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
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain.
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
— Emily Dickinson
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
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
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 heat 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
Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.
— Albert Einstein
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
The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.
— Albert Einstein
There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.
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”)
I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own — a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotisms.
— Albert Einstein
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
He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much; who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; who has left the world better than he found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul; who has never lacked appreciation of earth’s beauty or failed to express it; who has always looked for the best in others and given them the best he had; whose life was an inspiration; whose memory a benediction.
— Mrs. A. J. Stanley, Lincoln Nebraska, 1905
“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
All I could see from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood;
I turned and looked another way,
And saw three islands in a bay.
So with my eyes I traced the line
Of the horizon, thin and fine,
Straight around till I was come
Back to where I’d started from;
And all I saw from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood.
Over these things I could not see;
These were the things that bounded me;
And I could touch them with my hand,
Almost, I thought, from where I stand.
And all at once things seemed so small
My breath came short, and scarce at all.
But, sure, the sky is big, I said;
Miles and miles above my head;
So here upon my back I’ll lie
And look my fill into the sky.
And so I looked, and, after all,
The sky was not so very tall.
The sky, I said, must somewhere stop,
And—sure enough!—I see the top!
The sky, I thought, is not so grand;
I ‘most could touch it with my hand!
And reaching up my hand to try,
I screamed to feel it touch the sky.
I screamed, and—lo!—Infinity
Came down and settled over me;
Forced back my scream into my chest,
Bent back my arm upon my breast,
And, pressing of the Undefined
The definition on my mind,
Held up before my eyes a glass
Through which my shrinking sight did pass
Until it seemed I must behold
Immensity made manifold;
Whispered to me a word whose sound
Deafened the air for worlds around,
And brought unmuffled to my ears
The gossiping of friendly spheres,
The creaking of the tented sky,
The ticking of Eternity.
I saw and heard, and knew at last
The How and Why of all things, past,
And present, and forevermore.
The Universe, cleft to the core,
Lay open to my probing sense
That, sick’ning, I would fain pluck thence
But could not,—nay! But needs must suck
At the great wound, and could not pluck
My lips away till I had drawn
All venom out.—Ah, fearful pawn!
For my omniscience paid I toll
In infinite remorse of soul.
All sin was of my sinning, all
Atoning mine, and mine the gall
Of all regret. Mine was the weight
Of every brooded wrong, the hate
That stood behind each envious thrust,
Mine every greed, mine every lust.
And all the while for every grief,
Each suffering, I craved relief
With individual desire,—
Craved all in vain! And felt fierce fire
About a thousand people crawl;
Perished with each,—then mourned for all!
A man was starving in Capri;
He moved his eyes and looked at me;
I felt his gaze, I heard his moan,
And knew his hunger as my own.
I saw at sea a great fog bank
Between two ships that struck and sank;
A thousand screams the heavens smote;
And every scream tore through my throat.
No hurt I did not feel, no death
That was not mine; mine each last breath
That, crying, met an answering cry
From the compassion that was I.
All suffering mine, and mine its rod;
Mine, pity like the pity of God.
Ah, awful weight! Infinity
Pressed down upon the finite Me!
My anguished spirit, like a bird,
Beating against my lips I heard;
Yet lay the weight so close about
There was no room for it without.
And so beneath the weight lay I
And suffered death, but could not die.
Long had I lain thus, craving death,
When quietly the earth beneath
Gave way, and inch by inch, so great
At last had grown the crushing weight,
Into the earth I sank till I
Full six feet under ground did lie,
And sank no more,—there is no weight
Can follow here, however great.
From off my breast I felt it roll,
And as it went my tortured soul
Burst forth and fled in such a gust
That all about me swirled the dust.
Deep in the earth I rested now;
Cool is its hand upon the brow
And soft its breast beneath the head
Of one who is so gladly dead.
And all at once, and over all
The pitying rain began to fall;
I lay and heard each pattering hoof
Upon my lowly, thatched roof,
And seemed to love the sound far more
Than ever I had done before.
For rain it hath a friendly sound
To one who’s six feet underground;
And scarce the friendly voice or face:
A grave is such a quiet place.
The rain, I said, is kind to come
And speak to me in my new home.
I would I were alive again
To kiss the fingers of the rain,
To drink into my eyes the shine
Of every slanting silver line,
To catch the freshened, fragrant breeze
From drenched and dripping apple-trees.
For soon the shower will be done,
And then the broad face of the sun
Will laugh above the rain-soaked earth
Until the world with answering mirth
Shakes joyously, and each round drop
Rolls, twinkling, from its grass-blade top.
How can I bear it; buried here,
While overhead the sky grows clear
And blue again after the storm?
O, multi-colored, multiform,
Beloved beauty over me,
That I shall never, never see
Again! Spring-silver, autumn-gold,
That I shall never more behold!
Sleeping your myriad magics through,
Close-sepulchred away from you!
O God, I cried, give me new birth,
And put me back upon the earth!
Upset each cloud’s gigantic gourd
And let the heavy rain, down-poured
In one big torrent, set me free,
Washing my grave away from me!
I ceased; and through the breathless hush
That answered me, the far-off rush
Of herald wings came whispering
Like music down the vibrant string
Of my ascending prayer, and—crash!
Before the wild wind’s whistling lash
The startled storm-clouds reared on high
And plunged in terror down the sky,
And the big rain in one black wave
Fell from the sky and struck my grave.
I know not how such things can be;
I only know there came to me
A fragrance such as never clings
To aught save happy living things;
A sound as of some joyous elf
Singing sweet songs to please himself,
And, through and over everything,
A sense of glad awakening.
The grass, a-tiptoe at my ear,
Whispering to me I could hear;
I felt the rain’s cool finger-tips
Brushed tenderly across my lips,
Laid gently on my sealed sight,
And all at once the heavy night
Fell from my eyes and I could see,—
A drenched and dripping apple-tree,
A last long line of silver rain,
A sky grown clear and blue again.
And as I looked a quickening gust
Of wind blew up to me and thrust
Into my face a miracle
Of orchard-breath, and with the smell,—
I know not how such things can be!—
I breathed my soul back into me.
Ah! Up then from the ground sprang I
And hailed the earth with such a cry
As is not heard save from a man
Who has been dead, and lives again.
About the trees my arms I wound;
Like one gone mad I hugged the ground;
I raised my quivering arms on high;
I laughed and laughed into the sky,
Till at my throat a strangling sob
Caught fiercely, and a great heart-throb
Sent instant tears into my eyes;
O God, I cried, no dark disguise
Can e’er hereafter hide from me
Thy radiant identity!
Thou canst not move across the grass
But my quick eyes will see Thee pass,
Nor speak, however silently,
But my hushed voice will answer Thee.
I know the path that tells Thy way
Through the cool eve of every day;
God, I can push the grass apart
And lay my finger on Thy heart!
The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide;
Above the world is stretched the sky,—
No higher than the soul is high.
The heart can push the sea and land
Farther away on either hand;
The soul can split the sky in two,
And let the face of God shine through.
But East and West will pinch the heart
That can not keep them pushed apart;
And he whose soul is flat—the sky
Will cave in on him by and by.
— Edna St. Vincent Millay
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.
Copyright © Richard Bach
“The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that. And yes, there are certainly times when we aren’t able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It’s called being human. But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful.”
— Elizabeth Edwards