The Quotable Henderson

I recently finished Saul Bellow’s Henderson the Rain King. I’d been meaning to read it for years, but haven’t had the time. So, after graduation, this was the first book I picked up. It came at a great time, as I’ve long been thinking about the relationship between the body and the soul and the need, as Henderson says, for a “shot in the arm from animal nature.” Here are some quotes that grabbed me:

“They say the air is the final home of the soul.”

“Yes, travel is advisable. And believe me, the world is a mind. Travel is mental travel.”

“Yes, yes, yes. The world of facts is real, all right, and not to be altered. The physical is all there, and it belongs to science. But then there is the noumenal department, and there we create and create and create. As we tread our overanxious ways, we think we know what is real.”

King Dahfu: “They say…that bad can easily be spectacular, has dash or bravado and impresses the mind quicker than good. Oh, that is a mistake in my opinion. Perhaps of common good it is true. Many, many nice people. Oh yes. Their will tells them to perform good, and they do. How ordinary! Mere arithmetic. ‘I have left undone the etceteras I should have done, and done the etceteras I ought not to have.’ This does not even amount to a life. Oh, how sordid it is to book-keep. My whole view is opposite or contrary, that good cannot be labor or conflict. When it is high and great, it is too superior. Oh, Mr. Henderson, it is far more spectacular. It is associated with inspiration, and not conflict, for where a man conflicts there he will fall, and if taking the sword also perishes by the sword. A dull will produces a very dull good, of no interest. Where a fellow draws a battle line there he is apt to be found, dead, a testimonial of the great strength of effort, and only effort.”

“And though I’m no expert I guess [King Dahfu is] thinking of mankind as a whole, which is tired of itself and needs a shot in the arm from animal nature.”

King Dahfu: “The career of our specie…is evidence that one imagination after another grows literal. Not dreams. Not mere dreams. I say not mere dreams because they have a way of growing actual. At school in Malindi I read all of Bulfinch. And I say not mere dream. No. Birds flew, harpies flew, angels flew, Daedalus and son flew. And see here, it is no longer dreaming and story, for literally there is flying. You flew here, into Africa. All human accomplishment has this same origin, identically. Imagination is a force of nature. Is this not enough to make a person full of ecstasy? Imagination, imagination, imagination! It converts to actual. It sustains, it alters, it redeems! …What Homo sapiens imagines, he may slowly convert himself to.”

[In a letter to his wife, Lily] “‘However, the geniuses love common life a great deal.’ …By genius I mean somebody like Plato or Einstein. Light itself was all Einstein needed. What could be more common?

“[King Dahfu] tells me I should move from the states that I myself make into the states which are of themselves.”

Thoughts? Share below.

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