"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
A crow flew into the tree outside my window.
It was not Ted Hughes's crow, or Galway's crow.
Or Frost's, Pasternak's, or Lorca's crow.
Or one of Homer's crows, stuffed with gore,
after the battle. This was just a crow.
That never fit in anywhere in its life,
or did anything worth mentioning.
It sat there on the branch for a few minutes.
Then picked up and flew beautifully
out of my life.
- Raymond Carver
"It's one thing to develop a nostalgia for home while you're boozing with Yankee writers in Martha's Vineyard or being chased by the bulls in Pamplona. It's something else to go home and visit with the folks in Reed's drugstore on the square and actually listen to them. The reason you can't go home again is not because the down-home folks are mad at you - they're not, don't flatter yourself, they couldn't care less - but because once you're in orbit and you return to Reed's drugstore on the square, you can stand no more than fifteen minutes of the conversation before you head for the woods, head for the liquor store, or head back to Martha's Vineyard, where at least you can put a tolerable and saving distance between you and home. Home may be where the heart is but it's no place to spend Wednesday afternoon."
- Walker Percy
Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book
"According to a contemporary critic, it is morbid to confess your sins. I should say the morbid thing is not to confess them. The morbid thing is to conceal your sins and let them eat your heart out, which is the happy state of most people in highly civilized societies."
beyond the fields we know
After Reading Tu Fu, I Go Outside to the Dwarf Orchard
How deeper than elsewhere the dusk is in your own yard.
Birds fly back and forth across the lawn
looking for home
As night drifts up like a little boat.
Day after day, I become of less use to myself.
Like this mockingbird,
I flit from one thing to the next.
What do I have to look forward to at fifty-four?
Tomorrow is dark.
Day-after-tomorrow is darker still.
The sky dogs are whimpering.
Fireflies are dragging the hush of evening
up from the damp grass.
Into the world's tumult, into the chaos of every day,
Go quietly, quietly.
- Charles Wright
"Here in lies the problem of pursuing a new level of consciousness. It has to be done using the only tool we have - our current level of consciousness."
"And certain things around us will change, become easier or harder, one thing or the other, but nothing will ever really be any different. I believe that. We have made our decisions, our lives have been set in motion, and they will go on and on until they stop. But if that is true, then what? I mean, what if you believe that, but you keep it covered up, until one day something happens that should change something, but then you see nothing is going to change after all. What then? Meanwhile, the people around you continue to talk and act as if you were the same person as yesterday, or last night, or five minutes before, but you are really undergoing a crisis, your heart feels damaged."
"There is no insurmountable solitude. All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. And we must pass through solitude and difficulty, isolation and silence in order to reach forth to the enchanted place where we can dance our clumsy dance and sing our sorrowful song - but in this dance or in this song there are fulfilled the most ancient rites of our conscience in the awareness of being human and of believing in a common destiny."
"Lastly, I wish to say to the people of good will, to the workers, to the poets, that the whole future has been expressed in this line by Rimbaud: only with a burning patience can we conquer the splendid City which will give light, justice and dignity to all mankind."
- Pablo Neruda
There was a fence with spaces you
could look through if you wanted to.
An architect who saw this thing
stood there one summer evening.
Took out the spaces with great care.
And built a castle in the air.
The fence was utterly dumbfounded -
Each post stood there with nothing round it.
- Christian Morgenstern
"People who speak or act in an ordinary fashion are most likely to be those who have been the recipients of higher experiences. But because they do not rage around, wild-eyed, people think that they are very ordinary folk and therefore not aware of anything unknown to the general run of man."
"My mother forbade us to walk backwards. That is how the dead walk, she would say. Where did she get this idea? Perhaps from a bad translation. The dead, after all, do not walk backwards but they do walk behind us. They have no lungs and cannot call out but would love for us to turn around. They are victims of love, many of them."
The Best Time Of The Day
Fruit in the bowl.
And your head on my shoulder.
These the happiest moments in the day.
Next to the early morning hours,
And the time
just before lunch.
And the afternoon, and
early evening hours.
But I do love
these summer nights.
Even more, I think,
than those other times.
The work finished for the day.
And no one who can reach us now.
- Raymond Carver
"As in nature, the soul and the spirit have resources that are astonishing. Like wolves and other creatures, the soul and spirit are able to thrive on very little, and sometimes for a long time on nothing. To me, it is the miracle of miracles that this is so."
- Clarissa Pinkola Estés
"It has taken me all these years to make the simplest discovery: that I am surrounded by two classes of maniacs. The first are the believers, who think they know the reason why we find ourselves in this ludicrous predicament yet act for all the world as if they don't. The second are the unbelievers, who don't know the reason and don't care if they don't."
- Walker Percy
The Second Coming