"What was it about this unlovable century that convinced us we were, despite everything, eminently lovable as a people, as a species? What made us think that anyone who fails to love us is damaged, lacking, malfunctioning in some way? And particularly if they replace us with a god, or a weeping madonna, or the face of Christ in a ciabatta roll - then we call them crazy. Deluded. Regressive. We are so convinced of the goodness of ourselves, and the goodness of our love, we cannot bear to believe that there might be something more worthy of love than us, more worthy of worship. Greeting cards routinely tell us everybody deserves love. No. Everybody deserves clean water. Not everybody deserves love all the time."
- Zadie Smith
"In a state of grace, one sometimes perceives the deep beauty, hitherto unattainable, of another person. And everything acquires a kind of halo which is not imaginary: it comes from the splendor of the almost mathematical light emanating from people and things. One starts to feel that everything in existence - whether people or things - breathes and exhales the subtle light of energy. The world's truth is impalpable."
- Clarice Lispector
"Life will eventually bring you to your knees. Either you'll be on your knees cursing the universe and begging for a different life, or you'll be brought to your knees by gratitude and awe, deeply embracing the life that you have, too overwhelmed by the beauty of it all to stand or even speak. Either way, they're the same knees."
- Jeff Foster
Falling in Love with Where You Are
"Every human being is a koan, that is to say, an impossibility. There is no formula for getting along with a human being. No technique will achieve relatedness. I am impossible to get along with; so is each one of you; all our friends are impossible; the members of our families are impossible.
How then shall we get along with them? If you are seeking a real encounter, then you must confront the koan represented by the other person. The koan is an invitation to enter into reality."
- Bernard Phillips
"The poor have no residence. They have homes because they remember mothers or grandfathers or an aunt who brought them up. A residence is a fortress, not a story; it keeps the wild at bay. A residence needs walls. Nearly everyone among the poor dreams of a small residence, like dreaming of rest. However great the congestion, the poor live in the open, where they improvise, not residences, but places for themselves. These places are as much protagonists as their occupants; the places have their own lives to live and do not, like residences, wait on others. The poor live with the wind, with dampness, flying dust, silence, unbearable noise (sometimes with both; yes, that's possible) with ants, with large animals, with smells coming from the earth, rats, smoke, rain, vibrations from elsewhere, rumors, nightfall, and with each other. Between the inhabitants and these presences there are no clear marking lines. Inextricably confounded, they together make up the place's life."
- John Berger
Hold Everything Dear
are the accidents behind the eyes
touched off by, say, the missing cheekbone
of a woman who might have been beautiful
it is thinking about
your transplanted life-line going places
in someone else's palm, or the suicidal games
your mind plays with the edge
of old wounds, or something
you couldn't share with your lover
there are no endings
people die between birthdays and go on for years;
what stops things for a moment
are the words you've found for the last bit of light
you think there is
- Stephen Dunn
"The child naively believes that everything should be fair and everyone should be honest, that only good should prevail, that everybody should have what they want and there should be no pain or sadness.The child believes the world should be perfect and is outraged to discover it is not.
And the child is right."
- Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Wisdom to Heal the Earth
"Nothing is more important than empathy for another human beings' suffering. Nothing. Not career, not wealth, not intelligence, certainly not status. We have to feel for one another if we are going to survive with dignity."
- Audrey Hepburn
"No matter what the universe has in store, it cannot take away from the fact that you were born. You'll have some joy and some pain, and all the other experiences that make up what it's like to be a tiny part of a grand cosmos. No matter what happens next, you were here. And even when any record of our individual lives is lost to the ages, that won't detract from the fact that we were. We lived. We were part of the enormity. All the great and terrible parts of being alive, the shocking sublime beauty and heartbreak, the monotony, the interior thoughts, the shared pain and pleasure. It really happened. All of it. On this little world that orbits a yellow star out in the great vastness. And that alone is cause for celebration."
- Sasha Sagan
For Small Creatures Such as We
"It's hard to live on hope. Living on hope you get thin and tired. Hope pares you away from the inside. You're all the time living in the future. In the future things will be better, you hope, and you'll feel better and you won't wake up feeling like someone has been taking the life of you drip by drip while you slept."
History of the Rain
"It's because people are so perishable. That's the thing. Because for everyone you meet there is a last moment, there will be a last moment when your hand slips from theirs, and everything ripples outwards from that, the last firmness of a hand in yours that every moment after becomes a little less firm until you look down at your own hand and try to imagine just what it felt like before their hand slipped away. And you cannot. You cannot feel them. And then you cannot quite see them, there's blurry bits, like you're looking through this watery haze, and you're fighting to see, you're fighting to hold on, but they are perishing right before your eyes, and right before your eyes they are becoming that bit more ghost."
- Niall Williams
History of the Rain
"It is now highly feasible to take care of everybody on Earth at a higher standard of living than any have ever known. It no longer has to be you or me. Selfishness is unnecessary. War is obsolete. It is a mater of converting the high technology from weaponry to livingry."
- R. Buckminster Fuller
The day, with all its pain ahead, is yours.
The ceaseless creasing of the morning sea,
the fluttering gamboge cedar leaves allegro,
the rods of the yawning branches trolling the breeze,
the rusted meadows, the wind-whitened grass,
the coos of the stone-colored ground doves on the road,
the echo of benediction on a house -
its rooms of pain, its verandah of remorse
when joy lanced through its open-hearted doors
like a hummingbird out to the garden and pool
in which the sky has fallen. These are all yours,
and pain has made them brighter as absence does
after a death, as the light heals the grass.
And the twig-brown lizard scuttles up its branch
like fingers on the struts of a guitar.
- Derek Walcott
"I have a friend who speaks of knowledge as an island in a sea of mystery. . . . We dredge up soil from the bed of mystery and build ourselves room to grow. And still the mystery surrounds us. It laps at our shores. It permeates the land. Scratch the surface of knowledge and mystery bubbles up like a spring."
Honey from Stone
"Once while visiting his friend Max Brod, young Kafka awakened Brod's father, who was asleep on a couch. Instead of apologizing, Kafka gently motioned him to relax, advanced through the room on tiptoe, and said softly: "Please - consider me a dream."
- Franz Baumer
"The pursuit of individual happiness has been acknowledged as a universal right. Yet the existing social conditions make the individual feel powerless. He lives in the contradiction between what he is and what he would like to be. Either he then becomes fully conscious of the contradiction and its causes, and so joins the political struggle for a full democracy which entails, amongst other things, the overthrow of capitalism; or else he lives, continually subject to an envy which, compounded with his sense of powerlessness, dissolves into recurrent day-dreams."
- John Berger
Ways of Seeing
"It's only by turning ourselves inside out that we shall become something. Is it not a great comfort to the caterpillar to learn that she is a mere larva, that her time of being a semi-crawling digestive tube will not last, and that after a period of confinement in the mortuary of her chrysalis, she will be born again as a butterfly - not in a nonexistent paradise dreamed up by some caterpillary, consoling philosophy, but here in this very garden, where she is now laboriously munching on her cabbage leaf? We are all caterpillars and it is our misfortune that, in defiance of nature, we cling with all our strength to our condition, to our caterpillar appetites, caterpillar passions, caterpillar metaphysics, and caterpillar societies. Only in our outward physical appearance do we bear to the observer who suffers from psychic shortsightedness any resemblance whatsoever to adults; the rest of us remain stubbornly larval. Well, I have very good reasons for believing (indeed if I didn't there'd be nothing for it but to go off and dangle from the end of a rope) that man can reach the adult stage, that a few of us already have, and that those few have not kept the knack to themselves. What could be more comforting?"
A Night of Serious Drinking
"The worst is not death but being blind, blind to the fact that everything about life is in the nature of the miraculous.
The language of society is conformity; the language of the creative individual is freedom. Life will continue to be a hell as long as the people who make up the world shut their eyes to reality. Switching from one ideology to another is a useless game. Each and every one of us is unique, and must be recognized as such. The least we can say about ourselves is that we are American, or French, or whatever the case may be. We are first of all human beings, different one from another, and obliged to live together, to stew in the same pot. The creative spirits are the fecundators: they are the lamed vov who keep the world from falling apart. Ignore them, suppress them, and society becomes a collection of automatons.
What we don't want to face, what we don't want to hear or listen to, whether it be nonsense, treason or sacrilege, are precisely the things we must give heed to. Even the idiot may have a message for us. Maybe I am one of those idiots. But I will have my say."
- Henry Miller
Stand Still Like the Hummingbird
"If this curiosity was so tenacious, it was because people do not die for us immediately, but remain bathed in a sort of aura of life which bears no relation to true immortality but through which they continue to occupy our thoughts in the same way as when they were alive. It is as though they were traveling abroad."
In Search of Lost Time, Volume 5: The Captive, The Fugitive
Happy Día De Los Muertos
Did someone say that there would be an end,
an end, Oh, an end to love and mourning?
What has been once so interwoven cannot be raveled,
not the gift ungiven.
Now the dead move through all of us still glowing.
Mother and child, lover and lover mated,
are wound and bound together and enflowing.
What has been plaited cannot be unplaited -
only the strands grow richer with each loss
and memory makes kings and queens of us.
Dark into light, light into darkness, spin.
When all the birds have flow to some real haven,
we who find shelter in the warmth within,
listen and feel new-cherished, new-forgiven,
as the lost human voices speak through us and blend our complex love,
our mourning without end.
- May Sarton