When life demands more of people than they demand of life – as is ordinarily the case – what results is a resentment of life almost as deep-seated as the fear of death
The portraits, of more historical than artistic interest, had gone; and tapestry, full of the blue and bronze of peacocks, fell over the doors, and shut out all history and activity untouched with beauty and peace; and now when I looked at my Crevelli and pondered on the rose in the hand of the Virgin, wherein the form was so delicate and precise that it seemed more like a thought than a flower, or at the grey dawn and rapturous faces of my Francesca, I knew all a Christian's ecstasy without his slavery to rule and custom; when I pondered over the antique bronze gods and goddesses, which I had mortgaged my house to buy, I had all a pagan's delight in various beauty and without his terror at sleepless destiny and his labour with many sacrifices; and I had only to go to my bookshelf, where every book was bound in leather, stamped with intricate ornament, and of a carefully chosen colour: Shakespeare in the orange of the glory of the world, Dante in the dull red of his anger, Milton in the blue grey of his formal calm; and I could experience what I would of human passions without their bitterness and without satiety. I had gathered about me all gods because I believed in none, and experienced every pleasure because I gave myself to none, but held myself apart, individual, indissoluble, a mirror of polished steel: I looked in the triumph of this imagination at the birds of Hera, glowing in the firelight as though they were wrought of jewels; and to my mind, for which symbolism was a necessity, they seemed the doorkeepers of my world, shutting out all that was not of as affluent a beauty as their own; and for a moment I thought as I had thought in so many other moments, that it was possible to rob life of every bitterness except the bitterness of death; and then a thought which had followed this thought, time after time, filled me with a passionate sorrow.
When reading the history of the Jewish people, of their flight from slavery to death, of their exchange of tyrants, I must confess that my sympathies are all aroused in their behalf. They were cheated, deceived and abused. Their god was quick-tempered unreasonable, cruel, revengeful and dishonest. He was always promising but never performed. He wasted time in ceremony and childish detail, and in the exaggeration of what he had done. It is impossible for me to conceive of a character more utterly detestable than that of the Hebrew god. He had solemnly promised the Jews that he would take them from Egypt to a land flowing with milk and honey. He had led them to believe that in a little while their troubles would be over, and that they would soon in the land of Canaan, surrounded by their wives and little ones, forget the stripes and tears of Egypt. After promising the poor wanderers again and again that he would lead them in safety to the promised land of joy and plenty, this God, forgetting every promise, said to the wretches in his power:—'Your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness and your children shall wander until your carcasses be wasted.' This curse was the conclusion of the whole matter. Into this dust of death and night faded all the promises of God. Into this rottenness of wandering despair fell all the dreams of liberty and home. Millions of corpses were left to rot in the desert, and each one certified to the dishonesty of Jehovah. I cannot believe these things. They are so cruel and heartless, that my blood is chilled and my sense of justice shocked. A book that is equally abhorrent to my head and heart, cannot be accepted as a revelation from God.When we think of the poor Jews, destroyed, murdered, bitten by serpents, visited by plagues, decimated by famine, butchered by each, other, swallowed by the earth, frightened, cursed, starved, deceived, robbed and outraged, how thankful we should be that we are not the chosen people of God. No wonder that they longed for the slavery of Egypt, and remembered with sorrow the unhappy day when they exchanged masters. Compared with Jehovah, Pharaoh was a benefactor, and the tyranny of Egypt was freedom to those who suffered the liberty of God.While reading the Pentateuch, I am filled with indignation, pity and horror. Nothing can be sadder than the history of the starved and frightened wretches who wandered over the desolate crags and sands of wilderness and desert, the prey of famine, sword, and plague. Ignorant and superstitious to the last degree, governed by falsehood, plundered by hypocrisy, they were the sport of priests, and the food of fear. God was their greatest enemy, and death their only friend.It is impossible to conceive of a more thoroughly despicable, hateful, and arrogant being, than the Jewish god. He is without a redeeming feature. In the mythology of the world he has no parallel. He, only, is never touched by agony and tears. He delights only in blood and pain. Human affections are naught to him. He cares neither for love nor music, beauty nor joy. A false friend, an unjust judge, a braggart, hypocrite, and tyrant, sincere in hatred, jealous, vain, and revengeful, false in promise, honest in curse, suspicious, ignorant, and changeable, infamous and hideous:—such is the God of the Pentateuch.
[Robert's eulogy at his brother, Ebon C. Ingersoll's grave. Even the great orator Robert Ingersoll was choked up with tears at the memory of his beloved brother]The record of a generous life runs like a vine around the memory of our dead, and every sweet, unselfish act is now a perfumed flower.Dear Friends: I am going to do that which the dead oft promised he would do for me.The loved and loving brother, husband, father, friend, died where manhood's morning almost touches noon, and while the shadows still were falling toward the west.He had not passed on life's highway the stone that marks the highest point; but, being weary for a moment, he lay down by the wayside, and, using his burden for a pillow, fell into that dreamless sleep that kisses down his eyelids still. While yet in love with life and raptured with the world, he passed to silence and pathetic dust.Yet, after all, it may be best, just in the happiest, sunniest hour of all the voyage, while eager winds are kissing every sail, to dash against the unseen rock, and in an instant hear the billows roar above a sunken ship. For whether in mid sea or 'mong the breakers of the farther shore, a wreck at last must mark the end of each and all. And every life, no matter if its every hour is rich with love and every moment jeweled with a joy, will, at its close, become a tragedy as sad and deep and dark as can be woven of the warp and woof of mystery and death.This brave and tender man in every storm of life was oak and rock; but in the sunshine he was vine and flower. He was the friend of all heroic souls. He climbed the heights, and left all superstitions far below, while on his forehead fell the golden dawning, of the grander day.He loved the beautiful, and was with color, form, and music touched to tears. He sided with the weak, the poor, and wronged, and lovingly gave alms. With loyal heart and with the purest hands he faithfully discharged all public trusts.He was a worshipper of liberty, a friend of the oppressed. A thousand times I have heard him quote these words: 'For Justice all place a temple, and all season, summer!' He believed that happiness was the only good, reason the only torch, justice the only worship, humanity the only religion, and love the only priest. He added to the sum of human joy; and were every one to whom he did some loving service to bring a blossom to his grave, he would sleep to-night beneath a wilderness of flowers.Life is a narrow vale between the cold and barren peaks of two eternities. We strive in vain to look beyond the heights. We cry aloud, and the only answer is the echo of our wailing cry. From the voiceless lips of the unreplying dead there comes no word; but in the night of death hope sees a star and listening love can hear the rustle of a wing.He who sleeps here, when dying, mistaking the approach of death for the return of health, whispered with his latest breath, 'I am better now.' Let us believe, in spite of doubts and dogmas, of fears and tears, that these dear words are true of all the countless dead.And now, to you, who have been chosen, from among the many men he loved, to do the last sad office for the dead, we give his sacred dust.Speech cannot contain our love. There was, there is, no gentler, stronger, manlier man.
It's only young people who make giant, life-altering decisions based on what other people might think, and it's because they don't see their own death looming. Their fear is, "Will my family, friends and lovers admire me?" whereas an older person's fear is that vision of themselves lying in a hospital bed, a breathing tube up their nose and the thought running through their heads, "Why didn't I at least try to do what I wanted to do, while I had the chance?
When I was 15 years old, I came in contact with my first ashram, my first spiritual commune, in the form of Ljusbacken ("The Hill of Light") in Delsbo in beautiful Halsingland in the north of Sweden. Ljusbacken consisted of an international gathering of yogis, meditators, therapists, healers and seekers of truth. It was on Ljusbacken that I for the first time came in contact with my path in life: meditation.It was also on Ljusbacken that I meet people for the first time in my 15 year old life, where I on a deep wordless level felt that I meet people, who were on the same path as me. It was the first time that I meet people, who could put words on and confirm my own inner thirst after something that I could only occasionally sense vaguely, like some sort of inner guiding presence, or like a beacon in the distant far out on the open and misty ocean. For the first time in my life, I meet brothers, sisters and friends on the inner path. It was also on Ljusbacken that I meet the mystery called love for the first time in my 15 year old life. With my 15 year old eyes, I watched with wide eyed fascination and fear filled excitement the incomprehensible mystery, which is called woman.My own thirst after truth, together with my inner guiding light, resulted in an early spiritual awakening when I was 15 years old. It led me back to the inner path, which I have already followed for many lives. It led me back to a life lived with vision, with dedication and meaning, and not only a life governed by the endless desires of the ego, a mere vegetating without substance between life and death. It led me to explore the inner journey again, to discover the inner being, the meditative quality within, and to come in intimate contact with the endless and boundless ocean of consciousness, like the drop surrenders to the sea. At the source, the drop and ocean are one.
When I was younger, I would cling to life because life was at the top of the turning wheel. But like the song of my gypsy girl, the great wheel turns over and lands on a minor key. It is then that you come of age and life means nothing to you. To live, to die, to overdose, to fall in a coma in the street... it is all the same. It is only in the peach innocence of youth that life is at its crest on top of the wheel. And there being only life, the young cling to it, they fear death… And they should! ...For they are 'in' life.
Today, more than ever, citizens demand with good reason that moral and ethical principles be upheld and that exemplariness preside over our public life. And the king, as the head of state, must not only be an example but also a servant to that just and legitimate demand of the citizens.
When the clock stops on a life, all things emanating from it become precious, finite, and cordoned off for preservation. Each aspect of the dead person is removed from the flux of the everyday, which, of course, is where we miss him most. The quarantine around death makes it feel unlucky and wrong--a freakish incursion--and the dead, thus quarantined, come to seem more dead than they already are.... Borrowing from the dead is a way of keeping them engaged in life's daily transactions--in other words, alive.
I know inside that there is more to life than this mortal coil. It's a very shallow minded person who thinks that someone is born and dies and that's it. I haven't gone through thirty odd years of suffering, and doing what I do, and looking at other people who are born and die with cancer, with AIDS, with whatever, and think, 'well, what was the point of that?'. There is a point to everything, and we're here to learn, and it's just a learning curve and we'll move on, and this is just a shell. It's just I've got a dodgy shell.
The music was more than music- at least what we are used to hearing. The music was feeling itself. The sound connected instantly with something deep and joyous. Those powerful moments of true knowledge that we have to paper over with daily life. The music tapped the back of our terrors, too. Things we'd lived through and didn't want to ever repeat. Shredded imaginings, unadmitted longings, fear and also surprisingly pleasures. No, we can't live at that pitch. But every so often something shatters like ice and we are in the river of our existence. We are aware. And this realization was in the music, somehow, or in the way Shamengwa played it.
[from Some words about 'War and Peace']For a historian considering the achievement of a certain aim, there are heroes; for the artist treating of a man's relation to all sides of life there cannot and should not be heroes, but there should be men.[...]The historian has to deal with the results of an event, the artist with the fact of the event. An historian in describing a battle says: 'The left flank of such and such an army was advanced to attack such and such a village and drove out the enemy, but was compelled to retire; then the cavalry, which was sent to attack, overthrew...' and so on. But these words have no meaning for the artist and do not actually touch on the event itself. Either from his own experience, or from the letters, memoirs, and accounts, the artist realizes a certain event to himself, and very often (to take the example of a battle) the deductions the historian permits himself to make as to the activity of such and such armies prove to be the very opposite of the artist's deductions. The difference of the results arrived at is also to be explained by the sources from which the two draw their information. For the historian (to keep to the case of a battle) the chief source is found in the reports of the commanding officers and the commander-in-chief. The artist can draw nothing from such sources; they tell him nothing and explain nothing to him. More than that: the artist turns away from them as he finds inevitable falsehood in them. To say nothing of the fact that after any battle the two sides nearly always describe it in quite contradictory ways, in every description of a battle there is a necessary lie, resulting from the need of describing in a few words the actions of thousands of men spread over several miles, and subject to most violent moral excitement under the influence of fear, shame and death.
And when the event, the big change in your life, is simply an insight - isn't that a strange thing? That absolutely nothing changes except that you see things differently and you're less fearful and less anxious and generally stronger as a result: isn't it amazing that a completely invisible thing in your head can feel realer than anything you've experienced before? You see things more clearly and you know that you're seeing them more clearly. And it comes to you that this is what it means to love life, this is all anybody who talks seriously about God is ever talking about. Moments like this.
Life's more important than a living. So many people who make a living are making death, not life. Don't ever join them. They're the gravediggers of our civilization - The safe men. The compromisers. The moneymakers. The muddlers-through. Politics is full of them... so is businesses... so is the church. They're popular. Successful. Some of them work hard, other are slack, but all of them could tell a good story. Never where there such charming gravediggers in the world's history.