“I have sometimes thought—that under the affectation of independent views you are as enslaved to the social code as any woman I know!”
― Thomas Hardy, Jude the Obscure
The self-renewing man … has mutually fruitful relations with other human beings. He is capable of accepting love and capable of giving it — both more difficult achievements than is commonly thought. He is capable of depending on others and of being depended upon. He can see life through another’s eyes and feel it through another’s heart…
The man or woman who cannot achieve these relationships is imprisoned, cut off from a great part of the world of experience. The joy and suffering of those we love are part of our own experience. We feel their triumphs and defeats, their hopes and fears, their anger and pity, and our lives are richer for it…
Love and friendship dissolve the rigidities of the isolated self, force new perspectives, alter judgments and keep in working order the emotional substratum on which all profound comprehension of human affairs must rest.
John W. Gardner in The Art of Self-Renewal
Song: “Dear Friend” by Eleni Mandell
Being alone in our present society raises an important question about identity and well-being.
How have we arrived, in the relatively prosperous developed world, at least, at a cultural moment which values autonomy, personal freedom, fulfillment and human rights, and above all individualism, more highly than they have ever been valued before in human history, but at the same time these autonomous, free, self-fulfilling individuals are terrified of being alone with themselves?
We live in a society which sees high self-esteem as a proof of well-being, but we do not want to be intimate with this admirable and desirable person.
Sara Maitland in How to Be Alone
Song: “Lonesome” by Dr. Dog
Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.
Seneca in On the Shortness of Life
Song: “Be Brave” by My Brightest Diamond
“Some people are born to make great art and others are born to appreciate it. … It is a kind of talent in itself, to be an audience, whether you are the spectator in the gallery or you are listening to the voice of the world’s greatest soprano. Not everyone can be the artist. There have to be those who witness the art, who love and appreciate what they have been privileged to see.”
― Ann Patchett, Bel Canto
“What a frightening thing is the human, a mass of gauges and dials and registers, and we can only read a few and those perhaps not accurately.”
—John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent
"Some people you just had to embrace, in some way or another, had to bite into the muscle, to remain sane in their company. You needed to grab their hand and clutch it like a downer so they would pull you into their midst. Otherwise they, walking casually down the street towards you, almost about to wave, would leap over a wall and be gone for months.”
― Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient