“However used to fame a great artist may be, he cannot be insensible to a sincere compliment, especially when that compliment is like a cry of gratitude.” “After silence that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music,” Aldous Huxley wrote in his enthralling meditation on the power of music, adding: “When the inexpressible had to be expressed, Shakespeare laid down his pen and called for music.” Nietzsche believed that “without music life would be a mistake” — perhaps the most extreme addition to the extensive canon of great writers extolling the power of music.
“We rise in power and make a difference in the world due to what is best about human nature, but we fall from power due to what is worst.” “There are many fine things which we cannot say if we have to shout,” Thoreau wrote as he contemplated how silence ennobles speech.
“All goes onward and outward … and nothing collapses, and to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.” My recent immersion in James Gleick’s exquisite inquiry into how our fascination with time travel mediates our anxiety about mortality reawakened in my conscience a few lines from Walt Whitman’s 1855 masterpiece Leaves of Grass (public library | public domain).
“Every moment alters what came before. We reach across layers of time for the memories of our memories.” “Both in thought and in feeling, even though time be real, to realise the unimportance of time is the gate of wisdom,” Bertrand Russell in 1931 as he made his beautiful case for “a largeness of contemplation” in contemplating the nature of time.
“Love one another but make not a bond of love: let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.” “What’s the use of falling in love if you both remain inertly as-you-were?
“A tree can be only as strong as the forest that surrounds it.” Trees dominate the world’s the oldest living organisms.
Imaginative assurance that we are worthy of love just as we are. In what remains the greatest definition of love, Tom Stoppard described the real thing as “knowledge of each other, not of the flesh but through the flesh, knowledge of self, the real him, the real her, in extremis, the mask slipped from the face.” And yet the grandest paradox of love — the source of its necessary frustration, the root of the inescapable lover’s sulk — is our insistence on crafting and putting on ever more elaborate masks under the mistaken belief that these idealized selves, presented to the object of our infatuation, would render us more desirable and worthier of love.
“Memory is the seamstress, and a capricious one at that. Memory runs her needle in and out, up and down, hither and thither.” “In these all-seeing days, the traffic between memory and forgetting becomes untrackable,” Teju Cole wrote in his beautiful essay on photography and “our paradoxical memorial impulses.” But what is memory, exactly?
Reflection on “the rock on which Freedom stumped its toe.” The African American poet, essayist, playwright, novelist, and jazz poetry pioneer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902–May 22, 1967) was in a sense the William Blake of his generation — like Blake, he was endowed with a rare poetic genius that incurred merciless ridicule by the era’s critics and was often wholly ignored by the public.
“What you yourself can suffer is the utmost that can be suffered on earth. If you starve to death you experience all the starvation that ever has been or ever can be.” “Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself,” C.S.
In praise of “the gaiety of those who have nothing more to lose and so excel at giving.” The weather has seeded our earliest myths, inspired some of our greatest art, and even affects the way we think.
“Those who tell you ‘Do not put too much politics in your art’ are not being honest. If you look very carefully you will see that they are the same people who are quite happy with the situation as it is… What they are saying is don’t upset the system.” “Art,” Jeanette Winterson told an interviewer, “can make a difference because it pulls people up short.
“If exposure is essential, still more so is the reflection. Insight doesn’t happen often on the click of the moment, like a lucky snapshot, but comes in its own time and more slowly and from nowhere but within.” “When we learned to speak to, and listen to, rather than to strike or be struck by, our fellow human beings, we found something worth keeping alive, worth possessing, for the rest of time,” Eudora Welty (April 13, 1909–July 23, 2001) wrote in her beautiful reflection on how friendship helped human language evolve.
“Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire.” “If our heart were large enough to love life in all its detail, we would see that every instant is at once a giver and a plunderer,” the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard wrote in contemplating our paradoxical experience of time in the early 1930s.
A heartening testament to “the triumph of meritocracy” and to the idea that “each of us should be allowed to rise as far as our talent and hard work can take us.” “No woman should say, ‘I am but a woman!
“If we are to live and have something to live for, let us remember, all of us, that we are the servants as well as the masters of our fields.” “Farm work is one of the best jobs for getting to know people as they really are,” young Sylvia Plath wrote in reflecting on how her formative job as a farmer shaped her as a writer.
A simple, assuring invitation into releasing the resistance to one of the most life-expanding practices possible.
“That’s the thing about success… it’s only satisfying if it’s defined by you and influenced most deeply by the people you love and trust.” “The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge,” Bertrand Russell wrote in 1925 as he explored how we limit our happiness, cautioning: “Neither love without knowledge, nor knowledge without love can produce a good life.” But something in the near-century since — the so-called “century of the self” — made us deviate further and further away from these parallel pillars of the good life, misled by the increasingly limiting mythos of success seeded by the rise of consumer culture.
“Genius is nothing more nor less than childhood recovered at will.” “Children … are the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and generally congenial readers on earth,” E.B.
“Name and form are made by thinking. Water does not say, ‘I am water.’ Steam does not say, ‘I am steam.’” “To lament that we shall not be alive a hundred years hence, is the same folly as to be sorry we were not alive a hundred years ago,” Montaigne observed as he contemplated death and the art of living in the sixteenth century.