What demon possessed me that I behaved so well?

The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good behavior. What demon possessed me that I behaved so well? You may say the wisest thing you can, old man–you who have lived seventy years, not without honor of a kind–I hear an irresistible voice which invites me away from all that. One generation abandons the enterprises of another like stranded vessels.

—Henry David Thoreau. “Economy.” Walden; or, Life in the Woods.

It is always now

But, no matter what they do, keep walking, keep moving. And don’t wear a watch. Hell, Indians never need to wear a watch because your skeletons will always remind you about the time. See, it is always now. That’s what Indian time is. The past, the future, all of it is wrapped up in the now. That’s how it is. We are trapped in the now.

—Sherman Alexie. “A Drug Called Tradition.” The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.

Indians can reside in the city, but they can never live there

When I got back to the reservation, my family wasn’t surprised to see me. They’d been expecting me back since the day I left for Seattle. There’s an old Indian poet who said that Indians can reside in the city, but they can never live there. That’s as close to the truth as any of us can get.

—Sherman Alexie. “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.” The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.

The people on the edge see them first

Finnerty shook his head. “He’d pull me back into the center, and I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.” He nodded. “Big, undreamed-of things–the people on the edge see them first.”

—Kurt Vonnegut. Player Piano.

A one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind

“Nobody’s so damn well educated that you can’t learn ninety per cent of what he knows in six weeks. The other ten per cent is decoration.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Show me a specialist, and I’ll show you a man who’s so scared he’s dug a hole for himself to hide in.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Almost nobody’s competent, Paul. It’s enough to make you cry to see how bad most people are at their jobs. If you can do a half-assed job of anything, you’re a one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind.

—Kurt Vonnegut. Player Piano.

Critics, bureaucrats, gatekeepers, form-fillers

If you seek out critics, bureaucrats, gatekeepers, form-fillers, and by-the-book bosses when you’re looking for feedback, should you be surprised that you end up doing the things that please them?

They have the attitude that there is an endless line of cogs just like you, and you better fit in, bow down, and do what you’re told, or they’ll just go to the next person in line.

Without your consent, they can’t hold on to the status quo, can’t make you miserable, can’t maintain their hold on power. It’s up to you. You can spend your time on stage pleasing the heckler in the back, or you can devote it to the audience that came to hear you perform.

—Seth Godin. Linchpin.