is a sort of dreadful logic in Ezekiel’s view of God’s relation to sinful men, which reminds us of Calvinism. If men repent, Yahweh forgives, if not, He refuses to listen.
Ezekiel’s prophecies are s utterly conditioned by the historical circumstances in which they are delivered that, without some knowledge of those circumstances, it is very hard for us to appreciate them, or to understand their significance.
The religious principles of the pre-exilic prophets are noble and uplifting to all ages. But in their entire repudiation of cultus, they show themselves insufficiently aware of the fact that, wiout expression in rites, ceremonies, organization, mere religious ideas (however noble they may be) tend to be like a spirit without a body.
One of Cyrus’s first acts (in 536 B.C.) was t sanction the restoration of a Jewish State (though on a very modest scale) in Judah, and the return of a section of the Jewish exiles in Babylon, to give the new State some stability. Thus he would assure to himself a settled and friendly community on the last stretch of the road from Persia to Egypt, if it was to gain the mastery of the eastern Mediterranean and of the trade with the West.
No prophet has a more absolute assurance of the universal supremacy of Yahweh, than has Second Isaiah.
Yahweh is not only the God of Israel, but also of the whole world, and the idols are utterly and without qualification mere nothings. It is the fullest expression of Jewish monotheism.
Yahweh’s purpose for the nations was rather to teach them that He is Yahweh, by showing His power over them, than definitely to call them to repentance.
It is certain that Judah was never completely depopulated. Some of the refugees must have come back from Egypt, as soon as it seemed safe to do so; and many Jews never left the land at all.
It is certain that in the early days of Darius’s reign Zerubbabel, who was a prince of the royal line, was the civil governor of the revived State, with Joshua as High-priest.
It is … probable that those who returned from Exile were by no means so numerous as the book of Ezra suggests.
The effect of legalism was largely to dam the prophetic spirit.
We know, from Palestinian excavations, that the wearing of idolatrous amulets continued in Judah long after the end of the Exile.
In form, the book of Jonah is not a prophecy at all, but a narrative about a prophet. … It is a sermon through a story.
Yahweh wants the heathen to be converted. Not only that, but the heathen are capable of conversion.
There were nobler elements in the Pharisaic outlook than the gospels notice. The teaching of the best Pharisees had many points of contact with the teaching of Christ Himself. But there is no evidence that the attitude of Palestinian Pharisaism to the Gentile world was ever anything but an attitude of contempt and hatred; and, even in the dispersion where social relations between Jew and Gentile were sometimes more amicable, the general standpoint of the Hellenistic Jew in matters of religion was one of intolerance and exclusiveness. He might be willing to buy, sell, talk, and walk with a Gentile; but he would not eat, d rink, or pray with him. To the Palestinian Jew, even social relations with a Gentile were hateful..
Broadly speaking, a mean streak seems to have dome into the Jewish character at this time. To be despised is more demoralizing than to be oppressed. In such a national atmosphere prophecy was likely to wilt.
The victory of the Ezran reform, which became more complete as time passed, was likely to have the effect of damming the prophetic impulse. The Law came to be thought of as the expression of perfect wisdom, of the final will of God. No prophet could improve upon it. There was not truth left for a prophet to see and teach: all truth was already there in the Law. So the Roll of the prophets was closed at about 200 B.C. or a little later, and the Jews settled down to the conviction that ‘there is not one prophet more’.
The people … settled down to obedience to the Law as the sum-total of true religion.
Great prophecy does not flourish except in opposition to active and dominant Evil. To be itself great, it needs a great adversary to attack. Post-Ezran prophecy was almost bound to ‘favour the Establishment’; and, as nobody dreamt of attacking this Establishment, prophecy had nothing to kindle its fires.
The Jews as a nation now deliberately narrowed their religious activity into the observance of their religious and moral code. They determined to obey. Their code was a noble one, and its observance made of the Jews the most moral and probably the most religious people before the Christian era.
The essential distinction between prophecy and apocalyptic lies in the respective nature of their messages. The prophets had stood forward to denounce sin, to call to repentance, to promise the judgement of Yahweh on sinners and His mercy to the righteous, to forecast a day of Yahweh’s triumph and the indication of His true servants.
The times in which the Jews were now living, were so evil that the world seemed to them beyond possibility of reformation. Nothing but a clean sweep of everything could effect Yahweh’s result. Therefore the promise of these apocalypses is of a day when Yahweh Himself will overtly intervene and, by His sole power, will overturn the entire order of things, and usher in an altogether new era.
The prophets had said, ‘Repent and you will be saved’; the apocalyptists say, ‘Hold on and you will share in the new era’.
The book of Daniel makes no claim to be written by Daniel. It is certainly of a much later date than the Exile, for, while its history of later times is accurate, its references to Daniel’s own time are often erroneous: e.g. Darius did not conquer Belshazzar was not the son of Nebuchadnezzar, and the Court language at Babylon was not Aramaic, as Dan (2:4) asserts. … Its language is late Hebrew and Aramaic.
The purpose of the book is to encourage the Jews to faithful endurance in their fiery trials.
Isaiah, Ezekiel, the author of Daniel, deserve to be reckoned heroes of faith.
Israel, with all its faults and narrownesses, was the champion of monotheism in a polytheistic world.
Can we imagine what the history of human religion would have been like if Israel had actually vanished, and her witness had perished?
It is certain that the Hebrews always believed that man lived after death; but the after-life of early Hebrew idea was a shadowy affair in Sheol, destitute of any attraction or of any relation to Yahweh.
There must be another life, where these ill-adjustments are ended, and righteousness receives its due reward. This was the teaching of the apocalyptists; and the message may be regarded as the last utterance of the Jewish prophetic spirit before Christ came.
Before Hebrew prophecy thus was done away to make room for Christ, in Whom the pure spirit of prophecy was taken up and made perfect, it had as its last achievement, taught the Jews to trust the larger hope.
The Long Cosmos
by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
(London, Corgi Books, 2016)
He was a man who had always sought to be alone, for big chunks of his life at least.
Time just pours away, doesn't it?
What use were nuns and counsellors and teachers if they couldn't show patience at least?
A kid was a kid, after all, not a bundle of conditions.
Most long-lived space stations got shabby; they' weren't places where you could ever open the windows for a good spring-clean.
The overwhelmingly most likely location of high intelligence is towards the centre of the Galaxy. The spiral arms, where we live, are waves of star birth washing around the galactic disc. But at the core, where the stars are crowded close, where the energy fluxes are enormous - a dangerous place, but where the first worlds rich in rock and metal formed billions of years before Earth - that is where the peak of galactic civilization must reside.
No technology is dangerous if handled correctly.
A landscape without its big predators is unbalanced - a pathology.
The more of the picture you got, the more you were going to get.
Maybe multi-species cooperation and cohabitation were actually the norm n the Long Earth.
Humans had come t believe that ruthless competition, even the extermination of rivals, were inevitable.
What better medium to send a message than coded into stories, passed by word of mouth from ne human being to another?
To realize one’s true nature is a liberation.
Human culture was stored in artefacts, books, tools, buildings, a whole heap of inventions and discoveries passed down from the past, there for each new generation to access.
Predators evolved to exploit the weaknesses of their prey, ad one stratagem was to lie, to deceive the credulous. Thus carnivorous flowers lured insects into their lethal maws with colourful but mendacious promises of nectar.
Things go wrong when you grow too fast.
Extinctions can be a spur to evolution.
Home: not the place you were born into, but the place that gathered you in.
Lacking any better evidence, one must assume that the place one visits is typical of the world as a whole.
In the course of the Galaxy’s history there has been a great wave of starmaking, washing out from the centre. So the closer you get to the centre, the older the worlds and the suns are.
Science, Liberty and Peace
by Aldous Huxley
(Chatto & Windus, London, 1950)
No social evil can possibly have only one cause.
Progressive science is one of the causative factors involved in the progressive decline of liberty and the progressive centralization of power.
Science and technology have equipped the political bosses who control the various national states with unprecedentedly efficient instruments of coercion.
In the past, personal and political liberty depended to a considerable extent upon governmental inefficiency.
Today, if the central executive wishes to act oppressively, it finds an almost miraculously efficient machine of coercion standing ready to be set in motion.
Tyrants are able to dragoon larger numbers of people more effectively, and strategists can kill and destroy more indiscriminately and at greater distances, than ever before.
If any resistance is to be offered by the many to the few, it must be offered in a field in which technological superiority does not count.
The pen and the voice are at least as mighty as the sword; for the sword is wielded in obedience to the spoken or the written word.
The spread of free compulsory education, and, along with it, the cheapening and acceleration of the older methods of printing, have almost everywhere been followed by an increase in the power of ruling oligarchies at the expense of the masses.
In countries where the press is said to be free, newspapers are subsidized primarily by advertisers, and to a lesser extent by political parties, financial or professional groups. In countries where the press is not free, newspapers are subsidized by the central government.
In capitalist democracies the popular press supports its advertisers by inculcating the benefits of centralized industry and finance, coupled with as much centralized government as will enable these institutions to function at a profit. In totalitarian states all newspapers preach the virtues of governmental omnipotence, one-party politics and state control of everything.
Undesirable propaganda will not cease until the persons who pay for propaganda either change their minds, or are replaced by other persons willing to pay for something else.
By supplying the ruling oligarchy with more effective instruments of coercion and persuasion, applied science has contributed directly to the centralization of power in the hands of the few.
Concentration of financial power preceded the scientific revolution of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and was largely responsible for making our industrial civilization the hateful thing it was and, for the most part, still is.
Centralized finance begot centralized industry, and in due course the profits of centralized industry increased the power of centralized finance.
Economic dependence upon bosses is always bad, because, quite obviously, it is not easily reconcilable with local and professional self-government or with civil and personal liberty.
Small-scale farmers, who used to be primarily concerned with subsistence, secondarily with a cash crop, have been largely replaced by men whose primary concern is with cash crops and who use the cash so earned to buy ‘nationally advertised’ processed and denatured foods at the grocer’s.
Social, economic and political changes can take place too rapidly and too frequently for human well-being.
Man as a moral, social and political being is sacrificed to homo faber, or man the smith, the inventor and forger of new gadgets.
Technological unemployment is always with us; for every labour-saving device, every substitution of a new and more efficient technique for an older and less efficient one, results in a local and temporary diminution of the labour force.
The chief consequence of progressive science is a chronic social and economic insecurity.
Power is in its essence expansive, and cannot be curbed except by other powers of equal or at least comparable magnitude.
If offered the choice between liberty and security, most people would almost unhesitatingly vote for security.
It is in … non-violent direct action, that the only hope of future revolutions resides.
Mass-producing and mass-distributing methods are technologically justified in about one-third of the total production of goods. In regard to the remaining two-thirds, the economies effected by mass-production are offset by the increased costs involved in mass distribution over great areas, so that local production by individuals or co-operating groups, working for subsistence and a neighbourhood market, is more economical than mass production in vast centralized factories.
The continuous advance of science and technology has profoundly affected the prevailing mental climate.
Unlike are, science is genuinely progressive. Achievement in the fields of research and technology is cumulative; each generation begins at the point where its predecessor left off.
It was not until the late seventeenth century (the age of the rise of modern science) that the note of bumptious self-congratulation began to be sounded, not until the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that the dogma of inevitable progress became an unquestioned article of popular faith.
The belief in all-round progress is based upon the wishful dream that one can get something for nothing. Its underlying assumption is that gains in one field do not have to be paid for by losses in other fields.
Unlike the Greeks, we of the twentieth century believe that we can be insolent with impunity.
Faith in progress has affected contemporary political life by reviving and popularizing, in an up-to-date pseudo-scientific and this-worldly form, the old Jewish and Christian apocalypticism. A glorious destiny awaits mankind, a coming Golden Age, in which more ingenious gadgets, more grandiose plans and more elaborate social institutions, will somehow have created a race of getter and brighter human beings.
It is a highly significant fact that all modern dictators, whether of the Right or of the Left, talk incessantly about the golden future, and justify the most atrocious acts here and now, on the ground that they are means to that glorious end.
In practice, faith in the bigger and better future is one of the most potent enemies to present liberty: for rulers feel themselves justified in imposing the most monstrous tyrannies on their subjects for the sake of the wholly imaginary fruits which these tyrannies are expected … to bear some time.
As theory, pure science is concerned with the reduction of diversity to identity. As a praxis, scientific research proceeds by simplification. These habits of scientific thought and action have, to a certain extent, been carried over into the theory and practice of contemporary politics.
A highly organized and regimented society, whose members exhibit a minimum of personal peculiarities, and whose collective behaviour is governed by a single master plan imposed from above, is felt by the planners and even … by the plannees to be more ‘scientific’, and therefore getter, than a society of independent, freely co-operating and self-governing individuals.
Confronted by the data of experience, men of science begin by leaving out of account all those aspects of the facts which do not lend themselves to measurement and to explanation in terms of antecedent causes rather than of purpose, intention and values.
As a representation of reality, the scientific picture of the world is inadequate, for the simple reason that science does not even profess to deal with experience as a whole, but only with certain aspects of it in certain contexts.
Because of the prestige of science as a source of power, and because of the general neglect of philosophy, the popular Weltanschauung of our times contains a large element of what may be called ‘nothing-but’ thinking. Human beings, it is more or less tacitly assumed, are nothing but bodies, animals, even machines; the only really real elements of reality are matter and energy in their measurable aspects; values are nothing but illusions that have somehow got themselves mixed up with our experience of the world; mental happenings are nothing but epiphenomena, produced by and entirely dependent upon physiology; spirituality is nothing but wish fulfilment and misdirected sex; and so on.
Unrealistic beliefs tend to result in foolish or morally evil actions.
Our basic trouble is that, in spite of everything that has happened, everybody thinks he is right. In the past, despots committed the crimes that despots always do commit - but committed them with a conscience that was sometimes distinctly uneasy.
Nationalism leads to moral ruin because it denies universality, denies the existence of a single God, denies the value of the human being as a human being; and because, at the same time, it affirms exclusiveness, encourages vanity, pride and self-satisfaction, stimulates hatred and proclaims the necessity and the rightness of war.
The modern world differs from that of ancient Greece in degree and scale, not in kind.
Whenever progressive applied science has produced some strikingly more efficient instrument of slaughter, hopes have been voiced, and facts and figures marshalled to prove, that henceforward war would be too expensive in life, suffering and money to ge worth waging. Nevertheless wars have still been fought.
Advances in technology do not abolish the institution of war; they merely modify its manifestations.
It is a highly significant fact that people love to talk about a war to end war, or a war to preserve democracy; they don’t like to talk about peace to end war or self-governing democracy (which is the polar antithesis of militarism) t preserve democracy.
Preparation fort war and sometimes even war itself are things which a highly centralized government finds very useful for its own totalitarian purposes.
Armaments are the only goods that are given away without consideration of costs or profits. Modern war is, among other things, a competition among nations as to which can hand out, free, gratis and for nothing, the largest amount of capital goods in the shortest time. These capital goods are all maleficent and unproductive; but the thought occurs to one that somethtng resembling wartime prosperity might be made permanent if there were more giving away at cost, or even for nothing, and less selling at a profit and paying of interest.
The great majority of men and women have been conditioned to believe that progressive institutionalization, controlled by private capitalists, or the state, or goth tougher, is an intrinsically beneficent thing and at the same time an inevitable and quasi-natural development.
The nature of modern war is such that it cannot be successfully waged by any nation which does not possess a highly developed, not to say hypertrophied, capital-goods industry supplemented by a mass-producing, consumer-goods industry capable of rapid expansion and conversion for wartime needs.
Universal conscription is most easily imposed where large numbers of the population are rootless, propertyless and entirely dependent for their livelihood upon the state or upon large-scale private employers.
Christianity once insisted, and Buddhism still insists, upon the importance of ‘right livelihood.’ There are certain professions so intrinsically harmful that no individual ought to practise them.
One must weigh the power of enlightened self-interest against the power of nationalistic passions and prejudices. Enlightened self-interest will unquestioningly vote for world government, international inspection and the pooling of information. But unfortunately, in some of the most important issues of life, human beings do not act form considerations of enlightened self-interest. If they did, we should now be living in something very like paradise.
In spite of their training (perhaps, indeed, owing to the narrowly specialized character of that training, because of it), scientists and technicians are perfectly capable of the most dangerously irrational prejudice, nor are they immune to deceitful propaganda.
The planning of scientific activity with a view to achieving certain predetermined political, social and economic ends must begin at the point where the results of disinterested research are applied to the solution of practical problems.
Whenever people call for ‘integration’ they are always calling for the exercise of centralized governmental power and for yet another extension of the process of institutionalization.
The problems if power are primarily the concern of the ruling few, and the nature of power is essentially expansive, so that there is not the least prospect of power problems being solved, when one expanding system collides with another expanding system, except by means of organized, scientific violence or war.
The first item on the agenda of every meeting between the representatives of the various nations should be: How are all men, women and children, to get enough to eat?
The rapid industrialization of Asia … is pregnant with the most dangerous possibilities.
Any scientific and technological campaign aimed at the fostering of international peace and political and personal liberty must, if ti is to succeed, increase the total planetary food supply by increasing the various regional supplies to the point of self-sufficiency.
One of the contributing causes of recent wars has been international competition for the world’s strictly localized sources of petroleum, and the current jockeying for positon in the Middle East, where all the surviving great powers have staked out claims to Persian, Mesopotamian and Arabian oil, bodes ill for the future.
So long as the lust for power persists as a human trait - and in persons of a certain kind of physique and temperament this lust is overmasteringly strong - no political arrangement, however well contrived, can guarantee peace.
We must conclude that atomic energy is, and for a long time is likely to remain, a source of industrial power that is, politically and humanly speaking, in the highest degree undesirable.
On Being Human
by Ashley Montagu
(Henry Schuman, New York, 1951)
To be human is to be in danger. By virtue of his possession of a unique system, a nervous system which is much more plastic and educable than that of any other living animal, man is capable of confusing and endangering himself much more frequently.
So-called civilized man of the Western world has befuddled and endangered himself to such a degree that he stand today on the very brink of destruction - self-destruction.
Every human being is a problem in search of a solution.
The problem of modern man is the problem of human relations - of man’s relations to his fellow men and to himself.
The prejudices of a class have often been mistaken for the laws of nature.
Social Darwinism define the system of beliefs which has it that the same principles apply in the evolution and development of social as of biological life.
By those who misused it, Darwinism was offered as no mere apology. It was more positive than that, it was a validation, a biological justification for competition.
Co-operative behavior is at least as prominent a form of interaction between animals, as we find them under so-called “natural” conditions.
It was not that the Darwinists denied the existence of co-operation but that they neglected it in favor of a concept of natural selection which assumed too much, namely that life was a gladiatorial struggle for existence.
By “life” is meant that condition in which a body exhibits the functions of irritability (response to stimuli), motility (movement), and reproductivity (multiplication). An organism is that organization of interactive elements which displays the functions of life in a self-consistent manner. By “social” we mean all those interactions between organisms or groups in which needs are satisfied.
The fundamentally social nature of all living things has its origin in this physiological relationship between parent and offspring.
The original process of reproduction is a tension-reducing response.
The primary co-operative act is the reproductive act.
In the nature of the reproductive process we see, then, the basis for the development of social life.
The source of the social appetite of all living creatures is traceable to the way in which the living organism originates.
The process is always one of dependency and interdependency between parent and offspring. Dependency and interdependency are the indispensable conditions of life - and these are the conditions which all living organisms strive to maintain.
The solitary animal is, in any species, an abnormal creature.
The tendency to remain together is a fact.
With few exceptions, no animal avoids contact with its fellows, unless such contract under certain conditions happens to threaten it in some way.
The rive to form social aggregates is the same everywhere.
By their increasing ability to co-operate, develop specialized functions and increasingly complex relations.
A strong case can be made out for the organism as a form of society.
The units constituting human society are comparatively free, those constituting the organism are, for the most part, fixed.
Human society has assumed a unique form, it has become culturalized.
What is an optimal population size for different groups in nature will depend upon the group and its environment, but thus far the evidence strongly indicates that optimal numbers present in a given situation have certain positive survival values and definitely exert stimulating effects on the growth of individuals and the increase of populations.
This principle of co-operation is the fundamental principle which appears to have governed the relations of organisms from the very first.
The principle of co-operation is in a fair way to becoming recognized as the most important factor in the survival of animal groups.
Despite many known appearances to the contrary, human altruistic drives are as firmly based on an animal ancestry as is man himself. Our tendencies toward goodness, such as they are, are as innate as our tendencies toward intelligence.
Omitting important facts and basing their arguments on false premises, the tough Darwinians could only arrive at false conclusions.
Without this principle of co-operation, of sociability and mutual aid, the progress of organic life the improvement of the organism, and the strengthening of the species become utterly incomprehensible.
The greater the co-operative behavior exhibited by the members of any group, the more harmoniously socially organized is that group likely to be.
The probability of survival of individual or living things increases with the degree in which they harmoniously adjust themselves to each other and to their environment.
Natural selection favors the co-operative, as opposed to the disoperative, struggling for survival.
We begin to understand … that evolution itself is a process which favors co-operating rather than disoperating groups, and “fitness” is a function of the group as a whole rather than of separate individuals. The fitness of the individual is largely derived form his membership in a group.
There is not a shred of evidence that man is born with “hostile” or “evil” impulses which must be watched and disciplined.
Social life confers distinct biological advantages upon the animals participating in it.
The dominant principle of social life is not the struggle for existence, but co-operation is.
Without co-operation, without love, it is not possible to live - at best, it is possible only to exist.
A basic need may be defined as any urge or need of the organism which must be satisfied if the organism or the group is to survive.
The fats of man’s biological nature, what is, determine the direction his development as a person must take. That is to say, that what is here clearly determines what ought to be; in short, that the biological validation to the principle of o-operation, or love, in human life.
The best place for the infant is with its mother, and if its own mother is not available, with a foster mother, for what that infant must have is love.
Independence is positive and mature adaptation based on secure grasp of the self in relation to other people.
It may seem a bit far-fetched to suggest that the ability of the upper middle, and upper class Englishman to rule and govern subject peoples and to justify that rule, has, in the past at least, to some extent been due to such lac of sympathetic understand for others.
Every person is socially bound to the group in which he has been socialized. In this sense the “individual” is a myth. From the standpoint of the social situation there are no individuals, except as abstracted biological entities or for the quantitative purposes of a census.
A creature apart from a social group is nothing but an organic being. The member of a social group is a person, a personality developed under the molding influence of social interstimulation. The person is a set of social relationships.
They act as they do not because they are independent individuals, but because they are dependent persons bound to their social group and must maintain their relationships in that group in the manner, in each case, allowed and encouraged by the group.
Free will the person certainly does not have. The will that he has operates strictly within the limits determined by the pattern of the social group. What he has is the illusion of free will. The “spontaneous” conduct of the person is still conduct based on models established in a particular social group. In short, the person is an interdependent system of social relationships which may by abstraction along be recognized as a unit.
The biologically exclusive sacredness of the individual is a chimera not only as regards man but as regards all other animal groups.
The multi-cellular organism stood for a change, in so far, from conflict between cell and cell to harmony between cell and cell.
The binding to the individual to his groups represents, in fact, a loss if individual freedom and a gain in personal development through more or less complete identification with the social group. An identification in which the wholeness of the person is preserved only because it is a functioning part of a g5eater whole - society.
Individuation, as the development of personal identity, is neither the contrary nor the contradictory of social identification, it is social identification.
The individual - the set of physical and physiological functions - becomes a person with a definite identity only through the process of socialization - the process of becoming identified with a social group.
Society is made up of interacting selves, of men. It is men in interaction.
Persons, that is socialized individuals, come into being only through social interactions.
The physiological dependency of the foetus and the newborn becomes, in society, a socially organized dependency, a social dependency in which the interacting person finds the meaning of his life in his relations with other persons and their thoughts and activities.
The long period of dependency which is characteristic of the human infant generates social conditions leading to the peculiar developments of human culture.
The prolonged period of infant dependency produces interactive behavior of a kind which within the first six years of the child’s life determines the primary pattern of his subsequent social development.
The first conditioning which the child undergoes is this: that persons who have fairly consistently provided the infant with the means of satisfying its needs now become satisfying objects in themselves.
What human beings desire most of all is to have their needs satisfied, to be made secure.
Man does not want to be independent, free, in the sense of functioning independently of the interests of his fellows. This kind of negative independence leads to lonesomeness, isolation and fear. What man want s is that positive freedom which follows the pattern of his life as an infant within the family - dependent security, the feeling that one is a part of a group, accepted, wanted, loved and loving.
A person is not an object in itself, except for census purposes, but a function or activities which eh exhibits in interaction with other persons, that is to say the constituent interacting element of culture.
Personality is always a function of relations with other persons.
We love only those things upon which we are dependent - not, however, all tings upon which we are dependent: those which are associates with frustration we hate, but those which are associated with pleasure, either present recollected or anticipated, we love.
To love is to relate oneself to others.
Life is social and man is born to be social, that is, co-operative, an interdependent part of a whole, a working, interacting art of a community.
In seeing, hearing, and speaking, we bind ourselves to one another. Man only sees, hears, and speaks rightly when he is linked to others by his interest in the external world,
No isolated persons are to be found in the whole history of humanity. The evolution of humanity was only possible because mankind was a community.
The infant is not born with ego. It acquires its self from other selves long before it is aware of its own self. It’s ego, its self, develops only as the infant comes to recognize and adjust to reality.
In the cultures of the Western world particularly, the process of socialization while binding the person to his group, has actually the effect of rendering the person functionally asocial.
Man’s relation to man becomes disordered through the subordination of the human organism to the conditioned artificial affects and prejudices of the “I”-persona.
We are out of line with our evolutionary destiny, which is integration and co-operation, not disintegration and disoperation.
Our present-day burdens are the result of the lack of a thorough social education.
If we go on as we have been doing, the chances are fairly high that we will exterminate ourselves.
The view that the child is born egocentric, evil, in “sin,” is widely held, and it is nothing more than a projection upon the child of our own conditioning in egocentricity, in evil, in “sin.”
The infant soon learns that in order to be satisfied, in order to be loved, he too must satisfy, he to must love, he must satisfy the requirements of others, he must co-operate, he must actually give up or postpone the satisfaction of certain desires if he is to achieve satisfaction in others and if he is to retain the love of those whose love he needs.
Outside the family, as a “grown-up,” he secures the approval (love) of his fellows by conforming to the standards of the group.
To conform means the willingness to forego certain satisfactions in order to obtain others, to suffer a certain amount of deprivation and thwarting of satisfactions as a discipline which my ultimately lead to what are socially esteemed as greater rewards.
In order to be successfully social, one must have learned to love by having been loved; that, indeed, society is based on love, in fact is but a developed form of love.
Hatred is love frustrated.
Aggression is but a technique or mode of seeking love.
Man’s need for society and his need for love are one and the samehting.
Whatever is opposed to love, to goodness, and to co-operation is disharmonic, unviable, unstable, and malfunctional - evil.
All of man’s natural inclinations are toward the development of goodness, toward the continuance of states of goodness and the discontinuance of unpleasant states.
The biological basis of love consists in the organism’s drive to satisfy its basic needs in a manner which causes it to feel secure. Love is security.
The emotional need for love is as definite and compelling as the need for food.
It has been shown that when the needs of the developing social organism are inadequately satisfied, that is, where there have been too many frustrations - thwartings of expected satisfactions - where there has been a privation of love, the organism becomes disordered, anxious, tense, fearful, and hostile. This, in fact, is more or less the state into which most human beings in the Western world today have fallen.
Co-operative, social behavior is … as old as life itself, and the direction of evolution has, in man, been increasingly directed toward the fuller development of co-operative behavior.
When social behavior is not co-operative, it is diseased.
To love thy neighbor as thyself is not simply good text material fo Sunday morning sermons but perfectly sound biology.
Men who do not love one another are sick … from a diseae which has been enculturated within them by the false values of their societies.
His combativeness and competitiveness arise primarily from the frustration of his need to co-operate.
Our world at the present time is largely directed by criminally irresponsible adventurers and cynical and complacent men who have grown old in the way of self-interest and ultranationalism.
The life of every human being is a part of our own, for we are involved in mankind. Each one of us is responsible for the other.
All human beings want to be good. All human beings want to be happy. Their biological drives are calculated to achieve those ends. But most human beings in our culture are confused about means and ends in doing good and in securing happiness. Evil means are often used to secure “good” ends, and so-called “good” means are sometimes used to secure evil ends.
The trouble with most of us is not that we have no values but that we have too many of the wrong kind.
Words have no meaning other than the action they produce.
The principal function of the teacher is, or should be, to help prepare the child for living a humane and co-operative life, not to infect his mind with the antihuman virus of racism.
The anything but princely stipends with which he is rewarded for his services suggest that our society does not recognize the true value or function of the teacher.
The school is a place of instruction. It is not really a place of education in the proper sense of that word - in the sense of bringing out the best in a person.
The very large amount of mental disorder, nervous tension, conflict, fear, anxiety, frustration and insecurity which occurs in Western society is largely due to the failure of the values in which we have been conditioned since infancy - false values by which we seek to live.
Man is born for co-operation, not for competition or conflict.
The measure of a person’s humanity is the extent and intensity of his love for mankind.
The school beyond all else must be considered as a place of education in the art and science of being a person, the practice of human reactions.
We must train for humanity, and training in reading, writing, and arithmetic must be given in a manner calculated to serve the ends of that humanity. For all the knowledge n the world is worse than useless if it is not humanely understood and humanely used.
An intelligence that is not human is the most dangerous thing in the world.
If the structure of society is such that it makes of life a struggle for bare physical existence, in which frustration and insecurity are maximized, in which the person is left to sink or swim entirely alone, there is little time and no incentive to lead the good life. In an industrial civilization with its emphasis on success in terms of material values, success is generally achieved in material terms at the expense of truly human values.
Western society, in short, does not encourage the development of goodness because goodness is not what that society is interested.
The idols of the market place must yield to those of humanity.
Those who would have us believe that almost everything in the world is determined by economics are wrong.
I you identify human nature with economics, with production, you make of a man a commodity, and you create a system of material values which readily lends itself to exploitation.
The motives of human beings everywhere are human, not economic. They are made to become economic only in societies in which moneytheism is the prevailing religion
We must remove economics as the dominant motive from human relations and make human relations the dominant motive in economics
A profit-motive, economic-struggle-for-existence society is a predatory society a class-and-caste society, divisive society, in which each person is an isolate preying upon and preyed upon by others.
The American stress on pecuniary success and ambitiousness for all thus invites exaggerated anxieties, hostilities, neuroses, and antisocial behavior.
The problem we have to solve is first and foremost the problem of how we can rebuild our society in terms of human values in which human relations are given a chance to function as they should.
If we would have happy human relations, we must have a society based on human relations and not on economics.
by Jorge Carrion
translated by Peter Bush
(Maclehouse Press, 2013)
The way a specific story relates to the whole of literature is similar to the way a single bookshop relates to every bookshop.
You create books solely to forge links with others even after your own death, thus defending yourself against the inexorable adversary of all life, transience and oblivion.
Every bookshop is a condensed version of the world.
The history of bookshops is completely unlike the history of libraries. The former lack continuity and institutional support. As private entrepreneurial responses to a public need they enjoy a degree of freedom, but by the same token they are not studied, rarely appear in tourist guides and are never the subject of doctoral theses until time deals them a final blow and they enter the realm of myths.
The history of libraries can be told in minute detail, ordered by cities, regions and nations, respecting the frontiers that are sealed by international treaties and drawing on specialised bibliographies and individual library archives that fully document the development of stocks and cataloguing techniques and house minute-books, contracts, press cuttings, acquisition lists and other papers, the raw material for a chronicle backed by statistics, reports and timelines. The history of bookshops, on the other hand, can only be written after recourse to photograph and postcard albums, a situationist mapping, short-lived links between shops that have vanished and those that still exist, together with a range of literary fragments and essays.
Every bookshop is an invitation to travel, and itself represents a journey.
Travel bookshops throughout the world are also stores that sell practical travel items.
For a Western readers the East begins where unknown alphabets start to be used: Sarajevo, Belgrade and Athens.
The centrality of ancient Greek culture, philosophy and literature can only be understood if one considers its position stride the Mediterranean and Asia, between the Etruscans, and Persians, opposite the Libyans, Egyptians or Phoenicians.
Any library is more than a building: it is a bibliographical collection.
The present Library of Alexandria is a far cry from the original: although its architecture is spectacular, although it converses with the nearby sea and 120 alphabets are inscribed on its reflective surface, although tourists will come from all over the world to gaze at it, its walls do not yet contain sufficient volumes for it to be the reincarnation of the building that lends it its mythical name.
The Library cannot exist without the bookshop that has in turn been linked from the outset to the publishing house. The book trade had already developed before the fifth century B.C.
The first publishing houses comprised groups of copyists on whose ability to concentrate, to be disciplined and rigorous and on whose degree of exploitation depended the number if changes and mistakes in the copies that would eventually be put into circulation. To optimise time, someone dictated and the rest transcribed and thus Roman publishers were able to launch onto the market several hundred copies simultaneously.
The first Greek and Roman bookshops were either itinerant stalls or huts where books wwere sold or rented out (a kind of mobile library) or spaces adjacent to the publishers.
Private collections, often in the hands of bibliophiles, were directly fed by bookshops and were a model for public collections, namely libraries, which sprang up in tyrannies, not democracies.
Libraries are power.
The Library of Alexandria was seemingly inspired by Aristotle’s private library and was probably the first in history to have a cataloguing system.
If history ensures the continuity of the Library, the future constantly threatens the existence of the Bookshop.
The Bookshop is liquid, provisional, lasts as long as its ability to sustain an idea over time with minimal changes. The library is stability. The Bookshop distributes: the Library preserves.
The Bookshop is in perpetual crisis.
The figure of Homer is located in the two centuries prior to the consolidation of the bookselling business and his centrality to the Western canon is directly related to the fact that he is one of the Greek writers of whose work we have preserved the most fragments. That is, he was one of the most copied.
There are few metaphors as powerful as that of the palimpsest to represent the way culture is transmitted.
Universities, publishing houses, cultural centres and the most compact part of the souk of bookshops … these institutions feed on each other.
Touching old books is one of the few tactile experiences that can connect you to a distant past.
Manuscripts prevailed over printed books in the first years of printing, by virtue of a veneer of prestige, as was the case with papyrus over parchment, or in the 1960s with handmade over ones that were machine set. In the beginning the printer was the publisher.
Binding didn’t become standard in Europe until the requisite machines began to function around 1823, when bookshops slowly began to look like libraries, because they offered finished products and not half-made books.
We tend to think of literature as an abstraction when the truth is that it is an infinite network of objects, bodies, materials and spaces.
Although he does not intervene directly in the creation of the object, the bookseller can be understood as the craftsman reader, that person who after the 10,000 hours that according to various studies are necessary to become expert in a practical skill is able to combine work with excellence, manufacture with poetry.
Dust is a vitally important issue for a bookseller. He dusts up and down and clockwise in the first half-hour every morning. While doing so, the bookseller memorises where the books are and gets to know them physically.
Readers, like carpenters, are different in each locality.
A bookshop can regenerate the social and economic fabric of an area, because it is the present pure and simple, and a speedy engine of change. That is why we should not be surprised if many bookshops are part of greater social projects for change.
We read as much with our hands as with our eyes.
From the time of ancient Rome, bookshops have been spaces for establishing contact.
The bookshop itself, with or without buyers or browsers, has its own cardiac rhythms.
Bookshelves also enjoy a relationship of conflict with the premises that lodge and partially define them, but do not constitute them.
Salons, reading rooms, athenaeums, cafés or bookshops act as second homes and political spaces for the exchange of information.
Europe becomes a great space where books flow thanks to their industrial production, which is accompanied by proliferating bookshop chains, the promotion of serial fiction as the main form of commercial novel, an exponential increase in literacy and the transformation of the Continent into a vast tangle of railway tracks.
Every reader is a critic, but only those who make their opinions about their reading in some way public become literary critics.
Literary bookshops shape their discourse by creating a sophisticated taste that prefers difficulty.
From the birth of modernity a highly complex literary system has been articulated through sites of consecration: publication by particular houses, praise from specific critics or writers, translation into certain languages, the winning of awards, prizes, important recognition first locally then internationally, knowing the right people and visiting key cafes, salons and bookshops. Paris during the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth constituted the world’s pre-eminent republic of letters, the centre where a large slice of world literature was legitimised.
Paris … became the capital for those who proclaimed themselves to be stateless and above political laws: in a word, artists.
People tend to reinforce myths about themselves in retrospective accounts.
It is the hippy movement that really turns the new version of bohemia into a mass movement., now entirely stripped of the recherché, distinguished impulses of the first dandies. A genuinely new mass culture, because there is such a level of literacy and sophistication in the West after the Second World War that several cultural masses can coexist, each with perfectly defined features, and only partially incompatible.
All censorship has its weak points. Books have always been key elements in maintaining control of power and governments have developed mechanisms for censoring books.
It was of course with the printing press that countries began to experience serious problems when they tried to burb the traffic in banned books.
From The Satanic Verses onwards, the damnation of which coincided with the fall of the Wall, the violence in Tiananmen Square and the unstoppable expansion of the Internet, whenever freedom of expression and reading were under attack, the consequences would automatically be global.
The most important consequences of collective education are always long-term.
Mein Kampf not only turned Adolf Hitler into the best-selling author in the Germany of the 1930s, and a millionaire thanks to his royalties, it also made him think of himself as a writer, which is how he describes himself in the corresponding section of his income tax returns for 1935.
By presenting himself as a writer, Hitler changes his image and emerges from the mud where he had operated until then. He is no longer simply a beer-house braggart, a loudmouth, a failed putschist: now he covers himself with the prestige that comes with letters and appears as a new theorist.
I can think of few images that are sadder than an almost empty bookshop or the remains of a bonfire on which books have been burnt.
People rarely consider … how those who designed the biggest systems of control, repression and execution in the contemporary world, who showed themselves to be the most effective censors of books, were also individuals who studied culture, writers, keen readers, in a word: lovers of bookshops.
The dichotomy between fixed prices and haggling could be one of the axes that today polarises East and West.
(Bookstores) Their structures are soothing, because they always seem familiar; intuitively we understand the orderliness, the layout, what they have to offer, but we need at least one section where we recognise an alphabet we can read, an area of illustrated books we can lea through.
Generalist bookshops tend to be a microcosm of the wider society; radical minorities are represented on shelves that are also in themselves minimal.
Comparison and contest are also basic factors when it comes to valuing the importance of a book, the test of which is tied to a specific moment of production. That is what literary criticism is doing continually: establishing comparative hierarchies within a specific cultural field.
Because paper was less exalted than bamboo and silk, it took centuries for it to establish itself as the best support for the written word and it wasn’t until the sixth century that it travelled beyond the Chinese frontiers and until the twelfth that it reached Europe.
Books depended on the rag-and-bone man until the eighteenth century; then modern systems were developed to extract paper from wood pulp and the price of books was halved.
One cannot understand the culture of the United States without the perpetual Coast to Coast movement.
Until the Second World War, Gotham Book Mart was the United States equivalent of the original Shakespeare and Company.
In the 1920s and 1930s the Gotham Book Mart became primarily the focus for spotlighting books banned in the United States.
Culture has always circulated as much through alternative networks as established market channels and writers have always been the biggest shareholders in these parallel poetics.
Bookshops that pride themselves on their huge size remind us that the publishing industry is not based on sophisticated books for a minority, but on mass production, just like the food industry.
A bookshop is defined above all by what stands out: the posters, the photographs, the books recommended or displayed to draw attention.
A bookshop is a community of believers.
As an erotic space, every bookshop is the supreme meeting place: for booksellers and books, for readers and booksellers, for readers on the hoof.
In contemporary fiction a bookshop signifies a space for the kind of knowledge that can’t be found in official institutions - the library or university - because as it is a private business it avoids issues of regulation and because booksellers re even freakier than librarians or university lecturers.
When published, most books are democratically available to everyone: the price is calculated according to factors in the present.
A book can be hunted down as much for its magical powers as its market value, and both factors often go together.
While orderliness tends to predominate in bookshops that sell new books, chaos reigns in second-hand shops: the disorderly accumulation of knowledge.
Bookshops that transform deep, natural and overwhelming sorrow into individual memories that are human, brief and always evanescent.
Every bookseller deals in visibility.
The tradition of bookselling is one of the most secretive. Often it is a family affair.
A bookseller is the being who is most aware of ht futility of a book, and of its importance.
Complexity is the most difficult thing to judge.
All myths exist to be shattered.
Each generation relives a kind of Paris in its youth, which only as one grows older can be gradually demystified.
The bookshop as a partially deconsecrated church transformed into a sex shop. Because a bookshop feeds on the energy generated by objects that seduce by virtue of their accumulation, by the difficulty of defining demand, which becomes palpable when one finally locate the object that arouses.
The most meaningful bookshops in the world highlight, with more or less subtlety, the markers that add commercial potential or transform them into tourist spots; antiquity (founded in, or the oldest bookshops in), size (the biggest bookshops in, so many miles of shelving, so many hundreds of thousands of books) and the chapters in the history of literature to which they’re linked (the base of such and such a movement , visited by, the bookshops where X bought, visited by founded by, as can be seen in the photograph, bookshop linked with).
In the case of literature, publishers first generate the markers, through the blurb on the back cover or the press release, but critics, the academy and bookshops soon create their own, which will determine the book’s fortune.
A classic work is one that always offers a new reading. A classic is a writer who never goes out of fashion.
Paris to some extent owed its position to the fact that it was where fashion - the outstanding expression of modernity - was create.
In the 1920s and 1930s, celebrities like Hemingway, Stein, Beach, Dos Passos, Bowles or Scott Fitzgerald found in Paris the feeling of being at the heart of bohemia.
The Zondervan brothers began with remainders from de-catalogued stock on a farm in the 1930s. Their growth was down to the success of their cheap editions of out-of-copyright religious works, such as a number of English translations of the Bible.
Thanks to the fact that Holland was a haven for Calvinists and to the absence of religious and political censorship, it became one of the great world book centres in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
The lives of saints, nonsense stories, farces, parodies, drinking and rabble-rousing songs, myths and legends, tales of chivalry, harvest calendars, horoscopes, gaming rules, recipe books and even abbreviated versions of universal classics were the real best-sellers before the explosion of the romantic and realist novel in the nineteenth century and its spread in the form of mass-produced serial fiction.
The book as a money-making success began with Walter Scott and was consolidated by Charles Dickens and William Thackeray.
Trains rapidly became the principal vehicle for books: their trucks transported paper, printing presses, spare parts, the workforce, writers, finished books from one city to another and, above all, readers.
There was a progressive refinement of railway travel, which was soon to offer the same luxuries and advantages as ocean liners and hotels.
The book was now assuming its natural role as a commodity: the list of the remaining titles in the same series or from the same publishers was advertised in the last pages of the book; front pages took on a uniform design to reinforce the identity of a list and innovative illustrations were incorporated; the price began to be printed on the book as a ply to hook readers or as a publicity device.
The average price of a book in France fell from 6.65 in 1840 to 3.45 francs in 1870.
In the nineteenth century there were people who made a living from reading the news out loud or reciting passages from Shakespeare with a flourish.
Mobility is the great invention of the nineteenth-century. The train changes perceptions of space and time; it not only speeds up human life, but transforms the idea of a network, a network structure, into something that can be explored in its entirety in a few days, even though it is so vast.
They can also look up from the page, thread together the fragments of life they sse through the window (thus preparing for the arrival of the cinema),
If the world speeds up in the nineteenth century, the United States is responsible for a second big spurt after the two World Wars.
The shopping centre that initially imitates a European model (the arcade) is established in city centres, and progressively becomes a suburban phenomenon.
With the motel, both connected through the U.S. roadway network, an imperial complex that is duplicated by the air routes, the twentieth-century equivalent of the nineteenth-century European rail networks.
All chains have something in common: what they have on offer is dominated by American cultural products.
The global consumption of fiction is above all the consumption of products from North America or inspired by them.
The purchase of display space creates bookshops that are all the same.
A good bookselle5r must be friendly, interested in culture and able to communicate that interest, be committed to books and what’s more energetic (we mustn’t forget it is physical work, too).
One must distinguish between the world’s great bookshops and emergency bookshops. The latter supply our most urgent reads, the ones that cannot wait, bring light relief on a flight or train journey, allow us to buy a last-minute present, and give us - on the same day it has been released - the book we’ve been waiting for.
Literature cannot be understood if one retains an anachronistic faith in frontiers.
If all religions share some things, it is the need for the book, the idea that walking brings one nearer to the gods and the conviction that the world will come to an end.
It has been our fate to witness the demise of the paper book, though it is proving so slow perhaps it will never happen at all.
Style is more important than content in the global circulation of the image.
Previously the bookshop became a tourist attraction when its historical important and picturesque condition hit the radar; over recent years architectural originality, almost always linked to excess, the grandiose and appeal to the media, has perhaps become a more influential marker than the two traditional ones.
The aim of which …is to prolong a customer’s stay in the bookshop transforming it into on all senses and on human relationship.
As in the virtual world, we are witnessing new forms of socialising, social networks, but the bookish variety clings to personal contact, to the fulfilment of the senses, the only thing the Internet cannot off us.
The longer you liger mentally or physically in the atmosphere of the shop the more you buy and consume.
In an era when gastronomy is now recognised as an art, culture has broadened its boundaries and these can be traced in tourist experiences that encompass every form of cultural consumption.
When Goethe travelled through Italy his visits to bookshops formed part of the spatial continuum that shaped every journey alongside churches, ruins the houses of learned men, restaurants and hotels. Travel and bookshops have always stimulated a lobe of the marketplace.
Intellectual pleasure fuses with voluptuous delight.
We can touch everything in bookshop, and that is not the case in a museum or the most important libraries.
Premises cannot simply justify their existence as the physical space for electronic sales, they must offer everything that we b pages can’t provide.
A visit to a bookshop distinguished by its history, architecture, interior design or publishing stock spotlights us s subjects who like luxury, members of a different community to the one that consumes culture in shopping centres and big chains.
The revamping of hotels, railway stations, cinemas, palaces, banks, printers’, art galleries or museums as bookshops is a constant over recent decades and has accelerate din the twenty-first century.
Google Images and other platforms are awash with photographs of the world’s most beautiful, most interesting, most spectacular bookshops. For the first time in the history of culture these bookshops achieve access straight away to the international tourist circuit, markers gather pace an generate immediate contagion - at a stick and paste rate - on web pages, social media, blogs and microblogs and create a desire to visit, get to know, travel and photograph without any recourse to History or the participation of famous writers or acclaimed books.
Although conversations about literature are as old as Western culture, it is, of course, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that they would become institutionalised as literary conversazione.
The confusion between private and public life parallels the confusion between bookshop and library.
Booksellers themselves in the eighteenth century were the driving force behind lending libraries that were much more democratic than literary societies and the only way in which artisans’ apprentices students or women could have access to literature without incurring the huge expense of the cost of a book. One could even say that, despite appearances, bookshops have never really been sure about their real boundaries.
A bookshop is much more hospitable when, as a result of repeated visits or coincidence, you strike up a friendship with one of the booksellers.
Only by travelling to the place where thigs happen do you find access to what resists visibility on the internet.
Every good bookseller must be something of a doctor, chemist or psychiatrist. Or barman.
Childhood and especially adolescence are periods when you fall in love with bookshops.
Blogs and social media allow you to exchange data and ideas in the cosmopolis, but your body continues to travel a local, domestic topography.
It is not only the movement of readers’ bodies that threads together the different bookshops in a city, books themselves shift and wander, open lines of escape and create itineraries,
Bookshops imitate the neighbourhoods that welcome them.
Nothing new exists solely in the world of what we can touch.
A democratic city is a network of public and private libraries and small and large bookshops: a dialogue between readers who live in multiple centres and various peripheries.
All bookshops are compasses: when you study them they offer you interpretations of the contemporary world that are more finely tuned than those provided by other icons or spaces.
All bookshops live between two worlds, the local and the one imposed by the United States, traditional business (of a local sort) and the one in huge shopping centres (chains), the physical and the virtual.
The reader’s sickness is related both to the arousal of the imagination and the immobilization of the body: the threat is as mental as it is physiological.
The moment a style ceases to be a fashion or trend and becomes mainstream, it will probably undergo a process of sophistication and end up on bookshop and library shelves and in museum rooms. As a cultural product. As a work of art. As a commodity.
Bookshops are cultural centres, myths, spaces for conversations and debate, friendships and even amorous encounters.
Above all bookshops are businesses.
Literature is magic and exchange and for centuries has been sustained, like money, by paper and that is why it has fallen victim to so many fires. Bookshops are businesses on two simultaneous, inseparable levels: the economic and the symbolic, the sale of copies and the creation and destruction of reputations, the reaffirmation of dominant taste or the invention of a new one, stocks and credits.
We are innate searchers of the physical world … and cannot stop being that in the virtual world as well.
Our brains are changing, the way we communicate and relate is changing … Surface rather than depth, speed rather than reflection, sequence rather than analysis, surfing rather than penetration, communication rather than expression, multitasking rather than specialisation, pleasure rather than effort.
Cultures cannot exist without memory, but need forgetfulness too. While the library insists on remembering everything, the Bookshop selects, discards, adapts to the present thanks to a necessary forgetfulness. The future is built on obsolescence: we have to discard past beliefs that re false or have become obsolete.
Bookshops have been and still are ritual spaces, often marked out by tourism and other institutions as ways to understand the history of culture, erotic topographies, and stimulating contexts to find material to nourish our place in the world.
What matters in the end is the will to remember.
The Bookshop on the Corner
by Jenny Colgan
(William Morrow, 2016)
Trains are built for reading.
You’re never alone with a book.
Every day with a book is slightly better than one without.
The problem with good things that happen is that very often they disguise themselves as awful things.
She felt, at twenty-nine, oddly surplus to life’s requirements.
Some people go through life not really deciding to do much, not wanting to, always too fearful of the consequences to try something new. Of course, that in itself is also a decision. You’ll get somewhere whether you put any effort into it or not. But doing something new is so hard.
For most of her life, the outdoors had simply been something to shelter from while she got on with her reading.
I want to be with books, have them all around me. And recommend them to other people: books for the brokenhearted and the happy, and people excited to be going on vacation, and people who need to know they aren’t alone in the universe, and books for children who really like monkeys, and, well, everything really. And to go places where I’m needed.
In the Highlands, it rained and it rained and it rained until it felt as if the clouds were coming down and getting in your face, rolling their big black way toward you and unleashing their relentless showers on top of you.
A dead Web site was a sad thing.
“I never understand … why anyone would go to the trouble of making up new people in this world when there’s already billions of the buggers I don’t give a shit about.
“Anything that spreads books and b rings about more books, I would say it is good. Good medicine, not bad.”
“Poetry is good for people who are in strange lands.”
Now, as she surveyed the clean, bare walls of the van, she realized exactly why she had been stockpiling all this time, without even knowing herself what she’d been doing.
“I like to think of it as evacuating the books to safety.”
The more sensibly dressed the person, the more unutterably depraved they liked their fiction; no doubt there was a cosmic balance in it somewhere.
This was great buckets of flowers; of poetry, real poetry; of, she truly believed, deeply held feelings. She was catching the night train.
“When you read a book, you feel like you’re in it.”
“Everyone’s different from how they look on the outside.”
It was astonishingly busy for such a small place. Nina had grown to understand the longer she stayed there that because they were so far away from big-city attractions, and because the weather was so often not their friend, they had to rely on each other through the long winter evenings and difficult days. It was an actual community, not just a long row of houses full of people who happened to live nest to one another. There was a difference, and she had simply never realized it before.
There was a universe inside every human being every bit as big as the universe outside them. Books were the best way Nina knew - apart from, sometimes, music - to breach the barrier, to connect the internal universe with the external, the words acting merely as a conduit between the two worlds.
She didn’t understand what on earth seemed to get her all riled up every time she saw him.
She tried to think what she was going to say: simply no, or it’s not possible, or a proper good-bye, a sad look at chances missed and timing gone wrong.
“You can’t tell anything about anyone just by looking at them.”
It seemed crazy that they could have spent the last three weeks utterly naked with each other, completely open, vulnerable and as close to each other as two people could possibly be, and now they were supposed to pass each other on the street and not mention a thing about it.
It was as if she’d never eaten chocolate in her life, then shed gotten a taste and now wanted to eat it all the time.
He could take away her sex life, he could take away her peace of mind, her hopes for happiness, her home, her livelihood. But NOBODY was taking away her reading.
She threw on a dress it wasn’t quite warm enough to wear, applied some lipstick with a trembling hand, and, trying to fake a confidence she didn’t feel, flung open her front door.
Beautiful things can be dangerous, too.
I am a permanent foreign resident living in Japan. I have no plan. I don't know what I'm doing.
6 月 2017