Leo Tolstoy – War and Peace (1867)

But all these hints at what happened, both from the French side and the Russian, are advanced only because they fit in with the event. Had that event not occurred these hints would have been forgotten, as we have forgotten the thousands and millions of hints and expectations to the contrary which were current then but have now been forgotten because the event falsified them. There are always so many conjectures as to the issue of any event that however it may end there will always be people to say: “I said then that it would be so,” quite forgetting that amid their innumerable conjectures many were to quite the contrary effect.

Leo Tolstoy – War and Peace (1867)

He had learned that as there is no condition in which man can be happy and entirely free, so there is no condition in which he need be unhappy and lack freedom. He learned that suffering and freedom have their limits and that those limits are very near together; that the person in a bed of roses with one crumpled petal suffered as keenly as he now, sleeping on the bare damp earth with one side growing chilled while the other was warming; and that when he had put on tight dancing shoes he had suffered just as he did now when he walked with bare feet that were covered with sores–his footgear having long since fallen to pieces. He discovered that when he had married his wife–of his own free will as it had seemed to him–he had been no more free than now when they locked him up at night in a stable. …

Only now did Pierre realize the full strength of life in man and the saving power he has of transferring his attention from one thing to another, which is like the safety valve of a boiler that allows superfluous steam to blow off when the pressure exceeds a certain limit.

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Neil Gaiman – The Sandman, vol. 6 (1993)

Janet: You seem different today.
Todd: I met someone who changed my mind about a lot of things.
J: I’d like to meet her.
T: It’s a he. And I don’t even think he exists. He’s just a little voice in the back of my head, saying…
J: Yes?
T: Sometimes you wake up. Sometimes the fall kills you. And sometimes when you fall, you fly.


Daniel Levitin – This Is Your Brain on Music (2006)

Consider that at a very early age, babies are thought to be synesthetic, to be unable to differentiate the input from the different senses, and to experience life and the world as a sort of psychedelic union of everything sensory. Babies may see the number five as red, taste cheddar cheese in D-flat, and smell roses in triangles.


Douglas Hofstadter – Le ton beau de Marot (1997)

If one is lucky, one has the luxury of becoming totally immersed in an artistic project, letting almost all other things go by the wayside—family, friends, students, colleagues, food, bills, correspondence, neatness, books, music, movies, shopping, and sleep, to give a few examples. The house becomes a pigsty, the kids a bit starved for affection, weight goes down, friends wonder where you are… Fortunately, this monomaniacal state will be transitory, but it seems absolutely necessary, at least in my own case, for the emergence of that overarching frame of mind that allows the project to take on a true unity of purpose and style.

Douglas Adams – The Salmon of Doubt (2002)

My point was that I accepted I had (quite safely) made a manouevre that was illegal under the laws of England, but that our current situation, parked on a blind bend in the path of fast-moving traffic, was life-threatening by reason of the actual physical laws of the universe.

The officer’s next point was that I wasn’t in the universe, I was in England, a point that has been made to me before.