Most of have been upset by something since we last took time to refresh ourselves. By reflecting on the things that have upset us, we can address them and put them more firmly in the past. Then we can empty our minds of active thoughts, and rest.
- Frances Wilson, Guilty Thing: A Life of Thomas De Quincey (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2016): “ . . . De Quincey’s best biographer, Wilson reminds us, will always be De Quincey himself. He pioneered self-reflection (‘autobiography,’ as it was beginning to be called) as a literary form . . . ”
- Barack Obama, A Promised Land (Crown, 2020): “From Southeast Asia to a forgotten school in South Carolina, he evokes the sense of place with a light but sure hand.”
- Lucian Freud, Reflection (Self-Portrait) (1985)
- Paul Klee, Contemplation (1938)
- Giorgio de Chirico, Eternity of a Moment
- Piet Mondrian, Summer Night (Sommernacht) (1906-07)
- Mikhail Nesterov, Deep Thoughts (1900)
- Gustav Klimt, The Swamp (1900)
- Alphonse Mucha, Contemplation
- Mary Cassatt, Contemplation (1891)
- Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Reflection (1877)
- Pierre-Auguste Cot, A Pause for Thought, or Ophelia (1870)
- Gustave Courbet, The Reflection (1864)
- Rogier van der Weyden, Portrait of a Lady (1460)
Film and Stage
- The Clockmaker of St. Paul, (L’Horloger de Saint-Paul) about a man induced by tragedyto reflect on his life
- Life Is Sweet, “a contemplative comedy about people who aren’t”
- A Time to Live and a Time to Die: a filmmaker’s reflections on his life
- Defending Your Life: imagining what a post-mortemself-examination might be like.
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
- Préludes, Book I (performances by Michelangeli, Zimerman, Cortot and Béroff)
- Préludes, Book II (performances by Richter, Zimerman and Gieseking)
- Images, Book I (performances by Gieseking, Trifonov and François)
- Images, Book II (performances by Gieseking, Arrau and Zhdanov)
- Ravel, Miroirs (Mirrors) (1904-1905)
- Coriglano, A Dylan Thomas Trilogy (1960, revised 1999): 1. Fern Hill; 2. Poem in October; 3. On His Birthday.
- Charles Koechlin’s works for solo organ display a completive character.
- Smetana, String Quartet No. 1 in E Minor, "From My Life", JB1:105 (1876)
- At Abdel Rahman el Bacha’s hands, Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier sounds like an extended reflection.
- Åberg: Organ works
- Penderecki: A Sea of Dreams Did Breathe On Me (Powiało na mnie morze snów . . .), songs of reflection and nostalgia for soprano, mezzo-soprano, baritone and mixed choir and orchestra (2010)
He was, as we have said, an ignorant man, but he was not a fool. The light of nature was ignited in him. Unhappiness, which also possesses a clearness of vision of its own, augmented the small amount of daylight which existed in this mind. Beneath the cudgel, beneath the chain, in the cell, in hardship, beneath the burning sun of the galleys, upon the plank bed of the convict, he withdrew into his own consciousness and meditated. He constituted himself the tribunal. He began by putting himself on trial. He recognized the fact that he was not an innocent man unjustly punished. He admitted that he had committed an extreme and blameworthy act; that that loaf of bread would probably not have been refused to him had he asked for it; that, in any case, it would have been better to wait until he could get it through compassion or through work; that it is not an unanswerable argument to say, "Can one wait when one is hungry?" That, in the first place, it is very rare for any one to die of hunger, literally; and next, that, fortunately or unfortunately, man is so constituted that he can suffer long and much, both morally and physically, without dying; that it is therefore necessary to have patience; that that would even have been better for those poor little children; that it had been an act of madness for him, a miserable, unfortunate wretch, to take society at large violently by the collar, and to imagine that one can escape from misery through theft; that that is in any case a poor door through which to escape from misery through which infamy enters; in short, that he was in the wrong. [Victor Hugo, Les Misérables (1862), Volume I – Fantine; Book Second – The Fall, Chapter VII, The Interior of Despair.]
Novels, stories and children’s books:
- Edward St. Aubyn, At Last: A Novel (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2012): “ . . . ‘The Patrick Melrose Novels,’ can be read as the navigational charts of a mariner desperate not to end up in the wretched harbor from which he embarked on a voyage that has led in and out of heroin addiction, alcoholism, marital infidelity and a range of behaviors for which the term ‘self-destructive’ is the mildest of euphemisms.”
- David Means, Instructions for a Funeral: Stories (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2019): “ . . . Means senses that beneath every act of violence there pulses a vein of grace, a redemptive potential yearning to be tapped.”
- Sara Pennypacker, Here in the Real World (a children’s book) (Balzer + Bray, 2020): “11-year-old Ware pushes back against the hubbub by taking a stand for silence, discovering his true calling along the way.”
- Debra Jo Immergut, You Again: A Novel (Ecco, 2020): a woman repeatedly runs into her 22-year-old self
- Yu Miri, Tokyo Ueno Station: A Novel (Riverhead, 2020): a man reflects on his life with regret
This is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless,
Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done,
Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes
thou lovest best,
Night, sleep, death and the stars.
[Walt Whitman, “A Clear Midnight”]
Age saw two quiet children
Go loving by at twilight,
He knew not whether homeward,
Or outward from the village,
Or (chimes were ringing) churchward,
He waited, (they were strangers)
Till they were out of hearing
To bid them both be happy.
"Be happy, happy, happy,
And seize the day of pleasure."
The age-long theme is Age's.
'Twas Age imposed on poems
Their gather-roses burden
To warn against the danger
That overtaken lovers
From being overflooded
With happiness should have it.
And yet not know they have it.
But bid life seize the present?
It lives less in the present
Than in the future always,
And less in both together
Than in the past. The present
Is too much for the senses,
Too crowding, too confusing-
Too present to imagine.
[Robert Frost, “Carpe Diem”]