“True literature can exist only where it is created, not by diligent and trustworthy officials, but by madmen, hermits, heretics, dreamers, rebels and skeptics.”

  • Yevgeny Zamyatin, in a 1921 essay titled “I Am Afraid” (via this article)

“Whenever I went someplace, I liked to present myself with such problems that gave me—someone who could find no particular reason to stay there otherwise—a reason to stay.”

Jung Young Moon, Seven Samurai Swept Away in a River

Today I learned that Persian identity once transcended the boundaries of political empires, ethnicities, and religions. A glimpse of a road abandoned in favor simple nationality.

Aporetic (adj) - characterized by an irresolvable internal contradiction or logical disjunction.

“I think we have lost a very important science: ethics. People admire lying. They admire cheating. They admire a man being a millionaire. The things that are important, really important, are the books a man reads, his feelings, his actions, while opinions are not. They come and go. I’ve been a nationalist, I’ve been a communist, a quiet anarchist.”

Today I learned about mautâm, a cyclic ecological phenomenon occuring every ~50 years, when vast bamboo forests in northeastern India flower simultaneously, resulting in abundant seed, a boom in the rat population, then a famine when the rats run out of seeds and turn to crops.

Eccentricity as an Antidote to a World Gone Mad

While an honest assessment of the past might make us realize “the low likelihood of the present and the future turning out any differently…we still must care for one another as the tragedy unfolds.”

Enjoyed this review of The Counterforce, a book that seems right up my alley in proposing that “Pynchon can help us diagnose much of what’s wrong with our culture in general, and literary culture in particular” and suggesting the cultivation of “eccentricity as an antidote to a world gone mad.”

Cathexis (n) - investment of mental or emotional energy in a person, object, or idea.

On this day in 1958, Ben Carlin became the first (and only) person to circumnavigate the Earth by amphibious vehicle, traveling 17,000 km by sea and 62,000 km by land. It took him ten years and seems to have been quite the odyssey, as could be expected.

Today I learned that euhemerism is an approach to the interpretation of mythology in which mythological accounts are presumed to have originated from real historical events or personages.

Today I learned that in the second century BCE, Eratosthenes developed an algorithm used to this day to find primes, drew perhaps the first ‘scientific’ map, and calculated the circumference of the Earth to within about 2%. His work was lost with the Great Library of Alexandria.

Sesquipedalian (adj) - Long and ponderous; polysyllabic. From the Latin sēsquipedālis, of a foot and a half in length.

Today’s amazing word is “gallimaufry” (n) - A jumble or hodgepodge.

A hero is a goddam stupid thing to have in the first place and a general block to anything you might wanta accomplish on your own.

  • Lester Bangs, Let Us Now Praise Famous Death Dwarves, 1975

Inquiline (n) - An animal that characteristically lives commensally in the nest, burrow, or dwelling place of an animal of another species.

Read, read, read, read, read. Those who read own the world; those who immerse themselves in the internet or watch too much television lose it.

Werner Herzog

On this day in 1940, Polish underground resistance soldier Witold Pilecki was voluntarily captured by the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz to gather and smuggle out information on the camp. He escaped 30 months later, and was executed by the Soviet-backed Polish government in 1948.

Pleonasm (n): The use of more words than are required to express an idea; redundancy. As in the man he said.

The Inferno

The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.

-Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

Today I learned about Müllerian mimicry, “in which species with strong defences evolve to resemble one another. By mimicking similarly coloured species, the warning signal to predators is shared, causing them to learn more quickly at less of a cost to each of the species.”