An indulgence in Roman Catholic theology is, basically, something that buys you a little time out of purgatory. I don’t believe in God (much less purgatory) but I appreciate we all need something to “buy off” the mundanity or insanity of daily life. Words happen to be my fix. I compulsively copy fragments of writing… quotes that reverberate in my head either for the sheer dexterity of their assembly or the piquancy of their meaning. It occurs to me I’d be better off saving them here than losing them forever amidst shopping lists, scribbled address and scraps of ideas in my tattered notebooks.

Germaine Greer

“To abdicate one’s own moral understanding, to tolerate crimes against humanity, to leave everything to someone else, the father-ruler-king-computer, is the only irresponsibility.”

“The struggle which is not joyous is the wrong struggle.”

“The first exercise of the free woman is to devise her own mode of revolt, a mode which will reflect her own independence and originality.”

“There is no substitute for confrontation.”

“Freedom is fragile and must be protected. To sacrifice it, even as a temporary measure, is to betray it.”

Martha Gellhorn
“Moaning is unseemly. Get to work. Work is the best remedy for despair.”

“You can do anything you like if you are willing to pay the full price for it.”

Henry David Thoreau
“Say what you have to say, not what you ought. Any truth is better than makebelieve.”

“The universe is wider than our views of it.”

“We should be blessed if we lived in the present always and took advantage of every accident that befell us.”

“Only the defeated and deserters go to the wars, cowards that run away and enlist.”

“Let everyone mind his own business and endevour to be what he was made.”

“Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts.”

“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.”

“The only obligation I have the right to assume, is to do at any time what I think right.”

“Action from principle, the perception and performance of right, changes things and relations; it is essentially revolutionary.”

“Break the law. Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine.”

“Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also prison.”

“I was not born to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion.”

“When I meet a government which says to me, ‘your money or your life,’ why should I be in haste to give it my money?”

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

Joan Didion
“The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self-respect springs.”

“Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents.”

“To protest that some fairly improbably people, some people who could not possibly respect themselves, seem to sleep easily enough is to miss the point entirely, as surely as those people miss it who think that self-respect has necessarily to do with not having safety pins in one’s underwear.”

“I am comfortable with… those in whom the sense of dread is so acute that they turn to extreme and doomed commitments; I know something about dread myself, and appreciate the elaborate systems with which some people manage to fill the void, appreciate all the opiates of the people, whether they are as accessible as alcohol and heroin and promiscuity or as hard to come by as faith in God or History.”


“To see what is right and not do it is cowardice.”

“What is over and done with one does not discuss, what has taken its course one does not complain about, and what is already past one does not criticize.”

“Only one who is humane is able to like other people and able to dislike other people.”

“One is not worried about not holding position; one is worried about how one may fit oneself for appointment. One is not worried that nobody knows one; one seeks to become fit to be known.”

“The failure to cultivate virtue, the failure to put into practice what I have learnt, hearing what is right and being unable to move towards it, being unable to change what is not good — these are my worries.”

“The Master cut out four things. He never took anything for granted, he never insisted on certainty, he was never inflexible and never egotistical.”

“Do not make friends of those who are not up to your own standard.”

Cormac McCarthy
“Everything is necessary. Every least thing. This is the hard lesson. Nothing can be dispensed with. Nothing despised.”

“It was always himself the coward abandoned first. After this all other betrayals came easily.”

“I believed that anyone who desired [courage] could have it. That the desire was the thing itself. The thing itself.”

“Every act soon eluded the grasp of its propagator to be swept away in a clamorous tide of unforeseen consequence.”

“One thing he knew of all things claimed to be known was that there was no certainty to any of it.”

“Where all is known no narrative is possible.”

“The probability of the actual is absolute… That we may imagine alternate histories means nothing at all.”

“All knowledge is borrowing and every fact a debt. For each event is revealed to us only at the surrender of every alternate course.”

Oscar Wilde
“One can survive everything nowadays, except death, and live down anything except a good reputation.”

“When a man is old enough to do wrong he should be old enough to do right also.”

“Discontent is the first step… in progress.”

“Men marry because they are tired; women because they are curious. Both are disappointed.”

“When one is in love one begins by deceiving oneself. And ends by deceiving others.”

“All love is terrible. All love is a tragedy.”

“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” (Matthew 7:3)

JD Salinger
“He is excellent, touching, intelligent company when he is not being hounded by his past and present.”

“He is privately the most resourceful creation of God I have ever run into, forever striving not to live a second-hand existence on the fervent recommendation of practically everybody one runs into.”

“In my heart of hearts, I am outside my true element when away from cold, heartrending cities of ludicrous size after the manner of New York or London.”

“I am hoping, however, that as we continue to improve and refine our characters by leaps and bounds, striving each day to reduce general snottiness, surface conceits, and too damn much emotion, coupled with several other qualities quite rotten to the core, we will antagonize and inspire less murder.”

“I find it magnificent how beautiful, loose ends find each other in the world if one only waits with decent patience.”

“If one has no magnificent teacher, one is obliged to install one in one’s mind; it is a perilous thing to do if you were born cravenhearted, as I was.”

“Fortunately, I find that if a situation is funny or risible enough, I tend to bleed less profusely.”

“I have never seen a quite unassailable, respectable fact that was not the first cousin, at least, if not closer, to personal opinion.”

“I am very worried by my inhumane attitude towards unreliable advice.”

“Some pleasant, rainy day, when you have the stomach for it, examine the bowels of any effective revolution since history began; deep in the heart of every outstanding reformer, if you do not find personal envy, jealousy, hunger for personal aristocracy, in a new, clever disguise, running a very close race with desire for more food and less poverty, I will gladly answer to God for this entire, cynical attitude.”

“The sad, unrelenting factor being that good people who do not strive hard enough to uncover their own destinies and incessant responsibilities in life content themselves with parasitic occupations.”

“Every man, woman, and child over the age, let us say, of twenty-one or thirty, at the very outside, should never do anything extremely important or crucial in their life without first consulting a list of persons in the world, living or dead, whom he loves… My God, it could be the finest, most terrible, personal guard against deceit and lies both to oneself and to any friends or acquaintances.”

“No day passes that I am not mindful of my rotten, demanding traits of character.”

Bob Dylan
“She’s got everything she needs. She’s an artist. She don’t look back.”

William Shakespeare
“A traveller! By my faith, you have great reason to
be sad: I fear you have sold your own lands to see
other men’s.” (As You Like It, Act 4, I)

“Men have died from time to
time and worms have eaten them, but not for love.”

Valerie Solanas
“Love can’t flourish in a society based upon money and meaningless work: it requires complete economic as well as personal freedom, leisure time and the opportunity to engage in intensely absorbing, emotionally satisfying activities which, when shared with those you respect, lead to deep friendship. Our `society’ provides practically no opportunity to engage in such activities.”

“Dropping out is not the answer; fucking-up is. Most women are already dropped out; they were never in. Dropping out gives control to those few who don’t drop out; dropping out is exactly what the establishment leaders want; it plays into the hands of the enemy; it strengthens the system instead of undermining it.”

“Looking inside yourself for salvation is not… the answer. Happiness lies outside yourself, is achieved through interacting with others. Self-forgetfulness should be one’s goal, not self-absorption.”

Rebecca West
“People call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute.”

James Joyce
“It is dangerous to leave one’s country, but still more dangerous to go back.”

T.S. Eliot
“That which is only living/can only die.”

Albert Camus

“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”

Benjamin Franklin
“Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”

Ursula K. Le Guin

“Love is not a thing that happens to us. It’s a thing we do…. It’s not an experience. It’s a way of relating.”

“Let my possessions freely perish, my honour, my body and life, and let other good things perish, but never the mind.”

“One should be able and energetic, acting at all times upon one’s own initiative. In all actions one should not leave any work to another.”

“One should do nothing other than what is either directly or indirectly of benefit to living beings.”

“Not even in suffering should a wise person allow his serene confidence of mind to be disturbed.”

“Will the disfavour that others show me devour me here or in another birth, that I avoid it so?”

“One should be addicted solely to the task that one is undertaking. One should be intoxicated by that task, insatiable.”

“Fear may come from any quarter whatsoever if there is something called ‘I’. If your position is that there is no ‘I’, who can be afraid?”

“In all my lives may I acquire the means for a solitary life.”

Bruce Springsteen
“You can find your identity in the damage that’s been done to you. Very, very dangerous. You find your identity in your wounds, in your scars, in the places where you’ve been beat up and you turn them into a medal. We all wear the things we’ve survived with some honour, but the real honour is in also transcending them.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jnr
“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

Edith Wharton
“The worst of doing one’s duty was that it apparently unfitted one for doing anything else.”

D.H. Lawence
“The two sovereign remedies for dullness are love or a crusade.”

Hunter S Thompson
“Freedom is a challenge. You decide who you are by what you do. It’s like a question, like a fork in the road. An ongoing question you have to keep answering correctly.”

3 thoughts on “Indulgences

  1. Pingback: Laughter the Best Antidote to Bad News « Irresponsibility

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  3. Pingback: The Secret of a Merry Christmas « Cila Warncke

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