In contrast to the flux and muddle of life, art is clarity and enduring presence. In the stream of life, few things are perceived clearly because few things stay put. Every mood or emotion is mixed or diluted by contrary and extraneous elements. The clarity of art—the precise evocation of mood in the novel, or of summer twilight in a painting—is like waking to a bright landscape after a long fitful slumber, or the fragrance of chicken soup after a week of head cold.
Passing Strange and Wonderful: Aesthetics, Nature, and Culture, ch. 10 (1993).
America is a much newer experiment in human living, one with moral concerns at its core. In this respect it differs from Europe, which has preferred sophistication and worldly wisdom to "righteousness," and resembles China, which saw the universe itself as essentially a moral order. However materialistic Americans may be in their economic pursuits, their ceremonies emphasize the material far less than European societies have. America has imposing official architecture. Washington, D.C., boasts a radial baroque stateliness. Yet one of its most important buildings, the White House, is a modest dwelling, its scale far smaller than that of the palaces of Europe and Asia.
Shadows and Light, epilogue, Passing Strange and Wonderful: Aesthetics, Nature, and Culture (1993).