I would like to see a building — say, the Empire State — I would like to see on one side of it a foot-long strip from top to bottom, with the name of every bricklayer, the name of every electrician, with all the names. So when the guy walked by, he could take his son and say: “See, that’s me over there on the forty-fifth floor.” Or, “I put the steel beam in.” Picasso can point to a painting. I think I’ve worked harder than Picasso, and what can I point to? A writer can point to a book. Everybody should have something to point to.
Question: If your house were on fire, which object would you take with you?
Tristan Bernard: The thing nearest the door.
Jean Cocteau: The fire.
At around age six, perhaps, I was standing by myself in our front yard waiting for supper, just at that hour in a late summer day when the sun is already below the horizon and the risen full moon in the visible sky stops being chalky and begins to take on light. There comes the moment, and I saw it then, when the moon goes from flat to round. For the first time it met my eyes as a globe. The word “moon” came into my mouth as though fed to me out of a silver spoon. Held in my mouth the moon became a word. It had the roundness of a Concord grape Grandpa took off his vine and gave me to suck out of its skin and swallow whole, in Ohio.
I remember my grandfather telling me how each of us must live with a full measure of loneliness that is inescapable, and we must not destroy ourselves with our passion to escape this aloneness.
This is the true joy of life, the being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. Life is no “brief candle” to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.
My religion is very simple — my religion is kindness.
Fidelity is a matter of perception. . . . Nobody is unfaithful to the sea or to mountains or to death: once recognized, they fill the heart. In love or in terror or in loathing one responds to them with the true self. Fidelity is not an act of the will: the soul is compelled by recognitions. Anyone who loves, anyone who perceives the other person fully, can only be faithful, can never be unfaithful to the sea and the mountains and the death in that person, so pitiful and heroic is it to be a human being.
I’d like to die like this . . . with the dark fingers of the water closing and unclosing over these sleepy lights and a sad bell somewhere murmuring good night.
Though I have looked everywhere I can find nothing lowly in the universe.
Fear tastes like a rusty knife and do not let her into your house. Courage tastes of blood. Stand up straight. Admire the world. Relish the love of a gentle woman. Trust in the Lord.
All my life I have struggled to make one authentic gesture.
Nobody gets in to see the wizard. Not no way, not no how.