SATURDAY PUZZLE — It’s not really a secret that we all see, feel, smell and hear things differently. If you have ever sat through a course in philosophy, you know that our perception of what is “real” is based not on what something actually is, but what we say it is. Which is always incredibly disappointing to a teenager who has come to college to discover the “real” world (“That’s it?! That’s all there is to it? Can I go now?”)
The quote that is normally attributed to the writer ANAÏS NIN, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are” is also a Talmudic idea about dream analysis: People can only dream about things they have encountered or thought about, and so their dreams consist not of reality — whatever that is — but is instead a version filtered through the lens of the dreamer’s experiences.
Let’s look at 52A, for example. I make my living on the internet. I spend a good deal of time interacting with people — most of them very nice — online. But when I first read the clue “On-line jerks?” I immediately thought that the answer must be TROLLS, because in my mental neighborhood, that’s what online jerks are called.
Whoops! Not enough squares for TROLLS. Also, I didn’t notice that hyphen in “On-line.” My bad. Maybe the clue means something else.
Do we have any fishing hobbyists out there?
Maybe you got it right the first time. If you have a fish on the line (“On-line”) and the line jerks, those are called BITES.
Deb Amlen, NYTIMES
Author’s Note: Long before Derrida and deconstruction, the Talmud said, quite sagely, “We do not see things as they are. We see them as we are.” As far as I am concerned, every word of this book is the complete and total truth. But of course, it’s my truth. So to protect the innocent—as well as the guilty—I have changed most names. Otherwise, unfortunately for me, every detail is accurate.
Wurtzel, Elizabeth. Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America
Now, why do I regret that? Why, forty-two years later, am I still thinking about it? Relative to most of the other kids, I was actually pretty nice to her. I never said an unkind word to her. In fact, I sometimes even (mildly) defended her.
But still. It bothers me.
So here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it:
What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.
Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded . . . sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.
George Saunders. Advice to Graduates via NYTIMES
Whenever the pulpit is usurped by a formalist, then is the worshipper defrauded and disconsolate. We shrink as soon as the prayers begin, which do not uplift, but smite and offend us. We are fain to wrap our cloaks about us, and secure, as best we can, a solitude that hears not. I once heard a preacher who sorely tempted me to say, I would go to church no more. Men go, thought I, where they are wont to go, else had no soul entered the temple in the afternoon. A snow storm was falling around us. The snow storm was real; the preacher merely spectral; and the eye felt the sad contrast in looking at him, and then out of the window behind him, into the beautiful meteor of the snow. He had lived in vain. He had no one word intimating that he had laughed or wept, was married or in love, had been commended, or cheated, or chagrined. If he had ever lived and acted, we were none the wiser for it. The capital secret of his profession, namely, to convert life into truth, he had not learned. Not one fact in all his experience, had he yet imported into his doctrine. This man had ploughed, and planted, and talked, and bought, and sold; he had read books; he had eaten and drunken; his head aches; his heart throbs; he smiles and suffers; yet was there not a surmise, a hint, in all the discourse, that he had ever lived at all.
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, Divinity School Address
“Of course, I wasn’t seeing it so clearly then, I was so fucked up on alcohol and heroin. You know that saying, Zesty, that at the core, the best definition of an addict is an egomaniac with low self-esteem?”
I nod, smoke.
“Well, then, you have a good picture of what I was.”
Abramowitz, Adam. A Town Called Malice
A bike messenger navigates Boston’s gritty underworld of gangsters and blood money in this novel with more twists and turns than Boston’s streets, in Adam Abramowitz’s A Town Called Malice.
The best reason for being a nomad is not the fresh air but the escape from the rationalist theory of society based on the rationalist interpretation of history, since the rationalist approach to either is a blithely idealistic flight from human intuition. A nineteenth-century philosopher could afford it. You can’t. If one can’t become a nomad physically, one should at least become one mentally. You can’t save your skin, but you can try for your mind.
Profile of Clio, Joseph Brodsky
On Grief and Reason: Essays
From the essay, Less Than One.
“But I freely admit that real Christianity (as distinct from Christianity-and-water) goes much nearer to Dualism than people think. One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked so much about a Dark Power in the universe—a mighty evil spirit who was held to be the Power behind death and disease, and sin. The difference is that Christianity thinks this Dark Power was created by God, and was good when he was created, and went wrong. Christianity agrees with Dualism that this universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel.
Enemy-occupied territory—that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.”
Lewis, C. S.. Mere Christianity
As courage and intelligence are the two qualities best worth a good man’s cultivation, so it is the first part of intelligence to recognise our precarious estate in life, and the first part of courage to be not at all abashed before the fact. A frank and somewhat headlong carriage, not looking too anxiously before, not dallying in maudlin regret over the past, stamps the man who is well armoured for this world.
And not only well armoured for himself, but a good friend and a good citizen to boot. We do not go to cowards for tender dealing; there is nothing so cruel as panic; the man who has least fear for his own carcass, has most time to consider others.
Aes Triplex, by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Check out the whole thing at Project Gutenberg