“The earth is heavy and opaque without dreams,” said Anaïs Nin, a French-Cuban writer and one of the most celebrated diarists in modern literary times. Throughout her life Nin (1903-1977) published 16 journals that spanned more than half a century starting from when she was 11-years-old through her final days at age 73. In her groundbreaking literature, Nin provided key insights into culture, human nature, and the meaning of life. Nin was also famously one of the first women to boldly publish erotic writing, exploring deep thoughts into her personal life and relationships. In 1974 Nin was elected to the United States National Institute of Arts and Letters.
These neat illustrations by Lisa Congdon were brought to life at the request of Maria Popova at Brain Pickings, highlighting The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 3: 1939-1944. Visit WorldCat to see if your local library has a copy available.
What really interests you in life? Do you find yourself constantly caught up in regular day-to-day activities, or are you more of a dreamer?
Ordinary life does not interest me. I seek only the high moments. I am in accord with the surrealists, searching for the marvelous. I want to be a writer who reminds others that these moments exist; I want to prove that there is infinite space, infinite meaning, infinite dimension. But I am not always in what I call a state of grace. I have days of illuminations and fevers. I have days when the music in my head stops. Then I mend socks, prune trees, can fruits, polish furniture. But while I am doing this I feel I am not living.”
Of course, knowing what excites you and the path to take to find these things isn’t always simple. According to Nin, however, “you live out the confusions until they become clear.”
You have to leave your aura of comfortability behind to explore new ideas:
Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.
The unknown was my encyclopedia. The unnamed was my science and progress.”
Nin was also one of the first to warn of the potential disconnect from society that our increased use of new technology would pose:
The secret of a full life is to live and relate to others as if they might not be there tomorrow, as if you might not be there tomorrow. It eliminates the vice of procrastination, the sin of postponement, failed communications, failed communions. This thought has made me more and more attentive to all encounters. meetings, introductions, which might contain the seed of depth that might be carelessly overlooked. This feeling has become a rarity, and rarer every day now that we have reached a hastier and more superficial rhythm, now that we believe we are in touch with a greater amount of people, more people, more countries. This is the illusion which might cheat us of being in touch deeply with the one breathing next to us. The dangerous time when mechanical voices, radios, telephones, take the place of human intimacies, and the concept of being in touch with millions brings a greater and greater poverty in intimacy and human vision.”
The insight provided in this last quote should really be treasured. As the speed of life hastens and mobile technology remains always at our side, it’s easy to become superficial in our daily encounters. But the more genuine you start to treat your interactions with other people, the happier and more successful you will be in life.