40 Days – Day 4: Heroes of Old, the Men of Renown

Day 4: Cycling: 3 miles in 13 minutes; Eddington Number = 2.

Day 4: Weights: 22 minutes. 20 sets, 149 reps, 16,270 lb. Eddington Number (tons) = 4

I woke up with a terrible headache and thought moving around would make it go away—it didn’t. Gym was really tough as a result.

Day 3: Bible (Genesis 5-6)

Adam’s lineage—boring—until Genesis 5:22-4, where Enoch walked with God for 300 years, and then “he was no more, for God took him.” It first calls to mind God “moving about in the Garden during the breezy time of day” in 3:8, both being a time when God was strolling around, not up in the heavens, not sitting on throne, but out and about with folks. Second, this line seems to waver on the point of spiritual existence—it’s as if the language doesn’t exist to describe what happens at death. Everyone else so far is mentioned as having died, but this is the first elaboration. First, “he was no more”—which means Enoch’s body is not Enoch. Then, “for God took him”—which means God took the Enoch that was the true Enoch, which is not his body. So, is there a spirit? Or, if “he was no more”—does it mean that by taking him, he was truly no more, he lacked existence, both of body and spirit. I think the argument could go either way, except that there’s no previous evidence in the text to support the existence of a soul. Rather, it’s more like God breathed life into the dust to form man, and then inhaled it back out—the spirit being nothing more than the exhalation of God.

While I was waiting for Mincha to begin, it occurred to me that I’d read it entirely wrong—Enoch only lived about one-third of the length of those before him. He walked with God, and then God took him; Enoch never died. God simply made him disappear by taking him. It’s a reasonable misreading though, I think, because his life is still measured in days, which would lead me to guess that if the days of one’s life stop progressing, then he’s dead! Rather, he’s been lifted out of time, and since God creates time (the alternation between day and night) in Genesis 1, then here we have more evidence that God lives outside time, and once he took Enoch, Enoch also was outside time.

This, along with God’s reference to himself in the plural, is the sort of mystical writing I’d love to learn more about, things that average people long ago were comfortable with to the extent that elaboration was unnecessary. Plenty of names here, I’m under the assumption are names representing groups of people or places—I used to know the word for this…eponym! So, Enoch perhaps meant more at one point, and, further, stories about him and corresponding mysticism was likely more widely understood.

In Genesis 6 we reach another one of these mystical questions, being the divine beings of 6:2 and the Nephilim of 6:4. I’m not going to question either of these, since there’s no conclusive view on the subjects. In short, either angels mated with humans and produced a race of giants, or the children of Seth (being divine) mated with the children of Cain (being cursed). I guess it doesn’t make much difference, because in the end someone made the giants. And they, being called the “heroes of old, the men of renown” remind me of those same heroes of Greek mythology, who, as far back as we can trace, were always heroes from long ago, when humans and gods spent more time together.

I find it interesting that God feels regret (7:6), which is only possible within time. That is, if God had the foresight to know man would become wicked, he would not later feel regret when it came to pass.

Lastly, Noah also walked with God—like Enoch—and what that means, I have no idea, except there’s one other parallel: while Enoch escaped death, Noah escaped the fate of the rest of the wicked world. The flood, perhaps, was the equivalent of the watery void that was the world in Genesis 1, where time doesn’t exist.

Day 3: Vitamins

Makes me feel sick.


40 Days – Day 3: Large-Scale Horrors Are Usually Okay

sunrise-meditationDay 3: Cycling: 2 miles in 9 minutes; Eddington Number = 2.

Day 3: Weights: 28 minutes. 9,670 lb. Eddington Number (tons) = 3

Day 1: Meditation: Art of Living

Can barely stay awake. So bored. Mind wanders.

Day 2: Bible (Genesis 3-4)

I never noticed how tragic this chapter is, and how plainly written. How is the serpent shrewd? He asked a question that he knew would lead to a discussion. “You can’t eat from any tree in the garden?” And then everyone blames each other and God punishes the whole lot of them. Just last night we were discussing how nobody in the banking industry was punished for wickedness leading up to the financial crisis, simply because as long as you can blame someone else, you’re in good shape. Also war criminals this works for. Not average people doing average wrong-doings, but large-scale horrors are usually okay. It’s all in the bible!

The the tree of good/evil interests me because it leads back to wondering what it means to be made in God’s image. If man had no concept of ethics prior to eating from the tree, then “God’s image” doesn’t mean free-will…it literally means we look like God. The “God’s image” bit is part of Genesis 1, though—whereas chapters 2 and 3 seem to be in another storyline.

People say the tree has something to do with sex, since Adam and Eve feel shame after eating it. So perhaps it’s not that they ate fruit, but rather that they had sex, which leads to creation, which is God’s job? But no, since God told them to be fruitful and multiply. So it may just be that eating the fruit led to self-awareness.

Another part I like is that the writing quickly explains the transition from nomadic to agricultural societies. God plants the Garden of Eden, where man can just gather food, and then banishes man to till the soil for food—which requires settling down. So, it’s historically accurate here also. Apparently, Jews generally believe that Eden is a metaphorical, not actually a place, although I once learned that Alexander the Great visited the gates and spoke to the cherubim with their flaming swords.

Lastly, I think it’s beautiful that God, after banishing man from Eden, makes clothes for Adam and Eve. It’s also the first time that an animal is killed in history—and it’s for the sake of clothes. He still cares for his favorite creations, even after punishing them, like a parent.

The next chapter begins with Cain and Abel. So many questions. I always mixed Cain and Abel up, because I assumed the manlier of the two would deal with the animals, and thereby know how to kill another man. Why did God pay no heed to Cain’s offering? That’s where all the problems begin. Like most of our prayers, God ignored them, which led to Cain feeling distraught. God comes down and talks with him, telling him he’ll feel better if he’ll do right, which I can only take to mean that what matters to God is not your churchiness in church, but your churchiness in life.

There’s another possibility I’m curious about though—which is that Cain enjoys being a farmer. In the previous chapter, the curse on Adam was that he’d have to become a farmer. One generation later, Cain’s actually enjoying the curse. Abel, on the other hand, is tending to the flocks, which is still in line with what God had put man in charge of in Eden—being in charge of the animals.

I begin to side with Cain, because it seems like he couldn’t really win. He’s farming, by order/curse of God, while Abel is shepherding, by order of God. God punishes Cain by making it so he can’t be a farmer anymore, which makes Cain so unhappy that he becomes suicidal. This seems to catch God off guard, so he puts a mark on Cain so that nobody murders him. I’m not sure who would murder him, seeing as there’s only three people on earth now, but Cain is sent off to wander the earth ceaselessly. Also this is the plight of the Israelites and the Jewish people in general—which is a sort of disheartening parallel. If the purpose of these early stories are to contrast God’s elegant creation of the world with our ability to really mess it up, it’s a point well made. Cain’s descendants include all nomads, musicians, and blacksmiths. Also disheartening.

Lamech, one of his descendants then recites a strange bit of poetry to his wives. We know it’s poetry because it has pairs of lines, the second restating the first in each case. What this means is that neither of the lines is to be taken literally since each is supposed to mean the same thing. Did he actually slay a man for wounding him and slay a lad for bruising him? Or is this metaphorical? And what of his math on Cain being avenged sevenfold (in case of his murder), and himself seventy-sevenfold?

It brings back to mind what the perspective on the soul is: it’s not really so important. The breath of god gives us life. From dust we were formed, to dust we return. After death, there’s nothing but dust. And that is why Cain’s punishment is to wander the earth—because he can only be punished within his lifetime. To kill him for killing Abel would not be a punishment because he would not experience it. So, back to Lamech—I wonder if what he says is not a lament, but a boast. You thought Cain was bad? I’m worse. And it perhaps provides an answer to why good things happen to bad people: God plans on punishing them sometime.

Adam steps back into the picture, thank God, and produces another son: Seth. Things are looking up.

Day 2: Vitamins

Makes me feel sick.

40 Days – Day 2 (cycling, weights, Gen. 1-2, vitamins)

cebu, philippinesDay 2: Cycling: 2 miles in 9 minutes; Eddington Number = 1.

Day 2: Weights: 25 minutes. 17 sets, 163 reps, 15,045 lb. Eddington Number (tons) = 2

Day 1: Bible (Genesis 1-2)

I used to know a lot of this verse by heart . . . . It appeals to a scientific look at the world because it’s more or less accurate in classifying things by complexity. It’s easy to breeze over in search of a few keywords. Earth is null and void. Got it. Light, darkness. Got it. But really it’s not null-ness or void-ness that’s being described, but an infinite (or long?) stretch of water and darkness—with God as a wind. To imagine myself deposited in this universe, floating in this black water, where I can’t see a thing, and if I sink I drown, and if I swim in any direction, everything is infinitely the same in every direction—it’s the most horrifying description of isolation I can imagine. And then God switches on the light, and produces some alternation between the two. So now we can count the evenings and mornings, which means that the existence of time is established. This is the part I find most fascinating. God goes on to create the rest of things, plants, fish, birds, animals, man—nothing out of the ordinary here. But then the narrator turns a bit unreliable.

Chapter 2 begins by switching up Chapter 1—suddenly, we’re back to no plants because there’s no man to till them; I thought the plants all set by day 3, and man didn’t show up for another few days. And didn’t God create male and female on the same day, day 6? But now it’s unclear on that point. Things just don’t line up from one chapter to the next. I don’t care about inconsistencies though—I’ll take it for what it is at any given moment.

And this, I think may be an important way to live right now. . . . The bible says—here’s the creation story. Also, here’s another creation story. They’re both correct.—and what am I to do? Accept them for what they are.

Day 1: Vitamins

Fish oil, DHEA, Gingko, and a multivitamin. They make me feel sick.

40 Days – Day 1 (cycling, weights, meditation)

57B33879-FE30-337E-47F9-A5A50A238B1D-72618I need to kickstart my first 40 days, so I’m doing seven things. One would be enough—but I feel like I don’t have time for just one . . . and I’m afraid I need a real boost this first 40 days. I don’t enjoy any of these things. Cardio makes me feel sick, weights are boring, meditation is boring, synagogue/bible makes me feel uncomfortable and bored, I don’t like swallowing vitamins . . . because I don’t like eating things.

Day 1: Cycling: 1 mile in 4 minutes; Eddington Number = 1.

I never do cardio. I have a trainer who told me I don’t eat enough to do much of it. He tells me I should eat more. I don’t. So I don’t do cardio. That’s the excuse I use. One mile should be easy—it was tough. There was a woman next to me really working hard, probably going a hundred miles. I used one of those video game bikes. I don’t know if 1 mile in 4 minutes is good or not, but I went the mile and then ran off to write down my numbers.

Day 1: Weights: 37 minutes. 20 sets, 148 reps, 6086 lb.

I go to the gym about once a week—tops. Every couple of weeks I go to my trainer. I don’t improve much. Today I was actually down since the last time I went—I can’t remember how long ago it was that I went, maybe a couple weeks. I listen to the news, stop at Starbucks on the way home and get a breakfast sandwich, go home and drink a protein shake.

Day 1: Meditation: Art of Living

I signed up for Art of Living my senior year of college. . . .  I didn’t keep up with it—they say if you do it for 40 days in a row you’ll have some revelation. The members of Art of Living are sort of cultish—they don’t believe in being troubled. You can say “I have troubles” and they don’t understand. It sounds awful or insensitive, but it’s somewhat beautiful, because you can see these modern, functioning human beings who have dealt with their problems through meditation. And if you can’t find a little time each day to do the same, then you’re the ridiculous one.

But it’s intensely boring. Focusing on my breathing. My mind wanders. And when I get to the meditation portion, I begin falling asleep. I dream when I’m still awake, so I know when I’m falling asleep—I begin seeing bizarre visions, and I wake myself up. I’m supposed to solidify my negative feelings and breathe them out. I can’t—because I can’t concentrate.

I totally missed the rest [of my goals]. Synagogue I woke up too late for. I didn’t eat any real meals at home, so I used that as an excuse to skip vitamins. . . .

All in all, doing these things felt like a waste of time.

My System for Winning at the Car Dealership

How I Felt When We Bought Our New Car...jk my belly hurt from too much espresso
How I Felt When We Bought Our New Car…jk my belly hurt from too much espresso

So we just bought a new Jeep Renegade for $2,000 less than its invoice price. Put another way, two weeks ago, after some tough negotiating, we nearly bought the car for nearly $4,000 more than we ultimately got it for. More for my reference than for yours, this is how we did it.

First (Failed) Encounter

C’s wanted the Jeep Renegade since before they entered the US–she used to have a Wrangler, but I think the Wrangler Unlimited is uncomfortable on long trips, and this one caught her eye. It’s new as of 2015, and the moment she learned that it’d be released in the US, she contacted every dealer around and asked them to keep her updated (they never did). It showed up in March, and we test drove it with a really nice salesman at Pearson Jeep who fell asleep in the backseat. C determined that based on what she wanted her monthly payments to be, the car needed to be a certain price. So, she wrote to some random dealer and said ‘hey, you have a car I want, but it’s price is too high—I need my payments to be $x.’ He wrote back immediately and said ’no problem—I can get your payments there easily.’ And he did. $30,000 over the course of an 8-year financing.

First Advice

We spoke to my brother, who used to sell cars, and he gave us these main points on how to reverse-engineer fucking people over:

  • Don’t focus on monthly payments. You can get any payment you want based on the financing terms.
  • Focus on total cost of the vehicle. Once you negotiate to the number you want, then you can figure out the monthly payments from there.
  • If you’re dealing with a trade-in, work on that transaction separately.
  • Get a quote from Carmax on the car you’re selling, and then you’ll know if you’re being screwed by the dealership or not.

Second Encounter

Armed with our new knowledge, we went to Carmax and got a quote on the car we were selling—$2,000. Less than what we were hoping for—because we owe more than that on it. Anyway, we headed to the new-car dealership, Pearson Jeep and began negotiating for the vehicle we wanted, following my brother’s tips.

We got totally confused. How do you separate the transactions if not just in your brain?They said they’d give us $4,000 for the old car. Great. And when you calculate that all in, the cost of the new car is $23k. Before payoff and fees. That’s super cheap! It also means that the cost is $28k + our current car. We said that wouldn’t work—couldn’t they go lower? This is when they began playing “good cop, bad cop” with us.

Things their finance manager told us included “you need to get your finances in order” — “here’s a tip—next time you go shopping for a car, don’t focus on the price, focus on the monthly payments.” — “If we go below the invoice price we’ll be losing money.”And we basically left with our tails between our legs and felt like big failures. C apologized a whole lot to the salesman, who we thought was great, even if he did fall asleep in the backseat during the test drive.

By this point, we couldn’t even discuss the situation anymore. I had a big plan, but I usually have big plans that don’t work out, so C was preparing to just get a car she didn’t want, or grease up for us to get totally fucked over by the finance manager. I felt like a bad husband.

Sunday: Prepping to Beat the System

I made a list, in order of distance, of every dealership within 100 miles of us. I went to each of their websites to determine who had the precise vehicle we wanted. I took the top 15 as my targets, making sure I knew who the General Sales Manager or a Sales Manager of each store was.

Monday, 9:00

I called every dealership on my list and told them I’d be buying a car Wednesday and would like to know if they want to compete for my business. All said yes. I told them the deal was as follows: I’ll email them my ideal car specs, and they have until tomorrow morning to send me their best quote. I’d call them the following day to let them know where their quote stood compared to the best. A few asked me to come in, or wanted to discuss what I was looking for in a car, financing terms, the benefits of their dealership over other dealerships, etc. I refused to engage in those conversations, and got them all off the phone quickly, aside from telling them that the only thing I care about is the moonroof and the color. (I was lying).

Next, I sent them all a letter with my specs, showing both that I knew the MSRP (sticker price), as well as their invoice prices for each and every line item. I also included the $995 delivery charge so they couldn’t say my numbers were wrong. I mentioned that I know they have a 3% holdback (this is an accounting trick—basically, the dealer “buys” the car for the invoice price, but the “invoice price” is actually not how much the car costs them. So when they tell you they bought it for “invoice” price, they’re lying. They get 3% sent to them during the next quarter so that they can maintain that lie. And in addition, they receive other financial incentives via secret means. The result: if they sell a car at a loss, they still receive huge payouts from the manufacturer. The dealer always wins. I let them know that I understood this.

I insisted that the bids be sent to me as the “out the door” price, with a full breakdown.

Monday Afternoon

Bids began rolling in via email, text, and phone calls. Dealing with Sales Managers was best—they were well-spoken, and understood completely what I was doing: leveraging capitalism to make them compete for my business. Sales Associates, on the other hand, were generally lazy, deceptive, and stupid. For instance, Brian Raffetto, an Internet Sales Associate, at Haley Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram refused to give the “out the door” price, emailing me: “I see no reason to get the out the door price at this time as both of these are at a price point that is greater then what you are looking for. If you want to consider these, then I would consider coming up with a ‘out the door price’, but not before.” By which he meant that he did not want to tell me how much they’d charge me. Great salespersons did creative work, locating cars at other dealerships they could trade for, asking me long lists of questions to find me rebates, getting me photos of the window stickers with detailed descriptions of the car’s features, and sending me multiple quotes for various configurations. Poor salespersons sent me a link or two off their website.

When people asked how I’d be paying for it, I’d tell them it wouldn’t matter if I didn’t purchase the vehicle from them. I refused to give numbers. When they told me about features that would drive the price up, and started selling me on them, I told them I didn’t care. I don’t care about the subwoofer, or about the 4×4, or about the remote start, or about the leather. No, I won’t come in. No, I won’t come in. No, I won’t come in.

Tuesday Morning

I called the dealerships who hadn’t responded and asked if they were planning on participating. The rest of the responses rolled in.

I made a list of every Scion dealership, or independent used-car dealership within 25 miles. It turns out that the feces of the dregs of society work in independent used-car dealerships. Most places didn’t answer their phones. Most places didn’t actually even have voicemail boxes. I’d call and ask to speak with their purchasing manager, and tell them the specs on the car we were selling and ask if they’d be interested in seeing it.

East End Auto Sales wouldn’t even consider looking at it until I told them how much I wanted for it. To be clear—this means they immediately stack the deck in their favor. “It’s a waste of our time to even talk to you unless you tell us how much you want for your car.” Okay, says I, “Then you’re selling the same one online for $X, and I’ll assume you marked it up 25%, which means I want $Y for it.” There was just silence. And finally, “well, our purchasing manager isn’t here anyway.” I made a list of the places I’d be visiting to get quotes.

Tuesday Afternoon

I called back all the dealers, in order of highest-to-lowest quote, to thank them for participating but to inform them that I’ll be taking the lowest bid, which was $5,000 less than the highest bid. Some of them said things like “But I don’t understand how you could get that good a price! We have the best prices on the whole east coast!” Others said they could do better if I’d just come in this afternoon and insisted that they’d offered me the most competitive rate and that nobody could do better. A few dealers began whittling their quotes down significantly. At all points, I insisted on out the door prices, saying I’d write a check for that amount to the cent and don’t want any surprises.

Tuesday Evening

I brought our current car to the dealerships on my list, and got a range of quotes varying by nearly $3,000. Everyone would ask me “what are you looking for, for this car?” Again, when you give the first number, you will lose. So my answer always was, “I’m looking for a competitive quote from multiple dealers.” I went with the highest, which was higher than the trade-in value of the original dealership we spoke to, and higher by $2,000 than Carmax. So we paid off the car, made a tidy profit, and went out to celebrate.

I stayed on the phone until nearly 10pm with salesmen, letting them negotiate not against me—but against each other.

As I mentioned above, I was lying to them about the only thing we wanted in a car. We wanted more than a moonroof. But we knew that the moonroof rarely comes by itself—it comes with other feature packages. So in the end, we got offered a great deal on all the features we wanted—they just didn’t know we wanted them. But this wasn’t even the best deal we were offered—we could have gotten a stripped down car with just the moonroof feature for $1,000 less than the offer we took. It was that offer that I used to get the other bids down.

Wednesday Morning

We went to the dealership, and C says I was kinda scary and mean, not just to the people working there, but to her also. See, when we went to the first dealership, we were a team and we worked together to get our asses handed to us. This time, it seemed better to just be the decision-maker, although, unfortunately, that resulted in coming across as a dick. Also, I was incredibly bored and they kept trying to sell us upgrades or warranties or other things, and I’d had four espressos and my stomach hurt and I felt irritable. I checked my watch a lot. I fantasized about how if I was ballsier, I’d’ve insisted the finance manager have the financing conversation with me while I was taking a shit, which is the sort of thing Lyndon Johnson would do to maintain power over people. Anyway, we walked out of there paying precisely what the salesman’s quote to me was by phone, and, as I mentioned at the beginning, it was $2,000 below invoice, $4,000 below the best price we got from Pearson for the exact same vehicle. We didn’t have to negotiate. We made a profit on our old car. We got our payments way better than our goal. And the total cost of the vehicle was way better than our goal.


As we drive around, we now notice how many cars there are. And that every single one of them was purchased by someone who had to go through the demeaning process of going to a dealership and fighting through the fact that the actual cost of a car is a secret and salespeople are liars, and it’s all a game of chicken.

I know this from experience. I used to be a travel agent, an industry that’s suffered similarly to auto sales. When you sit on a plane, you might have paid $200 for the ticket that the guy beside you paid $2,000 for. This is how we’d do it: if you came in and said “my relative just died and I have to buy a ticket to get to their funeral”—what you do is tell them you’ll make a few calls to get the best price for them. And then you find the best price and mark it up 10 times, because the guy has to go to the funeral, right? And then you change the “invoice price” and print out tickets with fake pricing info on them, and bam—you just made a nice commission. I quit because I couldn’t sleep at night. As an interesting parallel, the lazy salesman I quoted above spent most of his career selling coffins.

Anyway, that’s just how it works: when consumers are uninformed, they can be taken advantage of very easily. The internet showed up, told consumers the truth, and now I wouldn’t know where to find a travel agent if you held a gun to my head. Car dealerships were briefly in trouble for the same reason: consumers knew the truth about prices. But dealerships recovered by resorting to creative tricks.

Seneca – On the Endurance of Suffering (Letters from a Stoic)

37712_stdI’m 37% of the way through this work, and what keeps me going is that I think most reviewers on Amazon suck, and if they’re all giving it 4 stars, then…then…then…it’s not that the work deserve praise, it’s something else entirely.

This chapter begins with a perfect example of the whole book: he begins by complaining that he’s always very cold, therefore, he’s exempt from having to endure the suffering of taking cold baths, because he’s enduring the cold all the time on account of being very old. And then he goes on to preach how important it is to endure suffering.

So, in short, the bulk of his letters consist of his a) complaining about his life, and b) preaching how others should live so that they’re more like him.

Truly, the real thing that keeps me going is that it’s difficult for me to not finish a book, even when it takes me a decade. Unfinished books, even ones I hate (i.e., Ovid, which I’ve been working on since 2004) weigh on me. But beyond that, Seneca’s suicide seems to have followed his philosophies well (bravery, honor, and courage). When I think on that, I think, well, he must have been wise after all—but when I read his letters, all I see is a rich old guy going on vacations and complaining about his life.

Okay, it’s a waste of time to be reading this for me. What do I do? How about I return to the top of the letter and paraphrase each paragraph—that’ll at least force me to pay attention to it.

  1. It’s spring, but I have a feeling it’ll get wintry again, so I’m not taking cold baths because I’m always cold because I’m old. Thanks for sending me a letter.
  2. Is every good desirable? That is, if it’s good to endure torture courageously, is torture desirable? No, you stupid fuck. Seneca: No, but if one is to be tortured, then one should desire being able to bear it with courage.
  3. Some pray for “unalloyed” good—i.e., bravery — period. When the truth is that bravery often requires danger. So, generally, you can’t pray for bravery without its accompanying danger.
  4. Who prays for danger? It’s indirectly prayed for—if you pray for bravery, you’re also praying for danger.
  5. There are a bunch of virtues, and they pretty much come as a package deal. Endurance of suffering, bravery, foresight, steadfastness, resignation.
  6. Virtue is not merely “beauty and grandeur”—but rather, “sweat and blood”.
  7. Virtue comes with great difficulties, but anything achieved in virtue’s name is good and desirable.

oihrgoiuhejrt89w4iouhwerfgkjn ac lauihfaliuhafiuh

Melville: Chapter XI: Nightgown. (Moby Dick. 1851)

32636-le-rire-1901-n-357-henry-gerbault-d-ostoya-scottish-dance-hprints-com“Truly to enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself. If you flatter yourself that you are all over comfortable, and have been so a long time, then you cannot be said to be comfortable any more. But if, like Queequeg and me in the bed, the tip of your nose or the crown of your head be slightly chilled, why then, indeed, in the general consciousness you feel most delightfully and unmistakably warm. For this reason a sleeping apartment should never be furnished with a fire, which is one of the luxurious discomforts of the rich. For the height of this sort of deliciousness is to have nothing but the blanket between you and your snugness and the cold of the outer air. Then there you lie like the one warm spark in the heart of an arctic crystal.”

Compare with Chapter 2 of Tao Te Ching (tr. J. Legge, 1891):

1. All in the world know the beauty of the beautiful, and in doing this they have (the idea of) what ugliness is; they all know the skill of the skilful, and in doing this they have (the idea of) what the want of skill is.

2. So it is that existence and non-existence give birth the one to (the idea of) the other; that difficulty and ease produce the one (the idea of) the other; that length and shortness fashion out the one the figure of the other; that (the ideas of) height and lowness arise from the contrast of the one with the other; that the musical notes and tones become harmonious through the relation of one with another; and that being before and behind give the idea of one following another.

3. Therefore the sage manages affairs without doing anything, and conveys his instructions without the use of speech.

4. All things spring up, and there is not one which declines to show itself; they grow, and there is no claim made for their ownership; they go through their processes, and there is no expectation (of a reward for the results). The work is accomplished, and there is no resting in it (as an achievement). The work is done, but how no one can see; ‘Tis this that makes the power not cease to be.

This last line reminds me of a concept I learned from James Altucher: by replacing goals with themes, you never cease to succeed. Rather than have a goal ‘to make a million dollars’, your theme is ‘to provide value to other people in such a way that is also financially beneficial to me.’

Melville: Chapter X: A Bosom Friend. (Moby Dick. 1851)

bosomfriends4“If there yet lurked any ice of indifference towards me in the Pagan’s breast, this pleasant, genial smoke we had, soon thawed it out, and left us cronies. He seemed to take to me quite as naturally and unbiddenly as I to him; and when our smoke was over, he pressed his forehead against mine, clasped me round the waist, and said that henceforth we were married; meaning, in his country’s phrase, that we were bosom friends; he would gladly die for me, if need should be. In a countryman, this sudden flame of friendship would have seemed far too premature, a thing to be much distrusted; but in this simple savage those old rules would not apply.”

Reminds me of when I was in living in the library of a guesthouse of an Oxfordshire MP, and sitting up one night eating my first Indian food with a real Indian man, who explained to me that the problem with Americans is that they’re the only people on earth who you can stay up talking to all night, become closest friends with, and the next time you see them they treat you as if it never happened. I could never understand what his name was, because everyone drops their R’s in England anyway, so it sounded to me like Nasa. Anyway, his analysis was correct, at least going forward in our own friendship.

“I was a good Christian; born and bred in the bosom of the infallible Presbyterian Church. How then could I unite with this wild idolator in worshipping his piece of wood? But what is worship? thought I. Do you suppose now, Ishmael, that the magnanimous God of heaven and earth—pagans and all included—can possibly be jealous of an insignificant bit of black wood? Impossible! But what is worship?—to do the will of God—that is worship. And what is the will of God?—to do to my fellow man what I would have my fellow man to do to me—that is the will of God. Now, Queequeg is my fellow man. And what do I wish that this Queequeg would do to me? Why, unite with me in my particular Presbyterian form of worship. Consequently, I must then unite with him in his; ergo, I must turn idolator. So I kindled the shavings; helped prop up the innocent little idol; offered him burnt biscuit with Queequeg; salamed before him twice or thrice; kissed his nose; and that done, we undressed and went to bed, at peace with our own consciences and all the world.”

Melville: Chapter IX: The Sermon. (Moby Dick. 1851)

jonah“As with all sinners among men, the sin of [Jonah] was in his wilful disobedience of the command of God—never mind now what that command was, or how conveyed—which he found a hard command. But all the things that God would have us do are hard for us to do—remember that—and hence, he oftener commands us than endeavors to persuade. And if we obey God, we must disobey ourselves; and it is in this disobeying ourselves, wherein the hardness of obeying God consists.”