Thursday, May 29, 2008

Olaf Stapledon

From a letter written by Olaf Stapledon to his great-grandson:
... it is the world and not his soul that claims a man's attention and his care. It is this world of lands and seas and cornfields and cities of jellyfish and flies and chickweed, of pigs in their sties and roving gulls, of miners and profiteers, and thinkers an screaming babies, of armies and trade unions, colleges and prisons and panic-stricken nations, of electrons and multitudinous streams of sums, of applied maths and aesthetic and moral experience. What need to seek heaven for the ghost that a man supposes himself to be when all these vivid and needy realities clamor around him?
I first heard this on Starship Sofa (episode "Letters to the Future") and it was so good that I had to listen to it twice. Words with real weight behind them. I spend most of my day consuming words -- reading, writing, listening to podcasts (all my own vivid and needy realities) -- and that final sentence rang in my head for weeks after I heard it. What need, indeed? For all the clever and intelligent papers I've ever crafted, I have never written with such power.

This post's theme word: impecunious, "having little or no money." A good word for graduate students to know and use, as it advertises both our over-education and impecuniosity. (Yes, it's a real word! -- and much better than the alternative "impecuniousness.")

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