"There are three mental states that interest me", said Amanda, turning to the lizard doorknob. "They are: one, amnesia; two euphoria; three ecstasy."
She reached into the cabinet and removed a small green bottle of water-lily pollen. "Amnesia is not knowing who one is and wanting desperately to find out. Euphoria is not knowing who one is and not caring. Ecstasy is knowing exactly who one is--and still not caring."
The function of the artist is to provide what life does not.
I travel in gardens and bedrooms, basements and attics, around corners, through doorways and windows, along sidewalks, over carpets, down drainpipes, in the sky, with friends, lovers, children and heroes; perceived, remembered, imagined, distorted and clarified.
Real courage is risking something that you have to keep on living with, real courage is risking something that might force you to rethink your thoughts and suffer change and stretch consciousness. Real courage is risking one's cliches.
Logic only gives a man what he needs. Magic gives a man what he wants.
Nature isn't stable. Life isn't stable. Stability is unnatural. The only stable society is the police state. You can have a free society or a stable society. You can't have both. Take your choice.
Laws are abstractions. Laws symbolize ethical acts, proper behavior toward other human animals. Laws have no moral content, they merely symbolize conduct that does. These symbol junkies are always yelling about how we’ve got to respect the law, but you never hear one of them say anything about respecting fellow beings. If we respected each other, if we respected animals and if we respected the land, then we could dispense with laws and cut the middleman out of morality.
It is content, or rather the consciousness of content, that fills the void. But the mere presence of content is not enough. It is style that gives content the capacity to absorb us, to move us; it is style that makes us care.
Whether a man is a criminal or a public servant is purely a matter of perspective.
Man is not as good as he thinks he is. (Nor as bad, for that matter, but let's not complicate things.) He has certain needs, demands certain services which in reality are probably healthy and natural, but to which in time's passage and as a result of odd quirks in his ethos, he has ascribed (or allowed his religious leaders--often guilt-warped, psychopathic misfits--to ascribe) negative values. In the queerest of paradoxical metamorphoses, honest desires change into taboos.
Somewhere in the archives of crudest instinct is recorded the truth that it is better to be endangered and free than captive and comfortable.
The most important thing in life is style. That is, the style of one's existence--the characteristic mode of one's actions--is basically, ultimately what matters. For if man defines himself by doing, then style is doubly definitive, because style describes the doing.
To live lightly on the earth, lovers and families must be more flexible and relaxed. The ritual of sex releases its magic inside or outside the marital bond. I approach that ritual with as much humility as possible and perform it whenever it seems appropriate.
When she was a small girl, Amanda hid a ticking clock in an old rotten tree trunk. It drove woodpeckers crazy. Ignoring tasty bugs all around them, they just about beat their brains out trying to get at the clock. Years later, Amanda used the woodpecker experiment as a model for understanding capitalism, Communism, Christianity and all other systems that traffic in future rewards rather than in present realities.
The scientist keeps the romantic honest, and the romantic keeps the scientist human.
The history of the Catholic Church is written on charred pages splashed with gore. It is a history of inquisitions and genocides, of purges and perversions, of ravings and razzings. Yes, but through those same bloody pages walk parades of saints playing their celestial radios and sowing their sparkles of love.
When a man confines an animal in a cage, he assumes ownership of that animal. But an animal is an individual; it cannot be owned. When a man tries to own an individual, whether that individual be another man, an animal or even a tree, he suffers the psychic consequences of an unnatural act.
Rule One in the manual of cosmic mechanics: a linear wrench will not turn a spiral bolt.
The fact is, what I hated in the Church was what I hated in society. Namely, authoritarians. Power freaks. Rigid dogmatists. Those greedy, underloved, undersexed twits who want to run everything. While the rest of us are busy living--busy tasting and testing and hugging and kissing and goofing and growing--they are busy taking over.
The principal difference between an adventurer and a suicide is that the adventurer leaves himself a margin of escape (the narrower the margin the greater the adventure), a margin whose width and length may be determined by unknown factors but whose successful navigation is determined by the measure of the adventurer's nerve and wits. It is always exhilarating to live by ones nerves or toward the summit of ones wits.
The quality of a man's life depends upon the rhythmic structure he is able to impose upon the input and output of energy. Energy equals mass times the speed of light squared. Einstein understood what Thoreau meant when he spoke of men hearing "different drummers." Thoreau did not say saxophonists or harpsichordists or kazoo players, mind you, but drummers. The drummer deals almost exclusively with rhythm, therefore he is an architect of energy. Art is not eternal. Only energy is eternal. The drum is to infinity what the butterfly is to zero.
It was the greatest of the imperfect ventriloquist acts: when his lips moved, her body sang.
In the garden known as Eden, our mythological sweethearts went too far. Tempted into unnatural positions by the Trickster, they aroused the censors who promptly shut them down. Management threw in a curse to boot, and that primal curse declared that the earth, because of man's funky nature, would thereafter bring forth thorns and thistles.
Love easily confuses us because it is always in flux between illusion and substance, between memory and wish, between contentment and need.
"Growing up is a trap," snapped Dr. Robbins. "When they tell you to shut up, they mean stop talking. When they tell you to grow up, they mean stop growing. Reach a nice level plateau and settle there, predictable and unchanging, no longer a threat."
When life demands more of people than they demand of life--as is ordinarily the case--what results is a resentment of life that is almost as deep-seated as the fear of death. Indeed, the resentment of life and the fear of death are virtually synonymous. Does it follow, then, that the more people ask of living, the less their fear of dying?
Sometimes those things that attract the most attention to us are the things that afford us the greatest privacy.
The Clock People regard civilization as an insanely complex set of symbols that obscures natural processes and encumbers free movement. The Earth is alive. She burns inside with the heat of cosmic longing. She longs to be with her husband again. She moans. She turns softly in her sleep.
I've lived most of my entire adult life outside the law, and never have I compromised with authority. But neither have I gone out and picked fights with authority. That's stupid. They're waiting for that; they invite it; it helps keep them powerful. Authority is to be ridiculed, outwitted and avoided. And it's fairly easy to do all three.
Fire is the reuniting of matter with oxygen. If one bears that in mind, every blaze may be seen as a reunion, an occasion of chemical joy.
Nature is not infallible. Nature makes mistakes. That's what evolution is all about: growth by trial and error. Nature can be stupid and cruel. Oh, my, how cruel! That's okay. There's nothing wrong with Nature being dumb and ugly because it is simultaneously--paradoxically--brilliant and superb.
All a person can do in this life is gather about him his integrity, his imagination, and his individuality--and with these ever with him, out front and in sharp focus, leap into the dance of experience.
Disbelief in magic can force a poor soul into believing in government and business.
Perhaps a person gains by accumulating obstacles. The more obstacles set up to prevent happiness from appearing, the greater the shock when it does appear, just as the rebound of a spring will be all the more powerful the greater the pressure that has been exerted to compress it. Care must be taken, however, to select large obstacles, for only those of sufficient scope and scale have the capacity to lift us out of context and force life to appear in an entirely new and unexpected light.
There are many things worth living for, there are a few things worth dying for, but there is nothing worth killing for.
If we're ever going to get the world back on a natural footing, back in tune with natural rhythms, if we're going to nurture the Earth and protect it and have fun with it and learn from it--which is what mothers do with their children--then we've got to put technology (an aggressive masculine system) in its proper place, which is that of a tool to be used sparingly, joyfully, gently and only in the fullest cooperation with nature. Nature must govern technology, not the other way around.
Love is dope, not chicken soup.
A lot of life boils down to the question of whether a person is going to be able to realize his fantasies, or else end up surviving only through compromises he can't face up to. The way I figure it, Heaven and Hell are right here on earth. Heaven is living in your hopes and Hell is living in your fears. It's up to each individual which one he chooses.
I believe in political solutions to political problems. But man's primary problems aren't political; they're philosophical. Until humans can solve their philosophical problems, they're condemned to solve their political problems over and over and over again. It's a cruel, repetitious bore.
If kissing is man's greatest invention, then fermentation and patriarchy compete with the domestication of animals for the distinction of being man's worst folly, and no doubt the three combined long ago, the one growing out of the others, to foster civilization and lead Western humanity to its present state of decline.
I believe in nothing, everything is sacred. I believe in everything, nothing is sacred.
One has not only an ability to perceive the world, but an ability to alter one's perception of it; more simply, one can change things by the manner in which one looks at them.
"I wasn't really shot with a silver bullet," she confessed to no one in particular.
"Or was I?"
She smiled the deliciously secretive smile of one who instinctively recognizes the reality of myth.
If civilization is ever going to be anything but a grandiose pratfall, anything more than a can of deodorizer in the shithouse of existence, the people are going to have to concern themselves with magic and poetry.
Of course I'm inconsistent! Only logicians and cretins are consistent!
Purpose! Purposes are for animals with a hell of a lot more dignity than the human race! Just hop on that strange torpedo and ride it to wherever it's going.
Difficulties illuminate existence, but they must be fresh and of high quality.
The author isn't altogether certain that there is any such thing as exaggeration. Our brains permit us to use such a wee fraction of their resources that, in a sense, everything we experience is a reduction. We employ drugs, yoga techniques and poetics--and a thousand more clumsy methods--in an effort just to bring things back up to normal.
So you think that you're a failure, do you? Well, you probably are. What's wrong with that? In the first place, if you've any sense at all you must have learned by now that we pay just as dearly for our triumphs as we do for our defeats. Go ahead and fail. But fail with wit, fail with grace, fail with style. A mediocre failure is as insufferable as a mediocre success. Embrace failure! Seek it out. Learn to love it. That may be the only way any of us will ever be free.
Kissing is the supreme achievement of the Western world.
If you take any activity, any art, any discipline, any skill, take it and push it as far as it will go, push it beyond where it has ever been before, push it to the wildest edge of edges, then you force it into the realm of magic.
Poetry is nothing more than an intensification or illumination of common objects and every day events until they shine with their singular nature, until we can experience their power, until we can follow their steps in the dance, until we can discern what part they play in the Great Order of Love. How is this done? By fucking around with syntax.
As a child, I was an imaginary playmate.
Actually, there are countless ways to live upon this tremorous sphere in mirth and good health, and probably only one way--the industrial, urbanized, herding way--to live here stupidly, and man has hit upon that one way.
True stability results when presumed order and presumed disorder are balanced. A truly stable system expects the unexpected, is prepared to be disrupted, waits to be transformed.
A person's looking for a simple truth to live by, there it is. CHOICE. To refuse to passively accept what we've been handed by nature or society, but to choose for ourselves. CHOICE. That's the difference between emptiness and substance, between a life actually lived and a wimpy shadow cast on an office wall.
In the world according to the positivist, the inspiring thing about scrambled eggs is that any way you turn them they're sunny side up. In the world according to the existentialist, the hopeless thing about scrambled eggs is that any way you turn them they're scrambled.
Those who shun the whimsy of things will experience rigor mortis before death.
It's not men who limit women, it's not straights who limit gays, it's not whites who limit blacks. What limits people is lack of character. What limits people is that they don't have the fucking nerve or imagination to star in their own movie, let alone direct it.
Tequila, scorpion honey, harsh dew of the doglands, essence of Aztec, crema de cacti; tequila, oily and thermal like the sun in solution; tequila, liquid geometry of passion; Tequila, the buzzard God who copulates in midair with the ascending souls of dying virgins; tequila, firebug in the house of good taste; O tequila, savage water of sorcery, what confusion and mischief your sly, rebellious drops do generate!
There are only two mantras... yum and yuk. Mine is yum.
Albert Camus wrote that the only serious question is whether to kill yourself or not. Tom Robbins wrote that the only serious question is whether time has a beginning or an end. Camus clearly got up on the wrong side of the bed, and Robbins must have forgotten to set the alarm. There is only one serious question. And that question is: 'Who knows how to make love stay?'
As any of the learned professors would explain, plied with sufficient tequila, no matter how fervently a romantic might support a movement, he or she eventually must withdraw from active participation in that movement because the group ethic--the supremacy of the organization over the individual--is an affront to intimacy. Intimacy is the principal source of the sugars with which this life is sweetened. It is absolutely vital to the essential insanities.
We're our own dragons as well as our own heroes, and we have to rescue ourselves from ourselves.
Some folks hide, and some folks seek, and seeking, when it’s mindless, neurotic, desperate, or pusillanimous can be a form of hiding. But there are folks who want to know and aren’t afraid to look and won’t turn tail should they find it—and if they never do, they’ll have a good time anyway because nothing, neither the terrible truth nor the absence of it, is going to cheat them out of one honest breath of earth’s sweet gas.
If you're honest, you sooner or later have to confront your values. Then you're forced to separate what is right from what is merely legal. This puts you metaphysically on the run. America is full of metaphysical outlaws.
Three of the four elements are shared by all creatures, but fire was a gift to humans alone. Smoking cigarettes is as intimate as we can become with fire without immediate excruciation. Every smoker is an embodiment of Prometheus, stealing fire from the gods and bringing it on back home. We smoke to capture the power of the sun, to pacify Hell, to identify with the primordial spark, to feed on the marrow of the volcano. It's not the tobacco we're after but the fire. When we smoke, we are performing a version of the fire dance, a ritual as ancient as lightning.
It was a moon that could stir wild passions in a moo cow. It was a moon that could bring out the devil in a bunny rabbit.
The bottom line is that (a) people are never perfect, but love can be, (b) that is the one and only way that the mediocre and the vile can be transformed, and (c) doing that makes it that. Loving makes love. Loving makes itself. We waste time looking for the perfect lover instead of creating the perfect love.
There are essential and inessential insanities. The latter are solar in character, the former are linked to the moon.
The moon invented natural rhythm. Civilization uninvented it.
"Neoteny" is "remaining young", and it may be ironic that it is so little known, because human evolution has been dominated by it. Humans have evolved to their relatively high state by retaining the immature characteristics of their ancestors. Humans are the most advanced of mammals--although a case could be made for the dolphins--because they seldom grow up. Behavioral traits such as curiosity about the world, flexibility of response, and playfulness are common to practically all young mammals but are usually rapidly lost with the onset of maturity in all but humans. Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature.
It's never too late to have a happy childhood.
When we're incomplete, we're always searching for somebody to complete us. When, after a few years or a few months of a relationship, we find that we're still unfulfilled, we blame our partners and take up with somebody more promising. This can go on and on--series polygamy--until we admit that while a partner can add sweet dimensions to our lives, we, each of us, are responsible for our own fulfillment. Nobody else can provide it for us, and to believe otherwise is to delude ourselves dangerously and to program for eventual failure every relationship we enter.
What we have here is an unexpected touchdown on the runway of the heart. This flight could only terminate in a room close to the moon.
They snuggled closer, and when they were as close as they could get without being behind one another, they commenced to kiss again.
A better world has gotta start somewhere. Why not with you and me?
Who knows how to make love stay?
Something has got to hold it together. I'm saying my prayers to Elmer, the Greek god of glue.
Love is the ultimate outlaw. It just won't adhere to any rules. The most any of us can do is to sign on as its accomplice. Instead of vowing to honor and obey, maybe we should swear to aid and abet. That would mean that security is out of the question. The words "make" and "stay" become inappropriate. My love for you has no strings attached. I love you for free.
Sharks are the criminals of the sea. Dolphins are the outlaws.
"I'll follow him to the ends of the earth," she sobbed. "Yes, darling. But the earth doesn't have any ends. Columbus fixed that."
Sandwiches were invented by the Earl of Sandwich, popcorn was invented by the Earl of Popcorn, and salad dressing by the Oil of Vinegar. The moon invented natural rhythm. Civilization uninvented it.
If you believe in peace, act peacefully; if you believe in love, acting lovingly; if you believe every which way, then act every which way, that's perfectly valid--but don't go out trying to sell your beliefs to the system. You end up contradicting what you profess to believe in, and you set a bum example. If you want to change the world, change yourself.
Outlaws are can openers in the supermarket of life.
The word that allows yes, the word that makes no possible.
The word that puts the free in freedom and takes the obligation out of love.
The word that throws a window open after the final door is closed.
The word upon which all adventure, all exhilaration, all meaning, all honor depends.
The word that fires evolution's motor of mud.
The word that the cocoon whispers to the caterpillar.
The word that molecules recite before bonding.
The word that separates that which is dead from that which is living.
The word no mirror can turn around.
In the beginning was the word and that word was
Funny how we think of romance as always involving two, when the romance of solitude can be ever so much more delicious and intense.
Any half-awake materialist well knows--that which you hold holds you.
When the mystery of the connection goes, love goes. It's that simple. This suggests that it isn't love that is so important to us but the mystery itself. The love connection may be merely a device to put us in contact with the mystery, and we long for love to last so that the ecstasy of being near the mystery will last. It is contrary to the nature of mystery to stand still. Yet it's always there, somewhere, a world on the other side of the mirror (or the Camel pack), a promise in the next pair of eyes that smile at us. We glimpse it when we stand still.
The romance of new love, the romance of solitude, the romance of objecthood, the romance of ancient pyramids and distant stars are means of making contact with the mystery. When it comes to perpetuating it, however, I got no advice. But I can and will remind you of two of the most important facts I know:
This may be said for the last quarter of the twentieth century: the truism that if we want a better world we will have to be better people came to be acknowledged, if not thoroughly understood, by a significantly large minority.
When two people meet and fall in love, there's a sudden rush of magic. Magic is just naturally present then. We tend to feed on that gratuitous magic without striving to make any more. One day we wake up and find that the magic is gone. We hustle to get it back, but by then it's usually too late, we've used it up. What we have to do is work like hell at making additional magic right from the start. It's hard work, but if we can remember to do it, we greatly improve our chances of making love stay.
Ideas are mallable and unstable; they not only can be misused, they invite misuse--and the better the idea the more volatile it is. That's because only the better ideas turn into dogma, and it is by this process whereby a fresh, stimulating, humanly helpful idea is changed into robot dogma that is deadly. The problem starts at the secondary level, not with the originator or developer of the idea, but with the people who are attracted to it, until the last nail breaks, and who invariably lack the overview, flexibility, imagination, and, most importantly, sense of humor to maintain it in the spirit in which it was hatched. Ideas are made by masters, dogmas by disciples, and the Buddha is always killed on the road.
Success in life and love depends always on timing.
There're many ways, my dear, to victimize people. The most insidious way is to persuade them that they're victims.
People who've bought into poverty are just as shallow and exploitative as those who've bought into wealth. Both have been stultified by their lack of imagination.
When it comes to illuminating the inner structure of consciousness and highlighting its weaknesses and flaws, nothing, not even love, casts as bright a beam as money. The things we're willing to do to obtain it, to protect it, to express our guilt over having it, are incomparably revealing.
"Ah, hoptoad! Can't you see? You have potential! You're a mother lode of wit, of spunk, of courage, of adaptability. You need to cut loose, open up, break free."
We tend to refer to our most barbaric and crapulous behavior as "inhuman", whereas, in point of fact, it is exactly human, definitively and quintessentially human, since no other creature habitually indulges in comparable atrocities. This negates neither our occasional virtues nor our aesthetic triumphs, but if a being at least a little bit more than human is not waiting around the bend of time, then evolution has suffered a premature ejaculation.
Teachers who offer you the ultimate answers do not possess the ultimate answers, for if they did, they would know that the ultimate answers cannot be given, they can only be received.
It is better to be small, colorful, sexy, careless, and peaceful, like the flowers, than large, conservative, repressed, fearful, and aggressive, like the thunder lizards; a lesson, by the way, that the Earth has yet to learn.
Perhaps the most terrible (or wonderful) thing that can happen to an imaginative youth, aside from the curse (or blessing) of imagination itself, is to be exposed without preparation to the life outside his or her own sphere--the sudden revelation that there is a there out there.
When we accept small wonders, we qualify ourselves to imagine great wonders.
I cannot believe that the most delicious things were placed here merely to test us, to tempt us, to make it the more difficult for us to capture the grand prize: the safety of the void. To fashion of life such a petty game is unworthy of both men and gods.
The word desire suggests that there is something we do not have. If we have everything already, then there can be no desire, for there is nothing left to want. I think that what the Buddha may have been trying to tell us is that we have it all, each of us, all the time; therefore, desire is simply unnecessary.
If you insist on leaving your fate to the gods, then the gods will repay your weakness by having a grin or two at your expense. Should you fail to pilot your own ship, don't be surprised at what inappropriate port you will find yourself docked.
I don't want salvation, I want life, all of life, the miserable as well as the superb.
The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is the more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious.
Those who possess wisdom cannot just ladle it out to every wantwit and jackanapes who comes along and asks for it. A person must be prepared to receive wisdom, or else it will do him more harm than good. Moreover, a lout thrashing about in the clear waters of wisdom will dirty those waters for everyone else.
Perhaps that is why desire causes men calamity. By identifying with our desires and taking them too seriously, we not only increase our susceptibility to disappointment, we actually create a climate inhospitable to the free and easy fulfillment of those desires.
Christianity is merely a system for turning priestesses into handmaidens, queens into concubines, and goddesses into muses.
Hold on to your divine blush, your innate rosy magic, or end up brown. Once you're brown, you'll find out you're blue. As blue as indigo. And you know what that means. Indigo. Indigoing. Indigone.
The aroma of flowers, from which we have borrowed our perfumes, while extremely powerful, has been from the beginning entirely seductive in its intentions. A rose is a rose is a rogue. Perfume, fundamentally, is the sexual attractant of flowers, or, in the case of civet and musk, of animals. Squeezed from the reproductive glands of plants and creatures, perfume is the smell of creation, a sign dramatically delivered to our senses of the Earth's regenerative powers--a message of hope and a message of pleasure.
There are apparently few limitations either of time or space on where the psyche might journey and only the customs inspector employed by our own inhibitions restricts what it might bring back when it reenters the home country of everyday consciousness.
Birth and death were easy. It was life that was hard.
"You know what I mean? Real and unreal, beautiful and strange, like a dream. It got me high as a kite, but it didn't last long enough. It ended too soon and left nothing behind."
That's how it is with dreams," said Priscilla. "They're the perfect crime."
I journey to the east, where I have been told, there are men who have taught death some manners.
You don't have to be a genius to recognize one. If you did, Einstein would never have gotten invited to the White House.
Louisiana in September was like an obscene phone call from nature. The air--moist, sultry, secretive, and far from fresh--felt as if it were being exhaled into one's face. Sometimes it even sounded like heavy breathing.
She needed help, but God was in a meeting whenever she rang.
The Middle Ages hangs over history's belt like a beer belly. It is too late now for aerobic dancing or cottage cheese lunches to reduce the Middle Ages. History will have to wear size 48 shorts forever.
My lunar sign is in Virgo. Every month when the moon is full, I'm driven to balance my checkbook and straighten up my apartment. I can't help myself. Instead of a werewolf I turn into an accountant.
Well, there's one thing to be said for money. It can make you rich.
Zippers are primal and modern at the very same time. On the one hand, your zipper is primitive and reptilian, on the other, mechanical and slick. A zipper is where the Industrial Revolution meets the Cobra Cult.
A sense of humor, properly developed, is superior to any religion so far devised.
A lot of progress was being made there at MIT. Those guys had molecules jumping through hoops like poodles in a circus.
The price of self-destiny is never cheap, and in certain situations it is unthinkable. But to achieve the marvelous, it is precisely the unthinkable that must be thought.
The highest function of love is that it makes the loved one a unique and irreplaceable being. Still, lovers quarrel. Frequently, they quarrel simply to recharge the air between them, to sharpen the aliveness of their relationship. To precipitate such a quarrel, the sweaty kimono of sexual jealousy is usually dragged out of the hamper, although almost any excuse will do. Only rarely is the spat rooted in the beet-deep soil of serious issue, but when it is, a special sadness attends it, for the mind is slower to heal than the heart, and such quarrels can doom a union, even one that has prospered for a very long time.
Politics is for people who have a passion for changing life but lack a passion for living it.
Reality is subjective, and there's an unenlightened tendency in this culture to regard something as 'important' only if it's sober and severe. Your Cheerful Dumb are not so much happy as lobotomized. But your Gloomy Smart are just as ridiculous. When you're unhappy, you get to pay a lot of attention to yourself. And you get to take yourself oh so very seriously. Your truly happy people, which is to say, your people who truly LIKE themselves, they don't think about themselves very much. Your unhappy person resents it when you try to cheer him up, because that means he has to stop dwelling on himself and start paying attention to the universe. Unhappiness is the ultimate form of self-indulgence.
If the earth needs night as well as day, wouldn't it follow that the soul requires endarkenment to balance enlightenment?
Pan had begun to live in his memories, an unhealthy symptom in anyone, suggesting as it does that life has peaked.
The gods do not limit men. Men limit men.
Should one be shallow enough to view existence as a system of rewards and punishments, one soon learns that we pay as dearly for our triumphs as we do for our defeats.
He'd grown convinced that play--more than piety, more than charity or vigilance--was what allowed human beings to transcend evil.
Our individuality is all, all, that we have. There are those who barter it for security, those who repress it for what they believe is the betterment of the whole society, but blessed in the twinkle of the morning star is the one who nurtures and rides it, in grace and love and wit, from peculiar station to peculiar station along life's bittersweet route.
Death is impatient and thoughtless. It barges into your room when you are right in the middle of something, and it doesn't bother to wipe its boots.
The universe does not have laws. It has habits. And habits can be broken.
The conch shell is the voice of Buddha, the birth-bed of Aphrodite, the horn that drives away all demons and draws lost mariners home from the sea. Colored by the moon, shaped by the primal geometry, it is the original dreamboat, the sacred submarine that carries fertility to its rendezvous with poetry.
Shaped by the primal geometry? No, the conch shell is primal geometry. Its perfect logarithmic spiral coils from left to right around an axis of fundamental truth. A house exuded by the dreams of its inhabitant, it is the finest example of the architecture of imagination, the logic of desire.
The illusion of the seventh veil was the illusion that you could get somebody else to do it for you. To think for you. To hang on your cross. The priest, the rabbi, the imam, the swami, the philosophical novelist were traffic cops, at best. They might direct you through a busy intersection, but they wouldn't follow you home and park your car.
For the ethical, political activism was seductive because it seemed to offer the possibility that one could improve society, make things better, without going through the personal ordeal of rearranging one's perceptions and transforming one's self. For the unconscionable, political reactivism was seductive because it seemed to protect one's holdings and legitimize one's greed. But both sides were gazing through a kerchief of illusion.
When humans were young, they were pushed around in strollers. When they were old, they were pushed around in wheelchairs. In between, they were just pushed around.
Both money and art, powdered as they are with the romance and poetry of the age, are magic. Rather, money is magic, art is magik. Money is stagecraft, sleight of hand, a bag of clever tricks. Art is a plexus of forces and influences that act upon the senses by means of practical yet permanently inexplicable secret links. Admittedly, the line between the two can be as thin as a dime. What’s more, the magicians of capitalism strengthen their hold on their audience through the manipulation of artistic images.
...I used to believe that artists went crazy in the process of creating the beautiful works of art that kept society sane. Nowadays, though, artists make intentionally ugly art that's only supposed to reflect society rather than inspire it. So I guess we're all loony together now, loony rats in the shithouse of commercialism.
Information about time cannot be imparted in a straightforward way. Like furniture, it has to be tipped and tilted to get it through the door. If the past is a solid oak buffet whose legs must be unscrewed and whose drawers must be removed before, in an altered state, it can be upended into the entryway of our minds, then the future is a king-size waterbed that hardly stands a chance, especially if it needs to be brought up in an elevator.
What a dull world this would be were we all alike. What an evolutionary dead end! To be brothers, to live in peace, we do not have to be overly similar. We do not have to admire or even like one another's peculiarities. We need only respect those peculiarities—and to be grateful for them. Our similarities provide us with a common ground, but our differences allow us to be fascinated by one another. Differences give human encounters their snap and their fizz and their brew.
The first thunderstorm of the season was in the dressing room, donning its black robes and its necklace of hailstones, strapping on its electrical sword.
Slang possesses an economy, an immediacy that's attractive, all right, but it devalues experience by standardizing and fuzzing it. It hangs between humanity and the real world like a ... a veil. Slang just makes people more stupid, that's all, and stupidity eventually makes them crazy.
Those billions who persist in perceiving time as the pursuit of the future are continually buying waterbeds that will never make it beyond the front porch or the lobby. And if man's mission is to reside in the fullness of the present, then he's got no space for the waterbed, anyhow, not even if he could lower it through a skylight.
Early religions were like muddy ponds with lots of foliage. Concealed there, the fish of the soul could splash and feed. Eventually, however, religions became aquariums. Then hatcheries. From farm fingerling to frozen fish stick is a short swim.
My heart is a Latin American food stall and your love is a health inspector from Zurich.
In this room, the salamander was squashed between the pages of the rhyming dictionary, thereby changing poetry forever. Here, Salome walked around with a big red fish held high up over her head. Old Father spanked her with a ballet slipper, sending her to bed without milk or honey. Dance was changed in this room, too.
There are landscapes in which we feel above us not sky but space. Something larger, deeper than sky is sensed, is seen, although in such settings the sky itself is invariably immense. There is a place between the cerebrum and the stars where sky stops and space commences, and should we find ourselves on a particular prairie or mountaintop at a particular hour, our relationship with sky thins and loosens while our connection to space becomes solid as bone.
The loony legacy of money was that the arithmetic by which things were measured had become more valuable than the things themselves.
Those people who recognise that imagination is reality's master, we call "sages," and those who act upon it, we call "artists."
...to emphasize the afterlife is to deny life. To concentrate on Heaven is to create hell.
In their desperate longing to transcend the disorderliness, friction, and unpredictability that pesters life; in their desire for a fresh start in a tidy habitat, germ-free and secured by angels, religious multitudes are gambling the only life they may ever have on a dark horse in a race that has no finish line.
Of the seven deadly sins, lust is definitely the pick of the litter.
What is politics, after all, but the compulsion to preside over property and make other peoples' decisions for them? Liberty, the very opposite of ownership and control, cannot, then, result from political action, either at the polls or the barricades, but rather evolves out of attitude. If it results from anything, it may be levity.
When a person accepts a broader definition of reality, a broader net is cast upon the waters of fortune.
Mockingbirds are the true artists of the bird kingdom. Which is to say, although they're born with a song of their own, an innate riff that happens to be one of the most versatile of all ornithological expressions, mockingbirds aren't content to merely play the hand that is dealt them. Like all artists, they are out to rearrange reality.
If the world got any smaller, we'd all have to go on a diet.
The inability to correctly perceive reality is often responsible for humans' insane behavior. And every time they substitute an all-purpose, sloppy slang word for the words that would accurately describe an emotion or a situation, it lowers their reality orientations, pushes them further from shore, out onto the foggy waters of alienation and confusion.
Of the seven dwarves, only Dopey had a shaven face. This should tell us something about the custom of shaving.
It occurred to her that despite the failure of her marriage, the failure of her career, despite her hangover and chronic horniness, she suddenly was feeling rather light and giddy. She couldn't understand it. Was she simply too shallow to suffer indefinitely, or was she too wise to become attached to her suffering, too feisty to permit it to rule her life? She voted for wise and feisty, and walked on, kicking leaves.
This is the room of the wolfmother wallpaper. This is the room where the boys slept inside their blowguns to avoid being bitten by the bats, for whom the girls sewed tiny velvet suits.
This is the room where Jezebel frescoed her eyelids with history's tragic glitter, where Delilah practiced for her beautician's license, the room in which Salome dropped the seventh veil while dancing the dance of ultimate cognition, skinny legs and all.
People tend to take everything too seriously. Especially themselves. Yep. And that's probably what makes 'em scared and hurt so much of the time. Life is too serious to take that seriously.
Jerusalem is not caught between a rock and a hard place. Jerusalem is a rock and a hard place.
Whenever a state or an individual cited 'insufficient funds' as an excuse for neglecting this important thing or that, it was indicative of the extent to which reality had been distorted by the abstract lens of wealth.
During periods of so-called economic depression, societies suffer for want of all manner of essential goods, yet investigation almost invariably discloses that there are plenty of goods available. Plenty of coal in the ground, corn in the fields, wool on the sheep. What is missing is not materials but an abstract unit of measurement called 'money.' It is akin to a starving woman with a sweet tooth lamenting that she can't bake a cake because she doesn't have any ounces. She has butter, flour, eggs, milk, and sugar, she just doesn't have any ounces, any pinches, any pints.
Religion is a paramount contributor to human misery. It is not merely the opium of the masses, it is the cyanide.
Anybody who maintains absolute standards of good and evil is dangerous. As dangerous as a maniac with a loaded revolver. In fact, the person who maintains absolute standards of good and evil usually is the maniac with the revolver.
If there were something else I'd rather be doing, I'd damn well be doing it.
Religion was an attempt to pin down the Divine. The Divine was eternally in flux, forever moving, shifting shape. That was its nature. It was absolute, true enough: absolutely mobile. Absolutely transcendent. Absolutely flexible. Absolutely impersonal. It had its god and goddess aspects, but it was ultimately no more male or female that it was star or screwdriver. It was the sum of all those things, but that sum could never be chalked on a slate. The Divine was beyond description, beyond knowing, beyond comprehension. To say that the Divine was Creation divided by Destruction was as close as one could come to definition. But the puny of soul, the dull of wit, weren't content with that. They wanted to hang a face on the Divine. They went so far as to attribute petty human emotions (anger, jealousy, etc.) to it, not stopping to realize that if God were a being, even a supreme being, our prayers would have bored him to death long ago.
A world leader who's convinced that life is merely a trial for the more valuable and authentic afterlife is less hesitant to risk starting a nuclear holocaust. A politician or corporate executive who's expecting the Rapture to arrive on the next flight from Jerusalem is not going to worry much about polluting oceans or destroying forests.
...the male had gone to ludicrous and often violent lengths to compensate for what struck the more insecure of men as an inferior sexual role. One of the lengths to which they went was the establishment of patriarchal religion and the recasting of a father figure as the producer of the show, although from the very beginning, the cosmogonic principal had been feminine. Those men, envious and anxious, not only fired the Great Goddess (who smiled upon all manner of sexual expression, including that which moderns were to label "promiscuous" and "pornographic"), but they also spent thousands of years and billions of dollars trying to conceal the fact of her existence.
The Divine was expansive, but religion was reductive. Religion attempted to reduce the Divine to a knowable quantity with which mortals might efficiently deal, to pigeonhole it once and for all so that we never had to reevaluate it. With hammers of cant and spikes of dogma, we crucified and crucified again, trying to nail to our stationary altars the migratory light of the world.
Thus, since religion bore false witness to the Divine, religion was blasphemy. And once it entered into its unholy alliance with politics, it became the most dangerous and repressive force that the world has ever known.
On the staircase of the haunted house of life, art is the one board that doesn't creak.
If one yearns to see the face of the Divine, one must break out of the aquarium, escape the fish farm, to go swim up wild cataracts, dive in deep fjords. One must explore the labyrinth of the reef, the shadows of the lily pads. How limiting, how insulting to think of God as a benevolent warden, an absentee hatchery manager who imprisons us in the 'comfort' of artificial pools, where intermediaries sprinkle our restrictive waters with sanitized flakes of processed nutriment.
Religion is nothing but institutionalized mysticism. The catch is, mysticism does not lend itself to institutionalization. The moment we attempt to organize mysticism, we destroy its essence. Religion, then, is mysticism in which the mystical has been killed. Or, at least diminished.
Is it not finer, however, to sizzle whole in the flame of freedom than to slowly stew to pieces in one's own diminishing juices, constrained and constricted before the veil?
The ones who're so upset about everybody not being the same, about competition, about standards of quality, about art objects having 'auras' around them, they're usually people with average abilities and average minds. And below average senses of humor. Whether it's a matter of lifting the deprived up or dragging the gifted down, they want everybody to function on their level. Some fun that would be.
The trick is this: keep your eye on the ball. Even when you can't see the ball.
If there's a thing, a scene, maybe, an image that you want to see real bad, that you need to see but it doesn't exist in the world around you, at least not in the form you envision, then you create it so you can look at it and have it around, or show it to other people who wouldn't have imagined it because they perceive reality in a more shallow, predictable way. And that's it. That's all an artist does.
They don't get it. Can't they comprehend that not everything is done for a paycheck? That sometimes you just make a thing 'cause you wanna see how it'll turn out, 'cause you have a feeling it oughta be made?
Don't trust anybody who'd rather be grammatically correct than have a good time.
The hour was 4:00pm, the day Monday, the month September. Late September. So late that you had to look closely to distinguish it from October. Dip a slice of bread in batter. That's September: yellow gold, soft, and sticky. Fry that bread. Now you have October: chewier, drier, streaked with browns. The day in question fell somewhere in the middle of the french toast process. A hint of chilled marmalade in the air.
Nature has always set limits on growth: limits on the physical size of individual species, limits on the size of populations. Did we really believe capitalism was exempt from the laws of nature? Did we really confuse endless consumption with endless progress?
...individuals have to accept responsibility for their own bad choices. If every time we choose a turd, society, at great expense, simply allows us to redeem it for a pepperoni, then not only will we never learn to make smart choices, we will also surrender the freedom to choose, because a choice without consequences is no choice at all. Maybe it boils down to the premium we want to place on liberty.
It's a smile a girl could bring home to mother, if she had a mother; a smile a girl could pet like a pony, sip like a lemonade, hum like a popular tune; a smile a girl would feel safe with in a dark alley.
Would you complain because a beautiful sunset doesn't have a future or a shooting star a payoff? And why should romance 'lead anywhere'? Passion isn't a path through the woods. Passion is the woods.
Midnight, when the monotonous tick-tock of diurnal progress is for one throbbing moment replaced by the cool but smokey honk of a saxophone, alternately seductive and threatening. Midnight. The black growth on the clock face that has to be biopsied every twenty-four hours to see whether it is malignant or benign.
Animals--do not share man's pathetic need to socialize bliss, codify awe, pigeonhole the Mystery, and tame the Divine. For an ape, born twice is entirely redundant, since an ape gets it right the first time.
He's not really a fighter. He's an adventurer. There's a difference. He doesn't attack, he engages; he doesn't defend, he expands; he doesn't destroy, he transforms; he doesn't reject, he explores; he doesn't... well, you get the picture.
Night, when tangos play on the nurse's radio and rat poison sings its own hot song behind the cellar door. Night, when the long snake feeds, when the black sedan cruises the pleasure districts, when neon flickers "Free at Last" in a dozen lost languages, and shapes left over from childhood move furtively behind the moon-dizzy boughs of the fir.
"You aren't talking about dreams. You are referring to your pathetic bourgeoisie ambitions. Dreams don't come true. Dreams are true."
They warn us when we're kids that we're going to have to suffer, but they neglect to mention the indignity. What self-respecting fetus, if shown its future as a proctology patient, boot-camp recruit, or game show contestant, would still elect to be born?
Your friend insults the homeless by giving them no credit for having made the decisions that shaped their lives, and demeans them further by declaring them powerless to alter their situations.
Passion isn't a path through the woods. Passion is the woods.
I'm acquainted with a, uh, gentleman who claims that the extent to which a society focuses on the needs of its lowest common denominator is the extent to which that society'll be mired in mediocrity. Whereas, if we would aim the bulk of our support at the brightest, most talented, most virtuous instead, then they would have the wherewithal to solve a lot of our problems, to uplift the whole culture, enlighten it or something, so that eventually there wouldn't be so many losers and weaklings impeding evolution and dragging the whole species down. He claims that martyrs like you just perpetuate human misery by catering to it. He believes individuals have to take responsibility for their own lives and accept the consequences of their choices.
The theater of man is not always 'amusing', but it is always theater, and theater can be marveled at even when its content is somber and harsh.
You can love 'em till your well runs dry, Belford, but you can never love 'em enough, and you know it. No matter how much others might love you, you can't love yourself unless you're in charge of your own actions, and you'll never take charge as long as you can get away with blaming your shortcomings and misfortunes on your family or society or your race or gender or Satan or whatever...
We, with our propensity for murder, torture, slavery, rape, cannibalism, pillage, advertising jingles, shag carpets, and golf, how could we seriously be considered as the perfection of a four-billion-year-old grandiose experiment?
In the beginning was the thing. And one thing led to another.
But why diminish your soul being run-of-the-mill at something? Mediocrity: now there is ugliness for you. Mediocrity's a hairball coughed up on the Persian carpet of Creation.
Just because you've got the cutest ass west of Chicago and north of L.A. doesn't mean you have to go around with your head up it. Leaves no room for me.
"There's no such thing as security in this life, sweetheart; and the sooner you accept that fact, the better off you'll be. The person who strives for security will never be free. The person who believes that she's found security will never reach paradise. What she mistakes for security is purgatory. You know what purgatory is, Gwendolyn? It's the waiting room, it's the lobby. Not only does she have the wrong libretto, she's stuck in the lobby where she can't see the show."
You should never hesitate to trade your cow for a handful of magic beans.
Well, there's always the nature boat,the art boat, the sex boat, the intoxication boat. They're bobbing at the end of nearly every pier, just waiting to ferry us across our personal doldrums, societal whirlpools, and institutional sewage lagoons. Why, the best of them can even cut the tides of mediocrity.
Love makes the world go 'round, it's true, but lust stops the world in its tracks; love renders bearable the passage of time, lust causes time to stand still; lust kills time, which is not to say that it wastes it or whiles it aimlessly away but rather that it annihilates it, cancels it, extirpates it from the continuum; preventing, while it lasts, any lapse into the tense and shabby woes of temporal society; lust is the thousand-pound odometer needle on the dashboard of the absolute.
Nostalgia's nice enough in little bitty doses, it puts personal peach fuzz on the hard ass of history.
What is it that separates human beings from the so called lower animals? Well as I see it, it's exactly one half dozen significant things: Humor, Imagination, Eroticism--as opposed to the mindless, instinctive mating of glow-worms or raccoons--Spirituality, Rebelliousness, and Aesthetics, an appreciation of beauty for its own sake. Now, since those are the features that define a human being, it follows that the extent to which someone is lacking in those qualities is the extent to which he or she is less than human. Capisce?
Human societies have always defined themselves through narration, but nowadays corporations are telling man's stories for him. And the message, no matter how entertainingly couched, is invariably the same: to be special, you must conform; to be happy, you must consume.
The more advertising I see, the less I want to buy.
Moreover, given the unpleasant option of having to associate with either the self-satisfied beautiful or the self-pitying plain, he'd choose the former every time because beauty could sometimes transcend smugness whereas self-pity just made ugliness all the more unattractive.
There's birth, there's death, and in between there's maintenance.
The Devil doesn't make us do anything. The Devil, for example, doesn't make us mean. Rather, when we're mean, we make the Devil. Literally. Our actions create him. Conversely, when we behave with compassion, generosity, and grace, we create God in the world.
Things attach themselves like leeches to the human soul, then they bleed out the sweetness and the music and the primordial joy of being unencumbered upon the land.
For most people, self-awareness and self-pity blossom simultaneously in early adolescence. It's about that time that we start viewing the world as something other than a whoop-de-doo playground, we start to experience personally how threatening it can be, how cruel and unjust. At the very moment when we become, for the first time, both introspective and socially conscientious, we receive the bad news that the world, by and large, doesn't give a rat's ass.
Self-esteem is for sissies. Accept that you're a pimple and try to keep a lively sense of humor about it. That way lies grace--and maybe even glory.
People feel tremendous pressure to settle down in some sort of permanent space and fill it up with stuff, but deep inside they resent those structures, and they're scared to death of that stuff because they know it controls them and restricts their movements.
Before curiosity kills it, the cat learns more of the world than a hundred uninquisitive dogs.
The pain of love does not break hearts, it merely seasons them. The disappointed heart revives itself and grows meaty and piquant. Sorrow expands it and makes it pithy. The spirit, on the other hand, can snap like a bone and may never fully knit.
My faith is whatever makes me feel good about being alive. If your religion doesn't make you feel good to be alive, what the hell is the point of it?
He was in a drug-induced neurologically based state of blissful benevolence, a state in which ego softened, fear dissolved and trust expanded.
The French say that the best part of an affair is going up the stairs. Desire is almost always more thrilling than fulfillment.
The unadorned truth is, adolescent girls are horny as jackrabbits. It's not their fault, nature designed it that way. For the protection of the species. And there's nothing politics or religion can do to alter that physical reality, short of drugging the girls with medical depressants, or siphoning off their hormones with rubber tubes. Because modern society is by nature unnatural, we're in a state of absolute denial over it. Absolute denial. That our daughters, granddaughters, nieces and little sisters might be highly charged sexual dynamos makes us so uncomfortable, so queasy, that we, men and women both, have to lie to ourselves and pretend it doesn't exist.
The world's showing signs of waking up from its linear trance, its dangerously restrictive sense of itself as a historic vehicle chuffing down a one-way street toward some preordained apocalyptic goal.
"Humanity is generally offensive," he told her happily. "Life's an offensive proposition from beginning to end. Maybe those who can't tolerate offense ought to just go ahead and end it all, and maybe those who demand financial compensation for offense ought to have it ended for them."
I've sucked way too much cement for this year. Bad juju rising off them city sidewalks. I need to babble with a brook or two, inhale starlight, make friends with some trees.
To deny that young girls were throbbing hives of sexual honey was to be both sexist and ageist. On the other hand, to steal samples of that honey or dupe them out of it, or to view them as only hives or even as primarily hives was an equal or perhaps greater wrong.
I rather like the smell of absurdity in the morning.
Virtual reality is nothing new ... Books, the ones worth reading, have always generated virtual reality. Of course, unless one can get past its cultural and sensorial levels, what is reality but virtual?
"Meditation," said his teacher, "hasn't got a damn thing to do with anything, 'cause all it has to do with is nothing. Nothingness. Okay? It doesn't develop the mind, it dissolves the mind. Self-improvement? Forget it, baby. It erases the self. Throws the ego out on its big brittle ass. What good is it? Good for nothing. Excellent for nothing. Yes, Lord, but when you get down to nothing, you get down to ultimate reality. It's then and exactly then that you're sensing the true nature of the universe, you're linked up with the absolute Absolute, son, and unless you're content with blowing smoke up your butt all your life, that there's the only place to be."
And the alcohol, as was its evil genius, was only egotizing and adrenalizing matters, making them worse. Better the silly genius of Hemp.
Silence is a mirror. So faithful, and yet so unexpected, is the reflection it can throw back at men that they will go to almost any length to avoid seeing themselves in it.
What interests me are the post-Newtonian, extrabiologic implications of a human species able to think and act using clusters of electrons: light, in other words. If the opening act of the evolutionary drama involved a descent from light into matter and language, then it only makes sense that in the closing act, so to speak, we reunite with our photonic progenitor. The role that language--the word--will play in our light-driven metamorphosis is the furry little question that cranks my squirrel cage.
I am looking for the novelists whose writing is an extension of their intellect rather than an extension of their neurosis.
Suppose the neutral angels were able to talk Yahweh and Lucifer--God and Satan, to use their popular titles--into settling out of court. What would be the terms of the compromise? Specifically, how would they divide the assets of their earthly kingdom?
Would God be satisfied to take loaves and fishes and itty-bitty thimbles of Communion Wine, while allowing Satan to have the red-eye gravy, eighteen-ounce New York steaks, and buckets of chilled champagne?
The dinosaurs died so that chat rooms might flourish.
There were, in his opinion, drugs that diminished ego and drugs that engorged ego, which is to say, revelatory drugs and delusory drugs; and on a psychic level, at least, he favored awe over swagger.
... the instant ELITISM became a dirty word among Americans, any potential for a high culture to develop in their country was tomahawked in its cradle.
There exists a false aristocracy based on family name, property, and inherited wealth. But there likewise exists a true aristocracy based on intelligence, talent, and virtue.
The narrow, no-nonsense skeptic is every bit as naive as the breezy-brained New Age believer.
The stiff-witted and academic seem not to comprehend that it is entirely possible to be ironic and sincere at the same instant; that a knowing tongue in cheek does not necessarily preclude an affectionate glow in heart.
Taboos were superstitions with fangs on them, and if not transcended, they punctured the brain and drained the spirit. A taboo was a crystallized knot of societal fear and must be unraveled, cut through, or smashed if a people were to set themselves free.
It doesn't matter how sensitive you are or how damn smart and educated you are, if you're not both at the same time, if your heart and your brain aren't connected, aren't working together harmoniously, well, you're just hopping through life on one leg. You may think you're walking, you may think you're running a damn marathon, but you're only on a hop trip. The connections gotta be maintained.
Just because you're naked
Doesn't mean you're sexy,
Just because you're cynical
Doesn't mean you're cool.
You may tell the greatest lies
And wear a brilliant disguise
But you can't escape the eyes
of the one who sees right through you.
In the end what will prevail
Is your passion not your tale.
For love is the Holy Grail,
Even in Cognito.
So better listen to me, sister,
and pay close attention, mister:
It's very good to play the game,
Amuse the gods, avoid the pain,
But don't trust fortune, don't trust fame,
Your real self doesn't know your name
And in that we're all the same:
We're all incognito.
Hard times and funky living can season the soul, true enough, but joy is the yeast that makes it rise.
... curiosity, especially intellectual inquisitiveness, is what separates the truly alive from those who are merely going through the motions.
After the monkeys came down from the trees and learned to hurl sharp objects, they had had to move into caves for protection--not only from the big predatory cats but, as they began to lose their monkey fur, from the elements. Eventually, they started transposing their hunting fantasies onto cave walls in the form of pictures, first as an attempt at practical magic and later for the strange, unexpected pleasure they discovered in artistic creation.
Time passed. Art came off the walls and turned into ritual. Ritual became religion. Religion spawned science. Science led to big business. And big business, if it continues on its present mindless, voracious trajectory, could land those of us lucky enough to survive its ultimate legacy back into caves again.
Perhaps we draw up transneurological info-bits from the underworld to form dreams the way that exposed metal draws down oxygen to form rust. Dreams, then, may be a form of psychic oxidation.
The door to novelty is always slightly ajar: many pass it by with barely a glance, some peek inside but choose not to enter, others dash in and dash out again; while a few, drawn by curiosity, boredom, rebellion, or circumstance, venture in so deep or wander around in there so long that they can never find their way back out.
A real villain is always preferable to a fake hero.
Soul is not even that Crackerjack prize that God and Satan scuffle over after the worms have all licked our bones. That's why, when we ponder--as sooner or later each of us must-- exactly what we ought to be doing about our soul, religion is the wrong, if conventional, place to turn. Religion is little more than a transaction in which troubled people trade their souls for temporary and wholly illusionary psychological comfort--the old give-it-up-in-order-to-save-it routine. Religions lead us to believe that the soul is the ultimate family jewel and that in return for our mindless obedience, they can secure it for us in their vaults, or at least insure it against fire theft. They are mistaken.
April. Spring was on the land like an itch. The whole countryside seemed to be scratching itself awake--lazily, luxuriously, though occasionally scratching so hard its nails hit bone, that old cold calcium that lies beneath our tingles.
Anything can be misused. Furthermore, every individual has to assume responsibility for his or her own actions, even the poor and the young. A social system that decrees otherwise is inviting intellectual atrophy and spiritual stagnation.
It's a bit of a cliche to say it, but when you think of soul, you should think of things that are authentic and things that are deep. Anything superficial is not soulful. Anything artificial, imitative, or overly refined is not soulful. Wood has a stronger connection to soul than does plastic, although, paradoxically, thanks to human interface, a funky wooden table or chair can sometimes exceed in soulfulness the soul that may be invoked by a living tree.
...this so-called animism that not so much the Fan Nannies but everybody else around here subscribes to. Can we really just write it off as primitive superstition run amok? Do only human beings have souls, or is that a narcissistic, chauvinistic piece of self-flattery? I mean, can't we look at that great old teak tree over there or at this gulch, and see as much of the divine in them as in some ol' anthropomorphic Sunday school Boom Daddy with imaginary long gray whiskers and a platinum bathrobe? Are we capable of entertaining the possibility that there may have been a holy entity in the cross as well as on it?
The great value of a high-wire act is that it has no practical value. The fact that so much skill and effort and courage can be directed into something so ostensibly useless is what makes it useful. That's what affords it the power to lift us out of context and carry us-- elsewhere.
In this world that God (or Mother Nature) created, it is always hazard and novelty--hazard and novelty--which assert themselves, thereby rendering notions of fixity absurd. Incongruously enough, however, when we allow ourselves to fully accept uncertainty, to embrace and cultivate it even, then we actually can begin to feel within ourselves the presence of an Absolute. The person who cannot welcome ambiguity cannot welcome God.
When socialism is pushed beyond a certain point, it becomes totalitarianism. Capitalism, on the other hand, if carried to its extreme, becomes anarchy.
How could you be so naive as to tell a human being the truth? Men live by embedding themselves in ongoing systems of illusion. Religion. Patriotism. Economics. Fashion. That sort of thing. If you wish to gain the favor of the two-legged ilk, you must learn to fabricate as wholeheartedly as they do.
There is no such thing as a weird human being. It's just that some people require more understanding than others.
Generally, if spirit is the fresh air vent and ambient lighting in the house of consciousness, if the spirit is the electrical system that illuminates that house, then soul is the smoky fireplace, the fragrant oven, the dusty wine cellar, the strange creaks we hear in the floorboards late at night.
All depression has its roots in self-pity, and all self-pity is rooted in people taking themselves too seriously.
Just as the overturned bucket that was once brimming seems so much emptier than the bucket that never held milk in the first place. Thanks for filling my little pail.
We only rise above mediocrity when there's something at stake, and I mean something more consequential than money or reputation.
In the life of an individual, an aesthetic sensibility is both more authentic and more commendable than a political or religious one.
In the end, we should simply imagine a joke; a long joke that's being continually retold in an accent too thick and too strange to ever be completely understood. Life is that joke. The soul is its punch line.
Nature abhors a vacuum, however, and over time the crater is almost certain to fill in with new wisdom--or fresh folly. Sometimes it can be a challenge to tell the difference.
If I have been given any gift in this life, it's my ability to live simultaneously in the rational world and the world of imagination. I'm in my eighties now, and if there is one thing of which I am most proud, it's that I have permitted no authority (neither civilian nor military, neither institutional nor societal) to relieve me--by means of force, coercion, or ridicule--of that gift. From the beginning, imagination has been my wild card, my skeleton key, my servant, my master, my bat cave, my home entertainment center, my flotation device, my syrup of wahoo; and I plan to stick with it to the end, whenever and however that end might come, and whether or not there is another act to follow.
Ironically, the quest for aliveness can sometimes put one in closer proximity to death, whether one is barreling down a crocodile-infested African river or asphyxiating in glittery Hollywood on a mouthful of Revlon cologne.
Evidently, I'd suffered an epiphany: the subconscious realization that when it comes to coolness, nothing the human race has ever invented is more cool than a book. I still believe that today. To quote another famous painter, this time Robert Motherwell, "The best toys are made of paper."
...at that juncture in my life I wasn't evolved enough to understand the fluid nature of romantic love (its indifference to human cravings for permanence and certainty); its uncivilized, undomesticated nature (less like a pretty melody than a foxish barking at the moon), or, more importantly perhaps, that it's a privilege to love someone, to truly love them; and while it's paradisiacal if she or he loves you back, it's unfair to demand or expect reciprocity.
The term "legendary," like many another superlative or word denoting singularity or extreme excellence (not to mention wonder or marvel), has been in modern times so excessively and undeservedly employed by advertisers, media hacks, and the barely literate masses that it has lost much of its impact and nearly all of its meaning.
Love is the only game in which we win even when we lose.
One morning when I was six, I awoke to find it spring. When I'd fallen asleep it was winter still, but sometime during the night, like a tipsy debutante sneaking home late from a ball, her hair undone, her green gown billowing, a song in her heart and a dreamy yet defiant smile on her face, spring had returned to Blowing Rock.
At the meeting of our lips, peacocks went into hiding, elephants suffered memory loss, camels developed a maddening thirst, and dinosaurs long thought to be extinct turned up on the evening news.
The line separating tragedy from comedy is broader, deeper, more jagged, although neither as fixed nor as problematic as the one between life and death; and it's those more glaring oppositions, including desire versus rejection, success versus failure, and especially, "good" versus "evil" that generally engage practitioners of the narrative arts. From my perspective, however, the most fascinating and perhaps most significant of all interfaces is the one that separates yet connects the ridiculous and the sublime. The surprisingly narrow borderline between things holy and things profane, between prayer and laughter, between a Leonardo chalice and Warhol soup can, between the Clear Light and the joke, provides a zone of meaning as exhilarating as it is heretical: a whisper of psychic release so acutely yet weirdly portentous it just might offer a clue to the mystery of being.
...one should never operate under the illusion that one can always live out one's wildest fantasies with impunity. One must be willing to be charged a high price.