Mary Burger


from Tristram Shandy
Laurence Sterne
First published 1760

Chapter V

On the fifth day of November, 1718, which to the era fixed on was as near nine calendar months as any husband could in reason have expected, — was I, Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, brought forth into this scurvy and disastrous world of ours. — I wish I had been born on the Moon, or in any of the planets (except Jupiter or Saturn, because I never could bear cold weather), for it could not well have fared worse with me in any of them (though I will not answer for Venus) than it has in this vile, dirty planet of ours, — which o' my conscience, with reverence be it spoken, I take to be made up of the shreds and clippings of the rest; — not but the planet is well enough, provided a man could be born in it to a great title or to a great estate; or could anyhow contrive to be called up to public charges, and employments of dignity or power; — but that is not my case; — and therefore every man will speak of the fair as his own market has gone in it; — for which cause I affirm it over again to be one of the vilest worlds that ever was made; — for I can truly say that from the first hour I drew my breath in it, to this, that I can now scarce draw it at all, for an asthma I got in skating against the wind in Flanders, — I have been the continual sport of what the world calls fortune; and though I will not wrong her by saying, She has ever made me feel the weight of any great or signal evil; — yet with all the good temper in the world, I affirm it of her that in every stage of my life, and at every turn and corner where she could get fairly at me, the ungracious Duchess has pelted me with a set of as pitiful misadventures and cross accidents as ever small Hero sustained.

Chapter VI

In the beginning of the last chapter, I informed you exactly when I was born; — but I did not inform you how. No; that particular was reserved entirely for a chapter by itself; — besides, Sir, as you and I are in a manner perfect strangers to each other, it would not have been proper to have let you into to many circumstances relating to myself all at once. — You must have a little patience. I have undertaken, you see, to write not only my life, but my opinions also; hoping and expecting that your knowledge of my character, and of what kind of a mortal I am, by the one, would give you a better relish for the other: As you proceed further with me, the slight acquaintance which is now beginning betwixt us will grow into familiarity; and that, unless one of us is in fault, will terminate in friendship. — O diem praeclarum! — then nothing which has touched me will be thought trifling in its nature, or tedious in its telling. Therefore, my dear friend and companion, if you should think me somewhat sparing of my narrative on my first setting out, — bear with me, — and let me go on, and tell my story my own way: — or if I should seem now and then to trifle upon the road, — or should sometimes put on a fool's cap with a bell to it, for a moment or two as we pass along, — don't fly off, — but rather courteously give me credit for a little more wisdom than appears upon my outside; — and as we jog on, either laugh with me, or at me, or in short, do anything, — only keep your temper.

from The Confessions of Saint Augustine
Translated by Edward B. Pusey, D.D.
First published c. 400 A.D.

Afterwards I began to smile; first in sleep, then waking: for so it was told me of myself, and I believed it; for we see the like in other infants, though of myself I remember it not. Thus, little by little, I became conscious where I was; and to have a wish to express my wishes to those who could content them, and I could not; for the wishes were within me, and they without; nor could they be any sense of theirs enter within my spirit. So I flung about at random limbs and voice, making the few signs I could, and such as I could, like, though in truth very little like, what I wished. And when I was not presently obeyed (my wishes being hurtful or unintelligible), then I was indignant with my elders for not submitting to me, with those owing me no service, for not serving me; and avenged myself on them by tears. Such have I learnt infants to be from observing them; and that I was myself such, they, all unconscious, have shown me better than my nurses who knew it.

Passing hence from infancy, I came to boyhoo
d, or rather it came to me, displacing infancy. Now did that depart, — (for wither went it?) — and yet it was no more. For I was no longer a speechless infant, but a speaking boy. This I remember; and have since observed how I learned to speak. It was not that my elders taught me words (as, soon after, other learning) in any set method; but I, longing by cries and broken accents and various motions of my limbs to express my thoughts, that so I might have my will, and yet unable to express all I willed, or to whom I willed, did myself, by the understanding which Thou, my God, gavest me, practice the sounds in my memory. When they named any thing, and as they spoke turned towards it, I saw and remembered that they called what they would point out by the name they uttered. And that they meant this thing and no other was plain from the motion of their body, the natural language, as it were, of all nations, expressed by the countenance, glances of the eye, gestures of the limbs, and tones of the voice, indicating the affections of the mind, as it pursues, possesses, rejects, or shuns. And thus by constantly hearing words, as they occurred in various sentences, I collected gradually for what they stood; and having broken in my mouth to these signs, I thereby gave utterance to my will. Thus I exchanged with those about me these current signs of our wills, and so launched deeper into the stormy intercourse of human life, yet depending on parental authority and the beck of elders.

from Our Lady of the Flowers
Jean Genet
Translated by Bernard Frechtman
First published 1943

Our Lady of the Flowers, still and already wearing the light, baggy, youthful, preposterously tin and, in a word, ghostlike gray-flannel suit that he was wearing the day of the crime and that he will be wearing the day of his death, came there to buy a ticket for Le Havre. Just as he got to the platform, he dropped his wallet which was stiff with the twenty thousand franc notes. He felt it slip from his pocket and turned around just in time to see it being picked up by Darling. Calmly and fatally, Darling examined it, for though he was a genuine crook, nevertheless he did not know how to be at ease in original postures and imitated the gangsters of Chicago and Marseilles. This simple observation also enables us to indicate the importance of dreaming in the life of the hoodlum, but what I want particularly to show you by means of it is that I shall surround myself only with roughnecks of undistinguished personality, with none of the nobility that comes from heroism. My loved ones will be those whom you would call "hoodlums of the worst sort."

Darling counted the bills. He took ten for himself, put them into his pocket and handed the rest to Our Lady, who stood there dumbfounded. They became friends.

I leave you free to imagine any dialogue you please. Choose whatever may charm you. Have it, if you like, that they hear the voice of the blood, or that they fall in love at first sight, or that Darling, by indisputable signs invisible to the vulgar eye, betrays the fact that he is a thief...Conceive the wildest improbabilities. Have it that the depths of their being are thrilled at accosting each other in slang. Tangle them suddenly in a swift embrace or a brotherly kiss. Do whatever you like.

from Spacetime, Geometry, Cosmology
William L. Burke
University Science Books, Mill Valley, 1980.

What does it mean to make a model of the universe? We must ask such questions, even though they seem to belong in the realm of philosophy, because of the fundamental nature of the subject itself. A good analogy for this model making is the construction of a map of a city. The city and the map of the city are two distinct things that no one would confuse. This confusion is harder to avoid in cosmology. To be useful, the map must be faithful to some of the city's interesting properties. Furthermore, the map is constructed according to some specific conventions: major roads are in red; north is at the top; and so on. Also, a map does not try to define what a road is. That you learn by demonstration. People point out roads and non-roads to you, and you acquire the idea of a road by induction. Such basic ideas, which are not defined but are learned by demonstration, are called primitive notions.

The same things will be true of the models of physical reality that we make. We will construct a map of the world according to some specific but arbitrary conventions. The image is constructed not on paper, but in terms of some mathematical structure, such as a linear vector space. Because we can talk about physical reality only in terms of some model, it is easy for us to forget the distinction between the object itself and our model of the object. As in our map of the city, there are some undefined elements in our model. For spacetime, these primitive notions are event, free particle, clock, and light signal. We will describe in words what these correspond to, much as a roadmap might discuss what it does in fact consider to be an acceptable road.

An important feature of any model is coarse-graining. The model ignores a lot of things. The exact width, surface, and color of a road cannot be deduced from the ordinary roadmap. In fact, the roadmap is more useful than a photograph precisely because it omits such irrelevant detail. Similarly, there is a coarse-graining in our primitive notions for spacetime. For example, we will not describe a clock by making a detailed model of its internal construction. Such details will not be mentioned. The model presumes that they are irrelevant, and it is the task of experiment to verify this.

from The Passion
Jeanette Winterson
Vintage Books, 1989

Lovers are not at their best when it matters. Mouths dry up, palms sweat, conversation flags and all the time the heart is threatening to fly from the body once and for all. Lovers have been known to have heart attacks. Lovers drink too much from nervousness and cannot perform. They eat too little and faint during their fervently wished consummation. They do not stroke the favoured cat and their face-paint comes loose. This is not all. Whatever you have set store by, your dress, your dinner, your poetry, will go wrong.

How is it that one day life is orderly and you are content, a little cynical perhaps but on the whole just so, and then without warning you find the solid floor is a trapdoor and you are now in another place whose geography is uncertain and whose customs are strange.

Travellers at least have a choice. Those who set sail know that things will not be the same as at home. Explorers are prepared. But for us, who travel along the blood vessels, who come to the cities of the interior by chance, there is no preparation. We who were fluent find life is a foreign language. Somewhere between the swamp and the mountains. Somewhere between fear and sex. Somewhere between God and the Devil passion is and the way there is sudden and the way back is worse.

I'm surprised at myself for talking in this way. I'm young, the world is before me, there will be others. I feel my first streak of defiance since I met her. My first upsurge of self. I won't see her again. I can go home, throw aside these clothes and move on. I can move out if I like. I'm sure the meat man can be persuaded to take me to Paris for a favour or two.

Passion, I spit on it.

I spat into the canal.

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