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The '80s were about acquiring — acquiring wealth, power, prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth, power, and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty. What power wouldn't I trade for a little more time with my family? What price wouldn't I pay for an evening with friends? It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime. I don't know who will lead us through the '90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul.
No one of good character leaves behind a wasted life — whether they die in obscurity or renown. "Character," wrote the 19th Century evangelist, Dwight Moody, "is what you are in the dark." Your character is not tested on occasions of public scrutiny or acclaim. It is not tested in moments when the object of your actions is the regard of another. Your character is what you are to yourself, not what you pretend to be to yourself or others. Although human beings often attempt self-delusion, we cannot forever hide the truth about ourselves from ourselves. It will make itself known to us by means of our conscience despite our most strenuous effort to suppress it.
Art must take reality by surprise. It takes those moments which are for us merely a moment, plus a moment, plus another moment, and arbitrarily transforms them into a special series of moments held together by a major emotion. Art should not, it seems to me, pose the real as a preoccupation. Nothing is more unreal than certain so-called realist novels — they're nightmares. It is possible to achieve in a novel a certain sensory truth — the true feeling of a character — that is all.