“From this arises an argument: whether it is better to be loved than to be feared, or the contrary. I reply that one should like to be both one and the other; but since it is difficult to join them together it is much safer to be feared than to be loved when one of the two must be lacking. For one can generally say this about men; that they are ungrateful, fickle, simulators and deceivers, avoiders of danger, greedy for gain; and while you work for their good they are completely yours offering you their blood, their property, their lives and their sons …. when danger is far away; but when it comes nearer to you they turn away. And that prince who bases his power entirely on their words, finding himself completely without other preparations, comes to ruin; for friendships that are acquired for a price and not by greatness and nobility of character are purchased, but not owned, and at the proper moment they cannot be spent. And men are less hesitant about harming someone who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared because loved is held together by a chain of obligation which, since men are wretched creatures, is broken on every occasion in which their own interests are concerned; but fear is sustained by a dread of punishment which will never leave you.”
“During the next month my infatuation with Serena had all the intensity of which a middle-aged man is capable. I abandoned my office, leaving the staff to cope for themselves, and spent all my time with Serena, tending her like the most dutiful lover . At huge expense I had a complex air-conditioning system installed in my house, of a type only employed in museums. In the past I had moved Serena from warm room to cool without a thought to her complexion, assuming it to be made of some insensitive plastic, but I now carefully regulated the temperature and humidity, determined to preserve her forever. I re-arranged the furniture throughout the house to avoid bruising her arms and shoulders as I carried her from floor to floor. In the mornings I would wake eagerly to find her at the foot of my bed, then seat her by me at the breakfast table. All day she stayed within my reach, smiling at me with an expression that almost convinced me she responded to my feelings.”
“Is there a joiner called Lanz who lives here?” he asked. “Pardon?” said a young woman with black, shining eyes who was, at that moment, washing children’s underclothes in a bucket. She pointed her wet hand towards the open door of the adjoining room.
K. thought he had stepped into a meeting. A medium sized, two windowed room was filled with the most diverse crowd of people – nobody paid any attention to the person who had just entered. Close under its ceiling it was surrounded by a gallery which was also fully occupied and where the people could only stand bent down with their heads and their backs touching the ceiling. K., who found the air too stuffy, stepped out again and said to the young woman, who had probably misunderstood what he had said, “I asked for a joiner, someone by the name of Lanz.” “Yes,” said the woman, “please go on in.” K. would probably not have followed her if the woman had not gone up to him, taken hold of the door handle and said, “I’ll have to close the door after you, no-one else will be allowed in.” “Very sensible,” said K., “but it’s too full already.” But then he went back in anyway.
From Der Prozeß (“The Trial”) by Franz Kafka (written 1915, but not published until 1925)
“The rate of interest she paid was of course high , because of the uncertainty of her security, and the arithmetic of lovers is often sketchy and optimistic. Yet they had glorious times after that return. They determined that they would not go to a Pleasure City nor waste their days rushing through the air from one part of the world to the other, for in spite of one disillusionment, their tastes were still old fashioned. They furnished their little room with quaint old Victorian furniture, and found a shop on the forty-second floor in Seventh Way where printed books of the old sort were still to be bought. It was their pet affectation to read print instead of hearing phonographs. And when presently came a sweet little girl, to unite them further if it were possible, Elizabeth would not send her to a Creche, as the custom was, but insisted on nursing it at home. The rent of their apartments was raised on account of this singular proceeding, but they did not mind. It only meant borrowing a little more.”
“What’ll it be ?” The barman’s question was not unfriendly.
“Half of special and a Bell’s” replied Rebus. This was his gambit in any potentially rough pub. He could think of no good reason why, somehow it just seemed like the right order. He remembered the roughest drinking den he’d ever encountered, deep in a Niddrie housing scheme. He’d given his order and the barman asked, in all seriousness, whether he wanted the two drinks in the same glass. That had shaken Rebus, and he hadn’t lingered.
“The tendency to regard the phenomenal world as something unreal that doesn’t really matter is rejected by Buddhists as nihilism. The tendency to regard it as something permanent, real to itself; that matters utterly and everlastingly is rejected as externalism. Nihilism and externalism are known in the Buddha Dharma as the two extremes.
From Buddha and his Teachings by Bercholtz and Kohn (1993)
“A sentimentalist is simply one who wants to have the luxury of an emotion without paying for it. We think we can have our emotions for nothing. We cannot. Even the finest and most self-sacrificing emotions have to be paid for. Strangely enough, that is what makes them fine. The intellectual and emotional life of ordinary people is a very contemptible affair. Just as they borrow their ideas from a sort of circulating library of thought — the Zeitgeist of an age that has no soul — and send them back soiled at the end of each week, so they always try to get their emotions on credit, and refuse to pay the bill when it comes in. You should pass out of that conception of life. As soon as you have to pay for an emotion you will know its quality, and be the better for such knowledge. And remember that the sentimentalist is always a cynic at heart. Indeed, sentimentality is merely the bank holiday of cynicism.”
From De Profundis by Oscar Wilde (1897)
16-10-2013 – the 159th anniversary of Wilde’s birth. De Produndis is, strictly speaking, not a book, but a letter to his friend Lord Alfred Douglas, written by Wilde whilst imprisoned in Reading Gaol. He died three years later in 1900.