James Baldwin quote

“Most people live in almost total darkness… people, millions of people whom you will never see, who don’t know you, never will know you, people who may try to kill you in the morning, live in a darkness which — if you have that funny terrible thing which every artist can recognize and no artist can define — you are responsible to those people to lighten, and it does not matter what happens to you. You are being used in the way a crab is useful, the way sand certainly has some function. It is impersonal. This force which you didn’t ask for, and this destiny which you must accept, is also your responsibility. And if you survive it, if you don’t cheat, if you don’t lie, it is not only, you know, your glory, your achievement, it is almost our only hope — because only an artist can tell, and only artists have told since we have heard of man, what it is like for anyone who gets to this planet to survive it. What it is like to die, or to have somebody die; what it is like to be glad. Hymns don’t do this, churches really cannot do it. The trouble is that although the artist can do it, the price that he has to pay himself and that you, the audience, must also pay, is a willingness to give up everything, to realize that although you spent twenty-seven years acquiring this house, this furniture, this position, although you spent forty years raising this child, these children, nothing, none of it belongs to you. You can only have it by letting it go. You can only take if you are prepared to give, and giving is not an investment. It is not a day at the bargain counter. It is a total risk of everything, of you and who you think you are, who you think you’d like to be, where you think you’d like to go — everything, and this forever, forever.”

Quote by James Baldwin, from the book The Cross of Redemption: Uncollected Writings


Filed under great quotes

5 responses to “

  1. Khalid

    I told my story to a group of mostly strangers the other night. My truth. My crazy ass decisions, experiences, my strength and hope. People laughed. And when it was over, a girl who looks nothing like me, hugged me and told me that until I’d told my story, she had felt like the only person who had experienced that type of insanity. I wasn’t trying to be funny but people were laughing so hard throughout that I knew they identified in some way. I wish I knew how to be funny like that on purpose cuz I’d like to be able to affect people that way more often. You know, like turn it into a performance.

  2. Bianca

    I have been feeling lost for months. Lost. Like a fawn in the forest, turning her head every which way, trying to track the voices—silvery and faint—of spirits guiding her home. And then I read the above message. Now I am beginning to understand. I was never lost at all but simply not hearing what the universe has been communicating all along. Ego has a way of casting a shadow over everything. One bad review or negative comment and too many of us stop working, turn our backs on the very work we were put here to do. I stopped because I became overwhelmed. I allowed my inner critic to speak too loudly. Anyway, thank you for sharing these words with us, Aimee. I really needed them.

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