Many of the rites of passage, those rituals of growing up found in our society, are in the form of such comic, practical joking affairs--which we ignore in the belief that they possess no deeper significance. Yet it is precisely in their being regarded as unimportant that they take on importance. For in them we ritualize and dramatize attitudes which contradict and often embarrass the sacred values which we proclaim through our solemn ceremonies and rituals of nationhood.
rites quotespassage quotesrituals quotesgrowing quotesfound quotessociety quotesform quotescomic quotespractical quotesjoking quotesaffairswhich quotesignore quotesbelief quotespossess quotesdeeper quotessignificance quotesprecisely quotesregarded quotesunimportant quotesimportance quotesritualize quotesdramatize quotesattitudes quotescontradict quotesembarrass quotessacred quotesvalues quotesproclaim quotessolemn quotesceremonies quotesnationhood quotes
America is woven of many strands; I would recognize them and let it so remain. It's 'winner take nothing' that is the great truth of our country or of any country. Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat. Our fate is to become one, and yet many - This in not prophecy, but description.
america quoteswoven quotesstrands quotesrecognize quotesremain quoteswinner quotesnothing quotesgreat quotestruth quotescountry quotescountry quoteslife quoteslived quotescontrolled quoteshumanity quoteswon quotescontinuing quotesplay quotesface quotesdefeat quotesfate quotesprophecy quotesdescription quotes
The moment I entered the bright, buzzing lobby of Men's House I was overcome by a sense of alienation and hostility ... The lobby was the meeting place for various groups still caught up in the illusions that had just been boomeranged out of my head: college boys working to return to school down South; older advocates of racial progress with utopian schemes for building black business empires; preachers ordained by no authority except their own, without church or congregation, without bread or wine, body or blood; the community 'leaders' without followers; old men of sixty or more still caught up in post-Civil War dreams of freedom within segregation; the pathetic ones who possessed noting beyond their dreams of being gentlemen, who held small jobs or drew small pensions, and all pretending to be engaged in some vast, though obscure, enterprise, who affected the pseudo-courtly manners of certain southern congressmen and bowed and nodded as they passed like senile old roosters in a barnyard; they younger crowd for whom I now felt a contempt such as only a disillusioned dreamer feels for those still unaware that they dream-the business students from southern colleges, for whom business was a vague, abstract game with rules as obsolete as Noah's Ark but who yet were drunk on finance.
moment quotesentered quotesbright quotesbuzzing quoteslobby quotesmens quoteshouse quotesovercome quotessense quotesalienation quoteshostility quotesmeeting quotesplace quotesgroups quotescaught quotesillusions quotesboomeranged quoteshead quotescollege quotesboys quotesworking quotesreturn quotesschool quotessouth quotesolder quotesadvocates quotesracial quotesprogress quotesutopian quotesschemes quotesbuilding quotesblack quotesbusiness quotesempires quotespreachers quotesordained quotesauthority quoteschurch quotescongregation quotesbread quoteswine quotesbody quotesblood quotescommunity quotesleaders quotesfollowers quotesmen quotessixty quotespostcivil quoteswar quotesdreams quotesfreedom quotessegregation quotespathetic quotespossessed quotesnoting quotesgentlemen quotesheld quotessmall quotesjobs quotesdrew quotespensions quotespretending quotesengaged quotesvast quotesobscure quotesenterprise quotesaffected quotespseudocourtly quotesmanners quotessouthern quotescongressmen quotesbowed quotesnodded quotespassed quotessenile quotesroosters quotesbarnyard quotesyounger quotescrowd quotesfelt quotescontempt quotesdisillusioned quotesdreamer quotesfeels quotesunaware quotesdreamthe quotesstudents quotescolleges quotesvague quotesabstract quotesgame quotesrules quotesobsolete quotesnoahs quotesark quotesdrunk quotesfinance quotes
It goes a long way back, some twenty years. All my life I had been looking for something, and everywhere I turned someone tried to tell me what it was. I accepted their answers too, though they were often in contradiction and even self-contradictory. I was naive. I was looking for myself and asking everyone except myself questions which I, and only I, could answer. It took me a long time and much painful boomeranging of my expectations to achieve a realization everyone else appears to have been born with: That I am nobody but myself. But first I had to discover that I am an invisible man!
long quotesback quotestwenty quotesyears quoteslife quotesturned quotesaccepted quotesanswers quotescontradiction quotesselfcontradictory quotesnaive quotesquestions quotesanswer quotestime quotespainful quotesboomeranging quotesexpectations quotesachieve quotesrealization quotesappears quotesborn quotesdiscover quotesinvisible quotesman quotes
a delegate shout out from the floor: 'Peonage, Anti-Lynch Bill, poll tax, these are our issues. They are the most controversial issues in American life, and some of us will have to die for them! Yes, we want to join with the CIO! We cannot stop for controversy!' And there in the faces of my people I saw strength. There with the whites in the audience I saw the positive forces of civilization and the best guarantee of America's future.
delegate quotesshout quotesfloor quotespeonage quotesantilynch quotesbill quotespoll quotestax quotesissues quotescontroversial quotesissues quotesamerican quoteslife quotesdie quotesjoin quotescio quotesstop quotescontroversy quotesfaces quotespeople quotesstrength quoteswhites quotesaudience quotespositive quotesforces quotescivilization quotesguarantee quotesamericas quotesfuture quotes
But what a feeling can come over a man just from seeing the things he believes in and hopes for symbolized in the concrete form of a man. In something that gives a focus to all the other things he knows to be real. Something that makes unseen things manifest and allows him to come to his hopes and dreams through his outer eye and through the touch and feel of his natural hand.
So why do I write, torturing myself to put it down? Because in spite of myself I've learned some things. Without the possibility of action, all knowledge comes to one labeled "file and forget, " and I can neither file nor forget. Nor will certain ideas forget me; they keep filing away at my lethargy, my complacency. Why should I be the one to dream this nightmare?
Can it be, I thought, can it actually be?... could he be all of them: Rine the runner and Rine the gambler and Rine the briber and Rine the lover and Rinehart the Reverend? Could he himself be both rind and heart?...Rinehart the rounder. It was true as I was true. His world was possibility and he knew it. He was years ahead of me and I was a fool. I must have been crazy and blind. The world in which we lived was without boundaries... All boundaries down, freedom was not only the recognition of necessity, it was the recognition of possibility. And sitting there trembling I caught a brief glimpse of the possibilities posed by Rinehart's multiple personalities...
thought quotesrine quotesrunner quotesgambler quotesbriber quoteslover quotesrinehart quotesreverend quotesrind quotesheartrinehart quotesrounder quotestrue quotestrue quotesworld quotespossibility quotesknew quotesyears quotesahead quotesfool quotescrazy quotesblind quoteslived quotesboundaries quotesboundaries quotesfreedom quotesrecognition quotesnecessity quotespossibility quotessitting quotestrembling quotescaught quotesglimpse quotespossibilities quotesposed quotesrineharts quotesmultiple quotespersonalities quotes
When we finally achieve the full right of participation in American life, what we make of it will depend upon our sense of cultural values, and our creative use of freedom, not upon our racial identification. I see no reason why the heritage of world culture-which represents a continuum-should be confused with the notion of race. Japan erected a highly efficient modern technology upon a religious culture which viewed the Emperor as a god. The Germany which produced Beethoven and Hegel and Mann turned its science and technology to the monstrous task of genocide; one hopes that when what are known as the 'Negro' societies are in full possession of the world's knowledge and in control of their destinies, they will bring to an end all those savageries which for centuries have been committed in the name of race. From what we are now witnessing in certain parts of the world today, however, there is no guarantee that simply being non-white offers any guarantee of this. The demands of state policy are apt to be more influential than morality. I would like to see a qualified Negro as President of the United States. But I suspect that even if this were today possible, the necessities of the office would shape his actions far more than his racial identity.
finally quotesachieve quotesfull quotesparticipation quotesamerican quoteslife quotesmake quotesdepend quotessense quotescultural quotesvalues quotescreative quotesfreedom quotesracial quotesidentification quotesreason quotesheritage quotesworld quotesculturewhich quotesrepresents quotescontinuumshould quotesconfused quotesnotion quotesrace quotesjapan quoteserected quoteshighly quotesefficient quotesmodern quotestechnology quotesreligious quotesculture quotesviewed quotesemperor quotesgod quotesgermany quotesproduced quotesbeethoven quoteshegel quotesmann quotesturned quotesscience quotesmonstrous quotestask quotesgenocide quoteshopes quotesnegro quotessocieties quotespossession quotesworlds quotesknowledge quotescontrol quotesdestinies quotesbring quotesend quotessavageries quotescenturies quotescommitted quoteswitnessing quotesparts quotestoday quotesguarantee quotessimply quotesnonwhite quotesoffers quotesdemands quotesstate quotespolicy quotesapt quotesinfluential quotesmorality quotesqualified quotesnegro quotespresident quotesunited quotesstates quotessuspect quotestoday quotesnecessities quotesoffice quotesshape quotesactions quotesidentity quotes
What and how much had I lost by trying to do only what was expected of me instead of what I myself had wished to do? What a waste, what a senseless waste! But what of those things which you actually didn't like, not because you were not supposed to like them, not because to dislike them was considered a mark of refinement and education - but because you actually found them distasteful? The very idea annoyed me. How could you know? It involved a problem of choice. I would have to weigh many things carefully before deciding and there would be some things that would cause quite a bit of trouble, simply because I had never formed a personal attitude toward so much. I had accepted the accepted attitudes and it had made life seem simple...
lost quotesexpected quoteswished quoteswaste quotessenseless quoteswaste quotesthings quotessupposed quotesdislike quotesconsidered quotesmark quotesrefinement quoteseducation quotesfound quotesdistasteful quotesidea quotesannoyed quotesinvolved quotesproblem quoteschoice quotesweigh quotescarefully quotesdeciding quotesbit quotestrouble quotessimply quotesformed quotespersonal quotesattitude quotesaccepted quotesattitudes quotesmade quoteslife quotessimple quotes
So why do I write, torturing myself to put it down? Because in spite of myself I've learned some things. Without the possibility of action, all knowledge comes to one labeled "file and forget," and I can neither file nor forget. Nor will certain ideas forget me; they keep filing away at my lethargy, my complacency. Why should I be the one to dream this nightmare?
I was pulled this way and that for longer than I can remember. And my problem was that I always tried to go in everyone's way but my own. I have also been called one thing and then another while no one really wished to hear what I called myself. So after years of trying to adopt the opinions of others I finally rebelled. I am an invisible man.
The blues is an impulse to keep the painful details and episodes of a brutal experience alive in one's aching consciousness, to finger its jagged grain, and to transcend it, not by the consolation of philosophy but by squeezing from it a near-tragic, near-comic lyricism. As a form, the blues is an autobiographical chronicle of personal catastrophe expressed lyrically.
blues quotesimpulse quotespainful quotesdetails quotesepisodes quotesbrutal quotesexperience quotesalive quotesones quotesaching quotesconsciousness quotesfinger quotesjagged quotesgrain quotestranscend quotesconsolation quotesphilosophy quotessqueezing quotesneartragic quotesnearcomic quoteslyricism quotesform quotesautobiographical quoteschronicle quotespersonal quotescatastrophe quotesexpressed quoteslyrically quotes
I suddenly recall the arpeggios of laughter lilting across the tender, springtime grass-gay-welling, far-floating, fluent, spontaneous, a bell-like feminine fluting, then suppressed; as though snuffed swiftly and irrevocably beneath the quiet solemnity of the vespered air now vibrant with somber chapel bells.
suddenly quotesrecall quotesarpeggios quoteslaughter quoteslilting quotestender quotesspringtime quotesgrassgaywelling quotesfarfloating quotesfluent quotesspontaneous quotesbelllike quotesfeminine quotesfluting quotessuppressed quotessnuffed quotesswiftly quotesirrevocably quotesbeneath quotesquiet quotessolemnity quotesvespered quotesair quotesvibrant quotessomber quoteschapel quotesbells quotes
For, like almost everyone else in our country, I started out with my share of optimism. I believed in hard work and progress and action, but now, after first being 'for' society and then 'against' it, I assign myself no rank or any limit, and such an attitude is very much against the trend of the times. But my world has become one of infinite possibilities. What a phrase - still it's a good phrase and a good view of life, and a man shouldn't accept any other; that much I've learned underground. Until some gang succeeds in putting the world in a strait jacket, its definition is possibility.
country quotesstarted quotesshare quotesoptimism quotesbelieved quoteshard quoteswork quotesprogress quotesaction quotesfor quotessociety quotesagainst quotesassign quotesrank quoteslimit quotesattitude quotestrend quotestimes quotesworld quotesinfinite quotespossibilities quotesphrase quotesgood quotesview quoteslife quotesman quotesaccept quoteslearned quotesunderground quotesgang quotessucceeds quotesputting quotesstrait quotesjacket quotesdefinition quotespossibility quotes
Whence all this passion towards conformity anyway? Diversity is the word. Let man keep his many parts and you will have no tyrant states. Why, if they follow this conformity business, they'll end up by forcing me, an invisible man, to become white, which is not a color but the lack of one. Must I strive towards colorlessness? But seriously and without snobbery, think of what the world would lose if that should happen. America is woven of many strands. I would recognize them and let it so remain.
passion quotesconformity quotesdiversity quotesword quotesman quotesparts quotestyrant quotesstates quotesfollow quotesbusiness quotesend quotesforcing quotesinvisible quotesman quoteswhite quotescolor quoteslack quotesstrive quotescolorlessness quotessnobbery quotesworld quoteslose quoteshappen quotesamerica quoteswoven quotesstrands quotesrecognize quotesremain quotes
At best Americans give but a limited attention to history. Too much happens too rapidly, and before we can evaluate it, or exhaust its meaning or pleasure, there is something new to concern us. Ours is the tempo of the motion picture, not that of the still camera, and we waste experience as we wasted the forest.
I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination, indeed, everything and anything except me.