Self knowledge

I just found an old notebook from 1998. It contains some quotes from the German film director Werner Herzog, from an interview on NPR’s “Fresh Air” (October 27, 1998). I am not absolutely sure that the following quote is verbatim, but the fact that I included ellipses suggests it might be. Probably I taped it and made a transcription.

I’d rather die, I’d rather jump from the Golden Gate Bridge before I would go to an analyst. . . . It’s a hysteria, here in America in particular, to “discover your inner self” and talk about “inner growth” and all these stupid things. Once in a while, it is very sane, it is almost clinically sane, to take a certain distance from yourself, and to look at yourself with a certain caution . . . What’s wrong with the analysts is that – let me put it in a different way. When you rent an apartment, and you illuminate it with neon lights to its very last corner, and you put lights everywhere, the apartment becomes uninhabitable.

Werner Herzog

This reminds me of several other things.

In Western houses we [Japanese] are often confronted with what appears to us useless reiteration. We find it trying to talk to a man while his full-length portrait stares at us from behind his back. We wonder which is real, he of the picture or he who talks, and feel a curious conviction that one of them must be a fraud. Many a time have we sat a festive board contemplating, with a secret shock to our digestion, the representation of abundance on the dining room walls. Why these pictured victims of the chase and sport, the elaborate carvings of fish and fruit? Why the display of family plates, reminding us of those who have died and are dead?

Kikazu Okakura, The Book of Tea (1906)


Without “chaos”, no knowledge. Without a frequent dismissal of reason, no progress. Ideas which today form the very basis of science exist only because there are such things as prejudice, conceit, and passion; because these things opposed reason; and because they were permitted to have their way. We have to conclude, then, that even within science reason cannot and should not be allowed to be comprehensive and that it must often be overruled, or eliminated, in favour of other agencies. There is not a single rule that remains valid under all circumstances and not a single agency to which appeal can always be made.

Paul Feyerabend, Against Method: Outline of an anarchistic theory of knowledge (1975)


Like industrial sex, industrial eating has become a degraded, poor, and paltry thing. Our kitchens and other eating places more and more resemble filling stations, as our homes more and more resemble motels. “Life is not very interesting,” we seem to have decided. “Let its satisfactions be minimal, perfunctory, and fast.” We hurry through our meals to go to work and hurry through our work in order to “recreate” ourselves in the evenings and on weekends and vacations. And then we hurry, with the greatest possible speed and noise and violence, through our recreation – for what? . . . And all this is carried out in a remarkable obliviousness to the causes and effects, the possibilities and purposes, of the life of the body in this world.

Wendell Berry, “The Pleasures of Eating,” What Are People For? (1990)


I breathe in the soft, saturated exhalations of cedar trees and salmonberry bushes, fireweed and wood fern, marsh hawks and meadow voles, marten and blacktail deer. I breathe the same particles of air that made songs in the throats of hermit thrushes and gave voice to humpback whales, the same particles of air that lifted the wings of bald eagles and buzzed in the flight of hummingbirds, the same particles of air that rushed over the sea in storms . . .

And like the alder and the spruce, the brown bear and the black oystercatcher, the mink and great horned owl, I bring the earth inside myself as food. . . . The rivers run through my veins, the winds blow in and out with my breath, the soil makes my flesh, the sun’s heat smolders inside me. A sickness or injury that befalls the earth befalls me. A fouled molecule that runs through the earth runs through me. When the earth is cleansed and nourished, its purity infuses me. The life of the earth is my own life. My eyes are the earth gazing at itself.

Richard Nelson, The Island Within (1989)

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