The most striking contradiction of our civilization is the fundamental reverence for truth that we profess, and the thoroughgoing disregard for it that we practice.
How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.
Truth is a rough, honest, helter-skelter terrier that none like to see brought into their drawing rooms.
In order to live with integrity, we must stop fragmenting and compartmentalizing our lives. Telling lies at work and then expecting great truths in meditation is nonsensical.
I am not at all interested in the pursuit of happiness. I am interested in pursuing a truth, and the truth often seems to be not happiness but its opposite.
The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns, as it were, instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink.
Emotions, in my experience, aren’t covered by single words. I don’t believe in “sadness,” “joy,” or “regret.” . . . I’d like to have at my disposal complicated hybrid emotions, Germanic train-car constructions, like, say, “the happiness that attends disaster.” Or: “the disappointment of sleeping with one’s fantasy.” I’d like to show how “intimations of mortality brought on by aging family members” connects to “the hatred of mirrors that begins in middle age.” I’d like to have a word for “the sadness inspired by failing restaurants” as well for “the excitement of getting a room with a minibar.”
We say, “Seeing is believing,” but actually . . . we are all much better at believing than at seeing. In fact, we are seeing what we believe nearly all the time and only occasionally seeing what we can’t believe.
You don’t see things as they are. You see things as you are.
Once, when a GI was visiting Pablo Picasso during the liberation of France, he said that he could not understand the artist’s paintings: “Why do you paint a person looking from the side and from the front at the same time?” Picasso asked, “Do you have a girlfriend?” “Yes,” replied the soldier. “Do you have a picture of her?” The soldier pulled from his wallet a photograph of the girl. Picasso looked at it in mock astonishment and asked, “Is she so small?”
If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.
The experience is there, the reality is there, but how to get at it? Everything I type turns into a lie simply because it is not the truth.
Drawing on my fine command of language, I said nothing.
Could anything be absurder than a man? The animal who knows everything about himself — except why he was born and the meaning of his unique life?
There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination. Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic.
If a thousand old beliefs were ruined in our march to truth, we must still march on.
Say not, “I have found the truth,” but rather, “I have found a truth.”
If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort, you will get neither comfort nor truth, only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair.
The world is too dangerous for anything but truth and too small for anything but love.