Highlights for The Idiot

Were Germans supposed to be particularly ordered and machinelike? Was it possible that Germans really were ordered and machinelike?
There was no way to go through life, in Turkish or any other language, making only factual statements about direct observations. You were forced to use -miş, just by the human condition—just by existing in relation to other people.
I liked Spanish—I liked how the donkey had a place in the national literature
How would I get anywhere in life? How could anyone ever be interested in me?
But I couldn’t stop thinking about á and à—about Europe, where even the alphabet emitted exuberant sparks—about Ivan’s mother’s Mazda, and how you were always sad when you left Rome.
“You really like this boy,” she said, sounding so sad and affectionate that tears came to my eyes.
“I feel like a kid.” “Like a little girl, huh? It must be really terrible for you.” “I learned Turkish when I was three, so I don’t know enough words. I can’t talk about anything,” I said.
“Of course he will. Womanizers always call back. That’s their best quality.”
“Stuff like that can really bring out the sadist in you,” he said. “I’m standing there thinking of all the different ways I’ll rip out this guy’s guts.”
And still no waking moment went by that I didn’t think of him—he was in the background of everything I thought. My own perceptions were no longer enough to constitute the physical world for me. Every sound, every syllable that reached me, I wanted to filter through his consciousness. At a word from him I would have followed him anywhere, right off the so-called Prudential Center.
“In Turkey? You wouldn’t have a nervous breakdown. You’d give them a nervous breakdown.” I forgave him for a lot when he said that. I forgave him for almost everything.
A less beautiful girl wouldn’t have said that, I thought. Beautiful people lived in a different world, had different relations with people. From the beginning they were raised for love.

Highlights for The Hall of Uselessness

One has the feeling that these critics do not really like literature—they do not enjoy reading. Worse even, if they were actually to enjoy a book, they would suspect it to be frivolous. In their eyes, something that is amusing cannot be important or serious.
Though, as a wise doctor once remarked, between two doctors whose medical qualifications are otherwise equal, we should trust the one who reads Chekhov.
The closer a book comes to being a genuine work of art, a true creation with a life of its own, the less likely it is that the author had full control over and a clear understanding of what he wrote.
what led them to their mysticism was simply the perception of “an intolerable disparity between the hugeness of their desire and the smallness of reality.”
Still, the notion that it is generally unwise to make pronouncements in areas that lie outside one’s expertise remains a sound principle. I only wish that Mr. Hitchens himself would abide by it.
This weird belief that a dead man called Jesus is still alive should command all the deeds and all the thoughts of a Christian.
“But if someone does not do it, how will good be done?” questioned the old gentleman in a voice full of perplexity. “Live so,” replied the Master in a voice suddenly stern, “live so that by the sanctity of thy life all good will be performed involuntarily.”
I was writing in a café; I had been sitting there for a couple of hours already, comfortably settled at a table with my books and papers. Like many lazy people, I enjoy a measure of hustle and bustle around me while I am supposed to work—it gives me an illusion of activity—and thus the surrounding din of conversations and calls did not disturb me in the least.
true Philistines are not people who are incapable of recognising beauty; they recognise it all too well; they detect its presence anywhere, immediately, and with a flair as infallible as that of the most sensitive aesthete—but for them, it is in order to be able better to pounce upon it at once and to destroy it before it can gain a foothold in their universal empire of ugliness.
And Claudel commented: “This mental process is identical to that of poetical writing . . . The impelling motion is the same. Which shows that the primary source of scientific thought is not reasoning, but the precise verification of an association originally supplied by the imagination.”
The fact is, these two arts—history writing and fiction writing—originating both in poetry, involve similar activities and mobilise the same faculties: memory and imagination; and this is why it could rightly be said that the novelist is the historian of the present and the historian the novelist of the past. Both must invent the truth.
He clearly felt that, together with the rest of the country, he was being progressively sucked into a poisonous swamp. To ensure a reasonably smooth and trouble-free existence, small compromises were constantly required—nothing difficult nor particularly dramatic; everyone else, to a various extent, was similarly involved. Yet the sum total of these fairly banal, daily surrenders eroded the integrity of each individual.
His short (unfinished), clear-sighted and sober memoir raises one terrifying question: all that Haffner knew at the time, many millions of people around him knew equally well. Why was there only one Haffner?
However, beware! Whenever people wonder “What is the truth?” usually it is because the truth is just under their noses—but it would be very inconvenient to acknowledge it.
“I do not care for scholars unless they are scholars without wishing to be or without knowing it. There is nothing easier than becoming a scholar. To acquire learning, it suffices to lock oneself up in one’s house for six months. It is far better to have a good imagination than a good memory.”
The brutalities of boarding school can routinely maim sensitive children for life; occasionally they may also breed a genius.
“Genius,” Baudelaire said, “is childhood recalled at will.”
There is no escaping the radical difference between the capacity for conception and that for execution: imagination and action are often at opposite poles. That is why novelists usually do not become millionaires, whereas millionaires do not even read novels.
Half of the misery in this world is caused by people whose only talent is to worm their way into positions for which they otherwise have no competence.
At the remotest end of Europe, Tolstoy secured without delay a copy of the book and was overwhelmed. One may say without exaggeration that Les Misérables triggered War and Peace. Giants breed giants.
Nor must we overlook the essential: he benefited from what only the warm affection of a united family can supply, a happy childhood, which arms one to face life and, once adult, to eliminate the risk of losing time in some fatuous and vain quest for happiness.
For the gift of the poet (which is also the gift of the child) is the ability to connect with the real world, to look at things with rapt attention. Both the poet and the child are blessed with what Chesterton called “the mystical minimum”: the awareness that things are—full stop. “If a thing is nothing else, that is good; it is—and that is good.”
None of the activities that really matter can be pursued in a merely professional capacity;
Thus he made the point that the man must be, to a certain extent, a specialist—out of necessity, he finds himself confined in a narrow professional pursuit, since he must do one thing well enough to earn the daily bread—whereas the woman is the true universalist: she must do a hundred things for the safe-guarding and management of the home.
He realised it was a status he could easily have achieved, had he agreed to pay the usual price—which is to isolate and emphasise only one side of the truth. This is always an easy recipe for achieving popularity and for gathering crowds of disciples; but to secure this sort of demagogic success one must mutilate a complex reality.
Generally speaking, literary people are exceedingly self-centred and vain—on the whole they are not a very attractive breed—but Chesterton did not belong to that species.
Here, Gide seems to be unwittingly joining Claudel, who held that the key metaphor with which to interpret the diverse manifestations of German culture was the sausage.
Conclusion: if one had to go out to sea in a small boat, one would not choose Orwell for skipper. But when meeting with shipwreck, disaster or other catastrophe, one could not dream of better company.
For all his gluttony and drunkenness, his passionate attachment to all things of beauty, his selfishness, his impatience, his unkindness and anger (a close friend once asked how he could reconcile his generally beastly behaviour and his Christianity; Waugh replied: “You have no idea how much nastier I would be if I was not a Catholic. Without supernatural aid, I would hardly be a human being”), what he derived from his Catholicism was a fundamental ability not to take this world too seriously.
The latter exacted from him such an intense, nervous effort that sometimes, before starting to write, he would suffer fits of vomiting. Each time, he had to assume imaginatively the persona of his main protagonist—to become him—and then to see with the mind’s eye the world his pen was conjuring as it followed an inner dictation.
This phenomenon reached such an intensity that there were times when it scared Simenon, times when he felt drawn towards an uncertain border where his very sanity might founder.
Every life leaves behind an accumulation of broken odds and ends—bizarre and sometimes smelly. Rummaging there, one can always unearth enough evidence to establish that the deceased was both monstrous and mediocre. Such a combination is quite common—whoever doubts it needs only look at himself in a mirror.
In the eighteenth century, French was the common language of the leading minds of continental Europe; twentieth-century French intellectuals hardly noticed that times had changed in this respect; they retained the dangerous belief that whatever was not expressed in French could hardly matter.
Revel’s attempt at entering into active politics was short-lived, but the experience gave him an invaluable insight into the essential intellectual dishonesty that is unavoidably attached to partisan politicking.
Mitterrand was the purest type of political animal: he had no politics at all. He had a brilliant intelligence, but for him ideas were neither right nor wrong, they were only useful or useless in the pursuit of power. The object of power was not a possibility to enact certain policies; the object of all policies was simply to attain and retain power.
In other words, people who do not read fiction or poetry are in permanent danger of crashing against facts and being crushed by reality.
Confucius often said that if only a ruler could employ him, in one year he would achieve a lot, and in three years he would succeed. One day a disciple asked him, “If a king were to entrust you with a territory which you could govern according to your ideas, what would you do first?” Confucius replied, “My first task would certainly be to rectify the names.” On hearing this, the disciple was puzzled. “Rectify the names? And that would be your first priority? Is this a joke?” (Chesterton or Orwell, however, would have immediately understood and approved the idea.) Confucius had to explain: “If the names are not correct, if they do not match realities, language has no object. If language is without an object, action becomes impossible—and therefore, all human affairs disintegrate and their management becomes pointless and impossible. Hence, the very first task of a true statesman is to rectify the names.”
Zhou Zuoren (1885–1968), summarised in one pithy sentence this living tradition of which he himself was a product: “All that can be spelled out is without importance.”
Aesthetic criteria are functional: does the work do what it does efficiently, does it nourish the vital energy of the artist, does it succeed in capturing the spirit that informs mountains and rivers, does it establish harmony between the metamorphoses of forms and the metamorphoses of the world?
Orientalism could obviously have been written by no one but a Palestinian scholar with a huge chip on his shoulder and a very dim understanding of the European academic tradition (here perceived through the distorted prism of a certain type of American university, with its brutish hyper-specialisation, non-humanistic approach, and close, unhealthy links with government).
He dispatched the affairs of the state with the supreme efficiency of an old Daoist ruler who knows that one should govern a large empire the way one cooks a little fish.
His unique skills made him forever indispensable, while simultaneously he cultivated a quality of utter elusiveness; no one could pin him down to a specific political line, nor could one associate him with any particular faction. He never expressed personal ideas or indulged in penning his own theoretical views. Where did he really stand? What did he actually believe? Apparently he had no other policies but those of the leader of the moment, and nourished no other ambitions but to serve him with total dedication. Yet the brilliance of his mind, the sharpness of his intelligence, the electrifying quality of his personal magnetism, eloquence and authority constantly belied the kind of bland selflessness that he so studiously displayed in the performance of his public duties; Zhou’s enigma lay in the paradox that, with all his exceptional talents, he should also present a sort of disconcerting and essential hollowness.
Twenty-three hundred years ago, Zhuang Zi, in giving advice to a king, made him observe that when a small boat drifts in the way of a huge barge, the crew of the barge will immediately shout abuse at the stray craft; however, coming closer, if they discover that the little boat is empty, they will simply shut up and quietly steer clear of it. He concluded that a ruler who has to sail the turbulent waters of politics should first and foremost learn how to become an empty boat.
To reconcile such paradoxes, one must either learn the mental acrobatics of a very sophisticated game played by the enlightened vanguard and called “dialectics,” or, more vulgarly, face the fact that rather than being the prophet-philosopher as described by his worshippers, Mao was essentially always and foremost a practical politician for whom what mattered above everything was power—how to obtain it, how to retain it, how to regain it. In order to secure power, no sacrifice was ever too big—and least of all the sacrifice of principles. It is only in this light that it becomes possible to understand his alternations between compromise and ruthlessness, benevolence and ferocity, suppleness and brutality, and all his abrupt volte-faces: none of these were ever arbitrary.
Without an ability to decipher non-existent inscriptions written in invisible ink on blank pages, no one should ever dream of analysing the nature and reality of Chinese communism.
For Truth, by its very nature, is ugly, savage and cruel; it disturbs, it frightens, it hurts and it kills. If, in some extreme situations, it is to be used at all, it must be taken only in small doses, in strict isolation, and with the most rigorous prophylactic precautions. Whoever would be willing to spread it wildly, or to unload it in large quantities, just as it comes, is a dangerous and irresponsible person who should be restrained in the interest of his own safety, as well as for the protection of social harmony.
Kazimierz Brandys summed it up neatly (with the clear-sightedness that characterises so many Polish intellectuals, who on this subject have acquired a bitter expertise): “Contemporary history teaches us that all you need is one mentally sick individual, two ideologues and three hundred murderous thugs in order to take power and gag millions of people.”
Democracy is the only acceptable political system; yet it pertains to politics exclusively, and has no application in any other domain. When applied anywhere else, it is death—for truth is not democratic, intelligence and talent are not democratic, nor is beauty, nor love—nor God’s grace.
I am of course referring to the time before independence; for today, even if there should still be any enterprising Greek merchants around, I doubt very much that they would find passable tracks to reach these distant hamlets.
The most depressing thing is to watch these crowds of tourists, who paid a not inconsiderable amount to come here and secure for themselves eight days of happiness. In the motley uniforms of holiday convicts, they patrol lugubriously this huge Luna Park while trying hard to persuade themselves that they are getting their money’s worth of fun.
Literary scholars are particularly adept at cultivating this sort of nonsense: they seem permanently drunk on the psychedelic milk they keep sucking from the twin mammelles of Freud and Marx.

Highlights for The Chapo Guide to Revolution

You find yourself in the dumbest of all possible worlds, clowns to the left of you, Re-thug-licans to the right.
Official state religion is Shia Scientology.
We’ll focus entirely on liquidating the “legitimate news” part of the media, along with its revolting acolytes, known as “journalists.”
Our rival Nazi Germany had collapsed after it overleveraged risky investments in Eastern European “living space,” while Japan—once an aggressive competitor to America—was defeated due to a certain killer app developed in a cutting-edge incubator in Los Alamos, New Mexico.
Despite that, the European Central Bank responded to the ’08 crisis with a Wahhabist-style neoliberal austerity that even the moderate consensus-makers in Washington didn’t have the stomach for.
How much safer would both America and the rest of the world be right now if our government’s response to 9/11 was to pretend it didn’t happen and do absolutely nothing?
The War on Terror is the bathtub our empire lies in, surveying a sunset over a wheat field in the Cialis commercial that is our twenty-first-century international statecraft.
Conservative pundits love to compare America to Rome, mainly because they want to be allowed to drape sheets around their asses and bring back slavery and man-boy love. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a useful analogy. Like Rome, we’re a deluded and decadent empire in terminal decline.
Republican voters were offered everything they had ever wanted—a new era of brutality and the repudiation of the symbol of Obama—while Democrats were served up four more years of morally incoherent and procedurally feckless liberalism. It was the logical conclusion, and the facts sure as shit didn’t care about anyone’s feelings.
Fact-checked, focus-grouped, data-driven Clinton lost to the most deranged presidential candidate ever: a clown, a fraud, a sexual predator, an inveterate liar who has faked every single thing he’s ever done—a giant cube of flesh who embodies all our vilest instincts and our ludicrous celebrity culture.
They do get something tangible from this deal: resistance against bathroom sickos, the petty privilege of being white, and the cathartic sadism of American military conquest and warfare.
For a long time they masterfully triangulated racial and class resentments to enrich the upper classes while the Democrats gave up trying to offer alternatives.
Hoppe correctly realized that the total abolition of the state in favor of a strict regime of private property and laissez-faire economics would involve the brutal curtailment of the freedoms of speech, movement, and bodily autonomy for the vast majority of people, and that was a good thing.
But for both Ezra and Matt, supporting the Iraq War was never a moral failing on their part but an analytical one.
As J. Galt, Megan cultivated a unique blogging style that perfectly matched being stupid with thinking your readers are stupid.
Gawker was a genuine example of an independent media company that skewered basically all the right assholes sucking off the political and media establishment.
It was embraced by middle-class hippies whose demands were not material and collective but aesthetic and individualist—which, once you smooth off the edges, is just libertarianism.
That’s because capital has no problem assimilating pop-cultural rebellion and antiauthoritarian imagery. In fact, that stuff creates all kinds of new markets, new consumers, new suckers.
It may make you feel better to watch a show that’s calling out Trump, or oppression, or our podcast—but if you stop there, you’re demobilized as a political actor.
the contemporary American right-winger is congenitally incapable of being funny, entertaining, or interesting in any of the ways art demands, relying instead on ham-fisted sentimentality and self-abasing ressentiment.
first, we realized that the way things worked on The West Wing wasn’t the way they worked in the real world; then we realized things had never worked that way; then finally we realized things should not work that way.
The premise of this cant was to assure people that they didn’t have to bother with challenging literature or indie cinema; television could provide all their cultural vitamins and minerals without their having to strain their eyes or leave their houses.
and there is no faker friend than your boss, no faker crew than your workplace.
You’re doing something very noble, and that’s why your boss cashed out to the tune of a few hundred million and you have to sublet your closet.
the scholarly professions are now all about getting tenure, doing safe spaces, and getting triggered by logic.
Content—be it a think piece, a call-out tweet, or something really degenerate, like a podcast—is one of the only real, tangible products we make anymore. But its creation also puts more physical and mental demands on workers than the most grizzled military operators have to endure.
In a sense, content makers are more troop-like than troops themselves, as information is the battlefield of the twenty-first century.
Lefties are again at the tip of the spear against a desperate capitalist system that’s readying a blood-soaked, militarized response to climate and economic catastrophes.
Spending every single moment thinking about politics (particularly on the Internet) will turn you cynical, hysterical, and probably reactionary. Let’s avoid that.

Highlights for The Parent’s Tao Te Ching

Call birth, “birth,” and death, “death,” without seeing one as good and the other as evil and your children will be at home with life.
If you teach them to achieve they will never be content. If you teach them contentment, they will naturally achieve everything.
You do not live your life through your children. Therefore they are free to find their own true fulfillment.
If you overly protect your children they will fear failure and avoid pain. But failure and pain are twin teachers of important lessons. Unless your children fully experience both how will they know they have nothing to fear?
Parents who hide failure, deny loss, and berate themselves for weakness, have nothing to teach their children. But parents who reveal themselves, in all of their humanness, become heroes. For children look to these parents and learn to love themselves.
Whatever they are doing, they are learning. And it is, for them, pure joy.
All of your “God” words will not teach your children as much as will your nurture, and your love, and your cherishing.
Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life.
And make the ordinary come alive for them. The extraordinary will take care of itself.
Don’t make parenting harder than it needs to be. It only requires focus. Worry is not focus. Attempting to control is not focus. Distracting yourself is not focus. Relaxed, non-fretful, attention to what is in front of you right now, is focus.
If you take the bait the battle rages. Instead step back, breathe deeply, relax, and stay at your center. Battles require two parties. One fighting alone soon tires.
A problem is not an interruption to a serene and happy life. A problem is an ordinary part of such a life.
You do not have to make your children into wonderful people. You only have to remind them that they are wonderful people.
But the Tao teaches that games are for fun, that business is for the common good, that no one wins at war, and that love endures for all.
Every moment is a death of all that has gone before, and a birth of all that is to come.

Highlights for Ghachar Ghochar

The woman had not abused us. She had not come here to pick a fight. We were thrown off balance by her love for one of us, and so we tore into her with such vengeance that she collapsed to the ground, sobbing.
It’s true what they say – it’s not we who control money, it’s the money that controls us. When there’s only a little, it behaves meekly; when it grows, it becomes brash and has its way with us.
I’ve longed often for a comparable experience, but there seems to be none. That sense of strangeness, surrender, dependence, compassion, entitlement and a hundred other sentiments bundled together cannot possibly be relived.

Highlights for Woken Furies

That, of course, doesn’t apply to Envoys. We just used to go silently, crush the odd planetary uprising, topple the odd regime, and then plug in something UN-compliant that worked. Slaughter and suppression across the stars, for the greater good — naturally — of a unified Protectorate.
The Envoys came and they tore your world apart. It wasn’t that simple, of course; the truth was far more complex, and ultimately far more scary. But who in this universe wants the truth?
‘Well, Quell looked back at this black-clad man and as she stared into his hot jet eyes she knew that he spoke the truth, that he was a man of his word. So she looked at the revolver in her hand and then back at the man. And she said then you are a fanatic and cannot learn, and she shot him in the face.’
The Quellists meanwhile simply slipped away, disappeared, abandoned the struggle and got on with living their lives as Nadia Makita had always argued they should be prepared to do. Technology has given us access to timescales of life our ancestors could only dream of, we must be prepared to use that timescale, to live on that timescale, if we are to realise our own dreams.
Just reminding you, is all. This life is like the sea. There’s a three-moon tidal slop running out there and if you let it, it’ll tear you apart from everyone and everything you ever cared about.’
‘So maybe some other time,’ he said quietly. ‘When you’re not carrying so much.’ ‘Yeah. Maybe.’ It wasn’t any other time I could usefully imagine, unless he was talking about the past, and I couldn’t see any way to get back there.
The Harlanites recognise it as well as we do, and they have already made their move. It only remains for us to make ours. If in the end I have to fight and die for the ghost and memory of Quellcrist Falconer and not the woman herself, then that will be better than not fighting at all.’
But in one of her less passionate moments, Quell herself once offered an escape clause for situations such as these. If the facts are against you, she said, but you cannot bear to cease believing — then at least suspend judgment. Wait and see.’
It was a confirmation that the time had come, that the political pot was boiling over. Of course it was going to spill, of course it was all going to fall in the same direction, onto the floor. Where else could it go?
Who ever gets a second shot at these things? Sooner or later, we all get in up to our necks. Then it s just a question of keeping your face out of the swamp, one stumbling step at a time.
‘I think she might be some kind of weapon, Sylvie.’ ‘So? Aren’t we all?’
I’d felt twinges of the same thing after, the fresh growth of comradeship and united purpose — and I’d ripped it up by the roots every time. That shit will get you killed. Get you used.
Everyone scrabbling for cash. Oligarchical caretakers. Piss-easy control system.

A Case for Permeable Borders

Events of the past months have sharply brought into focus the need for passable borders. I’m not coming out for fully open borders. That still seems somewhat extreme and too dismissive of borders (which contrary to some people’s opinions definitely are not arbitrary). I just think that keeping borders hermetically closed will exact a moral cost from us that nobody should be willing to pay.

There are tons of arguments in favor of cross-border movement of people. I want to focus on two which are directly applicable to recent crises in the USA and Europe.


Open borders are a stopgap so that we might have international relations that are just. People trapped in a country that offers no prospects should have the option to vote with their feet. Whether they move as war, political or economic refugees, they do so because they really have to.

The flows of these people are an indication of global injustice and at the same time an incentive to do something about it. The people moving about would likely prefer not to have to leave their homes to go to another place where they may or may not be wanted.

We could have done something about the countries these people come from decades ago. Unfortunately most foreign policy and development aid revolves around short-term national interests and the propping up of dictators. Closing borders would remove this final incentive to work towards globally positive outcomes.

Virtue Ethics

Open borders provide everybody an opportunity to become better people. Like we have seen they also provide people an opportunity to become worse people. If you work for an organization that is a modern day equivalent of the Gestapo, like ICE is, then you have lost everything.

Becoming a better person is the ultimate goal in life and as such every opportunity to do so is a welcome one.

This is not just a demand on the people in the receiving countries, it is also a demand on the people migrating. Whatever the reason, their country was and probably still is backwards and broken—otherwise they would not have moved here. Let’s welcome them and transform them into the best person they can be.

Most migrants are already focused on this because they want to work, to educate themselves and to raise their kids in safety. We could make that social contract explicit and truly live it, providing vast and equal opportunities to everybody willing to live by our principles.

In the best possible case, Europe can be a life raft for the world and Europeanness can be an inclusive and expanding idea. Welcome aboard. Here’s an oar. Start paddling.

Highlights for Be Like the Fox

His design ‘was to write for a tyrant those things that are pleasing to tyrants, bringing about in this way, if he could, the tyrant’s self-willed and swift downfall’.

Pole warned; beware of this two-faced writer. ‘For it is the aim of his doctrine to act like a drug that causes princes to go mad,’ making them attack their own people with ‘the savagery of the lion and the wiles of the fox’.

They become characters on a stage where he, Niccolò Machiavelli, probes their minds, sizes them up, tries to conceal his misgivings, or holds back his irritation for diplomacy’s sake.

When someone’s game is rotten, Niccolò often suggests – even if it looks like the main one in town, the only one where real men can prove that they are winners – don’t let them force you to play it. Better to make and play by your own rules.

Whoever seeks to act according to others, he later tells his more convention-bound friend Francesco Vettori, will accomplish nothing, because no two men who think alike can be found.

The ideal Medici leader had to seem born to rule while also seeming to think of himself as one of the people. His every move needed to project a double illusion: of natural superiority to every other citizen and a total, easy-going unawareness of that superiority.

Soderini, who was among the first citizens of Florence and by far superior to the others, a man whose prudence and authority were known not only in Florence but among all the princes of Italy, responds: What you call a great victory looks to me like a loss. If you’d won over Volterra by treaty and agreement, you would have had advantage and security from it. But since you have to hold it by force, in adverse times it will bring you weakness and trouble, and in peaceful times, loss and expense.

Plots to overthrow governments, Niccolò often observes, are almost always betrayed by one of the plotters.

And don’t rush to proclaim any policy a great success, for often gain is seen and widely praised in policies at first – especially when they appear bold, surprising, risky – even though there is the ruin of the republic concealed underneath.

The struggle to overcome great difficulties teaches people self-discipline and self-knowledge, not least knowledge of their own resources of mind and spirit, which might go untapped if they had it easy. This makes them tougher than those who have too many hereditary advantages: they are thicker-skinned against those who try to pull them down, more tolerant of the setbacks that face everyone at some time or another.

Whatever the quality of their brains, advisers live in constant fear of saying too much or too little, or the wrong things at the wrong time.

The Machiavelli family win the case, proving on a small scale a point Niccolò will make over and over in his writings: weak families, individuals, cities and peoples should never shy away from fighting those who put them down or take what is theirs.9 Even if they lose some battles, their efforts do them proud, and make life harder for their oppressors.

If you want to maintain your state over time, the only sure way is to arm your own people and keep them satisfied; it’s always safer to found yourself not upon fortresses but upon the benevolence of men.

For when one foresees from afar, one can easily find a remedy for future troubles. But when you wait until they come close to you, the medicine is not in time, because the disease has become incurable.

Niccolò speaks from very personal knowledge when he says that freedom, one knows, is often restored in a city by those who have never tasted it but who loved it only through the memories of it left to them by their fathers. And thus, he continues, once recovered, they preserve it with all obstinacy and at any peril.

Founders of new institutions should assume that a large part of human nature inclines most people to behave badly, at least now and then: to take more than their share of power or wealth, to profit from other people’s weaknesses, to cheat, lie, betray promises. Inclinations like these can’t be rooted out of our species; human nature itself cannot be reformed so that more and more people become reliably angelic.

Sheltered by his patrician family name, Agostino can afford not to take seriously men like della Valle, with their popular or recent peasant origins; social rank trumps official rank. While Ser Antonio’s tantrums make Biagio cringe behind the heap of portfolios on his desk, Agostino merely stares at their office superior as if he were a stray farm animal that has somehow wandered into the city and, stumbling into the refined halls of government, panicked and run amuck.

the two essential, unwritten rules of Florentine diplomacy. One: give them words, good words, be a veritable fountain bubbling over with sweet words; but use every industry to avoid offering them deeds. Two: have at the tip of your tongue a ready arsenal of excuses for not spending money.

But the surest way to win esteem, Niccolò writes in the Prince, is to be a true friend and a true enemy.

Nonetheless, it was hardly a civil thing to violate the laws. For if ignoring legal procedures may do good in one particular case, nonetheless the example does ill. And if one sets up a habit of breaking the [legal and political] orders for the sake of good, then later, under that colouring, they are broken for ill.

The French are more eager for money than for blood.

In adversity they are abject, and in prosperity insolent. If you can resist the fury of their first onslaught, you will find them depressed and so entirely discouraged, that they become cowardly like women.

The cardinal has grown indulgent towards this odd young Florentine, who has no air of inherited greatness yet speaks boldly, with the confidence of sound judgement rather than of birth or rank.

He would later advise envoys to princely courts that they should observe the nature of the man: whether he rules for himself or lets himself be ruled; whether he is stingy or liberal; whether he loves war or peace; whether desire for glory or any other passion moves him, whether the people love him.

This matter is very important; there are men who, through being clever and two-faced, have so completely lost the trust of a prince that they have never afterwards been able to negotiate with him.

One needs to be a fox to recognize snares, and a lion to frighten the wolves.

This, for Machiavelli, is the real test of any statesman’s quality: his virtue. And while good fortune can help you conquer states, virtù is what lets you hold them securely.

Those who become princes solely by fortune have it much easier at first, rising to power with little trouble. But when the time comes to consolidate their newfound power, then all the difficulties arise, since these impetuous high-flyers seldom take the time to build up solid foundations for their state. Because of this, princes of fortune tend to be moody, fickle in their policies, even manic – now acting as if nothing could stop them, then losing all confidence at the first failure, as if failure weren’t a normal part of life. Virtuous leaders are far steadier, more trustworthy. They refuse to become arrogant with success or dejected with failure and, if their luck changes for better or for worse, they do not vary but always keep their spirit firm, showing that fortune does not have power over them.

That’s another thing about fortune-dependent types: they tend to think that they’re the only shrewd operators in the room. They can easily deceive others, but never be deceived.

For Niccolò, virtù can mean spiritedness, especially in battle. But the highest-quality virtù includes an aptitude for organization, industry, and far-sighted prudence. It further includes an unclouded knowledge of one’s own limits, the wisdom and self-discipline not to overreach them, and the ingenuity to use whatever opportunities and resources one has, however scarce they might be. Virtù doesn’t need good luck, or even much freedom, to work wonders. On the contrary, it is most admirable, even most effective, where there are obstacles to overcome.

Give men secure work that allows them to feed their families and win public respect, in employments that are the nerve and life of the city, and they’ll become its stoutest defenders.

the knowledge that whatever defects you find in a particular set of men, or in human nature generally, well-designed laws and institutions can hold their defects in check and cultivate virtues you – and perhaps they – didn’t know they had.

Everyone wants to be coddled and esteemed, so that is what someone who finds himself where you are has to do.

A statesman needs to know when to use clemency and when severity.

He did not know, Machiavelli would later write, that one cannot wait for the time, goodness is not enough, fortune varies, and malignity does not find a gift that appeases it.

They committed one of the commonest, most devastating mistakes made in politics and war: when peoples do not know how to put limits to their hopes and measure their own capabilities, they are ruined. In this way, the insolence that victory or the false hope of victory arouses makes men lose the opportunity of having a certain good through hoping to have an uncertain better.

A man’s mind, he muses in The Ass, can’t easily be turned against his nature or habits. Though his brain might warn him of the dangers in honest criticism, his nature forces him to see – and point out – human errors in hopes of correcting them. And in the present age so grudging and evil, one always sees bad more quickly than good.

We lie to each other and start believing our own lies. The ones who come out best are the noisiest babblers and flatterers. They spout platitudes and say nothing. For the herd and their herd-masters only hear what is easy to hear, what they think they already know, keep repeating the same badly reasoned blandness to flatter themselves and their herd-chiefs.

For it is not enough to say: ‘I do not care for anything; I do not desire honours or useful things; I wish to live quietly and without quarrel!’ These excuses won’t be believed if they come from a man notable for his quality, even when such men choose the quiet life truly and without any ambition.

Neither money nor sheer numbers of men make strong armies, he tells his readers, but only people who are motivated to fight to the death. And they’ll be motivated only when they have a real stake in the government they’re expected to defend: when they can make a decent living, feel that they’re treated with public respect, perhaps even take part in politics.

In any city, ancient or modern, one finds an enmity between the great, whatever they call themselves – nobles, patricians, the rich – and the people. This arises because the great everywhere want to dominate, while the people want not to be dominated. The people’s desire is more reasonable than the desire of a few to dominate the many. It follows that governments that seek to satisfy the popular desire are firmer and last longer than those that let a few command the rest.

Moreover, to cure the illness of excessive ambition among the people words are enough ; while for curing the prince’s, steel is needed.

So they should indeed never give up. They have always to hope and, since they hope, not to give up in whatever fortune and whatever travail they may find themselves.

Look at the Germans and the Swiss: they live more simply than we do, and are free and well-armed. Our rich Italians live lavishly and aspire to live even more lavishly, but what freedom we have is constantly threatened by unrest from the poor.

Don’t push your luck when you’re clutching at your last desperate hopes, compromise to cut your losses, save what you can; what you lose now you can recover later.

I’ve had a letter from you that has given me the greatest pleasure. If God grants you and me life, I believe that I may make you a man of good standing, if you are willing to do your share. But you must study hard and take pains to learn letters and music – for you know how much distinction is given me for what little ability I possess. Thus, my son, if you want to please me and to bring profit and honour to yourself, study, do well, and learn, because everyone will help you if you help yourself.

Instead of attacking Florence, imperial forces rapidly move to Rome. On 6 May, they sack the Holy City, the bloodiest attack in living memory, with famished German troops shouting, ‘Vivat Luther Papa!’ as they smash sacred relics and plunder houses, shops, banks.

Highlights for Why We Sleep

Short sleeping increases the likelihood of your coronary arteries becoming blocked and brittle, setting you on a path toward cardiovascular disease, stroke, and congestive heart failure.

Scientists such as myself have even started lobbying doctors to start “prescribing” sleep.

Society’s apathy toward sleep has, in part, been caused by the historic failure of science to explain why we need it.

suprachiasmatic (pronounced soo-pra-kai-as-MAT-ik)

We require more supple work schedules that better adapt to all chronotypes, and not just one in its extreme.

Caffeine—which is not only prevalent in coffee, certain teas, and many energy drinks, but also foods such as dark chocolate and ice cream, as well as drugs such as weight-loss pills and pain relievers—is one of the most common culprits that keep people from falling asleep easily and sleeping soundly thereafter, typically masquerading as insomnia, an actual medical condition.

Their scientists exposed spiders to different drugs and then observed the webs that they constructed.X Those drugs included LSD, speed (amphetamine), marijuana, and caffeine.

Caffeine is also the only addictive substance that we readily give to our children and teens—the consequences of which we will return to later in the book.

Second, can you function optimally without caffeine before noon? If the answer is “no,” then you are most likely self-medicating your state of chronic sleep deprivation.

Before bed, you diligently set your alarm for 6:00 a.m. Miraculously, however, you woke up at 5:58 a.m., unassisted, right before the alarm.

Have you ever taken a long road trip in your car and noticed that at some point in the journey, the FM radio stations you’ve been listening to begin dropping out in signal strength?

When it comes to information processing, think of the wake state principally as reception (experiencing and constantly learning the world around you), NREM sleep as reflection (storing and strengthening those raw ingredients of new facts and skills), and REM sleep as integration (interconnecting these raw ingredients with each other, with all past experiences, and, in doing so, building an ever more accurate model of how the world works, including innovative insights and problem-solving abilities).

The steady, slow, synchronous waves that sweep across the brain during deep sleep open up communication possibilities between distant regions of the brain, allowing them to collaboratively send and receive their different repositories of stored experience.

The mystery deepens when we consider pinnipeds (one of my all-time favorite words, from the Latin derivatives: pinna “fin” and pedis “foot”), such as fur seals.

I believe a similar story of atypical, but nevertheless present, REM sleep will ultimately be observed in dolphins and whales and seals when in the ocean. After all, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Sleep with both sides of the brain, or sleep with just one side and then switch. Both are possible, but sleep you must. Sleep is non-negotiable.

Both you and the meeting attendees are falling prey to an evolutionarily imprinted lull in wakefulness that favors an afternoon nap, called the post-prandial alertness dip (from the Latin prandium, “meal”).

Apparent from this remarkable study is this fact: when we are cleaved from the innate practice of biphasic sleep, our lives are shortened.

From these clues, I offer a theorem: the tree-to-ground reengineering of sleep was a key trigger that rocketed Homo sapiens to the top of evolution’s lofty pyramid.

Now we can appreciate what I believe to be a classic, self-fulfilling positive cycle of evolution. Our shift from tree to ground sleeping instigated an ever more bountiful amount of relative REM sleep compared with other primates, and from this bounty emerged a steep increase in cognitive creativity, emotional intelligence, and thus social complexity. This, alongside our increasingly dense, interconnected brains, led to improved daily (and nightly) survival strategies. In turn, the harder we worked those increasingly developed emotional and creative circuits of the brain during the day, the greater was our need to service and recalibrate these ever-demanding neural systems at night with more REM sleep.

This phase of development, which infuses the brain with masses of neural connections, is called synaptogenesis, as it involves the creation of millions of wiring links, or synapses, between neurons. By deliberate design, it is an overenthusiastic first pass at setting up the mainframe of a brain. There is a great deal of redundancy, offering many, many possible circuit configurations to emerge within the infant’s brain once born.

As a result of this mismatch, the fetus brain still generates formidable motor commands during REM sleep, except there is no paralysis to hold them back. Without restraint, those commands are freely translated into frenetic body movements, felt by the mother as acrobatic kicks and featherweight punches.

Newborns will normally transition straight into REM sleep after a feeding. Many mothers already know this: almost as soon as suckling stops, and sometimes even before, the infant’s eyelids will close, and underneath, the eyes will begin darting left-right, indicating that their baby is now being nourished by REM sleep.

Sleep accomplishes this by using meaningful tags that have been hung onto those memories during initial learning, or potentially identified during sleep itself.

Sleep powerfully, yet very selectively, boosted the retention of those words previously tagged for “remembering,” yet actively avoided the strengthening of those memories tagged for “forgetting.”

Not without putting too fine a point on it, if you don’t snooze, you lose.

As a result, car crashes caused by drowsiness tend to be far more deadly than those caused by alcohol or drugs. Said crassly, when you fall asleep at the wheel of your car on a freeway, there is now a one-ton missile traveling at 65 miles per hour, and no one is in control.

Approximately 80 percent of truck drivers in the US are overweight, and 50 percent are clinically obese.

One of my true loves is teaching a large undergraduate class on the science of sleep at the University of California, Berkeley.

One night of modest sleep reduction—even just one or two hours—will promptly speed the contracting rate of a person’s heart, hour upon hour, and significantly increase the systolic blood pressure within their vasculature.

Making matters worse, growth hormone—a great healer of the body—which normally surges at night, is shut off by the state of sleep deprivation.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the switch to daylight savings time in March results in most people losing an hour of sleep opportunity. Should you tabulate millions of daily hospital records, as researchers have done, you discover that this seemingly trivial sleep reduction comes with a frightening spike in heart attacks the following day.

The experimental results support the finding that men suffering from sleep disorders, especially sleep apnea associated with snoring, have significantly lower levels of testosterone than those of similar age and backgrounds but who do not suffer from a sleep condition.

Indeed, journaling your waking thoughts, feelings, and concerns has a proven mental health benefit, and the same appears true of your dreams. A meaningful, psychologically healthy life is an examined one, as Socrates so often declared.

It is sleep that builds connections between distantly related informational elements that are not obvious in the light of the waking day. Our participants went to bed with disparate pieces of the jigsaw and woke up with the puzzle complete.

It is possible that lucid dreamers represent the next iteration in Homo sapiens’ evolution.

If alarming your heart, quite literally, were not bad enough, using the snooze feature means that you will repeatedly inflict that cardiovascular assault again and again within a short span of time.

Sleep deprivation degrades many of the key faculties required for most forms of employment.

But insufficient sleep—another harmful, potentially deadly factor—is commonly tolerated and even woefully encouraged. This mentality has persisted, in part, because certain business leaders mistakenly believe that time on-task equates with task completion and productivity. Even in the industrial era of rote factory work, this was untrue.

The irony that employees miss is that when you are not getting enough sleep, you work less productively and thus need to work longer to accomplish a goal.

Of note to those in business, many of these studies report deleterious effects on business outcomes on the basis of only very modest reductions in sleep amount within an individual, perhaps twenty- to sixty-minute differences between an employee who is honest, creative, innovate, collaborative, and productive and one who is not.

One in twenty residents will kill a patient due to a lack of sleep.

what if we moved from a stance of analytics (i.e., here is your past and/or current sleep and here is your past and/or current body weight) to that of forward-looking predictalytics?

Even if this software solution decreases flu infection rates by just a small percentage, it will save hundreds of millions of dollars by way of improved immunization efficiency

Rather, this method of routine sleep tracking would help them identify this issue, and cognitive behavioral therapy could be provided through their smartphones.

As a result, the decimation of sleep throughout industrialized nations is having a catastrophic impact on our health, our life expectancy, our safety, our productivity, and the education of our children.