The Frontal Cortex

Quote of the Day

From Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz:

Sooner of later, everyone discovers that perfect happiness is unrealizable, but there are few who pause to consider the antithesis: that perfect unhappiness is equally unattainable. The obstacles preventing the realization of both these extreme states are of the same nature: they derive from our human condition which is opposed to everything infinite.

Needless to say, this quote is neurochemically accurate. The brain is an equilibrium machine.


  1. #1 Barry
    September 7, 2007

    Accurate, but not necessarily of practical value – I’m sure that many people who went through Auschwitz would state that the unhappiness there was sufficient to qualify as perfect unhappiness.

  2. #2 mattbucher
    September 7, 2007

    How can you say that Auschwitz is “perfect unhappiness” if someone who was there says it was not? That’s beside Levi’s point, actually. The concept of “perfect unhappiness” is as naive and illogical as absolute “perfect happiness.” They are both undefinable and unattainable.

  3. #3 Jonah
    September 7, 2007

    One of the more illuminating aspects of Levi’s holocaust writing is that he shows how, even in hell on earth (Auschwitz), people are still people. They still fall in love, and steal, and get upset about petty matters. Even in a concentration camp, there’s romance and arguments and generosity. In other words, even when everything has been done to dehumanize us, we are still humans.

  4. #4 Daniel
    September 18, 2007

    With my increasing age and experience, this as kind of thinking has occurred to me, as well. We feel joy and sadness, each together, in contrast, and cannot know either without the other. We are aware of pain and pleasure, repose and struggle, light and darkness only because of their contrasting natures.

    Peace is not really a happy kingdom with a wise ruler; peace is really an equilibrium of tensions and a synchronization of rythms, which includes and accounts for all that is good and bad in the world and in the human heart.

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