Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Intellectual Life: Quotations

"Do you want to do intellectual work? Begin by creating within you a zone of silence, a habit of recollection, a will to renunciation and detachment which puts you entirely at the disposal of the work; acquire that state of soul unburdened by desire and self-will which is the state of grace of the intellectual worker." p. xviii

"Great men seem to us men of great boldness; in reality they are more obedient than others. The sovereign voice speaks to them." pp. xxi-xxii

"The man who has not the sense of true greatness is easily exultant or easily depressed, sometimes both together." p. xxii

"A life with too ambitious an aim or one content with too low a level is a misdirected life." pp. xxii-xxiii

"When the world does not like you it takes its revenge on you; if it happens to like you, it takes its revenge still by corrupting you. Your only resource is to work far from the world, as indifferent to its judgments as you are ready to serve it." p. xxiii

"To start precipitately on a road which one could not tread with a firm step would be merely to prepare the way for disillusionment." p. 3

"To get something without paying for it is the universal desire; but it is the desire of cowardly hearts and weak brains." p. 6

"Have you two hours a day? Can you undertake to keep them jealously, to use them ardently, and then, being of those who have authority in the Kingdom of God, can you drink the chalice of which these pages would wish to make you savor the exquisite and bitter taste? If so, have confidence. Nay, rest in quiet certainty." p. 11

"By practicing the truth that we know, we merit the truth that we do not yet know." p. 19

"Contemplation, whether religious or secular, scientific, artistic, or literary, is not compatible with the complications and burdens of an excessively comfortable life. 'Big men have little beds,' notes Henri Lavedan. There is a luxury tax to be paid on intellectual greatness." p. 42

"Slacken the tempo of your life. ... Society life is fatal to study. ... When one thinks of a man of genius, one does not imagine him dining out." p. 42

"The things that count must set up a barrier between him and the things that do not count." p. 49

"The workshops of old, especially those of the artists, were a gathering of friends, a family. The workshop of today is a jail, or a union meeting." p. 54

"One begins with enthusiasm, then as some difficulty arises, the demon of laziness whispers: What is the good? Our vision of the goal grows dim; the fruit of effort is too distant or appears too bitter; we have a vague sense of being duped." p. 55

"...in society a man passes the more surely for clever, the more he has killed his intelligence." p. 60

"Evening! How little, usually, people know about making it holy and quiet, about using it to prepare for really restorative sleep! How it is wasted, polluted, misdirected!" p. 91

"...dissipation is not rest, it is exhaustion." p. 92

"It is very important to work in joy, therefore with relative ease, therefore in the direction of one's aptitudes." p. 119

"The great enemy of knowledge is our indolence; that native sloth which shrinks from effort, which does indeed consent now and then capriciously, to make a big effort but soon relapses into careless automatism, regarding a vigorous and sustained impetus as a regular martyrdom." p. 124

"The strong man rears the ladder of Jacob before him for the ascent and descent of the angels that visit us." p. 125

"Everything must have a beginning. 'The beginning is more than the half of the whole,' said Aristotle. If you produce nothing you get a habit of passivity; timidity grows continually and the fear caused by pride; you hesitate, waste your powers in waiting, become as unproductive as a knotted tree-bud." pp. 200-1

"One should never write 'in the manner of' so-and-so, even if the so-and-so were oneself. One must not have a manner; truth has none; it is there, objectively real; it is always fresh and new." pp. 205-6

"Inspiration is incompatible with selfish desire. Whoever wants something for himself sets truth aside: the jealous God will not sojourn with him. We must work, we said, in a spirit of eternity; what is less eternal than an ambitious aim? You are consecrated to truth, you must serve, not use it." p. 210

"One wants to keep one's secret; one hides one's lack of competence; one poses as big, knowing oneself to be little; one 'asserts,' 'declares,' 'is sure'; at bottom one does not know; one imposes on the public; and, half-duped by one's own game, one deceives oneself." p. 211

"This virtue of independence is so much the more necessary as the public, in the mass, has all the qualities needed to pull you down. The public has the elementary school mentality. In most circles and by the majority of its votes it proclaims conventions, not truths; it likes to be flattered; it fears above everything to have its quietude disturbed. To get it to listen to the essential truths, you must impose them by sheer insistence. You can do it, and the solitary thinking must try to exercise this felicitous violence." pp. 213-4

"The very people who require you to court their favor despise a flatterer and surrender to a master." p. 214

"The ruses of sloth are endless, like those of children." p. 217

"When one does not make room for rest, the rest one does not take takes itself; it steals into the work, under the form of distractions, of sleepiness, of necessary things that demand attention, not having been foreseen at the right time." p. 245

"Use wiles with yourself if necessary; promise yourself in the moment of effort some pleasant relief of which the thought alone will refresh your mind until the moment comes when the actual pleasure will renew your energy." p. 247

"Work cures the pains of work and those of the worker...." p. 249

"It is childish to defend one's work or to try to establish its worth. Worth defends itself." p. 251

"What do you desire? Vain glory? Profit? Then you are but a pseudo-intellectual." p. 253

"Truth is revealed little by little; those who bring it out of the shadow have not the right to ask it to make them a halo...." p. 253

"Sadness and doubt kill inspiration; but they kill it only when one yields to them." pp. 254-5

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