Human existence has no such simple and direct meaning or goodness as the humanistic American dream... A comfortable chair, a hi-fi set, a pwoerful car, the protection of a deoderant, a college romance and a paying job, cannot even in combination provide meaning for our life.
We need to realize that money is not the ultimate power of the world. It is not money itself, but the love of money that is the root of all evil. If you let this love blot out courage, work, art, romance - then you are closing yourself into a narrower and narrower cage.
The essence of romance is uncertainty.
Life becomes meaningful and all activities are purposeful only on the basis of faith in the enduring reality. … The greatest romance possible in life is to discover this Eternal Reality in the midst of infinite change. Once, one has experienced this, one sees oneself in everything that lives, one recognises all of life as his life, everybody's interests as his own. One is no longer bound by habits of the past, no longer swayed by the hopes of the future — One lives in and enjoys each present moment to the full. There is no greater romance in life than this adventure in realization.
The ideal of romantic love stands in opposition to much of our history, as we shall see. First of all, it is individualistic. It rejects the view of human beings as interchangeable units, and it attaches the highest importance to individual differences as well as to individual choice. Romantic love is egoistic, in the philosophical, not in the petty, sense. Egoism as a philosophical doctrine holds that self-realization and personal happiness are the moral goals of life, and romantic love is motivated by the desire for personal happiness. Romantic love is secular. In its union of physical with spiritual pleasure in sex and love, as well as in its union of romance and daily life, romantic love is a passionate commitment to this earth and to the exalted happiness that life on earth can offer.
Painting is the most beautiful of all arts. In it, all sensations are condensed, at its aspect everyone may create romance at the will of his imagination, and at a glance have his soul invaded by the most profound memories, no efforts of memory, everything summed up in one moment. Complete art which sums up all the others and completes them.
Genius is unquestionably a great trial, when it takes the romantic form, and genius and romance are so associated in the public mind that many people recognize no other kind. There are other forms of genius, of course, and though they create their own problems, they are not impossible people. But O, how deeply we should thank God for these impossible people like Berlioz and Dylan Thomas! What a weary, grey, well-ordered, polite, unendurable hell this would be without them!
As a rule, the more bizarre a thing is the less mysterious it proves to be. It is your commonplace, featureless crimes which are really puzzling, just as a commonplace face is the most difficult to identify.
Hitherto every civilization that has arisen has been able to develop only a comparatively few activities; that is, its field of endeavor has been limited in kind as well as in locality. There have, of course, been great movements, but they were of practically only one form of activity; and, although usually this set in motion other kinds of activities, such was not always the case. The great religious movements have been the pre-eminent examples of this type. But they are not the only ones. Such peoples as the Mongols and the Phoenicians, at almost opposite poles of cultivation, have represented movements in which one element, military or commercial, so overshadowed all other elements that the movement died out chiefly because it was one-sided. The extraordinary outburst of activity among the Mongols of the thirteenth century was almost purely a military movement, without even any great administrative side; and it was therefore well-nigh purely a movement of destruction. The individual prowess and hardihood of the Mongols, and the perfection of their military organization rendered their armies incomparably superior to those of any European, or any other Asiatic, power of that day. They conquered from the Yellow Sea to the Persian Gulf and the Adriatic; they seized the imperial throne of China; they slew the Caliph in Bagdad; they founded dynasties in India. The fanaticism of Christianity and the fanaticism of Mohammedanism were alike powerless against them. The valor of the bravest fighting men in Europe was impotent to check them. They trampled Russia into bloody mire beneath the hoofs of their horses; they drew red furrows of destruction across Poland and Hungary; they overthrew with ease any force from western Europe that dared encounter them. Yet they had no root of permanence; their work was mere evil while it lasted, and it did not last long; and when they vanished they left hardly a trace behind them. So the extraordinary Phoenician civilization was almost purely a mercantile, a business civilization, and though it left an impress on the life that came after, this impress was faint indeed compared to that left, for instance, by the Greeks with their many-sided development. Yet the Greek civilization itself fell because this many-sided development became too exclusively one of intellect, at the expense of character, at the expense of the fundamental qualities which fit men to govern both themselves and others. When the Greek lost the sterner virtues, when his soldiers lost the fighting edge, and his statesmen grew corrupt, while the people became a faction-torn and pleasure-loving rabble, then the doom of Greece was at hand, and not all their cultivation, their intellectual brilliancy, their artistic development, their adroitness in speculative science, could save the Hellenic peoples as they bowed before the sword of the iron Roman.