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(Two years)

When I began the Ruricolist I promised myself to continue it for at least two years. Two years suffice; after demonstrating two years I have nothing to prove. But I find that I want to continue. I have not done all that I meant to do this year, and I want to do more besides. This does not feel finished.

Still, it cannot last forever. The Ruricolist is pure trephination. Eventually, when the pressure goes down, I will run out of things to say and start repeating myself. When that happens, I will stop. But not yet and not soon.

[I almost forgot: the yearly index of first lines.]

  1. It is a weak mind which approves of only what it enjoys; it is as weak a mind which enjoys only what it approves of—if only because it is fainthearted to require something new to be explained and defended to you before you can decide whether you enjoy it.
  2. See an old man, a great lord.
  3. Community is best to have, worst to be had by.
  4. It seems wise to warn that the constant fission, branching, and cross-breeding of specializations, in both the sciences and the humanities, must in time, by depriving us of humanistic perspective, doom us to servile narrow-mindedness
  5. Forests have gods of their own that they suckle and shelter, the old gods/Left there by peoples who died in their forests and deer paths.
  6. Expanding the mind is as easy as reading; but enlarging the mind—not supplying it with new facts, or the fact of other perspectives, but opening it out to span them—is a demanding task, best and most easily done by travel, including tourism.
  7. There are only two possible bases on which to build a science of criticism: a criticism of perfection or a criticism of excellence.
  8. The student sat down across from his professor.
  9. The brilliant general Hannibal was beaten by the more brilliant general Scipio; but he was defeated first by the wise general Fabius, called Cunctator, the Delayer.
  10. Memetics is the idea (intended to evoke a science) that concepts, systems, religions, cultures, art forms, &c.—all known as memes—live and spread through populations as do viruses and parasites; making the history of human ideas the record of a kind of natural selection.
  11. Sojourning just outside New Orleans, I often walked on the levée by Lake Pontchartrain.
  12. Once there was a dark kingdom, without light or lamp
  13. I wish I could preach bookstores.
  14. Often, where I have been accustomed to walk, other people hike.
  15. A computer with the speed of a human brain would no more feel love and hate, fear death, or make art, than a computer with the speed of a dog's brain would bark and mark its territory.
  16. I followed the old dirt road on down/Into the blues country, where the trees/Grow thick, and the rivers are many and thin.
  17. Too much respect for suffering discourages compassion.
  18. To laugh at others can do them good.
  19. He asks the cold caller: "Why on earth would I want to put any more money in a hedge fund now?"
  20. On a small, rocky island, a gang of Johnny Rooks found by the water a little half-drowned creature.
  21. I saw your costly garden, then I asked:/"What kind of garden is this? All gray and blank/Flowers of bleach and bone.
  22. Do masterworks tend to occur at the beginning of an art form only because they are easiest then?
  23. Eclecticism is becoming one of those words—like empiricism or enthusiasm—that it is difficult to remember could ever have been insults.
  24. In the days before computers, when the possibility of intellectual accomplishment presupposed infinite tolerance for drudgery, the blink comparator was a device used in astronomy.
  25. The acute and pseudonymous Conrad H. Roth of Varieties of Unreligious Experience has written a post on my essay Questions on greatness, partly as a response to it, and partly, it seeems, to use it as a case study.
  26. The island was no island: it had been a hill in the park before the flood.
  27. Stevenson, somewhere, warns an aspiring writer to consider the insignificance of literature—particularly how little the world would change, had Shakespeare never lived.
  28. What was that?
  29. Forests have personalities, different as their different attitudes toward human beings.
  30. "Did you hear that?"
  31. Build. Only build.
  32. Surely there can be language without thought.
  33. It is as difficult to say what guesswork is as to say what the mind is, for guessing is not the action of any faculty of the mind; it is an action of the whole mind
  34. Is there meaning in music?
  35. In summertime I cannot dream of winter;/In wintertime I cannot trust in summer.
  36. I believe that anything can be said: that there are always words, though not always the strength to find and use them.
  37. The only virtue worth instilling in a child is to acknowledge mistakes without shame and to correct them without perversity.
  38. When I heard that snow was in the forecast here, I sneered.
  39. Sometime last year, while I was in town, I bought a battered old book out of a box in an antique store.
  40. J. Pilcrow and D. Fleuron (eds.), Historical and Criticial Perspectives on the Neglected Women's Martial Art of Pan-Fighting: Proceedings of the First International Symposium of the Association for Pan-Fighting Studies, Endower Institute Press, 2008, 25pp.,$45.00 (hbk), ISBN 01123581321345589144.
  41. Talking is a pleasure in itself.
  42. When I visited cities as a child, there would always be a moment, usually when I first came into sight of a block of apartments, when I would feel a mixture of panic and vertigo—horror.
  43. Once, when the world was young and there was little to tell or remember, there was a land where only good people lived: people who only thought and said and did good, who had never harmed one another.
  44. Walter Pater, in The Renaissance of 1873, so begins the essay "The School of Giorgione" . . .
  45. The subject calls for disclaiming.
  46. I say that bestsellers and blockbusters should be respected if only for being timely and workmanlike.
  47. Listen up, you want to hear this one/This guy, he thinks that he's the son of a king/A magic king who always saves the day/Appears from nowhere, beats the bad guys flat.
  48. Flowers are the oldest and first religion, whose sacraments the earth itself performs; the oldest and only universal language, for they say what cannot otherwise be said, and what cannot change as language changes: there are flowers for the graves of every people, and flowers in the grades of our extinct hominid brothers
  49. Sentimentality is often cruelty in soft focus; and the sentimental view of the imagination of little children, if sharpened, shows life as a cruel joke
  50. Among the prizes I hope to return with whenever I visit a secondhand bookstore are old textbooks.
  51. All theories of universal history, from Ibn Khaldoon to Toynbee, share the same uncertainty: to what do they apply?
  52. Now that the battle is over Mikhail lies in his sickbed/Dreaming of faraway home, dreaming of battles to come.
  53. Once all the work is done and nothing remains but waiting and biding, one may as well romanticize an unavoidable difficulty.

P.S. As of July 5th the book is no longer available. If you want a copy of the PDF, write me directly (address at right.)