R. Musil – The Man Without Qualities

In the country, he thought, the gods still come to people. A man matters, his experiences matter, but in the city, where experiences come by the thousands, we can no longer relate them to ourselves; and this is of course the beginning of life’s notorious turning into abstraction.

But even as he thought all this, he was also aware of how this abstraction extended a man’s power a thousandfold and how, even if from the point of view of any given detail it diluted him tenfold, as a whole it expanded him a hundredfold, and there could be no question of turning the wheel backward.

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R. Musil – The Man Without Qualities

Why are we satisfied to speak
vaguely of a red nose, without specifying what shade of red, even
though degrees of red can be stated precisely to the micromillimeter
of a wavelength, while with something so infinitely more compli-
eatedas what city one happens to be in, we always insist on knowing
exactly?

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