A man may be accused of cowardice for fleeing away from all manner of physical dangers but when things supernatural, insubstantial and inexplicable threaten not only his safety and well-being but his sanity, his innermost soul, then retreat is not a sign of weakness but the most prudent course.
There is a wicked and pervading arrogance loose on the earth, like a rabid beast, an overdog. Does it run, does it slouch, does its name have a number? The beast preaches contempt, for that's what arrogance says: that nothing is real but itself, and the bone and blood of another's being are insubstantial as breath.
Losing him would, she realised, be unlike anything she had ever experienced before. A marriage is a conspiracy, a shared aspect toward the rest of the society, a code devised over a long history of negotiation and habit. That code would vanish. Her thoughts would be unobserved, her memories would be hers alone, without the heft that comes from sharing them with another. She would become insubstantial to herself.
Matthew De Abaitua
I wanted to listen to him, but I did not want to answer now. That strange responsibility we feel towards others when they speak, to offer them the solace of any answer. Poor humans! And anyway he had not asked a question. He was merely floating there in the room, insubstantial, a living man in the midst of life, dying imperceptibly on his feet, like all of us.
Yet this corporate being, though so insubstantial to our senses, binds, in Burkes words, a man to his country with ties which though light as air, are as strong as links of iron. That is why young men die in battle for their countrys sake and why old men plant trees they will never sit under.
And then I saw him and nothing was ever the same again. The sky was never the same colour, the moon never the same shape: the air never smelt the same, food never tasted the same. Every word I knew changed its meaning, everything that once was stable and firm became as insubstantial as a puff of wind, and every puff of wind became a solid thing I could feel and touch.
There is no articulate resonance. The common problem, I suppose, is to have more to say than vocabulary and syntax can bear. That is why I am hunting in these desiccated streets. The smoke hides the sky's variety, stains consciousness, covers the holocaust with something safe and insubstantial. It protects from greater flame. It indicates fire, but obscures the source. This is not a useful city. Very little here approaches any eidolon of the beautiful.
Samuel R. Delany
Several times in my life I've gone through long periods without sex or any other kind of physical contact. The hunger it produces is deep and low; it's possible to lose track of it, to forget or fail to perceive how it's emptied everything out of you and made the world papery and thin. Touch starved, you brush against existence like a stick against dry leaves. You become insubstantial yourself, a hungry ghost.
The trebling of the population in this small and impoverished country, flowing with milk and honey but not with sufficient water, rich in rocks and sand dunes but poor in natural resources and vital raw materials, has been no easy task: Indeed, practical men, with their eyes fixed upon things as they are, regarded it as an empty and insubstantial utopian dream.
Sometimes, in the course of my hopeless quest, I would pick up and dip into one of the ordinary books that lay strewn around the castle. Whenever I did, it seemed so insipid and insubstantial that I flew into a rage and hurled it at the wall after reading the first few sentences. I was spoilt for any other form of literature, and the mental torment I endured was comparable to the agony of unrequited love compounded by the withdrawal symptoms associated with a severe addiction.
At the end only two things really matter to a man, regardless of who he is; and they are the affection and understanding of his family. Anything and everything else he creates are insubstantial; they are ships given over to the mercy of the winds and tides of prejudice. but the family is an everlasting anchorage, a quiet harbor where a man's ships can be left to swing to the moorings of pride and loyalty.
Richard E. Byrd
There are moments when I cannot bear this unremitting consciousness. It knows only itself. Awake, I am in a continuum with my dreams. I feel my typewriters, my table, my chair to have that assurance of a solid world, where things take up space, where is not the endless emptiness of insubstantial thought that leads to nowhere but itself. My memories pale as I prevail upon them again and again. They become more and more ghostly. I fear nothing so much as losing them altogether and having only my blank endless mind to live in.
E. L. Doctorow
I have a real aversion to machines. I write with a pen. Then I read it to someone who writes it onto the computer. What are those computer letters made of anyway? Light? Too insubstantial. Paper, you can feel it. A pen. There's a connection. A pen goes exactly at your speed, whereas that machine jumps. And then, that machine is waiting for you, just humming "uh-huh, yes?
He could see the tall, peeling yellow building at the periphery of his range of vision. But something about it struck him as strange. A shimmer, an unsteadiness, as if the building faded forward into stability and then retreated into insubstantial uncertainty. An oscillation, each phase lasting a few seconds and then blurring off into its opposite, a fairly regular variability as if an organic pulsation underlay the structure. As if, he thought, it's alive.
Philip K. Dick
Philosophers stretch the meaning of words until they retain scarcely anything of their original sense. They give the name of "God" to some vague abstraction which they have created for themselves; having done so they can pose before all the world as deists, as believers of God, and they can even boast that they have recognized a higher, purer concept of God, notwithstanding that their God is not nothing more than an insubstantial shadow and no longer the mighty personality of religious doctrines.
Our revels now are ended. These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits and Are melted into air, into thin air: And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself, Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff As dreams are made on, and our little life Is rounded with a sleep.
Our revels now are ended. These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits, and Are melted into air, into thin air; And like the baseless fabric of this vision, The cloud-capp'd tow'rs, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great glove itself, Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff As dreams are made on, and our little life Is rounded with a sleep.
We declare that only man exists. This is not to say that material, inorganic nature and nonhuman beings-animals and plants-are in any sense unreal, insubstantial, or illusory because they do not so exist. We merely state that the reality of these nonhuman realms differs from that of human existence, whose primary characteristic is Da-sein (literally being-the-there)... Man as man is present... in a manner wholly different from... inanimate things.
In a swamp, as in meditation, you begin to glimpse how elusive, how inherently insubstantial, how fleeting our thoughts are, our identities. There is magic in this moist world, in how the mind lets go, slips into sleepy water, circles and nuzzles the banks of palmetto and wild iris, how it seeps across dreams, smears them into the upright world, rots the wood of treasure chests, welcomes the body home.
[That wall] might be breached sometime in the future, but for now the only real conversation between them was the roots that had already grown low and deep, under the wall, where they could not be broken. The most terrible thing, though, was the fear that the wall could never be breached, that in his heart Alai was glad of the separation, and was ready to be Ender's enemy. For now that they could not be together, they must be infinitely apart, and what had been sure and unshakable was now fragile and insubstantial; from the moment we are not together, Alai is a stranger, for he has a life now that will be no part of mine, and that means that when I see him we will not know each other.
Orson Scott Card
All I was aware of was this hole, this gaping hole where my heart should have been. I read somewhere once that your heart is supposed to be the same size as your clenched fist, but this hole felt far bigger. It seemed to expand over my whole upper body and it felt cold, vacant - the cooling wind seemed to cut right through it. I felt frail and insubstantial, as if the wind could have blown me away.
The individual in the ordinary circumstances of living may feel more unreal than real; in a literal sense, more dead than alive; precariously differentiated from the rest of the world, so that his identity and autonomy are always in question.... He may not possess an over-riding sense of personal consistency or cohesiveness. He may feel more insubstantial than substantial, and unable to assume that the stuff he is made of is genuine, good, valuable. And he may feel his self as partially divorced from his body.
R. D. Laing
Within the human consciousness is the unique ability to perceive the transparency between absolute, permanent relationships, contained in the insubstantial forms of a geometric order, and the transitory, changing forms of our actual world. The content of our experience results from an immaterial, abstract, geometric architecture which is composed of harmonic waves of energy, nodes of relationality, melodic forms springing forth from the eternal realm of geometric proportion.
The compelling thing about making art""or making anything, I suppose""is the moment when the vaporous, insubstantial idea becomes a solid there, a thing, a substance in a world of substances. Circe, Nimbue, Artemis, Athena, all the old sorceresses: they must have known the feeling as they transformed mere men into fabulous creatures, stole the secrets of the magicians, disposed armies: ah, look, there it is, the new thing. Call it a swine, a war, a laurel tree. Call it art.
The compelling thing about making art-or making anything, I suppose-is the moment when the vaporous, insubstantial idea becomes a solid there, a thing, a substance in a world of substances. Circe, Nimbue, Artemis, Athena, all the old sorceresses: they must have known the feeling as they transformed mere men into fabulous creatures, stole the secrets of the magicians, disposed armies: ah, look, there it is, the new thing. Call it a swine, a war, a laurel tree. Call it art.
The ancient intuition that all matter, all "reality," is energy, that all phenomena, including time and space, are mere crystallizations of mind, is an idea with which few physicists have quarreled since the theory of relativity first called into question the separate identities of energy and matter. Today most scientists would agree with the ancient Hindus that nothing exists or is destroyed, things merely change shape or form; that matter is insubstantial in origin, a temporary aggregate of he pervasive energy that animates the electron.
Throughout my life, until this very moment, whatever virtue I have accomplished, including any benefit that may come from this book, I dedicate to the welfare of all beings. May the roots of suffering diminish. May warfare, violence, neglect, indifference, and addiction also decrease. May the wisdom and compassion of all beings increase, now and in the future. May we clearly see all the barriers we erect between ourselves and others to be as insubstantial as our dreams. May we appreciate the great perfection of all phenomena. May we continue to open our hearts and minds, in order to work ceaselessly for the benefit of all beings. May we go to the places that scare us. May we lead the life of a warrior.
There was something ghost-like and insubstantial about gases to these early chemists. They called liquids that turned into gases easily, "spirits." Methyl alcohol, they called "wood spirit"; ethyl alcohol, "wine spirit." Even today, alcoholic beverages are frequently referred to as "spirits." (Modern Arabs, from whose language the word "alcohol" was taken, call ethyl alcohol "spirit" from the English. This is a queer exchange.)
And life? Life itself? Was it perhaps only an infection, a sickening of matter? Was that which one might call the original procreation of matter only a disease, a growth produced by morbid stimulation of the immaterial? The first step toward evil, toward desire and death, was taken precisely then, when there took place that first increase in the density of the spiritual, that pathologically luxuriant morbid growth, produced by the irritant of some unknown infiltration; this, in part pleasurable, in part a motion of self-defense, was the primeval stage of matter, the transition from the insubstantial to the substance. This was the Fall.
Sitting there on the heather, on our planetary grain, I shrank from the abysses that opened up on every side, and in the future. The silent darkness, the featureless unknown, were more dread than all the terrors that imagination had mustered. Peering, the mind could see nothing sure, nothing in all human experience to be grasped as certain, except uncertainty itself; nothing but obscurity gendered by a thick haze of theories. Man's science was a mere mist of numbers; his philosophy but a fog of words. His very perception of this rocky grain and all its wonders was but a shifting and a lying apparition. Even oneself, that seeming-central fact, was a mere phantom, so deceptive, that the most honest of men must question his own honesty, so insubstantial that he must even doubt his very existence.
They told of dripping stone walls in uninhabited castles and of ivy-clad monastery ruins by moonlight, of locked inner rooms and secret dungeons, dank charnel houses and overgrown graveyards, of footsteps creaking upon staircases and fingers tapping at casements, of howlings and shriekings, groanings and scuttlings and the clanking of chains, of hooded monks and headless horseman, swirling mists and sudden winds, insubstantial specters and sheeted creatures, vampires and bloodhounds, bats and rats and spiders, of men found at dawn and women turned white-haired and raving lunatic, and of vanished corpses and curses upon heirs.
She hit the button again, holding her breath this time until she heard it. Soft, sibilant, as insubstantial as the breaths that came before: Shannon. The voice whispered Shannon. The blood rushed out of her head. Her heart knocked hard in her chest. Her knees buckled and she grabbed the counter to keep from falling. She was starting to hyperventilate, had to calm it down before she was taken by a full-blown panic attack. Paper bag. Think. Think! Drawer below the silverware, next to the sink. Over the nose and mouth. Breathe slowly, slowly. Holding the bag against her face, Shane slid to the floor with her back against the cabinets, legs splayed, lungs heaving. It couldn't be him. It couldn't be Jordan. Jordan was dead.
Jane Taylor Starwood
Count your years and you'll be ashamed to be wanting and working for exactly the same things as you wanted when you were a boy. Of this one thing make sure against your dying day - that your faults die before you do. Have done with those unsettled pleasures, which cost one dear - they do one harm after they're past and gone, not merely when they're in prospect. Even when they're over, pleasures of a depraved nature are apt to carry feelings of dissatisfaction, in the same way as a criminal's anxiety doesn't end with the commission of the crime, even if it's undetected at the time. Such pleasures are insubstantial and unreliable; even if they don't do one any harm, they're fleeting in character. Look around for some enduring good instead. And nothing answers this description except what the spirit discovers for itself within itself. A good character is the only guarantee of everlasting, carefree happiness. Even if some obstacle to this comes on the scene, its appearance is only to be compared to that of clouds which drift in front of the sun without ever defeating its light.
Not long ago-incredible though it may seem-I heard a clerk of Oxford declare that he 'welcomed' the proximity of mass-production robot factories, and the roar of self-obstructive traffic, because it brought his university into 'contact with real life.' He may have meant that the way men were living and working in the twentieth century was increasing in barbarity at an alarming rate, and that the loud demonstration of this in the streets of Oxford might serve as a warning that it is not possible to preserve for long an oasis of sanity in a desert of unreason by mere fences, without actual offensive action (practical and intellectual). I fear he did not. In any case the expression 'real life' in this context seems to fall short of academic standards. The notion that motor-cars are more 'alive' than, say, centaurs or dragons is curious; that they are more 'real' than, say, horses is pathetically absurd. How real, how startlingly alive is a factory chimney compared with an elm tree: poor obsolete thing, insubstantial dream of an escapist!
Descending the endless stairs for the sixth time, Mr. Lecky thought of all the goods those closed doors hid. Fantastic was the discouragement it caused him. Aware of such variety and great quantity, Mr. Lecky saw the danger of forgetting or never even imagining things which, discovered, he would want. Everlastingly midway between two equal errors, to which could he cleave? To have time for everything, one must make haste. To gain access to everything, one must be patient. Moreover, hasty, or patient as Job, with what great labor would Mr. Lecky carry up on his back all he got! Making, as he was every moment, the climb back longer, giving, as he did with each step down, consent to toil more and more severe, he could anticipate vaguely and abhor another possibility. Curious and insubstantial as his fearing not to find what he could not think of, was his resentment of a perhaps coming time when he might, in revolt against the inanity of exertion, live meanly and miserably, with no object but somehow to make what was already at hand suffice for him. Against this insidious ill chance there exists no defense, since so often what today is detested will appear tomorrow - though surely still detestable - good and wise.
James Gould Cozzens
The contemporary proliferation of bullshit also has deeper sources, in various forms of skepticism which deny that we can have any reliable access to an objective reality and which therefore reject the possibility of knowing how things truly are. These "anti-realist" doctrines undermine confidence in the value of disinterested efforts to determine what is true and what is false, and even in the intelligibility of the notion of objective inquiry. One response to this loss of confidence has been a retreat from the discipline required by dedication to the ideal of correctness to a quite different sort of discipline, which is imposed by pursuit of an alternative ideal of sincerity. Rather than seeking primarily to arrive at accurate representations of a common world, the individual turns toward trying to provide honest representations of himself. Convinced that reality has no inherent nature, which he might hope to identify as the truth about things, he devotes himself to being true to his own nature. It is as though he decides that since it makes no sense to try to be true to the facts, he must therefore try instead to be true to himself. But it is preposterous to imagine that we ourselves are determinate, and hence susceptible both to correct and to incorrect descriptions, while supposing that the ascription of determinacy to anything else has been exposed as a mistake. As conscious beings, we exist only in response to other things, and we cannot know ourselves at all without knowing them. Moreover, there is nothing in theory, and certainly nothing in experience, to support the extraordinary judgment that it is the truth about himself that is the easiest for a person to know. Facts about ourselves are not peculiarly solid and resistant to skeptical dissolution. Our natures are, indeed, elusively insubstantial - notoriously less stable and less inherent than the natures of other things. And insofar as this is the case, sincerity itself is bullshit.
Harry G. Frankfurt
Faith is always coveted most and needed most urgently where will is lacking; for will, as the affect of command, is the decisive sign of sovereignty and strength. In other words, the less one knows how to command, the more urgently one covets someone who commands, who commands severely-a god, prince, class, physician, father confessor, dogma, or party conscience. From this one might perhaps gather that the two world religions, Buddhism and Christianity, may have owed their origin and above all their sudden spread to a tremendous collapse and disease of the will. And that is what actually happened: both religions encountered a situation in which the will had become diseased, giving rise to a demand that had become utterly desperate for some "thou shalt." Both religions taught fanaticism in ages in which the will had become exhausted, and thus they offered innumerable people some support, a new possibility of willing, some delight in willing. For fanaticism is the only "strength of the will" that even the weak and insecure can be brought to attain, being a sort of hypnotism of the whole system of the senses and the intellect for the benefit of an excessive nourishment (hypertrophy) of a single point of view and feeling that henceforth becomes dominant- which the Christian calls his faith. Once a human being reaches the fundamental conviction that he must be commanded, he becomes "a believer." Conversely, one could conceive of such a pleasure and power of self-determination, such a freedom of the will [ This conception of "freedom of the will" ( alias, autonomy) does not involve any belief in what Nietzsche called "the superstition of free will" in section 345 ( alias, the exemption of human actions from an otherwise universal determinism).] that the spirit would take leave of all faith and every wish for certainty, being practiced in maintaining himself on insubstantial ropes and possibilities and dancing even near abysses. Such a spirit would be the free spirit par excellence.