Friday, April 13, 2012

Weekly Quotes 2012-5

Much of what we call ‘telling the truth’ involves an unproductive effort to change, convince, or convert another person, rather than an attempt to clarify our own selves.  (115)

There is, perhaps, no more direct route to discovering our own truths than to unearth the stories in our immediate and extended family.  The stories of our family members are our stories, these stories ‘are us,’ and it is in the exchanging and refining of personal experiences that we can come to know our own truths.  (116)

Glib affirmations to ‘think positively’ and ‘look on the bright side’ can alienate us from our bodies and our unconscious, by serving to conceal emotional complexity rather than uncover what is hidden or lost.  (123)

Humans lean toward dichotomous, polarized thinking under stress.  As we divide into opposing camps, multiple and complex truths are easily lost, with each party overfocused on what the other is doing wrong and underfocused on our own options for moving differently.  (129)

We can’t see what’s ‘true’ or possible in a relationship or in a human being until after we change our behavior.  (135)

He only knew that he did not want to see their looks of horror; that would make the whole thing seem worse and therefore more difficult to face.  (269)

I think that this is a significant truth, that we often hold our secrets because we do not want to see our truth reflected back to us.  Our pain and grief, held inside, can be borne but when we see the sympathy or empathy in the eyes of another, what we hold becomes reflected back to us and it becomes more real, more tangible.  What I feel is “only” what I feel but when I share that feeling it becomes so much more.  If I can sublimate my pain, I cannot ignore it when I know you carry it too.  And this is why it is necessary to have someone in whom you can confide even the darkest part (or parts) of the self.  Of course, when a person you think loves you enough to share your pain—especially  when you have held their heart close, dried their tears, helped them to find a reason to smile—proves to either be inadequate to the task or chooses to reject your pain, the instinct is to bury it more deeply.  However, we have evolved far beyond instinct.  Or hopefully we have.
It’s only natural!  When we’re afraid, we lose all sense of analysis and reflection. Our fear paralyzes us.  Besides, fear has always been the driving force behind all dictators’ repression.  (148)

I can’t help but relate this to the quote above about dichotomous, polarized thinking.  Either/or, black/white, am/am not.  It makes sense that dictators typically use fear to control and manipulate, create an enemy, some “other” to blame.  Having a shared opponent allows the populace to look the other way.  With eyes focused on “them,” those in power can do what they choose.  We see this time and again in politics and I often listen for the fearful messages in debates.  Words reveal the heart, whether it is the “heart” of a group or the individual. 

What could not be changed must be endured. (14)

If you like this quote and have not read Epictetus, I highly recommend his Discourses.  It is accessible, far more so than Sartre’s Being and Nothingness which I started and couldn’t finish after only a few pages.  Of course, in this day and age, we don’t have to endure things.  We can numb ourselves to them through prescription pills or losing ourselves in mindless television or seeking empty solace in things that make us feel temporarily better.  The things that cannot be changed are still there, eating us from within, and our not feeling them doesn’t make them go away.  With acceptance, of both our discomfort and the immutable circumstance, is the only path through.  Then again, I like what the Joker says in Dark Knight: That which does not kill us makes us stranger.

Prophecy was not known for mercy any more than for yielding to prayers.  (50)

It’s illogical . . . but the human heart is seldom logical.  (88)

Sometimes, just saying that you hate something, and having someone agree with you, can make you feel better about a terrible situation.  (32)

[I]t is a sad truth in life that when someone has lost a loved one, friends sometimes avoid the person, just when the presence of friends is most needed.  (34)

There are many, many types of books in the world, which makes good sense, because there are many, many types of people, and everybody wants to read something different.  (83)

We should be sure not to demonize the ego as the enemy but practice to relegate it to its proper place and role in the overall ecology of our consciousness.  (10)

The more common “to-the-knee” interpretation does suggest at least an ultimate though not ultimately important goal.  (131)

One of the reasons I liked this book so very much had to do with how the author presents yoga not as a means to an end but as an end itself.  Being flexible enough to sit in a full-lotus or fold forward so that the forehead touches the knee, these are all fine but not necessary.  The practice, the moving into the pose even if imperfectly, is the purpose.  In a western society, where competition is par for the course, it is no wonder that so many yoga magazines have articles about not comparing yourself to the person on the mat to your left or right, to not push yourself too hard or too fast.  My advice is to find the edge of the pain and then back off just a bit and always listen to the breath.  When you are at ease, the breath is at ease.  When the pose feels easy, the breath comes easily.  I could blabber on and on about yoga but I’ll refrain.  This is already long enough as it is, don’t you think?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wondrous Words Wednesday

Meme hosted by Bermuda Onion.
This week's words are brought to you by

Image found here.
In vain may we put them into a literary alembic;--we distil nothing which can add to science.  (47)

alembic (noun)
1. An apparatus consisting of two vessels connected by a tube, formerly used for distilling liquids.
2. A device that purifies or alters by a process comparable to distillation.
Definition found here.

What can I say?  I majored in English education so my science knowledge is limited.  But this quote is one of those that just makes me chuckle.  Is it rational to turn to literature for scientific knowledge?  There are exceptions, of course.  If a character is in a particular scientific field, like medicine or laboratory research, one might distill something but does that distillation add to science?  Not really.  Even a novel that is psychologically provocative or relevant, the fictional narrative doesn't add to science.  However, there's no arguing that a novel can inspire research which then leads to some new discovery.  A sort of correlative interpretation but without the research there is no adding to the already established body of wisdom.  We may use literature to inspire questioning but it is not until we seek the answers that science is enhanced .  I could say more but I've probably blabbered on enough.
Image found here.
Our approbation of the latter is but eleemosynary.  (48)
eleemosynary (adj) 
of, relating to, or supported by charity

Would you believe me if I told you the only reason I am sharing this word is because I wanted an excuse to use this image?

Okay.  That's not true.  I had to look up eleemosynary.  It's a great word and I adore the implication of the quote in which I found it.  I doubt I'll use it any time soon.  Unless of course, I buy myself this shirt because then people would probably ask me to explain it.  Or maybe not.  Oh, now I'm tempted to buy one and wear it to see if anyone has the courage to question its meaning.

The Ancaster Assizes
Image found here.
And then,--there is the family of the poor man who was hung last assizes at York, though we really have raised the sum we wanted for putting them all out, yet if you can get a guinea from her on their behalf, it may as well be done.  (70-71)
assizes (noun)

a. One of the periodic court sessions formerly held in each of the counties of England and Wales for the trial of civil or criminal cases.
b. The time or place of such sessions.
Definition found here.

There really isn't much I can say here except that I learned about the Bloody Assizes.  I'd never really heard of this historic event before.  My fascination with British history pretty much begins with pre-Roman occupation and ends with the death of Elizabeth I.  Apparently, this particular frenzy spread as far as Canada, however, as the image suggests.  I definitely know more about English history than I do about Canadian history.  I won't live long enough to fill in all of the gaps in my knowledge I would aspire to fill.
Image found here
where you will find
another nagus recipe as well.
. . . gladly assisting the landlady in her bar to make fresh negus for the happy dancers above. ( 101)
negus (noun)

a drink made of wine, most commonly port, mixed with hot water, spiced and sugared
Definition found here.

Obviously, reading the definition one immediately thinks "mulled wine."  At least that's what I did.  So I looked up recipes for "negus" to see if there is a significant difference and . . . nope.  I've shared a link and recipe below if you want to make your own.  It uses 4 bottles of wine. I love that the recipe explains that it is "serves a crowd."  Really?  And here I thought four bottles of wine was a lovely evening home alone.  (I jest.  I haven't had a drop of alcohol since the new year.  Not even a glass of wine or shot or anything. No particular reason.  Just something I decided to do last year.)

Image found here.
Nothing sets off a neat ankle more than a half-boot; nankin galoshed with black looks very well. (12)
nankin (noun)

a sturdy yellow or buff cotton cloth
Definition found here.

I've said before that I enjoy looking up words from Austen's novels because I end up learning the names of many different types of fabric.  I only wish that the explanation could give me a real sense of the texture.  A picture may be worth a thousand words but a sensual touch speaks encyclopedic volumes.  Not that this will stop me from opening a dictionary, apparently.  Which brings me to a confession.

I use a dictionary.  Not online ones but physical, turn the page, use the thumb tabs type of dictionaries.  Specifically, I use the American Heritage College Dictionary which my son won in a spelling bee.  I liked it so much, I bought myself a copy.  The one I have is a fourth edition so it probably doesn't have the more recent additions to the lexicon.  Apparently the updated version includes an app for your smart phone (not mine, seeing as how I don't have a smart phone).  Anyway, if you're in need of a dictionary with a focus on American usage and spelling, I highly recommend this one.

Image found here.
Kitty . . . gave Nanny orders to send in some powder & pomatum, which orders Nanny chose to execute in person.  (444)
pomatum (noun)

a perfumed unguent or composition, chiefly used in dressing the hair; pomade
Definition found here.

No surprise that pomatum would have something to do with cosmetics.  The surprise comes when one reads more about how it was made.  For instance, one for the face includes wax and almonds while another for the hair uses black snakeroot and rum.  Sometimes, when I look up a word for this weekly meme, I feel like a kid in a candy store because I start looking things up and one thing leads to another and then another.  You know that saying "her eyes were dancing"?  I literally feel my eyes dancing as I take in all this new information.  

The following recipe, and others, can be found here.

Mulled Wine or Negus
serves a crowd

Negus is another name for mulled wine, which traditionally was prepared by adding some cinnamon/cloves/nutmeg/fruit peel/whatever to a mug of wine, and then heating it by stirring with a hot poker from the fire.

Make a syrup by boiling for 5 minutes:  
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups water
4 dozen whole cloves
6 sticks cinnamon
3 crushed nutmegs
Peel of 3 lemons, 2 oranges

Strain syrup. Add to it:  4 cups hot lemon or lime juice

Heat well and add:         4 bottles red wine

Serve very hot with slices of:     Lemon and pineapple

These proportions may be varied to taste. Sometimes Madeira, port or sherry is used in this formula.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

All Good Things Must Come to an End

Kanika usually orders the
Blueberry Crunch Pancakes
And so it is that my birthday week has come to an end.

But first, brunch with Kanika where she resisted the urge to get her usual and we both ended up ordering the spinach quiche.  It had too much black pepper for my taste which, if you think about it, wrapped up my birthday flavor-wise quite nicely.  Next time I'm ordering the lemon ricotta pancakes, diet be damned!  (Okay.  Quiche wasn't a very responsible choice but it had veggies and I had fresh fruit on the side.  Yummm . . .)

The fun didn't end there, however.  We headed to Barnes & Noble where I was able to spend the gift card she gave to me.  Oh boy.  I bought myself one bargain book and another book I've been wanting to read for about twenty years.  Cheri and The Last of Cheri by Collette and The Moral Landscape by Sam Harris.  I really want to read the latter because I was surprised (and confused) when someone told me that, when she said she wasn't a Christian, a believer confronted her with the assumption that unless a person is a Christian they cannot have a moral compass or understand what it means to be a good person.

The rest of my Saturday was spent trying to come down from a great Saturday morning except for the side trip Rob and I made to World Market to buy some 50% off things for Bibi's egg hunt.  Of course, we picked up a couple of things that will be in next year's basket as well.  While out we found a few other bargains including a Tangled video game for the Wii and a couple of movies (Dark City:  The Director's Cut and The Painted Veil.)
I love these
little chenille chickens
almost more than Bibi
loves them.

Easter Sunday morning I did the unthinkable:  I slept in.  After 7am even!  What's more, I did not listen to the political chatter on the morning shows nor did I read the headlines or anything anywhere and any time.  I knew Joe, Erin, and Bibi were coming over so my priorities were to get ready for their arrival.  No depressing news.  Nothing to make me angry.  Nothing to inspire me to bang my head into a wall.

We had a wonderful Easter.  I know because, when it was time for Bibi to leave, she cried and then she cheered up and, without any prompting from anyone she said, "Thank you for a wonderful Easter, Gigi and Pop-Pop."

Something else happened this weekend.  Something that could quite honestly signify the end of life as we know it.  That something . . . I shudder to even write the words . . . is . . . I hope you're sitting down for this . . . I have entered the 21st century.

Yes.  I'm afraid I have a confession to make and apparently I have been given a Kindle of my very own.  Naturally, once Joe & Co left, I went online and started going through the free books available for my new toy.  Within a few minutes, I had added my very first book.  I immediately grabbed something to read and walked into the other room. "I added a book to the Kindle," I told Rob who was probably catching up on his email before I interrupted him with my announcement.

"What's that in your hand?"

"This is the book I borrowed from the library."

Yeah.  I added a book to my new toy and then grabbed a library book so I could read.  Maybe my announcing I've entered the 21st century was somewhat premature.  I guess we can all breathe easy now.  I'm not quite there yet.