Mystery of Life and Art

On this page are some quotes from books and blogs that I have found inspiring and useful. These are all related to the mystery, joy, challenge and sadness of art, life and death. I hope you find something of value here.

I plan to push in some new quotes as I come across them, and as I can find time. I will push new ones into the top, so please check back from time to time to see if there is something new you find inspirational.

#5 Robert Henri: The Art Spirit

That time we sat in the evening silence in the face of the mesa and heard the sudden howl of a pack of coyotes, and had a thrill and a dread which was not fear of the pack, for we knew they were harmless. Just what was that dread— what did it relate to? Something ’way back in the race perhaps? We have strange ways of seeing. If we only knew— then we could tell. If we knew what we saw, we could paint it.

#4 Robert Henri: The Art Spirit

There are moments in our lives, there are moments in a day, when we seem to see beyond the usual. Such are the moments of our greatest happiness. Such are the moments of our greatest wisdom. If one could but recall his vision by some sort of sign. It was in this hope that the arts were invented. Sign-posts on the way to what may be. Sign-posts toward greater knowledge. — Robert Henri

#3: Ernest Becker: The Denial of Death:

There is the type of man who has great contempt for “immediacy,” who tries to cultivate his interiority, base his pride on something deeper and inner, create a distance between himself and the average man. Kierkegaard calls this type of man the “introvert.” He is a little more concerned with what it means to be a person, with individuality and uniqueness. He enjoys solitude and withdraws periodically to reflect, perhaps to nurse ideas about his secret self, what it might be. This, after all is said and done, is the only real problem of life, the only worthwhile preoccupation of man: What is one’s true talent, his secret gift, his authentic vocation?

#2: Rolly May: The Cry for Myth

[The] man who thinks he can live without myth, or outside it, like one uprooted, has no true link either with the past, or with the ancestral life which continues within him, or yet with contemporary human society. This plaything of his reason never grips his vitals.

#1: Ernest Becker: The Denial of Death:

This book won the 1974 Pulitzer Prize. It is one of my all-time favorites. Too dense for me to remember as a theory or thesis, but the writing inspires courage and understanding. Basically, Becker says we all deny the fact of death, our personalities are built as a social defense to hide this fact, and we suffer as a result of repressing this truth about existence. Some parts I highlighted are below:

The defenses that form a person’s character support a grand illusion, and when we grasp this we can understand the full drivenness of man. He is driven away from himself, from self-knowledge, self-reflection. He is driven toward things that support the lie of his character, his automatic equanimity. But he is also drawn precisely toward those things that make him anxious, as a way of skirting them masterfully, testing himself against them, controlling them by defying them.