There is a story that Simonides was dining at the house of a wealthy nobleman named Scopas at Crannon in Thessaly and chanted a lyric poem which he had composed in honor of his host, in which he followed the custom of the poets by including for decorative purposes a long passage referring to Castor and Pollux; whereupon Scopas with excessive meanness told him he would pay him half the fee agreed on for the poem and if he liked he might apply for the balance to his sons of Tyndaraus, as they had gone halves in the panegyric.The story runs that a little later a message was brought to Simonides to go outside, as two young men were standing at the door who earnestly requested him to come out; so he rose from his seat and went out and could not see anybody; but in the interval of his absence the roof of the hall where Scopas was giving the banquet fell in, crushing Scopas himself and his relations underneath the ruins and killing them; and when their friends wanted to bury them but were altogether unable to know them apart as they had been completely crushed, the story goes that Simonides was enabled by his recollection of the place in which each of them had been reclining at table to identify them for separate interment; and that this circumstance suggested to him the discovery of the truth that the best aid to clearness of memory consists in orderly arrangement.He inferred that persons desiring to train this faculty must select localities and form mental images of the facts they wish to remember and store those images in the localities, with the result that the arrangement of the localities will preserve the order of the facts and the images of the facts will designate the facts themselves and we shall employ the localities and images respectively as a wax writing tablet and the letters written on it.
Marcus Tullius Cicero
Say you could view a time lapse film of our planet: what would you see? Transparent images moving through light, an infinite storm of beauty.The beginning is swaddled in mists, blasted by random blinding flashes. Lava pours and cools; seas boil and flood. Clouds materialize and shift; now you can see the earth’s face through only random patches of clarity. The land shudders and splits, like pack ice rent by widening lead. Mountains burst up, jutting and dull and soften before your eyes, clothed in forests like felt. The ice rolls up, grinding green land under water forever; the ice rolls back. Forests erupt and disappear like fairy rings. The ice rolls up- mountains are mowed into lakes, land rises wet from the sea like a surfacing whale- the ice rolls back. A blue-green streaks the highest ridges, a yellow-green spreads from the south like a wave up a strand. A red dye seems to leak from the north down the ridges and into the valleys, seeping south; a white follows the red, then yellow-green washes north, then red spreads again, then white, over and over, making patterns of color too intricate to follow. Slow the film. You see dust storms, locusts, floods, in dizzying flash-frames.Zero in on a well-watered shore and see smoke from fires drifting. Stone cities rise, spread and crumble, like paths of alpine blossoms that flourish for a day an inch above the permafrost, that iced earth no root can suck and wither in a hour. New cities appear and rivers sift silt onto their rooftops; more cities emerge and spread in lobes like lichen on rock. The great human figures of history, those intricate, spirited tissues whose split second in the light was too brief an exposure to yield any image but the hunched shadowless figures of ghosts.Slow it down more, come closer still. A dot appears, a flesh-flake. It swells like a balloon; it moves, circles, slows and vanishes. This is your life.
Annie Dillard
The idealized market was supposed to deliver ‘friction free’ exchanges, in which the desires of consumers would be met directly, without the need for intervention or mediation by regulatory agencies. Yet the drive to assess the performance of workers and to measure forms of labor which, by their nature, are resistant to quantification, has inevitably required additional layers of management and bureaucracy. What we have is not a direct comparison of workers’ performance or output, but a comparison between the audited representation of that performance and output. Inevitably, a short-circuiting occurs and work becomes geared towards the generation and massaging of representations rather than to the official goals of the work itself. Indeed, an anthropological study of local government in Britain argues that ‘More effort goes into ensuring that a local authority’s services are represented correctly than goes into actually improving those services’. This reversal of priorities is one of the hallmarks of a system which can be characterized without hyperbole as ‘market Stalinism’. What late capitalism repeats from Stalinism is just this valuing of symbols of achievement over actual achievement.[…]It would be a mistake to regard this market Stalinism as some deviation from the ‘true spirit’ of capitalism. On the contrary, it would be better to say that an essential dimension of Stalinism was inhibited by its association with a social project like socialism and can only emerge in a late capitalist culture in which images acquire an autonomous force. The way value is generated on the stock exchange depends of course less on what a company ‘really does’ and more on perceptions of and beliefs about, its (future) performance. In capitalism, that is to say, all that is solid melts into PR and late capitalism is defined at least as much by this ubiquitous tendency towards PR-production as it is by the imposition of market mechanisms.?
Mark Fisher
Since these wonder tales have been with us for thousands of years and have undergone so many different changes in the oral tradition, it is difficult to determine the ideological intention of the narrator and when we disregard the narrator's intention, it is often difficult to reconstruct (and/or deconstruct) the ideological meaning of a tale. In the last analysis, even if we cannot establish whether a wonder tale is ideologically conservative, sexist, progressive, emancipatory, etc., it is the celebration of wonder that constitutes its major appeal. No matter what the plot may be, this type of tale calls forth our capacity as readers and potential transmitters of its signs and meanings to wonder. We do not want to know the exact resolution, the happily ever after, of a tale - that is, what it is actually like. We do not want to name God, gods, goddesses, or fairies, who will forever remain mysterious and omnipotent. We do not want to form graven images. We do not want utopia designated for us. We want to remain curious, startled, provoked, mystified and uplifted. We want to glare, gaze, gawk, behold and stare. We want to be given opportunities to change and ultimately we want to be told that we can become kings and queens, or lords of our own destinies. We remember wonder tales and fairy tales to keep our sense of wonderment alive and to nurture our hope that we can seize possibilities and opportunities to transform ourselves and our worlds.
Jack D. Zipes
I do not write every day. I write to the questions and issues before me. I write to deadlines. I write out of my passions. And I write to make peace with my own contradictory nature. For me, writing is a spiritual practice. A small bowl of water sits on my desk, a reminder that even if nothing is happening on the page, something is happening in the room--evaporation. And I always light a candle when I begin to write, a reminder that I have now entered another realm, call it the realm of the Spirit. I am mindful that when one writes, one leaves this world and enters another. My books are collages made from journals, research and personal experience. I love the images rendered in journal entries, the immediacy that is captured on the page, the handwritten notes. I love the depth of ideas and perspective that research brings to a story, be it biological or anthropological studies or the insights brought to the page by the scholarly work of art historians.When I go into a library, I feel like I am a sleuth looking to solve a mystery. I am completely inspired by the pursuit of knowledge through various references. I read newpapers voraciously. I love what newspapers say about contemporary culture. And then you go back to your own perceptions, your own words and weigh them against all you have brought together. I am interested in the kaleidoscope of ideas, how you bring many strands of thought into a book and weave them together as one piece of coherent fabric, while at the same time trying to create beautiful language in the service of the story. This is the blood work of the writer.Writing is also about a life engaged. And so, for me, community work, working in the schools or with grassroots conservation organizations is another critical component of my life as a writer. I cannot separate the writing life from a spiritual life, from a life as a teacher or activist or my life intertwined with family and the responsibilities we carry within our own homes. Writing is daring to feel what nurtures and breaks our hearts. Bearing witness is its own form of advocacy. It is a dance with pain and beauty.
Terry Tempest Williams
Once there were three tribes. The Optimists, whose patron saints were Drake and Sagan, believed in a universe crawling with gentle intelligence—spiritual brethren vaster and more enlightened than we, a great galactic siblinghood into whose ranks we would someday ascend. Surely, said the Optimists, space travel implies enlightenment, for it requires the control of great destructive energies. Any race which can't rise above its own brutal instincts will wipe itself out long before it learns to bridge the interstellar gulf.Across from the Optimists sat the Pessimists, who genuflected before graven images of Saint Fermi and a host of lesser lightweights. The Pessimists envisioned a lonely universe full of dead rocks and prokaryotic slime. The odds are just too low, they insisted. Too many rogues, too much radiation, too much eccentricity in too many orbits. It is a surpassing miracle that even one Earth exists; to hope for many is to abandon reason and embrace religious mania. After all, the universe is fourteen billion years old: if the galaxy were alive with intelligence, wouldn't it be here by now?Equidistant to the other two tribes sat the Historians. They didn't have too many thoughts on the probable prevalence of intelligent, spacefaring extraterrestrials— but if there are any, they said, they're not just going to be smart. They're going to be mean.It might seem almost too obvious a conclusion. What is Human history, if not an ongoing succession of greater technologies grinding lesser ones beneath their boots? But the subject wasn't merely Human history, or the unfair advantage that tools gave to any given side; the oppressed snatch up advanced weaponry as readily as the oppressor, given half a chance. No, the real issue was how those tools got there in the first place. The real issue was what tools are for.To the Historians, tools existed for only one reason: to force the universe into unnatural shapes. They treated nature as an enemy, they were by definition a rebellion against the way things were. Technology is a stunted thing in benign environments, it never thrived in any culture gripped by belief in natural harmony. Why invent fusion reactors if your climate is comfortable, if your food is abundant? Why build fortresses if you have no enemies? Why force change upon a world which poses no threat?Human civilization had a lot of branches, not so long ago. Even into the twenty-first century, a few isolated tribes had barely developed stone tools. Some settled down with agriculture. Others weren't content until they had ended nature itself, still others until they'd built cities in space.We all rested eventually, though. Each new technology trampled lesser ones, climbed to some complacent asymptote and stopped—until my own mother packed herself away like a larva in honeycomb, softened by machinery, robbed of incentive by her own contentment.But history never said that everyone had to stop where we did. It only suggested that those who had stopped no longer struggled for existence. There could be other, more hellish worlds where the best Human technology would crumble, where the environment was still the enemy, where the only survivors were those who fought back with sharper tools and stronger empires. The threats contained in those environments would not be simple ones. Harsh weather and natural disasters either kill you or they don—or adapted to— they lose their relevance. No, the only environmental factors that continued to matter were those that fought back, that countered new strategies with newer ones, that forced their enemies to scale ever-greater heights just to stay alive. Ultimately, the only enemy that mattered was an intelligent one.And if the best toys do end up in the hands of those who've never forgotten that life itself is an act of war against intelligent opponents, what does that say about a race whose machines travel between the stars?
Peter Watts
Spare parts lay scattered, every turn wrought with twisted dread, all over the ground, the rooftops and they were still. Some moving, twitching, enough to almost see. Half cracked and shattered, but still visible and eerie, smiles spread wide and thin, teeth decayed and not, paralleled by hollowed, some missing or in other places, eyes of shades green and blue and some brown with red, but no white, just color portrayed, even if it may be dampened in every way. The beauty in the frivolity, the polished shining gears and cracked glass illuminated so brightly, create a portrait of terror and wonder, significance of a different sort, that only human eyes can see and human minds can feel, but all this is something only dreams, the ethereal concepts that fuse and mince chaos and order into a more paradoxical state, can create and fathom and fashion and make. And yet, doubts upon anxious contradictions, my fingers can feel the brokenness of what can be witnessed, an abyss within a void where deeper within the still lies a glow, a half pulse of a flutter, a vein of mimicry of the reverse of all I see, with concave eyes lost in the magnitude of image whole. Massive and monumental, my feet dragged behind me, cuts in the dirt and spiraling tracks. And then I awoke, half my world disappeared. So much empty within the whole, holes of sizes big and small and all between, the loss of, what it was to be called, my dream. And then my life ended, the holes and tears and cracks complete, empty eyes can still see so clearly, the nothingness that everything has become, shadow and matte a combination of dark on black, in the nothingness that all has become, it is all complete in a way opposite of what I know, a world different in every way and stretch I see, vision upon view of different and strange, only when empty eyes, longing for purpose dreading its meaning, gaze upon their own reflection will the last piece fall into place, a round puzzle of pieces triangular and square, the completeness in the nothingness can be seen, mind flooded with wonder, envisioning the antonym of a dream and what, in this new beginning, this all could mean. With a blink it all changes, incomplete images appear, holes are wide and seen because you are back now, between death and dream, interwoven as an integral part of this necessary in between seam and when you touch, worry creases the brow, their faces, half real and the other untouchable, your hand passes through their skin, penetration of the most intimate sort, holding their hearts as if for sport. The warmth, the beating, the crimson piercing blood, so beautiful, the engine that we run, pumping and pumping only to cause the most dreaded flood. Now I drown and I see you drown too. Together, we are, for split seconds few, we are torn apart and disappear in this vast blood red hue.
Hubert Martin