Friday, May 11, 2012

Weekly Quotes 2012-6

Quoting Goethe:
If you treat man as he appears to be, you make him worse than he is. But if  you treat man as if he already were what he potentially could be, you make him what he should be.  (135)

Secrets influence relationships, even those secrets that are kept by a single family member who tells no one.  (139)

In our family, we are dealing with the decision of telling something or not.  It's not that we desire to be secretive but there are circumstances that are sometimes hard to explain in an uncomplicated manner.  And yet, I know from my own experience that my mother's insistence that I always tell the truth and the gradual awareness of the various untruths that defined my younger years led to a disconnect.  There are times, even now, when I am not sure a story I know to be true is an actual memory or something I have created for myself.  

Why a secret comes out into the open is less important than what happens after it is discovered or revealed.  The discovery of an affair can wreak havoc on a marriage, or it can strengthen it, depending on the commitment of both partners to honesty and to each other.  (163)

We are never guaranteed that the other person will tell us the truth but if we want really to know, we need really to ask, over time and from the heart.  (167)

Naturally, we may want our partner to swear fidelity, but none of us can make an absolute promise about what we will or won’t do over the course of a lifetime.  (167)

I think there are some people who are naturally inclined towards fidelity and loyalty and when they make a promise to be faithful, they can do so over the course of a lifetime.  However, and as uncomfortable as I am conceding this, I think the author is correct is saying that we cannot be certain, ever, of what life may bring and the things we are capable of doing in spite of our best intentions, even in spite of the love we feel toward another, can lead to some pretty horrendous choices.

[P]eople find it far easier to forgive others for being wrong than being right.  (96)

[I]t’s all perception, isn’t it?  It’s what people believe that’s important.  (344)

[P]ower often grew from others deciding that you already had power, and an appearance of wealth could give that.  (178)

Friends lightened many burdens, even those they did not know of.  (192)

Of course, this is how you can tell your true friends from false ones.  I can number on one hand the friends I have who will allow me to be unhappy or angry, anything but forever and constantly strong.  I often (too often) make the mistake of trusting someone with my vulnerability.  Which would be fine if they would just ignore me until I go away, stop calling or emailing or whatever.  But inevitably the person will either attack me or attack one of my children verbally.  Just last year a friend lied about one of my children and another attacked Rob via a facebook message.  And these were people I had known quite a while, one longer than Rob.  The other I thought would be a lifelong friend.  The kicker?  Usually these attacks come in the guise of Christian love.  Rob told me the next friend of mine who converts because of my encouragement is immediately cut from our lives.  Makes sense to me!

There were questions one asked, and questions one did not.  That was strong custom.  And Friendship.  (195)

[W]e’re the goal of our own search. (147)

I think that this is something one could meditate upon for a lifetime and still not fathom its meaning.  It reminds me of T S Eliot's Four Quartets.  If you like poetry and haven't read this book, I highly recommend it.  If you've read Stephen King's Dark Tower books and want to know why I didn't have to read past the third one because I knew how the series would end, read Eliot's Four Quartets.

When there were no external records that you could refer to, even the outline of your own life lost its sharpness.  (34)

Statistics were just as much a fantasy in their original version as in their rectified version.  (43)

Orthodoxy is unconsciousness (56)

I am going to refrain from commenting on this quote but it delights me and I simply had to share it.

There was a direct, intimate connection between chastity and political orthodoxy.  (139-140)

In a way, the world-view of the Party imposed itself most successfully on people incapable of understanding it.  They could be made to accept the most flagrant violations of reality, because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them, and were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening.  By lack of understanding they remained sane.  (163)

[E]ven the most sublime spectacle begins to pall if one lacks a companion with whom to share it.  (xii)

I think this is what I miss most about taking a literature class.  And why, when the Banned Book Group is actively discussing books, I am thrilled.  There's nothing like discussing a text, debating it's meaning, even disagreeing over its merits or lack thereof.  I enjoy sharing a reading experience which is probably why I settle for sharing quotes.  It's not nearly as much fun as reading side-by-side with someone, or even several someones, but it is a way to slow down and really process the words on the page.

[T]he philosophers of time past speak to us in present tense.  And this is worth contemplating.  (xiv)

Unable to bring himself to believe in a God who offers salvation, the philosopher is above all one who believes that by understanding the world, by understanding ourselves and others as far as our intelligence permits, we shall succeed in overcoming fear, through clear-sightedness rather than blind faith. (6)

Quoting Epictetus: 
Keep well in mind, then, that this epitome of all human evils, of mean-spiritedness and cowardice, is not death as such, but rather the fear of death.  Discipline yourself, therefore, against this.  To which purpose let all your reasonings, your readings, all your exercises tend, and you will know that only in this way are human beings set free.  (Discourses, III, 26, 38-9)  (7)

When people initially come to a meditation class to train in mindfulness, they hope to become calm and peaceful.  Usually they are in for a big shock.  (2)

The dilemma of the "healing crisis."  A person hurts and seeks healing.  They go to therapy or they get sober or whatever.  Inevitably, things feel worse, a lot worse, and before long the person is wondering why they thought that this would be better. But with time, much time, there comes that point where it does turn around and things do improve.  I suspect many people turn away when the pain gets worse and never make the time to hurt through the experience and eventually the pain itself.

RAIN is a useful acronym for the four key principles of mindful transformation of difficulties.  RAIN stands for Recognition, Acceptance, Investigation, and Nonidentification.  A line from Zen poetry reminds us, ‘the rain falls equally on all things.’  Like the nourishment of outer rain, the inner principles of RAIN can be applied to all our experiences, and can transform our difficulties.  (6)

In Zen they say, ‘If you understand, things are just as they are.  And if you don’t understand, things are still just as they are.’  (7)

Buddhist practice systematically directs our investigation to four areas that are critical for understanding and freedom.  These are called the four foundations of mindfulness—body, feelings, mind, and dharma—the underlying principles of experience.  (7)

To start, meditation is very much like training a puppy.  You put the puppy down and say, ‘Stay.’  Does the puppy listen?  It gets up and runs away.  You sit the puppy back down again.  ‘Stay.’  And the puppy runs over and over again.  Sometimes the puppy jumps up, runs over, and pees in the corner or makes some other mess.  Our minds are much the same as the puppy, only they create even bigger messes.  In training the mind, or the puppy, we have to start over and over again. (12)

I think we're all familiar with "monkey mind" and it is a useful analogy.  But I've had a lot more experience with puppies and the thought of "puppy mind," while less alliterative, is more experientially familiar.


That’s the story I want to tell:  how I started getting drunk.  How being drunk got increasingly hard, and not being drunk felt impossible.  (5)

It must seem like sometimes I comment knowing what quote is coming up but I don't.  But just above I talked about working through pain and the crisis of healing.  And here we are again.  

As you get older, you look at me more objectively—or try to.  As I become strange to you in some ways, you’ve become more familiar to yourself.  Maybe you could loan me some of the shine in your young head to clear up my leftover dark spaces.  Just as you’re blameless for the scorched parts of your childhood, I’m equally exonerated for my own mother’s nightmare.  (5)

These words are written by the author to her son.  They resonate deeply and beautifully (although nightmare is too harsh a word, in my opinion).

You’re disembarking now, I can see it.  Maybe by telling you my story, you can better tell yours, which is the only way to get home, by which I mean to get free of us.  (6)

[L]ife gets lived in miniature.  In lieu of the large feelings—sorrow, fury, joy—I had their junior counterparts—anxiety, irritation, excitement.  (47-48)

I found myself pondering this quite a bit.  What are the large feelings?  And what are their junior counterparts?  What "large" ones would you add?  What smaller ones do you think are a pale substitute for the larger ones?

Quoting Etheridge Knight
Your heart knows what your head don’t.  Or won’t.  (57)
In a system that generates masses, individualism is the only way out.  But then what happens to community—to society?  (17)

This is a good question.  The kind of question I would love to have been reading this with another person or a group of people and have a discussion about this, about the possibility of it.  Is it possible to be truly individualistic and still have community?  It's easy to say yes it is possible but when I look closely at those groups who dare to be individualistic, there either is no community or they create a community.  Within that "outsider" community there then emerges a conformity that breaks down the individuality.  I may be mistaken, of course.  And I believe at our essential we are individual, unique, remarkable.  This is why it is so difficult to find a person who can look into the essential self and find love.  Difficult because sometimes when they come up feeling love and nothing but love, your glance at their essence has turned up something that, for you, is unlovely.  So it goes.  Relationships are truly a miracle.

Babies are frightening—raw tyrants whose only kingdom is their own body.  (20)

[M]aybe a refusal, any refusal, to be broken lets in enough light and air to keep believing in the world—the dream of escape.  (21)

[A]s I try and understand how life works—and why some people cope better than others with adversity—I come back to something to do with saying yes to life, which is love of life, however inadequate, and love for the self, however, found.  (23)

All she ever wanted was for everyone to go away.  And when I did she never forgave me.  (31)

We all have secrets.  I hold mine.  To withhold words is power.  But to share our words with others, openly and honestly, is also power.  (18)

Oops.  See?  It happened again.  So above I share how being vulnerable (ie sharing words) has led to attacks (using words).  I'm definitely on the withholding side of things right now.  And that's okay.  It may change.  It may not.  Either way, that's still okay.

When silence is a choice, it is an unnerving presence.  When silence is imposed, it is censorship.  (25)

. . . I experience each encounter in my life twice:  once in the world, and once again on the page.  (33)

[T]he sure remedy to criticism and ridicule was a simple one:  keep quiet.  (34)

A pencil is a wand and a weapon.  Be careful.  Protect yourself. It can be dangerous.  (38)

[O]ne of the worst things about being a parent, for me, is the self-discovery, the being face to face with one’s secret insanity and brokenness and rage.  (37)

Sometimes we can’t communicate well, for no particular reason except that we’re mother and daughter and so different:  I’m so flamboyant and confessional and eccentric. . . . (58)

I've a feeling my daughter could say these words.  Maybe she wouldn't use those adjectives to describe herself but I think she would be able to say that our communication is not the best and for no particular reason except that we are mother and daughter.  

It’s so easy to be mean to yourself when you’re fat and your thighs continue moving after you’ve come to a stop.  (95)

Lamott makes me laugh.  Always.  Every time.

I’m trying to be extremely gentle and forgiving with myself today, having decided . . . I’m probably just as good a mother as the next repressed, obsessive-compulsive paranoiac.  (95)

There’s so much cancer, so much plague; there are so goddamn many child-snatchers, psychopaths, Republicans.  It’s all so nuts these days.  When did that happen?  (105-106)

You have to trust someone before you have rituals with them.  (20)

I love this.  I love the idea of rituals in relationship.  It's so true.  I listened to a TED talk today in which the speaker said something about how the Catholic calendar allows the believer to cycle through certain truths, certain ideas, to meditate on them.  And in Buddhism there is the meditating on the moon, in Hinduism certain rituals performed upon leaving the bed, etc.  Religion is overflowing with ritual.  And in families there are traditions.  But rituals is something more, something so much deeper.

In the end, it doesn’t matter if the words are true or a lie.  They serve the same purpose  (55)

Maybe a vampire is just someone who wants to take over someone else, to see their reflection not in a mirror but in another person’s face.  (68)

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