Attention

We got into an argument whether the Judges who went to India might with propriety engage in trade. Johnson warmly maintained that they might.

‘For why (he urged,) should not Judges get riches, as well as those who deserve them less?’

I said, they should have sufficient salaries, and have nothing to take off their attention from the affairs of the publick.

JOHNSON. No Judge, Sir, can give his whole attention to his office; and it is very proper that he should employ what time he has to himself, to his own advantage, in the most profitable manner.

‘Then, Sir, (said Davies, who enlivened the dispute by making it somewhat dramatick,) he may become an insurer; and when he is going to the bench, he may be stopped,—”Your Lordship cannot go yet: here is a bunch of invoices: several ships are about to sail.”

JOHNSON. Sir, you may as well say a Judge should not have a house; for they may come and tell him, “Your Lordship’s house is on fire;” and so, instead of minding the business of his Court, he is to be occupied in getting the engine with the greatest speed. There is no end of this. Every Judge who has land, trades to a certain extent in corn or in cattle; and in the land itself, undoubtedly. His steward acts for him, and so do clerks for a great merchant. A Judge may be a farmer; but he is not to geld his own pigs. A Judge may play a little at cards for his amusement; but he is not to play at marbles, or at chuck-farthing in the Piazza. No, Sir; there is no profession to which a man gives a very great proportion of his time. It is wonderful, when a calculation is made, how little the mind is actually employed in the discharge of any profession. No man would be a Judge, upon the condition of being totally a Judge. The best employed lawyer has his mind at work but for a small proportion of his time; a great deal of his occupation is merely mechanical. I once wrote for a magazine: I made a calculation, that if I should write but a page a day, at the same rate, I should, in ten years, write nine volumes in folio, of an ordinary size and print.’

BOSWELL. Such as Carte’s History?

JOHNSON. Yes, Sir. When a man writes from his own mind, he writes very rapidly. The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write: a man will turn over half a library to make one book.

— Boswell’s Life of Johnson

Hospitality

The art of hospitality is to make guests feel at home when you wish they were. 

— Unknown, quoted by John G. Murray

Common Denominators

There are many enemies. But they all come together under one rubric, which is one person trying to tell another person how to think.

— Norman Mailer

Uncertainty

It requires in these times much more intellect to marshal so much greater a stock of ideas and observations … hence the multitude of thoughts only breeds increase of uncertainty. Those who should be guides of the rest, see too many sides to every question. They hear so much said and find that so much can be said about everything that they feel no assurance about the truth of anything.

— John Stuart Mill

This Buzzfeed article about the Information Apocalypse reminded me.

Homage

Although I have scarcely read a single volume or Marcel Proust’s great work, and though the very art of the novelist is an art that I find almost inconceivable, I am nevertheless well aware, from the little of the Recherche du Temps Perdu that I have found time to read, what an exceptionally heavy loss literature has just suffered; and not only literature but still more that secret society composed of those who in every age give the age its real value.

In any case, even if I had never read a line of Proust’s vast work, the mere fact that two people with minds as different as Gide and Léon Daudet were agreed about its importance would have been sufficient to allay any doubts; such unexpected agreement could only occur in the case of a virtual certainty. We can be easy in our minds; the sun must be shining if they both proclaim the fact at the same time.

Others will speak with authority and penetration of the power and subtlety of Proust’s work. Still others will tell us what manner of man it was who conceived the work and brought it to a glorious conclusion; I myself merely caught a glimpse of him many years ago. I can therefore only put forward a view without weight and barely worth recording. Let it be no more than a tribute, a fading flower on a tomb that will endure.

— Paul Valéry

After reading Pierre Bayard’s book (SB++), I spent some time looking for a public domain translation of the Homage to Marcel Proust, but was unable to find one. This is what’s available on Google Books. 

The cross-sectional problem

At any point in time, the richest traders are often the worst traders. This, I will call the cross-sectional problem: At a given time in the market, the most successful traders are likely to be those that are best fit to the latest cycle. This does not happen too often with dentists or pianists — because these professions are more immune to randomness.

— Nassim Taleb

All the way down

Those who write against vanity want the glory of having written well, and their readers the glory of reading well, and I who write this have the same desire, as perhaps those who read this have also.

— Blaise Pascal

Casus Belli

To knock a thing down, especially if it is cocked at an arrogant angle, is a deep delight to the blood. To fight for a reason and in a calculating spirit is something your true warrior despises.

— George Santayana