I love to watch and encourage and thank the plants I see pushing up the sidewalks. That is the work we should be doing, and they are leading the way, teaching us how, these plants reaching through the concrete from the soil to the sky, these ants and birds and spiders going about their lives, all remind us that all times and in all places - even in cities - ecstatic life continues beneath the machine, waiting for the chance to return, to recover, and to reenter into relationship with those of us who are ready to live."Welcome to the Machine"
If something in the exterior world makes you discontent, then it is not that object which troubles you, but rather your judgement of it; yet to blot out this judgement instantly is within your power. And if your dissatisfaction is based on the condition of your soul, who can prohibit you from correcting your views? Likewise, if you are discontent because you are not doing what seems reasonable to you, why not be active rather than discontent? "But something stronger than me is obstructing me." Still, do not be discontent; for the cause for your inaction is not within you. "But life has no meaning for me if this is not done." Well then, end your life, as calm as if you had succeeded; but don't forget to forgive your adversaries."Meditations"
What can the world, or any nation in it, hope for if no turning is found on this dread road? The worst to be feared and the best to be expected can be simply stated. The worst is atomic war. The best would be this: a life of perpetual fear and tension; a burden of arms draining the wealth and the labor of all peoples; a wasting of strength that defies the American system or the Soviet system or any system to achieve true abundance and happiness for the peoples of this earth. Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life, which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.
People are always talking about looking for the meaning of life, when what they're really looking for is a deep experience of life.
I believe in living.
I believe in the spectrum
of Beta days and Gamma people.
I believe in sunshine.
In windmills and waterfalls,
tricycles and rocking chairs.
And I believe that seeds grow into sprouts.
And sprouts grow into trees.
I believe in the magic of the hands.
And in the wisdom of the eyes.
I believe in rain and tears.
And in the blood of infinity.
I believe in life.
And I have seen the death parade
march through the torso of the earth,
sculpting mud bodies in its path.
I have seen the destruction of the daylight,
and seen bloodthirsty maggots
prayed to and saluted.
I have seen the kind become the blind
and the blind become the bind
in one easy lesson.
I have walked on cut glass.
I have eaten crow and blunder bread
and breathed the stench of indifference.
I have been locked by the lawless.
Handcuffed by the haters.
Gagged by the greedy.
And, if I know any thing at all,
it’s that a wall is just a wall
and nothing more at all.
It can be broken down.
I believe in living.
I believe in birth.
I believe in the sweat of love
and in the fire of truth.
And I believe that a lost ship,
steered by tired, seasick sailors,
can still be guided home
My life is a hesitation before birth.Diary, 24th January 1922
You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be. And one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid... You refuse to do it because you want to live longer... You're afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you're afraid someone will stab you, or shoot at you or bomb your house; so you refuse to take the stand.
Well, you may go on and live until you are 90, but you're just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.
The real damage is done by those millions who want to 'survive.' The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves—or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature. Those who live small, mate small, die small. It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn."Sophie Scholl - The Last Days"
A man has made at least a start on discovering the meaning of human life when he plants shade trees under which he knows full well he will never sit.
The type of personal integration we attain – or the effective lack thereof – depends on what possibilities our life situation offers us for the development of autonomy. It is a distorted development that is the root cause of the pathological and, ultimately, evil element in human beings.
The struggle for autonomy heightens our aliveness. Insofar as the socialization process blocks autonomy, however, this process engenders the evil it attempts to prevent. If parental love is so distorted that it demands submission and dependence for its self-confirmation, social adjustment turns into a test of obedience and the child’s efforts to comply bring with them the loss of genuine feelings. The human being then becomes the true source of evil."The Betrayal of the Self: The Fear of Autonomy in Men and Women"
The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.
Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.
Give me truths;
For I am weary of the surfaces,
And die of inanition. If I knew
Only the herbs and simples of the wood,
Rue, cinquefoil, gill, vervain and agrimony,
Blue-vetch and trillium, hawkweed, sassafras,
Milkweeds and murky brakes, quaint pipes and sun-dew,
And rare and virtuous roots, which in these woods
Draw untold juices from the common earth,
Untold, unknown, and I could surely spell
Their fragrance, and their chemistry apply
By sweet affinities to human flesh,
Driving the foe and stablishing the friend,--
O, that were much, and I could be a part
Of the round day, related to the sun
And planted world, and full executor
Of their imperfect functions.
But these young scholars, who invade our hills,
Bold as the engineer who fells the wood,
And traveling often in the cut he makes,
Love not the flower they pluck, and know it not,
And all their botany is Latin names.
The old men studied magic in the flowers,
And human fortunes in astronomy,
And an omnipotence in chemistry,
Preferring things to names, for these were men,
Were unitarians of the united world,
And, wheresoever their clear eye-beams fell,
They caught the footsteps of the SAME. Our eyes
And strangers to the mystic beast and bird,
And strangers to the plant and to the mine.
The injured elements say, 'Not in us;'
And haughtily return us stare for stare.
For we invade them impiously for gain;
We devastate them unreligiously,
And coldly ask their pottage, not their love.
Therefore they shove us from them, yield to us
Only what to our griping toil is due;
But the sweet affluence of love and song,
The rich results of the divine consents
Of man and earth, of world beloved and lover,
The nectar and ambrosia, are withheld;
And in the midst of spoils and slaves, we thieves
And pirates of the universe, shut out
Daily to a more thin and outward rind,
Turn pale and starve. Therefore, to our sick eyes,
The stunted trees look sick, the summer short,
Clouds shade the sun, which will not tan our hay,
And nothing thrives to reach its natural term;
And life, shorn of its venerable length,
Even at its greatest space is a defeat,
And dies in anger that it was a dupe;
And, in its highest noon and wantonness,
Is early frugal, like a beggar's child;
Even in the hot pursuit of the best aims
And prizes of ambition, checks its hand,
Like Alpine cataracts frozen as they leaped,
Chilled with a miserly comparison
Of the toy's purchase with the length of life."Blight"
The concentration camps, by making death itself anonymous (making it impossible to find out whether a prisoner is dead or alive), robbed death of its meaning as the end of a fulfilled life. In a sense they took away the individual’s own death, proving that henceforth nothing belonged to him and he belonged to no one. His death merely set a seal on the fact that he had never existed."The Origins of Totalitarianism"
Man always dies before he is fully born.
It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested. But when it is squandered in luxury and carelessness, when it is devoted to no good end, forced at last by the ultimate necessity we perceive that it has passed away before we were aware that it was passing.
Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.
I do not look on a human being as a machine, made to be kept in action by a foreign force, to accomplish an unvarying succession of motions, to do a fixed amount of work, and then to fall to pieces at death, but as a being of free spiritual powers; and I place little value on any culture but that which aims to bring out these, and to give them perpetual impulse and expansion.
We have more life than we know what to do with. We have life far beyond the point where it becomes a sick caricature of itself. We prolong life until it becomes a sickness, an abomination, a miserable and pathetic flight from death that saps out and mocks everything that made life desirable in the first place.
If anyone went on for a thousand years asking of life: "Why are you living?" life, if it could answer, would only say, "I live so that I may live." That is because life lives out of its own ground and springs from its own source, and so it lives without asking why it is itself living.
To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.
After the game, the king and pawn go into the same box.
I say to you this morning, that if you have never found something so dear and so precious to you that you aren't willing to die for it then you aren't fit to live.
Emptiness is a symptom that you are not living creatively. You either have no goal that is important enough to you, or you are not using your talents and efforts in a striving toward an important goal.
Who will tell whether one happy moment of love or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies.
If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.
Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
Life is the ultimate aim of moral design, which it must protect, advance, ennoble and enrich. Immoral design, which is also bad design, is the opposite. It takes life by stealing time; it impoverishes by pretending to be more than it is; it does not last; it deceives, harms, enrages and degrades. The difference between the two lies at the origin of the work, when the designer first establishes their true goals and decides whether it is to satisfy their destructively selfish aims, or it is to be something higher, something that respects and elevates people’s lives, something that they are not ashamed to put out into this world because they know that their heart lies in the right place; and if they fail to achieve what they set out to do, it will be but an error of affection, not ill work laden with guilt.