sat on one of the hard benches near the listening stations, and sank into reverie, and followed Mahler through drunkenness, longing, bombast, youth (with its fading), and beauty (with its fading). Then came the final movement, “Der Abschied,” the Farewell, and Mahler, where he would ordinarily indicate the tempo, had marked it schwer, difficult.
Most of the group, on the day I went, were women, many with that beatific, slightly unfocused expression one finds in do-gooders.
I have always had a problem with the shoeshine business, and even on the rare occasions when I wished to have my scuffed shoes cleaned, some egalitarian spirit kept me from doing so; it felt ridiculous to mount the elevated chairs in the shops and have someone kneel before me. It wasn’t, as I often said to myself, the kind of relationship I wanted to have with another person.
It’s an expectation that works sometimes, I said, but only if your enemy is not a psychopath. You need an enemy with a capacity for shame. I wonder sometimes how far Gandhi would have gotten if the British had been more brutal. If they had been willing to kill masses of protesters. Dignified refusal can only take you so far. Ask the Congolese.
the way to be someone, the way to catch the attention of the young and recruit them to one’s cause, was to be enraged. It seemed as if the only way this lure of violence could be avoided was by having no causes, by being magnificently isolated from all loyalties. But was that not an ethical lapse graver than rage itself?
It would do little good to describe for him the subtle shades of meaning evoked in an American ear by saying “Jews” instead of “Jewish people.”
I became aware of just how fleeting the sense of happiness was, and how flimsy its basis: a warm restaurant after having come in from the rain, the smell of food and wine, interesting conversation, daylight falling weakly on the polished cherrywood of the tables. It took so little to move the mood from one level to another, as one might push pieces on a chessboard.
I made an effort to develop a mind of winter. Late last year, I actually said to myself audibly, as I do when I swear these oaths, that I would have to embrace winter as part of the natural cycle of seasons. Ever since I left Nigeria, I’d had a bad attitude about cold weather, and I wanted to put an end to that.
I was out earlier today to see the Chamber Music Society at Lincoln Center. They performed one of the Bach cantatas, the one about coffee....Coffee, coffee, the young woman sang, I simply must have coffee. Three times a day, or I will shrivel up!
his prostatectomy, he had told me, had effectively killed off any sexual urges that had survived the other ravages of old age. But the strange thing he found, he had said at the time, was that this freed him to have more tender and uncomplicated relationships with people.
incessant bereavement [is] one of the hidden costs of a long life.
And a couple from Chesterton essays "In Defense of Sanity":
They are at the same time soft and strong. The smoothness of them has the same meaning as the smoothness of great carthorses, or the smoothness of the beech-tree; it declares in the teeth of our timid and cruel theories that the mighty are merciful.
Mercy does not mean not being cruel or sparing people revenge or punishment; it means a plain and positive thing like the sun, which one has either seen or not seen. Chastity does not mean abstention from sexual wrong; it means something flaming, like Joan of Arc.