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The Ground Beneath Her Feet The Ground Beneath Her Feet by Salman Rushdie
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“Whenever someone who knows you disappears, you lose one version of yourself. Yourself as you were seen, as you were judged to be. Lover or enemy, mother or friend, those who know us construct us, and their several knowings slant the different facets of our characters like diamond-cutter's tools. Each such loss is a step leading to the grave, where all versions blend and end.”
Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet
“A photograph is a moral decision taken in one eighth of a second. ”
Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet
“The only people who see the whole picture,' he murmured, 'are the ones who step out of the frame.”
Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet
“Our lives disconnect and reconnect, we move on, and later we may again touch one another, again bounce away. This is the felt shape of a human life, neither simply linear nor wholly disjunctive nor endlessly bifurcating, but rather this bouncey-castle sequence of bumpings-into and tumblings-apart.”
Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet
“For a long while I have believed – this is perhaps my version of Sir Darius Xerxes Cama’s belief in a fourth function of outsideness – that in every generation there are a few souls, call them lucky or cursed, who are simply born not belonging, who come into the world semi-detached, if you like, without strong affiliation to family or location or nation or race; that there may even be millions, billions of such souls, as many non-belongers as belongers, perhaps; that, in sum, the phenomenon may be as “natural” a manifestation of human nature as its opposite, but one that has been mostly frustrated, throughout human history, by lack of opportunity.

And not only by that: for those who value stability, who fear transience, uncertainly, change, have erected a powerful system of stigmas and taboos against rootlessness, that disruptive, anti-social force, so that we mostly conform, we pretend to be motivated by loyalties and solidarities we do not really feel, we hide our secret identities beneath the false skins of those identities which bear the belongers’ seal of approval.

But the truth leaks out in our dreams; alone in our beds (because we are all alone at night, even if we do not sleep by ourselves), we soar, we fly, we flee. And in the waking dreams our societies permit, in our myths, our arts, our songs, we celebrate the non-belongers, the different ones, the outlaws, the freaks.

What we forbid ourselves we pay good money to watch, in a playhouse or a movie theater, or to read about between the secret covers of a book. Our libraries, our palaces of entertainment tell the truth. The tramp, the assassin, the rebel, the thief, the mutant, the outcast, the delinquent, the devil, the sinner, the traveler, the gangster, the runner, the mask: if we did not recognize in them our least-fulfilled needs, we would not invent them over and over again, in every place, in every language, in every time.”
Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet
“We were language's magpies by nature, stealing whatever sounded bright and shiny.”
Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet
“But love is what we want, not freedom. Who then is the unluckier man? The beloved, who is given his heart's desire and must for ever after fear its loss, or the free man, with his unlooked-for liberty, naked and alone between the captive armies of the earth?”
Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet
“I want more than what I want. (Vina Apsara)”
Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet
“In spite of all evidence that life is discontinuous, a valley of rifts, and that random chance plays a great part in our fates, we go on believing in the continuity of things, in causation and meaning. But we live on a broken mirror, and fresh cracks appear in its surface every day. ”
Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet
“Only under extreme pressure can we change into that which it is in our most profound nature to become . . .

That is what people get wrong about transformation. We're not all shallow proteans, forever shifting shape. We're not science fiction. It's like when coal becomes diamond. It doesn't afterwards retain the possibility of change. Squeeze it as hard as you like, it won't turn into a rubber ball, or a Quattro Stagione pizza, or a self-portrait by Rembrandt. It's done.”
Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet
“My parents gave me the gift of irreligion, of growing up without bothering to ask people what gods they held dear, assuming that in fact, like my parents, they weren't interested in gods, and that this uninterest was 'normal.' You may argue that the gift was a poisoned chalice, but even if so, that's a cup from which I'd happily drink again.”
Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet
“People don't like being around despair. Our tolerance for the truly hopeless, for those who are irredeemably broken by life is strictly limited. The sob stories we like are the ones that end before we're bored.”
Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet
“When you know what you're against you have taken the first step to discovering what you're for.”
Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet
“Things aren't like this," he kept repeating. "It shouldn't be this way." As if he had access to some other plane of existence, some parallel, "right" universe, and had sensed that our time had somehow been put out of joint. Such was his vehemence that I found myself believing him, believing, for example, in the possibility of that other life in which Vina had never left and we were making our lives together, all three of us, ascending together to the stars. Then he shook his head, and the spell broke. He opened his eyes, grinning ruefully. As if he knew his thoughts had infected mine. As if he knew his power. "Better get on with it," he said. "Make do with what there is.”
Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet
“...for those who value stability, who fear transience, uncertainty, change, have erected a powerful system of stigmas and taboos against rootlessness, that disruptive, anti-social force, so that we mostly conform, we pretend to be motivated by loyalties and solidarities we do not really feel, we hide our secret identities beneath the false skins of those identities which bear the belongers' seal of approval. But the truth leaks out in our dreams; alone in our beds (because we are all alone at night, even if we do not sleep by ourselves), we soar, we fly, we flee. And in the waking dreams our societies permit, in our myths, our arts, our songs, we celbrate the non-belongers, the different ones, the outlaws, the freaks. What we forbid ourselves we pay good money to watch, in a playhouse or movie theatre, or to read about between the secret covers of a book. Our libraries, our palaces of entertainment tell the truth. The tramp, the assassin, the rebel, the thief, the mutant, the outcast, the delinquent, the devil, the sinner, the traveller, the gangster, the runner, the mask: if we did not recognize in them our least-fulfilled needs, we would not invent them over and over again, in every place, in every language, in every time.”
Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet
“My heart broke open and history fell in.”
Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet
“When we stop believing in the gods we can start believing in their stories.”
Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet
“They lived in a great city, a metropolis of many narratives that converged briefly and then separated for ever, discovering their different dooms in that crowd of stories through which all of us, following our own destinies, had to push and shove to find our way through, or out. ”
Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet
“Once you have been in an earthquake you know, even if you survive without a scratch, that like a stroke in the heart, it remains in the earth's breast, horribly potential, always promising to return, to hit you again, with an even more devastating force. ”
Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet
“When we stop believing in gods we can start believing in their stories, I retort. There are of course no such things as miracles, but if there were and so tomorrow we woke up to find no more believers on earth, no more devout Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, why then, sure the beauty of the stories would be a thing we could focus on because they wouldn't be dangerous any more, they would become capable of compelling the only belief that leads to truth, that is, the willing, disbelieving of the reader in a well-told tale.”
Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet
“One either loves, or waits for love, or banishes love for good. That is the full range of possible choices.”
Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet
“Too many people spouting too many words, and in the end those words will turn to bullets and stones.”
Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet
“The only people who see the whole picture are the ones who step outside the frame.”
Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet
“The point is always reached after which the gods no longer share their lives with mortal men and women, they die or wither away or retire... Now that they've gone, the high drama's over. What remains is ordinary human life.”
Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet
“What's a „culture“? Look it up. „A group of micro-organisms grown in a nutrient substance under controlled conditions“. A squirm of germs on a glass slide is all, a laboratory experiment calling itself a society. Most of us wrigglers make do with life on the slide; we even agree to feel proud of that „culture“. Like slaves voting for slavery or brains for lobotomy, we kneel down before the god of all moronic micro-organisms and pray to be homogenized or killed or engineered; we promise to obey.”
Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet
“When you're whirling free of the mother ship, when you cut your ropes, slip your chain, step off the map, go absent without leave, scram, vamoose, whatever; suppose that it's then, and only then, that you're actually free to act! To lead the life nobody tells you how to live, or when, or why. In which nobody orders you to go forth and die for them, or for god, or comes to get you because you broke one of the rules, or because you're one of the people who are, for reasons which unfortunately you can't be given, simply not allowed. Suppose you've got to go through the feeling of being lost, into the chaos and beyond; you've got to accept the loneliness, the wild panic of losing your moorings, the vertiginous terror of the horizon spinning round and round like the edge of a coin tossed in the air.”
Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet
“You'll say things all wrong but they'll at once become American ways of saying things. You won't know shit but it'll right away become an American type of ignorance. Not belonging, that's an old American tradition, see?, that's the American way.”
Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet
“They were deeply in love, which beats earplugs.”
Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet
“Faced with the blazing magnificence of the everyday, the artist is both humbled and provoked. There are photographs now of events on an unimaginable scale [...] When we look at these images, there is, yes, legitimate wonderment at our own lengthening reach and grasp. But it would be vain indeed to praise our puny handiwork--the mastery of the Hubble wielders, the computer enhancers, the colorizers, all the true-life-fantasist counterparts of Hollywood's techno-wizards and imagineers--when the universe is putting on so utterly unanswerable a show. Before the majesty of being, what is there to do but hang our heads?”
Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet
“to admit we do not understand a phenomenon is not to admit the presence of the miraculous but merely, reasonably, to accept the limitations of human knowledge. God was invented to explain what our ancestors couldn't comprehend: the radiant mystery of being. The existence of the incomprehensible, however, is not a proof of god.”
Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet

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