Now the Sirens have
a still more fatal weapon than their song, namely their silence…
Someone might possibly have escaped from their singing;
but from their silence certainly never.

Franz Kafka (The Silence of the Sirens)

Gifts allow us to demonstrate exactly how little we know about a person, and nothing pisses off a person more than being shoved in the wrong pigeonhole.

House M.D., It’s A Wonderful Lie, 2008

—Sovegna vos al temps de mon dolor
    Poi s’ascose nel foco che gli affina.

—Be mindful in due time of my sorrow,
    Then dove he back into that fire which refines them.

T.S. Eliot (appears as an epigraph in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock: Prufrock Among the Women taken from Dante’s Purgatorio, Canto XXVI)

Que serait le récit du bonheur? Rien, que ce qui le prépare, puis ce qui le détruit, ne se raconte.

What would there be in a story of happiness? Only what prepares it, only what destroys it can be told.

Andre Gidé (L’Immoraliste)

I have a friend who’s an artist and he’s sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say, “Look how beautiful it is,” and I’ll agree, I think. And he says—“you see, I as an artist can see how beautiful this is, but you as a scientist, oh, take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing.” And I think that he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me, too, I believe, although I might not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is; but I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time I see much more about the flower than he sees. I can imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension of one centimeter, there is also beauty at a smaller dimension, the inner structure. Also the processes, the fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting—it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: Does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which shows that a science knowledge only adds to the excitement and mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds; I don’t understand how it subtracts.

Richard Feynman (The Pleasure of Finding Things Out)

It is a curious thing, but as one travels the world getting older and older, it appears that happiness is easier to get used to than despair. The second time you have a root beer float, for instance, your happiness at sipping the delicious concoction may not be quite as enormous as when you first had a root beer float, and the twelfth time your happiness may be still less enormous, until root beer floats begin to offer you very little happiness at all, because you have become used to the taste of vanilla ice cream and root beer mixed together. However, the second time you find a thumbtack in your root beer float, your despair is much greater than the first time, when you dismissed the thumbtack as a freak accident rather than part of the scheme of a soda jerk, a phrase which here means “ice cream shop employee who is trying to injure your tongue,” and by the twelfth time you find a thumbtack, your despair is even greater still, until you can hardly utter the phrase “root beer float” without bursting into tears. It is almost as if happiness is an acquired taste, like coconut cordial or ceviche, to which you can eventually become accustomed, but despair is something surprising each time you encounter it.

Lemony Snicket (The End)

For some stories, it’s easy. The moral of ‘The Three Bears,’ for instance, is ‘Never break into someone else’s house.’ The moral of ‘Snow White’ is ‘Never eat apples.’ The moral of World War I is ‘Never assassinate Archduke Ferdinand.’

Lemony Snicket (The Wide Window)

It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.

Lemony Snicket (Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid)