Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.
The mind that is not baffled, is not employed.
I shall tell you a great secret, my friend. Do not wait for the last judgment.
It takes place every day.
Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.
For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed.
How simple the writing of literature would be if it were only necessary to write in another way what has been well written. It is because we have had such great writers in the past that a writer is driven far out past where he can go, out to where no one can help him,
– Ernest Hemingway
There are always flowers for those who want to see them.
Man is what he believes.
Tell all the Truth but tell it slant-
Success in Circuit lies Too bright for our inform Delight The Truth’s superb surprise As Lightning to the Children eased With explanation kind The Truth must dazzle gradually Or everyman be blind-
Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.
Sometimes I go about in pity for myself, and all the while a great wind is bearing me across the sky.
break all the glasses and fall toward the glassblower
It is not without significance that the real saints of history, as distinguished from morbid, self-flagellating ascetics, have a delightful sense of humor, as had Francis of Assisi for instance. This sense of humor is based upon a curious quality of disillusionment which has not resulted in either bitterness or despair. It is without bitterness, because judgments of the fellowman are tempered by the forgiveness which is prompted by repentance. It is without despair, because no evils in the world can disturb the firm faith in the goodness of God and his ultimate triumph over evil. This quality of mirthful serenity is unlike the innocency of childhood which knows no evil. It has looked into the abyss of evil and is no longer affrighted by it
To see a world in a grain of sand And a heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand And eternity in an hour
War is the unfolding of miscalculations
Live in the present. Do the things that need to be done. Do all the good you can each day. The future will unfold.
It is better to believe than to disbelieve, in so doing you bring everything to the realm of possibility.
Prayer is not an old woman’s idle amusement. Properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action.
We only come to sleep, we only come to dream, every each spring of the grass, that is how our making is, it is not true, it is not true that we came to live on the earth, it comes and sprouts, it comes and our heart opens corollas, our body gives out some flowers, it wilts!
You will have courage because you will have hope. You will take your time, and rest in safety.
Me Imperturbe, standing at ease in Nature Master of all, or mistress of all—aplomb in the midst of irrational things
I don’t have to tell you, one never snaps one’s fingers on the beat. It’s considered aggressive. Don’t push it, just let it fall. And if you would like to be respectably hip, then at the same time tilt the left earlobe. Establish a state of nonchalance. And if you would like to be respectably cool, then tilt the left earlobe on the beat and snap the finger on the after beat. And then, you really don’t care.
Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed … We need wilderness preserved — as much of it as is still left, and as many kinds — because it was the challenge against which our character as a people was formed … We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.
A Million Shining Things
Sam Baker is a Texan singer-songwriter whose first CD, Mercy, in 2004 brought him an ardent and extensive following in North America and Europe. Two decades ago Sam survived a bomb blast perpetrated by Peru’s Shining Path rebels. For the Mindful Bard review of his latest CD, Pretty World, go here.
Train to Machu Picchu
It was 1986, and I was in Peru with some friends. We went to Lima and from there to Cuzco to catch the train to Machu Picchu. We were going there for the Inti Rami, which is a pretty big celebration there. The bomb was on our train car. Me and my friends who were there—they were foresters, living in Columbia—the bomb went off and killed them and the German family I was sitting with, a mother, a father, and a boy. It killed them in a particularly terrible fashion.
The exploding shrapnel cut the femoral artery in my leg and I should have bled out right then but for some reason didn’t. I stayed alive in spite of subdural bleeding, cranial bleeding, gangrene, and renal failure.
When I was brought back to the States I started roundafter round of surgery.I think that whole experience made my writing much more empathetic toward people. You see quite a bit afterweeks when you can’t move, near death. It makes you reflective.
“Broken Fingers” was written partly in memory of the German boy who died in the explosion. His parents spoke only German but he knew Spanish and pretty good English, so we talked. The way my hand is now reminds me of that; the shrapnel blew off the top of my left hand. They didn’t operate on it at first because they didn’t think I’d survive, but eventually they did operate. I later had to learn to play the guitar left-handed. There were times when I got frustrated. And then I somehow connected that to the boy. Some things are just done, and death is one of them. Some things don’t heal, some things don’t change.
Conditions for Creativity
Things come to me and I’m not sure where they come from or how they get to me but once they’re here I generally have to deal with them. I work with what comes and I’m not sure what I do to make it happen.
I do listen to some music. I’m deaf on one side and don’t hear very well out of the other, and there’s a very loud ringing, so I’m not sure I get much out of music. I liked that whole thing Yo-Yo Ma did of Bach pieces. And then when I hear birds I don’t know that we are able to do anything much more beautiful than that.
I also read. Recently it’s been Thoreau, Conrad, Faulkner, Annie Dillard. I’ll probably go to the library this afternoon and see what I can find.Lately my writing has been sporadic, but then I’ve got other projects that are taking a lot of my energy so I block out time to see what comes out. The thing is to find the balance: energy-time-time-energy-energy-time. There are a million shining things and you can’t do them all.
This is a good month to see how I feel about the world. I hate to say it’s “X” or this is my expectation, because then all of a sudden that’s what I have to get out of this block of time. It’s better to let time pass and let things come to me. It’s hard to know what to focus on, to push more energy into, so I’m seeing what sort of energy comes up about different things. It’s really more of a triage.
Doing nothing is good sometimes, too. I can look at the trees outside and see that something shining and beautiful is hanging from every branch.
On Religion: Red Hats, White Hats
You can suffer from belief in nothing. I think you can also suffer from belief in too much. We try to find differences in religions, as if that gives us some sort of edge, instead of looking for those great similarities. The great teachers are all saying, “Drop the ego; we’re all in this together.” The boat rises and falls. We all rise and fall as does the boat.
In Buddhism there’s a story about the coming apart of everything, when the self dissolves. That’s not actually that far from the Christian idea of dissolving into the love of God, when ego drops away and we become whatever that is. If Christians have a problem with Buddhism, their struggle is not with Buddhism, it’s with Christianity. I think Blake would say that it’s that clash, that cracking of our universe so the light peeps out, that comes to everybody regardless of their religion.
What I saw in that terrible thing in South America is that we’re all essentially connected. There’s an attitude that says, “I’ll wear this red hat or this white hat and because of that I have something that gives me access to a different spiritual realm.” I think our spiritual realms are right here with us all the time.
The God of Rosemary
What if everything is perfect right now? By perfect I mean whole and complete, all you need available to you at this very moment. It doesn’t mean you’re not responsible for making things better. We should all be more responsible and more compassionate, but what if it’s you in the face of God this second? You can then get outside of yourself and not say, “Oh, look at me, open the door,” or, “Look at me, do something.” This whole thing where you and I are separate and look at ourselves as if we were players on a football field—we can get past that.
God is in every face we meet, and not just in every face—in every plank of cedar that’s tacked onto the outside of our houses, in the rosemary that grows in the yard. The question then becomes: How can I learn not to turn away?
Art is not made to decorate rooms. It is an offensive weapon in the defense against the enemy.
-Pablo Ruiz Picasso
Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.
- Gustave Flaubert
Polonius: This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man. Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!
Laertes: Most humbly do I take my leave, my lord.
Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, 78–82
So friends, every day do something that won’t compute.
I shall keep singing!
Birds will pass me
On their way to Yellower Climes-
Whenever I’m asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one. To be able to recognize a freak, you have to have some conception of the whole man, and in the South the general conception of man is still, in the main, theological. That is a large statement, and it is dangerous to make it, for almost anything you say about Southern belief can be denied in the next breath with equal propriety. But approaching the subject from the standpoint of the writer, I think it is safe to say that while the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted. The Southerner, who isn’t convinced of it, is very much afraid that he may have been formed in the image and likeness of God. Ghosts can be very fierce and instructive. They cast strange shadows, particularly in our literature. In any case, it is when the freak can be sensed as a figure for our essential displacement that he attains some depth in literature.
-Flannery O’ConnorTo educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kindness that stands behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude.-Albert Schweitzerif it sounds like writing, I rewrite it-Elmore LeonardIn ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.-Deitrich Bonhoeffer
moonrise big bend photo from a moving pickup
There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion. It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from flowers.
-Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle)
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
It was granted me to carry away from my prison years on my bent back, which nearly broke beneath its load, this essential experience: how a human being becomes evil and how good. In the intoxication of youthful successes I had felt myself to be infallible, and I was therefore cruel. In the surfeit of power I was a murderer, and an oppressor. In my most evil moments I was convinced that I was doing good, and I was well supplied with systematic arguments. And it was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains … an unuprooted small corner of evil. Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person.
– Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
But are not all Facts Dreams as soon as we put them behind us—
[T]he writer’s role is not free from difficult duties. By definition he cannot put himself today in the service of those who make history; he is at the service of those who suffer it. Otherwise, he will be alone and deprived of his art. Not all the armies of tyranny with their millions of men will free him from his isolation, even and particularly if he falls into step with them. But the silence of an unknown prisoner, abandoned to humiliations at the other end of the world, is enough to draw the writer out of his exile, at least whenever, in the midst of the privileges of freedom, he manages not to forget that silence, and to transmit it in order to make it resound by means of his art.
We have been silent witnesses of many evil deeds. We have been drenched by many storms. We have learned the art of equivocation and pretense…Are we still of any use?
It is good, at certain hours of the day and night, to look closely at the world of objects at rest. Wheels that have crossed long, dusty distances with their mineral and vegetable burdens, sacks from the coal bins, barrels, and baskets, handles and hafts for the carpenter’s tool chest. From them flow the contacts of men and women with the earth, like a text for all troubled lyricists. The used surfaces of things, the wear that the hands give to things, the air, tragic at times, pathetic at others, of such things—all lend a curious attractiveness to the reality of the world that should not be under-prized.
Beauty is not caused. It is.
— Emily Dickinson
The soft bonds of love are indifferent to life and death. They hold through time so that yesterday’s love is part of today’s and the confidence in tomorrow’s love is also part of today’s. And when one dies, the memory lives in the other, and is warm and breathing. And when both die — I almost believe, rationalist though I am — that somewhere it remains, indestructible and eternal, enriching all of the universe by the mere fact that once it existed,
— Isaac Asimov
After the game, the king and the pawn go into the same box
Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.
― Mary Oliver
My successes are not my own. The way to them was prepared by others. The fruit of my labors is not my own: for I am preparing the way for the achievements of another. Nor are my failures my own. They may spring from the failure of another, but they are also compensated for by another’s achievement. Therefore the meaning of my life is not to be looked for merely in the sum total of my achievements. It is seen only in the complete integration of my achievements and failures with the achievements and failures of my own generation, and society, and time.
I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
-Rainer Maria Rilke
The truth was a mirror in the hands of God. It fell, and broke into pieces. Everybody took a piece of it, and they looked at it and thought they had the truth.
People say, what is the sense of our small effort? They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time. A pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. Each one of our thoughts, words and deeds is like that. No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too much work to do.
You may judge others only according to your knowledge of yourself.
– Kahlil Gibran
I never went to college — I don’t believe in college for writers. The thing is very dangerous. I believe too many professors are too opinionated and too snobbish and too intellectual, and the intellect is a great danger to creativity … because you begin to rationalize and make up reasons for things, instead of staying with your own basic truth — who you are, what you are, what you want to be. I’ve had a sign over my typewriter for over 25 years now, which reads “Don’t think!” You must never think at the typewriter — you must feel. Your intellect is always buried in that feeling anyway.
Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.
There are really only two ways, it seems to me, in which we can think about our existence here on Earth. We either agree with Macbeth that life is nothing more than a ‘tale told by an idiot,’ a purposeless emergence of life-forms including the clever, greedy, selfish, and unfortunate species that we call homo sapiens – the ‘evolutionary goof.’ Or we believe that, as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin put it, ‘There is something afoot in the universe, something that looks like gestation and birth.’ In other words, a plan, a purpose to it all.
The sun has fallen, and the temperature is dropping so quickly… to tell you all a secret, I don’t feel that sad. I was just in my own adventure story – and like every hero, I encountered a small problem, goodnight, earth, goodnight, humanity.
-the last transmission from an unmanned Chinese space exploration craft before it went forever dark
If there is no wind, row.
Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must be first overcome.
– Samuel Johnson
What the caterpillar calls the end, the rest of the world calls a butterfly.
Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love.
It was beautiful to live when you lived! The world is bluer and of the earth at night, when I sleep enormous, within your small hands.
-Pablo Neruda -from The Sea and the Bells
Any conflict in the history of the World has been a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.
-Union Army General George B McClellan 1863
Therefore you must keep in mind that a path is only a path; if you feel you should not follow it, you must not stay with it under any conditions. To have such clarity you must lead a disciplined life. Only then will you know that any path is only a path, and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you to do. But your decision to keep on the path or to leave it must be free of fear or ambition. I warn you. Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. This question is one that only a very old man asks. My benefactor told me about it once when I was young, and my blood was too vigorous for me to understand it. Now I do understand it. I will tell you what it is: Does the path have a heart? All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. They are paths going through the bush, or into the bush. In my own life I could say I have traversed long, long paths but I am not anywhere. My benefactor’s question has meaning now. Does the path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other doesn’t. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you.
-Carlos CastanedaThe Teachings of Don Juan
How strange is the lot of us mortals! Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people — first of all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness is wholly dependent, and then for the many, unknown to us, to whose destinies we are bound by the ties of sympathy. A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.
– Albert Einstein
That is at bottom the only courage that is demanded of us: to have courage for the most strange, the most singular and the most inexplicable that we may encounter. That mankind has in this sense been cowardly has done life endless harm; the experiences that are called “visions,” the whole so-called “spirit-world,” death, all those things that are so closely akin to us, have by daily parrying been so crowded out of life that the senses with which we could have grasped them are atrophied. To say nothing of God.
-Rainer Maria Rilke
Everyone once, once only.Just once and no more. And we also once. Never again. But this having been once, although only once, to have been of the earth, seems irrevocable.
-Rainer Maria Rilke
Toleration is the greatest gift of the mind.
I had crossed the line. I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom. I was a stranger in a strange land.
Many things are lost for want of asking.
The sense of danger must not disappear:
The way is certainly both short and steep,
However gradual it looks from here;
Look if you like, but you will have to leap…
A solitude ten thousand fathoms deep
Sustains the bed on which we lie, my dear;
Although I love you, you will have to leap;
Our dream of safety has to disappear.
When facing whatever happens outside your control, be calm; when taking actions for which you are responsible, be fair. In other words, whether acting or reacting, your aim is the aid and betterment of others, in fulfillment of nature’s laws.
The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind.
If a man, without exercising effort and without altering his standpoint on reading, hearing, or seeing another man’s work, experiences a mental condition which unites him with that man and with other people who also partake of that work of art, then the object evoking that condition is a work of art. And however poetical, realistic, effectful, or interesting a work may be, it is not a work of art if it does not evoke that feeling (quite distinct from all other feelings) of joy and of spiritual union with another (the author) and with others (those who are also infected by it). …
The chief peculiarity of this feeling is that the receiver of a true artistic impression is so united to the artist that he feels as if the work were his own and not someone else’s — as if what it expresses were just what he had long been wishing to express. A real work of art destroys, in the consciousness of the receiver, the separation between himself and the artist — not that alone, but also between himself and all whose minds receive this work of art. In this freeing of our personality from its separation and isolation, in this uniting of it with others, lies the chief characteristic and the great attractive force of art.
-Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy
…but time and chance happeneth to them all.
We are hard on each other
and call it honesty,
choosing our jagged truths
with care and aiming them across
the neutral table.
The things we say are
true; it is our crooked
aims, our choices
turn them criminal.
All art is a revolt agains man’s fate.
To me it seems to be important to believe people to be good even if they tend to be bad, because your own joy and happiness in life is increased that way, and the pleasures of the belief outweigh the occasional disappointments. To be a cynic about people works just the other way around and makes you incapable about enjoying the good things.
It’s insulting to imply that only a system of rewards and punishments can keep you a decent human being. Isn’t it conceivable a person wants to be a decent human being because that way he feels better?
The real malady is fear of life, not of death.
– Naguib Mahfouz
To know and not do, is to not know
-a zen saying
We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are.
the mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell or a hell of heaven
In the south we have, in however attenuated a form, a vision of Moses’ face as he pulverized our idols.
Indeed, the truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt. The one who does most to avoid suffering is, in the end, the one who suffers the most: and his suffering comes to him from things so little and so trivial that one can say that it is no longer objective at all. It is his own existence, his own being, that is at once the subject and the source of his pain, and his very existence and consciousness is his greatest torture…
– Thomas Merton
I have learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances.
…art is the triumph over chaos….
You can’t write music right, unless you know how the man that’ll play it plays poker.
Start a huge, foolish project, like Noah…it makes absolutely no difference what people think of you.
The summer’s grass!
all that’s left
of ancient warriors’ dreams.
Fishes’ eyes are filled with tears
Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must he saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.
…we wish to discover our ancestors, but we wish to discover them possessed of ample fortunes, and holding an eminent rank in the class of hereditary nobles…
Nothing in the world is as soft and yielding as water. Yet for dissolving the hard and inflexible, nothing can surpass it. The soft overcomes the hard; the gentle overcomes the rigid. Everyone knows this is true, but few can put it into practice.
–Tao Te Ching
The White Whale swam before him as the monomaniac incarnation of all those malicious agencies which some deep men feel eating in them, till they are left living on with half a heart and half a lung. That intangible malignity which has been from the beginning; to whose dominion even the modern Christians ascribe one-half of the worlds; which the ancient Ophites of the east reverenced in their statue devil;—Ahab did not fall down and worship it like them; but deliriously transferring its idea to the abhorred white whale, he pitted himself, all mutilated, against it.
“Vengeance on a dumb brute!” cried Starbuck, “that simply smote thee from blindest instinct! Madness! To be enraged with a dumb thing, Captain Ahab, seems blasphemous.”
“Now, in his heart, Ahab had some glimpse of this, namely: all my means are sane, my motive and my object mad”
It is inevitable that life will be not just very short but very miserable for those who acquire by great toil what they must keep by greater toil. They achieve what they want laboriously; they possess what they have achieved anxiously; and meanwhile they take no account of time that will never more return. New preoccupations take the place of the old, hope excites more hope and ambition more ambition. They do not look for an end to their misery, but simply change the reason for it.
Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere.
-G. K. Chesterton
Where there is no vision, a people perish.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends the rain on the just and the unjust.
To kill an error is as good a service as, and sometimes even better than, the establishing of a new truth or fact…
Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down.
-E. B. White
A painting lives by companionship, expanding and quickening in the eyes of the sensitive observer. It dies by the same token. It is therefore a risky and unfeeling act to send it out into the world.
I sing to the realists, people who accept it like it is.
There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet.
A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us. That is my belief.
I have just three things to teach:
simplicity, patience, compassion.
The price one pays for pursuing any profession or calling is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side.
Love cannot remain by itself—it has no meaning. Love has to be put into action and that action is service. Whatever form we are, able or disabled, rich or poor, it is not how much we do, but how much love we put into the doing; a lifelong sharing of love with others.
It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.
To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms – this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religion.
In hatred as in love, we grow like the thing we brood upon. What we loathe, we graft into our very soul.
There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
Whether something lasts or not has nothing to do with whether it’s made of stone or steel or wood or fabric. A house built all in wood can be a monument that lasts for hundreds of years because it seduces people to live in it, to use it and maintain it. Eternity depends on whether people are willing to take care of something. In Greece, ordinary white houses are repainted every year. Today we are often told to use materials and structures that are free of maintenance. But no building can be neglected entirely. We need constantly to renew our relationships — to the houses we live in, to our friends, to our own bodies — all the time, every day.
You need not leave your room. Remain seated at your table and listen. You need not even listen; simply wait. You need not even wait; just be quiet, still, and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice; it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
Be kind to all, because everyone is fighting a great battle.
-Philo of Alexandria
There is no one but us. There is no one to send, not a clean hand or a pure heart on the face of the earth or in the earth—only us… unfit, not yet ready, having each of us chosen wrongly, made a false start, yielded to impulse and the tangled comfort of pleasures, and grown exhausted, unable to seek the thread, weak, and uninvolved. But there is no one but us. There has never been.
This is no time for playing around. You have been retained as counsel for the unhappy. You have promised to bring help to the shipwrecked, the imprisoned, the sick, the needy, to those whose heads are under the poised axe. Where are you directing your attention? What are you doing?
One vital spirit is distributed among the animals, and one rational spirit is allotted to humankind. There is also one earth for all creatures that live on the earth and share a single light by which they see and a single atmosphere by which they breathe.
And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.
The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie—deliberate, contrived, and dishonest—but the myth—persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.
-John F. Kennedy
We have a great deal more kindness than is ever spoken. The whole human family is bathed with an element of love like a fine ether. How many persons we meet in houses, whom we scarcely speak to, whom yet we honor and who honor us! How many we see in the street, or sit with in church, whom though silently, we warmly rejoice to be with! Read the language of these wandering eye-beams. The heart knoweth.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
This is what life does.
It lets you walk up to
the store to buy breakfast and the paper, on a
stiff knee. It lets you choose the way you have
your eggs, your coffee. Then it sits a fisherman
down beside you at the counter who says, Last night,
the channel was full of starfish. And you wonder,
is this a message, finally, or just another day?…
So life lets you have a sandwich, and pie for your
late night dessert. (Pie for the dog, as well.) And
then life sends you back to bed, to dreamland,
while outside, the starfish drift through the channel,
with smiles on their starry faces as they head
out to deep water, to the far and boundless sea.
Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.
Everything that rises must converge. –
-Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
The truth is, we know so little about life, we don’t really know what the good news is and what the bad news is.
The Seven Social Sins: Knowledge without character, Science without humanity, Wealth without work, Commerce without morality, Politics without principles, Pleasure without conscience, Worship without self-sacrifice.
Driven by the forces of love, the fragments of the world seek each other so that the world may come into being. Love alone is capable of uniting living beings in such a way as to complete and fulfill them, for it alone takes them and joins them by what is deepest in themselves.
-Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Man is like a breath; his days are a like a passing shadow.
I am not one of those who neglect the body in order to make of it a sacrificial offering for the soul, since my soul would thoroughly dislike being served in such a fashion.
-Rainer Maria Rilke