Books

What does that indignity amount to

“What of it, if some old hunks of a sea-captain orders me to get a broom and sweep down the decks? What does that indignity amount to, weighed, I mean, in the scales of the New Testament? Do you think the archangel Gabriel thinks anything the less of me, because I promptly and respectfully obey that old hunks in that particular instance? Who ain’t a slave? Tell me that.”

—Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

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Everyone we’ve lost, we’ll find

“You look over at Drew, squinting at the sun, and for a second the future tunnels out and away, some version of ‘you’ at the end of it, looking back. And right then you feel it—what you’ve seen in people’s faces on the street—a swell of movement, like an undertow, rushing you toward something you can’t quite see.

‘Oh, we’ll know each other forever,’ Bix says. ‘The days of losing touch are almost gone.’

‘What does that mean?’ Drew asks.

‘We’re going to meet again in a different place,’ Bix says. ‘Everyone we’ve lost, we’ll find. Or they’ll find us.’

‘Where? How?’ Drew asks.

Bix hesitates, like he’s held this secret so long he’s afraid of what will happen when he releases it into the air. ‘I picture it like Judgment Day,’ he says finally, his eyes on the water. ‘We’ll rise up out of our bodies and find each other again in spirit form. We’ll meet in that new place, all of us together, and first it’ll seem strange, and pretty soon it’ll seem strange that you could ever lose someone, or get lost.'”

—Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad

She must be learning in other ways

“She isn’t sure why she hasn’t cracked her Boas or Malinowski or John Murra, but assumes she must be learning in other ways that will prove equally fruitful. In bold moments, fueled by the boiled black coffee they serve each morning in the meal tent, Mindy has even wondered if her insights on the link between social structure and emotional response could amount to more than a rehash of Lévi-Strauss—a refinement; a contemporary application. She’s only in her second year of coursework.”

—Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad

Just like money

“Words and emotions are simple currencies. If we inflate them, they lose their value, just like money. They begin to mean nothing. Use ‘beautiful’ to describe a sandwich and the word means nothing. Since the war, there is no more room for inflated language. Words and feelings are small now—clear and precise. Humble like dreams.”

—Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins

Between paying and being paid

“…I always go to sea a sailor, because they make a point of paying me for my trouble, whereas they never pay passengers a single penny that I ever heard of. On the contrary, passengers themselves must pay. And there is all the difference in the world between paying and being paid. The act of paying is perhaps the most uncomfortable infliction that the two orchard thieves entailed upon us. But being paid—what will compare with it? The urbane activity with which a man receives money is really marvelous, considering that we so earnestly believe money to be the root of all earthly ills, and that on no account can a monied man enter heaven. Ah! how cheerfully we consign ourselves to perdition!”

—Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

They don’t levy any value judgments

“In Theravada Buddhism, the cause of all human suffering is identified, very succinctly, as craving. Tanha, it’s called, and it gives rise to the parasitic defilements of greed, hatred, and delusion. But the root of our problem, the cause of all human misery, is tanha: our insatiable craving for more. Economists have come to a similar judgment of the human condition, although they don’t levy any value judgments. To them, it simply is.”

—Peter Mountford, A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism

What they call my shadow

“Yes, there is death in this business of whaling—a speechlessly quick chaotic bundling of man into Eternity. But what then? Methinks we have hugely mistaken this matter of Life and Death. Methinks that what they call my shadow here on earth is my true substance. Methinks that in looking at things spiritual, we are too much like oysters observing the sun through the water, and thinking that thick water the thinnest of air. Methinks my body is but the lees of my better being. In fact take my body who will, take it I say, it is not me.”

—Herman Melville, Moby-Dick