The Largest and Widest Life

From The Splendid Wayfaring (1913), by Haldane Macfall.

When all’s said, and the worship done, a very vulgar dullard, if he give all his powers to it, can, and often does, hoard great wealth–indeed, he is at times a criminal against society. But even the significance of his wayfaring for himself does not lie in his wealth nor in his lack of wealth–greatness is not wealth nor lack of wealth, whatever else it may be. The significance of a man for himself rests in the largeness of the range of his adventure in living; the significance of his wayfaring for others rests in the amount whereby he has increased the realm of life for his fellows.

We live a little mean day, so petty indeed that most men–honest fellows–deem themselves as having lived who go to their graves the narrow life-long slaves of a paltry wage, content to have earned just that wage, as though earning a wage were life! nay, proud to be able to say as they lie a-dying that they have walked without tripping in a little parish. They are even acclaimed “good citizens”! But the largest and widest life is for him who dares the fullest adventure–who has become partaker in all that life can give. And by the Arts alone shall he know the fullest life; and by lack of the Arts shall he know the meanest.

The artist, in the full meaning of the word, is the supreme man.

It is well, therefore, to try and realise what is Art, and what is an artist.

How to Enrich the World

From The Air-Conditioned Nightmare (1970), by Henry Miller.

To live beyond the pale, to work for the pleasure of working, to grow old gracefully while retaining one’s faculties, one’s enthusiasm, one’s self-respect, one has to establish other values than those endorsed by the mob. It asks an artist to make this breach in the wall. An artist is primarily one who has faith in himself. He does not respond to the normal stimuli; he is neither a drudge nor a parasite. He lives to express himself and in so doing enriches the world.

Kindling the Flame

From The Vision of Asia: An Interpretation of Chinese Art and Culture (1933), by L. Cranmer-Byng.

The artist allows the life without him to penetrate within, and from the mingling of two vital flames new life is engendered and produced in new form. Since the Universal Spirit pervades all things, there is nothing that is incapable of co-operating in the purpose of Creation. And the final test of every work of art lies in the appeal of its vitality to ours; not in the flower but in the flame that kindles it into beauty and ourselves into recognition and response. Thus the art of life consists not merely in the ability to see the flame but to bear the flame, to liberate and let it pass from us into a future beyond our day.

The Religion of Poetry and Its Reward

From Advice to a Young Poet (1949), by Llewelyn Powys.

The religion of poetry rests to-day, as it did in the time of Homer, on an impassioned appreciation of appearances. It is an austere religion that demands a certain detachment, a certain selfless dedication. When once, however, we have become initiates, how rich is our reward! Never again, not for a single moment, can we become submerged by the importunities of unillumined reality; the least favourable daily incident finding a place in our particular poetic perspective, in this inspired perspective that never loses sight of our lot upon this planet, a planet dancing in sunlit space, inhabited by animals grown wise; by a breed of dreamers malign and magnanimous, sturdily camped in their generations upon a corn-bearing tilth, and covetous of an unending spirit life.

Discovering a New Poetical World

From Rainer Maria Rilke: A Study in Poetry and Mysticism (1931), by Federico Olivero.

Poetry is an aspiration towards the unknown; the poet goes beyond the limits of logical thought and enters into a region of continual changes and boundless imagination. This conception of Rilke is suitable for his mature work, from the Buch der Bilder onwards. His poetry arises from his mystical idea of life and death and from the artist’s inborn tendency towards oversensitiveness so as to make an abstract and metaphysical nature out of material nature, and universal and abstract sentiments out of his enthusiasms and griefs. While the poet tries to grasp the intimate signification and meaning of life and of the world, material reality dissolves when in contact with his fervid imagination; and therefore his poetry is this same dissociation of matter in another substance, and with the extension of sensation, an expansion of his internal life. The artistic power of nature–by aesthetically moulding according to divine laws–gives rise to a reality of elating beauty; but the poet feels that under this reality, there is another which he discovers and fathoms, a beauty in perfect order and harmonizing with the rhythm of his spirit, instead of that external beauty which is apparently indistinct and intricate. This sense of a second reality appears only in the poet’s hours of dreams and is only revealed to solitary minds. The material world dissolves under the poet’s glance and is observed not from the outside but from the inside. Therefore his poetry is not a copy or picture of external things but a study and image of the intimate part of life and nature,–of that which is beyond appearances and which lies deeply hidden under the surface. The poet tries to penetrate to the lowest depth of every being full of life and beauty up to their external margins; and this depth which he discovers becomes a new form of his vision. The poet is at once a creator and expounder; the former because he gives us new forms and sentiments, and the latter since he explains life and nature according to his ideas. The new poetical world comes to him from his inmost being; sunsets, dawns, the gold quivering of a birch-tree in the autumn, evening and twilight are images of his sentiments, and all things are coloured by his passion, and the universe is reflected in him, but transformed by his soul.

The Artistic Soul

From The Art Spirit (1923), by Robert Henri.

When the artist is alive in any person, whatever his kind of work may be, he becomes an inventive, searching, daring, self-expressive creature. He becomes interesting to other people. He disturbs, upsets, enlightens, and opens ways for better understanding. Where those who are not artists are trying to close the book, he opens it and shows there are still more pages possible. The world would stagnate without him, and the world would be beautiful with him; for he is interesting to himself and he is interesting to others. He does not have to be a painter or sculptor to be an artist. He can work in any medium. He simply has to find the gain in the work itself, not outside it.

To Be Most in Life

From Sexus (1949), by Henry Miller.

From the little reading I had done I had observed that the men who were most in life, who were moulding life, who were life itself, ate little, slept little, owned little or nothing. They had no illusions about duty, or the perpetuation of their kith and kin, or the preservation of the State. They were interested in truth and in truth alone. They recognized only one kind of activity: creation. Nobody could command their services because they had of their own pledged themselves to give all. They gave gratuitously, because that is the only way to give. This was the way of life which appealed to me: it made sound sense. It was life–not the simulacrum which those about me worshipped.