“Ripeness is all” is a line in Shakespeare’s King Lear: “Men must endure their going hence, even as their coming hither: Ripeness is all.” It speaks to being ready for inevitable death, but also, as children’s book author Maurice Sendak explains, savouring your life and making the most of every moment until the end.
Photo remixed from an original by Rick Harris.
Author and illustrator of the popular Where The Wild Things Are (and other books), Maurice Sendak passed away today at the age of 83, but he had lived with a philosophy of “being ripe”:
My big concern is me and what do I do now until the time of my death. That is valid. That is useful. That is beautiful. That is creative. And also, I want to be free again. [...] I want to see me to the end working, living for myself. “Ripeness is all.” Now, interpreting what ripeness is our own individual problem. … So, what is the point of it all? Not leaving legacies. But being ripe. Being ripe.
In an interview with Bill Moyers, Sendak talks about a letter that John Keats wrote to his brother about eating a peach slowly — a metaphor for living well:
And it’s one of the sexiest things you will ever read of how slow you should take the peach. Don’t rush it. Let it go through your palette. Let it lie on your tongue. Let it melt a little bit. Let it run from the corners. It’s like describing the most incredible sex orgy. And then, you bite. But, it must be so ripe. It must be so delicious. In other words, you must not waste a second of this deliciousness which for him was life and being a great poet. That you savour every, everything that happened. I want to get ripe.
If you’re a fan of Sendak’s work, as I am, Gawker has a great roundup of his drawings, memories and quotes.
Savour your life like an exquisite peach.
Maurice Sendak [Wikiquote]