Can you understand? Can I make you understand somehow? You have begun to mean the world; you have begun to mean poetry and heartbeats and inexplicable mood reactions and songs and scents and conflicting words which do not match yet somehow match. You are not only a series of question marks and abstract references: You are meaning itself. You are a bright inner composure of numerous elements. Now can you possibly understand — I am merely words. I used to believe I was merely words and I do not know whether I shall start hoping for something more. You planted that sense of hope in a secret deeply hidden place; it had walls made of bricks and huge abandoned gardens full of despair. It was covered in dusty waves and it was kept underground where no soul would ever walk. And you walked there - you planted hope. And now I cannot imagine myself without it.
—  Selected Letters (Katherine Mansfield)

Everything is ecstasy, inside. We just don’t know it because of our thinking-minds. But in our true blissful essence of mind is known that everything is alright forever and forever and forever. Close your eyes, let your hands and nerve-ends drop, stop breathing for 3 seconds, listen to the silence inside the illusion of the world, and you will remember the lesson you forgot, which was taught in immense milky way soft cloud innumerable worlds long ago and not even at all. It is all one vast awakened thing. I call it the golden eternity. It is perfect. We were never really born, we will never really die. It has nothing to do with the imaginary idea of a personal self, other selves, many selves everywhere: Self is only an idea, a mortal idea. That which passes into everything is one thing. It’s a dream already ended.

JACK KEROUAC, The Portable Jack Kerouac
(Selected Letters 1957-1969) written for his first wife, Edie, in 1957

Civilized people must, I believe, satisfy the following criteria:

1. They respect human beings as individual and are therefore always tolerant, gentle, courteous and amenable…

2. They have compassion for other people besides beggars ad cats. Their hearts suffer the pain of what is hidden to the naked eye…

3.They respect other people’s property, and therefore pay their debts.

4.They are not devious, and they fear lies as they fear fire. They don’t tell lies even in the most trivial matters. … Civilized people don’t put on airs; they behave in the street as they would do at home, they don’t show off to impress their juniors…They are discreet and don’t broadcast unsolicited confidences…They mostly keep silence, from respect for others’ ears.

5.They don’t run themselves down in order to provoke the sympathy of others.

6.They are not vain.

7.If they do possess talent, they value it. They will sacrifice people of mind, women, wine, and the bustle and vanity of the world for it.

8.They work at developing their aesthetic sensibility.”


Anton Chekhov, Letter to Nikolay Chekhov, March 1886

  • Also part of Selected Letters