Just Above My Head Quotes

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Just Above My Head Just Above My Head by James Baldwin
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Just Above My Head Quotes Showing 1-13 of 13
“I prefer sinners and madmen, who can learn, who can change, who can teach-or people like myself, if I may say so, who are not afraid to eat a lobster alone as they take on their shoulders the monumental weight of thirty years”
James Baldwin, Just Above My Head
“If one wishes to be instructed--not that anyone does--concerning the treacherous role that memory plays in a human life, consider how relentlessly the water of memory refuses to break, how it impedes that journey into the air of time. Time: the whisper beneath that word is death. With this unanswerable weight hanging heavier and heavier over one's head, the vision becomes cloudy, nothing is what it seems...
How then, can I trust my memory concerning that particular Sunday afternoon?...Beneath the face of anyone you ever loved for true--anyone you love, you will always love, love is not at the mercy of time and it does not recognize death, they are strangers to each other--beneath the face of the beloved, however ancient, ruined, and scarred, is the face of the baby your love once was, and will always be, for you. Love serves, then, if memory doesn't, and passion, apart from its tense relation to agony, labors beneath the shadow of death. Passion is terrifying, it can rock you, change you, bring your head under, as when a wind rises from the bottom of the sea, and you're out there in the craft of your mortality, alone.”
James Baldwin, Just Above My Head
“Sometimes you hear a person speak the truth and you know that they are speaking the truth. But you also know that they have not heard themselves, do not know what they have said: do not know that they have revealed much more than they have said. This may be why the truth remains, on the whole, so rare.”
James Baldwin, Just Above My Head
tags: truth
“In my experience - and this is a very awkward way to put it, since I don't really know what the word experience means - the strangest people in one's life are the people one has known and loved, still know and will always love. Here, both I and the vocabulary are both in trouble, for strangest does not imply stranger. A stranger is a stranger is a stranger, simply, and you watch the stranger to anticipate his next move. But the people who elicit from you a depth of attention and wonder which we helplessly call love are perpetually making moves which cannot possibly be anticipated. Eventually, you realize that it never occurred to you to anticipate their next move, not only because you couldn't but because you didn't have to: it was not a question of moving on the next move, but simply, of being present. Danger, true, you try to anticipate and you prepare yourself, without knowing it, to stand in the way of death. For the strangest people in the world are those people recognized, beneath one's senses, by one's soul - the people utterly indispensable for one's journey.”
James Baldwin, Just Above My Head
“Whoever is born in New York is ill-equipped to deal with any other city: all other cities seem, at best, a mistake, and, at worst, a fraud. No other city is so spitefully incoherent. Whereas other cities flaunt there history - their presumed glory - in vividly placed monuments, squares, parks, plaques, and boulevards, such history as New York has been unable entirely to obliterate is to be found, mainly, in the backwaters of Wall Street, in the goat tracks of Old and West Broadway, in and around Washington Square, and, for the relentless searcher, in grimly inaccessible regions of The Bronx.”
James Baldwin, Just Above My Head
“And I was alone, had been for a while, and might be for a while, but it no longer frightened me the way it had. I was discovering something terrifyingly simple: there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. I was discovering this in the way, I suppose, that everybody does, but having tried, endlessly, to do something about it. You attach yourself to someone, or you allow someone to attach themselves to you. This person is not for you, and you, really, are not for that person--and that's it, son. But you try, you both try. The only result of all your trying is to make absolutely real the unconquerable distance between you: to dramatize, in a million ways, the absolutely unalterable truth of this distance. Side by side, and hand in hand, your sunsets, nevertheless are not occurring in the same universe. It is not merely that the rain falls differently on each of you, for that can be a wonder and a joy: it is that what is rain for the one is not rain for the other. Your elements will not mix, unless one agrees that the elements be pulverized--and the result of that is worse than being alone. The result of that is to become one of the living dead. The most dreadful people I have ever known are those who have been "saved," as they claim, by Christ--they could not possibly be more deluded--those for whom the heavenly telephone is endlessly ringing, always with disastrous messages for everybody else. Or those people who have been cured by their psychiatrists, a cure which has rendered them a little less exciting than oatmeal. I prefer sinners and madmen, who can learn, who can change, who can teach--or people like myself, if I may say so, who are not afraid to eat a lobster alone as they take on their shoulders the monumental weight of thirty years.”
James Baldwin, Just Above My Head
“They have never put it into words, they cannot; but each absence is a threat. They never felt this way in New York - they moved all over New York. Here each is afraid that one of the others will get into some terrible trouble before he is seen again, and before anyone can help him. It is the spirit of the people, the eyes which endlessly watch them, eyes which never meet their eyes. Something like lust, something like hatred, seems to hover in the air along the country roads, shifting like mist or steam, but always there, gripping the city streets like fog, making every corner a dangerous corner. They spend more of themselves, each day, than they can possibly afford, they are living beyond their means; they drop into bed each evening, exhausted, into an exhausting sleep. And no one can help them. The people who live here know how to do it - so it seems, anyway - but they cannot teach the secret. The secret can be learned only by watching, by emulating the models, by dangerous trial and possibly mortal error.”
James Baldwin, Just Above My Head
“Love forces, at last, this humility: you cannot love if you cannot be loved, you cannot see if you cannot be seen.”
James Baldwin, Just Above My Head
“The first love disappears, but never goes. That ache becomes reconciliation.”
James Baldwin, Just Above My Head
“You are afraid that you have been here with me too long, and are not really white anymore. That's probably true, but you were never really white in the first place. Nobody is. Nobody has, even, ever wanted to be white, unless they are afraid of being black. But being black is nothing to be afraid of. I knew that before I met you, and I have learned it again, through you. Perhaps being white is not a conceivable condition, but a terrifying fantasy, a moral choice.”
James Baldwin, Just Above My Head
“For, without love, pleasure withers quickly, becomes a foul taste on the palate, and pleasure’s inventions are soon exhausted. There must be a soul within the body you are holding, a soul which you are striving to meet, a soul which is striving to meet yours.”
James Baldwin, Just Above My Head
“There is a blood-red thunder all around you, a blinding light flashes from time to time, voices roar and cease, roar and cease, you are in the grip of an unknowable agony, it is in your shoulders, your arms, your hands, your breath, an intolerable labor- and, no, it is not at all like approaching an orgasm, an orgasm implying relief, even, sometimes, however desperately, implying the hope of love. Love and death are connected, but not in the place I was that day.”
James Baldwin, Just Above My Head
“It is, thus, perfectly possible - indeed, it is common - to act on the genuine results of the event, at the same time that the memory manufactures quite another one, an event totally unrelated to the visible and uncontrollable effects in one's life. This may be why we appear to learn absolutely nothing from experience, or may, in other words, account for our incoherence: memory does not require that we reconstitute the event, but that we justify it.”
James Baldwin, Just Above My Head