It is not possible to verify the universality of gravitational forces directly; you would have to study all pairs of bodies in the entire universe, and find a way to remove the influence of the other bodies. But that’s now how science works. Instead, it employs a mixture of inference and observations. Universality is a hypothesis, capable of being falsified every time it is applied. Every time it survives falsification – a fancy way to say it gives good results – the justification for using it becomes a little stronger.

  • From In Pursuit of the Unknown, by Ian Stewart

Behind a mystique of adventure, toughness, footloose vagabondage—all much needed antidotes to our culture’s built-in comfort and convenience—may lie a kind of adolescent refusal to take seriously aging, the frailty of others, interpersonal responsibility, weakness of all kinds, the slow and unspectacular course of life itself.

  • From Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer

how could these makers of so many books that have given so much to my life—how could they possibly be strangers?

  • From Upstream, by Mary Oliver

Out-circling interest, sympathy, empathy, transference of focus from the self to all else; the merging of the lonely single self with the wondrous, never-lonely entirety. This is all. The rest is literature: words, words, words; example, metaphor, narrative, lyricism, sweetness, persuasion, the stress of rhetoric, the weight of catalog.

  • From Upstream, by Mary Oliver

The beauty and strangeness of the world may fill the eyes with its cordial refreshment. Equally it may offer the heart a dish of terror. On one side is radiance; on another is the abyss.

  • Upstream, by Mary Oliver

Because I don’t care what anyone says or how often or winningly they say it: no one will ever, ever be able to persuade me that life is some awesome, rewarding treat. Because, here’s the truth: life is catastrophe. The basic fact of existence—of walking around trying to feed ourselves and find friends and whatever else we do—is catastrophe. Forget all this ridiculous ‘Our Town’ nonsense everyone talks: the miracle of a newborn babe, the joy of one simple blossom, Life You Are Too Wonderful To Grasp, &c. For me—and I’ll keep repeating it doggedly till I die, till I fall over on my ungrateful nihilistic face and am too weak to say it: better never born, than born into this cesspool. Sinkhole of hospital beds, coffins, and broken hearts. No release, no appeal, no “do-overs” to employ a favored phrase of Xandra’s, no way forward but age and loss, and no way out but death.

  • The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt

 

I’d often wondered, when my father prowled around banging the kitchen cabinets and complaining that he wanted a drink, what “wanting a drink” felt like—what it felt like to want alcohol and nothing but, not water or Pepsi or anything else. Now, I thought bleakly, I know.

  • The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt