“Last week I was away, in a cabin deep in the woods, recollecting myself. No newspapers. No radio. No phone. I go away as often as I can, which is not very often. Sometimes I write. Mostly I don’t even think, I just contemplate — the forest, the world beyond myself, or the object of contemplation that comes when the mind empties itself of itself. Sometimes all existence seems to slip into focus. All its violence and tragedy and disorder take on a form and meaning that the mind can grasp briefly, then the turmoil of existence seems a matter of scarcely perceptible changes of phase, like an ever so slightly varying colored light shifting over an immense diamond.
“…What holds a civilization together, and makes the difference between creative growth and decay? What is the foundation that underlies and sustains all the activities of a people and energizes and forms that special unity we call culture? Peace. The peace which comes from the habit of contemplation. It is not intellectual knowledge of the unity of human endeavor, nor a philosophical notion of the ultimate meaning of the universe, it is an inward sense of an abiding quality of life, a temper of the soul. It is not rare nor hard to find, it offers itself at moments to everyone, from early childhood on, although less and less often if it is not welcomed. It can be seized and trained and cultivated until it becomes a constant habit in the background of daily life. Without it life is only turbulence from which eventually meaning and even all intensity of feeling die out in tedium and disorder.”
September 13, 1965