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"But that night, after the bonfire and the fireworks had faded, a wind grew and blew with gathering violence, blowing away the rain. And in the morning I found one of the laurelled posts torn off and lying at random on the rainy ground; while the other stood erect, green and glittering in the sun. I thought that the pagans would certainly have called it an omen; and it was one that strangely fitted my own sense of some great work half fulfilled and half frustrated. And I thought vaguely of that man in Virgil, who prayed that he might slay his foe and return to his country; and the gods heard half the prayer, and the other half was scattered to the winds. For I knew we were right to rejoice; since the tyrant was indeed slain and his tyranny fallen forever; but I know not when we shall find our way back to our own land."
- G. K. Chesterton

Rene Magritte: La condition humaine, 1935

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ACM SIGSOFT Passages Columns

NASA/JPL Laboratory for Reliable Software (LaRS)

Thesis [PDF]

Comments and questions to


Interviewer: You've lived a fairly privileged life. Why such despair?
Walker Percy: Who says I despair? That is to say, I would reverse Kierkegaard's aphorism that the worst despair is that despair which is unconscious of itself as despair, and instead say that the best despair and the beginning of hope is to be conscious of despair in the very air we breathe, and to look around for something better. I like to eat crawfish and drink beer. That's despair?