If you’re a creative player, something must happen, and it will. Some sort of magic takes place, yet it isn’t magic. Hundreds of times I’ve gone to work thinking, Oh my God, I hate to think of playing tonight. It’s going to be awful. But something on a given night takes place and I’m excited before it’s over. Does that make sense? If you have that kind of night, you’re not aware of the time because of this thing that hits you.
– Bud Freeman, sax player; taken from Studs Terkel, Working, The New Press, NY, 1972, p.459.
I still like to skate. One day last year on a cold, clear, crisp afternoon, I saw this huge sheet of ice in the street. Goddamn, if I didn’t drive out there and put on my skates. I took off my camel-hair coat. I was just in a suit jacket, on my skates. And I flew. Nobody was there. I was free as a bird. I was really happy. That goes back to when I was a kid. I’ll do that until I die, I hope. Oh, I was free!The wind was blowing from the north. With the wind behind you, you’re in motion, you can wheel and dive and turn, you can lay yourself into impossible angles that you never could walking or running. You lay yourself at a forty-five degree angle, your elbows virtually touching the ice as you’re in a turn. Incredible! You’re breaking the bounds of gravity. I have a feeling that this is the innate desire of man.(His eyes are glowing.) I haven’t kept many photographs of myself, but I found one where I’m in full flight. I’m leaning into a turn. You pick up the centrifugal forces and you lay in it. For a few seconds, like a gyroscope, they support you. I’m in full flight and my head is turned. I’m concentrating on something and I’m grinning. That’s the way I like to picture myself. I’m something else there. I’m on another level of existence, just being in pure motion. Going wherever I want to go, whenever I want to go. That’s nice, you know. (Laughs softly.)
– Eric Nesterenko, ice-hockey player, in Studs Terkel, Working, The New Press, NY, date unclear (perhaps 1990), p.386.
As meditators, we are prepared for this – how to move the energy up from the belly and into the heart and out through the head. I have never seen an expression as full of wonder as Lou’s as he died. His hands were doing the water-flowing 21-form of tai chi. His eyes were wide open. I was holding in my arms the person I loved most in the world, and talking to him as he died. His heart stopped. He wasn’t afraid. I had gotten to walk with him to the end of the world. Life – so beautiful, painful and dazzling – does not get better than that. And death? I believe that the purpose of death is the release of love.At this moment, I have only the greatest happiness…
– Laurie Anderson on Lou Reed’s death (Rolling Stone 6 Nov 13).
The only thing more difficult than pool is dying.
– Earl Strickland.
It’s funny how being scared to death can make you feel so alive.
– woman with terminal cancer on being driven round a racetrack in a Formula 1 car.
How quiet it is! How peaceful! And yet how majestic! It’s so different from all the charging and the shouting. How is it that I have never noticed this boundless sky before? And how happy I am to have found it at last. Yes, all is meaningless, all is vanity except that sky. There is nothing, nothing, except that. But perhaps even the sky does not exist. Perhaps there is nothing, nothing but stillness and peace. Thanks be to God.
– Andrei Bolkonsky, having been wounded at the battle of Austerlitz.
No amount of aches and pains can take the amazement away.
– ballerina talking about the achievement of a performance. (Mothers giving birth could say the same.).
The wheel of Dharma turns from the beginning. There is neither surplus nor lack. The whole universe is moistened with nectar and the truth is ready to harvest.
– Robert Aitken, Zen teacher, The Mind of Clover, p.50.
The whole universe shuddered.
– Brian Jones on hearing Elmore James for the first time, as recounted by Bill Wyman.
It was like a bomb blowing up in the right place
– Jeff Beck on hearing Hendrix for the first time.
All the way to heaven is heaven; and as those angels, which came from heaven hither, bring heaven with them, and are in heaven here, so that soul that goes to heaven, meets heaven here; and as those angels do not divest heaven by coming, so those souls invest heaven in their going.
– John Donne, Sermon LXVI.
He was not a very careful person as a mathematician. He made a lot of mistakes. But he made mistakes in a good direction. I tried to emulate him but I’ve realized that it’s very difficult to make good mistakes.
– Goro Shimura talking about Yutaka Taniyama. (Together, they posited the Taniyama-Shimura Conjecture, which was instrumental in Andrew Wiles’ proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem).
About April, it starts to get warm in Islay, and the heat builds up and alcohol expands inside the cask, and the spirit drives into the oak, and the oak says, “Come in. Come in. I really love you,” and in goes the spirit and takes the flavour from the oak.
– Jim McEwan, Master Distiller, Bruichladdich.
There is not a day, not even in jail or in hospital, which does not bring surprises, which is not a translucent network of minimal surprises.
– Jorge Luis Borges, ‘The Waiting’.
The coffee-maker was almost ready to bubble. I turned the flame low and watched the water rise. It hung a little at the bottom of the glass tube. I turned the flame up just enough to get it over the hump and then turned it low again quickly. I stirred the coffee and covered it. I set my timer for three minutes. Very methodical guy, Marlowe. Nothing must interfere with his coffee technique. Not even a gun in the hand of a desperate character.
I poured him another slug. ‘Just sit there,’ I said. ‘Don’t say a word. Just sit.’
He handled the second slug with one hand. I did a fast wash-up in the bathroom and the bell of the timer went just as I got back. I cut the flame and set the coffee-maker on a straw mat on the table. Why do I go into such detail? Because the charged atmosphere made every little thing stand out as a performance, a movement distinct and vastly important. It was one of those hypersensitive moments when all your automatic movements, however long established, however habitual, become separate acts of will. You are like a man learning to walk after polio. You take nothing for granted, absolutely nothing at all.
– Raymond Chandler, The Long Good-bye, ch.5.
That’s what the hit is: enlightenment coming through.
the transcendental philosopher says; grant me a nature having two contrary forces, the one of which tends to expand infinitely, while the other strives to apprehend or find itself in this infinity, and I will cause the world of intelligences with the whole system of their representations to rise up before you.
– Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, ch.13
On taking a vial of laudanum I lost all connection with external things. Trains of vivid visible images rapidly passed through my mind – with the most intense belief and prophetic manner I exclaimed ‘Nothing exists but thoughts, the Universe is comprised solely of impressions.
– this is Humphrey Davy; Coleridge gave him the laudanum; it’s in Richard Holmes’ biography of Coleridge
The next night, I operated my own small, simple telescope on the flanks of that grand volcano. But while mine didn’t have 36 panes or weigh hundreds of tons, it nonetheless revealed a stunning sky, bursting with light and revealing mysteries. I saw Venus, Jupiter and Saturn, complete with its icy rings. I saw the dark side of the world, as well as the crab nebula and the horsehead nebula, interstellar clouds of dust and gas often created by the explosion of short-lived stars. And I felt amazingly, inexplicably, wonderfully happy.
– Tim Johnson at the observatory in the Canary Islands (10 September 2015)
It was just…euphoria, I suppose you’d call it – just chaos and mayhem. And that was just the start of it…
– Gareth Jenkins (flanker) on beating the All Blacks
– (We Beat the All Blacks, YouTube)
Giles Gilbert Scott believed in thorough-going industrial beauty. We found as we explored that the insides of the four great smoke stacks are lined with grey-green iridescent ceramic tiles. I’ve seen few things as beautiful; you could build a wall in them and out do a king. Scott must have known that almost nobody would ever see them but their presence is a bold and lovely fact.
– Katherine Rundell, a night climber, writing about Battersea Power Station, London Review of Books 37/8, 23 April 2015, p.35
She also quotes from a book by Noel Howard Symington (aka Whipplesnaith), who did night climbing in Cambridge in the 30s.
There is a kind of fear which is very closely akin to love, and this is the fear which the climber enjoys. It is, to use a contradictory term, a brave fear; a fear which announces its presence, perhaps very loudly, but raises no insuperable barrier to achievement. The climber enjoys being frightened because he knows fear is no impediment.
If we put these two quotes together, what we get is this: fear, love, death, beauty – they are that presence, lovely and inescapable, which opens its hand and snatches us away. That’s all there is.
And here are a couple of stories on the net: