In the Elena Ferrante series, the narrator visits her best friend after they had become somewhat estranged. She reflects:
“I understood that I had arrived there full of pride and realized that—in good faith, certainly, with affection—I had made that whole journey mainly to show her what she had lost and what I had won. But she had known from the moment I appeared, and now, risking tensions with her workmates, and fines, she was explaining to me that I had won nothing, that in the world there is nothing to win, that her life was full of varied and foolish adventures as much as mine, and that time simply slipped away without any meaning, and it was good just to see each other every so often to hear the mad sound of the brain of one echo in the mad sound of the brain of the other.”
“Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.”
– Reinhold Niebuhr
“There’s the imperative to keep secrets, and the imperative to have them known. How do you know that you’re a person, distinct from other people? By keeping certain things to yourself. You guard them inside you, because, if you don’t, there’s no distinction between inside and outside. Secrets are the way you know you even have an inside. A radical exhibitionist is a person who has forfeited his identity. But identity in a vacuum is also meaningless. Sooner or later, the inside of you needs a witness.”
Jonathan Franzen in Purity
“You need to stop feeling sorry for yourself. I don’t say this as a condemnation–I need regular reminders to stop feeling sorry for myself too. I’m going to address you bluntly, but it’s a directness that rises from my compassion for you, not my judgement of you. Nobody’s going to do your life for you. You have to do it yourself, whether you’re rich or poor, out of money or raking it in, the beneficiary of ridiculous fortune or terrible injustice. And you have to do it no matter what is true. No matter what is hard. No matter what unjust, sad, sucky things have befallen you. Self-pity is a dead-end road. You make the choice to drive down it. It’s up to you to decide to stay parked there or to turn around and drive out.”
— Cheryl Strayed in Tiny Beautiful Things
“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” – E.B. White
“If I were asked under what sky the human mind…has most deeply pondered over the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions to some of them which well deserve the attention even of those who have studied Plato and Kant — I should point to India. And if I were to ask myself from what literature we who have been nurtured almost exclusively on the thoughts of Greeks and Romans, and of one Semitic race, the Jewish, may draw the corrective which is most wanted in order to make our inner life more perfect, more comprehensive, more universal, in fact more truly human a life…again I should point to India.”
— Max Müller, via the opening chapter on Hinduism in The World’s Religions.
Claude Fischer tries to rebut the recent slew of articles suggesting loneliness is at all-time highs. In fact, the “studies” that conclude there’s a loneliness epidemic among Americans — and which serve as the basis for many of the popular writing on the topic — are dinky, Fischer says.
The final paragraph of his piece is the best:
Loneliness is a social problem because lonely people suffer. But it’s not a growing problem. Moreover, the loneliness that should worry us is not generated by a teen’s Facebook humiliation, a globetrotter’s sense of disorientation, or the romantic languor of a novelist. It is, rather, the loneliness of the old man whose wife and best friends have died, the shunned schoolchild, the overburdened single mother, and the immigrant working the night shift to send money home. There’s nothing new or headline-worthy about their loneliness, but it is real and important.
Here’s my post on the myth of urban loneliness. Here’s my post on the guilt-free, pain-free solitude that you get when traveling abroad alone.
To the question, “Has an astronaut ever had a psychotic episode or mental breakdown while on a mission in space?” an answerer on Quora says no, but posts the below quote as representative of epiphanies astronauts tend to have when staring at Planet Earth:
You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, “Look at that, you son of a bitch.”
— Edgar Mitchell, Apollo 14 astronaut, People magazine, 8 April 1974.
So the question is, how long will it be till all of us can go a quarter of a million miles out and see what Edgar Mitchell saw? Here’s to the entrepreneurs pioneering commercial space flight: Go Richard Branson! Go Jeff Bezos! Go Elon Musk!
I've never viewed myself as particularly talented. I've viewed myself as…slightly above average in talent. Where I excel is with a ridiculous, sickening work ethic. While the other guy's sleeping, I'm working. While the other guy's eating, I'm working. While the other guy's making love, I mean, I'm making love, too, but I'm working really hard at it!
That's from Will Smith in an old 60 Minutes interview.
I once heard Jay Leno say something similar. Leno apparently hasn't taken a vacation in more than 20 years and he says whenever he sees Letterman ("the other guy," to use Smith's phrasing) on vacation, he keeps on working.
Smith and Leno see their work ethic as relative to their competitors.