Friday, 19 June 2015

Allen Ginsberg on never working again (and living a "literary and quiet city-hermit existence" instead)


Carl Solomon, Patti Smith, Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs at the Gotham Book Mart celebrating the reissue of JUNKY, NYC, 1977.

I recently came across a wonderful quote from Allen Ginsberg, the Beat Generation poet best known for his incredible epic poem "Howl" ("I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness..."), and wanted to share it with you.

I think that often we find ourselves reading books, articles and websites that push us to do more, see more, and be more, and I love that this conveys the opposite. Yes, motivating ourselves is important, but so is simplifying life and enjoying the little moments.

It reminds me somewhat of the Nicholas Carr quote that I included in my Arianna Huffington and slowing down article: “there needs to be time for efficient data collection and time for inefficient contemplation, time to operate the machine and time to sit idly in the garden”.

But here's the Ginsberg quote:

“I really would like to stop working forever–never work again, never do anything like the kind of work I’m doing now–and do nothing but write poetry and have leisure to spend the day outdoors and go to museums and see friends. And I’d like to keep living with someone — maybe even a man — and explore relationships that way. And cultivate my perceptions, cultivate the visionary thing in me. Just a literary and quiet city-hermit existence.”

Around 1953 Ginsberg began seeing a therapist at Langley Porter Institute, San Francisco, and recalls saying the above to him. He also remembers the therapists's response: "Well, why don't you?"

Mentioned in On the Poetry of Allen Ginsberg by Lewis Hyde (p405)


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Monday, 15 June 2015

Kierkegaard on how "if one just keeps on walking, everything will be all right"

Unfinished sketch of Kierkegaard by his cousin 
Niels Christian Kierkegaard, c. 1840
I finished my undergraduate degree last month, and since then I've spent a few weeks travelling. One of the stops was Copenhagen, where I decided to make Søren Kierkegaard a focal point of my wanderings: the Danish philosopher and father of existentialism whose work included Either/Or and Fear and Trembling.

The philosopher was born in the city, studied at its university, and died there, and I found it fascinating to wander its roads with his life and work in mind. This is particularly fitting upon considering one of Kierkegaard's most famous quotes:

"Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Everyday, I walk myself into a state of well-being & walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it. But by sitting still, & the more one sits still, the closer one comes to feeling ill. Thus if one just keeps on walking, everything will be all right.”

― Søren Kierkegaard, from a letter to his favourite niece, Henriette Lund, in 1847

If you find yourself in Copenhagen, try to meander around the Frederiksberg Gardens — “that wonderful garden which for the child was the enchanted land where the king lived with the queen,” as Kierkegaard wrote in “Concluding Unscientific Postscript.” You can also contemplate his grave in Assistens Cemetery, see a 1918 bronze statue of him in the Royal Library Garden, and stroll along the "Lovers' Lane" near Peblinge Lake that is the opening setting for The Seducer's Diary.

But if you're not in Copenhagen, perhaps try to wander a little regardless. Walk, with or without direction, and walk yourself into your best thoughts as the Danish philosopher did.


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