What has been an ancient spiritual truth is now increasingly verified by science: We are all indivisibly part of one another. We share a common ancestry with everyone and everything alive on earth. The air we breathe contains atoms that have passed through the lungs of ancestors long dead. Our bodies are composed of the same elements created deep inside the furnaces of long-dead stars. We can look upon the face of anyone or anything around us and say — as a moral declaration and a spiritual, cosmological, and biological fact: You are a part of me I do not yet know.
I dreamed a few years back that I was in a supermarket checking out when I had the stark and luminous and devastating realization — in that clear way, not that oh yeah way — that my life would end. I wept in line watching people go by with their carts, watching the cashier move items over the scanner, feeling such an absolute love for this life. And the mundane fact of buying groceries with other people whom I do not know, like all the banalities, would be no more so soon.
Laws, it is said, are for protection of the people. It’s unfortunate that there are no statistics on the number of lives that are clobbered yearly as a result of laws: outmoded laws; laws that found their way onto the books as a result of ignorance, hysteria, or political haymaking; antilife laws; biased laws; laws that pretend that reality is fixed and nature is definable. . . . A survey such as that could keep a dozen dull sociologists out of mischief for months.
In the lives of the saddest of us, there are bright days like this, when we feel as if we could take the great world in our arms and kiss it. Then come the gloomy hours, when the fire will neither burn on our hearths nor in our hearts; and all without and within is dismal, cold, and dark. Believe me, every heart has its secret sorrows, which the world knows not, and oftentimes we call a man cold, when he is only sad.
Even with all our technological accomplishments and urban sophistication, we consider ourselves blessed, healed in some manner, forgiven, and for a moment transported into some other world, when we catch a passing glimpse of an animal in the wild: a deer in some woodland, a fox crossing a field, a butterfly in its dancing flight southward to its wintering region, a hawk soaring in the distant sky.
In spite of our rather boastful talk about progress, and our pride in the gadgets of civilization, there is, I think, a growing suspicion — indeed, perhaps an uneasy certainty — that we have been sometimes a little too ingenious for our own good. . . . We are beginning to wonder whether our power to change the face of nature should not have been tempered with wisdom for our own good, and with a greater sense of responsibility for the welfare of generations to come.
In the past censorship worked by blocking the flow of information. In the twenty-first century censorship works by flooding people with irrelevant information.
There’s not a thing wrong with the ideals and mechanisms outlined and the liberties set forth in the Constitution of the United States. The only problem was the founders left a lot of people out of the Constitution. They left out poor people and Black people and female people. It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America. And it still goes on today.
There had been an outbreak of assaults on women at night. One [cabinet] minister suggested a curfew: women should stay home after dark. I said, “But it’s the men who are attacking the women. If there’s to be a curfew, let the men stay home, not the women.”
I grew up hearing over and over, to the point of tedium, that “hard work” was the secret of success: “Work hard and you’ll get ahead” or “It’s hard work that got us where we are.” No one ever said that you could work hard — harder even than you ever thought possible — and still find yourself sinking ever deeper into poverty and debt.