I was walking back to the city, lost in my own thoughts, through an arched gate. Why, I asked myself, does this arch not collapse, since after all it has no support? It remains standing, I answered, because all the stones tend to collapse at the same time – and from this thought I derived an indescribably heartening consolation, which stayed by me right up to the decisive moment: I too would not collapse, even if all my support were removed.
That…no book could have told me, and I call it a true lesson from nature….
Kleist, letter to Wilhelmine von Zenge, November 16, 1800
Everywhere a stone is touching a stone. And here, over this pitiless ground, one approaches something delicate: there is a way of placing one stone on another which irrefutably announces a human act, as distinct from a natural hazard.
John Berger, The Shape of a Pocket , 2001
In brief, people with self-respect exhibit a certain toughness, a king of moral nerve; they display what was once called character, a quality which, although approved in the abstract, sometimes loses ground to other, more instantly negotiable virtues….
Nonetheless, character – the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s actions – is the source from which self-respect springs.
Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968)
…for there are still in you a thousand lovely qualities which your self-esteem alone can preserve, and which too much shame, with the abjection it would cause, would unfailingly destroy, and it is by what you believe you are still worth that you will indeed maintain worthiness.
– Claire to Julie in Rousseau, Julie, ou la Nouvelle Heloise
My first op-ed for Al Jazeera appeared this week. A shout-out to their editorial team, and especially to Naz, for a seamless experience.