Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of
up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
These are the letters which Endymion wrote
To one he loved in secret, and apart.
And now the brawlers of the auction mart
Bargain and bid for each poor blotted note,
Ay! for each separate pulse of passion quote
The merchant’s price. I think they love not art
Who break the crystal of a poet’s heart
That small and sickly eyes may glare and gloat.
Is it not said that many years ago,
In a far Eastern town, some soldiers ran
With torches through the midnight, and began
To wrangel for mean raiment, and to throw
Dice for the garments of a wretched man,
Not knowing the God’s wonder, or His woe?
Neither in the theoretical nor in the practical sphere to we care for, or go to help to, those who have not head for risks, or sense for living on the perilous edge.
–William James, cited in Rollo May, Love and Will
Learning is not the accumulation of scraps of knowledge. It is a growth, where every act of knowledge develops the learner, thus making him capable of constituting ever more and more complex objectivities—and the object growth in complexity parallels the subjective growth in capacity.
–Husserl as interpreted by Quentin Lauer, cited in Rollo May Love and Will, pg 223
If he [the alcoholic] once gets able to pick out that way of conceiving, from all possible ways of conceiving the various opportunities which occur, if through thick and thin he holds to it that this is being a drunkard and is nothing else, he is not likely to remain one long. The effort by which he succeeds in keeping the right name unwaveringly present to his mind proves to be his saving moral act.
—William James, The Principles of Psychology, cited in Rollo May, Love and Will, pg 154
If my devils are to leave me, I am afraid my angels might take flight as well.
–Rilke, on withdrawing from psychotherapy after learning the goals to which it aspired, Letter 74, Briefe aus den Jahten 1907 bis 1914, cited in Rollo May, Love and Will, pg 122
An outstanding example of the self-defeating effects of forgetting the daimonic can be seen in the rise of Hitler. The inability of America and the nations of western Europe to recognize the daimonic made it impossible for us to assess the significance of Hitler and the Nazi movement realistically. How well I recall those years in the early 1930’s when Hitler was coming into power. I had just graduated from college and had gone to teach in Europe. My fellow liberals and I in America, and in Europe to a lesser extent, believed so strongly in peace and world brotherhood in those days that we could not even see Hitler or the destructively daimonic reality he represented. Human beings just couldn’t’ be that cruel in our civilized twentieth century—the accounts in the papers must be wrong. Our error was that that we let our convictions limit our perceptions. We had no place for the daimonic; we believed that the world must somehow fit our convictions, and the whole daimonic dimension was ruled out of our perception. Not to recognize the daimonic itself turns out to be daimonic; it makes us accomplices on the side of the destructive possession.
The denial of the daimonic is, in effect, a self-castration in love and a self-nullification in will. And the denial leads to the perverted forms of aggression we have seen in our day in which the repressed comes back to haunt us.
–Rollo May, Love and Will, pg 130-131
Flaming wonderer! that dost leave vaunting, proud
Ambition boasting its lightning fringed
Immensity—cleaving wings, gaudy dipp’d
In sunset’s blossoming splendors bright and
Tinsel fire, with puny flight fluttering
Far behind! Thou that art cloth’d in mistery
More startling and more glorious than thine own
Encircling fires—profound as the oceans
Of shoreless space through which now thou flyest!
Art thou some erring world now deep engulph’d
In hellish, Judgement fires, with phrenzied ire
And fury hot, like some dread sky rocket
Of Eternity, flaming, vast, plunging
Thro’ immensity, scatt’ring in thy track
The wrathful fires of thine own damnation
Or wingest thou with direful speed, the ear
Of some flaming god of far off systems
Within these skies unheard of and unknown?
Ye Gods! How proud the thought to mount this orb
Of fire—boom thro’ the breathless oceans vast
Of big immensity—quickly leaving
Far behind all that for long ages gone
Dull, gray headed dames have prated of—
Travel far off mystic eternities—
Then proudly, on this little twisting ball
Returning once more set foot, glowing with
The splendors of a vast intelligence—
Frizzling little, puny humanity
Into icy horrors—bursting the big
Wide-spread eyeball of dismay—to recount
Direful regions travers’d and wonders seen!
Why I’d be as great a man as Fremont
Who cross’d the Rocky Mountains, didn’t freeze
And’s got a gold mine!
Little is known of Cherokee poet Tso-Le-Oh-Woh. “What an Indian Thought When He Saw the Comet” was published in The Cherokee Advocate on September 28, 1853 shortly after the Klinkerfues comet passed through the skies in that year. The poem can be found in this volume, along with the author’s only other published work, A Red Man’s Thoughts: Suggested by the eagerness of the applicants for Indian Superintendencies and Agencies.
A writer, or any man, must believe that whatever happens to him is an instrument; everything has been given for an end. This is even stronger in the case of the artist. Everything that happens, including humiliations, embarrassments, misfortunes, all has been given like clay, like material for one’s art. One must accept it. For this reason I speak in a poem of the ancient food of heroes: humiliation, unhappiness, discord. Those things are given to us to transform, so that we may make from the miserable circumstances of our lives things that are eternal, or aspire to be so.
–Jorge Luis Borges, “Blindness” in Everything and Nothing, pgs 128-129