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Quotes of the day: Henry Miller

Published Saturday, June 07, 2014 @ 12:00 AM EDT
Jun 07 2014

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Henry Valentine Miller (December 26, 1891 – June 7, 1980) was an American writer known for breaking with existing literary forms, developing a new sort of semi-autobiographical novel that blended character study, social criticism, philosophical reflection, explicit language, sex, surrealist free association and mysticism, always distinctly about and expressive of the real-life Henry Miller and yet also fictional. His most characteristic works of this kind are Tropic of Cancer (1934), Black Spring (1936), Tropic of Capricorn (1939) and The Rosy Crucifixion trilogy (1949–59), all of which are based on his experiences in New York and Paris, and all of which were banned in the United States until 1961. He also wrote travel memoirs and literary criticism, and painted watercolors. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)


All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without benefit of experience.

Any genuine philosophy leads to action and from action back again to wonder, to the enduring fact of mystery.

Chaos is the score upon which reality is written.

Civilization is the arteriosclerosis of culture.

Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood.

Destiny is what you are supposed to do in life. Fate is what kicks you in the ass to do it.

Do anything, but let it produce joy. Do anything, but let it yield ecstasy.

Even if it doesn't work, there is something healthy and invigorating about direct action.

Every man is working out his destiny in his own way and nobody can be of any help except by being kind, generous, and patient.

Everybody says sex is obscene. The only true obscenity is war.

Everyone has his own reality in which, if one is not too cautious, timid or frightened, one swims. This is the only reality there is.

Everything remains unsettled forever, depend on it.

Everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate, or despise, serves to defeat us in the end.

For some reason or other man looks for the miracle, and to accomplish it he will wade through blood.

How different the new order would be if we could consult the veteran instead of the politician.

I am against revolutions because they always involve a return to the status quo.

I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive.

I soon found out you can't change the world. The best you can do is to learn to live with it.

If men cease to believe that they will one day become gods then they will surely become worms.

If there is to be any peace it will come through being, not having.

If we are always arriving and departing, it is also true that we are eternally anchored. One's destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things.

If we have not found heaven within, it is a certainty we will not find it without.

In expanding the field of knowledge we but increase the horizon of ignorance.

In this age, which believes that there is a short-cut to everything, the greatest lesson to be learned is that the most difficult way, in the long run, is the easiest.

It isn't the accent which cuts us off from the rest of the world- it's the American way of looking at things.

It's silly to go on pretending that under the skin we are all brothers. The truth is more likely that under the skin we are all cannibals, assassins, traitors, liars, hypocrites, poltroons.

Life has to be given a meaning because of the obvious fact that is has no meaning.

Moralities, ethics, laws, customs, beliefs, doctrines- these are of trifling import. All that matters is that the miraculous become the norm.

No man is great enough or wise enough for any of us to surrender our destiny to. The only way in which anyone can lead us is to restore to us the belief in our own guidance.

Obscenity is a cleansing process, whereas pornography only adds to the murk.

One's destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things.

Sex is one of the nine reasons for reincarnation. The other eight are unimportant.

The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.

The best technique is none at all.

The Gnostics thought the planet Earth was a cosmic mistake. I too feel that way- I'm through with this Earth before I've even departed from it.

The history of the world is the history of a privileged few.

The man who looks for security, even in the mind, is like a man who would chop off his limbs in order to have artificial ones which will give him no pain or trouble.

The new always carries with it the sense of violation, of sacrilege. What is dead is sacred; what is new, that is, different, is evil, dangerous, or subversive.

The trick is not how much pain you can feel but how much joy. Any idiot can feel pain. Life is full of excuses to feel pain, excuses not to live, excuses, excuses excuses... The only pain you feel is for all the useless pain you felt, all the times you didn't do something because of cowardice or fear, all the times you let bastards and the kibitzers and the fear shrinkers hold you back. Watch out for the death people, do you see what I mean? They're the ones to avoid.

The trouble with Buddhism? In order to free oneself of all desire, one has to desire to do so.

The whole damn universe has to be taken apart, brick by brick, and reconstructed.

There are only three things to be done with a woman. You can love her, suffer for her, or turn her into literature.

There was a touch of spring in the air, a poisonous, malefic spring that seemed to burst from the manholes.

There's nothing wrong with the world. What's wrong is our way of looking at it.

Things happen or they don't happen, that's all. Nothing is accomplished by sweat and struggle. Nearly everything which we call life is just insomnia, an agony because we've lost the habit of falling asleep.

To Guildenstern and Rosencrantz, Hamlet was a minor player.

To live without killing is a thought which could electrify the world, if men were only capable of staying awake long enough to let the idea soak in.

Voyages are accomplished inwardly, and the most hazardous ones, needless to say, are made without moving from the spot.

We do not talk- we bludgeon one another with facts and theories gleaned from cursory readings of newspapers, magazines, and digests.

We have two American flags always; one for the rich and one for the poor. When the rich fly it, it means that things are under control; when the poor fly it, it means danger, revolution, anarchy.

We learn as much as we wish to and no more.

We're creators by permission, by grace as it were. No one creates alone, of and by himself. An artist is an instrument that registers something already existent, something which belongs to the whole world, and which, if he is an artist, he is compelled to give back to the world.

When one is trying to do something beyond his known powers it is useless to seek the approval of friends. Friends are at their best in moments of defeat.

Categories: Henry Miller, Quotes of the day

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