& certainly no nostalgia in the future of the past.
now, the corner cigarette-seller is gone, is perhaps dead.
no, definitely dead, he would not otherwise have gone.
he is replaced by a stamp-machine,
the old cook by a pressure-cooker,
the old trishaw-rider’s stand by a fire hydrant,
the washer-woman by a spin dryer
& it goes on
in various variations & permutations
there is no future in nostalgia.
What you should not do, I think, is worry about the opinion of anyone beyond your friends. You shouldn’t worry about prestige. Prestige is the opinion of the rest of the world. When you can ask the opinions of people whose judgement you respect, what does it add to consider the opinions of people you don’t even know?
This is easy advice to give. It’s hard to follow, especially when you’re young. Prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like.
That’s what leads people to try to write novels, for example. They like reading novels. They notice that people who write them win Nobel prizes. What could be more wonderful, they think, than to be a novelist? But liking the idea of being a novelist is not enough; you have to like the actual work of novel-writing if you’re going to be good at it; you have to like making up elaborate lies.
Prestige is just fossilized inspiration. If you do anything well enough, you’ll make it prestigious. Plenty of things we now consider prestigious were anything but at first. Jazz comes to mind—though almost any established art form would do. So just do what you like, and let prestige take care of itself.
Prestige is especially dangerous to the ambitious. If you want to make ambitious people waste their time on errands, the way to do it is to bait the hook with prestige. That’s the recipe for getting people to give talks, write forewords, serve on committees, be department heads, and so on. It might be a good rule simply to avoid any prestigious task. If it didn’t suck, they wouldn’t have had to make it prestigious.
Similarly, if you admire two kinds of work equally, but one is more prestigious, you should probably choose the other. Your opinions about what’s admirable are always going to be slightly influenced by prestige, so if the two seem equal to you, you probably have more genuine admiration for the less prestigious one.
”—Excerpt from How To Do What You Love, by Paul Graham
“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow” – Plaque at the Amana Colony, Iowa, Sept 14
To buy a potted plant is to admit both faithlessness and need. To water the plant, perhaps daily, perhaps once in a while when you remember and the leaves start to droop, is as close to love as it gets.
Other things mean other things.
To light a lamp is to hide darkness in the same closet as sleep, along with silence, desire, and yesterday’s obsessions. To read a book is to marry two solitudes, the way a conversation erases and erects, words prepare for wordlessness, a cloud for its own absence, and snow undresses for spring.
The bedroom is where you left it, although the creases and humps on the sheets no longer share your outline and worldview. In that way, they are like the children you never had time for.
A cooking pot asks the difficult questions: what will burn and for how long and to what end.
TV comes from the devil who comes from god who comes and goes as he pleases. To hide the remote control in someone’s house is clearly a sin, but to take the wrong umbrella home is merely human.
The phone is too white to be taunting you. The door you shut stays shut. The night is cause enough for tomorrow, whatever you believe.
Remember, the car keys will be there after the dance. Walls hold peace as much as distance. A kettle is not reason enough for tears.
“we landed in accra and the people
clapped and i almost cried wake up
and something in me said shout
and something else said quietly
your mother may be glad to see you
but she may also remember why
you went away”—Nikki Giovanni
“In the coming days and weeks, Laila would scramble frantically to commit it all to memory, what happened next. Like an art lover running out of a burning museum, she would grab whatever she could - a look, a whisper, a moan - to salvage from perishing to preserve. But time is the most unforgiving of fires, and she couldn’t, in the end, save it all.”—
“There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?””—David Foster Wallace, This is Water
“I’ve been making a list of the things they don’t teach you at school. They don’t teach you how to love somebody. They don’t teach you how to be famous. They don’t teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don’t teach you how to walk away from someone you don’t love any longer. They don’t teach you how to know what’s going on in someone else’s mind. They don’t teach you what to say to someone who’s dying. They don’t teach you anything worth knowing.”—Neil Gaiman