Passage 16. Passing on Small Change
The pharmacist handed me my prescription,apologized for the wait,
and explained that his register had already closed.
He asked if I would mind using the register at the front of the store.
I told him not to worry and walked up front,
where one person was in line ahead of me,
a little girl no more than seven, with a bottle of medicine on the counter.
She clenched a little green and white striped coin purse closely to her chest.
The purse reminded me of the days when, as a child,
I played dress-up in my grandma’s closet.
I’d march around the house in oversized clothes,
drenched in costume jewelry and hats and scarves,
talking “grownup talk“ to anyone who would listen.
I remembered the thrill one day when I gave a pretend dollar to someone,
and he handed back some real coins for me to put into my special purse.
“Keep the change!“he told me with a wink.
Now the clerk rang up the little girl’s medicine,
while she shakily pulled out a coupon, a dollar bill and some coins.
I watched her blush as she tried to count her money,
and I could see right away that she was about a dollar short.
With a quick wink to the clerk,
I slipped a dollar bill onto the counter and signaled the clerk to ring up the sale.
The child scooped her uncounted change into her coin purse,
grabbed her package and scurried out the door.
As I headed to my car, I felt a tug on my shirt.
There was the girl, looking up at me with her big brown eyes.
She gave me a grin, wrapped her arms around my legs for a long moment
then stretched out her little hand.
It was full of coins.“Thank you,“ She whispered.
“That’s okay,“ I answered.
I flashed her a smile and winked,“Keep the change!“
Passage 17. The Props to Help Man Endure (I)
I feel that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work,
a life’s work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit.
Not for glory and least of all, for profit,
but to create out of the material of the human spirit something which did not exist before.
So this award is only mine in trust.
It would not be difficult to find a dedication for the money part of it,
commensurate for the purpose and significance of its origin.
But I would like to do the same with the acclaim too
by using this moment as a pinnacle from which I might be listened to
by the young men and woman,already dedicated to the same anguish and travail,
among whom is already that one who will someday stand here where I am standing.
Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now
that we can even bear it.
There’re no longer problems of the spirit, there’s only the question;
“When will I be blown up?“
Because of this, the young man or woman writing today
has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself,
which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about,
worth the agony and the sweat.
He must learn them again, he must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid,
and teaching himself that,forget it forever,
leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart.
The old universal truths, lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed:
love and honor and pity and pride,
and compassion and sacrifice.
Passage 18. The Props to Help Man Endure (II)
Until he does so, he labors under a curse.
He writes not of love, but of lust,
of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value,
of victories without hope, and most of all, without pity or compassion.
His grief weaves on no universal bone, leaving no scars.
He writes not of the heart, but of the glands.
Until he relearns these things,
he will write as though he stood among and watched the end of man.
I decline to accept the end of man.
It’s easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure:
that when the last ding-dong of doom has clanged
and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tireless in the last red and dying evening,
that even then, there will still be one more sound:
that of his puny and inexhaustible voice, still talking.
I refuse to accept this.
I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail.
He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice,
but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion,and sacrifice, and endurance.
The poets’, the writers’ duty is to write about these things.
It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart,
by reminding him of the courage,and honor
and hope and compassion and pity
and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past.
The poets' voice need not merely be the record of man,
it can be one of the props,
the pillars to help him endure and prevail.
Passage 19. What Is Immortal
To see the golden sun and the azure sky, the outstretched ocean,
to walk upon the green earth, and to be lord of a thousand creatures,
to look down giddy precipices or over distant flowery vales,
to see the world spread out under one’s finger in a map,
to bring the stars near, to view the smallest insects in a microscope,
to read history,and witness the revolutions of empires and the succession of generations,
to hear of the glory of Sidon and Tyre, of Babylon and Susa, as of a faded pageant,
and to say all these were, and are now nothing,
to think that we exist in such a point of time,and in such a corner of space,
to be at once spectators and a part of the moving scene,
to watch the return of the seasons, of spring and autumn, to hear —
The stock dove’s notes amid the forest deep,
That drowsy forest rustles to the sighing gale.
— to traverse desert wilderness,to listen to the dungeon's gloom,
or sit in crowded theatres and see life itself mocked,
to feel heat and cold, pleasure and pain, right and wrong, truth and falsehood,
to study the works of art and refine the sense of beauty to agony,
to worship fame and to dream of immortality,
to have read Shakespeare and Beloit to the same species as Sir Isaac Newton;
to be and to do all this, and then in a moment
to be nothing,to have it all snatched from one
like a juggler’ ball or a phantasmagoria...
Passage 20. Suppose Someone Gave You a Pen
Suppose someone gave you a pen — a sealed, solid-colored pen.
You couldn’t see how much ink it had.
It might run dry after the first few tentative words
or last just long enough to create a masterpiece (or several)
that would last forever and make a difference in the scheme of things.
You don’t know before you begin.
Under the rules of the game, you really never know.
You have to take a chance!
Actually, no rule of the game states you must do anything.
Instead of picking up and using the pen,
you could leave it on a shelf or in a drawer where it will dry up, unused.
But if you do decide to use it, what would you do with it?
How would you play the game?
Would you plan and plan before you ever wrote a word?
Would your plans be so extensive that you never even got to the writing?
Or would you take the pen in hand, plunge right in and just do it,
struggling to keep up with the twists and turns of the torrents of words that take you where they take you?
Would you write cautiously and carefully,as if the pen might run dry the next moment,
or would you pretend or believe (or pretend to believe)
that the pen will write forever and proceed accordingly?
And of what would you write:
Of love? Hate? Fun? Misery? Life? Death? Nothing? Everything?
Would you write to please just yourself? Or others?
Or yourself by writing for others?
Would your strokes be tremblingly timid or brilliantly bold?
Fancy with a flourish or plain?
Would you even write?
Once you have the pen, no rule says you have to write.
Would you sketch? Scribble? Doodle or draw?
Would you stay in or on the lines, or see no lines at all, even if they were there?
Or are they?
There’s a lot to think about here,isn’t there?
Now, suppose someone gave you a life...