"They have no shallow vanity. They do not care for such false diamonds as knowing celebrities … listening to the raptures of a stray spectator in a picture show, being renowned in the taverns … If they do a pennyworth they do not strut about as though they had done a hundred roubles’ worth, and do not brag of having the entry where others are not admitted … The truly talented always keep in obscurity among the crowd, as far as possible from advertisement … Even Krylov has said that an empty barrel echoes more loudly than a full one."
Anton Chekhov on cultured people (1886)
"I would challenge you to a battle of wits, but I see that you are unarmed."
"But most days, if you’re aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line. Maybe she’s not usually like this. Maybe she’s been up three straight nights holding the hand of a husband who is dying of bone cancer. Or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the motor vehicle department, who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a horrific, infuriating, red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness. Of course, none of this is likely, but it’s also not impossible. It just depends what you want to consider. If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down. And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about in the great outside world of wanting and achieving. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.
That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing."
"When Armenia accepted Christianity, it was not only the temples which were destroyed, but also the songs and poems about the old gods and heroes that the people sang. We have only rare segments of these songs and poems, segments which bear witness of a great spiritual wealth and the power of creation of this people and these alone are sufficient reason enough for recreating the temples of the old Armenian gods. These gods were neither the Asian heavenly demons nor the precious and the delicate Greek gods, but something that reflected the characteristics of the Armenian people which they have been polishing through the ages, namely ambitious, wise and good-hearted."