Langston Hughes: “Harlem.” Of Hope and Dreams.

What happens to a dream deferred?
 
      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?
      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?
 
      Maybe it just sags
      like a heavy load.
 
      Or does it explode?

—Langston Hughes, “Harlem”

A Reflection. Of Double-mindedness.

I eat too much at a restaurant because I have paid so much money for the food. I am worried that I will not get my money’s worth. But if I cannot enjoy myself without worry, then I should not have come to the restaurant at all. The problem is not only that I paid too much money for the food, but also that I purchased double-mindedness, which I could have had at home for other reasons and without spending a dime.

I leave the restaurant feeling uneasy, for two reasons.

Paired Passages. Of Holding Things in Common.

Circa 350 B.C.:

In the deviant constitutions, in the same way that what is just is of small extent, so too is the friendship; and it is least in the worst, since in a tyranny there is little or no friendship. For in those situations in which there is nothing shared by the ruler and the ruled, there is no friendship, since there is no justice either, as in a craftsman in relation to a tool or in a soul in relation to a body or in a master in relation to a slave; while all these things are helped by those who use them, there is no friendship toward things without souls, nor anything just. And neither is there toward a horse or a cow, nor toward a slave as a slave. For there is nothing in common, since the slave is an ensouled tool, as a tool is a soulless slave. Insofar, then, as he is a slave, there is no friendship toward him, though there is insofar as he is a human being, for there seems to be something just for every human being toward all those who are capable of sharing in law and contractual agreement, and so there is friendship too, to the extent he is a human being. So friendships and justice are of small extent in tyrannies, but in democracies they are of greater extent, since many things are common to people who are equal.

—Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics Book VIII, Chapter 12/1161 a30-b10
(Translated by Joe Sachs)

Circa 1900 A.D.:

It is hardly necessary for me to add very much in regard to the social contact between the races. Nothing has come to replace that finer sympathy and love between some masters and house servants which the radical and more uncompromising drawing of the color- line in recent years has caused almost completely to disappear. In a world where it means so much to take a man by the hand and sit beside him, to look frankly into his eyes and feel his heart beating with red blood; in a world where a social cigar or a cup of tea together means more than legislative halls and magazine articles and speeches,—one can imagine the consequences of the almost utter absence of such social amenities between estranged races, whose separation extends even to parks and streetcars.

—W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, Chapter IX

A Quote. Of Honesty.

[Robinson Crusoe] is terminally honest and open in the account of his life. Whether he ever gets beyond sincerity to truth, beyond the frankness of his telling to searching into the way things are, is another question. He is, perhaps, too self-involved, too much an “I,” to use his intellect for the discovery of truth rather than the allaying of anxiety—a familiarly modern subversion of thought.

—Eva Brann, “The Unexpurgated Robinson Crusoe

No Rage

Of and for a student

No rage stirs up his muddy eyes, with clear
Tears standing still on those unblinking lids.
No rage reveals his secret fight with fear
That dazzles, blinds, confounds, and ever bids

His drunkard mind to find its strongest drink
In his and Sisyphus’s glorious
Defeat. Again he rises just to sink.
Repeat! And there is none victorious

To give him hope enough to rage again,
He thinks. Now no inspiring speech avails
Because he thinks he knows the pathogen
Is words, words, words. Repeat! It always fails.

He’s tired, he thinks, too proud and tired to fight—
No rage about the dying of the light.