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“So that’s my life—or my life before I stopped sleeping—each day pretty much a repetition of the one before. I used to keep a diary, but if I forgot two or three days, I’d lose track of what had happened on which day. Yesterday could have been the day before yesterday, or vice versa. I’d sometimes wonder what kind of life this was. Which is not to say I found it empty. I was—very simply—amazed. At the lack of demarcation between the days. At the fact that I was part of such a life, a life that had swallowed me up so completely. At the fact that my footprints were being blown away before I even had the chance to turn and look at them.”

Haruki Murakami, “Sleep” in The Elephant Vanishes

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“Some of the very peasants who had most disputed with him over the hay, those whom he had wronged, and those who had wanted to deceive him, those very peasants had bowed cheerfully to him, quite obviously not bearing, and indeed unable to bear, any grudge against him, or any remorse, or any recollection even of having intended to cheat him. All that had been dissolved in the sea of joyous common toil […] Who was the labor for? What would be its fruits? Those were irrelevant and idle questions.

Levin had often admired this kind of life, had often envied the people who lived this kind of life, but today, especially under the impression of what he had seen of the relations between Ivan Parmenov and his young wife, the idea occurred to him clearly for the first time that it depended on himself alone whether or not to change his wearisome, idle, and artificial personal life for the hard-working, pure, and delightful life.”

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

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“Mama used to tell us a story about a cicada sitting high in a tree. It chirps and drinks in dew, oblivious to the praying mantis behind it. The mantis arches up its front leg to stab the cicada, but it doesn’t know an oriole perches behind it. The bird stretches out its neck to snap up the mantis for a midday meal, but its unaware of the boy who’s come into the garden with a net. Three creatures—the cicada, the mantis and the oriole—all coveted gains without being aware of the greater and inescapable danger that was coming.”

-Lisa See, Shanghai Girls

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“In your own body, don’t all the different cells know what to do? When to grow and when to stop growing? When to form certain substance and when not to—and when they form them, just how much to form, neither more nor less? Each cell is, to a certain extent, an independent chemical factory, but all draw from a common fund of raw materials brought to it by a common transportation system, all deliver wastes into common channels, and all contribute to an overall group consciousness.”

-Isaac Asimov, Foundation’s Edge

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“I am not a scrapbooker, not somebody who tried to organize what I will remember. After all, there are a lot of years I want to forget. Nor did I want to shape something after it happened […] It seemed like my interpretation of what happened would get in the way of the actual experience. I wanted to remember things as they were, and not as I created them, by choosing certain photos, or saving certain items, or labeling certain moments.

Of course, I had it all backwards. It turns out that most of what I remember are the things that accidentally did get labeled, or pulled out, or sorted. How is it possible that I can forget the dearest moments of my life? […] I never wanted to forget those things; I never thought I could forget those things. Turns out, forgetting is easy.”

-Laura McBride, We Are Called to Rise

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“Belief is both prize & battlefield, within the mind & in the mind’s mirror, the world […] If we believe that humanity may transcend tooth & claw, if we believe [diverse] races & creeds can share this world as peaceably as the orphans share their candlenut tree, if we believe leaders must be just, violence muzzled, power accountable & the riches of the Earth & its Oceans shared equitably, such a world will come to pass. I am not deceived. It is the hardest of worlds to make real. Torturous advances won over generations can be lost by a single stroke of myopic president’s pen or a vainglorious general’s sword.”

David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas