We’re already sitting on a powder barrel

«Words prepare the way for deeds to come, detonate future explosions. (…) Perhaps we’re already sitting on a powder barrel (…). Look out of the window. There’s the explosive already which will blow up our Accident Insurance and every other institution in the neighbourhood. (…) Your words of abuse today may turn into a universally valid principle of denigration, for words are magical formulae. They leave finger marks behind on the brain, which in the twinkling of an eye become the footprints of history. One ought to watch one’s every word.»

– Kafka, “Conversations with Janouch”.

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Quem escreve

Quem escreve quer dormir em ombros matinais
e na boca das coisas ser lágrima animal
ou o sorriso da árvore. Quem escreve
quer ser terra sobre terra, solidão
adorada, resplandecente, odor de morte
e o rumor do sol, a sede da serpente,
o sopro sobre o muro, as pedras sem caminho,
o negro meio-dia sobre os olhos.

– António Ramos Rosa, in “Acordes”, Quetzal Editores, 1990.

The snail

«Gender can be grasped only by means of morphology; its existence depends in turn on the size and shape of the dual world it structures. A snail, after adding a number of widening rings to the delicate structure of its shell, suddenly brings its accustomed building activities to a stop. A single additional ring would increase the size of the shell sixteen times. Instead of contributing to the welfare of the snail, it would burden the creature with such an excess of weight that any increase in its productivity would henceforth be literally outweighed by the task of coping with the difficulties created by enlarging the shell beyond the limits set by its purpose. At that point, the problems of overgrowth begin to multiply geometrically, while the snail’s biological capacity can at best be extended arithmetically. So gender sets limits to the social structure it forms, a structure expressed in every aspect of life-style, but first of all in kinship.»

– Ivan Illich, “Le Genre vernaculaire” [1983], in Oevres complètes, vol. 2, Paris: Fayard 2005, p.192 [Translated by Ronnie Richards].

Fragments of Olympian Gossip

While listening on my cosmic phone
I caught words from the Olympus blown.
A newcomer was shown around;
That much I could guess, aided by sound.
“There’s Archimedes with his lever
Still busy on problems as ever.
Says: matter and force are transmutable
And wrong the laws you thought immutable.”
“Below, on Earth, they work at full blast
And news are coming in thick and fast.
The latest tells of a cosmic gun.
To be pelted is very poor fun.
We are wary with so much at stake,
Those beggars are a pest—no mistake.”
“Too bad, Sir Isaac, they dimmed your renown
And turned your great science upside down.
Now a long haired crank, Einstein by name,
Puts on your high teaching all the blame.
Says: matter and force are transmutable
And wrong the laws you thought immutable.”
“I am much too ignorant, my son,
For grasping schemes so finely spun.
My followers are of stronger mind
And I am content to stay behind,
Perhaps I failed, but I did my best,
These masters of mine may do the rest.
Come, Kelvin, I have finished my cup.
When is your friend Tesla coming up.”
“Oh, quoth Kelvin, he is always late,
It would be useless to remonstrate.”
Then silence—shuffle of soft slippered feet—
I knock and—the bedlam of the street.

Nikola Tesla

Di-stance

«War cannot be avoided until the physical cause for its recurrence is removed and this, in the last analysis, is the vast extent of the planet on which we live. Only through annihilation of distance in every respect, as the conveyance of intelligence, transport of passengers and supplies and transmission of energy will conditions be brought about some day, insuring permanency of friendly relations. What we now want is closer contact and better understanding between individuals and communities all over the earth, and the elimination of egoism and pride which is always prone to plunge the world into primeval barbarism and strife… Peace can only come as a natural consequence of universal enlightenment…»

– Nikola Tesla, “My Inventions: the autobiography of Nikola Tesla”, originally appeared in the Electrical Experimenter magazine in 1919.