I am inspired by so many people, places and things that it would be impossible to list them all here. So here are just a select few that have played an out-sized role in my development as an artist and a human being!
In addition, and following in the tradition of Elbert Hubbard, I like to scrapbook bits of wisdom that I stumble upon over the course of this life's journey. I've shared some of them below. I hope you find as much joy and meaning in them as I have!
This is what I believe:
That I am I.
That my soul is a dark forest.
That my known self will never be more than a little clearing in the forest.
That gods, strange gods, come forth from the forest into the clearing of my known self, and then go back.
That I must have the courage to let them come and go.
That I will never let mankind put anything over me, but that I will try always to recognize and submit to the gods in me and the gods in other men and women.
There is my creed.
-- D. H. Lawrence
My candle burns at both its ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah!, my foes, and oh!, my friends --
It gives a lovely light!
-- Edna St. Vincent Millay
What work I have done I have done because it has been play. If it had been work I shouldn't have done it. Who was it who said, "Blessed is the man who has found his work"? Whoever it was he had the right idea in his mind. Mark you, he says his work--not somebody else's work. The work that is really a man's own work is play and not work at all. Cursed is the man who has found some other man's work and cannot lose it. When we talk about the great workers of the world we really mean the great players of the world. The fellows who groan and sweat under the weary load of toil that they bear never can hope to do anything great. How can they when their souls are in a ferment of revolt against the employment of their hands and brains? The product of slavery, intellectual or physical, can never be great.
-- Mark Twain
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.
-- Thomas Jefferson
There are two kinds of fools:
One says, "This is old, therefore it is good";
The other says, "This is new, therefore it is better."
-- William Ralph Inge
Then an old man, a keeper of an inn, said, "Speak to us of Eating and Drinking."
And he said:
Would that you could live on the fragrance of the earth, and like an air plant be sustained by the light. But since you must kill to eat, and rob the young of its mother's milk to quench your thirst, let it then be an act of worship, And let your board stand an altar on which the pure and the innocent of forest and plain are sacrificed for that which is purer and still more innocent in many.
When you kill a beast say to him in your heart, "By the same power that slays you, I to am slain; and I too shall be consumed. For the law that delivered you into my hand shall deliver me into a mightier hand. Your blood and my blood is naught but the sap that feeds the tree of heaven."
And when you crush an apple with your teeth, say to it in your heart, "Your seeds shall live in my body, and the buds of your tomorrow shall blossom in my heart, And your fragrance shall be my breath, And together we shall rejoice through all the seasons."
And in the autumn, when you gather the grapes of your vineyard for the winepress, say in your heart, "I to am a vineyard, and my fruit shall be gathered for the winepress, And like new wine I shall be kept in eternal vessels."
And in winter, when you draw the wine, let there be in your heart a song for each cup; And let there be in the song a remembrance for the autumn days, and for the vineyard, and for the winepress.
-- Khalil Gibran
Ah, could I lay me down in this long grass
And close my eyes, and let the quiet wind
Blow over me--I am so tired, so tired
Of passing pleasant places! All my life,
Following Care along the dusty road,
Have I looked back at loveliness and sighed;
Yet at my hand an unrelenting hand
Tugged ever, as I passed. All my life long
Over my shoulder have I looked at peace;
And now I would fain lie in this long grass
And close my eyes.
Yet Onward! Cat-birds call
Through the long afternoon, and creeks at dusk
Are guttural. Whip-poor-wills wake and cry,
Drawing the twilight close about their throats.
Only my heart makes answer. Eager vines
Go up the rocks and wait; flushed apple-trees
Pause in their dance and break the ring for me;
Dim, shady wood-roads, redolent of fern
And bayberry, that through sweet bevies thread
Of round-faced roses, pink and petulant,
Look back and beckon ere they disappear.
Only my heart, only my heart responds.
Yet, ah, my path is sweet on either side
All through the dragging day, --sharp underfoot
And hot, and like dead mist the dry dust hangs--
But far, oh, far as passionate eye can reach,
And long, ah, long as rapturous eye can cling,
The world is mine: blue hill, still silver lake,
Broad field, bright flower, and the long white road;
A gateless garden, and an open path;
My feet to follow, and my heart to behold.
-- Edna St. Vincent Millay
White with daisies and red with sorrel
And empty, empty under the sky!--
Life is a quest and love a quarrel--
Here is a place for me to lie.
Daisies spring from damn-ed seeds,
And this red fire that here I see
Is a worthless crop of crimson weeds,
Cursed by farmers thriftily.
But here, unhated for an hour, The sorrel runs in ragged flame,
The daisy stands, a bastard flower,
Like flowers that bear an honest name.
And here a while, where no wind brings
The baying of a pack athirst,
May sleep the sleep of blessed things,
The blood too bright, the brow accursed.
-- Edna St. Vincent Millay
If our friendship depends on things like space and time, then when we finally overcome space and time, we've destroyed our own brotherhood! But overcome space, and all we have left is Here. Overcome time, and all we have left is Now. And in the middle of Here and Now, don't you think that we might see each other once or twice?
-- Richard Bach (from "Jonathan Livingston Seagull")
Be yourself and think for yourself; and while your conclusions may not be infallible they will be nearer right than the conclusions forced upon you by those who have a personal interest in keeping you in ignorance. You grow through exercise of your faculties, and if you don’t reason now you never will advance. We are all sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be. Claim your heritage!
-- Samuel Taylor Coleridge
One man with an idea in his head is in danger of being considered a madman.
Two men with the same idea in common may be foolish, but can hardly be mad.
Ten men sharing an idea begin to act,
a hundred draw attention as fanatics,
a thousand and society begins to tremble,
a hundred thousand and there is war abroad and the cause has victories tangible and real.
And why only a hundred thousand? Why not a hundred million and peace upon the earth?
You and I who agree together, it is we who have to answer that question.
-- William Morris
The Spring blew trumpets of color;
Her Green sang in my brain—
I heard a blind man groping
“Tap—tap” with his cane;
I pitied him in his blindness;
But can I boast, “I see”?
Perhaps there walks a spirit
Close by, who pities me,—
A spirit who hears me tapping
The five-sensed cane of mind
Amid such unguessed glories—
That I am worse than blind.
-- Harry Kemp, 1922
There is an ecstasy that marks the summit of life, and beyond which life cannot rise. And such is the paradox of living, this ecstasy comes when one is most alive, and it comes as a complete forgetfulness that one is alive. This ecstasy, this forgetfulness of living, comes to the artist, caught up and out of himself in a sheet of flame; it comes to the soldier, war-mad on a stricken field and refusing quarter; and it came to Buck, leading the pack, sounding the old wolf-cry, straining after the food that was alive and that fled swiftly before him through the moonlight. He was sounding the deeps of his nature, and of the parts of his nature that were deeper than he, going back into the womb of Time. He was mastered by the sheer surging of life, the tidal wave of being, the perfect joy of each separate muscle, joint, and sinew in that it was everything that was not death, that it was aglow and rampant, expressing itself in movement, flying exultantly under the stars and over the face of dead matter that did not move.
-- Jack London, The Call of the Wild
"Now, there are many millions in their sects and churches who feel the order, 'Do thou,' and throw their weight into obedience. And there are millions more who feel predestination in 'Thou shalt.' Nothing they may do can interfere with what will be. But 'Thou mayest'! Why, that makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win...
And I feel I am a man. And I feel that a man is a very important thing - maybe more important than a star. This is not theology. I have no bent towards the gods. But I have a new love for that glittering instrument, the human soul. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe. It is always attacked and never destroyed because, 'Thou mayest...'"
..."It was your two-word translation, Lee - 'Thou mayest.' It took me by the throat and shook me. And when the dizziness was over, a path was open, new and bright. And when my life which is ending seems to be going on to an ending wonderful. And my music has a last melody like a bird song in the night.
Lee was peering at him through the darkness.
"'Thou mayest rule over sin," Lee said. That's it. I do not believe all men are destroyed. I can name you a dozen who were not, and they are the ones the world lives by. It is true of the spirit as it is true of the battles - only the winners are remembered. Surely most men are destroyed, but there are others who like pillars of fire guide frightened men through the darkness. 'Thou mayest, Thou mayest!' What glory! It is true that we are weak and sick and quarrelsome, but if that is all we ever were, we would, millenniums ago, have disappeared from the face of the earth. A few remnants of fossilized jawbone, some broken teeth in strats of limestone, would be the only mark man would have left of his existence in the world. But the choice, Lee, the choice of winning! I had never understood it or accepted it before. 'Thou mayest rule over sin.'"
-- John Steinbeck, East of Eden
He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog.
You are his life, his love, his leader.
He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart.
You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.
To understand reality is not the same as to know about outward events. It is to perceive the essential nature of things. The best-informed man is not necessarily the wisest. Indeed there is a danger that precisely in the multiplicity of his knowledge he will lose sight of what is essential. But on the other hand, knowledge of an apparently trivial detail quite often makes it possible to see into the depth of things. And so the wise man will seek to acquire the best possible knowledge about events, but always without becoming dependent upon this knowledge. To recognize the significant in the factual is wisdom.
-- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
1. There was a Master come unto the earth, born in the holy land of Indiana, raised in the mystical hills east of Fort Wayne.
2. The Master learned of this world in the public schools of Indiana and he grew, in his trade as a mechanic of automobiles.
3. But the Master had learnings from other lands and other schools, from other lives that he had lived. He remembered these, and remembering became wise and strong, so that others saw his strength and came to him for counsel.
4. He believed that he had power to help himself and all mankind, and as he believed so it was for him, so that others saw his power and came to him to be healed of their troubles and their many diseases.
5. The Master believed that it is well for any man to think upon himself as a son of God, and as he believed, so it was, and the shops and garages where he worked became crowded and jammed with those who sought his learning and his touch, and the streets outside with those who longed only that the shadow of his passing might fall upon them, and change their lives.
6. It came to pass, because of the crowds, that the several foremen and shop managers bid the Master leave his tools and go his way, for so tightly was he thronged that neither he nor other mechanics had room to work upon the automobiles.
7. So it was that he went into the countryside, and people following began to call him Messiah, and worker of miracles; and as they believed, it was so.
8. If a storm passed as he spoke, not a raindrop touched a listener's head; the last of the multitude heard his words as clearly as the first, no matter lightening nor thunder in the sky about. And always he spoke to them in parables.
9. And he said unto them, "Within each of us lies the power of our consent to health and to sickness, to riches and to poverty, to freedom and to slavery. It is we who control these, and not another."
10. A mill-man spoke and said, "Easy words for you, Master, for you are guided as we are not, and need not toil as we toil. A man has to work for his living in this world."
11. The Master answered and said, "Once there lived a village along the bottom of a great crystal river.
12. "The current of the river swept silently over them all - young and old, rich and poor, good and evil, the current going its own way, knowing its own crystal self.
13. "Each creature in its own manner clung tightly to the twigs and rocks of the river bottom, for clinging was their way of life, and resisting the current what each had learned from birth.
14. "But one creature said at last, 'I am tired of clinging. Though I cannot see it with my eyes, I trust that the current knows where it is going. I shall let go and let it take me where it will. Clinging, I shall die of boredom.'
15. "The other creatures laughed and said, 'Fool! Let go, and that current that you worship will throw you tumbled and smashed across the rocks, and you will die quicker than boredom!'
16. "But the one heeded them not, and taking a breath did let go, and at once was tumbled and smashed by the current across the rocks.
17. "Yet in time, as the creature refused to cling again, the current lifted him free from the bottom, and he was bruised and hurt no more.
18. "And the creatures downstream, to whom he was a stranger, cried, 'See a miracle! A creature like ourselves, yet he flies! See the Messiah, come to save us all!'
19. "And the one carried in the current said, 'I am no more Messiah than you. The river delights to lift us free, if only we dare let go. Our true work is this voyage, this adventure.'
20. "But they cried the more, 'Savior!' all the while clinging to the rocks, and when they looked again he was gone, and they were left alone making legends of a Savior."
21. And it came to pass when he saw that the multitude thronged him the more day on day, tighter and closer and fiercer than ever they had, when he saw that they pressed him to heal them without rest, and feed them always with his miracles, to learn for them, to live their lives, he went alone that day unto a hilltop apart, and there he prayed.
22. And he said in his heart, Infinite Radiant Is, if it be thy will, let this cup pass from me, let me lay aside this impossible task. I cannot live the life of one other soul, yet ten thousand cry to me for life. I'm sorry I allowed it all to happen. If it be thy will, let me go back to my engines and my tools and let me live as other men.
23. And a voice spoke to him on the hilltop, a voice neither male or female, loud nor soft, a voice infinitely kind. And the voice said unto him, "Not my will, but thine be done. For what is thy will is mine for thee. Go thy way as other men, and be thou happy on the earth."
24. And hearing, the Master was glad, and gave thanks and came down from the hilltop humming a little mechanic's song. And when the throng pressed him with its woes, beseeching him to heal for it and learn for it and feed it nonstop from his understanding and to entertain it with his wonders, he smiled upon the multitude and said pleasantly unto them, "I quit."
25. For a moment the multitude was stricken dumb with astonishment.
26. And he said unto them, "If a man told God that he wanted most of all to help the suffering world, no matter the price to himself, and God answered and told him what he must do, should the man do as he is told?"
27. "Of course, Master!" cried the many. "It should be pleasure for him to suffer the tortures of hell itself, should God ask it!"
28. "No matter what those tortures, nor how difficult the task?"
29. "Honor to be hanged, glory to be nailed to a tree and burned, if so be that God has asked," said they.
30. "And what would you do," the Master said unto the multitude, "if God spoke directly to your face and said, 'I command that you be happy in the world, as long as you live.' what would you do then?"
31. And the multitude was silent, not a voice, not a sound was heard upon the hillsides, across the valleys where they stood.
32. And the Master said unto the silence, "In the path of our happiness shall we find the learning for which we have chosen this lifetime. So it is that I have learned this day, and choose to leave you now to walk your own path, as you please."
33. And he went his way through the crowds and left them, and he returned to the everyday world of men and machines.
-- Richard Bach, "Illusions"