Henry Miller Quotes: Timeless Wisdom from “Stand Still Like The Hummingbird” (Part 1)

I am at my best when nobody knows me, nobody recognizes me. When I am just another nobody, in other words.

Henry Miller, My Life as an Echo

I finally got my hands on Henry Miller’s “Stand Still Like The Hummingbird”, and I really got much more than I expected. The book is a collection of Henry Miller essays, on various topics, but one topic goes through all of the essays: Henry Miller’s philosophy of life.

This is the 1st part of quotes I would like to keep for myself.

Are we not all victims of fear and anxiety precisely because we lack faith and trust in one another? And more so because we lack the intelligence to recognize a power and a wisdom greater than our own?

Man, as a man, has never realized himself. The greater part of him, his potential being, has always been submerged. What is history if not the endless story of his repeated failures?

The only level on which a vital, meaningful change may take place is the level of spirit.

Death is not the end of life, much less the goal. It is another aspect of life. There is nothing but life, even among dead.

… something like a stubborn refusal to be aided was inherent in man’s nature.

The old man, the ancestral man, is on his way out. Man has no age, expect in the eyes of anthropologists. There is a man of yesterday and a man of tomorrow. Time plays no part in the quickening of the spirit. The gate is ever open. Today is like all other days. There is only today.

Do not put the Buddha (or the Christ) beyond, outside yourself. Recognize him in yourself. Be that which you are, completely.

The unknown Buddhas, those who preceded Gautama, he asserted, made no stir in the world. They were content to shed the light which was in them. Their sole purpose in living was to live, to live each day as if life were a blessing and not an ordeal or a curse… They were, and that was sufficient.

The effort to bring a man to God, or to bring him enlightenment, is an act of violation… Does not the whole art of living center about the practice of tolerance, of noninterference? Before it is possible to love another, as we are so often enjoined, it is necessary to respect one another, respect the privacy of the soul.

And it is wisdom that we need, not more knowledge or even “better” knowledge.

…. Three “noble and invincible arts” – how to think, how to wait and how to fast.

The moment we begin to make new plans for the young, to select their reading, for example, or their playmates, the moment we begin to reorganize life, to separate the wheat from the chaff, as it were, we are up against something more than a problem, we are up against conundrum. To judge, to select, to discriminate, to rearrange, reapportion – can there be any end to it ever? Try to assume that you are invested with the wisdom, the mercy and the powers of the Creator. Now put the world in order! Is this not the surest way to send one to the madhouse?

It is too often stressed, in my opinion, that we learn through sorrow and suffering. I do not deny this to be true, but I hold that we also learn, and perhaps more lastingly, through moments of joy, of bliss, of ecstasy. Struggle has it’s importance, but we tend to overrate it. Harmony, serenity, bliss do not come from struggle but from surrender.

[The doctrine of acceptance] … the world, for all its ills and shortcomings was made for our enjoyment. It does not convey the idea that life is to be enjoyed when or if we all reach the stage of perfection. The salient idea is that life may, can and should be enjoyed now under whatever conditions.

It is not against the gods that man must rebel – the gods are with him, if he but knew it! – but against his own mediocre, vulgar, blighted spirit. He must free himself to look upon the world as his own divine playground and not as a battlefield of conflicting egos.

Then I came upon Oswald Spengler. He confirmed my inner convictions. (And what a really good time I had reading him, reading about the “decline of the west”. It was better honestly than reading Bhagavad-Gita. It bucked me up.) … It didn’t matter to me whether I was intact or falling into pieces. I was attending a spectacle: the crumbling of our civilization… What I recommend for the few remaining years that are left to us is – to piss the time away enjoyably. Make water colors, for example.

Man has proved himself a thinker; man has proved himself a maker; man has proved himself a dreamer. He has yet to prove – to himself above all – that he is completely man.

And with all this “progress” [man] has not advanced an inch. He stands at the same frontier he faced fifty thousand or a hundred thousand, years ago. he has only to make a jump (inwardly) and he will be free of the clockwork. But he can’t. He won’t. With an obstinacy unthinkable he refuses to believe in himself, refuses to assume his full powers, refuses to raise himself to his ordained stature. He elects for Utopia rather than Reality. He professes to believe that things can be different – by which he always means “better” – while remaining himself the same… Give him enough rope and, by God, he will do just this. He is now at a ripe stage of devolution wherein he is foolish enough to believe that he can take the universe and destroy it apart piece by piece – just to prove himself that he is not impotent.

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