To develop a complete mind: Study the science of art; Study the art of science. Learn how to see.
Realize that everything connects to everything else.
Not all who wander are aimless. Especially not those who seek truth beyond tradition, beyond definition, beyond the image.
I think that one of these days you’re going to have to find out where you want to go. And then you’ve got to start going there.
So if people ever look down upon you for crying for fictional characters, you should give them a gentle, pitying look and feel bad for them. If they’ve never cried for a fictional character, then they’ve never loved one (and what a joy that is). If they’ve never cried at a book, a movie, a piece of music, then they’ve missed one of the great pleasures life has to offer. Just because fiction does not contain things that are real doesn’t mean it doesn’t contain truth, and we find it through the alchemy of our tears.
There are some themes, some subjects, too large for adult fiction; they can only be dealt with adequately in a children’s book.
The reason for that is that in adult literary fiction, stories are there on sufferance. Other things are felt to be more important: technique, style, literary knowingness. Adult writers who deal in straightforward stories find themselves sidelined into a genre such as crime or science fiction, where no one expects literary craftsmanship.
But stories are vital. Stories never fail us because, as Isaac Bashevis Singer says, “events never grow stale.” There’s more wisdom in a story than in volumes of philosophy. And by a story I mean not only Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella and Jack and the Beanstalk but also the great novels of the nineteenth century, Jane Eyre, Middlemarch, Bleak House and many others: novels where the story is at the center of the writer’s attention, where the plot actually matters. The present-day would-be George Eliots take up their stories as if with a pair of tongs. They’re embarrassed by them. If they could write novels without stories in them, they would. Sometimes they do.
But what characterizes the best of children’s authors is that they’re not embarrassed to tell stories. They know how important stories are, and they know, too, that if you start telling a story you’ve got to carry on till you get to the end. And you can’t provide two ends, either, and invite the reader to choose between them. Or as in a highly praised recent adult novel I’m about to stop reading, three different beginnings. In a book for children you can’t put the plot on hold while you cut artistic capers for the amusement of your sophisticated readers, because, thank God, your readers are not sophisticated. They’ve got more important things in mind than your dazzling skill with wordplay. They want to know what happens next.
To burn with desire and keep quiet about it is the greatest punishment we can bring on ourselves.
I would rather die of passion than of boredom.
We all – adults and children, writers and readers – have an obligation to daydream. We have an obligation to imagine. It is easy to pretend that nobody can change anything, that we are in a world in which society is huge and the individual is less than nothing: an atom in a wall, a grain of rice in a rice field. But the truth is, individuals change their world over and over, individuals make the future, and they do it by imagining that things can be different.
We need the humanities not because they will produce shrewder entrepreneurs or kinder C.E.O.s but because, as that first professor said, they help us enjoy life more and endure it better. The reason we need the humanities is because we’re human. That’s enough.