Each of us is born with a series of built-in confusions that are probably somehow Darwinian. These are: (1) we’re central to the universe (that is, our personal story is the main and most interesting story, the only story, really); (2) we’re separate from the universe (there’s US and then, out there, all that other junk – dogs and swing-sets, and the State of Nebraska and low-hanging clouds and, you know, other people), and (3) we’re permanent (death is real, o.k., sure – for you, but not for me).

Hilary Mantel reviews ‘Tormented Hope’ by Brian Dillon · LRB 5 November 2009

Anxiety about a specific symptom is more bearable and easier to rationalise than the diffuse ontological malaise that used to be known as spiritual despair. It is easier to say ‘my knee is killing me,’ because we know it isn’t, than to dwell in the belief that the clock is ticking and that the journey from birth to death is a journey to extinction; it is better to have a symptom than to have a void inside.

Hilary Mantel reviews ‘Tormented Hope’ by Brian Dillon · LRB 5 November 2009

Some that will never be read

maudnewton:

Limits

There is a line of Verlaine I will never remember

There is another street I can no longer walk down

There is a face in the mirror I have seen for the very last time

There is a door that is closed until the end of the world.

Among the books of my library (I am seeing them now)

There are some that will never be read.

This summer I will be fifty: 

Death consumes me, constantly. 

 —Jorge Luis Borges, trans. Rebecca Walker; original

Image of Borges, Hôtel des Beaux Arts, Paris, by Pepe Fernández, 1969

Borges auto-reblog rule in effect.

The question arose as to what we would do differently if we were immortal. […] I answered that I would travel more. Later the question was asked, what would you do differently if you found out you had only a short time to live. I answered again that I would travel more. Click, buzz, whirr…does not compute, does not compute. […] Given that I would travel more if I was to live either less or more, the probability that I was at just that level of mortality that I should not be traveling now must be vanishingly small.

Alex Tabarrok. Swap out “travel” for whatever it is that you happen to value a lot. (Got reminded about this post via Ben Casnocha.)