It was too difficult. People weren't prepared to put in the hours on the donkey work - you know, dates and facts and so on. I think in retrospect my generation will be seen as a turning point. From now on there'll be a net loss of knowledge in Europe. The difference between a peasant community in fourteenth-century Iran and modern London, though, is that if with their meager resources the villagers occasionally slipped backward, it was not for lack of trying. But with us, here in England, it was a positive choice. We chose to know less.
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Depression - that limp word for the storm of black panic and half-demented malfunction - had over the years worked itself out in Charlotte's life in a curious pattern. Its onset was often imperceptible: like an assiduous housekeeper locking up a rambling mansion, it noiselessly went about and turned off, one by one, the mind's thousand small accesses to pleasure.
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People never explain to you exactly what they think and feel and how their thoughts and feelings work, do they? They don't have time. Or the right words. But that's what books do. It's as though your daily life is a film in the cinema. It can be fun, looking at those pictures. But if you want to know what lies behind the flat screen you have to read a book. That explains it all.
All my life I had lived on the presumption that there was no existence beyond... flesh, the moment of being alive... then nothing. I had searched in superstition... But there was nothing. Then I heard the sound of my own life leaving me. It was so... tender. I regretted that I had paid it no attention. Then I believed in the wisdom of what other men had found before me... I saw that those simple things might be true... I never wanted to believe in them because it was better to fight my own battle. You can believe in something without compromising the burden of your own existence.
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I suppose I was lucky enough to be educated at a time when teachers still thought children could handle knowledge. They trusted us. Then there came a time when they decided that because not every kid in the class could understand or remember those things they wouldn't teach them anymore because it wasn't fair on the less good ones. So they withheld knowledge. Then I suppose the next lot of teachers didn't have the knowledge to withhold.
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I suppose it was a dream that lasted really about fifty years. By the time universal education had begun to work properly, say 1925, and the time the first teachers started to hold back information, say 1975. So a fifty-year dream." "I think what's happened is that because they themselves know less than their predecessors, innovators and leaders today have remade the world in their own image. Spellchecks. Search engines. They've remodeled the world so that ignorance is not really a disadvantage. And I should think that increasingly they'll carry on reshaping the world to accommodate a net loss of knowledge.
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My own diagnosis of my problem is a simpler one. It's that I share 50 per cent of my genome with a banana and 98 per cent with a chimpanzee. Banana's don't do psychological consistency. And the tiny part of us that's different - the special Homo sapiens bit - is faulty. It doesn't work. Sorry about that.
There is an arch supported by four vast columns. Etched over hundreds and hundreds of yards of stone, furlongs of stone, there are names: "Who are these, these? The men who died in this battle?" "No. The lost, the ones they did not find. The others are in the cemeteries." "These are just the... the unfound." When she could speak again. From the whole war?" The man shook his head. "Just these fields." Elizabeth sat on the steps. "No one told me. My God no one told me,
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With no blame there's no shame. A human society can't exist without shame. Shame is like handedness or walking upright. It's a central human attribute. In fact, it's the first human quality ever recorded.' 'Where?' 'Genesis, Chapter Three. The covering of nakedness. The acquisition of shame was the first consequence of consciousness, of the speciating moment. Take shame from me and you are calling me pre-human.
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Heisenberg and Bohr and Einstein strike me as being like gifted retriever dogs. Off they go, not just for an afternoon, but for ten years; they come back exhausted and triumphant and drop at your feet... a vole. It's a remarkable thing in its way, a vole-intricate, beautiful really, marvellous. But does it... Does it help? Does it move the matter on? When you ask a question that you'd actually like to know the answer to-what was there before the Big Bang, for instance, or what lies beyond the expanding universe, why does life have this inbuilt absurdity, this non sequitur of death-they say that your question can't be answered, because the terms in which you've put it are logically unsound. What you must do, you see, is ask vole questions. Vole is-as we have agreed-the answer; so it follows that your questions must therefore all be vole-related.
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If at the one moment in your life when the chance of something transcendental is offered to you, if you have this chance to move beyond the surface of things, to understand - and you say, No, maybe not... What then? How do you explain the rest of your life to yourself? How do you pass the time until you die? Do you substitute for that an interest in what - eating? Do you spend the next sixty years trying to be fascinated by the act of breathing?
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From an early age she had developed the art of being alone and generally preferred her own company to anyone else's. She read books at enormous speed and judged them entirely on her ability to remove her from her material surroundings. In almost all the unhappiest days of her life she had been able to escape from her own inner world by living temporarily in someone else's, and on the two or three occasions that she had been too upset to concentrate she had been desolate.
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The men loved jokes, though they had heard each one before. Jack's manner was persuasive; few of them had seen the old stories so well delivered. Jack himeself laughed a little, but he was able to see the effect his performance had on his audience. The noise of their laughter roared like the sea in his ears. He wanted it louder and louder; he wanted them to drown out the war with their laughter. If the could should loud enough, they might bring the world back to its senses; they might laugh loud enough to raise the dead.
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Busy is good, isn't it? Busy means we're hard at it, achieving our ends or "goals." Haven't had time to stop, or look around or think. That's considered the sign of a life well lived ... Suppose, though, you're not sure that what you're doing is at all worthwhile. Suppose you blundered into it over a spoonful of lime pickle. It's easy, it pays quite well. But really it's a distraction. It stops you thinking about what you ought to be doing.
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He saw a picture in his mind of a terrible piling up of the dead. It came from his contemplation of the church, but it had its own clarity: the row on row, the deep rotting earth hollowed out to hold them, while the efforts of the living, with all their works and wars and great buildings, were no more than the beat of a wing against the weight of time.
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There arent many great passages written about food, but I love one by George Millar, who worked for the SOE in the second world war and wrote a book called Horned Pigeon. He had been on the run and hadnt eaten for a week, and his description of the cheese fondue he smells in the peasant kitchen of a house in eastern France is unbelievable.
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As he rounded the corner, he saw two dozen men, naked to the waist, digging a hole thirty yards square at the side of the path. For a moment he was baffled. It seemed to have no agricultural purpose; there was no more planting or ploughing to be done. Then he realized what it was. They were digging a mass grave. He thought of shouting an order to about turn or at least to avert their eyes, but they were almost on it, and some of them had already seen their burial place. The songs died on their lips and the air was reclaimed by the birds.
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I think I have fallen in love and I believe the woman in question, though she has not said so, returns my feelings. How can I be sure when she has said nothing? Is this youthful vanity? I wish in some ways that it were. But I am so convinced that I barely need question myself. This conviction brings me no joy.[... ]I am driven by a greater force than I can resist. I believe that force has its own reason and its own morality even if they may never be clear to me while I am alive.
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There aren't many great passages written about food, but I love one by George Millar, who worked for the SOE in the second world war and wrote a book called 'Horned Pigeon.' He had been on the run and hadn't eaten for a week, and his description of the cheese fondue he smells in the peasant kitchen of a house in eastern France is unbelievable.
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Bond doesn't have an inner life. There would be moments when I'd think, 'We need to gather our thoughts here and have a breather,' where in another novel you'd slow the pace, have some description and see what Bond feels about this. But Bond doesn't reflect. All you can do is move on to the next bomb or shark or car.
Certainly, we all have within us the potential to live in a hugely different way. And how happy you can make yourself, I think, a lot depends on how much you beat yourself up about that; and how much you can, in some sort of providential way, console yourself and say, 'Well, it's all worked out for the best, in the best of all possible worlds.'
To have been able to write the books I wanted to write, on demanding subjects like war and the history of psychiatry, and for them to have sold in the numbers they have - and then go around saying: 'Actually, I'd also like to have won the Costa Book of the Year?' That would be ridiculous.