…I imagine that when the artist stood back and looked at the finished drawing, that the artist felt the same way artists always feel at that moment: joy and disappointment. It’s good, but it isn’t as good as the thing we meant to make. The thing we cannot quite achieve leads us to make the next thing, and the thing after that. We make things to find out what they are, what they can be, and what they might mean. We make things to keep us company in the world. We make things to show them to other people, because we want them to understand.

  • From Bizarre Romance, by Audrey Niffennegger
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He felt what a murderer must feel when looking at the body he has deprived of life. The body he had deprived of life was their love, the first period of their love. There was something frightful and revolting in the recollection of what had been paid for with this terrible price of shame. The shame she felt at her spiritual nakedness communicated itself to him. But in spite of the murderer’s horror of the body of his victim, that body must be cut in pieces and hidden away, and he must make use of what he has obtained by the murder.

  • From Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy

At the same time he unfolded the still damp morning paper, and began reading. Oblonsky subscribed to and read a Liberal paper—not an extreme Liberal paper but one that expressed the opinions of the majority. And although neither science, art, nor politics specially interested him, he firmly held to the opinions of the majority and of his paper on those subjects, changing his views when the majority changed theirs,—or rather, not changing them—they changed imperceptibly of their own accord.

  • From Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy

Arbitrary rulers throughout history have bartered their subjects’ welfare for what they consider honor, and glory, and conquest.

  • From Foundation, by Isaac Asimov

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

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