Subtract Quotes (displaying: 1 - 30 of 36 quotes )
No matter how limited their powers of reason might have been. still they must have understood that living like that was just murder, a capital crime - except it was slow, day-by-day murder. The government (or humanity) could not permit capital punishment for one man, but they permitted the murder of millions a little at a time. To kill one man - that is, to subtract 50 years from the sum of all human lives - that was a crime; but to subtract from the sum of all human lives 50,000,000 years - that was not a crime! No, really, isn't it funny? This problem in moral math could be solved in half a minute by any ten-year-old Number today, but they couldn't solve it. All their Kant's together couldn't solve it (because it never occurred to one of their Kant's to construct a system of scientific ethics - that is, one based on subtraction, addition, division, and multiplication).
I realized that Joyce had gone as far as one could in the direction of knowing more, in control of one's material. He was always adding to it; you only have to look at his proofs to see that. I realised that my own way was impoverishment, in lack of knowledge and in taking away, subtracting rather than adding. When I first met Joyce, I didn't intend to be a writer. That only came later when I found out that I was no good at all at teaching. When I found I simply couldn't teach. But I do remember speaking about Joyce's heroic achievement. I had a great admiration for him. That's what it was: epic, heroic, what he achieved. I realized that I couldn't go down that same road.
Mr. Constant," he said, "right now you’re as easy for the Bureau of Internal Revenue to watch as a man on a street corner selling apples and pears. But just imagine how hard you would be to watch if you had a whole office building jammed to the rafters with industrial bureaucrats—men who lose things and use the wrong forms and create new forms and demand everything in quintuplicate, and who understand perhaps a third of what is said to them; who habitually give misleading answers in order to gain time in which to think, who make decisions only when forced to, and who then cover their tracks; who make perfectly honest mistakes in addition and subtraction, who call meetings whenever they feel lonely, who write memos whenever they feel unloved; men who never throw anything away unless they think it could get them fired. A single industrial bureaucrat, if he is sufficiently vital and nervous, should be able to create a ton of meaningless papers a year for the Bureau of Internal Revenue to examine.
Knowing whether or not man is free involves knowing whether he can have a master. The absurdity peculiar to this problem comes from the fact that the very notion that makes the problem of freedom possible also takes away all its meaning. For in the presence of God there is less a problem of freedom than a problem of evil. You know the alternative: either we are not free and God the all-powerful is responsible for evil. Or we are free and responsible but God is not all powerful. All the scholastic subtleties have neither added anything to nor subtracted anything from the acuteness of this paradox.
Our visual cortexes are wired to quickly recognize faces and then quickly subtract massive amounts of detail from them, zeroing in on their essential message: Is this person happy? Angry? Fearful? Individual faces may vary greatly, but a smirk on one is a lot like a smirk on another. Smirks are conceptual, not pictorial. Our brains are like cartoonists - and cartoonists are like our brains, simplifying and exaggerating, subordinating facial detail to abstract comic concepts.
Our days flowed around well-charted, often traveled courses, and yet, the underlying sense of falling out of time, out of the trajectory of one's life, not by choice, but by subtraction, was frequent and disquieting. Then I grieved for him, for the lost and previous Paul. He grieved for that man too. Both our griefs were mainly private, internal, unuttered. Return was impossible, and there was only one direction open ; and so we kept our compass pointed forward. [p. 286]
Dill was off again. Beautiful things floated around in his dreamy head. He could read two books to my one, but he preferred the magic of his own inventions. He could add and subtract faster than lightning, but he preferred his own twilight world, a world where babies slept, waiting to be gathered like morning lilies.
Danglers alone was content and joyous, he had got rid of an enemy and preserved his situation on board the Pharaon; Danglers was one of those men born with a pen behind the ear, and an ink-stand in place of a heart. Everything with him was multiplication or subtraction, and he estimated the life of a man as less precious than a figure, when that figure could increase, and that life would diminish, the total of the amount.
For what prevents us from saying that the happy life is to have a mind that is free, lofty, fearless and steadfast - a mind that is placed beyond the reach of fear, beyond the reach of desire, that counts virtue the only good, baseness the only evil, and all else but a worthless mass of things, which come and go without increasing or diminishing the highest good, and neither subtract any part from the happy life nor add any part to it? A man thus grounded must, whether he wills or not, necessarily be attended by constant cheerfulness and a joy that is deep and issues from deep within, since he finds delight in his own resources, and desires no joys greater than his inner joys.
A destiny that leads the English to the Dutch is strange enough; but one that leads from Epsom into Pennsylvania, and thence into the hills that shut in Altamont over the proud coral cry of the cock, and the soft stone smile of an angel, is touched by that dark miracle of chance which makes new magic in a dusty world. Each of us is all the sums he has not counted: subtract us into nakedness and night again, and you shall see begin in Crete four thousand years ago the love that ended yesterday in Texas. The seed of our destruction will blossom in the desert, the alexin of our cure grows by a mountain rock, and our lives are haunted by a Georgia slattern, because a London cutpurse went unhung. Each moment is the fruit of forty thousand years. The minute-winning days, like flies, buzz home to death, and every moment is a window on all time. This is a moment:
Sometimes, in a summer morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrisetill noon, rapt in a revery, amidst the pines and hickories and sumachs, in undisturbed solitude and stillness, while the birds sing around orflitted noiseless through the house, until by the sun falling in atmy west window, or the noise of some traveller's wagon on the distanthighway, I was reminded of the lapse of time. I grew in those seasonslike corn in the night, and they were far better than any work of thehands would have been. They were not time subtracted from my life, butso much over and above my usual allowance. I realized what the Orientalsmean by contemplation and the forsaking of works. For the most part, Iminded not how the hours went. The day advanced as if to light somework of mine; it was morning, and lo, now it is evening, and nothingmemorable is accomplished.
Nothing can be given or taken away; nothing has been added or subtracted; nothing increased or diminished. We stand on the same shore before the same mighty ocean. The ocean of love. There it is - in perpetuum. As much in a broken blossom, the sound of a waterfall, the swoop of a carrion bird as in the thunderous artillery of the prophet. We move with eyes shut and ears stopped; we smash walls where doors are waiting to open to the touch; we grope for ladders, forgetting that we have wings; we pray as if God were deaf and blind, as if He were in a space. No wonder the angels in our midst are unrecognizable. One day it will be pleasant to remember these things.
My working method has more often than not involved the subtraction of weight. I have tried to remove weight, sometimes from people, sometimes from heavenly bodies, sometimes from cities; above all I have tried to remove weight from the structure of stories and from language. . . . Maybe I was only then becoming aware of the weight, the inertia, the opacity of the world--qualities that stick to the writing from the start, unless one finds some way of evading them.
Formerly, in my attempts to isolate this talent, I deducted, so to speak, from what I heard, the part itself, a part, the common property of all the actresses who appeared as Phdre, which I myself had studied beforehand so that I might be capable of subtracting it, of gleaming as a residuum Mme Berma’s talent alone. But this talent which I sought to discover outside the part itself was indissolubly one with it. So with a great musician (it appears that this was the case with Vinteuil when he played the piano), his playing is that of so fine a pianist that one is no longer aware that the performer is a pianist at all, because his playing has become so transparent, so imbued with what he is interpreting, that one no longer sees the performer himself — he is simply a window opening upon a great work of art.