Findings

Dolly Parton once said that her advice to anyone wanting to be an artist was to “Find out who you are and then be that on purpose.” Or something like that. As I’ve gotten older, those are the people I find myself drawn to work with and stay close to. People who have figured out who they are and are good at being that on purpose.

Stay woke just means pay attention to everything, don’t lean on your own understanding or anyone else’s, observe, evolve, eliminate things that no longer evolve. That’s what it means. Stay conscious, stay awake. It doesn’t mean judge others. It doesn’t mean gang up on somebody who you feel is not woke.

Proof of God? Proof was in the world, and the way you visited the world was on foot…. Your walking was a devotion.

At the same time that “self-made” entered the nation’s lexicon, so did the notion of abject failure. Once reserved to describe a discrete financial episode — “I made a failure,” a merchant would say after losing his shop — “failure” in antebellum America became a matter of identity, describing not an event but a person. As the historian Scott Sandage explains in Born Losers: A History of Failure in America, the phrase “I feel like a failure” comes to us so naturally today “that we forget it is a figure of speech: the language of business applied to the soul.”

When you die, you are grieved by all the atoms of which you were composed.

“Perhaps we could warm you up with a simpler situation,” he considers. “How would you like to be in a closed room, one-on-one with your lover?” And then you are here. You are simultaneously engaged in her conversation and thinking about something else; she both gives herself to you and does not give herself to you; you find her objectionable and you deeply love her; she worships you and wonders what she might have missed with someone else. “Thank you,” you tell the angel. “This I’m used to.”

In the afterlife, in the warm company of His accidental subjects, God now settles in comfortably, like a grandfather who looks down the long holiday table at his progeny, feeling proud, somehow responsible, and a little surprised.

God created life in His own image; His congregations are the microbes.

Problems that remain persistently insoluble should always be suspected as questions asked in the wrong way, like the problem of cause and effect. Make a spurious division of one process into two, forget that you have done it, and then puzzle for centuries as to how the two get together.

You will never, never be able to sit back with full contentment and say, “Now, I’ve arrived!” Your entire education has deprived you of this capacity because it was preparing you for the future, instead of showing you how to be alive now.

Women are slaves to the fashion game with its basic rule, “I have conformed sooner than you.”

Nothing unites a community so much as common cause against an external enemy, yet, in the same moment, that enemy becomes the essential support of social unity. Therefore larger societies require larger enemies, bringing us in due course to the perilous point of our present situation, where the world is virtually divided into two huge camps.

At times, the paper-work, recording what has been done, seems to become more important than what it records. Students’ records in the registrar’s office are often kept in safes and vaults, but not so the books in the library—unless extremely rare or dangerous.

I read the way a person might swim, to save his or her life.

There is a notion that creative people are absentminded, reckless, heedless of social customs and obligations. It is, hopefully, true.

Man’s most agonizing spiritual dilemma is his necessity for food, with its unavoidable attachments to suffering.

For the universe is full of radiant suggestion.

I do this in the same way that some birds are eagles and some doves, some flowers lilies and some roses.

Attention is the beginning of devotion.

Titles by their nature imply that the play’s architecture is like a bull’s-eye (and some are) with the point being in the center. Sometimes the point is in the margins, or in the experience of throwing the dart.

I do believe that thinking is an overrated medium for achieving thought.

Perhaps we have lost the guiding force of form; we live in the age of prose. Everything is goop.

Why is it so horrible to see certain professionalized child actors on stage? Is it because they are in a state of premature work rather than in a state of play?

Recently, my son said to me after seeing a ballet on television: “It’s beautiful but I don’t like it.” And I thought, Are many grown-ups capable of such a distinction? It’s beautiful, but I don’t like it. Usually, our grown-up thinking is more along the lines of: I don’t like it, so it’s not beautiful.

The world is a comedy made up of lots of individual tragedies.