We do not choose to be born.We do not--most of us, choose to die, or the times or conditions of our death. But within all this realm of choicelessness, we do choose how we shall live--Courageously or in cowardice, Honorably or dishonorably, With purpose or adrift. We decide what is important and what is trivial. What makes us significant is what we DO, Or REFUSE TO DO. WE DECIDE and WE CHOOSE--and so we give definition to our lives.
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Conservatives and those on the right are usually willing to settle for thinking themselves correct on political issues; those on the left have always needed to feel not so much that they are correct but that they are also good. Disagree with someone on the right and he is likely to think you obtuse, wrong, sentimental, foolish, a dope; disagree with someone one the left and he is more likely to think you selfish, cold-hearted, a sellout, evil-in league with the devil, he might say, if he didn't think religious terminology too coarse for our secular age. To this day one will hear of people who fell for Communism in a big way let off the hook because they were sincere; if one's heart is in the right place, nothing else matters, even if one's naive opinions made it easier for tyrants to murder millions.
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I am afraid I am one of those people who continues to read in the hope of sometime discovering in a book a single""and singular""piece of wisdom so penetrating, so soul stirring, so utterly applicable to my own life as to make all the bad books I have read seem well worth the countless hours spent on them. My guess is that this wisdom, if it ever arrives, will do so in the form of a generalization.
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What, really, is wanted from a neighborhood? Convenience, certainly, an absence of major aggravation, to be sure. But perhaps mostof all, ideally, what is wanted is a comfortable background, a breathing space of intermission between the intensities of private life and the calculations of public life.
While reading writers of great formulatory power "" Henry James, Santayana, Proust "" I find I can scarcely get through a page without having to stop to record some lapidary sentence. Reading Henry James, for example, I have muttered to myself, "C'mon, Henry, turn down the brilliance a notch, so I can get some reading done." I may be one of a very small number of people who have developed writer's cramp while reading.
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Political correctness and so many of the political fashions of the day...could only be perpetrated in adolescent minds: minds, that is, that are trained to search out one thing and one thing only...Only an adolescent would find it worthwhile to devote his or her attention chiefly to the hunting of offenses, the possibility of slights, real and imagined.
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I have myself always been terrified of plagiarism - of being accused of it, that is. Every writer is a thief, though some of us are more clever than others at disguising our robberies. The reason writers are such slow readers is that we are ceaselessly searching for things we can steal and then pass off as our own: a natty bit of syntax, a seamless transition, a metaphor that jumps to its target like an arrow shot from an aluminum crossbow.
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All men and women are born, live, suffer and die; what distinguishes us one from another is our dreams, whether they be dreams about worldly or unworldly things, and what we do to make them come about... We do not choose to be born. We do not choose our parents. We do not choose our historical epoch, the country of our birth, or the immediate circumstances of our upbringing. We do not, most of us, choose to die; nor do we choose the time and conditions of our death. But within this realm of choicelessness, we do choose how we live.
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