“In an emphatically secular or egalitarian culture, important thoughts get lost. Our usual routines may never awaken the important parts of ourselves; they will remain dormant until prodded, teased and usefully provoked by the world of art. Alien art allows me to discover a religious impulse in myself, or an aristocratic side to my imagination, or a desire for rituals of initiation — and such discovery expands my sense of who I am. Not everything we need is at the forefront in every place or era. It is when we find points of connection to the foreign that we are able to grow.”
“If our minds are large we can separate and hold apart ideas that have been forced together in the past. Maturity is often displayed by an ability to hold contradictory ideas in mind.”
“We may experience envy as humiliating, as the confirmation of our own failure, but instead we should ask the one essential and redemptive question of all the people we envy: what can I learn here?”
“A healthy relationship to one’s idols involves a sense that one might one day, after suitable respectful study, outgrow them, rather than merely pay lifelong, uncreative homage to them.”
“Collective pride is important because there isn’t enough to be proud of as a single individual.”
“Only if we keep seeing the spirit of something again and again does it have chance to achieve a hold on us. We need to be in touch with it when we go to kindergarten and when we come home in the evening, when the street lamps come on and when we prepare the supper. A visit to a museum once or twice a year won’t be enough to fulfill the underlying promises of art.”
“We may come to see the age of sub-standard television, patronizing housing, unhealthy food and exploitative media as a historically limited one sandwiched between the collapse of the previous aristocratic value system and the emergence of more responsive, interactive and evolved methods of judgment. This dispiriting age was one when corporations were able to exploit a customer base that was passive, artificially constrained in its choices and unable to exchange knowledge of its experiences. In these monopolistic conditions, the goods and services that flourished were not necessarily those that answered properly to people’s own enthusiasms; they were simply what certain businesses knew they could get away with.
However, as the world becomes more interconnected and consumers are able to exchange information and understand their tastes in a more accurate way, so the monolithic approach of the twentieth century corporation might make way for a far more varied and inventive business ecosystem. The process of raising taste […] may now occur almost spontaneously, thanks to the vast and sharp-eyed citizen armies of the internet.”
“From the 17th century to the modern day, the colder, northern parts of the globe have been at the centre of events, and their spirit has shaped our civilization. It is during the dark, long winters and unreliable summers of Amsterdam, Berlin, Edinburgh, London, Tokyo and Seattle, that many of the key moves in the realms of ideas, science and industry have been made. The values of the north have dominated the modern imagination; among these are rationality, science, the mind rather than the body, delayed gratification rather than the pleasures of the moment and the needs of the individual rather than the call of the collective.
For many people, artists and thinkers foremost among them, this northern dominance has brought with it a powerful yearning for the converse. Nostalgic and lyrical advocates of the south have been alert to the dangers and frustrations of over-intellectualization and the denial of the claims of the body; they have lamented puritanism and social isolation, they have worshipped instinct over science. They have made a case for south as a state of mind rather than merely as a geographical location.
For example, in the 1780s Goethe was so moved when he went to Italy for the first time that he regretted everything that had occurred in his life up to that point. […]
He liked the person he could be there.
Goethe was only the most notable of many distinguished Germans who have taken a trip to the south and have been transformed, recognizing that their characters hitherto had been unbalanced by an excess of northern darkness. Following in Goethe’s footsteps, Nietzsche headed to Sorrento on the Bay of Naples in 1876. […] The trip changed the direction of his thought: he moved away from his previous neo-Christian pessimism and embraced a more life-affirming Hellenism.”
“The goal of the therapeutic process is not that you become happy all the time. It is that you are mature, which means, a real acquaintance with tragedy.”