Atheist’s View On Life Could Make Anyone Cry. 4 Minutes In, The Interviewer Almost Gets Choked Up.
This is a thought provoking little interview with Maurice Sendak, where he muses about getting old. I am afraid of getting old and older, of sickness and pain–but this made me look at getting older from a different perspective.
“Live your life. Live your life. Live your life.” — Maurice Sendak
Terry Gross: I think having friends who die, getting older, getting closer toward the end of a life tests people’s faith, and it also tests people’s atheism. It sounds like your atheism is staying strong.
Maurice Sendak: It’s what?
Terry Gross: Staying strong.
Maurice Sendak: Yes. And I’m not unhappy about becoming old. I’m not unhappy about what must be. I basically cry only when I see my friends go before me, and life gets emptied. I don’t believe in an afterlife, but I still fully expect to see my brother again. And it’s like a dream life. I am reading a biography of Cyril Palmer which was written by a woman in England. I can’t remember her name. And it’s sort of how I feel now when he was just beginning to gain his strength as a creative man and beginning to see nature. He believes in God, you see. And he believes in heaven, and he believes in hell. Goodness gracious, that must have made life much easier. It’s harder for us non believers.
But you know, there’s something I’m finding out as I’m aging, that I am in love with the world. And I look right now, as we speak together, out my window in my studio, and I see my trees, my beautiful, beautiful, maples that are hundreds of years old. They’re there. They’re beautiful. And you see, I can see how beautiful they are. I can take time to see how beautiful they are. It is a blessing to get old. It is a blessing to find the time to do the things, to read the books, to listen to the music. You know, I don’t think I’m rationalizing anything. I really don’t. This is all inevitable, and I have no control over it. I have nothing but praise now, really, for my life. I’m not unhappy. I cry a lot because I miss people. I cry a lot because they die, and I can’t stop them. They leave me, and I love them more.
But I have my young people here who are studying, and they look at me as somebody who knows everything, four kids. Oh God, there are so many beautiful things in the world which I would have to leave when I die, but I’m ready. I’m ready. I’m ready.
Terry Gross: Well, listen…
Maurice Sendak: You know, I have to tell you something.
Terry Gross: Go ahead.
Maurice Sendak: You are the only person I have ever dealt with in terms of being interviewed who brings this out in me. There is something very unique and special in you, which I so trust. When I heard that you were going to interview me, that you wanted to, I was really, really relieved.
Terry Gross: Well, I’m really glad we got the chance to speak. Because when I heard you had a book coming out, I thought, “What a good excuse to call up Maurice Sendak and have a chat.”
Maurice Sendak: Yes, that’s what we always do, isn’t it?
Terry Gross: Yeah, it is.
Maurice Sendak: That’s what we’ve always done.
Terry Gross: It is.
Maurice Sendak: Thank God we’re still around to do it.
Terry Gross: Yes.
Maurice Sendak: And almost certainly, I’ll go before you go. So I won’t have to miss you.
Terry Gross: Oh, God, what a…
Maurice Sendak: And I don’t know whether I’ll do another book or not. I might. It doesn’t matter. I’m a happy old man, but I will cry my own way all the way to the grave.
Terry Gross: Well, I’m so glad you have a new book. I’m really glad we had a chance to talk.
Maurice Sendak: I am too.
Terry Gross: And I wish you all good things.
Maurice Sendak: I wish you all good things. Live your life. Live your life. Live your life.
There may be small errors in this transcript.