quotations

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Every morning

was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

People have found the solution of everything in ease and the easiest side of ease;

but it is clear that we must hold to the difficult; everything living holds to it, everything in Nature grows and defends itself according to its own character and is an individual in its own right, strives to be so at any cost and against all opposition. We know little, but that we must hold to the difficult is a certainty that will not leave us; it is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; the fact that a things is difficult must be one more reason for our doing it.

[…]

[I]f we think of this existence of the individual as a larger or smaller room, it becomes clear that most people get to know only one corner of their room, a window seat, a strip of floor which they pace up and down. In that way they have a certain security. And yet how much more human is that insecurity, so fraught with danger, which compels the prisoners in Poe's Tales to grope for the shapes of their ghastly prisons and not to remain unaware of the unspeakable horrors of the dwelling. But we are not prisoners. No snares and springs are laid for us, and there is nothing that should alarm or torment us. We are set in life as in the element with which we are most in keeping, and we have moreover, through thousands of years of adaptation, become so similar to this life that when we stay still we are, by a happy mimicry, hardly to be distinguished from our surroundings. We have no cause to be mistrustful of our world, for it is not against us. If it has terrors they are our terrors; if it has abysses those abysses belong to us, if dangers are there we must strive to love them. And if only regulate our life according the that principle which advises us always to hold to the difficult, what even now appears most alien to us will become most familiar and loyal. How could we forget those old myths which are to be found in the beginnings of every people; the myths of the dragons which are transformed, at the last moment, into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our life are princesses, who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrifying is at bottom the helplessness that seeks our help.

—Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

We are living in a culture entirely hypnotized by the illusion of time

in which the so-called present moment is felt as nothing but an infinitesimal hairline between an all-powerfully causative past and an absorbingly important future. We have no present. Our consciousness is almost completely preoccupied with memory and expectation. We do not realize that there never was, is, nor will be any other experience than present experience. We are therefore out of touch with reality. We confuse the world as talked about, described, and measured with the world which actually is. We are sick with a fascination for the useful tools of names and numbers, of symbols, signs, conceptions and ideas.

—Alan Watts

The man with the clear head

is the man who frees himself from those fantastic “ideas” [the characterological lie about reality] and looks life in the face, realizes that everything in it is problematic, and feels himself lost. And this is the simple truth—that to live is to feel oneself lost—he who accepts it has already begun to find himself, to be on firm ground. Instinctively, as do the shipwrecked, he will look round for something to which to cling, and that tragic, ruthless glance, absolutely sincere, because it is a question of his salvation, will cause him to bring order into the chaos of his life. These are the only genuine ideas; the ideas of the shipwrecked. All the rest is rhetoric, posturing, farce. He who does not really feel himself lost, is without remission; that is to say, he never finds himself, never comes up against his own reality.

—Earnest Becker, The Denial of Death

This is time, familiar and intimate.

We are taken by it. The rush of seconds, hours, years that hurls us toward life then drags us toward nothingness…We inhabit time as fish live in water. Our being is being in time. Its solemn music nurtures us, opens the world to us, troubles us, frightens and lulls us.

—Carlo Rovelli - The Order of Time

As long as I stared at the clock, at least the world remained in motion. Not a very consequential world, but in motion nonetheless. And as long as I knew the world was still in motion, I knew I existed. Not a very consequential existence, but an existence nonetheless.

—Haruki Murakami - A Wild Sheep Chase