Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Archive for the ‘Quote of the Day’ Category

The boundary regions

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Norbert Wiener

It is these boundary regions of science which offer the richest opportunities to the qualified investigator. They are at the same time the most refractory to the accepted techniques of mass attack and the division of labor. If the difficulty of a physiological problem is mathematical in essence, ten physiologists ignorant of mathematics will get precisely as far as one physiologist ignorant of mathematics, and no further. If a physiologist who knows no mathematics works together with a mathematician who knows no physiology, the one will be unable to state his problem in terms that the other can manipulate, and the second will be unable to put the answers in any form that the first can understand.

Dr. [Arturo] Rosenblueth has always insisted that a proper exploration of these blank spaces on the map of science could only be made by a team of scientists, each a specialist in his own field but each possessing a thoroughly sound and trained acquaintance with the fields of his neighbors; all in the habit of working together, of knowing one another’s intellectual customs, and of recognizing the significance of a colleague’s new suggestion before it has taken on a full formal expression. The mathematician need not have the skill to conduct a physiological experiment, but he must have the skill to understand one, to criticize one, and to suggest one. The physiologist need not be able to prove a certain mathematical theorem, but he must be able to grasp its physiological significance and to tell the mathematician for what he should look.

Norbert Wiener, Cybernetics

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February 19, 2017 at 7:30 am

The simplicity of excitement

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Graham Greene

Excitement is simple: excitement is a situation, a single event. It mustn’t be wrapped up in thoughts, similes, metaphors. A simile is a form of reflection, but excitement is of the moment when there is no time to reflect. Action can only be expressed by a subject, a verb, and an object, perhaps a rhythm—little else. Even an adjective slows the pace or tranquilizes the nerve. I should have turned to Stevenson to learn my lesson: “It came all of a sudden when it did, with a rush of feet and a roar, and then a shout from Alan, and the sound of blows and someone crying as if hurt. I looked back over my shoulder, and saw Mr. Shuan in the doorway crossing blades with Alan.” No similes or metaphors there, not even an adjective. But I was too concerned with “the point of view” to be aware of simpler problems, to know that the sort of  novel I was trying to write, unlike a poem, was not made with words but with movement, action, character. Discrimination in one’s words is certainly required, but not love of one’s words—that is a form of self-love, a fatal love which leads a young writer to the excesses of Charles Morgan and Lawrence Durrell, and, looking back to this period of my life, I can see that I was in danger of taking their road. I was only saved by failure.

Graham Greene, A Sort of Life

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February 18, 2017 at 7:30 am

Quote of the Day

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February 17, 2017 at 7:30 am

Quote of the Day

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John Cheever

In the last ten or twenty years, there has been a rush on the part of many writers to insinuate themselves into the middle class, to live like bank clerks and to eschew any outward sign of disorder; a splendid maneuver, it seems to me, as long as the writer realizes that this is an act of espionage, that this is intended to put him in a position to observe the mores of his natural enemies.

John Cheever, The Letters of John Cheever

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February 16, 2017 at 7:30 am

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Quote of the Day

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George Orwell

[George Orwell] never abated his anger against the established order…[But he] clung with a kind of wry, grim pride to the old ways of the last class that had ruled the old order. He must sometimes have wondered how it came about that he should be praising sportsmanship and gentlemanliness and dutifulness and physical courage. He seems to have thought, and very likely he was right, that they might come in handy as revolutionary virtues…Certainly the virtues he praised were those of survival, and they had fallen into disrepute in a disordered world.

Lionel Trilling, “George Orwell and the Politics of Truth”

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February 15, 2017 at 6:45 am

Quote of the Day

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Hector Berlioz

[Knowing how to play the piano] might have been the greatest use to me; but when I consider the appalling number of miserable musical platitudes to which the piano has given birth, which would never have seen the light had their authors been confined to pen and paper, I feel grateful to the happy chance which forced me to compose freely and in silence, and has thus delivered me from the tyranny of the fingers, so dangerous to thought, and from the fascination which the ordinary sonorities always exercise on a composer.

Hector Berlioz, Memoirs

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February 14, 2017 at 7:30 am

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Raymond M. Smullyan

I think the most accurate and fruitful definition of me [God] which man can frame—at least in his present state of evolution—is that I am the very process of enlightenment. Those who wish to think of the devil…might analogously define him as the unfortunate length of time the process takes. In this sense, the devil is necessary; the process simply does take an enormous length of time, and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. But, I assure you, once the process is more correctly understood, the painful length of time will no longer be regarded as an essential limitation or an evil. It will be seen to be the very essence of the process itself.

Raymond M. Smullyan, The Tao is Silent

Written by nevalalee

February 13, 2017 at 7:30 am

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