The gyre’s memory is stuff that we’ve forgotten

The tidal wave, observed, collapses into tiny particles, each one containing a story: a mobile phone, ringing deep inside a mountain of sludge and debris; a ring of soldiers, bowing to a body they’ve flagged; a medical worker clad in full radiation hazmat, wanding a bare-faced baby who is squirming in his mother’s arms; a line of toddlers, waiting quietly for their turn to be tested. These images, a minuscule few representing the inconceivable many, eddy and grow old, degrading with each orbit around the gyre, slowly breaking down into razor-sharp fragments and brightly colored shards. Like plastic confetti, they’re drawn into the gyre’s becalmed center, the garbage patch of history and time. The gyre’s memory is all the stuff that we’ve forgotten.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

The children of the forests

Though the men of the Seven Kingdoms might call them the children of the forest, Leaf and her people were far from childlike. Little wise men of the forest would have been closer. They were small compared to men, as a wolf is smaller than a direwolf. That does not mean it is a pup. They had nut-brown skin, dappled like a deer’s with paler spots, and large ears that could hear things that no man could hear. Their eyes were big too, great golden cat’s eyes that could see down passages where a boy’s eyes saw only blackness. Their hands had only three fingers and a thumb, with sharp black claws instead of nails.

And they did sing. They sang in True Tongue, so Bran could not understand the words, but their voices were as pure as winter air. “Where are the rest of you?” Bran asked Leaf, once.

“Gone down into the earth,” she answered. “Into the stones, into the trees. Before the First Men came all this land that you call Westeros was home to us, yet even in those days we were few. The gods gave us long lives but not great numbers, lest we overrun the world as deer will overrun a wood where there are no wolves to hunt them. That was in the dawn of days, when our sun was rising. Now it sinks, and this is our long dwindling. The giants are almost gone as well, they who were our bane and our brothers. The great lions of the western hills have been slain, the unicorns are all but gone, the mammoths down to a few hundred. The direwolves will outlast us all, but their time will come as well. In the world that men have made, there is no room for them, or us.”

A Dance With Dragons: A Song of Ice and Fire, Game of Thrones Book 5 by George R. R. Martin

What did you learn today?

What did you learn today? What’s most fine about that question is that it assumes that this was a day unlike the one before, a novel day, a day of signal. By asking it you imply that there was something going on today besides rote and ritual. By asking it every single day at dinner you create a formal system, a policy, and yet in response to this very predictable question you can expect news, novelty, fresh information, mysteries, secrets exposed.

Mostly Summer Rolls by Paul Ford

Internet hatred

how do we run around on the vast field of the internet without being crippled and disfigured by the landmines of hatred that are waiting under every shrub, while still managing to sow the seeds of love, art and awesomeness that blossom ever-greenly?

— Amanda Palmer On Internet Hatred: Please Inquire Within

On America entering WWII

But Life firmly refused to be drawn into a debate about what “freedom” might mean: “Freedom is more than a set of rules, or a set of principles. Freedom is a free man. It is a package. But it is God’s package.”

End of discussion. Hard to believe anybody was moved to go to war by such tripe, but it was typical. When they’re consumed by war fever, people don’t need considered rationales for the use of military force; they don’t even bother with the appearance of logic. As it happened, a purely cynical and cold-blooded calculation of the world crisis could have suggested to Americans that they could easily have stayed out. There were no treaties compelling the nation into the war, no overwhelming strategic or economic pressures; it was self-sufficient in food and raw materials, and it was geographically impregnable. Neither the Japanese nor the Germans would ever have been able to mount an invasion—and, in fact, neither ever seriously considered the possibility; Hitler at his most expansive still thought any transoceanic war was a century away. But when the Germans and Japanese looked across the ocean at America, what they saw was a nation of weaklings and cowards, with no honor or fighting spirit. One of the reasons behind the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor—apart from the obvious military necessity of taking out the American fleet so that the Japanese military could conquer the western Pacific unopposed—was the unshakable conviction that Americans would collectively fold at the first sign of trouble; one big, nasty attack would be enough to get a negotiated settlement, on whatever terms the Japanese would care to name. In the same way Hitler and his inner circle were blithely sure that America would go to any lengths to stay out of the fight. Hitler’s catastrophic decision to declare war on America three days after Pearl Harbor was made almost in passing, as a diplomatic courtesy to the Japanese. To the end he professed himself baffled that America was in the war at all; he would have thought that if Americans really wanted to fight, they’d join with him against their traditional enemies, the British. But evidently they were too much under the thumb of Roosevelt—whom Hitler was positive was a Jew named Rosenfeldt, part of the same evil cabal that controlled Stalin.

As fanciful as that was, it shows the average wartime grasp of the real motives of the enemy.

LOSING THE WAR by Lee Sandlin

(The New Kings Of Nonfiction, edited by Ira Glass)

Perceptions of WWII while it was on

A Gallup poll taken in the summer of 1941 showed that a large majority of respondents agreed that America was bound to be drawn into the war eventually; a slightly smaller majority even agreed that it was more important to stop the Nazis than to stay neutral. (Japan wasn’t mentioned; even then nobody thought of Japan as a likely enemy.)

Yet “eventually drawn in” really meant “not now.” That was what routinely stunned travelers returning to America from the war zones, even late in 1941: how unworried everybody in America seemed. Crowds still swarmed heedlessly on undamaged streets; city skylines still blazed at night, like massed homing beacons for enemy bombers. But if you’d even mentioned the possibility of an air raid out loud, you’d have been laughed at. New Yorker reporter A. J. Liebling wrote a piece that summer about coming back to Manhattan after the fall of France and discovering just how impossible it was to get his friends to take the thought of war seriously: “They said soothingly that probably you had had a lot of painful experiences, and if you just took a few grains of nembutol so you would get one good night’s sleep, and then go out to the horse races twice, you would be your old sweet self again. It was like the dream in which you yell at people and they don’t hear you.”

LOSING THE WAR by Lee Sandlin

(The New Kings Of Nonfiction, edited by Ira Glass)

Imaginative rationality

Metaphor is thus imaginative rationality….Metaphor is one of our most important tools for trying to comprehend partially what cannot be comprehended totally: our feelings, aesthetic experiences, moral practices, and spiritual awareness. These endeavors of the imagination are not devoid of rationality; since they use metaphor, they employ an imaginative rationality

–George Lakoff Metaphors We Live By

Samuel Parker’s distrust of metaphor, in a metaphor

The empiricist distrust and fear of metaphor is wonderfully summed up by Samuel Parker:

All those Theories in Philosophy which are expressed only in metaphorical Termes, are not real Truths, but the meer products of Imagination, dress’d up (like Childrens babies) in a few spangled empty words____ Thus their wanton and luxuriant fancies climbing up into the Bed of Reason, do not only defile it by unchaste and illegitimate Embraces, but instead of real conceptions and notices of Things, impregnate the mind with nothing but Ayerie and Subventaneous Phantasmes. [Free and Impartial Censure of the Platonick Philosophy (1666)]

–George Lakoff Metaphors We Live By

Aristotle saw poetry as positive

Aristotle, on the other hand, saw poetry as having a positive value: “It is a great thing, indeed, to make proper use of the poetic forms,… But the greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor” (Poetics 1459a); “ordinary words convey only what we know already ; it is from metaphor that we can best get hold of something fresh” (Rhetoric 1410b)

–George Lakoff Metaphors We Live By