Grits and Tamales

Life in the Deep South, by Gabriel Aguilera

“The most trifling thing…can open up a universe.” On Proust.

“The most trifling thing…can open up a universe.” -Pico Ayer

Shelby Foote talks briefly of Proust at the 13 minute mark or so in this: http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/165823-1

Proust was an extremely important author for Foote. He read the Frenchman’s tome nine times, to reward himself for a job well done whenever he felt he had earned it.

I have not read a sentence of Proust. This post, on the commonalities between Proust and Buddhism, was immensely enjoyable as well as thought-provoking. One of these years I will have to tackle this great work.

Here are some Proust quotes fished from this article that I thought worth noting down.

“So long as you distract your mind from its dreams, it will not know them for what they are; you will always be being taken in by the appearance of things, because you will not have grasped their true nature.”

“We do not receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can make for us, which no one can spare us.”

“If there were no such thing as habit, life might appear delightful to those of us who are constantly under the threat of death—that is to say, to all mankind.”

“We ought at least, for prudence, never to speak of ourselves, because that is a subject on which we may be sure that other people’s views are never in accordance with our own.”

“What one knows does not belong to oneself…”

“It is not common sense that is ‘the commonest thing in the world…It is human kindness.”

“[I]deas, works and the rest, which he counted for far less — [this great artist] would have given gladly to anyone who understood him.”

“One short-sighted man says of another, ‘But he can scarcely open his eyes!’”

“We ought at least, for prudence, never to speak of ourselves, because that is a subject on which we may be sure that other people’s views are never in accordance with our own.”

“What one knows does not belong to oneself…”

“In the state of mind in which we `observe,’we are a long way below the level to which we rise when we create.”

“Before we experience solitude, our whole perception is to know to what extent we can reconcile it with certain pleasures which cease to be pleasures as soon as we have experienced it.”

“For in this world of ours where everything withers, everything perishes, there is a thing that decays, that crumbles into dust even more completely, leaving behind still fewer traces of itself than beauty: namely, grief.”

This is the last paragraph from Piko’s terrific essay, cited above.

“I couldn’t tell you much about the plot of À la recherche, its characters, its events, anything of its surface. Proust’s genius, like that of his compatriot Cartier-Bresson (who called himself “an accidental Buddhist”), is to register every detail of the surface and yet never get caught up in the superficial. Here is the rare master who saw that surface was merely the way depth often expressed itself, the trifle in which truth was hidden thanks to mischievous circumstance (or, others would say, the logic of the universe). It takes stamina, bloody-mindedness, concentration, and a fanatic’s devotion to stare the mind down and see how rarely it sees the present, for all the alternative realities it can conjure out of memory or hope. Proust had the sense to belabor us with little theology, academic philosophy or overt epistemology; yet nearly every sentence in his epic work takes us into the complications, the false fronts, the self-betrayals of the heart and mind and so becomes what could almost be called an anatomy of the soul. I’m not sure sitting under a tree in Asia 2,500 years ago would have produced anything different.”

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