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Writing

Quotes - July 2016

Alexei Muravsky

“Few among those present perceive that he has been assisted by anything more than unusual good fortune. Years later his closest acquaintances, such as the Duc de Saint-Simon, failed fully to understand his gaming victories, and described him as ‘the kind of man, who without ever cheating, continually won at cards by the consummate art (that seemed incredible to me) of his methods of play.’ In fact, success on this scale has almost nothing to do with luck or consummate art but lay in ensuring that the odds are stacked heavily in his favor. Even when not in the lucrative role of banker, by marshaling a remarkable mathematical intellect and employing his understanding of complex probability theory, of which few are aware, Law was able to measure with astonishing accuracy the likelihood that a given card would appear. To him there was little doubt about the evening’s outcome.”

- Janet Gleeson, Millionaire: The Philanderer, Gambler, and Duelist Who Invented Modern Finance


“What the hell happened to all those sons of the rich in Wally’s generation, these well-brought-up boys who went off to private schools? These damned schools were producing a new kind of scion of the elite: a boy utterly world-weary by the age of sixteen, cynical, phlegmatic, and apathetic around adults, although perfectly respectful and maddeningly polite, a boy inept at sports, averse to hunting and fishing and riding horses or handling animals in any way, a boy embarrassed by his advantages, desperate to hide them, eager to dress in backward baseball caps and homey pants and other ghetto rags, terrified of being envied, a boy facing the world without any visible signs of the joy of living and without… balls…”

- Tom Wolfe, A Man in Full


“For most of the thirty minutes she asked us questions about how we were handling stress and if we had any PTSD symptoms. I can remember her handing us a sheet of paper with a list of symptoms on it. I took a second and quickly read down the list. The symptoms included trouble sleeping, avoiding crowds, and keeping your back to the wall in a restaurant. I chuckled to myself as I finished. ‘Holy shit, I think I have every single one of these,’ I thought. I didn’t live my life differently, but I definitely felt the effects of just about every single symptom. I smiled at the doctor and didn’t say a word. When Gerry was done, it was my turn to ask some questions.

MO: ‘Why are we not more fucked up?’ I asked. ‘Why are we not more messed up from the shit that we’ve seen? You talk about PTSD. Gerry and I have been trained to deal with just about every combat or tactical situation that can be thrown at us, but we’ve never had one second of training to deal with the emotional side of things.’

She nodded.

Psychologist: ‘The best way I can describe it is BUD/S,’ she said.

The mental fortitude, the determination and drive you learn in BUD/S, also helps in combat. We’re pushed beyond our mental and physical limits in BUD/S. I learned that I could perform well beyond what I thought were my limits. Because of this, the doctor said we were stronger than the average person.

MO: ‘So the mental toughness I learned and used to get through BUD/S training is the same I use to overcome combat stress?’ I said.

Psychologist: The psychologist smiled. ‘It isn’t that simple,’ she said. ‘But BUD/S does help because most of the training is based on mental toughness. It doesn’t hurt that SEALs are all like-minded individuals. Each and every one of you volunteered time and time again to be in combat situations.’

She was right. I had known early on in my career that I wanted to be in the line of fire. I accepted the risk, but I also knew it was a challenge I wanted to meet head-on. Would I be able to face the stress of combat and not just curl up in a ball? I guess in a way I knew that being able to push yourself beyond your limits was not only a key to being a SEAL, but a key to a successful life.

MO: ‘So are you saying BUD/S made me stronger? Or BUD/S just weeded out the weak?’ I asked.

I stumped her with that one. Before she could answer, Gerry jumped in.

Gerry: ‘I think we’re just mentally stronger than everyone else on the planet,’ he said with a smile.

He was obviously fucking around. Looking back, he was showing the doctor how we dealt with the stress with humor. When the going gets rough, we were always really good at changing the subject. We blocked things out or made light of it and moved on. There was no way that we could comprehend all that we’d seen and done. It was easier to just make a joke and ignore it.”

- Mark Owen, No Hero: The Evolution of a Navy Seal


“Don’t you think it’s time we thought about the future? Whether our children are going to be winners or losers?”

- KRS-One


"I have long felt that the our usual method of writing history in separate longitudinal sections – economic history, political history, religious history, the history of philosophy, the history of literature, the history of science, the history of music, the history of art – does injustice to the unity of human life; that history should be written collaterally as well as lineally, synthetically as well as analytically; and that the ideal historiography would seek to portray in each period the total complex of a nation’s culture, institutions, adventures and ways. But the accumulation of knowledge has divided history, like science, into a thousand isolated specialties; and prudent scholars have refrained from attempting any view of the whole – whether of the material universe, or the living past of our race. For the probability of error increases with the scope of the undertaking, and any man who sells his soul to synthesis will be a tragic target for a myriad merry darts of specialist critique. ‘Consider,’ said Ptah-hotep five thousand years ago, ‘how thou mayest be opposed by an expert in council. It is foolish to speak on every kind of work.’ A history of civilization shares the presumptuousness of every philosophical enterprise: it offers the ridiculous spectacle of a fragment expounding the whole. Like philosophy, such a venture has no rational excuse, and is at best but a brave stupidity; but let us hope that, like philosophy, it will always lure some rash spirits into its fatal depths.”

- Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage: The Story of Civilization, Volume I (Preface)


“Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread just like viruses do.”

- Malcolm Gladwell, Tipping Point (Introduction)


“In transplanting the paesani culture of southern Italy to the hills of eatern Pennsylvania, the Rosetans had created a powerful, protective social structure capable of insulating them from the pressures of the modern world. The Rosetans were healthy because of where they were from, because of the world they had created for themselves in their tiny little town in the hills.”

- Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers (Introduction)


“As the psychologist Timothy D. Wilson writes in his book Strangers to Ourselves: ‘The mind operates most efficiently by regulating a good deal of high-level, sophisticated thinking to the unconscious, just as a modern jet-liner is able to fly on automatic pilot with little or no input from the human, ‘conscious’ pilot. The adaptive unconscious does an excellent job of sizing up the world, warning people of danger, setting goals, and initiating action in a sophisticated and efficient manner.’”

- Malcolm Gladwell, Blink (Introduction)


Whenever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings.

- Heinrich Heine


“If there was one law for the poor, who have neither money nor influence, and another law for the rich, who have both, there is still a third law for the public official with real power, who has more of both. After the Taylor Estate fight, Robert Moses must have known – he proved it by his actions – that he could, with far more impunity than any private citizen, defy the law. He gloried in the knowledge; he boasted and bragged about it. For the rest of his life, when a friend, an enemy – or one of his own lawyers – would protest that something he was doing or was proposing to do was illegal, Moses would throw back his head and say, with a broad grin, a touch of exaggeration and much more than a touch of bravado: ‘Nothing I have ever done has been tinged with legality.’

- Robert A. Caro, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York


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