Consciousness is a very special phenomenon, because it is part of the world and contains it at the same time. All our data indicate that consciousness is part of the physical universe and is an evolving biological phenomenon. Conscious experience, however, is much more than physics plus biology—more than a fantastically complex, dancing pattern of neural firing in your brain. What sets human consciousness apart from other biologically evolved phenomena is that it makes a reality appear within itself. It creates inwardness; the life process has become aware of itself.
—  The Ego Tunnel by Thomas Metzinger
At times he heard within him a soft, gentle voice, which reminded him quietly, complained quietly, so that he could hardly hear it. Then he suddenly saw clearly that he was leading a strange life, that he was doing many things that were only a game, that he was quite cheerful and sometimes experienced pleasure, but that real life was flowing past him and did not touch him. Like a player who plays with his ball, he played with his business, with the people around him, watched them, derived amusement from them; but with his heart, with his real nature, he was not there.
His real self wandered elsewhere, far away, wandered on and on invisibly and had nothing to do with his life. He was sometimes afraid of these thoughts and wished that he could also share their childish daily affairs with intensity, truly to take part in them, to enjoy and live their lives instead of only being there as an onlooker.
—  Herman Hesse, Siddartha

love can never be bound. even when we think we have got it in a bottle, it is an illusion… love isn’t something to be caught, but something to admire and to embrace with passion and release with grace whenever the time comes. i don’t believe that love should ever resemble any sort of institution, and if it does, then something is wrong.

In a conversation with an interesting person, we endeavour to get at his fundamental ideas and feelings. We do not bother about the
words he uses, nor the spelling of those words, nor the breath
necessary for speaking them, nor the movements of his tongue and
lips, nor the psychological working on our brain, nor the
physical sound in our ear, nor the physiological effect on our
nerves. We realize that these things, though interesting and
important, are not the main things of the moment, but that the
meaning and idea is what concerns us. We should have the same
feeling when confronted with a work of art. When this becomes
general the artist will be able to dispense with natural form and
colour and speak in purely artistic language
—  Wassily Kandinsky’s Concerning the Spiritual in Art
Yet all the knowledge on earth will give me nothing to assure me that this world is mine. You describe it to me and you teach me to classify it. You enumerate its laws and in my thirst for knowledge I admit that they are true. You take apart its mechanism and my hope increases. At the final stage you teach me that his wondrous and multi-coloured universe can be reduced to the atom and that the atom itself can be reduced to the electron. All this is good and I wait for you to continue. But you tell me of an invisible planetary system in which electrons gravitate around a nucleus. You explain this world to me with an image. I realize then that you have been reduced to poetry; I shall never know. Have I the time to become indignant? You have already changed theories. So that science that was to teach me everything ends up in a hypothesis, that lucidity founders in metaphor, that uncertainty is resolved in a work of art. What need had I of so many efforts? The soft lines of these hills and the hand of evening on this troubled heart teach me much more. I have returned to my beginning. I realize that if through science I can seize phenomena and enumerate them, I cannot for all that apprehend the world. Were I to trace its entire relief with my finger, I should not know any more. And you give me the choice between a description that is sure but that teaches me nothing and hypotheses that claim to teach me but that are not sure. A stranger to myself and to the world, armed solely with a thought that negates itself as soon as it asserts, what is this condition in which I can have peace only by refusing to know and to live, in which the appetite for conquest bumps into walls that defy its assaults? To will is to stir up paradoxes. Everything is ordered in such a way as to bring into being that poisoned peace produced by thoughtlessness, lack of heart or fatal renunciations.

Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus

The atomists, unlike Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, sought to explain the world without introducing the notion of purpose or final cause. The “final cause” of an occurrence is an event in the future for the sake of which the occurrence takes place. In human affairs, this conception is applicable. Why does the baker make bread? Because people will be hungry. Why are railways built? Because people will wish to travel. In such cases, things are explained by the purpose they serve. When we ask “why?” concerning an event, we may mean either of two things. We may mean: “What purpose did this event serve?” or we may mean: “What earlier circumstances caused this event?” The answer to the former question is a teleological explanation, or an explanation by final causes; the answer to the latter question is mechanistic explanation. I do not see how it could have been known in advance which of these two questions science ought to ask, or whether it ought to be both. But experience has shown that the mechanistic question leads to scientific knowledge, while the teleological question does not. The atomists asked the mechanistic question, and gave a mechanistic answer. Their successors, until the Renaissance, were more interested in the teleological question, and thus lead science up a blind alley.
—  The History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell
That’s because some sense of dignity remains in them. They’re still human beings. But they’ve been taught to seek themselves in others. Yet no man can achieve the kind of absolute humility that would need no self-esteem in any form. He wouldn’t survive. So after centuries of being pounded with the doctrine that altruism is the ultimate ideal, men have accepted it in the only way it could be accepted. By seeking self-esteem through others. By living second-hand. And it has opened the way for every kind of horror. It has become the dreadful form of selfishness which a truly selfish man couldn’t have conceived. And now, to cure a world perishing from selflessness, we’re asked to destroy the self. Listen to what is being preached today. Look at everyone around us. You’ve wondered why they suffer, why they seek happiness and never find it. If any man stopped and asked himself whether he’s ever held a truly personal desire, he’d find an answer. He’d see that all his wishes, his efforts, his dreams, his ambitions are motivated by other men. He’s not even struggling for material wealth, but for the second-hander’s delusion—prestige. A stamp of approval, not his own. He can find no joy in the struggle and no joy when he has succeeded. He can’t say about a single thing: ‘This is what I wanted because I wanted it, not because it made my neighbors gape at me. Then he wonders why he’s unhappy. Every form of happiness is private. Our greatest moments are personal, self-motivated, not to be touched. The things which are sacred or precious to us are the things we withdraw from promiscuous sharing. But now we are taught to throw everything within us into public light and common pawing. To seek joy in meeting halls. We haven’t even got a word for the quality I mean—for the self-sufficiency of man’s spirit. It’s difficult to call it selfishness or egotism, the words have been perverted, they’ve come to mean Peter Keating. Gail, I think the only cardinal evil on earth is that of placing your prime concern within other men. I’ve always demanded a certain quality in the people I liked. I’ve always recognized it at once—and it’s the only quality I respect in men. I chose my friends by that. Now I know what it is. A self-sufficient ego. Nothing else matters.
—  The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
I believe the universe wants to be noticed. I think the universe is improbably biased toward the consciousness, that it rewards intelligence in part because the universe enjoys its elegance being observed. And who am I, living in the middle of history, to tell the universe that it-or my observation of it-is temporary?

The Fault in Our Stars

John Green

How could he have known? How could he have gauged it? Any schoolboy can do experiments in the physics laboratory to test various scientific hypotheses. But man, because he has only one life to live, cannot conduct experiments to test whether to follow his passion (compassion) or not.
—  The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera