A favorite quote of mine, oft repeated by the Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci, is that to be a revolutionary you need a pessimism of the intellect and an optimism of the will. I like this idea for two reasons. The first is that it rings true to any activist’s experience: in order to change the world you have to get up in the morning thinking that what you do will really matter, and have the critical eye that allows you to reflect upon your actions and access their efficacy. You also need to temper the enthusiasm which motivates you with a realism that keeps you from getting distraught at the end of the day (or the month, or the year, or the lifetime) when the world seems not to have transformed. But I also like Gramsci’s advice for another reason: it assumes that we can hold two, seemingly contradictory, positions at one and the same time. The goal of so much of our philosophy, be it academic, religious, or merely common sense, is the drive for consistency: to get all the bits and pieces of our ideologies in line so that it forms a uniform, one-sided argument. This leads to rationalist dogmatism of the worst kind. What Gramsci understands (and being a dialectical Marxist certainly helps), is that this sort of logical unity is not necessary: that we can, do, and probably should more often, hold opposing viewpoints. This way of thinking accepts as a given that the Truth or the Answer or the Direction cannot be contained in any singular answer. It suggests that neither side is entirely sufficient, and it is in the tension – the space – between two sides wherein another type of answer resonates. I like the word “resonate” here – because it gets at the dynamism and inherent motion of this position.
~ Stephen Duncombe, from Journal of Radical Shimming (Issue #10) Utopian Theory; A Conversation btw. Stephen Duncombe and Sam Gould
~ Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it’s to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential — as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth.You’ll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you’ll hear about them.To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.
~ Bill Watterson
~ Neil deGrasse Tyson on Carl Sagan at yesterday’s Library of Congress event celebrating Sagan
Hurt people hurt people. That’s how pain patterns gets passed on, generation after generation after generation. Break the chain today. Meet anger with sympathy, contempt with compassion, cruelty with kindness. Greet grimaces with smiles. Forgive and forget about finding fault. Love is the weapon of the future.
~ Yehuda Berg