“In all its manifestations and however it is produced, not-love tends to beget not-love. The energy of love is needed to reconvert not-love into love.” “Construction and destruction alike satisfy the will to power,” Bertrand Russell wrote in 1926, “but construction is more difficult as a rule, and therefore gives more satisfaction to the person who can achieve it.” And yet, again and again, we slide down the easier path of destruction, among and within ourselves, in our political and our personal lives.
“We forget that nature itself is one vast miracle transcending the reality of night and nothingness. We forget that each one of us in his personal life repeats that miracle.” In his beautiful 1948 manifesto for breaking the tyranny of technology and relearning to be nourished by nature, Henry Beston lamented: “What has come over our age is an alienation from Nature unexampled in human history.
“Fundamental physics shows how hard it is for us to grasp even the simplest things in the world. That makes you quite skeptical whenever someone declares he has the key to some deeper reality.” “We have a hunger of the mind which asks for knowledge of all around us, and the more we gain, the more is our desire,” trailblazing astronomer Maria Mitchell observed in contemplating science, religion, and our conquest of truth at the end of the nineteenth century.
“Light gives light because it is its nature.” “I sometimes ask myself whether I would be studying galaxies if they were ugly… I think it may not be irrelevant that galaxies are really very attractive,” Vera Rubin, who confirmed the existence of dark matter, pondered in her most extensive interview.
“[The artist’s] function is to make his imagination … become the light in the minds of others. His role, in short, is to help people to live their lives.” “A society must assume that it is stable,” James Baldwin wrote in his timeless treatise on the creative process, “but the artist must know, and he must let us know, that there is nothing stable under heaven.” And yet, paradoxically, in the very act of exposing the abiding instability of existence, art moors us to a sense of the eternal and becalms our momentary tumults against the raging ocean that has always washed, and will always wash, the shoreline of the human spirit.
From Blake to biochemistry, “proof that we cannot put our feelings in one place and our thoughts in another.” “Emotions are not just the fuel that powers the psychological mechanism of a reasoning creature, they are parts, highly complex and messy parts, of this creature’s reasoning itself,” philosopher Martha Nussbaum wrote in her incisive treatise on the intelligence of emotions, titled after Proust’s powerful poetic image depicting the emotions as “geologic upheavals of thought.” But much of the messiness of our emotions comes from the inverse: Our thoughts, in a sense, are geologic upheavals of feeling — an immensity of our reasoning is devoted to making sense of, or rationalizing, the emotional patters that underpin our intuitive responses to the world and therefore shape our very reality.
“There is [a] human right which is infrequently mentioned but which seems to be destined to become very important: this is the right, or the duty, of the individual to abstain from cooperating in activities which he considers wrong or pernicious.” “We must mend what has been torn apart, make justice imaginable again in a world so obviously unjust, give happiness a meaning once more,” Albert Camus wrote in reflecting on strength of character in turbulent times as WWII’s maelstrom of deadly injustice engulfed Europe.
“The self is a style of being, continually expanding in a vital process of definition, affirmation, revision, and growth, a process that is the image, we may say, of the life process of a healthy society itself.” “No one can build you the bridge on which you, and only you, must cross the river of life,” 30-year-old Nietzsche wrote in his treatise on how to find yourself.
“Books feed and cure and chortle and collide.” “Someone reading a book is a sign of order in the world,” wrote the poet Mary Ruefle.
“Genius has to be founded on major talent, but it adds a freshness and wildness of imagination, a raging ambition, an unusual gift for learning and growing, a depth and breadth of thought and spirit…” The question of whether talent and genius differ in degree or in kind is an abiding one, and often discomfiting for any creative person to contemplate — we don’t, after all, like to consider that we might be merely endowed with talent but bereft of genius.
“We have a hunger of the mind which asks for knowledge of all around us, and the more we gain, the more is our desire.” “The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both,” Carl Sagan wrote shortly before his death.
“The only people who can still strike us as normal are those we don’t yet know very well.” “An honorable human relationship … in which two people have the right to use the word ‘love,’” the poet Adrienne Rich memorably wrote, “is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other.” But too often, we mistake for love feelings rooted in the pleasant untruths of delusion — about ourselves, or the other, or the possibility that exists between the two.
“Creative work bridges time because the energy of art is not time-bound… This makes our own death bearable.” “Only art penetrates … the seeming realities of this world,” Saul Bellow proclaimed in his spectacular Nobel Prize acceptance speech.
“Joy … follows rightly confronted despair. Joy is the experience of possibility, the consciousness of one’s freedom as one confronts one’s destiny… After despair, the one thing left is possibility.” “There is no love of life without despair of life,” Albert Camus observed as he contemplated the relationship between happiness and despair shortly before his compatriot Jean-Paul Sartre penned his famous line that “human life begins on the far side of despair.” And yet we tend to relate to despair with extreme aversion, perceiving it as a source of suffering rather than a vitalizing force.
An evening of poetry celebrating great scientists and scientific discoveries, read by beloved artists, writers, and musicians.
“Could it be that questions are the remedy for solitude? After all, we have learned from history that people are united by questions.
A masterwork of immense originality and haunting splendor. “Words, English words, are full of echoes, of memories, of associations,” Virginia Woolf observed in the only surviving recording of her voice.
“Spotlessness is the niece of inspiration.” Every once in a while, amid the serious and often stern prose comprising the canon of great writers’ advice on writing, there glimmers an offering of wisdom no less weighty yet delivered with wondrous levity.
“Informationally speaking, the experience of being sad is a crystal, a fantastically complex shape in a space of a trillion dimensions that is qualitatively different from the brain state that gives rise to sadness.” “I wish you could know what it means to be me,” Nina Simone sang in her 1967 civil rights anthem “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” — an invitation to empathy at the heart of which is the animating question of consciousness: What does the experience of being feel like from the inside and can that subjective experience ever be fully understood from the outside?
“If I swim a mile, the first half hour might be drudgery, but somewhere in the middle it catches fire.” “Live immediately,” Seneca exhorted in his timeless 2,000-year-old meditation on the shortness of life.