‘Levels of Life’ quotes

You put together two things that have not been put together before. And the world is changed. People may not notice at the time, but that doesn’t matter. The world has been changed nonetheless. 1 [The Sin of Height]

In the beginning, birds flew, and God made the birds. Angels flew and God made the angels. Men and women had long legs and empty backs, and God had made them like that for a reason. To mess with flight was to mess with God. It was to prove a long struggle, full of instructive legends. 11

Aeronautics and photography were scientific advances with practical civic consequences. And yet, in their early years, an aura of mystery and magic surrounded each of them. 23

Perhaps the world progresses not by maturing, but by being in a permanent state of adolescence, of thrilled discovery. 25-6

You put two things together that have not been put together before; and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. 31 [On the Level]

So why do we constantly aspire to love? Because love is the meeting point of truth and magic. Truth, as in photography; magic, as in ballooning. 37

“I shall love you for as long as I shall love you.” What lover could ask for more? 61

One grief throws no light upon another. 70

[…] discovered that, on top of (or, perhaps, beneath) all the predictable ways, I had also missed her morally. This came as a surprise, but maybe it shouldn’t have. Love may not lad where we think or hope, but regardless of outcome it should be a call to seriousness and truth. If it is not that – if it is not moral in its effect – then love is no more than an exaggerated form of pleasure. Whereas grief, love’s opposite, dos not seem to occupy a moral space. The defensive, curled position it forces us into if we are to survive makes us more selfish […] You can no longer hear yourself living. 82

We live on the flat, on the level, and yet – and so – we aspire. Groundlings, we can sometimes reach as far as the gods. Some soar with art, others with religion; most with love. But when we soar, we can also crash. There are few soft landings. We may find ourselves bouncing across the ground with leg-fracturing force, dragged towards some foreign railway line. Every love story is a potential grief story. If not at first, then later. If not for one, then for the other. Sometimes for both.


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