"My theory is that the purpose of art is to transmit universal truths of a sort, but of a particular sort, that in art, whether it's poetry, fiction or painting, you are telling the reader or listener or viewer something he already knows but which he doesn't quite know that he knows, so that in the action of communication he experiences a recognition, a feeling that he has been there before, a shock of recognition. And so, what the artist does, or tries to do, is simply to validate the human experience and to tell people the deep human truths which they already unconsciously know."
Within this tree
inhabits the same body;
within this stone
another stone rests,
its many shades of grey
surface and weight.
And within my body,
whose history, waiting,
sings; there is no other body,
there is no other world.
- Jane Hirshfield
"In the beginning was the dream. In the eternal night where no dawn broke, the dream deepened. Before anything ever was, it had to be dreamed. Everything had its beginning in possibility. Every single thing is somehow the expression and incarnation of a thought. If a thing had never been thought, it could never be. If we take Nature as the great artist of longing then all presences in the world have emerged from her mind and imagination. We are children of the earth's dreaming. When you compare the silent, under-night of Nature with the detached and intimate intensity of the person, it is almost as if Nature is in dream and we are her children who have broken through the dawn into time and place. Fashioned in the dreaming of the clay, we are always somehow haunted by that; we are unable ever finally to decide what is dream and what is reality. Each day we live in what we call reality. Yet the more we think about it, the more life seems to resemble a dream. We rush through our days in such stress and intensity, as if we were here to stay and the serious project of the world depended on us. We worry and grow anxious; we magnify trivia until they become important enough to control our lives. Yet all the time, we have forgotten that we are but temporary sojourners on the surface of a strange planet spinning slowly in the infinite night of the cosmos. There is no protective zone around any of us. Anything can happen to anyone at any time. There is no definitive dividing line between reality and dream. What we consider real is often precariously dreamlike. One of the linguistic philosophers said that there is no evidence that could be employed to disprove this claim: The world only came into existence ten minutes ago complete with all our memories. Any evidence you could proffer could still be accounted for by the claim. Because our grip on reality is tenuous, every heart is infused with the dream of belonging."
"We are humanity, Kant says. Humanity needs us because we are it. Kant believes in duty and considers remaining alive a primary human duty. For him one is not permitted to "renounce his personality," and while he states living as a duty, it also conveys a kind of freedom: we are not burdened with the obligation of judging whether our personality is worth maintaining, whether our life is worth living. Because living it is a duty, we are performing a good moral act just by persevering."
When they die we change our minds
about them. While they live we see
the plenty hard they're trying,
to be a star, or nice, or wise,
and so we do not quite believe them.
When they die, suddenly they are
what they claimed. Turns out,
that's what one of those looks like.
The cold war over manner of manly
or mission is over. Same person,
same facts and acts, just now
a quiet brain stem. We no longer
begrudge his or her stupid luck.
When they die we change our minds
about them. I will try to believe
while you yet breathe.
- Jennifer Michael Hecht
"Death is the epitome of the truth that in each moment we are thrust into the unknown. Here all clinging to security is compelled to cease, and whenever the past is dropped away and safety abandoned, life is renewed. Death is the unknown in which all of us lived before birth.
Nothing is more creative than death, since it is the whole secret of life. It means that the past must be abandoned, that the unknown cannot be avoided, that "I" cannot continue, and that nothing can be ultimately fixed. When a man knows this, he lives for the first time in his life. By holding his breath, he loses it. By letting it go he finds it."
- Alan Watts
The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety
"We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here. We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred?"
- Richard Dawkins
Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder