Life is like playing a violin solo in public and learning the instrument as one goes on.
A single day is enough to make us a little larger or, another time, a little smaller.
My brother Moses died while he was painting, and the last words he said were to the model: “Phoebe, don’t frown.” Then he died. He worked to the very last minute.
Patience and tenacity of purpose are worth more than twice their weight of cleverness.
To survive it is often necessary to fight, and to fight you have to dirty yourself.
I once saw in a cemetery in India an old woman just sobbing away at the grave of her son who had been tortured by Tamil terrorists. She spread herself over the whole grave and sobbed. And I . . . said to my companion, “I don’t want to love if that is what love is.” And he said, “Are you crazy? What she feels is so immeasurably beautiful because she grieves that much, she loves that much, and love lives on in her.” Love’s glory was in her weeping, love’s glory was in her sobbing, love’s glory was in her abandonment to her grief. That is love’s glory, and love’s glory has blood all over it.
We become persons through the dangerous experiences of darkness; we can survive these difficult initiations. Any real initiation is always a movement from death to new life.
We are well-advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise, they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 A.M. of a bad night and demand to know why we deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we would never forget.
I remember Rudi [a friend and teacher] saying once that all life is about transcendence. If you’re ugly you have to transcend your ugliness; if you’re beautiful you have to transcend your beauty; if you’re poor you have to transcend your poverty; if you’re rich you have to transcend your wealth. . . . You get nothing at birth except things to transcend.
The unending paradox is that we do learn through pain.
The event of creation did not take place so many aeons ago, astronomically or biologically speaking. Creation is taking place every moment of our lives.
There will be a rain dance on Friday, weather permitting.
Life has no meaning until one lives it with a will, at least to the limit of one’s will. Virtue, good, evil are nothing but words, unless one takes them apart in order to build something with them; they do not win their true meaning until one knows how to apply them.
I have always known that at last I would take this road, but yesterday I did not know that it would be today.
There is a woman who swam around Manhattan, and I asked her, “Why?” She said, “It hadn’t ever been done before.” Well, she didn’t have to do that. If she wanted to do something no one had ever done before, all she had to do was vacuum my apartment.
You are destined to fly, but that cocoon has to go.
In many cases, people who’ve become aware of their mortality find that they’ve gained the freedom to live. They are seized with an appreciation for the present: every day is my best day; this is my life; I’m not going to have this moment again. They spend more time with the things and people they love and less time on people and pastimes that don’t offer love or joy. This seems like such a simple thought — shouldn’t we all spend our lives that way? But we tend not to make those kinds of choices until somebody says, “You have twelve months to live.”