Vectors: Aphorisms and Ten Second Essays (2001)
The road reaches every place, the short cut only one.
The cynic suffers the form of faith without love. Incredulity is his piety.
Why would we write if we’d already heard what we wanted to hear?
The viruses that co-opt the machinery of our cells; the stories we allow to enter and explain us.
If you do everything for one reason, then all you have done will become meaningless when the reason does.
Suppose you had to remember to beat your heart, contract in exact sequence the muscles you use for every step. … Conservatism comes out of the body, the sense of many things being done for us that any attempt to re-think, or even make conscious, would fatally disrupt.
Value yourself according to the burdens you carry, and you will find everything a burden.
Patience is not very different from courage. It just takes longer.
Easier to keep changing your life than to live it.
Reason is the lesser faith that steers us when we have already lost a greater one.
God help my neighbors if I loved them as I love myself.
On what is valuable thieves and the law agree.
The tyrant puts down his own rebellion, everywhere.
The single sin is less of a problem than the good reasons for it.
The great consolation of righteousness is never having to worry whether you’re a bore.
What I’m not changes more than what I am.
Books serve us simply by opening a window on all we wanted to say and feel and think about. We may not even notice that they have not said it themselves till we go back to them years later and do not find what we loved in them. You cannot keep the view by taking the window with you.
A belief is a question we have put aside so we can get on with what we believe we have to do.
So many times I’ve made myself stupid with the fear of being outsmarted.
Those who are too slow to be intelligent deserve our patience, those who are too quick, our pity.
Think of all the smart people made stupid by flaws of character. The finest watch isn’t fine long when used as a hammer.
The first abuse of power is not realizing that you have it.
Greater than the temptations of beauty are those of method.
Only the dead have discovered what they cannot live without.
Often you only have to ask What would I do if I were not afraid?
To think yourself incapable of crime is one failure of the imagination. To think yourself capable of all crimes is another.
There are crimes I don’t commit mainly because I don’t want to find out I could.
The drives were nature’s first provision: thinking was added later, to get us around the world’s obstacles to them.
To me the great divide is between the talkative and the quiet. Do they just say everything that’s on their minds, even before it’s on their minds? Sometimes I think I could just turn up my head like a walkman so what’s going on there could be heard by others. But there would still be a difference. For inside the head they are talking to people like them, and I am talking to someone like me: he is quiet and doesn’t much like being talked at; he can’t conceal how easily he gets bored.
Success is whatever humiliation everyone has agreed to compete for.
The god of many cannot remain the true god.
I’m surprised that multiple personalities are so much less common in reality than in fiction: what a little disorder it would take, a distraction, a sleep, for one of our minor characters to imagine he was the star, to speak out for everyone else. And that’s what it would be, a change of billing, not of authorship. For you do not write your play—you are just the character in it called The Playwright. The real writer, you never meet.
Seizing on a piece of business, I become tiny, eager, efficient: roiled water I cannot see into.
If I do not waste time, I am wasting my time.
The procrastinator dreads beginning, the workaholic, ending.
They say productivity is the key to confidence, and confidence … to productivity. And they’re happy walking back and forth between these two rooms, each the excuse for the other.
I sell my time to get enough money to buy it back.
What did you do today? Nothing say our little children, and so do I. What we most are is what we keep mistaking for nothing.
I’ll buy that means also I believe it.
Your choices: spend, and believe in things; save, and believe in money.
A day is only a day. But a life is only a life.
I don’t know what’s meant by Know thyself, which seems to ask a window to look at a window.
I aspire to know when best to walk or eat, which music I need, and how to keep myself sitting as I am now, stubbornly enraptured with doing practically nothing.
Beware of knowing your virtues; you may lose them. Beware of knowing your vices; you may forgive them.
To practice Sincerity is to burden everyone else with believing you.
To know, you just have to know. To believe, you have to make others believe.
It is clear, we say, as if to see through something were to know it.
A strange gratitude for those I disagree with. They keep me from having to take too seriously the moments when I disagree with myself.
The best way to know your faults is to notice which ones you accuse others of.
To condemn your sin in another is hypocrisy. Not to condemn is to reserve your right to sin.
Let me have my dreams but not what I dream of.
Water deepens where it has to wait.
It’s amazing that I sit at my job all day and no one sees me clearly enough to say What is that boy doing behind a desk?
Impatience is not wanting to understand that you don’t understand.
He does not deserve your praise, but he deserves to be treated as if someday he might.
The best way to get people to do what you want is not to be too particular about what you want.
First he gathered what he needed. Then he needed to keep gathering what he used to need.
It is less important to escape pain than to avoid exceptionless rules.
The new gets old much faster than the old gets older.
The man who sticks to his plan will become what he used to want to be.
Envy is ashamed of itself. If it weren’t hanging back, it would go all the way to emulation and love.
Embarrassment is the greatest teacher, but since its lessons are exactly those we have tried hardest to conceal from ourselves, it may teach us, also, to perfect our self-deception.
Any virtue systematically applied becomes a vice. Morality is attention, not system.
I lied. And my embarrassment was so great that I changed everything else to make the lie true.
Say too soon what you think and you will say what everyone else thinks.
The mind is like a well-endowed museum, only a small fraction of its holdings on view at any one time.
I am not unambitious. I am just too ambitious for what you call ambitions.
The first quest or the first love is also the last. The second isn’t.
What’s the difference between provincialism, which unthinkingly takes its situation for everyone’s, and cosmopolitanism, which is confident it has the right to?
Anger has been ready to be angry.
Bitterness is a greater failure than failure.
Judging itself brings the pain of being judged. The wicked judge mistakes this for another crime of the accused and lengthens his sentence.
Hasn’t there … been a little too much zeal in our reproof of children and friends for yielding to the temptations we ourselves find it most difficult to resist? We punish where we can least afford to sympathize. Of all the horrors of the daily news, it seems hardest to imagine the kind of cruelty that is intensified by the pain of its victims, but whenever we feel sympathy would weaken us, we are a little closer to the torturer.
Patience is decisive indecision.
What’s thinking? You live in a grandly appointed house, but spend all your time rummaging around in the attic for any little trinket you hadn’t known was there.
Only half of writing is saying what you mean. The other half is preventing people from reading what they expected you to mean.
I’m sitting here bored, … trying to remember that everything is a complete mystery.