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David Foster Wallace

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The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.
--
Kenyon College Commencement Speech, April 21, 2005, published as This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life.

 
David Foster Wallace

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Look, I understand that for a lot of people, the US is superior to their country of residence in myriad ways, but I'm Australian. We have it all: the weather, the beautiful cities, the brand of football that involves neither padding yourself up like Santa Claus nor standing in a line in front of goal and covering your testicles.

 
Max Barry
 

I believe that through discipline, though not through discipline alone, we can achieve serenity, and a certain small but precious measure of the freedom from the accidents of incarnation, and charity, and that detachment which preserves the world which it renounces. I believe that through discipline we can learn to preserve what is essential to our happiness in more and more adverse circumstances, and to abandon with simplicity what would else have seemed to us indispensable; that we come a little to see the world without the gross distortion of personal desire, and in seeing it so, accept more easily our earthly privation and its earthly horror But because I believe that the reward of discipline is greater than its immediate objective, I would not have you think that discipline without objective is possible: in its nature discipline involves the subjection of the soul to some perhaps minor end; and that end must be real, if the discipline is not to be factitious. Therefore I think that all things which evoke discipline: study, and our duties to men and to the commonwealth, war, and personal hardship, and even the need for subsistence, ought to be greeted by us with profound gratitude, for only through them can we attain to the least detachment; and only so can we know peace.

 
J. Robert Oppenheimer
 

Attention is not concentration. When you concentrate, as most people try to do what takes place when you are concentrating? You are cutting yourself off, resisting, pushing away every thought except that one particular thought, that one particular action. So your concentration breeds resistance, and therefore concentration does not bring freedom. Please, this is very simple if you observe it yourself. But whereas if you are attentive, attentive to everything that is going on about you, attentive to the dirt, the filth of the street, attentive to the bus which is so dirty, attentive of your words, your gestures, the way you talk to your boss, the way you talk to your servant, to the superior, to the inferior, the respect, the callousness to those below you, the words, the ideas if you are attentive to all that, not correcting, then out of that attention you can know a different kind of concentration. You are then aware of the setting, the noise of the people, people talking over there on the roof, your hushing them up, asking them not to talk, turning your head; you are aware of the various colours, the costumes, and yet concentration is going on. Such concentration is not exclusive, in that there is no effort. Whereas mere concentration demands effort.

 
Jiddu Krishnamurti
 

Government, like any other organism, refuses to acquiesce in its own extinction. This refusal, of course, involves the resistance to any effort to diminish its powers and prerogatives. There has been no organized effort to keep government down since Jefferson's day. Ever since then the American people have been bolstering up its powers and giving it more and more jurisdiction over their affairs. They pay for that folly in increased taxes and diminished liberties. No government as such is ever in favor of the freedom of the individual. It invariably seeks to limit that freedom, if not by overt denial, then by seeking constantly to widen its own functions.

 
H. L. Mencken
 

As far as culture and politics are concerned, the important theme is long-attention-span vs. short-attention-span thinking. I'm sure that your readers can think of any number of ways in which having a longer attention span can be useful. But I'll name one. Bankers with long attention spans don't lend money to people who can't pay it back. If we had more bankers who adopted a long-term view of their responsibilities, we might not be in the middle of a financial crisis that is blowing away 150-year-old investment banks.

 
Neal Stephenson
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