I have to return Answers from the Heart by Thich Nhat Hanh to the library at some point. However, I needed to post some passages that I hope to revisit often. So, I'm really posting this for me, but hey...I hope you get something from his words too:
Regarding artists and contributing to the betterment of the world:
One day in New York City I met a Buddhist scholar and I told her about my practice of mindfulness in the vegetable garden. I enjoy growing lettuce, tomatoes, and other vegetables and I like to spend time gardening every day. She said, "You shouldn't spend your time growing vegetables. You should spend more time writing poems. Your poems are so beautiful. Everyone can grow lettuce, but not everyone can write poems like you do." I told her, "If I don't grow lettuce, I can't write poems."
When I'm taking care of the lettuce or watering my garden I don't think of poetry or writing. I focus my mind entirely on taking care of the lettuce, watering the vegetables and so on. I enjoy every moment and I do it in the mode of "non-thinking." It's very helpful to stop the thinking. Your art is conceived in the depths of your consciousness while you're not thinking about it. The moment when you express it is only a moment of birth, the moment you deliver the baby. For me, there must be moments when you allow the child inside you to grow, so you can do your best and your masterpiece can contain insight, understanding, and compassion.
On dealing with those with money and power:
One of the ways we can help is to show the people who have a lot of money and guns that they can be truly happy. There are many people who are powerful and rich but who suffer very deeply. They believe that happiness isn't possible without money and power. That kind of thinking is at the very root of war and social injustice. If you can give those people a taste of true happiness they will be able to change their way of thinking. But you can't just change their thinking by talking. You have to do something else. You have to show that you are truly happy, even if you don't have a lot of money. According to the teaching of the Buddha, these people have the seed of enlightenment in them also. If we manage to touch that seed, they will abandon their way of thinking, and they will serve the cause of peace.
There are many of us who are eager to work for peace, but we don't have peace within. Angrily we shout for peace. And angrily we shout at the people who, like us, are also for peace; even people and groups dedicated to peacemaking sometimes fight amongst themselves. If there is no peace in our hearts, there can be no harmony among the peace workers. And if there is no harmony, there is no hope. If we're divided, if we're in despair, we can't serve; we can't do anything. Peace must begin with ourselves: with the practice of sitting quietly, walking mindfully, taking care of our body, releasing the tension in our body and in our feelings. That is why the practice of being peace is at the foundation of the practice of doing peace. Being peace comes first. Doing peace is something that comes from that foundation.
Enjoying life when so many others are suffering:
When you have a minute of peace and joy, yet feel that you have no right to be peaceful and joyful, that complex of guilt destroys your minute of peace and joy. And with the destruction of that minute of peace and joy, there's no more hope for you and for the world. So you have to retain that moment of peace and joy as the foundation for everything else. Hopelessness is the worst thing that can happen to us, especially when hopelessness becomes collective despair. It's very important to learn how to deal with despair, and not allow it to come and destroy everything, especially the wholesome things that are still left.