"Art gives us the knowledge that many have gone before, and had the same strange feelings and the same unanswerable questions, and that we are not alone in the art-endeavor, let alone life. It gives us the knowledge that people have always been stupid and violent and cruel, and compassionate and confused and curious and wondrous and astonished and tired. What it does not give us is answers. It gives us instead a picture. It does not ask that we analyze the picture, but that we stand before it and look, in the hope that looking might turn into gazing. For gazing will hold our attention for a very long time."
- Mary Ruefle
So there are errands and hours
when you hear your own breath -
or feel my breath coming from within you -
and register the haunt of cicadas
summering under the porch. So there is time
spooking off into the wings.
These are going to be big surgeries, bloody
gauzes of conditions, when loss
must be measured, and then
there are the outcomes, the calls
that must be made. Wouldn't we all like to avoid
being the reason for anguish, to understand
why it's so easy to cut ourselves
on our own edges?
- Margot Schilpp
from What Narrative Is For
Laws of My Nature
"The world is an illusion, but it is an illusion which we must take seriously, because it is real as far as it goes, and in those aspects of the reality which we are capable of apprehending. Our business is to wake up. We have to find ways in which to detect the whole of reality in the illusory parts which our self-centered consciousness permits us to see. We must not live thoughtlessly, taking our illusion for the complete reality, but at the same time we must not live too thoughtfully in the sense of trying to escape from the dream state. We must continually be on the watch for ways in which we may enlarge our consciousness, we must not attempt to live outside the world, which is given us, but we must somehow learn how to transform it and transfigure it. Too much 'wisdom' is as bad as too little wisdom, and there must be no magic tricks. We must learn to come to reality without the enchanter's wand and his book of the words. One must find a way of being in this world while not being of it. A way of living in time without being completely swallowed up in time."
- Aldous Huxley
from the essay "Shakespeare and His Religion", the last Huxley wrote (dictated on his death bed), published in Show Magazine in 1964 soon after his death. It was reprinted in Huxley and God: Essays
curated by Luke Storms
"The beauty of the unconscious is that it knows a great deal, whether personal or collective, but it always knows that it does not know, cannot say, dares not try to prove or assert too strongly, because what it does know is that there is always more - and all words will fall short. The contemplative is precisely the person who agrees to live in that unique kind of brightness (a combination of light and dark that is brighter still). The paradox, of course, is that it does not feel like brightness at all, but what John of the Cross calls a "luminous darkness," or others call "learned ignorance."
You cannot grow in the great art form, the integration of action and contemplation, without (1) a strong tolerance for ambiguity, (2) an ability to allow, forgive, and contain a certain degree of anxiety, and (3) a willingness to not know and not even need to know. This is how you allow and encounter mystery. All else is mere religion."
- Richard Rohr
A Lever and a Place to Stand
"The work of art, Rilke said, says to us always: You must change your life. It demands of us that we too see things as ends, not as means - that we too know them and love them for their own sake. This change is beyond us, perhaps, during the active, greedy, and powerful hours of our lives; but during the contemplative and sympathetic hours of our reading, our listening, our looking, it is surely within our power, if we choose to make it so, if we choose to let one part of our nature follow its natural desires."
- Randall Jarrell
"'Carpe diem' doesn't mean seize the day - it means something gentler and more sensible. 'Carpe diem' means pluck the day. Carpe, pluck. Seize the day would be 'cape diem,' if my school Latin serves . . . What Horace had in mind was that you should gently pull on the day's stem, as if it were, say, a wildflower or an olive, holding it with all the practiced care of your thumb and the side of your finger, which knows how to not crush easily crushed things . . . Pluck the cranberry or blueberry of the day tenderly free without damaging it, is what Horace meant - pick the day, harvest the day, reap the day, mow the day, forage the day. Don't freaking grab the day in your fist like a burger at a fairground and take a big chomping bite out of it."
- Nicholson Baker
Sometimes I think all the best poems
have been written already,
and no one has time to read them,
so why try to write more?
At other times though,
I remember how one flower
in a meadow already full of flowers
somehow adds to the general fireworks effect
as you get to the top of a hill
in Colorado, say, in high summer
and just look down at all that brimming color.
I also try to convince myself
that the smallest note of the smallest
instrument in the band,
the triangle for instance,
is important to the conductor
who stands there, pointing his finger
in the direction of the percussions,
demanding that one silvery ping.
And I decide not to stop trying,
at least not for a while, though in truth
I'd rather just sit here reading
how someone else has been acquainted
with the night already, and perfectly.
- Linda Pastan
Queen of a Rainy Country
At times poetry is the vertigo of bodies and the vertigo of speech and the vertigo of death;
the walk with eyes closed along the edge of the cliff, and the verbena in submarine gardens;
the laughter that sets on fire the rules and the holy commandments;
the descent of parachuting words onto the sands of the page;
the despair that boards a paper boat and crosses,
for forty nights and forty days, the night-sorrow sea and the day-sorrow desert;
the idolatry of the self and the desecration of the self and the dissipation of the self;
the beheading of epithets, the burial of mirrors;
the recollection of pronouns freshly cut in the garden of Epicurus, and the garden of Netzahualcoyotl;
the flute solo on the terrace of memory and the dance of flames in the cave of thought;
the migrations of millions of verbs, wings and claws, seeds and hands;
the nouns, bony and full of roots, planted on the waves of language;
the love unseen and the love unheard and the love unsaid: the love in love.
- Octavio Paz
translated by Eliot Weinberger