The Wisdom of Arthur Miller

(Many people out there do their damnedest to avoid thinking. It is hard to be conscious if one does not think. For me, Miller is one of several major writers who raised my own personal bar of consciousness.)

Certain things have to be, the sun has to rise.

Everything we are is at every moment alive in us.

I am still feeling kinda temporary about myself.

All you can do is your best at any one moment.

I think it’s a mistake to ever look for hope outside of one’s self.

Your fate is your character.

You are you. There was never another guy like you. There will never be another guy like you again. You are like most people in most respects, but in some one respect you aren’t; but in some small way what you think and see is unique. There can only be one of you.

Nobody’s view of themselves is the same as the view of others of them.

It is quite obvious to me that we can’t begin to get the impact of a person without setting him in his time, in the context of the main drift of events that he has lived through.

In other words, we are born private and we die private, but we live of necessity in direct relation to other people, even if we live alone.

I used the phrase years ago that the fish is in the water and the water is in the fish. Man is in society, but the society is in man and every individual.

If you believe that life is worth living, then your belief will create the fact.

The two most common elements in the world are hydrogen and stupidity.

Don’t be seduced into thinking that that which does not make a profit is without value.

However, perhaps ninety percent of the population is still concerned with satisfying needs more primitive than those of self-actualization.

We romanticize the past a lot.

When you remember something, you remember clusters, clusters of images, clusters of feelings, one feeling invokes another, and the calendar has nothing to do with it. When you think back, a scent, or a vision of some kind just speeds through the calendar with the speed of light.

What ideology, I wondered, was not based on a principled denial of the facts?

The truth is a synthesis of the facts.

No one wants the truth if it is inconvenient.

You suddenly realized that the great leaders of society were full of hot air. The thing was built on smoke.

There is in all of us a retrograde desire to kill, to destroy—a love of the dark and that we have a lot of forces that keep us from doing it most of the time. And when a leadership arises in the country that believes it can lead by using the darkness in man it’s probably unstoppable at a certain point.

There are certain men in the world who would rather see everybody hung before they will take the blame.

But when you are absolutely right and everybody else is wrong. I have to get off the train.

An era can be considered over when its basic illusions have been exhausted.

Betrayal is the only truth that sticks.

If, however, he measures [spiritual fulfillment] in terms of enjoying a sunrise, being warmed by a child’s smile, or being able to help someone have a better day, then he is likely to know much spiritual fulfillment.

Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets.

You can’t eat an orange and throw the peel away—a man is not a piece of fruit.

Everybody forgets everything; that’s the law of life.

The very impulse to write springs from an inner chaos crying for order—for meaning.

A character is defined by the kinds of challenges he cannot walk away from.

…Until you can give up your innocence, you are very open to crime, to becoming part of crime. The problem with crime is that the people who commit it cannot conceive of themselves as the ones who commit the crime. In one way or another, we are all victims—one man of his family, another man of society, another man of whatever and if it’s going to the limitation of the vision, then we are really finished because everybody can justify anything on the basis that he is only paying the world for what it did to him. If there is an enemy, so to speak of man, it is the idea of innocence.

The number of ways of evading looking in the mirror are infinite now. You can buy a car, a house, change your family. A lot of people don’t need to confront themselves because of the fact there are so many escapes in the commodity civilization.

You deny the murder in you. You deny the complicity with evil….That’s evil, we’re good. We do not do bad things. [By that point] you are ready to sacrifice somebody.

The structure of a play is always the story of how the birds come home to roost.

Most of what man tries to do doesn’t work.

I do think that most things end badly…Most human enterprise disappoints. But in the interval between inactivity and that disappointment, between starting something and realizing it’s in vain, we can accomplish a great deal.

We’re going to have to pay for every advance that is made.

We are using a higher part of the brain when we have to listen to language. You only have to sit there to enjoy a movie.

I think language is the most subtle thing we’ve got, the most subtle means of expression. I don’t think images are as subtle as that.

Plays usually move on the feet of language, and most films that are any good depend primarily upon a succession of images, which is quite a different thing and should be.

In the theatre, everything comes through words and gesture, but the basic thing is the word. The word is a higher development in mankind’s evolution than the picture.

(re. image) It’s a more primitive activity of the brain, in my opinion, than language, which is difficult for us.

A playwright is partly an actor. And you are projecting your acting skills on other characters.…Playwriting is an auditory skill…Characters are projections of the author.

Any relationship between people…takes longer to do on screen if you want conclusion and subtlety.

I think movies are attempting to reproduce the dream situation.

Film reduces everything to what it is. On stage, things can take on a metaphorical meaning or significance. They have an implicit poetic quality. On the screen, it seems to me, they have more of what they are in real life.

Casting in movies is really the most important part of the picture. The picture lives or dies the day you cast an actor.

The audience in a theatre edits, to a certain extent, what they see. When you have two/three/four people on stage, you have to decide who to focus on. In a movie that’s all decided for you.

There’s a lot of talk about American theatre. We have shows. That’s not a theatre…the theatre of the Bottom Line.

Great drama is great questions or it is nothing but technique. I could not imagine a theatre worth my time that did not want to change the world.

While my heart beats, my head is going to be asking questions.

What does a writer want? He wants to leave his thumbprint on the world.

I think art imputes value to human beings.

I personally think that what the big writers have in common is a fierce moral sensibility, which is unquenchable and they are all burning with the same anger at the way the world is.

Comedy is probably a better balance of the way life is ‘cause it’s full of absurdities. And you can’t have too many absurdities in tragedy or it gets funny….Comedy is closer to the way we are.

Immortality is like trying to carve your initials in a block of ice in the middle of July.

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