During the Bosnian war in the late 1990s, I spent several days traveling around the country with Susan Sontag and her son, my dear friend David Rieff. On one occasion, we made a special detour to the town of Zenica, where there was reported to be a serious infiltration of outside Muslim extremists: a charge that was often used to slander the Bosnian government of the time. We found very little evidence of that, but the community itself was much riven as between Muslim, Croat, and Serb. No faction was strong enough to predominate, each was strong enough to veto the other's candidate for the chairmanship of the city council. Eventually, and in a way that was characteristically Bosnian, all three parties called on one of the town's few Jews and asked him to assume the job. We called on him, and found that he was also the resident intellectual, with a natural gift for synthesizing matters. After we left him, Susan began to chortle in the car. 'What do you think?' she asked. 'Do you think that the only dentist and the only shrink in Zenica are Jewish also?' It would be dense to have pretended not to see her joke.
It seems to me I am trying to tell you a dream--making a vain attempt, because no relation of a dream can convey the dream-sensation, that commingling of absurdity, surprise, and bewilderment in a tremor of struggling revolt, that notion of being captured by the incredible which is of the very essence of dreams...No, it is impossible; it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one's existence--that which makes its truth, its meaning--its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream-alone...
Teaching is a sacred art. This is why the noblest druid is not the one who conjures fires and smoke but the one who brings the news and passes on the histories. The teacher, the bard, the singer of tales is a freer of men's minds and bodies, especially when he roams without allegiance to one chieftain or another. But he is also a danger to the masters if he insists upon telling the truth. The truth will inevitably cause tremors in those who cling to power without honoring justice.
It may seem to your conceited to suppose that you can do anything important toward improving the lot of mankind. But this is a fallacy. You must believe that you can help bring about a better world. A good society is produced only by good individuals, just as truly as a majority in a presidential election is produced by the votes of single electors. Everybody can do something toward creating in his own environment kindly feelings rather than anger, reasonableness rather than hysteria, happiness rather than misery.
If we wish to draw philosophical conclusions about our own existence, our significance, and the significance of the universe itself, our conclusions should be based on empirical knowledge. A truly open mind means forcing our imaginations to conform to the evidence of reality, and not vice versa, whether or not we like the implications.
He emerged out of the lake, the declining sun drenching him with aureate light, the droplets on his body iridescent in their beams. He walked confidently toward her, almost every inch of his sculptured body exposed in his black swimsuit. Each sharp contour of muscle glistened, each limb unfolded with lithe grace as he approached, his eyes riveted on her. Coral watched spellbound, a yearning surging up within her, eager and expectant. The air around them trembled with infinite anticipation.
The planet has a fever. If your baby has a fever, you go to the doctor. If the doctor says you need to intervene here, you don't say, Well, I read a science fiction novel that told me it's not a problem. If the crib's on fire, you don't speculate that the baby is flame retardant. You take action.