On Attentiveness

Wendell Berry in an essay entitled “Preserving Wildness” collected inHome Economics makes the case for what may be called an economy of attentiveness (as opposed to an economy of mere attention).

The good worker loves the board before it becomes a table, loves the tree before it yields the board, loves the forest before it gives up the tree. The good worker understands that a badly made artifact is both an insult to its user and a danger to its source. We could say, then, that good forestry begins with the respectful husbanding of the forest that we call stewardship and ends with well-made tables and chairs and houses, just as good agriculture begins with stewardship of the fields and ends with good meals.

Sagan on Humans

There will be no humans elsewhere. Only here. Only on this small planet. We are a rare as well as an endangered species. Every one of us, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.

Sagan on Books

A book is made from a tree. It is an assemblage of flat, flexible parts (still called “leaves”) imprinted with dark pigmented squiggles. One glance at it and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, the author is speaking, clearly and silently, inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people, citizens of distant epochs, who never knew one another. Books break the shackles of time ― proof that humans can work magic.

However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.

Lovely interview with Stanley Kubrick:

> **Playboy**: If life is so purposeless, do you feel that it’s worth living?

> **Kubrick**: Yes, for those of us who manage somehow to cope with our mortality. The very meaninglessness of life forces man to create his own meaning. Children, of course, begin life with an untarnished sense of wonder, a capacity to experience total joy at something as simple as the greenness of a leaf; but as they grow older, the awareness of death and decay begins to impinge on their consciousness and subtly erode their *joie de vivre*, their idealism–and their assumption of immortality. As a child matures, he sees death and pain everywhere about him, and begins to lose faith in the ultimate goodness of man. But if he’s reasonably strong–and lucky–he can emerge from this twilight of the soul into a rebirth of life’s *élan*. Both because of and in spite of his awareness of the meaninglessness of life, he can forge a fresh sense of purpose and affirmation. He may not recapture the same pure sense of wonder he was born with, but he can shape something far more enduring and sustaining. The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death–however mutable many may be able to make them–our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.

Two things strike me in reading this: how autobiographical these kinds of assertions can be–that, or my own childhood was simply that much more pleasant thank Kubrick’s–and that I really want to make that sense of wonder prominent in my book on the crawfish boats: these things really are amazing.

> It stood on a sharp bleak corner, where that tempestuous wind Euroclydon kept up a worse howling than ever it did about poor Paul’s tossed craft. Euroclydon, nevertheless, is a mighty pleasant zephyr to any one in-doors, with his feet on the hob quietly toasting for bed.

From _Moby Dick_.

Because the guy who can turn it around isn’t good at fighting internal BigCo political battles. — [Dave Winer](http://scripting.com/stories/2011/06/29/pagesMistake.html)

> Nobody believes a theoretical analysis, except the guy who did it. Everybody believes an experimental analysis, except the guy who did it. — Unknown

Theodore Roosevelt at the Sorbonne in 1910

Theodore Roosevelt at the Sorbonne on 23 April 1910:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

The Purpose of Civilization

Reading _A Logic Named Joe_ using [Stanza](http://itunes.com/apps/Stanza) is producing some great quotes. From “The Pirates of Zan”:

> “Do you realize,” he asked, “that the whole purpose of civilization is to take the surprises out of life, so one can be bored to death? That a culture in which nothing unexpected ever happens is in what is called its ‘golden age’? That when nobody can even imagine anything happening unexpectedly, that they later fondly refer to that period as the ‘good old days’? … Government … is an organization for the suppression of adventure. Taxes are, in part, the insurance premiums one pays for protection against the unpredictable.”

Ruskin on Privileging Certain Forms of Imagination

In his 1857 lecture on “Influence of Imagination in Architecture” to members of the Architectural Association, John Ruskin noted:

If we see an old woman spinning at the fireside, and distributing her thread dexterously from the distaff, we respect her for her manipulation — if we ask her how much she expects to make in a year, and she answers quickly, we respect her for her calculation — if she is watching at the same time that none of her grandchildren fall into the fire, we respect her for her observation — yet for all this she may still be a commonplace old woman enough. But if she is all the time telling a fairy tale out of her head, we praise her for her imagination, and say, she must be a rather remarkable old woman.

From The Two Paths (George Allen edition of 1906), page 136.