A collection of passages from books I have enjoyed reading.
Every now and then as I walked along I would stop and turn and heave a sigh for no particular reason. I felt almost as if I had come to a planet where the gravity was a little different. Yes, of course, I told myself, feeling sad: I was in the outside world now.
Is it possible, finally, for one human being to achieve perfect understanding of another?
We can invest enormous time and energy in serious efforts to know another person, but in the end, how close are we able to come to that person's essence? We convince ourself that we know the other person well, but do we really know anything important about anyone?'
I started thinking seriously about such things a week after I quit my job at the law firm. Never until then--never in the whole course of my life--had I grappled with questions like this. And why not? Probably because my hands had been full just living. I had simply been too busy to think about myself.
Ayumi was no longer in this world. She was now a cold corpse that was probably being sent for forensic dissection. When that ended, they would sew her back together, probably give her a simple funeral, send her to the crematorium, and burn her. She would turn into smoke, rise up into the sky, and mix with the clouds. Then she would come done to the earth again as rain, and nuture some nameless patch of grass with no story to tell.
The clouds continued to scud off toward the south. No matter how many were blown away, others appeared to take their place. There was an inexhaustible source of clouds in some land far to the north. Decisive people, minds fixed on the task, clothed in thick, gray uniforms, working silently from morning to night to make clouds, like bees make honey, spiders make webs, and war makes widows.
"HOLA, Aramis! What the devil are you doing there?" cried the two friends.
"Ah, is that you, d'Artagnan, and you, Athos?" said the young man. "I was reflecting upon the rapidity with which the blessings of this world leave us. My English horse, which has just disappeared amid a cloud of dust, has furnished me with a living image of the fragility of the things of the earth. Life itself may be resolved into three words: ERAT, EST, FUIT."
"Which means--" said d'Artagnan, who began to suspect the truth.
"Which means that I have just been duped-sixty louis for a horse which by the manner of his gait can do at least five leagues an hour."
Taciturn, silent, insensible to the new breath of vitality that was shaking the house, Colonel Aureliano Buendía could understand only that the secret of a good old age is simply an honorable pact with solitude. He would get up at five in the morning after a light sleep, have his eternal mug of bitter coffee in the kitchen, shut himself up all day in the workshop, and at four in the afternoon he would go along the porch dragging a stool, not even noticing the fire of the rose bushes or the brightness of the hour or the persistence of Amaranta, whose melancholy made the noise of a boiling pot, which was perfectly perceptible at dusk, and he would sit in the street door as long as the mosquitoes would allow him to.
A poet might die at twenty-one, a revolutionary or a rock star at twenty-four. But after that you assume everything's going to be all right. You've made it past Dead Man's Curve and you're out of the tunnel, cruising straight for your destination down a six-lane highway—whether you want to be or not. You get your hair cut; every morning you shave. You aren't a poet anymore, or a revolutionary or a rock star. You don't pass out drunk in phone booths or blast out the Doors at four in the morning. Instead, you buy life insurance from your friend's company, drink in hotel bars, and hold on to your dental bills for tax deductions. At twenty-eight, that's normal.
"Everything passes, Hiroto," Dad said. "That feeling in your heart: It’s called mono no aware. It is a sense of the transience of all things in life. The sun, the dandelion, the cicada, the Hammer, and all of us: We are all subject to the equations of James Clerk Maxwell and we are all ephemeral patterns destined to eventually fade, whether in a second or an eon."
...and the fountain talked to itself all serene and never ceasing in the sunlight of early spring.
A glimmer, a glint, at the City’s dusty edge, where the line between sky and land cut the eye. An everlasting gleam that yet evaporated upon the arrival of the three and left behind a smell like chrome and chemicals.
Phosphorescent, dripping a mist of near-weightless biomass in emerald and turquoise torrents, as if they had emerged not from desert but from some vast and ancient sea. The brine of them hit the three in a wave, and the taste of them registered Paleo-Mesozoic, worthy of the respect one gave to old bones in a museum.
Before him, huge loops of sand-polished girder dipped in and out of the dunes like metal worms. They are frozen, he thought: caught on a strange journey across an alien planet at the forgotten end of the universe.
With so many people gone the city is generating its own rubbish. In the cracks of buildings and the dark spaces under abandoned cars little knots of matter are self-organising into grease-stained chip wrappers, broken toys, cigarette packets, before snapping the tiny umbilicus that anchors them to the ground and drifting out across the streets. Even on Oxford Street every morning sees a fresh crop of litter, each filthy newborn piece marked with a minuscule puckered navel.
The Friend's Apartment was inside a townhouse. From the window of its Main Lounge I could see similar townhouses on the opposite side of the street. There were six of them in a row, and the ront of each had been painted a slightly different color, to prevent a resident clibming the wrong steps and entering a neighbor's house by mistake.
I made this observation aloud to Josie that day...
He looked out onto a darkened town; a port within a huge, dim space all speckled with small lights. Dark waters lay in the distance beyond wharves and cranes. Spaced regularly in the shadows across the inky glints of waves he could just make out huge pillars, growing out of that broad, buried sea like impossibly perfect steep-cliffed islands and sprouting, spreading at their summits to meet a jet-black vaulted sky more remembered than seen.
The tunnel was shaped like an inverted U and was perhaps ten metres across; steps led up the near side, separated from the rushing water only by a thin iron rail supported by spindly, rusting rods. Weak yellow lamps lit the tunnel roof sporadically, disappearing into the distance with no hint of any further light.
Lights shone through a thousand holes, here and there becoming colorful rays where they found a colloidal base in floating haze of dust or blood or lubricant. From where Kassad hung, twisting with the lurch and tumble of the ship, he could see a score or more of bodies, naked and torn, each moving with the deceptive underwater-ballet grace of the zero-gravity dead. Most of the corpses floated within their own small solar systems of blood and tissue. Several of them watched Kassad with the cartoon-character stares of their pressure-expanded eyes and seemed to beckon him closer with random, languid movements of arms and hands.
Shimmering, miragelike, a tree of steel thorns appeared out of the haze and a sudden dust storm of ochre sand. The thing seemed to fill the valley, rising at least two hundred meters to the height of the cliffs. Branches shifted, dissolved, and reformed like elements of a poorly tuned hologram. Sunlight danced on five-meter-long thorns. Corpses of Ouster men and women, all naked, were impaled on at least a score of these thorns. Other branches held other bodies. Not all were human.
I heard the poet Bill Siverly this week say that the essence of modern high technology is to consider the world as disposable: use it and throw it away. The people at this conference are here to think about how to get outside the mindset that sees the technofix as the answer to all problems. It’s easy to say we don’t need more “high” technologies inescapably dependent on despoliation of the earth. It’s easy to say we need recyclable, sustainable technologies, old and new—pottery-making, bricklaying, sewing, weaving, carpentry, plumbing, solar power, farming, IT devices, whatever. But here, in the midst of our orgy of being lords of creation, texting as we drive, it’s hard to put down the smartphone and stop looking for the next technofix. Changing our minds is going to be a big change. To use the world well, to be able to stop wasting it and our time in it, we need to relearn our being in it.
She leaves him sprawled against the parapet and turns to the estuary so that he falls on her right and vanishes from awareness. She knows he must still be there, but her wound swallows him.
We stepped outside as knives of sunlight winked off every glassed thing on the street. The stink of exhaust enveloped us. Sewage warming in the gutters brought out the scents of the human soufflé: piss, heated blacktop, burnt plastic.
But everything was getting worse: the climate, the economy, crime, drugs, you know. I didn’t believe we would be allowed to sit behind our walls, looking clean and fat and rich to the hungry, thirsty, homeless, jobless, filthy people outside.
She died for us, the scavenger woman had said of the green face. Some kind of insane burn-the-rich movement, Keith had said. We’ve never been rich, but to the desperate, we looked rich. We were surviving and we had our wall. Did our community die so that addicts could make a help the poor political statement.
The changes. I thought for a moment. They were slow changes compared to anything that might happen here, but it took a plague to make some of the people realize that things could change.