. . . [A] wealthy oilman, Calouste Gulbenkian, accumulated a fabulous art collection and called the works ‘my children’. Mostly ignoring his flesh-and-blood son and daughter, he lived to serve his art. Claiming that ‘my children must have privacy’ and ‘a home fit for Gulbenkians to live in’, he built a mansion in Paris with barricades, watchdogs and a private secret service. He routinely refused requests to loan his art to museums, and did not allow visitors, since ‘my children mustn’t be disturbed’. But even this extreme of a collector who prefers art to people shows the importance of the social role of collecting, since Gulbenkian simply treated artworks as if they were people. And, when Gulbenkian left his collection to found an eponymous museum in Lisbon upon his death in 1955, he showed that he cared about people after all – just not the ones he happened to know.
Erin Thompson, Why People Collect Art , Aeon magazine
Unlike beings, Being is hard to concentrate on and it is easy to forget to think about it. But one particular entity has a more noticeable Being than others, and that is myself, because, unlike clouds and portals, I am the entity who wonders about its Being. It even turns out that I have a vague, preliminary, non-philosophical understanding of Being already otherwise I would not have thought of asking about it. This makes me the best starting point for ontological inquiry I am both the being whose Being is up for question and the being who sort of already knows the answer.
Sarah Bakewell, At The Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails
This is from the chapter on Heidegger
Talking so much you horrify yourself and those around you; talking so little that you almost refuse your own existence: . . . speech is by no means a straightforward route to connection. If loneliness is to be defined as a desire for intimacy, then included within that is the need to express oneself and to be heard, to share thoughts, experiences and feelings. Intimacy can’t exist if the participants aren’t willing to make themselves known, to be revealed. But gauging the levels is tricky. Either you don’t communicate enough and remain concealed from other people, or you risk rejection by exposing too much altogether: the minor or major hurts, the tedious obsessions, the abscesses and cataracts of need and shame and longing. My own decision has been to clam up, though sometimes I longed to grab someone’s arm and blurt the whole thing out, . . . to open everything for inspection.
Olivia Laing: The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone, p75
In the spring of 1943, on a beautiful quiet night, a country night in the outskirts of Warsaw, standing on the balcony, we could hear screaming from the ghetto…. This screaming gave us goose pimples. They were the screams of thousands of people being murdered. It travelled through the silent spaces of the city from among a red glow of fires, under indifferent stars, into the benevolent silence of gardens in which plants laboriously emitted oxygen, the air was fragrant, and a man felt that it was good to be alive. There was something particularly cruel in this peace of the night, whose beauty and human crime struck the heart simultaneously. We did not look each other in the eye. Czesław Miłosz
‘A family was something to fear, like a long, dark tunnel cutting through a mountain. Who knew if you would come out the other side alive?’
Josephine Wilsons, Extinctions
It was about the meaning of existence, he said. All right. She knew a little bit about existence. That was pretty well the only things she knew about, and she had learned the word for it from him. It was like the United States of America — they had to call it something. The evening and the morning, sleeping and waking. Hunger and lonelinesss and weariness and still wanting more of it. Existence. Why do I bother? He couldn’t tell her that either. But he knows, she could see it in him….
Marilynne Robinson Lila page 74
She told the old man she’d been thinking about existence, that time they were out walking, and he didn’t laugh. Could she have these thoughts if she had never learned the word? “The mystery of existence.” From hearing him preach. He must have mentioned it at least once a week. She wished she’d known about it sooner, or at least known there was a name for it She used to be afraid she was the only one in the world who couldn’t make sense of things. Why that shame had come down on her, out of nowhere.
Marilynne Robinson, Lila page 178
Page from the book, by Gianfranco Sanguinetti, Miroslav Tichý: Les formes du vrai / Forms of Truth
Vivien Maier in Copenhagen July 2017
The endless, useless urge to look on life comprehensively, to take a bird’s-eye view of ourselves and judge the dimensions of what we have or have not done: this is life as landscape, or life as a résumé. But life is incremental, and though a worthwhile life is a gathering together of all that one is, good and bad, successful and not, the paradox is that we can never really see this one thing that all of our increments (and decrements, I suppose) add up to. “Early we receive a call,” writes Czeslaw Milosz, “yet it remains incomprehensible, and only late do we discover how obedient we were.”
Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer
Catalogue in gallery in Prague, showing Gerhard Richter’s picture of Betty on the cover