That said, the book was surprisingly engaging, considering its age, and the fact that, between the ciphers and the terse, rambling tone, it was obviously never intended for public viewing. It’s divided into three parts: Views on Life, Views on Art, and Views on Science.
His views on life were easily my favorite. It was packed with pithy aphorisms of the kind that even big Ben Franklin would’ve nodded along in indulgent approval. They were generally optimistic, but with that shade of macabre cynicism that you only get from staying up late and cutting open corpses. Many of them pertained, in some way, to intelligence.
“A day well spent makes sleep seem pleasant, so a life well employed makes death pleasant. A life well spent is long.”
“It is impossible either to hate or to love a thing without first acquiring knowledge of it.”
In the days of thy youth seek to obtain that which shall compensate the losses of thy old age. And if thou understandest that old age is fed with wisdom, so conduct thyself in the days of thy youth that sustenance may not be lacking in thy old age.
On not being a dumbass:
“Just as iron which is not used grows rusty, and water putrefies and freezes in the cold, so the mind of which no use is made is spoilt.”
(The spiritual ancestor of Tyrion Lannister’s “a mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone”)
“The water you touch in a river is the last of that which ahs gone, and the first of that which is coming: so it is with time present.”
Somebody read their Heraclitus.
On damage control:
“Threats are the only weapons of the threatened man.”
“Not to punish evil is equivalent to authorizing it.”
His next section, Views on Art, had a bunch of good advice for aspiring painters and exactly two quotes that I found worth highlighting.
“The worst evil which can befall the artist is that his work should appear good in his own eyes.”
This one especially spoke to me. If you think you’re doing well, you’re not gonna try as hard, and you just plateaued. Talkin’ ’bout that hubris, son.
“If thou art alone, thou wilt belong to thyself only: if thou hast but one companion, thou wilt only half belong to thyself, and ever less in proportion to the indiscretion of his conduct; and if thou hast many companions, though wilt encounter the same disadvantage.”
The rest of this section can be summarized as follows:
“A lot of poets say that poetry rules. This is acceptable, if you’re a poet, as how else could you sleep? Consider this, however: poetry sucks, and is for nerds, whereas it is in fact PAINTING which rules, and is for cool guys, whom everyone like.”
The third part, Views on Science, is intriguing enough but loses a lot of impact, considering most of what he was grasping at back then is now taught in primary school. Even in America.