John Cage, from “William Gedney Photographs and Writings”

One of the most important books of my summer was about John Cage: Where the Heart Beats, by Kay Larson. (Read my initial post about the book here.)

I have been a long time fan and admirer of Cage. But Larson’s book shortened the distance between the myth and the man himself. As is often the case with any good biography, you walk from the reading with a connection that feels personal and almost intimate. That may be imagined, but something in me has shifted permanently. And that’s the gift.

So it is time to begin again. Summer is now, for us Americans, officially over. Here in Boston the students are back, a transition that is as difficult for these late adolescent invaders as it is for those of us who are here year round. (We are pretty sure that every U Haul truck in operation was blocking a street somewhere within one mile of Commonwealth Avenue this last weekend….) The nights are cooler, the days are shorter. So begins the perennial reminder of those rhythms larger than us, of moving from out to in, of the silent synchronization, unrehearsed, that strips down minion trees to their winter underwear.

So here are a few quotes from Cage that were helpful to me this morning. Please feel free to add some of your own.

What I’m proposing, to myself and other people, is what I often call the tourist attitude – that you act as though you’ve never been there before. So that you’re not supposed to know anything about it. If you really get down to brass tacks, we have never been anywhere before.

I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.

Value judgments are destructive to our proper business, which is curiosity and awareness.

As far as consistency of thought goes, I prefer inconsistency.

Art’s purpose is to sober and quiet the mind so that it is in accord with what happens.

What right do I have to be in the woods, if the woods are not in me.

One shouldn’t go to the woods looking for something, but rather to see what is there.

Out of the work comes the work.

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