My noisy old computer (a Proteva) has just started making a new sound – I mean, just minutes ago. It’s a very up-tempo chicka chicka chicka chicka chicka chicka chicka chicka chicka chicka chicka chicka SHHHHHHH with unpredictable variations in length. Oddly compelling – even energizing!

So this got me thinking about one of my all-time gurus, John Cage. Here are some quotes of his, courtesy of Google. Most of them are new to me, since I have never bothered to read more than one or two of his essays – I never felt I had to. Well, now I feel that way more than ever! These sayings are so consistent with my own beliefs, I could’ve written some of them myself (not to sound immodest or anything). Maybe I should just quit trying to say anything wise from here on out.

The highest purpose is to have no purpose at all. This puts one in accord with nature, in her manner of operation.


I certainly had no feeling for harmony, and Schoenberg thought that that would make it impossible for me to write music. He said, ‘You’ll come to a wall you won’t be able to get through.’ So I said, ‘I’ll beat my head against that wall.’ (Hmm, I must admit I had never realized the deep connection between John Cage and Twisted Sister.)


If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all.


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


Food, one assumes, provides nourishment: but Americans eat it fully aware that small amounts of poison have been added to improve its appearance and delay its putrefaction.


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

Ooops, now it’s speeding up. Should I worry? Is it going to explode?

It was at Harvard not quite forty years ago that I went into an anechoic [totally silent] chamber not expecting in that silent room to hear two sounds: one high, my nervous system in operation, one low, my blood in circulation. The reason I did not expect to hear those two sounds was that they were set into vibration without any intention on my part. That experience gave my life direction, the exploration of nonintention. No one else was doing that. I would do it for us. I did not know immediately what I was doing, nor, after all these years, have I found out much. I compose music. Yes, but how? I gave up making choices. In their place I put the asking of questions. The answers come from the mechanism, not the wisdom of the I Ching, the most ancient of all books: tossing three coins six times yielding numbers between 1 and 64.


There is poetry as soon as we realize that we possess nothing.

Now the noise has stopped. The computer’s gone back to its normal humming.

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