I think I have been much of my life an irritant. But some people say that something good came out of my research, something valuable that could be regarded as a pearl, and I can assure those who worked with me it was you who made the pearls and I was merely the grain of sand, the irritant to produce the pearls.
He had never got so much back for himself from any pupil as he did from Miss Kronborg. From the first she had stimulated him; something in her personality invariably affected him. Now that he was feeling his way toward her voice, he found her more interesting than ever before. She lifted the tedium of the winter for him, gave him curious fancies and reveries. Musically, she was sympathetic to him. Why this was true, he never asked himself. He had learned that one must take where and when one can the mysterious mental irritant that rouses one's imagination; that it is not to be had by order. She often wearied him, but she never bored him.
You know, almost everyone is an irritant to me. I think people have forgotten what the word 'public' means. 'Public' means you're going to be irritated. It's a natural consequence of leaving one's home. You go outside, and there are people who are irritating. I'll be standing on the sidewalk, and someone berates me for smoking. I look at the person and think, but what about your shoes? How can you wear shoes like that and have the confidence to accost someone like me?
Most people assume that a muse is a creature of perfect beauty, poise and grace. Like the creatures from Greek mythology. They're wrong. In fact, there should be a marked absence of perfection in a muse--a gaping hole between what she is and what she might be. The ideal muse is a woman whose rough edges and contradictions drive you to fill in the blanks of her character. She is the irritant to your creativity. A remarkable possibility, waiting to be formed.
Persistent problems, however unpleasant they may seem, contain the unprocessed and unexamined thoughts and feelings that, if left alone, keep you from your greatness. That's why the pain, emptiness, and longing you feel can be your greatest gift-it can motivate you to examine parts of yourself that have been overlooked, forgotten, or hidden. It's the irritant of sand in the oyster, which is the impetus for the pearl. In walking the conscious life path, you reveal your deepest Reality, layer by layer. You come home.
Dr. Jennifer Howard "Your Ultimate Life Plan"
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.
For really it was the refinement of civilized cruelty, this spick, span, and ingenious affair of shining leather and gleaming steel, which hoisted you and tilted you and fitted reassuringly into the small of your back and cupped your head tenderly between padded cushions. It ensured for you a more complete muscular relaxation than any armchair that you could buy for your own home: but it left your tormented nerves without even the solace of a counter-irritant. In the old days the victim's attention had at least been distracted by an ache in the back, a crick in the neck, pins and needles in the legs, and the uneasy tickling of plush under the palm. But now, too efficiently suspended between heaven and earth, you were at liberty to concentrate on hell.
Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter-faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn. To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living. Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food. The body, these waterheads imagine, is a temple that should not be polluted by animal protein. It's healthier, they insist, though every vegetarian waiter I've worked with is brought down by any rumor of a cold. Oh, I'll accomodate them, I'll rummage around for something to feed them, for a 'vegetarian plate', if called on to do so. Fourteen dollars for a few slices of grilled eggplant and zucchini suits my food cost fine.
Money, dished out in quantities fitting the context, is a social lubricant here. It eases passage even as it maintains hierarchies. Fifty naira for the man who helps you back out from the parking spot, two hundred naira for the police officer who stops you for no good reason in the dead of night, ten thousand for the clearing agent who helps you bring your imported crate through customs. For each transaction, there is a suitable amount that helps things on their way. No one else seems to worry, as I do, that the money demanded by someone whose finger hovers over the trigger of a AK-47 is less a tip than a ransom. I feel that my worrying about it is a luxury that few can afford. For many Nigerians, the giving and receiving of bribes, tips, extortion money, or alms-the categories are fluid-is not thought of in moral terms. It is seen either as a mild irritant or as an opportunity. It is a way of getting things done, neither more nor less than what money is there for.
I thought I was getting away from politics for a while. But I now realise that the vuvuzela is to these World Cup blogs what Julius Malema is to my politics columns: a noisy, but sadly unavoidable irritant. With both Malema and the vuvuzela, their importance is far overstated. Malema: South Africa's Robert Mugabe? I think not. The vuvuzela: an archetypal symbol of 'African culture?' For African civilisation's sake, I seriously hope not. Both are getting far too much airtime than they deserve. Both have thrust themselves on to the world stage through a combination of hot air and raucous bluster. Both amuse and enervate in roughly equal measure. And both are equally harmless in and of themselves - though in Malema's case, it is the political tendency that he represents, and the right-wing interests that lie behind his diatribes that is dangerous. With the vuvu I doubt if there are such nefarious interests behind the scenes; it may upset the delicate ears of the middle classes, both here and at the BBC, but I suspect that South Africa's democracy will not be imperilled by a mass-produced plastic horn.