Day 152: Susan Sontag

From her speech “At the Same Time: The Novelist and Moral Reasoning”:


To tell a story is to say: this is the important story. It is to reduce the spread and simultaneity of everything to something linear, a path.

To be a moral human being is to pay, be obliged to pay, certain kinds of attention.

When we make moral judgments, we are not just saying that this is better than that. Even more fundamentally, we are saying that this is more important than that. It is to order the overwhelming spread and simultaneity of everything, at the price of ignoring or turning our backs on most of what is happening in the world.

The nature of moral judgments depends on our capacity for paying attention — a capacity that, inevitably, has its limits but whose limits can be stretched.

Day 104: Notebook entry from May 24, 2017

Chade-Meng Tan, mindfulness trainer at Google, has an exercise he calls “just note gone.” He instructs, notice the end of an experience and its subsequent absence. After a bell rings, notice the absence of bell sound after the vibrations decay. After a deer vanishes in the woods, note that is now missing from where it was. Attend to absence.

And so in writing, attend to the narrative negative space. Invoke the hole in experience when something ends.

Inverse noticing. Notice not what is newly present—change by addition—but what is newly absent—change by subtraction.