Jean Toomer (1894-1967) was an American poet and novelist, an important figure of the Harlem Renaissance. His most famous work of literature was his High Modernist novel Cane.
His father was white and his mother black. He was born in Washington DC and lived in New Rochelle, New York. During his years at university he studied agriculture, fitness, biology, sociology, and history. After finishing his studies he began his activities as a writer, publishing short stories. His interests extended to Eastern philosophies. After working as a principal at a rural agricultural and industrial school for blacks in Sparta, Georgia, he returned to New York. Toomer encountered Gurdjieff’s teaching during the latter’s visit to the United States in 1924. That same year, and in 1926 and 1927, Toomer went to France to study with Gurdjieff at Fontainebleau. He continued studies with Gurdjieff until the mid-1930s. In 1940 Toomer and his second wife Marjorie Content moved to Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where he joined the Quakers and withdrew from society. He wrote a number of fiction works and essays devoted to Quaker themes. He stopped writing for publication in 1950, continuing to write for himself, including a few autobiographies. He died in 1967.
“Fear is a noose that binds until it strangles.”
“We learn the rope of life by untying its knots.”
“Perhaps . . . our lot on the earth is to seek and to search. Now and again we find just enough to enable us to carry on. I now doubt that any of us will completely find and be found in this life.”
“Acceptance of prevailing standards often means we have no standards of our own.”
“I am not less poet; I am more conscious of all that I am, am not, and might become.”
“The realization of ignorance is the first act of knowing.”
“Talk about it only enough to do it. Dream about it only enough to feel it. Think about it only enough to understand it. Contemplate it only enough to be it.”
“Men try to run life according to their wishes; life runs itself according to necessity.”
“Most novices picture themselves as masters – and are content with the picture. This is why there are so few masters.”
“Once a man has tasted creative action, then thereafter, no matter how safely he schools himself in patience, he is restive, acutely dissatisfied with anything else. He becomes as a lover to whom abstinence is intolerable.”
To understand a new idea break an old habit.
Whatever stands between you and that person stands between you and yourself.
A true individual belongs on the one hand to no less than himself; and, on the other, to no less than mankind and the entire human world.