Wisdom and Ignorance

“That would indeed be shocking, and then I might really with justice be summoned to court for not believing in the gods, and disobeying the oracle, and being afraid of death, and thinking that I am wise when I am not. For let me tell you, gentlemen, that to be afraid of death is only another form of thinking that one is wise when one is not; it is to think that one knows what one does not know. No one knows with regard to death whether it is not really the greatest blessing that can happen to a man; but people dread it as though they were certain that it is the greatest evil; and this is ignorance, which thinks that it knows what it does not, must surely be ignorance most culpable.”

– The Last Days of Socrates by Plato.

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The Most Important Story

“All I really wanted was to try and live the life that was spontaneously welling up within me. Why was that so very difficult? (…) When authors write novels, they usually act as if they were God and could completely survey and comprehend some person’s history and present it as if God were telling it to Himself, totally unveiled, in its essence at all points. I can’t, any more than those authors can. But my story is more important to me than any author’s is to him, because it’s my own; it’s the story of a human being—not an invented, potential, ideal, or otherwise nonexistent person, but a real, unique, living one.”

– Demian by Herman Hesse.

The Ways of a Woman. 

“One of the men of the manor leans forward now. “What was it like to kiss such a lass?” There is a longing in his voice. This is more than lechery – those gathered here yearn for the touch of a woman tender and soft. I see in their faces an aching hunger for a woman’s grace, all her winsome ways.” 

 – Sinful Folk by Ned Hayes. 

Antigone against the world.

“I would not order you; and if you change your mind now, I would not have you do it with me. Be whatever you want, and I will bury him. It seems fair for me to die doing it. I will lie dear to him, with one dear to me, a holy outlaw, since I must please those below a longer time than people here, for I shall lie there forever. You, though, dishonor the gods’ commands, if you wish.”

 – Antigone by Sophocles. 

Brilliant People Who Are Dull.

“During the ten years that were to elapse between Hugh Person’s first and second visits to Switzerland he earned his living in the various dull ways that fall to the lot of brilliant young people who lack any special gift or ambition and get accustomed to applying only a small part of their wits to humdrum and charlatan tasks. What they do with the other, much greater, portion, how and where their real fancies and feelings are housed, is not exactly a mystery – there are no mysteries now – but would entail explications and revelations too sad, too frightful, to face. Only experts, for experts, should probe a mind’s misery.”

– Transparent Things by Vladimir Nabokov.

Their Sins Were His Own.

“There are times when it appeared to Dorian Gray that the whole of history was merely the record of his own life, not as he has lived it in act and circumstance, but as his imagination had created it for him, as it had been in his brain and in his passions. He felt that he had known them all, those strange, terrible figures that had across the stage of the world made sin so marvelous and evil so full of subtlety. It seemed to him that in some mysterious way their lives had been his own.”

– The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.

When We Are Terrified.

“A furry bee came and buzzed round it for a moment. Then it began to scramble all over the oval stellated globe of the tiny blossoms. He watched it with that strange interest in trivial things that we try to develop when things of high import make us afraid, or when we are stirred by some new emotion for which we cannot find expression, or when some thought that terrifies us lays sudden siege to the brain and calls on us to yield.”

– The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.

LUXURY IN SELF-REPROACH.

“He covered page after page with wild words of sorrow, and wilder words of pain. There is a luxury in self-reproach. When we blame ourselves we feel that no one else has a right to blame us. It is the confession, not the priest, that gives us absolution. When Dorian Gray had finished the letter, he felt that he had been forgiven.”

– The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.