Quotes on love, sadness, etc.

...things I've read then written down in various notebooks over the years, in roughly chronological order...

1989 | 1990 | ~1991 | ~1992 | ~1993 | ~1994 | ~1996 |~1999 |~2000 | ~2001 |~2002 |~2003 | 2004 | 2005


Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

And still we laugh
and still we run
and still we throw ourselves
upon love's boats
but it is deeper
and much later than we think
and all goes down
and our love buoys fail us
And we drink and drown


The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving

Doris Wales was a woman with straw-blond hair whose body appeared to have been dipped in corn oil; then she must have put her dress on, wet. The dress grabbed at all of her parts, and plunged and sagged over the gaps in her body; a lover's line of hickeys, or love bites -- "love sucks, " Franny called them -- dotted Doris' chest and throat like a violent rash; they welts were like wounds from a whip. She worm plum colored lipstick, some of which was on her teeth, and she said to Sabrina Jones and me, "You want hot-dancin' music, or slow-necking' music? Or both?"

"Both," said Sabrina Jones, without missing a beat, but I felt certain that if the world would stop indulging in wars and famine and other perils, it would still be possible for human beings toembarrasseach other to death. Our self-destruction might take a little longer than way, but I believe it would be no less complete.


Death in Venice by Thomas Mann

...only Beauty is at once and the same time divinely desirable and visible: it is, mark well, the only form of the spiritual that we can receive with our senses and endure with our senses.


...For man loves and respects his fellow man for as long as he is not yet in a position to evaluate him, and desire is born of defective knowledge.


Paul Celan

And the too much of my speaking:
heaped up around the little
crystal dressed up in the style of your silence


Sexual Persona by Camille Paglia

We follow this image with longing eyes: maybe this one, maybe this time. The pursuit of sex may conceal a dream of being freed from sex. Sex, knowledge and power are deeply tangled; we cannot get one without the others.


Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

As it is, I can't settle, I want someone who is fierce and will love me until death, and be on my side forever and ever. I want someone who will destroy and be destroyed by me.


There are many forms of love and affection, some people can spend their whole lives together without knowing each other's names. Naming is a difficult and time consuming process; it concerns essences, and it means power. But on the wild nights who can call you home? Only the one who knows your name.


The unknowness of my needs frightens me. I do not know how huge they are, or how high they are, I only know that they are not being met.


One thing I am certain of, I do not want to be betrayed, but that's quite hard to say casually at the beginning of a relationship. It's not a word people use very often, which confuses me, because there are different kinds of infidelity, but betrayal is betrayal wherever you find it. By betrayal, I mean promising to be on your side then being on somebody else's.


A Lover's Discourse by Roland Barthes

...It has taken many accidents, many surprising coincidences (and perhaps many efforts), for me to find the image which, out of a thousand, suits my desire. Herein lies a great enigma, to which I shall never possess the key: why is it that I desire so-and-so? Why is it that I desire so-and-so lastingly, longingly? Is it the whole of so-and-so I desire (a silhouette, a shape, a mood)? and, in that case, what is it in this loved body which has the vocation of fetish for me? What perhaps incredibly tenuous portion -- what accident?


According to a method which combines paleography and manticims? Isn't it rather, all things considered, that I remain suspended on this question, whose answer I tirelessly seek on the other's face: What am I worth?


The Death of a Beekeeper by Lars Gustafsson

Paradise must consist in the stopping of pain. That means, however, that we live in paradise as long as we have no pain! And we don't even know it. Happy and unhappy people live in the same world and they don't even know it!


Palace of Desire by Naguib Mahfouz

If the beloved would only speak openly, the we might leave the inferno of uncertainty and content ourselves in the tomb of despair. Its out of the question for despair to eradicate love from my heart, but it could save me from lying dreams...

It's a happy person who has never thought of suicide or longed for death. It's a happy person who has the torch of enthusiasm blazing in his heart. A person's immortal when working or preparing seriously for work. A person's truly alive when he responds to Umar Al-Khayyam's invitation to take up a book, a drink, and a sweetheart.


[on drinking] When liberated from the body's noose, society's shackles, past memories, and fears for the future, this natural feeling of life's forward thrust becomes clear, pure music, distilled from and exciting emotion...alcohol's the spirit of love once love's inner lining of pain is stripped away.


The Nature of Desire by Duane Michaels

Our lives are the sum total of our experiences. But if I have never rested my head on your chest and heard your heart beat faster as I touched you. Or never felt your warm breath on my neck, or never saw you grow out from my hips like a branch from a tree trunk, then how can I say that I have ever truly lived?


Marcel Proust

As by an electric current that gives us a shock, I have been shaken by my loves, I have lived them, I have felt them: never have I succeeded in seeing or thinking them.


William IX, Duke of Aquitane (1071-1127)

The Lover's soul is ever seeking for the other, striving after it, searching it out, yearning to encounter it again, drawing it to itself as a magnet draws the iron.


The Natural History of Love by Diane Ackerman

When two people find each other attractive, their bodies quiver with a gush of PEA (Phenylethylamine) - a molecule that speeds up the flow of information between nerve cells. An amphetamine like chemical, PEA whips the brain into a frenzy of excitement which is why lovers feel euphoric, rejuvenated and energized.


The chemical oxytocin encourages cuddling and increases pleasure during lovemaking. This hormone stimulates the smooth muscles and sensitizes the nerves. It snowballs during sexual arousal -- the more intense the arousal, the more oxytocin is produced. It can be generated by both physical and emotional clues...


Sex and Other Sacred Games by Kim Chernin and Renate Stendhal

What is sex? Do I mean: whatever has to do with the body? Its need for the other, earliest knowledge? Sex: this groping from one stone solitude to another? Do I mean: This confession? Taken up, tasted afresh, in the arms of one who can be trusted? An act, the most hazardous, let us say, of recollection? But worth the risk. A possibility. And above all, in case you have not understood: an invitation.


The Tao of Relationships by Ray Grigg

Words are only metaphor. The experience they create is vicarious. Words obstruct understanding by creating the illusion of understanding; they confine and limit with the deception that the mystery has been captured. Words only represent the authentic. When there is naming, the name is mistaken for what has been named.


Come closer to the common mystery. Attend to the ordinary. There is nothing else to find. All the travelling of thought returns to the beginning and recognizes the obvious. It is wisdom that sees the ordinary with amazement.


If it is as simple as man and woman meeting each other, why is it so difficult? Such struggle! Such yearning and searching, scheming and wrangling, insisting and beseeching! Such contortions! Something gets in the way and simple becomes complex. Finding is recognizing, not making. Wishing and desiring and even loneliness, are best forgotten as they muddy the mind-water.


From the still place within, how foolish seems the seeking of man and woman for each other. How can it be taken seriously? The glances and whispers, the asking and urging, the trading of self for self. Yet there is such relief when two see clearly into each other and the search is called finished. From the still place and the death bed, what can be done but silently laugh. Such seriousness ending in foolishness; such foolishness ending in seriousness.


Letters on Love and Other Difficulties by Rainer Marie Rilke

For believe me, the more one is, the richer is all the one experiences. And whoever wants to have a deep love in his life must collect and save for it and gather honey.


The Giant's House by Elizabeth McCraken

But I still dreamed of kisses that wouldn't be delivered, and I knew that they wouldn't be delivered and I grew morose as I waited to be stood up by nobody in particular. I was aware that I didn't know anything about love; every morning I realized it again.


We we old to be unmarried, and odd, surely matchless. But here's the difference: she was ruined by love -- that's how she put it -- while I was ruined by the lack of it. And the fact is when you're flooded with something, you're more likely to rot away, to disappear entirely, than if you dry up slowly. Ask the Egyptians, ask anyone.


The rest of the world fell in love, and the physics baffled me. I could see it happen -- God knows, all around, I saw falling couples, but I did not understand the emotional gravity that allowed...their descent.


Those people had made a decision, and then they fell; they did not find themselves hip deep in love and wonder how they got there. For years, I'd waited for someone to love me: that was the permission I needed to fall in love myself, as though I were a pin sunk deep in a purse, waiting for a magnet to prove me metal. When that did not happen, I'd thought of myself as unlovable.


But those seeing people, those who have in their lives fallen in love without impediment, cannot understand. Nowadays sex is the guest you should always expect, because it's supposed to knock down your door without invitation: you might as well be prepared. If you haven't set a place at the table, you're called naive or repressed... But sometimes, honestly, the mind makes calibrations, but not for sex, because sex is down the street wrecking your neighbor's house, sex has -- for any number of reasons -- washed it's hands of you, even if you are not done with it. Even if the breakup is not mutual. In which case, if you are lucky and you work very hard, you learn not only to be satisfied by other things, you start to long for them. And you don't feel starved; you find your hungers are simply different, as if you've dropped your western upbringing for a childhood in a country where ice cream was unheard of, available only in books.




I realize the dawn
when we'll meet again
will never break.

so I give up,
little by little,this love.

but something in me laughs
as I say this, someone
shaking his head and chuckling
softly, hardly, hardly.


Pale sunlight,
pale the wall.

Love moves away,
the light changes.

I need more grace
than I thought.


When I remember your love,
I weep, and when I hear people
talking of you,
something in my chest
where nothing much happens now,
moves as in sleep.


The Counterfeiters by Andre Gide

Vincent walks home, meditating as he goes; he realizes that from the satisfaction of desire there may arise accompanying joy and as it were sheltering behind it, something not unlike despair.


In the domain of feeling, what is real is indistinguishable from what is imaginary. And if it is sufficient to imagine one loves, in order to love, so it is sufficient to say to oneself that when one loves one imagines one loves, in order to love a little less and even to detach oneself a little from one's love, or at any rate, to detach some of the crystals from one's love. But if one is able to say such a thing to one's self, must one not already love a little less?


Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

He talked to her of the great waste of years between then and now. A long time gone. And it was pointless, he said to think how those years could have been put to better use, for he could hardly have put them to worse. There was no recovering them now. You could grieve endlessly for the loss of time and the damage done therein. For the dead, and for your own lost self. But what the wisdom of the ages says is we do well not to grieve on and on. And those old ones knew a thing or two and some truth to tell, Inman said, for you can grieve your heart out and in the end you are still where you were. All your grief hasn't changed a thing. What you have lost will not be returned to you. It will always be lost. You're left only with the scars to mark the void. All you can choose to do is go on or not. But if you go on, it's knowing you carry your scars with you. Nevertheless over all those wasted years, he had held in his mind the wish to kiss her there at the back of her neck, and now he had done it. There was a redemption of some kind, he believed, in such complete fulfillment of a desire so long deferred.


Milan Kundera

Most people deceive themselves with a pair of faiths: they believe ineternal memory(of people, things, deeds, nations) and in redressibility (of deeds, mistakes, sins, wrongs). Both are false faiths. Everything will be forgotten and nothing will be redressed.


Upanishad by Brihadaramyka

You are what your deep driving desire is. As you desire is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny.


Anais Nin

We don't see things as they are. We see things as we are.


Matt Groening

Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come.


Oscar Wilde

One's real life is so often the life that one does not live.


Jorge Luis Borges

To fall in love is to create a religion that has a fallible god.


interview with Norman Mailer

Well, I don't think love fades; I don't think there's anything automatic about it. I think most of us aren't good enough for love...Everybody prays for love, but once they get love, they have to be worthy of it. Love is the most imperishable of human emotions. It never fades. That's my answer to the question. There is absolutely no reason why people can't love each other more everyday of their lives for eighty years. I absolutely believe that. Without that, I have no faith in love whatsoever. I think it would be a diabolical universe if you're introduced to all these wonderful sentiments that illuminate your existence but something is put into the very nature of it that will make it fade...I do think there's a spiritual demand in love, however, more a demand than and obligation. Love asks us that we be a little braver than is comfortable for us, a little more generous, a little more flexible. It means living on the edge more than we care to. Love is always in danger of being the most painful single emotion we can ever feel, other than, perhaps a sudden knowledge of our own death.


Steve Almond

When you have spend as long inside yourself as I have you learn a certain humility in the face of hardship. Then you learn it again. It takes years to become as softhearted and hopeful as I am.


The heart is not just a lonely hunter, though it is certainly that. It is a drowning salesman, a failed clown, an incurable disease. We timid guardians pay dearly for its every decision, and are left to trade bouts of bliss for long stretches of anguish and sweet, haunted memories. There are a lucky few, dead in certain vital places, who have managed to avoid passion's extremes. But I am sure that you, too, have some episode in your life that lines up against this one, some mad period of transgression in which your body, your foolish, needy body led you to tender ruin. And sometimes, at night, you must lie awake and ask yourself: How could I have done this? How ever, in the world, might I have become such a fool? And how do I stop? And when? When? When will I have her again?


Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton

[quoting Arthur Shoepenhaur] "Why all this noise and fuss? Why all this urgency, uproar, anguish and exertion?...Why should such a trifle play so important a role...? It is no trifle that is here in question; on the contrary, the importance of the matter is perfectly in keeping with the earnestness and ardor of the effort. The ultimate aim of all love-affairs...is actually more important than all other aims in a man's life; and therefore it is quite worthy of the profound seriousness with which everyone pursues it... What is decided by it is nothing less than the composition of the next generation...the existence and special constitution of the human race in times to come."

...which explains how we may consciously feel nothing more than an intense desire to see someone again, while unconsciously being driven by a force aiming at the reproduction of the next generation.

Why should such deception even be necessary? Because for Schopenhauer, we would not reliably assent to reproduce unless we first had lost our minds.


The philosopher might have offered unflattering explanations of why we fall in love, but there was consolation for rejection -- the consolation of knowing our pain is normal. We should not feel confused by the enormity of the upset that can ensue from only a few days of hope. It would be unreasonable if a force powerful enough to push us toward child-rearing could -- if it failed in its aim -- vanish without devastation. Love could not induce us to take the burden of propagating the species without promising the greatest happiness we could imagine. To be shocked at how deeply rejection hurts is to ignore what acceptance involves. We must never allow our suffering to be compounded by suggestions that there is something odd in suffering so deeply. There would be something amiss if we didn't.


Schopenhauer remarks: "In the course of his own life and its misfortunes, he will look less at his own individual lot than at the lot of mankind as a whole, and accordingly, will conduct himself...more as knower than as a sufferer." We must, between periods of digging in the dark, endeavor always to transform our tears into knowledge.


Denton Welch

When you long with all your heart for someone to love you, a madness grows there and shakes all sense from the trees and the water and the earth. And no thing lives for you, except the long deep bitter want. And this is what everyone feels from birth to death.


Losing Julia by Jonathan Hull

Why does the longing for love have to be acute like a desperate thirst? Is it because love is wanting to be saved and we can never really be saved? Maybe love is really born of our fears...

But to find it and touch it and hold it! What relief, if only briefly, until love wears off or slips through our hands. Strange how love -- that most fickle of emotions -- creates the illusion of permanence right from the start, just as beauty, so fleeting and elusive, can seem so timeless and infinite to behold.


Julia once asked me to what extent I felt I was really my true self in public, and I could say was very little. She said it's a pity what a gap there is between our public and our private selves...Then she said that she was devastated the first time she realized how apart everybody really was, even close friends...

And that's what we all long for, isn't it? To connect, if only momentarily, clasping hands across the chasm, which is why drinking buddies at the bar seem almost love-struck as they fall over each other in rapid and raucous agreement; why friends and lovers whisper in intimate code, attempting to bridge the divide with ropes and pulleys and secret handshakes the belie their permanent solitude.


Robert Anthony Siegel

Once abandoned, you will always be a throw-away thing. You will never be able to possess or hold, will never understand the rituals by which people bind themselves to others. Everything is fluid as air or water; names are to be changed, money is to be hidden. Doors give you an irresistible urge to leave, just for the feeling of leaving. And you watch for the same urge in others: the thinking ahead, the absent laugh, the counting of money. You know people have thoughts they do not tell.


Life After God by Douglas Copeland

I think it takes an amazing amount of energy to convince oneself that the forever person isn't just around that next corner. In the end I believe we never do convince ourselves.


...time ticks by; we grow older. Before we know it, too much time has passed and we've missed the chance to have had other people hurt us. To a younger me this sounded like luck; to an older me this sounds like a quiet tragedy.


The Living by Annie Dillard

He was aware that common wisdom counseled that love was a malady that blinded lover's eyes like acid. Love's skewed sight made hard features appear harmonious, and sinners appear saints, and cowards appear heroes. Clare was by no means an original thinker but on this one point he had recently reached an opposing view: the lovers alone see what is real. When he courted June he thought it a privilege to wash dishes with her in river sand. He thought it a privilege to hold her cutaway coat, to look at Mt. Baker from her side; he thought it a privilege to hear her family stories over tea and watch her eyebrows rise and fall. Now, he knew it was.


A General Theory of Love by Thomas Lewis, MD, Fari Amni, MD, Richard Lannon, MD

With the effulgence of the new brain, mammals developed a capacity we call limbic resonance -- a symphony of mutual exchange and internal adaptation whereby two mammals become attuned to each other's inner states. It is limbic resonance that makes looking into the face of another emotionally responsive creature a multi-layered experience. Instead of seeing a pair of eyes as two bespeckled buttons, when we look into the ocular portals into a limbic brain our vision goes deep: the sensations multiply, just as two mirrors place in opposition create a shimmering ricochet of reflections whose depth recede into infinity. Eye contact, although it occurs over a gap of yards, is not a metaphor. When we meet the gaze of another, two nervous systems achieve a palpable and intimate apposition.


...in some important ways, people can not be stable on their own -- not should or shouldn't be, but can't be. This prospect is disconcerting to many, especially in a society that prizes individuality as our does. Total self-sufficiency turns out to be a daydream whose bubble is burst by the sharp edge of the limbic brain. Stability means finding people who regulate you well and staying near them.


Every bit of life impinging on the brain changes some of its links, although any individual datum affects only a miniscule fraction of the innumerable totality. As subtle changes accrue, experience rewires the microscopic structure of the brain -- transforming us from who we were into who we are. At a Lilliputian level, the brain is an elaborate transducer that changes a stream of incoming sensations into silently evolving neural structures. Minor events exert only a transitory alteration in a few far-flung neuronal ties -- while formative experiences lay down resilient patterns that prevail for a lifetime.


What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt

"I've decided that mixing is a key term. It's better than suggestion, which is one-sided. It explains what people really talk about, because we define ourselves as isolated, closed bodies who bump up against each other but stay shut. Descartes was wrong. It isn't: I think, therefore I am. It's: I am because you are. That's Hegel - well, the short version."

"A little too short," I said.

Violet flapped her hands dismissively. "What matters is that we're always mixing with other people. Sometimes it's normal and good, and sometimes it's dangerous..."


On Love by Alain de Botton

If the fall into love happens so rapidly, it is perhaps because the wish to love has been preceded the beloved - the need has invented its own solution. The appearance of the beloved is only the second stage of a prior [but largely unconscious] need to love someone -- our hunger for love moulding their features, our desire crystallizing around them. [But the honest side of us will never let the deception go unchallenged. There will always be moments when we will doubt whether our lover exists in reality as we imagine then in our mind -- or whether the beloved is not just a hallucination we have invented to prevent the inevitable loveless collapse.]


'Why don't you love me?' is as an impossible a question [though a far less pleasant one] to ask as: 'Why do you love me?' In both cases we come up against our own lack of conscious [seductive] control in the amorous structure, the fact that love has been brought to us as a gift for reasons we never wholly determine or deserve. In a sense, the answer is not for us to know, it can explain nothing because we cannot act out its revelations. It is not a casually effective reason, it comes after the fact, a justification for more subterranean shifts, a superficial post hoc analysis. To ask such questions, we are forced to veer on one side toward complete arrogance, on the other to complete humility. 'What have I done to deserve love?' ask the humble lover; I can have done nothing. 'What have I done to be denied love?' protests the betrayed one, arrogantly claiming possession of a gift that is never one's due. To both questions, the one who hands out love can only reply: 'Because you are you' - an answer that swings the beloved dangerously and unpredictably between grandiosity and depression.


Noonday Demon by Andrew Solomon

Depression is the flaw in love. To be creatures who love, we must be creatures who can despair at what we lose.


The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

...is this what makes me sad? The eagerness and belief that filled me then and exacted a pledge from life that life could never fulfill? Sometimes I see the same eagerness and belief in the faces of children and teenagers and the sight brings back the same sadness I feel in remembering myself. Is this what sadness is about? Is it what comes over us when beautiful memories shatter in hindsight because the remembered happiness fed not just on actual circumstances but on a promise that was not kept?


It wasn't that I forgot Hanna. But at a certain point the memory of her stopped accompanying me wherever I went. She stayed behind, the way a city stays behind as a train pulls out of the station. It's there, somewhere behind you, and you could go back and make sure of it. But why should you?



It is not the things themselves that trouble us, but our thoughts about those things.


Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

"I can't go on."

"You must go on."

"I'll go on."