Her 1925 essay, “Mathematics and Eternity,” is a remarkable document of an intellectual world in which faith and science each felt some need to justify themselves to the other. “We can practice the presence of God in an algebra class,” she writes, “better than in Brother Lawrence’s Kitchen; and in the utter loneliness of an unfashionable corner of research work, better than on a mountain top.” Every mathematician, religious or not, will understand what she means in this should-be-famous epigram:
[T]he thoughts of pure mathematics are true, not approximate or doubtful; they may not be the most interesting or important of God’s thoughts, but they are the only ones that we know exactly.
But art – I’ll offer a criterion – does not recruit people to believe or act or feel in a particular way. Søren Kierkegaard put it like this:
The indirect mode of communication makes communication an art in quite a different sense than when it is conceived in the usual manner … To stop a man on the street and stand still while talking to him, is not so difficult as to say something to a passer-by in passing, without standing still and without delaying the other, without attempting to persuade him to go the same way, but giving him instead an impulse to go precisely his own way.
Such Stuff as Dreams: The Psychology of Fiction
Kierkegaard, S. (1846). Concluding unscientific postscript (D.F. Swenson and W. Lowrie, Trans.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press (current edition 1968).
GROSS: You know, that actually really fits into what you were talking about wanting rules and structure in music.
SONDHEIM: Yeah. Order out of chaos. Order out of chaos. That’s why I like crossword puzzles – order out of chaos.
GROSS: Right. Right. Right.
SONDHEIM: I think that’s what art’s about anyway. I think that’s why people make art.
GROSS: To create order in…
SONDHEIM: To – out of chaos. Yeah.
GROSS: …In a world that’s chaotic? (Laughter).
SONDHEIM: The whole – the world has always been chaotic. Life is unpredictable. It is – there is no form. And making forms gives you solidity. I think that’s why people paint paintings and take photographs and write music and tell stories and – that have beginning, middles and ends, even when the middle is at the beginning and the beginning is at the end.
The palm extended in welcome:
Look! for you
I have unclenched my fist.
“I am the most important
Person at present.”
The sane remember to add:
“important, I mean, to me.”
True Love enjoys
but talks like a myopic.
Once having shat
in his new apartment,
he began to feel at home.
When Chiefs of State
prefer to work at night,
let the citizens beware.
1965 – 1968
Carl Sagan said it best: “One of the sadder lessons of history is: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we reject any evidence of the bamboozle. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”
— Duty To Warn 🔉 (@duty2warn) October 29, 2021
I do my thing and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you, and I am I,
and if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful.
If not, it can’t be helped.
The “Gestalt prayer” is a 56-word statement by psychotherapist Fritz Perls that is taken as a classic expression of Gestalt therapy as a way of life model of which Dr. Perls was a founder.
The key idea of the statement is the focus on living in response to one’s own needs, without projecting onto or taking introjects from others. It also expresses the idea that it is by fulfilling their own needs that people can help others do the same and create space for genuine contact; that is, when they “find each other, it’s beautiful.”
Ask a little kid to tell you about a painting they’re working on. It’s a miraculous thing. And I don’t think it’s unreasonable to aspire to that level of artistic liberation. I believe it’s still there in all of us. I wrote about this in my first book, but I think it’s worth emphasizing: During my stay in a mental hospital some sixteen years ago now, I witnessed this childlike superpower reassert itself, take hold, and transform a woman who was virtually catatonic in an art-therapy class. I think about it almost every day.
A sixty-something heroin addict who had spent the better part of the previous thirty years in and out of institutions and living on the streets – and whom I had not heard make a sound in any of the group therapy sessions, or even in the smoking room – drew a simple picture of herself. It wasn’t great. But it looked like her.
When she held it up for the class to see, I heard her voice for the very first time. She said she couldn’t remember the last time she had held a pencil. She smiled! And cried. Everyone clapped and gathered around to hold her. It was such a stark, amazing, healing thing to see someone’s eyes light up – become human again – when they realized they had the power to make something that wasn’t there.
How to Write One Song
Albert Camus, Notebooks
In a recital like this there is certainly something suggestive of pathology. The next step into mystical states carries us into a realm that public opinion and ethical philosophy have long since branded as pathological, though private practice and certain lyric strains of poetry seem still to bear witness to its ideality. I refer to the consciousness produced by intoxicants and anaesthetics, especially by alcohol. The sway of alcohol over mankind is unquestionably due to its power to stimulate the mystical faculties of human nature, usually crushed to earth by the cold facts and dry criticisms of the sober hour. Sobriety diminishes, discriminates, and says no; drunkenness expands, unites, and says yes. It is fact the great exciter of the Yes function in man. It brings its votary from the chill periphery of things to the radiant core. It makes him for the moment one with truth. Not through mere perversity do men run after it. To the poor and the unlettered it stands in the place of symphony concerts and of literature; and it is part of the deeper mystery and tragedy of life that whiffs and gleams of something that we immediately recognize as excellent should be vouchsafed to so many of us only in the fleeting earlier phases of what in its totality is so degrading a poisoning. The drunken consciousness is one bit of the mystic consciousness, and our total opinion of it must find its place in our opinion of that larger whole.
James, William. The Varieties of Religious Experience