1. To live in harmony is to have mastered the contradictions that make us what we are.
2. It is because we are too complex for our own good that it is such a virtue to live simply.
3. Incorrigibly fallible, we find forgiveness to be a special virtue. Still, many instances of forgiveness are in fact errors of judgment, or failures of will: people choose to remain in a bad relationship, for example, when they’d be better off apart.
4. One of the advantages of getting older is that our contempt for the next generation seems more justified. Having had more time to be stupid than they, we are likely to be less stupid than they.
5. It is because desire is excessive by nature that “fulfillment” (really just a kind of discharge) feels much less intense than anticipation.
6. To see just how unfree you really are, introspect your thought processes. Notice how often thoughts, impulses, desires, urges, etc., come utterly unsummoned. Now consider that all other people are subject to the same condition, though many of them are otherwise quite different from you. That it is not peace but war that drives the world should now be manifest and nothing to marvel at.
7. The underlying egotism of human nature is so extreme that even a kind of moral growth (say, some well-meaning movement) will often create a kind of perverse offshoot, corrupting much (if not all) that was good in the original path. This is also more evidence that human beings are much less rational and reasonable than we tend to believe.
8. The tendency to an inaccurately favorable self-conception, nearly universal, often comes with a tendency no less false or common, that by which we attribute our problems to the failings of others. Where self-knowledge is painful, man turns to delusion.
9. To understand the complete truth about human institutions and social structures, liken them to the family, every one of which knows some amount of conflict and corruption, not to be revealed to outsiders, as the popular phrase “the family dirty laundry” attests.
10. In politics we receive a reflection of the evil we already are. In this context our disenchantment is an hypocrisy by which we obscure the primary one, ourselves.
11. Fair life certainly isn’t, yet the richness of this truism makes for a deepening understanding as the years increase, since it is one of those truths we have often to remind ourselves of, it being so painful that it is hard to keep in view, even as experience confirms it more and more. There are some truths so consequential that, although we know them and have done so for long, still we must, by acts of will, remind ourselves of them, bring them closer to ourselves, in all their terrible force, so that our dark knowledge is continually augmented.
12. Prophets are commonly authoritarian, as if this world was so perverse that even the loftiest good must be marred by the stuff of its opposition.
13. Capitalism is the seduction of desire, and the human being—shot through with craving absence—wants to be seduced.
14. Just experience must be a test of conviction.
15. From seeming trifles one can divine terrible truths.
16. It is prudent to trust others only insofar as their well-being depends on us. Still, prudence and wisdom are not the same. And it can be wise to take a leap. Nor is life worth living otherwise.
17. There are many people about whom it is false to speak of their general character, since their character is not the same in their dealings with the other, but conditioned by the other’s particular character. Or perhaps this is true of character in general, saints perhaps excepted.
18. In social settings, many adults resemble children at the playground; amiable relations depend on the pretense that everyone thinks other people’s toys are cool, too.
19. Politeness is so easy and habitual that is frequently difficult to tell whether it is sincere.
20. By our games of desire the world itself abides.
21. In groups speech is especially whorish. Nor is there ever enough time and space for one’s desire to prostitute oneself.
22. Guilt presupposes awareness and a sincere desire for the good.
23. Life is like many a beautiful young woman, as lively and enticing as she is stupid, false and haughty.
24. Nothing is more painful or loving than origin.
25. Deepest meaning culminates in pain. So both the deepest happiness and the deepest pain finds us in tears.
26. Contradiction is distinctly human.
27. The trouble with goodbye is hello.
28. Nietzsche’s idea that we love our desire rather than what is desired is reducible to the idea that it is desire itself that loves.
29. To live a just life we must constantly examine our motives.
30. From the shame of one man’s wealth we may see the dignity of another’s poverty.
31. Once you say something to the majority, it is prudent to immediately clarify the many things you did not say. And since the majority possess much will but little mind, you should base your response more on their tone, eyes and body language than your words or theirs.
32. A mole-like gaze cuts the world down to its own ambitious dwarfism, and is crowned by the puffing and preening of other hairy bags of water who think they too have got it all figured out.
33. Pascal’s belief that our problems would vanish if we stayed in our room would be more useful if it came with the caveat that this is something which only saints and men of genius can do.
34. Civilization is a veneer on the natural underlying chaos.
35. Absolute reform would require that we cast off desire itself. And yet many of us live for little else.
36. It’s tragically comic that often the source of a pain seems unworthy of the pain itself, the pain being so much more powerful than (so disproportionate to) its source. There are tragedies that result from mere trifles.
37. Because we fear the other but not the self, we fear lying to the other but not to the self.
38. Like the gaze which discloses being, sound bespeaks being itself, as semantics does not.
39. If we were always fully self-conscious we’d always be in a state of shock, for our awareness of our own being is freakish.
Read More: 34 Aphorisms For A Civilization In Decline