The real question is: How sturdy and solid is the floor our civilization stands on? How many lives with no prospects, shattered and senseless, can it bear the weight of before it cracks?

Christa Wolf, City of Angels: Or, The Overcoat of Dr. Freud

There is nothing more fragile than civilization.

Havelock Ellis

How many beautiful, privileged people have I not heard whisper to me, late at night, that if it were up to them, they would never have been born; that they are angry with the world; that they were let down; that they live with guilt and self-doubt; that their friends and families are hypocrites?

Hanzi Freinacht

One way to think of the market ideology and the [American] empire is that it produces alienation and loss of human vitality. . . . The culture flows from the assumption that the accumulation of commodities will make us safe and happy.

Walter Brueggemann

Who are the happiest people on earth? A craftsman or artist whistling over a job well done. A little child building sand castles. A mother, after a busy day, bathing her baby. A doctor who has finished a difficult and dangerous operation, and saved a human life. . . . Get your happiness out of your work, or you will never know what happiness is.

Elbert Hubbard

There’s no comfort, it seems, in the world of objects.

Michael Cunningham, The Hours

The cost of sanity in this society is a certain level of alienation. I grapple with this because I’m a parent. And I think anybody who has children, you come to this realization, you know — what’ll it be? Alienated, cynical intellectual? Or slack-jawed, half-wit consumer of the horseshit being handed down from on high? There is not much choice in there, you see. And we all want our children to be well-adjusted; unfortunately, there’s nothing to be well-adjusted to.

Terence McKenna

Our modern society is engaged in polishing and decorating the cage in which man is kept imprisoned.

Swami Nirmalananda

Your medicine is your poison is your medicine is your poison and there is no end but madness.

Lillian Roth

He drank from the bottle and was grateful for the sense of depression caused by the alcohol which made him feel less of pleasure, pain, anxiety, and hope.

Richard Wright, The Outsider

People use drugs, legal and illegal, because their lives are intolerably painful or dull. They hate their work and find no rest in their leisure. They are estranged from their families and their neighbors. It should tell us something that in healthy societies drug use is celebrative, convivial, and occasional, whereas among us it is lonely, shameful, and addictive. We need drugs, apparently, because we have lost each other.

Wendell Berry

I had the white gowns and the white shoes. And every night they’d bring me the white gardenias and the white junk. When I was on, I was on and nobody gave me trouble. . . . I got into trouble when I tried to get off.

Billie Holiday (with William Dufty)

I was much further out than you thought / And not waving but drowning.

Stevie Smith

We all carry our own deep wound, which is the wound of our loneliness. . . . Some people think their wound of loneliness will be healed if they come into community. But they will be disappointed. . . . We have to realize that this wound is inherent in the human condition and that what we have to do is to walk with it instead of fleeing from it.

Jean Vanier

Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. It is both. Appreciating the gloriousness inspires us, encourages us, cheers us up, gives us a bigger perspective, energizes us. We feel connected. But if that’s all that’s happening, we get arrogant and start to look down on others. . . . On the other hand, wretchedness — life’s painful aspect — softens us up considerably. . . . [B]ut if we were only wretched . . . we’d be so depressed, discouraged, and hopeless that we wouldn’t have enough energy to eat an apple. Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us; the other softens us. They go together.

Pema Chödrön