“Hope consists in asserting that there is at the heart of being, beyond all data, beyond all inventories and all calculations, a mysterious principle which is in connivance with me. And hope is a willing, a wanting, not only for ourselves but for others. There can be no hope that does not constitute itself through a we and for a we. I would be tempted to say that all hope is at the bottom choral.”

Gabriel Marcel, Tragic Wisdom and Beyond

(George Frederic Watts' Hope)

“Each neighborhood of the city appeared to be made of a different substance, each seemed to have a different air pressure, a different psychic weight: the bright lights and shuttered shops, the housing projects and luxury hotels, the fire escapes and city parks. My futile task of sorting went on until the forms began to morph into each other and assume abstract shapes unrelated to the real city, and only then did my hectic mind finally show some pity and still itself, only then did dreamless sleep arrive."

Teju Cole, Open City

(Jeremy Mann's Manhattan Nights)

"But Faith, like a jackal, feeds among the tombs, and even from these dead doubts she gathers her most vital hope."

Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

(Zdzisław Beksiński, Untitled) 

"Being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone, other than oneself -- be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter. The more one forgets himself -- by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love -- the more human he is."

Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning

(Mark Tansey, Robbe Grillet Cleansing Everything In Sight)

Forgetfulness is like a song
That, freed from beat and measure, wanders. 
Forgetfulness is like a bird whose wings are reconciled, 
Outspread and motionless, -- 
A bird that coasts the wind unwearyingly. 

Forgetfulness is rain at night, 
Or an old house in a forest, -- or a child. 
Forgetfulness is white, -- white as a blasted tree, 
And it may stun the sybil into prophecy, 
Or bury the Gods. 


I can remember much forgetfulness. 

 

Hart Crane, "Forgetfulness"

(John Atkinson Grimshaw's Snow and Mist)

"And in this silence of the dumb and these speeches of the blind, in this medley of people bound together by the same grief, terror and hope, in this hatred and lack of understanding between men who spoke the same tongue, you could see much of the tragedy of the twentieth century."

Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate

(John Singer Sargent, Faces) 

"We are as forlorn as children lost in the woods. When you stand in front of me and look at me, what do you know of the griefs that are in me and what do I know of yours. And if I were to cast myself down before you and weep and tell you, what more would you know about me than you know about Hell when someone tells you it is hot and dreadful? For that reason alone we human beings ought to stand before one another as reverently, as reflectively, as lovingly, as we would before the entrance to Hell."

Franz Kafka, Letter To Oskar Pollak, 1903

(Zdzisław Beksiński, Untitled) 

“Empathy isn’t just listening, it’s asking the questions whose answers need to be listened to. Empathy requires inquiry as much as imagination. Empathy requires knowing you know nothing. Empathy means acknowledging a horizon of context that extends perpetually beyond what you can see.” 

Leslie Jamison, The Empathy Exams

(Odilon Redon's Closed Eyes)

“I hate wise men because they are lazy, cowardly, and prudent. To the philosophers’ equanimity, which makes them indifferent to both pleasure and pain, I prefer devouring passions. The sage knows neither the tragedy of passion, nor the fear of death, nor risk and enthusiasm, nor barbaric, grotesque, or sublime heroism. He talks in proverbs and gives advice. He does not live, feel, desire, wait for anything. He levels down all the incongruities of life and then suffers the consequences. So much more complex is the man who suffers from limitless anxiety. The wise man’s life is empty and sterile, for it is free from contradiction and despair. An existence full of irreconcilable contradictions is so much richer and creative. The wise man’s resignation springs from inner void, not inner fire. I would rather die of fire than of void.”

Emil Cioran, On the Heights of Despair

(René Magritte’s Evening Falls)

"I will come to a time in my backwards trip when November eleventh, accidentally my birthday, was a sacred day called Armistice Day. When I was a boy, and when Dwayne Hoover was a boy, all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.

Armistice Day has become Veterans' Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans' Day is not.

So I will throw Veterans' Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don't want to throw away any sacred things."

Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions

(John Singer Sargent, Gassed)

 

"You fight your superficiality, your shallowness, so as to try to come at people without unreal expectations, without an overload of bias or hope or arrogance, as untanklike as you can be, sans cannon and machine guns and steel plating half a foot thick; you come at them unmenacingly on your own ten toes instead of tearing up the turf with your caterpillar treads, take them on with an open mind, as equals, man to man, as we used to say, and yet you never fail to get them wrong.... The fact remains that getting people right is not what living is all about anyway. It's getting them wrong that is living, getting them wrong and wrong and wrong and then, on careful reconsideration, getting them wrong again. That's how we know we're alive: we're wrong. Maybe the best thing would be to forget being right or wrong about people and just go along for the ride. But if you can do that – well, lucky you."

Philip Roth, American Pastoral

(René Magritte, The Infinite Recognition)

"Wisps of snow were still on the wind, too, sweet and sharp. The sun was going down. It sank into the stand of beech trees beyond the back lot, lighting their tops, so that their bare arterial branches turned to a netting of black vessels around brains made of light. The trees lolled under the weight of those luminescent organs growing at the tops of their slender trunks. The brains murmured among themselves. They kept counsel and possessed a wintery wisdom-cold scarlet and opaline minds, brief and burnished, flaring in the metallic blue of dusk. And then they were gone. The light drained from the sky and the trees and funneled to a point on the western horizon, where it seemed to be swallowed by the earth. The branches of the trees were darknesses over the lesser dark of dusk. Kathleen thought, That is like Howard's brain-lit and used up and then dark. Lit too brightly. How much light does the mind need? Have use for? Like a room full of lamps. Like a brain full of light."

Paul Harding, Tinkers

(Caspar David Friedrich, Trees in the Moonlight)

"Tears streamed down his face and he cradled the barrel of the shotgun in his arms as though it were the woman he had been begging for, searching for, all his life. “Gimme hate, Lord,” he whimpered. “I’ll take hate any day. But don’t give me love. I can’t take no more love, Lord. I can’t carry it. Just like Mr. Smith. He couldn’t carry it. It’s too heavy. Jesus, you know. You know all about it. Ain’t it heavy? Jesus? Ain’t love heavy? Don’t you see, Lord? You own son couldn’t carry it. If it killed Him, what You think it’s gonna do to me? Huh? Huh?”"

Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon

(Jean-Michel Basquiat, Fallen Angel)

"'Everyday things represent the most overlooked knowledge. These names are vital to your progress. Quotidian things. If they weren't important, we wouldn't use such a gorgeous Latinate word. Say it,' he said.

 'Quotidian.'

 'An extraordinary word that suggests the depth and reach of the commonplace.'"

Don DeLillo, Underworld 

(Vincent Van Gogh, A Pair of Shoes)

"To treat the cup as totally irrelevant to the task is to approach the coffee with ruthless unintelligence; to turn what might have been a revered domain into something completely devoid of worth. If the cup is exchangeable in the activity, then so are you.

These are not questions you can answer in the abstract. You need to try it out and see. If it is the warmth of the coffee on a winter's day that you like, then drinking it in a cozy corner of the house, perhaps by a fire with a blanket, in a cup that transmits the warmth to your hands might well help to bring out the best in this ritual. But there is no single answer to the question of what makes the ritual appealing, and it takes experimentation and observation, with its risks and rewards, to discover the meaningful distinctions yourself. This experimentation with and observation of the coffee ultimately develops in you the skill for seeing the relevant features of the ritual and ultimately develops the skills for bringing them out at their best. These skills are manifold: the skill for knowing how to pick exactly the right coffee, exactly the right cup, exactly the right place to drink it, and to cultivate exactly the right companions to drink it with. When one has learned these skills and cultivated one's environment so that it is precisely suited to them, then one has a ritual rather than a routine, a meaningful celebration of oneself and one's environment rather than a generic and meaningless performance of a function."

Hubert Dreyfus, All Things Shining

(Claudio Missagia, Caffee 

"Because you were the shooter and the witness both and you can separate these roles. The second was helpless to prevent the first from acting. The second could not stop the act, could not manage it and finally did not know how to perceive it. It was too down deep even as it reached his eyes, your eyes. The terrible spasticky thing, the whole groanlike abandon, the resignation of life and breath to this vehement depth of gesture, man and chair going different ways.

 Dr. Lindblad might have said, 'The gesture is extreme because the mind is closing down. It's the end of consciousness. So the body goes berserk. The body shows you what's happening to the mind. The way a person's grief bends the body. This is how consciousness looks. This is how it flails and thrashes when the end is sudden and violent and the mind is unprepared.'"

Don DeLillo, Underworld

(Vincent Van Gogh's Skull of a Skeleton With A Burning Cigarette

“For life is the best thing we have in this existence. And if we should desire to believe in something, it should be a beacon within. This beacon being the sun, sea, and sky, our children, our work, our companions and, most simply put, the embodiment of love.”

Patti Smith, Just Kids

Edward Hopper, Lighthouse Hill

“Beauty spins and the mind moves. To catch beauty would be to understand how that impertinent stability in vertigo is possible. But no, delight need not reach so far. To be running breathlessly, but not yet arrived, is itself delightful, a suspended moment of living hope."

Anne Carson, preface to Eros the Bittersweet

 Gary Ruddell, Realist and Dreamer

“It doesn’t matter how sensitive you are or how damn smart and educated you are, if you’re not both at the same time, if your heart and your brain aren’t connected, aren’t working together harmoniously, well, you’re just hopping through life on one leg. You may think you’re walking, you may think you’re running a damn marathon, but you’re only on a hop trip. The connections gotta be maintained.”

Tom Robbins, Villa Ingonito

Jack Vettriano, Dance Me to the End of Love

"We dance round in a ring and suppose,

But the Secret sits in the middle and knows."

Robert Frost, "The Secret Sits"

(Hilma af Klint's Primordial Chaos No. 16, group)

"I had now reached that phase of the disorder where all sense of hope  had vanished, along with the idea of a futurity; my brain, in thrall to  its outlaw hormones, had become less an organ of thought than an  instrument registering, minute by minute, varying degrees of its own  suffering. The mornings themselves were becoming bad now as I wandered  about lethargic, following my synthetic sleep, but afternoons were  still the worst, beginning at about three o'clock, when I'd feel the  horror, like some poisonous fog bank roll in upon my mind, forcing me into bed."

William Styron, Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness

(Claudio Missagia's Senza Titolo)

“Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to never was there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it. Where is there a place for you to be? No place. Nothing outside you can give you any place. You needn't look at the sky because it's not going to open up and show no place behind it. You needn't to search for any hole in the ground to look through into somewhere else. You can't go neither forwards nor backwards into your daddy's time nor your children's if you have them. In yourself right now is all the place you've got. If there was any Fall, look there, if there was any Redemption, look there, and if you expect any Judgment, look there, because they all three will have to be in your time and your body and where in your time and your body can they be?”

Flannery O'Conner, Wise Blood

(Bill Bate, Morphosis)

"But what is the philosophy of this generation? Not God is dead, that point was passed long ago. Perhaps it should be stated Death is God. This generation thinks – and this is its thought of thoughts – that nothing faithful, vulnerable, fragile can be durable or have any true power. Death waits for these things as a cement floor waits for a dropping light bulb. The brittle shell of glass loses its tiny vacuum with a burst, and that is that. And this is how we teach metaphysics on each other. You think history is the history of loving hearts? You fool! Look at these millions of dead. Can you pity them, feel for them? You can nothing! There were too many. We burned them to ashes, we buried them with bulldozers. History is the history of cruelty, not love as soft men think."

Saul Bellow, Herzog

(Zdzisław Beksiński, Untitled)

"Why did he love storms, what was the meaning of his excitement when the door sprang open and the rain wind fled rudely up the stairs, why had the simple task, of shutting the windows of an old house seemed fitting and urgent, why did the first watery notes of a storm wind have for him the unmistakable sound of good news, cheer, glad tidings?”

John Cheever, The Swimmer

(Andrew Wyeth's Day of the Fair)

"What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you in your loneliest loneliness and say to you: 'This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence—even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again—and you with it, speck of dust!'— Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: 'You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine!' If this thought gained possession of you, it would change you as you are or perhaps crush you; the question in each and every thing, 'Do you desire this once more, and innumerable times more?' would lie upon your actions as the greatest weight! Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?" 

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science

(Mel Brigg's Bushfires)

“But for the present I would lie there and know I didn't have to get up, and feel the holy emptiness and blessed fatigue of a saint after the dark night of the soul. For God and Nothing have a lot in common. You look either one of Them straight in the eye for a second and the immediate effect on the human constitution is the same.” 

Robert Penn Warren, All the King's Men

(Annie Besant and C. W. Leadbeater's "Definite Affection”)

“A sad fact, of course, about adult life is that you see the very things you'll never adapt to coming toward you on the horizon. You see them as the problems they are, you worry like hell about them, you make provisions, take precautions, fashion adjustments; you tell yourself you'll have to change your way of doing things. Only you don't. You can't. Somehow it's already too late. And maybe it's even worse than that: maybe the thing you see coming from far away is not the real thing, the thing that scares you, but its aftermath. And what you've feared will happen has already taken place. This is similar in spirit to the realization that all the great new advances of medical science will have no benefit for us at all, thought we cheer them on, hope a vaccine might be ready in time, think things could still get better. Only it's too late there too. And in that very way our life gets over before we know it. We miss it. And like the poet said: 'The ways we miss our lives are life.'”

Richard Ford, Indepedence Day

(James B. Longacre's Flower GIrl)

"And if you ever were ill, as I am now, then you know what kind of sun there is or may be in the morning; you know that pinkish, lucid, warm gold; the air itself looks a little pinkish; everything seems permeated by the tender blood of the sun; everything is alive; the stones seem soft and living, iron living and warm, people full of life and smiles. Perhaps in a short while all this will disappear, in an hour the pinkish blood of the sun will be drained out; but in the meantime everything is alive.”

Yevgeny Zamyatin, We

(Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis' Allegro - Sonata of the Sun)

"My mother's suffering grew into a symbol in my mind, gathering to itself all the poverty, the ignorance, the helplessness; the painful, baffling, hunger-ridden days and hours; the restless moving, the futile seeking, the uncertainty, the fear, the dread; the meaningless pain and the endless suffering. Her life set the emotional tone of my life, colored the men and women I was to meet in the future, conditioned my relation to events that had not yet happened, determined my attitude to situations and circumstances I had yet to face. A somberness of spirit that I was never to lose settled over me during the slow years of my mother's unrelieved suffering, a somberness that was to make me stand apart and look upon excessive joy with suspicion, that was to make me keep forever on the move, as though to escape a nameless fate seeking to overtake me. 

At the age of twelve, before I had one year of formal schooling, I had a conception of life that no experience would ever erase, a predilection for what was real that no argument could ever gainsay, a sense of the world that was mine and mine alone, a notion as to what life meant that no education could ever alter, a conviction that the meaning of living came only when one was struggling to wring a meaning out of meaningless suffering." 

Richard Wright, Black Boy

(Almeida Júnior's Saudade)

"'You told me once that a soul isn't something a person is born with but something that must be built, by effort and error, study and love. And you did that with more dedication than most, that work of building a soul-not for your own benefit but for the benefit of those that knew you.

'Which is partly why your death is so hard for us. It's hard to accept that a soul like yours, which took a lifetime to build, could cease to exist. It makes us angry, furious at the universe, not to have you here.

'But of course your soul does exist, Guert, because you gave of it so unstintingly. It exists in your book, and in this school, and also in each of is. For that we'll always be grateful.’”

Chad Harbach, The Art of Fielding

(Odilon Redon's Reflection