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Category: Words

Quotes from Testaments Betrayed

Try to reconstruct a dialogue from your own life, the dialogue of a quarrel or a dialogue of love. The most precious, the most important situations are utterly gone. Their abstract sense remains (I took this point of view, he took that one, I was aggressive, he was defensive), perhaps a detail or two, but the acousticovisual concreteness of the situation in all its continuity is lost.

And not only is it lost but we do not even wonder at this loss. We are resigned to losing the concreteness of the present. We immediately transform the present moment into its abstraction. We need only recount an episode we experienced a few hours ago: the dialogue contracts to a brief summary, the setting to a few general features. This applies to even the strongest memories, which affect the mind deeply, like a trauma: we are so dazzled by their potency that we don’t realize how schematic and meager their content is.

When we study, discuss, analyze a reality, we analyze it as it appears in our mind, in our memory. We know reality only in the past tense. We do not know it as it is in the present, in the moment when it’s happening, when it is. The present moment is unlike the memory of it. Remembering is not the negative of forgetting. Remembering is a form of forgetting.

We can assiduously keep a diary and note every event. Rereading the entries one day, we will see that they cannot evoke a single concrete image. And still worse: that the imagination is unable to help our memory along and reconstruct what has been forgotten. The present – the concreteness of the present – as a phenomenon to consider, as a structure, is for us an unknown planet; so we can neither hold on to it in our memory nor reconstruct it through imagination. We die without knowing what have lived.

—- Testaments Betrayed: An Essay in Nine Parts, Milan Kundera

Maxims, La Rochefoucald

We have no more say in the duration of our passions than in that of our lives.

Our self-esteem is more inclined to resent criticism of our tastes than of our opinions.

The steadfastness of the wise is but the art of keeping their agitation locked in their hearts.

Greater virtues are needed to bear good fortune than bad.

We have more strength than will-power, and when we imagine things are impossible we are trying to make excuses to ourselves.

If we had no faults we should not find so much enjoyment in seeing faults in others.

Pride plays a greater part than kindness in the reprimands we address to wrongdoers; we reprove them not so much to reform them as to make them believe that we are free from their faults.

People too much taken up with little things usually become incapable of big ones.

We are never as fortunate or as unfortunate as we suppose.

People with a high opinion of their own merit make it a point of honour to be unhappy so as to convince others as well as themselves that they are worthy victims of the buffetings of fate.

The scorn for riches displayed by the philosophers was a secret desire to recompense their own merit for the injustice of Fortune by scorning those very benefits she had denied them; it was a private way of remaining unsullied by poverty, a devious path towards the high respect they could not command by wealth.

Sincerity is openness of heart. It is found in very few, and what is usually seen is subtle dissimulation designed to draw the confidence of others.

There are few people who, when their love for each other is dead, are not ashamed of that love.

Reconciliation with our enemies is nothing more than the desire to improve our position, war-weariness, or fear of some unlucky turn of events.

What men have called friendship is merely association, respect for each other’s interests, and exchange of good offices, in fact nothing more than a business arrangement from which self-love is always out to draw some profit.

Our self-esteem magnifies or minimises the good qualities of our friends according to how pleased we are with them, and we measure their worth by the way they get on with us.

Old people are fond of giving good advice; it consoles them for no longer being capable of setting a bad example.

A man’s ingratitude may be less reprehensible than the motives of his benefactor.

Nothing is less sincere that the way people ask and give advice. The asker appears to have deferential respect for his friend’s sentiments, although his sole object is to get his own approved and transfer responsibility for his conduct; whereas the giver repays with tireless and disinterested energy that confidence that has been placed in him, although most often the advice he gives is calculated to further his own interests or reputation alone.

We often do good so that we can do evil with impunity.

When we resist passions it is more on account of their weakness than our strength.

One of the reasons why so few people are to be found who seem sensible and pleasant in conversation is that almost everybody is thinking about what he wants to say himself rather than answering clearly what is being said to him. The more clever and polite think it enough simply to put on an attentive expression, while all the time you can see in their eyes and train of thought that they are far removed from what you are saying and anxious to get back to what they want to say. They ought, on the contrary, to reflect that such keenness to please oneself is a bad way of pleasing or persuading others, and that to listen well and answer to the point is one of the most perfect qualities one can have in conversation.

The glory of great men must always be measured against the means they have used to acquire it.

Our real worth earns the respect of knowledgeable people, luck that of the public.

We are held to our duty by laziness and timidity, but often our virtue gets all the credit.

Repentance is not so much regret for the evil we have done as fear of the evil that may befall us as a result.

We own up to our failings so that our honesty may repair the damage those failings do us in other men’s eyes.

We do not despise all those with vices, but we do despise all those without a single virtue.

Our misdeeds are easily forgotten when they are known only to ourselves.

Virtue would not go so far without vanity to bear it company.

Gratitude is like commercial good faith; it keeps trade going, and we pay up, not because it is right to settle our account but so that people will be more willing to extend us credit.

The deficit in the amount of gratitude we expect for kindnesses done is due to the pride of both giver and receiver, for they fail to agree upon the value of the kindness.

Over-eagerness to repay a debt is in itself a kind of ingratitude.

Afflictions give rise to various kinds of hypocrisy: in one, pretending to weep over the loss of someone dear to us we really weep for ourselves, since we miss that person’s good opinion of us or deplore some curtailment of our wealth, pleasure, or position. The dead, therefore, are honoured by tears shed for the living alone. I call this a kind of hypocrisy because in afflictions of this sort we deceive ourselves. There is another hypocrisy, less innocent because aimed at the world at large: the affliction of certain persons who aspire to the glory of a beautiful, immortal sorrow. Time, the universal destroyer, has taken away the grief they really felt, but still they obstinately go on weeping, wailing, and sighing; they are acting a mournful part and striving to make all their actions prove that their distress will only end with their lives. This miserable and tiresome vanity is usually found in ambitious women, for as their sex precludes them from all the roads to glory they seek celebrity by a display of inconsolable affliction. There is yet another kind of tears that rise from shallow springs and flow or dry up at will: people shed them so as to have a reputation for being tender-hearted, so as to be pitied or wept over, or, finally, to avoid the disgrace of not weeping.

Those who obstinately oppose the most widely-held opinions more often do so because of pride than lack of intelligence. They find the best places in the right set already taken, and they do not want back seats.

In every walk of life each man puts on a personality and outward appearance so as to look what he wants to be thought: in fact you might say that society is entirely made up of assumed personalities.

Civility is a desire to be repaid with civility, and also to be considered well bred.

Pity is often feeling our own sufferings in those of others, a shrewd precaution against misfortunes that may befall us. We give help to others so that they have to do the same for us on similar occasions, and these kindnesses we do them are, to put it plainly, gifts we bestow on ourselves in advance.

Readiness to believe the worst without adequate examination comes from pride and laziness: we want to find culprits but cannot be bothered to investigate the crimes.

Absence lessens moderate passions and intensifies great ones, as the wind blows out a candle but fans up a fire.

We own up to minor failings, but only so as to convince others that we have no major ones.

Commonplace minds usually condemn whatever is beyond their powers.

Most friends give one a distaste for friendship, and most of the pious a distaste for piety.

Decorum is the least important of all laws, but the best observed.

The very pride that makes us condemn failings from which we think we are exempt leads us to despise good qualities we do not possess.

Those who have known great passions remain all through their lives both glad and sorry they have recovered.

Moderation in times of good fortune is merely dread of the humiliating aftermath of excess, or fear of losing what one has.

Each one of us finds in others the very faults other finds in us.

When you cannot find your peace in yourself it is useless to look for it elsewhere.

As man is never free to love or cease loving, a lover has no right to complain of his mistress’s inconstancy, nor she of his fickleness.

We do not always regret the loss of our friends because of their worth, but because of our own needs and the flattering opinion they had of us.

自戀者的告白

睡不着的夜晚,百無聊賴的瀏覧着自己的網誌,隨意撈起了幾篇以前寫的東西,看得我毛管直豎--怎麼這種東西也寫得出來讓人看?根本就是故作憂鬱多愁善感傷春悲秋的無聊X的自戀作業,還以為自己非常浪漫才情洋溢,實在太過可怕不堪入目。只是要我把上千篇文章逐一重新檢閱,把不見得光的東西收起或處理掉,我又提不起那個勁,因此暫時就放着算了,反正又不會有甚麼人看到。原來在我寫得最多的時候往往是最泛濫而又最幼稚粗糙的;而當我開始陷入無言的狀態之時,其實才是真正學懂了如何寫的時候。只有當寫作超越了純粹自戀式的情緒發泄時,寫作才真正成為寫作。就連這回事我也顯得十分的遲熟。

Borges on Writing and Blindness

I had always imagined Paradise as a kind of library.

I too, if I may mention myself, have always known that my destiny was, above all, a literary destiny — that bad things and some good things would happen to me, but that, in the long run, all of it would be converted into words. Particularly the bad things, since happiness does not need to be transformed: happiness is its own end.

I have said that blindness is a way of life, a way of life that is not entirely unfortunate. Let us recall those lines of the greatest Spanish poet, Fray Luis de León:

Vivir quiero conmigo,
gozar quiero del bien que debo al cielo,
a solas sin testigo,
libre de amor, de celo,
de odio, de esperanza, de recelo.

[I want to live with myself,/ I want to enjoy the good that I owe to heaven,/ alone, without witnesses,/ free of love, of jealousy,/ of hate, of hope, of fear.]

Edgar Allan Poe knew this stanza by heart.

A writer lives. The task of being a poet is not completed at a fixed schedule. No one is a poet from eight to twelve and from two to six. Whoever is a poet is always one, and continually assaulted by poetry. I suppose a painter feels that colors and shapes are besieging him. Or the musician feels that the strange world of sounds — the strangest world of art — is always seeking him out, that there are melodies and dissonances looking for him. For the task of an artist, blindness is not a total misfortune. It may be an instrument. Fray Luis de León dedicated one of his most beautiful odes to Francisco Salinas, a blind musician.

A writer, or any man, must believe that whatever happens to him is an instrument; everything has been given for an end. This is even stronger in the case of an artist. Everything that happens, including humiliations, embarrassments, misfortunes, all has been given like clay, like material for one’s art. One must accept it. For this reason I speak in a poem of the ancient food of heroes: humiliation, unhappiness, discord. Those things are given to us to transform, so that we may make from the miserable circumstances of our lives things that are eternal, or aspire to be so.

I want to end with a line of Goethe: ‘Alles Nahe werde fern,’ everything near becomes far. Goethe was referring to the evening twilight. Everything becomes far. It is true. At nightfall, the things closest to us seem to move away from our eyes. So the visible world has moved away from my eyes, perhaps forever.

Goethe could be referring not only to twilight but to life. All things go off, leaving us. Old age is probably the supreme solitude — except that the supreme solitude is death. And ‘everything near becomes far’ also refers to the slow process of blindness, of which I hoped to show speaking tonight, that it is not a complete misfortune. It is one more instrument among the many — all of them so strange – that fate or chance provide.

 

Jorge Luis Borges, “Blindness” in The Perpetual Race of Achilles and the Tortoise (Penguin Great Ideas 98)

消失

他是一個沒有絲毫存在感的人;跟他在一起她覺得連自己的存在感也逐點消失了。分開了以後,原本存在感已不強的他,更是像從空氣中消失了一樣,不留一絲氣味的,消聲匿跡了。像是從來沒有存在過似地。

看星座書就是要對號入座(二)

射手座是「射手」,即是好比狩獵者的星座;搜尋獵物,虎視眈眈的瞄準目標,計算好時機一舉出擊的「乘勢出擊」這種作法,表現出柔軟宮的特質。
射手座的人看上去冷酷,其實內心隱藏了燃燒着的熱情。一旦這熱情加上火,他們比任何人都要快速的作出行動。
射手座是擁有根據理論分析事情的冷靜、客觀公平的看事物的態度的星座。
象徵射手座的地方如下:
山丘、高地。
馬的牧場、狩獵場。
建築物的上層。
有暖爐或火爐的房子。
圖書館。
開揚的、接近天空的地方是射手座最親厚的地方。
對於海港或機場、車站等讓人有「旅行的起點」感覺的地方,大概都很有親和感。
閱讀對射手座來說,是旅行的一種,因此有書本的地方,也應該是他們熟悉的空間。
其他屬於射手座的事物:
弓、射藝。
書本。哲學書、古書。玻璃瓶裡的信、空郵信件。
帆船、飛機、長距離列車。
馬。大型動物。
小輪。
狩獵裝束、綁帶長靴、馬靴。
大學、研究室、燈台。
旅行、翻譯。
旅行包、行李箱。出版、宣傳廣告。
合奏、兩件頭、複調色系。
優雅、忠誠。
幽默感、寬容。
樂觀、挑戰。

-摘自石井ゆかり『射手座』

看星座書就是要對號入座(一)

射手座的世界,是很開闊的。
嘭的一聲把門打開迎向遠方的世界一般,內面的人自由的在兩邊進出。有時出去後便一直流浪,把旅行當作家的人也不少。
射手座的世界是「廣闊的、很多人居住的地方」與「自己」的相遇。即是「一對多」、「一對世界」的構造。
把自己置身於跟自己不同的多樣的文化和價值觀當中,並從中發掘出「永恆不變的重要的東西」。
勇敢的、富好奇心的、有時也愛危險。
未曾聽過的事物、未曾到過的地方、未曾見過的人。
射手座的人絕不會「草率地輕易把門打開」。他們的開放是有着某種威脅性和覺悟的。
射手座的人並不會從既成概念看事情。
這是一種把能夠所有人都應該知道的事情,由零開始重新思考「這是甚麼?」的,源自於哲學精神的態度。
射手座是旅行和哲學的星座。
射手座所追求的知識,並不是博學的博士那種知識,而是屬於所有人的普遍的真實。
旅行、以及深入的思考,都是不能取代的「往未知的世界的冒險」。探求心、以及探求的目標都必然是「能夠理解的、能夠互相理解的」旳神聖的樂觀,支撐着射手座的人生。知識引導旅行,旅行鍛練出知識。在遠方生活、跟擁有截然不同習俗的人發自心底的相互理解,是射手座的願望。
自我肯定強、好惡分明、對自己追求的東西永常忠實。
射手座的世界裡,沒有任何東西可以束縛他們。
「小肥肥一族」系列裡登場的人氣人物史力奇,就被描寫得相當具有射手座的的特徵。
熱愛生命、熱愛音樂、熱愛冒險、熱愛天空上的星星和海洋的他們,沒有任何可以困着他們的東西,是樂天的任由世界跟自己相處,並從心感到富足的冒險家。

-摘自石井ゆかり『射手座』

文章という不完全な容器

「文章という不完全な容器に盛ることができるのは不完全な記憶や不完全な想いでしかないのだ。」

在你離開之前

在你又再離開之前,快快的留幾隻字。

或者是因為他讓我看了一篇他覺得很像我的文章,引發我翻閱並重新發現那篇可能是我寫過的最自然流暢因而最有力的文章;或者是那天跟朋友的對話勾起了的往事;或者是漫長的休息和等待終於開花結果--終於,我跟你重逢了。寫作的慾望。

你不在的日子,我每天都看着各種人事物隨着時間溜走,沒有刻意記低,心中只祈願有一天你會回來,我便又再自然的寫下所有的東西,不費一絲氣力。

我得趕快寫下忽然在䐉內冒起的字句。在你又再離開之前。

他走了。

他走了。

她站在玄關,打開着門迎着冰涼的晨風,望向已沒有他身影的小巷,聽着他的行李箱車輪劃在柏油路上的聲音逐漸遠去,淚珠從眼裡一顆一顆滑下臉頰來。

明明是她自己要走的。她跟他說她要走,他雖然萬般不願意,但卻還是默默的陪着她來到這離別的一刻,然後靜靜的離去,離別時仍一貫的千叮萬囑,如果待不下去了就回來,如果哭了便得立刻買機票。她只能以眼淚回應。

心裡卻明白自己是不會回去了。

和他一起的幾年,她總是帶着隨遇而安的心態讓日子不經意的溜過,心裡總冀盼着重回自由的日子。

而當自由終於來到時,她卻猶䂊了。幾年間他的不聲不語,竟然也逐點的馴化了她。原本她還恨他不放她走。

當又一顆淚珠要掉下來時,她及時止住了它。這之後我又一個人了。她抬頭望向初白的天空,腦裡試着回想起以前未曾遇上他時,自由的氣味。

她退回房內,把大門輕輕帶上。

這之後我要做甚麼好呢。