Being of Service

I don’t know about you people, but I don’t want to live in a world where someone else makes the world a better place better than we do.

— Gavin Belson (Character on Silicon Valley)


The wilderness begins at the edge of my body, at the edge of my consciousness, and extends to the edge of the universe, and it is filled with menace.

– Hayden Carruth

The wages of crime

In each of the hot and secret countries to which the man went he kept a harem, he tortured witnesses, he amassed shameful gold; but certainly he would have said with steady eyes that he did it to the glory of the Lord. My own theology is sufficiently expressed by asking which Lord? Anyhow, there is this about such evil, that it opens door after door in hell, and always into smaller and smaller chambers. This is the real case against crime, that a man does not become wilder and wilder, but only meaner and meaner.

Chesterton, The Sign of the Broken Sword

The sands are fickle

They said the sands are fickle. Dunes may drift for decades in one direction, or not drift at all, then suddenly turn and consume you. Consumption by the sand is like other forms of terminal illness: it starts so gently that at first you don’t worry. One day the grains begin to accumulate against your walls. You’ve seen the grains before, and naturally assume that a change in the wind will carry them away. But this time the wind does not change, and the illness persists. Over weeks or longer, the sand grows. You fight back with a shovel, and manage to keep your walls clear. Fighting back feels good and gives you something to do. But the grains never let up, and one morning while shoveling you realize that the dunes have moved closer. You enlist your sons and brothers. But eventually the land around your house swells with sand, and you begin standing on sand to shovel sand. Finally no amount of digging will clear your walls. The dunes tower above you, and send sand sheets cascading down their advancing slip faces. You have to gather your belongings and flee.

But your house is your heritage, and you would like somehow to preserve it. As the dunes bear down on it they will collapse the walls. The defense is again the Saharan acceptance of destiny: having lost the fight against the sand, you must now invite it in. Sleeping on the sand, covering your floors with it for all these years, helped prepare you mentally. But shoveling in the sand is not enough. Your last act is to break out the windows, take off the doors, and knock holes in the roof. You allow the wind to work for you. If it succeeds, and fills your house, the walls will stand. Then, in a hundred years, when the wind requires it, the dunes will drift on and uncover the village. Your descendants will bless God and his Prophet. They will not care that you were thin and poor and had no work. They will remember you as a man at peace with his world. The desert takes away, but it always delivers.

— William Langewiesche

To battle hopelessly, forever

To write or even speak English is not a science but an art. There are no reliable words. Whoever writes English is involved in a struggle that never lets up even for a sentence. He is struggling against vagueness, against obscurity, against the lure of the decorative adjective, against the encroachment of Latin and Greek, and, above all, against the worn-out phrases and dead metaphors with which the language is cluttered up.

— Orwell

Making a splash

You can drop a mouse down a thousand-yard mine shaft; and, on arriving at the bottom, it gets a slight shock and walks away. A rat would probably be killed, though it can fall safely from the eleventh story of a building; a man is killed, a horse splashes. For the resistance presented to movement by the air is proportional to the surface of the moving object. Divide an animal’s length, breadth, and height each by ten; its weight is reduced to a thousandth, but its surface only to a hundredth. So the resistance to falling in the case of the small animal is relatively ten times greater than the driving force.

— J.B.S. Haldane