Kategoriarkiv: Quotes

Quote on Writing

Conrad Busken Huet

This quote reminds me that writing in the first place is something you just want to do – and as such it shouldn’t be aimed directly at an audience. Liberty is available if you dare to let go of your always weary “Lizard Brain”, as Seth Godin calls  it – the part that is always weary about the consequences. The Dutch journalist and literature critic Busken Huet (1826 -1886) apparently did well in writing freely what he thought, but by publishing it he created many conflicts:

Zijn doel, als van ieder werkelijk schrijver – van de lyrische dichter tot de man van wetenschap toe – was zijn gedachten in een zo klaar, zo suggestief, zo adequaat mogelijke vorm uit te drukken waarbij het gelezen willen worden een secundaire vraag van zelfbesef en financiële noodzaak is.(…) Deze denkmoed, onafhankelijk, candide en wereldvreemd is de motor van alle veroveringen in het rijk van de geest en was ook de motor van Huets kritisch vermogen. Maar wie die gave bezit en wie er zo mee woekert als Huet gedaan heeft, moet afstand doen van het verlangen in ongestoorde vrede met zijn medemensen te leven.

bron: Jan Romein en Annie Romein-Verschoor, Erflaters van onze beschaving.
Em. Querido’s Uitgeverij, Amsterdam 1977 page 728

My humble translation attempt:

“His aim, as that of any real writer – from the lyrical poet to the man of science – was to express his thoughts as clearly, as suggestive, as precise as possible, whereas the wish to be read is a secondary question of self-awareness and financial necessity. (…) This courage of thinking, independent, candid and otherwordly is the engine of all conquests in the spiritual world and was also the engine of Huet’s critical capabilities. But he who posses this gift and who makes it profitable as Huet has done, has to abandon the desire to live in undisturbed peace with his fellow human beings.”

Merlin Mann: Figure out who you are

This post from 43folders.com contains a video with another interesting line of thoughts by Merlin Mann, who thinks about productivity, creativity and the caveats surrounding them.

Merlin presents his ideas in a popular way, fast and often funny, but he is serious and dedicated in trying to find out the truth about his subjects.

It is another attempt to define, and thereby better deal with, procrastination.

Here are some quotes I wrote down:

Procrastination happens when we don’t know what to do.

(You go look around to find out what you should do next.)

Sometimes you procrastinate because you feel you need to do something else for a while. But if so, then never forget who you are and what you want.

It’s important for creativity to read or do something even if you don’t know why you are doing it.
But sometimes you have to put your head down and work really hard.

Happiness is in the right balance of these two.

In his video Merlin explains that it is important to figure out who you are and to always keep that in mind. Procrastination can be o.k., but it should never lead you away from your own goal.

There are truly many more thoughts in the video including his well meant advice on how to protect yourself from certain forms of procrastination.


Here’s another post I wrote about Merlin Mann’s ideas.

Lærer Urup, by Jakob Knudsen

Lærer Urup (1906) Jakob Knudsen
Edition: Gyldendal 1949

Language: Danish

Picture: Rødding: mindetavle for Jakob Knudsen – by Hubertus45 via Wikipedia.

The stone on the picture can be found on the grounds of Rødding Højskole. It bears a text referring to Jakob Knudsen as his father was a teacher on this school and Jakob therefore born there.

When I came across it on the internet I had never heard of Jakob Knudsen but the text on the stone made me curious. I read more about him on the “Arkiv for Dansk Litteratur” and a few days later I bought “Lærer Urup” in a second hand bookshop.

The main character of the book, Lærer Urup, (“lærer” means teacher) is supposed to, more or less, mirror the views of the writer himself. Jakob Knudsen had some clear points that he wanted to make, and the book therefore has a clear theme right from the start. Not much time is waisted to explaining his theories with the help of examples interwoven into a storyline.

To make it all digestible the book is written in a popular tone in a daily language, dialogues even written in several dialects.

The story is about a teacher and his controversial theories about religion, society and education. These theories bring him into conflict with a. o.  the local priest of the village where Lærer Urup is starting out as a teacher, and the discussions between these two gives the writer plenty of opportunity to explain his views. Soon after his appointment the teacher gets criticised from different directions but he stays firm and true to his believes which result in complications that form the main elements of the storyline of the novel.

The novel is interesting, it has its main strengths in the opinions and views of the main character. The story itself is not too well written in my opinion, some parts seem to be realistic and truthfully descriptive, other scenes are more theoretical and give a rather black and white description of characters and situations. I felt that too much was happening and as if that was done to attract a wider audience.

Lærer Urups views are interesting however, and his bold statements make them very clear.

“Jeg troer, at alt, hvad der kommer umiddelbart fra Gud til os – Naturens Verden tænker jeg ikke paa – det er Lys, Sandhed, Glæde, Frihed, Kjærlighed; alt hvad der hedder Straf, Strænghed, Lov, Tvang, Frygt – det hører Naturen og Menneskeverden til, men dér er det ogsaa fuldkommen nødvendigt, hvis vi Mennesker ikke skal raadne op i vor egen Elendighed, – ogsaa for at vi skal faa Trang til Gud. Det er Tidens Slaphed, den sjaskede Blødagtighed og Kraftesløshed, der volder, at den er ugudelig.”

Lærer Urup, page 39.

His religious views are based upon the idea that it is up to humanity to make life on earth bearable. God is light, truth, joy, freedom and love and he created the earth and its nature. But it is up to the humans to create a society and make it work. Strict rules are necessary, punishment and even force as well.

“Aa ja, Moralen er ikke saa højtidelig i sin Begyndelse, som man troer. Tager man Angsten bort, saa forsvinder mindst Halvdelen af Moralen med det samme.”

Lærer Urup, page 17.

It is on the other hand important for Lærer Urup that people can make up their own mind and that they should not be forced to think or believe what society tells them. Physical and spiritual freedom are two opposites for him.

His criticism upon society, written in 1906, can still be used for contemporary society, it might as well become popular again soon. The book discusses subjects that will probably never be out-dated.


Thomas Nydahl quotes regularly on his blog Occident from Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet. Three days ago the quote was about monotony, stating that an existence should be monotonous in order not to be monotonous. When life is lived the same way every day, then every little thing becomes important, and every little change huge. Therefore one will notice and admire every idea, sound, motion.

It is insanely easy to get distracted in our life full of information and impulses, but where does it leave us?

This is linked to the idea that one can gain freedom by limiting oneself. Freedom is something inside of us, hence Pessoa’s quote from the same book:

Liberty is the possibility of isolation.

* Original: A liberdade é a possibilidade do isolamento.

* Source: “A Factless Autobiography”. Richard Zenith Edition, Lisbon, 2006, p. 246 via Wikiquote

Writing is done in isolation, so:

When I write, I solemnly visit myself.

* Original: Quando escrevo, visito-me solenemente.

* Source: “A Factless Autobiography”. Richard Zenith Edition, Lisbon, 2006, p. 287 via Wikiquote

These ideas are simple and old… and forgotten?

I suppose that most people are keen on rushing away from liberty and isolation in order to avoid hearing their own thoughts. It is indeed questionable whether on can function well in our society if one hears its own voice, if one truly feels and thinks. I doubt it will make you rich for example.

But what about happiness, satisfaction, tranquility?

For me, one of the most impressive moments in my life, the most intense, was when I became aware of the beauty and the strength of seeing that one, small plant flowering in the middle of the vast Icelandic desert of rocks and dust. In that  breath-taking monotony the experience of seeing this plant became so strong and clear that it had and has a key influence upon my life.


“Enlightenment is man’s leaving his self-caused immaturity. Immaturity is the incapacity to use one’s intelligence without the guidance of another. Such immaturity is self-caused if it is not caused by lack of intelligence, but by lack of determination and courage to use one’s intelligence without being guided by another. Sapere Aude! [Dare to know!] Have the courage to use your own intelligence! is therefore the motto of the enlightenment.”

Immanuel Kant “What is enlightenment?” 1784.

Liefdeleven by Marcellus Emants

Det er i livet nu engang sådan

at der i allerhøjeste grad ikke findes lykken

som vi mener at den burde se ud.

A thought that came up while reading the book (unfortunately in danish).

Someone said somewhere that Emants writes rather scientific and perhaps even cold, and Liefdeleven (1916) by Marcellus Emants (1848-1923) reminds me indeed a bit of a scientific study.  Emants is known to write about actual persons and situations, and it is generally thought that Liefdeleven is about his third marriage  (1904) with a German actress (the name of the main character “Christiaan Duyts” – Duyts meaning “German” in dutch- seems to support this).

I must say that I found it a little hard to get through the first chapters, as it at that point reminded me of a nurse-loves-doctor kind of pocket that comes with the latest ladies magazine.

But as the story progresses it becomes more naturalistic to an extend that it even gets hard to be confronted by many of the conversations/discussions in this part of the book. It was here that I started to suspect that the book referred to, or at least has pieces of, an actual situation in the life of Marcellus Emants.

The book is written from a male perspective which gives it a perhaps interesting one-view-only look upon the problems that arise in the book. It doesn’t help that in a key section of the book (The conversation with doctor Diepe – “Diep” means “Depth” in dutch) one reads about the opinion of another male, who is not exactly taking a female point of view.

After that I got curious to know what would happen next and I did not get disappointed.

I actually don’t think the book is much about how bad it is to be married, or how hard it can be when you meet the wrong person. I think the book is about the reality of life. Some people are lucky and can keep their dreams alive, can be happily married, have a good job so that they never have to suffer in whatever way. They can continue being happy. But what about war, poverty, disaster, crime, sickness or, to a lesser extend, divorce, loneliness or discrimination? These are all aspects of life, and one can argue whether or not a person should experience at least some of these things to experience what life is really about. People that are being born happy and that die happy are lucky and I wish everybody could experience that. But we are part of nature, and nature is not just one happy story.

Life is full of lies, dreams, promises. We all live a lie, and many of us will unravel a few of those lies.

A sidenote:

I think there is a little bit too big a gap between the description of nature in beautiful,original words, very poetic, and the rest of the story. Christiaan is a painter of landscapes, hence the descriptions, but for me it doesn’t really fit into the story. It’s slightly out of tone. It does make me want to try to create poems out of the descriptions though.