20 year old advice, guideline to and from naivete. For fresh life. For my son, my daughter or my baby sister. For new eyes:
Let me begin by telling you this world is violent. You can bet the blue of those eyes that evil exists, that people are subject to deceit, to fear, to ignorance and to hatred. You may hear that we are a failed species, that we break more than we build, that we polarize and divide and point fingers and allocate blame. You may hear that our politics are unavailing, that the peoples’ voice is seldom heard, that green paper propagates legislation, that God will hate you if you’re gay. You’ll hear of murder and mass-genocide and you’ll feel so sick your knees’ll buckle and you’ll look up and say: why? You’ll watch the grainy footage of every recorded assassination throughout history and you’ll close your eyes and see that eternal playback and you’ll hear the screams over and over and over again. You’ll begin to doubt. You’ll feel yourself grow cold and gray as apathy sets in it’s snake fangs. You’ll close your eyes and shudder as you feel that poison flow through your veins. You’ll feel your heartbeat slow until it kicks and cries and then you’re numb. Time will slow for you at that party you’ve been itchin’ to go to. You’ll see everybody laughing and talkin’ and there’s you, alone, and you’ll feel it; the weight. You’ll feel the hot as that single tear trickles down your sad, beautiful face and you’ll relinquish love and hope and think guilt should take precedence. You’ll have selfish thoughts until somebody asks if you want a drink and you snap out of it. I want you to know I have been where you are. I have felt what you’ve felt. I implore you know duality. You cannot know wisdom and love without ignorance and hate. When you understand that these words are more powerful than the bomb, that for as long as that ticker’s still kickin’ and you’re gulping down air, you’re a vehicle for progress and love, you won’t need my help. You’ll understand it all and smile. You’ll collapse in a heap and you’ll be exhausted, but you’ll be laughing. Now that you’re in the world, I want you to know it. I want you to grow your mind. It needs to be nurtured. I want you to search your heart and your soul and know yourself and accept the conditions of this game you have been thrown into without your permission. I want you to understand impermanence and the importance of humility. I want to see you outside of that birdcage, grinning something wicked. I want you to find your truth, whatever it may be.
If I can be anything to you, I should want to be this. I should want to be stability where there is none, a voice that pierces and transcends and warms. When you revert into yourself and curse and those moist eyes loom large, I want you to hear me and know that you’re never alone and that we all fight the same good fight. When you feel suffocated and small and bent to the point of breaking, know this: as I’m writing this to you, looking out my window, it is light where it was once dark. Clouds can only blot out the sun for so long.
“There isn’t any particular relationship between all the messages, except that the author has chosen them carefully, so that, when seen all at once, they produce an image of life that is beautiful and surprising and deep. There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at one time.”— Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
“This I believe: That the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual.”— John Steinbeck
“Man is manifestly not the measure of all things. This universe is shot through with mystery. The very fact of its being, and of our own, is a mystery absolute, and the only miracle worthy of the name. The consciousness that animates us is itself central to this mystery and ground for any experience we may wish to call “spiritual.” No myth needs to be embraced for us to commune with the profundity of our circumstance. No personal God need be worshiped for us to live in awe at the beauty and immensity of creation. No tribal fictions need be rehearsed for us to realize, one fine day, that we do, in fact, love our neighbors, that our happiness is inextricable from their own, and that our interdependence demands that people everywhere be given the opportunity to flourish.”— Sam Harris
“And for just a moment I had reached the point of ecstasy that I always wanted to reach, which was the complete step across chronological time into timeless shadows, and wonderment in the bleakness of the mortal realm, and the sensation of death kicking at my heels to move on, with a phantom dogging its own heels, and myself hurrying to a plank where all the angels dove off and flew into the holy void of uncreated emptiness, the potent and inconceivable radiancies shining in bright Mind Essence, innumerable lotus-lands falling open in the magic mothswarm of heaven. I could hear an indescribable seething roar which wasn’t in my ear but everywhere and had nothing to do with sounds. I realized that I had died and been reborn numberless times but just didn’t remember especially because the transitions from life to death and back to life are so ghostly easy, a magical action for naught, like falling asleep and waking up again a million times, the utter casualness and deep ignorance of it. I realized it was only because of the stability of the intrinsic Mind that these ripples of birth and death took place, like the action of wind on a sheet of pure, serene, mirror-like water.”—On the Road — Jack Kerouac
Mother, I remember hot tears as I watched you carrying me on that grainy Hi 8 home movie. You said I was your superman and you held me under my stomach, my fists forward and you spun quickly and I laughed. I remember the granulated smiles, your youth and your auburn hair. I remember my eyes searching every inch, every pixel. Father, I remember running scared to where you were painting the facade of that old house and wrapping my small arms around your legs and my head barely reached your knees but I felt comfort. Brother, I remember seeing you for the very first time. We were separated by glass and you looked strange to me. I remember a hand on my shoulder and looking around to see everybody smiling and crying. I remember the nurse that held you had long red nails and I remember they contrasted with the iridescence of your new life pale skin. Sister, I remember your baby fat and the sunlight on your hair. I remember the funeral service in that downtown church and you had pink eye but you were still the most beautiful thing in that whole damn building with your baby teeth smile and your little yellow flower dress. I remember the must and jazz and the sea smell and fog of San Francisco. I remember Paul Newman sittin’ on that cot with that banjo and if that wasn’t a soul on display I don’t know what is. I remember the first “can I kiss you?” and the first smile and nod. I remember the hours spent in the dust sitting on the hard wood floors of used book stores and I remember that tired, worn smell of the yellow pages of the books I opened. I remember the moment I fell in love with Paris. I remember our late night talks sitting in front of coffee-shops. I remember the moist eyes and the nods and the exuberance and spilling of souls that always felt so good. I remember a thousand instances of eyes glued to the stars, walkin’ aimlessly. I remember family strung out on a beach at sunset, jeans rolled to the knees, bare feet sinkin’ in the sand. I remember every goosebump Billie Holiday’s given’ me. I remember shakin’ my head everytime I watched Fellini, in awe of his candor and commitment to art. I remember that video store down the road that had any and every movie you could think of. I remember that cheap membership card and the unparalleled feeling I got thumbing through Bergman films. I remember us layin’ on that blanket facing each other and the sun was just beyond the curvature of your cheek and I remember it looked as though that soft cheek was the horizon for that setting ball of flame. I remember thinking how beautiful it all was. I remember every hand I’ve held and liking the way fingers meshed together, as if they were made to do so. I remember that smoky pool hall during the summer and the way we left both doors open to avoid that sticky hot. I remember not doin’ much else than beer and pass around, but not wanting to be anywhere else as my eyes lept from goofy smile to goofy smile. I remember talks about death and God and love and truth with you, in the dark. I remember tryin’ to console you one night when you came to me, full of fear. I remember tryin’ to convince myself of the same things. I remember praying to God only once and saying: please save him. I remember looking up at those stars and knowing at 9 years old that I was talkin’ to myself. I remember every evocation of joy and melancholy and I remember thousands of conscious decisions to feel, especially when I’m sad, because life is always beautiful. I remember feeling the inadequacies that I feel today. I remember as they dissipated and dissolved in front of my own eyes. I remember being trapped in the sponge upstairs, sinking in quicksand. I remember breaking through. I remember regressing. I remember love. I remember truth. I’ll remember love. I’ll remember truth.
“It’s not all bad. Heightened self-consciousness, apartness, an inability to join in, physical shame and self-loathing - they are not all bad. Those devils have been my angels. Without them I would never have disappeared into language, literature, the mind, laughter and all the mad intensities that made and unmade me.”— Stephen Fry
“Of course all life is a process of breaking down, but the blows that do the dramatic side of the work…the ones you remember and blame things on and, in moments of weakness, tell your friends about, don’t show their effect all at once. There is another sort of blow that comes from within—that you don’t feel until it’s too late to do anything about it, until you realize with finality that in some way you will never be as good a man again….But before I go on with this short story, let me make a general observation—the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in the mind at then same time and still retain the ability to function. one should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make the other wise.”— F. Scott Fitzgerald
“We spend most of our time and energy in a kind of horizontal thinking. We move along the surface of things going from one quick base to another, often with a frenzy that wears us out. We collect data, things, people, ideas, ‘profound experiences’, never penetrating any of them … But there are other times. There are times when we stop. We sit still. We lose ourselves in a pile of leaves or its memory. We listen and breezes from a whole other world begin to whisper.”— James Carrol