I grew up in a moderately religious culture. For many years I went to a Presbyterian Sunday school, where a sympathetic and liberal teacher took six of us boys through lessons supplied by the church, most of them, as I remember it, on the Pentateuch. When I was in high school, a watch I had lost was returned to me in what seemed a miraculous way, and I thought God had spoken to me. I soon lost my faith, however, though I was rather troubled about it for a number of years. In college I attended compulsory morning Chapel, where our professors took turns reading passages from the Bible, especially the Parables. Possibly that explains why, at 82, I lead a kind of religious life.
Everyday I take communion -- not in a church with God but with myself in a Thoreauvian community of one. I do so for 40 minutes while walking to my office. I used to carry a pocket edition of Shakespeare's Sonnets, and I memorized some of them as I walked. Occasionally I still recite one to myself, always astonished at how hard they are to remember. Usually, as I walk, I put the business of the day into some kind of order.
I commune with myself again in the afternoon while listening to music -- the four Bs (Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and Bruckner), Mahler, Wagner -- in a word the Romantics. I do not read while listening, but I think about my work, and I always have a notebook at hand, because that is when fresh ideas most often make their appearance. When I am at my desk I practice a kind of Zen, as I understand it, putting myself into the best possible condition for saying things. Writing is a process of discovery. The paper I complete has almost no resemblance to the paper I start to write. I learn what I have to say.
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