You cannot know at a book’s birth if it will become a classic. It will be a classic if it appeals to generation after generation of readers, and you would be able to know that only if you could hover in eternity and watch. Hovering over a work of fiction for merely a lifetime is the job of the literary critic, who is to a book reviewer as a pediatrician is to a midwife. The midwife is for a one-time event. The literary critic is for the life of the book. A book reviewer tells you, when a book first appears, whether he or she believes it is worth your time. The literary critic sees to your relationship with the book later. He or she tries to make sure that people continue to discuss a work as years go by. By talking about it over and over, through the years and centuries, we help to nudge it into eternal life. If we go on reading it, it is worthy to be read, proving itself to be not of an age, but for all time.
Phyllis Rose, The Shelf, p. 181 (via recycledsoul)

But patience needs to be an end, not a means, if it is to become more than a way of coping with the demands of multitasking. The church teaches patience by setting aside Sundays for worship, which should be a restful alternative to the laborious efficiency of the workweek. Pattison belongs to a rural “evangelical Quaker meeting,” and much of this book is a new and improved defense of what people used to call honoring the Sabbath.

One way to slow down on Sundays, Smith and Pattison suggest, is to stay at the same church. Every time we move from one church to another we lose a little bit more of our patience for all things religious. Like a plant that is repotted, we require loads of fertilizer to keep our roots growing. Church mobility is not spiritually sustainable.

A great Old Testament scholar named Hans Wolter Wolff described the Hebrew word for soul (nephesh) as ‘needy man’. Sometimes when I think of the soul I think of the Bill Murray character in ‘What about Bob?’, whose mantra is ‘I need, I need, I need…’ The neediness of the soul is not an accident. Wise observers many centures ago noted that human beings are finite in every way except one: we have an infinite capacity to desire more. We are infinitely needy. In this way the soul is a mirror image of a God who has an infinite capacity to give.
And on the other hand, the material value is apt to undermine the manly character; so that it must be our work, in the issue, to examine what evidence there is of the effect of wealth on the minds of its possessors; also, what kind of person it is who usually sets himself to obtain wealth, and succeeds in doing so; and whether the world owes more gratitude to rich or to poor men, either for their moral influence upon it, or for chief goods, discoveries, and practical advancements. I may, however, anticipate future conclusions, so far as to state that in a community regulated only by laws of demand and supply, but protected from open violence, the persons who become rich are, generally speaking, industrious, resolute, proud, covetous, prompt, methodical, sensible, unimaginative, insensitive, and ignorant. The persons who remain poor are the entirely foolish, the entirely wise, the idle, the reckless, the humble, the thoughtful, the dull, the imaginative, the sensitive, the well-informed, the improvident, the irregularly and impulsively wicked, the clumsy knave, the open thief, and the entirely merciful, just, and godly person.
John Ruskin, Unto This Last (via ayjay)
Attention is something that must be paid. Paying attention is not unrelated to discharging a debt, to offering tribute, to giving the entity that demands the attention something akin to cash. When you tell someone to pay attention, you are trying to take something from him, something that, one might assume, he does not wish to give: his focus, his presence of mind, his full being. Is it possible that paying attention is akin to paying tribute? When someone asks you to pay attention, he is imposing authority on you. Perhaps it is not that we can’t get ourselves to focus on this or that matter, but simply that offering attention is felt as a challenge, a burden. “I made myself pay attention, even though what he was saying was boring.” “It wasn’t easy to pay attention to him, but I did.” There’s a tribute involved. There’s a tax. There’s a debt. Do you understand? Are you paying attention to me? We can take satisfaction in paying a bill, or getting rid of a debt, but it is never exactly a joy.
I’d say […] that the deep opposite of attention isn’t distraction, but absorption. No one ever tells you to “pay absorption.” Absorption is what occurs when you immerse yourself in something you love doing. The artist and the poet and the philosopher and the scientist become absorbed. The kind doctor becomes absorbed in her patient; the teacher becomes absorbed in his class presentation. The musician becomes absorbed in the fugue. When that happens, time stops and one lives in an ongoing present. One feels whole and at one with oneself. The little boy drawing with his pad on the floor, tongue sticking out from one side of his mouth, is a picture of absorption. He is not really paying attention. He is being absorbed. What is happiness? W. H. Auden answered the question quite simply: Happiness comes in absorption.

[Mark Edmundson in The Hedgehog Review 16.2 (Summer 2014)]

Qua Humbug: Pay absorption! 

The reason for saying we need to do ‘an exceptional, near-perfect job of execution’ is this: When you want something really bad, you will put up with a lot of flaws. But if you do not yet know you want something, your tolerance will be much lower. That’s why it is especially important for us to build a beautiful, elegant and considerate piece of software. Every bit of grace, refinement, and thoughtfulness on our part will pull people along. Every petty irritation will stop them and give the impression that it is not worth it.
Just re-reading Stewart Butterfield’s We Don’t Sell Saddles Here for about the tenth time. This point is so, so true. (via timoni)
Even at the most basic level, scientists don’t yet understand why booze makes us feel the way it does. Alcohol’s mode of action in the brain is much more complicated and elusive than that of a drug such as heroin, which locks into specific, identified receptors meant for natural neurotransmitters. “The truth is, we don’t know at the molecular level what alcohol is binding to,” Rogers quotes the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism as saying. “It’s never been resolved.”