A letter from John Steinbeck to his son

New York
November 10, 1958

‘Dear Thom:

We had your letter this morning. I will answer it from my point of view and of course Elaine will from hers.

First — if you are in love — that’s a good thing — that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.

Second — There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you — of kindness and consideration and respect — not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.

You say this is not puppy love. If you feel so deeply — of course it isn’t puppy love.

But I don’t think you were asking me what you feel. You know better than anyone. What you wanted me to help you with is what to do about it — and that I can tell you.

Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.

The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.

If you love someone — there is no possible harm in saying so — only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.

Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.

It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another — but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.

Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I’m glad you have it.

We will be glad to meet Susan. She will be very welcome. But Elaine will make all such arrangements because that is her province and she will be very glad to. She knows about love too and maybe she can give you more help than I can.

And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens — The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.

Love,

Fa’

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on capturing Truth

‘Words do not express thoughts very well; everything immediately becomes a little different, a little distorted, a little foolish.’

– Herman Hesse

‘We are now so far from the road to truth, that religious teachers dispute and hate each other, and speculative men are esteemed unsound and frivolous. But to a sound judgment, the most abstract truth is the most practical. Whenever a true theory appears, it will be its own evidence. Its test is, that it will explain all phenomena.’

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Virginia Woolf

‘For now she need not think about anybody. She could be herself, by herself. And that was what now she often felt the need of–to think; well, not even to think. To be silent; to be alone. All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others.

Although she continued to knit, and sat upright, it was thus that she felt herself; and this self having shed its attachments was free for the strangest adventures. When life sank down for a moment, the range of experience seemed limitless.’

–  Virginia Woolf, To the lighthouse

note to Self

‘Writers are solitaries by vocation and necessity. I sometimes think the test is not so much talent, which is not as rare as people think, but purpose or vocation, which manifests in part as the ability to endure a lot of solitude and keep working.’

– Rebecca Solnit

‘For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.’

– Ernest Hemingway

Nature boy (1947)

There was a boy
A very strange enchanted boy

They say he wandered very far
very far over land and sea

A little shy and sad of eye
But very wise, was he

And then one day
One magic day he passed my way
While we spoke of many things
Fools and kings
This he said to me

The greatest thing
You’ll ever learn
Is just to love
And be loved
In return

– Eden Ahbez

On art

‘Art’s task is to save the soul of mankind.

And anything less is a dithering while Rome burns.

Because if the artists who are self-selected,

for being able to journey into the Other…

– if the artist cannot find the way, then the way cannot be found.’

– Terence McKenna

Light

‘I will try to live in this happiness without fear. It will be hard. I find that I am more afraid of this joy than I have ever been of misery.

Misery I have learnt how to manage; joy breaks my feet up, takes away my old words and forms.

What will be left of me when this light has peeled away all my skins ?

What words will this light leave me?

And yet even as I think and write those questions , they seem irrelevant.

I have no choice but to be alive in this landscape and this light.’

– Andrew Harvey