Category Archives: Quotes

(Non-spoiler) quotes from the recent QA about the series on Tor. Erikson’s own words:

Writing it felt like more than one lifetime: it felt like hundreds of lifetimes, all crowded into a single place and a single time.

I died and was reborn a thousand times in these ten novels, and I wonder now how many times a single soul can go through that.

I laid traps for you time and time again, pits for your unwary headlong rush – the plunge intended to make you feel whether you wanted to or not. With luck, you stepped into a few of those. If I was a god, I’d throw you into every one of them.

That last one is almost chilling (see in the context of the “Magus” recent quotes here on the blog). I have this idea that Erikson isn’t completely conscious of the implications of what he writes, yet he shows being so lucid.

I said rather desperately, “I just feel I’d enjoy it more if I know what it all meant.”

Then it was as if I had said something that really pleased him. He turned and gave me a smile, took my arm again. We strolled back to the table.

“My dear Nicholas, man has been saying what you have just said for the last ten thousand years. And the one common feature of all those gods he has said it to is that not one of them has ever returned an answer.”

She burst out. “Why must you always know where you are? Why have you no imagination, no humor, no patience? You are like a child who tears a beautiful toy to pieces to see how it is made. You have no imagination… no poetry.” Her eyes stared at me intensely, as if she was going to cry.

God as a formal system.

I randomly bumped on this old Erikson interview. A couple of quotes:

The dialogue that I have written that I remain pleased about is generally the tersest kind. The massive understatement. The line with a hundred volumes hiding under it, pages ready to explode but all, somehow, held back, contained. Exchanges where all parties skirt around what’s really going on. Evasions and the like.

Well, that’s what I like reading indeed :)

1: Finish what you start.

2: When a scene drags, when it gets brutally hard to get out the next line, the next word; when blood starts beading on your forehead, don’t switch scenes, don’t shift characters, don’t do any of the running-away things you might be inclined to. Push through. Everything up to that point was the lead-up to this moment, and this moment is when you learn – you learn how to write, what it is to be a writer, and all the reasons you possess for being one. That tight, claustrophobic place, is your call to courage. Don’t evade, don’t back away, don’t shift laterally. Keep going, until it hurts.

3: Finish what you start.

Okay, to hell with boundaries. I make a sport of this blog confusing everything with everything else.

Reading Malazan book 6 I found a quote that is basically the Malazan formulation of the Kabbalah quote:

The gods, old or new, did not belong to her. Nor did she belong to them. They played their ascendancy games as if the outcome mattered, as if they could change the hue of the sun, the voice of the wind, as if they could make forests grow in deserts and mothers love their children enough to keep them. The rules of mortal flesh were all that mattered, the need to breathe, to eat, drink, to find warmth in the cold of night. And, beyond these struggles, when the last breath had been taken inside, well, she would be in no condition to care about anything, about what happened next, who died, who was born, the cries of starving children and the vicious tyrants who starved them – these were, she understood, the simple legacies of indifference, the consequences of the expedient, and this would go on in the mortal realm until the last spark winked out, gods or no gods.

Here’s again the quote from Kabbalah:

(about the question “What is the meaning of my life?”)

“It is indeed true that historians have grown weary contemplating it, and particularly in our generation. No one ever wishes to consider it. Yet the question stands as bitterly and vehemently as ever. Sometimes it meets us uninvited, pecks at our minds and humiliates us to the ground before we find the famous ploy of flowing mindlessly in the currents of life, as always.”

Then I happened on this page (with some interesting nice pictures), and I found this quote that metaphorically matches the previous posts on Free Will and being bound to a point of view:

The descent of the divine emanations concretized in cosmic creation is occurring at this moment, and the fact that the world is such or such a thing, for the modern mentality, or that in accord with our viewpoint we perceive this or that, is completely indifferent to the process of the universal creation, which is ongoing, even visualized from the horizontal viewpoint, and simultaneous, from the vertical projection.

The interesting part is the formulation of the system as “simultaneous, from the vertical projection”. Meaning deterministic. There’s no time scaling. Yet experience from within, our viewpoint, is bound to time and seen as becoming.

So this aspects of Kabbalah seems to retain (and explain away) the problem of compatibilism.

Related, but only if you are a particular type of crazy like I am, here’s a page of David Foster Wallace’s personal copy of Joyce’s Ulysses. Showing how a text with bi-dimensional perspective is given three-dimensionality because of 2nd level (recursive) observations:

Just a nicely worded quote from a Kabbalistic text I was reading this morning. Lots of these give me many doubts, but this one is a rather accurate description:

(about the question “What is the meaning of my life?”)

“It is indeed true that historians have grown weary contemplating it, and particularly in our generation. No one ever wishes to consider it. Yet the question stands as bitterly and vehemently as ever. Sometimes it meets us uninvited, pecks at our minds and humiliates us to the ground before we find the famous ploy of flowing mindlessly in the currents of life, as always.”

This is going to be a little rambly. I only wanted to pick up a quote from episode 5 of True Detective because it repeats a pattern. One that I’ve been using in many of my posts on “mythology”.

This is a world where nothing is solved.
Someone once told me, “Time is a flat circle.”
Everything we’ve ever done or will do
we’re gonna do over and over and over again…
…and that little boy and that little girl,
they’re gonna be in that room again…
and again…
and again…

You ever heard of something called
the M-brane theory, detectives?
It’s like in this universe,
we process time linearly forward…
but outside of our spacetime,
from what would be a fourth-dimensional perspective,
time wouldn’t exist,
and from that vantage, could we attain it..
we’d see…
our spacetime would look flattened,
like a single sculpture with matter
in a superposition of every place it ever occupied,
our sentience just cycling through our lives
like carts on a track.
See, everything outside our dimension…
that’s eternity,
eternity looking down on us.
Now, to us,
it’s a sphere,
but to them…
it’s a circle.

In eternity, where there is no time,
nothing can grow.
Nothing can become.
Nothing changes.
So death created time
to grow the things that it would kill…
and you are reborn
but into the same life
that you’ve always been born into.
I mean, how many times have we
had this conversation, detectives?
Well, who knows?
When you can’t remember your lives,
you can’t change your lives,
and that is the terrible and the secret fate of all life.
You’re trapped…
by that nightmare you keep waking up into.

The theme of circularity is less clear, but the rest is again about determinism and the loophole. The second block speaks of the fourth-dimensional perspective, but the important aspect is the shift from one perspective to the other. One, ours, is a perspective from within the sandbox, the other, belonging to a theoretical observer we can as well call “God”, is the perspective from outside the sandbox. Where “the sandbox” means the known universe.

What’s important about this sandbox is that all its laws are contained and the sandbox is sealed. The premise of determinism is that there isn’t any intervention to the inside of this sandbox from the outside. This is also the premise of “science”, or the belief that the laws that rule the world are not mutable (if not when subject to bigger rules).

From that perspective, from the outside, everything is cause and effect. If we toss a coin we might interpret the outcome as “random”, but we also know that the face the coin falls on depends on a great number of factors and laws. Ideally, if we could know every factor we could also then predict the trajectory of the coin, how many times it spun in the air, and so predict the face it would fall on. But since this complexity is already far beyond our reach, we still consider it a practical use of randomness: we just don’t have that kind of control when we toss the coin.

But we can imagine a different perspective if one looks from the outside. In this case it would be like a sequence of numbers, of the kind where you have to guess a few missing ones by looking and figuring out the relationship between the numbers that are there. This is a common game. But with the perspective from the outside the game is different: you know already the rule that generates the sequence of numbers, you are given one number at a random point of the sequence, and your job is instead to deduce all the numbers that come before, and all the numbers that come after. That’s determinism.

Within this context, looking from the outside, the life of someone within this box looks like “trapped”. Why trapped?

“if you can’t remember your lives, you can’t change your lives”

If a choice depends, is influenced, by processes that “come before”, then that choice is always the same if the factors leading to it do not change either. But if you have memories, then these different factors will produce different results. Within a single life, linearly, you can see how experiences influence different choices down the line. That’s a perspective from within the box.

The “loophole” is again theoretically personified as “God”. Or: you need a way to escape the sealed sandbox, a kind of loophole that lets you go “take a glimpse” from the outside, and then returning back in, keeping that knowledge, so that you can use it to “change” what happens within the sandbox.

That’s once again the idea playing in those quotes. If “God” granted us, whenever the timeline reboots and we are reborn, “memories” of our past lives, then it would be as if we would obtain the “breaching of the vessel” that grants us the loophole. Knowledge that passes through God, holding our previous memories, is knowledge that is taken from the sandbox, preserved outside it, and then injected in the box to alter its content: this is intervention from the outside, and so the sandbox isn’t sealed anymore (unless there’s another external observer, whose observed system would be a deterministic “sandbox + observed god”).

Why does this matter?

If it’s all a game of infinite perspective shifts, then we are all alike God, playing with sub-creations (see Tolkien on his mythology).

How many times those detectives had their conversation, indeed? I’ve played it at least twice. And it was repeated as many times that show was seen. Every time it’s the exact same conversation. Because those characters are trapped in a movie, and the movie plays always the same. Those characters can show feelings and everything, but they don’t have memories of the repeating acts. You can see “choice” happen, when you move from one episode to the next, those characters react depending on their past experiences, but if you rewatch the show they aren’t going to retain those memories, and so they can only repeat themselves in the exact same way.

(interesting how the genre of games called “roguelike” offers a good example of loophole and sandbox-violation. The sandbox is the game, the player is the god. The character in the game/sandbox can die permanently, but then his “knowledge”/memories passes to the player, who’s going to learn from those characters’ deaths, and play better)

So if god created the world, and sees it as a deterministic system where we don’t have any freedom, the same happens to us and to our sub-creations. We are small gods with small powers, just repeating the same moves in a smaller scale. I guess.

Oh, True Detective, HBO. Singular masterpiece on TV now.

Some pretentiousness and fluff aside, this is serious good writing, excellent use of music, excellent direction, and even more excellent acting, which is rare if taken alone, even more if you expect them to happen all at once. It comes as close as possible to an hour of perfect Television. I’m impressed (I’ve only seen the first three episodes, I’ve heard the fourth is better).

It’s also a fair bit like a TV adaptation of Bakker’s “Disciple of the Dog”. Matthew McConaughey is more than perfect for the role as Detective “Rust”, the most delicious kind of cynicism. Tasting exactly like Rust, who suffers from synesthesia. Bakker’s themes are all there and not /too/ flattened for the broader public either.

This show, contrary to the standard of TV productions, is also run entirely by a single writer and a single director. Eight episodes and the first season is over, but following seasons, if they happen, open up completely new chapters and characters. So this story will come to a close in these eight episodes. It promises and delivers.

To add more genius, the opening shows human interiority as physical landscapes. Human beings as environments. And The King in Yellow was mentioned.

But this post is simply supposed to collect quotes right from the script (or the three episodes I’ve seen).

- People out here, it’s like they don’t even know the outside world exists. Might as well be living on the fucking Moon.

– There’s all kinds of ghettos in the world.

– It’s all one ghetto, man, giant gutter in outer space.

Look. I consider myself a realist, all right, but in philosophical terms, I’m what’s called a pessimist.

– Um, okay. What’s that mean?

– Means I’m bad at parties.

– Heh. Let me tell you. You ain’t great outside of parties either.

– I think human consciousness was a tragic misstep in evolution. We became too self-aware. Nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself. We are creatures that should not exist by natural law. We are things that labor under the illusion of having a self, this accretion of sensory experience and feeling, programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody when, in fact, everybody’s nobody.

– I wouldn’t go around spouting that shit, I was you. People around here don’t think that way.

– I think the honorable thing for species to do is deny our programming, stop reproducing, walk hand in hand into extinction, one last midnight, brothers and sisters, opting out of a raw deal.

– So what’s the point of getting out bed in the morning?

– I tell myself I bear witness, but the real answer is that it’s obviously my programming, and I lack the constitution for suicide.

Ah, that’s not this. This has scope. Now, she articulated a person with vision. Vision is meaning. Meaning is historical.

Yeah, back then, the visions. Yeah, most of the time, I was convinced that I’d lost it. But there were other times… I thought I was mainlining the secret truth of the universe.

– Some folks enjoy community, the common good.

– Yeah? Well, if the common good has got to make up fairy tales, then it’s not good for anybody.

If the only thing keeping a person decent is the expectation of divine reward, then, brother, that person is a piece of shit, and I’d like to get as many of them out in the open as possible.

What’s it say about life, hmm, you got to get together, tell yourself stories that violate every law of the universe just to get through the goddamn day?

Oh, yeah. Been that way since one monkey looked at the sun and told the other monkey, “He said for you to give me your fucking share.”

Transference of fear and self-loathing to an authoritarian vessel. It’s catharsis. He absorbs their dread with his narrative. Because of this, he’s effective in proportion to the amount of certainty he can project.

Certain linguistic anthropologists think that religion is a language virus that rewrites pathways in the brain, dulls critical thinking.

See, we all got what I call a life trap, this gene-deep certainty that things will be different, that you’ll move to another city and meet the people that’ll be the friends for the rest of your life, that you’ll fall in love and be fulfilled. Fucking fulfillment, heh, and closure, whatever the fuck those two– Fucking empty jars to hold this shitstorm, and nothing is ever fulfilled until the very end, and closure– No. No, no. Nothing is ever over.

The ontological fallacy of expecting a light at the end of the tunnel, well, that’s what the preacher sells, same as a shrink. See, the preacher, he encourages your capacity for illusion. Then he tells you it’s a fucking virtue. Always a buck to be had doing that, and it’s such a desperate sense of entitlement, isn’t it? “Surely, this is all for me. Me. Me, me, me. I, I. I’m so fucking important. I’m so fucking important, then, right?” Fuck you.

People. I’ve seen the finale of thousands of lives, man– young, old. Each one is so sure of their realness, that their sensory experience constituted a unique individual with purpose, meaning… so certain that they were more than a biological puppet. Well, the truth wills out, and everybody sees once the strings are cut, all fall down.

Each stilled body so certain that they were more than the sum of their urges, all the useless spinning, tired mind, collision of desire and ignorance.

This– This is what I’m talking about. This is what I mean when I’m talking about time and death and futility. There are broader ideas at work, mainly what is owed between us as a society for our mutual illusions. 14 straight hours of staring at DBs, these are the things you think of. You ever done that? Hmm? You look in their eyes, even in a picture. Doesn’t matter if they’re dead or alive. You can still read them, and you know what you see? They welcomed it, mm-hmm, not at first, but right there in the last instant. It an unmistakable relief, see, because they were afraid and now they saw for the very first time how easy it was to just let go, and they saw– In that last nanosecond, they saw what they were, that you, yourself, this whole big drama, it was never anything but a jerry-rig of presumption and dumb will and you could just let go finally now that you didn’t have to hold on so tight… to realize that all your life– you know, all your love, all your hate, all your memory, all your pain– it was all the same thing. It was all the same dream, a dream that you had inside a locked room, a dream about being a person…