It is a sign of wisdom to recognize one’s own pettiness and not only to surrender vanity to death, which means to take it anyway, but to do so with deliberate grace as exemplar to the young upon whom our race’s fragile continuity, which is all there is, depends. I should have thought that that was why one wrote – to make something useful for the survivors, to say: I was and now you are, and I leave you as good a map as I could make of my own traveling.
John Dos Passos at Midcentury (1961)
Collected in United States: Essays 1952-1992
Photo by Jan Saudek: The Letter (1975)