And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
T.S. Eliot, from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

Stephen Colbert answers a series of questions for Rookie’s Ask a Grown Man. For the record, I love Stephen Colbert more than I love most things in this world.

Hmm, ok. This question is interesting (read autobibliography's reply too; I liked it). Words that make me flinch tend to be ones that express something I've been kicking around for a while but could never quite articulate.

Hal, who’s empty but not dumb, theorizes privately that what passes for hip transcendence of sentiment is really some kind of fear of being really human, since to be really human (at least as he conceptualizes it) is probably to be unavoidably sentimental and naive and goo-prone and generally pathetic, is to be in some basic interior way forever infantile, some sort of not-quite-right-looking infant dragging itself anaclitically around the map, with big wet eyes and froggy-soft skin, huge skull, gooey drool.

DFW, Infinite Jest

We should empathize from courage, is the point—and it makes me think about how much of my empathy comes from fear. I’m afraid other people’s problems will happen to me, or else I’m afraid other people will stop loving me if I don’t adopt their problems as my own.

Leslie Jamison, The Empathy Exams

When the time comes to you at which you will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the center of your soul for years, which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you’ll not talk about joy of words. I saw well why the gods do not talk about joy of words. I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?

C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

Modern spiritual consciousness is predicated upon the fact that God is gone, and spiritual experience, for many of us, amounts mostly to an essential, deeply felt and necessary, but ultimately inchoate and transitory feeling of oneness or unity with existence. It is mystical and valuable, but distant. Christ, though, is a shard of glass in your gut. Christ is God crying I am here, and here not only in what exalts and completes and uplifts you, but here in what appalls, offends, and degrades you, here in what activates and exacerbates all that you would call not-God.

Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss

I wrote at the start that this was a record of hate, and walking there beside Henry toward the evening glass of beer, I found the one prayer that seemed to serve the winter mood: O God, You’ve done enough, You’ve robbed me of enough, I’m too tired and old to learn to love, leave me alone forever.

Graham Greene, The End of the Affair

We go through our lives building up understanding and wisdom, accumulating knowledge and experience. And that’s great. But the real question is, What are we going to do with it?… In the end, life isn’t about potential – it’s about realization. It’s not about accumulating power and choice: it’s about what you do with your power, and how you live with the choices you’ve made. One day we each have to stop thinking about who we’re going to be and face up to who we are. 

Sam Wells, Where are You Staying?

To me, at least in retrospect, the really interesting question is why dullness proves to be such a powerful impediment to attention. Why we recoil from the dull. Maybe it’s because dullness is intrinsically painful; maybe that’s where phrases like ‘deadly dull’ or ‘excruciatingly’ dull’ come from. But there might be more to it. Maybe dullness is associated with psychic pain because something that’s dull or opaque fails to provide enough stimulation to distract people from some other, deeper type of pain that is always there, if only in an ambient low-level way, and which most of us spend nearly all our time and energy trying to distract ourselves from feeling, or at least from feeling directly or with our full attention. Admittedly, the whole thing’s pretty confusing, and hard to talk about abstractly… but surely something must lie behind not just Muzak in dull or tedious places anymore but now also actual TV in waiting rooms, supermarkets’ checkouts, airports’ gates, SUVs’ backseats. Walkmen, iPods, BlackBerries, cell phones that attach to your head. This terror of silence with nothing diverting to do. I can’t think anyone really believes that today’s so-called ‘information society’ is just about information. Everyone knows it’s about something else, way down.
David Foster Wallace, The Pale King

Infinite Jest, Page 166: “Fall”


Found erasure poetry from David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest by Jenni B. Baker

"Fall" - an erasure poem from page 166 of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest

But sitting here beside this girl as unknown to him now as outer space, waiting for whatever she might say to unfreeze him, now he felt like he could see the edge or outline of what a real vision of hell might be. It was of two great and terrible armies within himself, opposed and facing each other, silent. There would be battle but no victor. Or never a battle- the armies would stay like that, motionless, looking across at each other and seeing therein something so different and alien from themselves that they could not understand, they could not hear each other’s speech as even words or read anything from what their faces looked like, frozen like that, opposed and uncomprehending, for all human time. Two hearted, a hypocrite to yourself either way.
David Foster Wallace, The Pale King
Time, as is well known, flies at times like a bird, at times crawls like a worm; but a man is particularly blessed when he doesn’t even notice whether it is passing quick or slow.
Ivan Turgenev, Fathers and Sons
She sometimes saw the shimmer of rainbows before her eyes, but she felt relieved when they faded, and did not regret them.

Ivan Turgenev, Fathers and Sons

Read this book. It is short and beautiful.

Every love story is a ghost story.
David Foster Wallace, The Pale King
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.
T.S. Eliot
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