How could I possibly find Him, sir? I asked every kind of person: sages, saints, madmen, prelates, troubadours, centenarians. Each gave me advice: showed me a path, saying ‘Take it and you’ll find Him!’ But each showed me a different path. Which was I to choose? I was going out of my wits. A sage from Bologna said to me, ‘The road which leads to God is that of wife and children. Get married.’ Someone else, a madman and saint from Gubbio, said, ‘If you want to find God, don’t look for Him. If you want to see Him, close your eyes; to hear Him, stop up your ears. That’s what I do.’ Having said this, he shut his eyes, stopped up his ears, crossed his hands, and began to weep…. And a woman who lived as a hermit in the forest ran stark naked under the pine trees striking her body and shouting, ‘Love! Love! Love!’ That was the only answer she was able to give.
Another day I came across a saint (…) I bowed down, prostrated my self before him, and said: “Show me the road.”
‘There isn’t any road’, he answered me, beating his staff on the ground. ‘Jump!’
Nikos Kazantzakis, Saint Francis (Simon and Schuster, 1962). [dedicated to the Sain Francis of our era, Dr. Albert Schweitzer]
Nunca persequí la gloria,
ni dejar en la memoria
de los hombres mi canción;
yo amo los mundos sutiles,
ingrávidos y gentiles,
como pompas de jabón.
Me gusta verlos pintarse
de sol y grana, volar
bajo el cielo azul, temblar
súbitamente y quebrarse…
Nunca perseguí la gloria.
Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino y nada más;
caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
Al andar se hace camino
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.
Caminante no hay camino
sino estelas en la mar…
The Shop on Main Street (Ján Kadár & Elmar Klos, 1965)
Antonin ‘Tono‘ Brtko (Tony for Mrs. Lautman): What can I do? What? I’m nobody. A zero.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost (1874 – 1963), The Road Not Taken
Both my wife and I liked the long, quiet, sustained adventure of it all. Mrs. Frost went with me in the same spirit. I never allowed the spirit of I-must-get-a-reputation-or-die to take hole of me. The reward lies really in the end when people like what you write.
Interviewed by Paul Waitt, The Boston Traveler, April 11, 1921
That has made all the difference on the world that has been.
The way of the miracle-worker is to see all human behavior as one two things: either love, or a call for love
The Story of my Life (Helen Keller, 1903)
The Miracle Worker (William Gibson, 1962)
James Keller: She doesn’t seem to like that alphabet very much, Miss Sullivan. Did you invent it yourself?
Annie Sullivan: Spanish monks under a vow of silence, which I wish you’d take!
Here in Spain, it is impossible to dislike a man, no matter what he says, no matter what he does. The Spaniards have such a violent, unquenchable fire in their eyes that, in their presence, all differences and ideologies vanish. What an insignificant thing: the “Idea,” in the presence of the black, mad Spanish eyes.
They are not cold-hearted or cowardly. They are all warm-blooded Africans –a rich, complex, fierce race: Spaniards. Behind their temporary masks, whether red or black, the naked face of the Spaniard is always there, full of passion and fire.
Nikos Kazantzakis, Spain (New York, 1963)
(…) Pay close attention to what I ́m going to say to you: All these things are happening because the Spaniards don ́t believe in anything! Nothing. . . . Nothing! They are desperados. No other language in the world has this word. Because no other nation except Spain has what it stands for. Desperado means the man who knows perfectly well that he has nothing to hold on to; who believes in nothing; and since he does not believe, is governed by a wild rage.”
Unamuno: The Spanish people have gone mad! Not only the Spanish people; the whole world today. And why? Because the standard of young people all over the world has suffered a spiritual collapse. They not only scorn the Spirit. They hate it. They hate the Spirit.
Nikos Kazantzakis, Spain (New York, 1963)
Kazantzakis: Well, what are the people who still love the Spirit supposed to do?
Unamuno did a rare thing: he listened. He remained silent awhile, and then suddenly burst out again:
Unamuno: Nothing! The face of the truth is terrifying. What is our duty? To hide the truth from the people! (…) The people need myth, illusion, deception. These are what support their lives. [And they must live!] Here, I ́ve written a book on this awful theme –my last book. Take it.
“I am alone!” he roared once more, and got up. “Alone, like Croce in Italy!”
When I left, night had fallen, and I was softly murmuring the verses of Antonio Machado on this violent, anarchic desperado of a fighter.
don Miguel de Unamuno, a rugged Basque,
wears the grotesque armor
and absurd helmet
of a good Manchegan. Don Miguel goes about
as a rider on a monstrous steed
jabbing gold spurs wildly;
wholly deaf to gossiping tongues.
To the drovers of his country
the bill collectors, gamblers, profiteers,
he preaches lessons of chivalry,
and some day he may wake the vapid
soul of his people that is still asleep,
despite the clamor of his iron mace.
He wants to show the knight a frown
of doubt before he gallops off,
and like a new Hamlet he would stare
at the naked blade near his heart.
And there is another virtue of the Spaniard –his stoicism- rooted in his divination that all reality, warp and woof, is but a dream. The spectacle of the vanity of life, the suspicion that everything ́s a dream, give him heroic powers of resistance, a calm smile, a proud, mute patience. The Spaniard is not melodramatic. He does not lament. He does not shout. He does not lower himself by giving way to useless complaining.
Nikos Kazantzakis, Spain (New York, 1963)
Helen Keller & Anne Sullivan
A settler wrote to a lawyer in 1869: For Algeria to survive her doctors’ treatments she has to be hard to kill
Albert Camus, The First Man.
The posture of objectivity. If the reader has discovered the secret of science, art, and philosophizing, and so has entered the great company of Thales, Lao-Tse, Aquinas, Newton, Keats, Whitehead, he will know what it is to stand outside and over against the world as one who sees and thinks and knows and tells. He tells and hears others tell how it is there in the world and what it is to live in the world.
The posture of the castaway. The reader of the sentences may or may not be an objective-minded man. But at the moment of finding the bottle on the beach he is, we will say, very far from being objective-minded. He is a man who finds himself in a certain situation.
Walker Percy, The Message in the Bottle, How Queer Man is, How Queer Language is, And What One Has to Do with the Other.
I can only be silent; I accompany you silently, with my heart…
FRANCIS, Philippines , Tacloban International Airport, January 17 2015
You see, loneliness is the price we have to pay for being born in this modern age, so full of freedom, independence, and our own egotistical selves.
I could not think of anything to say.
Natsume SOSEKI, Kokoro, Regnery Publishing, Washington D.C. (1957), p. 30
I was not silent. I suffered beside you.
Silence, Shusaku Endo (1969), p. 190
Fort Bliss (Claudia Myers, 2014)
Maggie: I didn’t expect you to understand.
Luis: Why not? Because I wasn’t there? Because I don’t know what it’s like?
Maggie: You don’t.
Luis: You don’t have to be in a war to see people get killed for no reason.
A hole-in-the-heart … When I was 19, I was ready to take my life.
It had been calm and beautiful at the beginning,
but as I grew older I began to question its meaning.
My questions became more and more urgent.
They started to haunt me.
Desperately I tried to find answers.
I experimented with much life had to offer. But
the pain in my heart din not disappear; instead
it got worse.
I was lonely. Life seemed meaningless.
I had a hole in my heart.
There is but one truly serious philosophy problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest -whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories- comes afterwards. These are games; one must first answer. And if it is true, as Nietzsche claims, that a philosopher, to deserve our respect, must preach by example, you can appreciate the importance of that reply, for it will precede the definitive act. There are facts the heart can feel; yet they call for careful study before they become clear to the intellect.
If I ask myself how to judge that this question is more urgent than that, I reply that one judges by the actions it entails. I have never seen anyone die for the ontological argument. Galileo, who held a scientific truth of great importance, abjured it with the greatest ease as soon as it endangered his life. In a certain sense, he did right. That truth was not worth the stake. Whether the earth or the sun revolves around the other is a matter of profound indifference. To tell the truth, it is a futile question. On the other hand, I see many people die because they judge that life is not worth living. I see others paradoxically getting killed for the ideas or illusions that give them a reason for living (what is called a reason for living is also an excellent reason for dying). I therefore conclude that the meaning of life is the most urgent of questions. How to answer it?
Albert CAMUS, An Absurd Reasoning.
Now, I myself am about to cut open my own heart, and drench your face with my blood. And I shall be satisfied if, when my heart stops beating, a new life lodges itself in your breast.
Natsume SOSEKI, Kokoro, Regnery Publishing, Washington D.C. (1957), p. 129
Leo TOLSTOI, A Confession.
(…) I had no thoughts at all, only an overwhelming desire not to feel anything ever again.
Willa CATHER, Paul’s case
Dies Irae – The Day of Wrath (Carl Th. Dreyer, 1943)
Anne Pedersdotter: I see through my tears, but no one comes to wipe them away.
Neither am I nourished by fleshless, abstract memories. If I expected my mind to distill from a turbid host of bodily joys and bitternesses an inmaterial, crystal-clear thought, I would die of hunger. When I close my eyes in order to enjoy a country again, my five senses, the five mouth-filled tentacles of my body, pounce upon it and bring it to me.
[Kyoto] “Objective” truth exists only -and how insignificant it is!- in the photographic cameras and in the souls that see the world coldly, without emotion, that is, without a deep contact. Those who suffer and love communicate through a mystical intercourse with the landscape they see, the people they mingle with, and the incidents they select. Therefore, every perfect traveler always creates the country where he travels.
Nikos Kazantzakis, A Journal of two voyages to the Far East (1963)
Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)
Maria: There can be no understanding between the hand and the brain unless the heart acts as mediator.
“We shall build a tower that will reach to the stars!” Having conceived Babel, yet unable to build it themselves, they had thousands to build it for them. But those who toiled knew nothing of the dreams of those who planned. And the minds that planned the Tower of Babel cared nothing for the workers who built it. The hymns of praise of the few became the curses of the many – BABEL! BABEL! BABEL! – Between the mind that plans and the hands that build there must be a Mediator, and this must be the heart.
My heart is as calm as a full moon reflecting in a deep pond in winter. Spring rain arrives with a burst of creativity
Look! These are your brothers!
I wish you were here.