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Love This Quote

Saw this quote over at Andrew Sullivan’s blog and really loved it:

“Life is tragic simply because the earth turns, and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time. Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, which the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death – ought to decide, indeed, to earn one’s death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life. One is responsible to life: It is the small beacon in that terrifying darkness from which we come and to which we shall return,” – James Baldwin, “Down at the Cross,” in The Fire Next Time.


  1. peterh says

    No comment – because I feel Baldwin’s statement can stand firmly on its own and needs nothing added. Unless one were to cite Dylan Thomas as a parallel.

  2. Wylann says

    All one has to do to earn death, is live, for however briefly. Living’s not always something to be yearned for. I do like the quote though, it rather deflates much of what makes religion so popular.

  3. marcus says

    lofgren @4 I disagree. I think he means to embrace the fact of it and use it as the inspiration to live fully, to not allow oneself to just fall into morose acceptance.

  4. lofgren says

    That’s just the problem. “decide, indeed, to earn one’s death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life” is meaningless gobbledegook. You can impute whatever meaning to it that you want. I’ll bet each of us here has a different interpretation of what “the conundrum of life” is, and whether or not you confront it you will inevitably die the same death that everybody else does. It’s word salad. More artful word salad than most of the people that Ed makes fun of, but no less incomprehensible.

  5. D. C. Sessions says

    I’ll take the Norse weltanschaung, thanks — in the end, the Universe goes down to either fire or ice. Even the Gods themselves are doomed, and our choices are only how we live and meet our inevitable death:

    Though life is lost, one thing will outlive us: memory sinks not beneath the mould.
    Till the Weird of the World stands, unforgotten, high under heaven, the hero’s name.

    Or, in a less hero-obsessed age, what legacy we might manage. Children, students, art, knowledge, those whose lives we’ve improved however much or little.

    And sunsets. Not to mention flowers, wind, music, and whatever other ephemeral beauty the world offers us.

  6. marcus says

    lofgren @ 7 Sorry, but just because it doesn’t mean anything to you does not mean that it’s meaning-less. Like all prose and poetry (art) the beauty (meaning) is in the eye (mind) of the beholder.

  7. lofgren says

    Ha! Oh man, that is adorable. Really takes me back to my freshman year at art school. How about we pick this conversation up again in your sophomore year? In the meantime, have fun assaulting people in the cafeteria and calling it “theater.”

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