variations on a theme: life

“In the life of a man, his time is but a moment, his being an incessant flux, his senses a dim rushlight, his body a prey of worms, his soul an unquiet eddy, his fortune dark, and his fame doubtful. In short, all that is of the body is as coursing waters, all that is of the soul as dreams and vapors; life is warfare, a brief sojourning in an alien land; and after repute, oblivion. Where, then can man find the power to guide and guard his steps? In one thing and on alone: philosophy…” Meditations ii #17, Marcus Aurelius Antonius

“Man’s life on earth is a term of indenture; his days are like a laborer’s, a slave, who pants for a little shade, a day laborer, who only wants his wages. I too am granted blank moons; troubled nights have been my lot. When I lie down, I say, ”How soon can I get up?” The night time stretches, and I have tossing and turning enough to last till dawn. My flesh is covered with worms and dirty scabs; my skin is cracking and oozing. My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle; they end when the thread of hop gives out. Remember: My life is just a breath; my eye will never again see pleasure. The questing eye will not detect me; Your eye will catch me—just!– and I’ll be gone. A cloud dissipates, vanishes, and once below the ground no man comes up again he never goes back to his home; his place no longer knows him.” Job 7:1-11 (cf, “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,” MacBeth)

“In the world according to Garp, we are all terminal cases.” The World According to Garp, John Irving

“…human beings are born some fourteen years too soon. No other animal endures such a long period of dependency on its parents. And then suddenly…the child is expected to become an adult, and his whole psychological system, which has been tuned and turned to dependency is now require to respond to the challenges of life in the way of responsibility.” “Mythological Themes in Creative Literature and Art,” Joseph Campbell

“The truth was that he did not enjoy family life. It was in this sort of state that one asked oneself, What does one live for? Why, one asked oneself, does one take all these pains for the human race to go on? Is it so very desirable? Are we attractive as a species? Not so very, he thought, looking at those rather untidy boys.” Mr. Ramsay in To the Lighthouse, p. 89, Virginia Woolf

“The library is full of stories of supposed triumphs, which makes me very suspicious of it. It’s misleading for people to read about great successes, since even for middle-class and upper-class white people, in my experience, failure is the norm. It is unfair to youngsters particularly to leave them wholly unprepared for monster screw-ups and starring roles in Keystone Kop comedies and much, much worse.” Hocus Pocus, p. 33, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

“Trying is the first step towards failure.” Homer Simpson on The Simpsons

“You wonder whether you aren’t simply a phantom in other people’s minds.” Invisible Man, p. 3, Ralph Ellison

“What is real? How do you define real? If you’re talking about your sense, what you feel, taste, smell or see, then all you’re talking about are electrical signals interpreted by your brain.” Morpheus in The Matrix

“We spend three-quarters of our lives wanting without doing… and doing without wanting.” Jacques in Jacques the Fatalist, p. 221, Denis Diderot

“Life, although it may only be an accumulation of anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it.” the wretch in Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

“In the beginning the universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.” The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Douglas Adams

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