Quotes & Passages

couple on bench

Thinking Thankfully

With the arrival of November and what I might call the start of the holiday season, I’ve been thinking about thankfulness and what it means to be grateful. As much as it annoys me that I’m about to quote Oprah Winfrey, I stumbled across this quote this morning and it’s stayed with me:

Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.

Some people are easily contented, and others are constantly thinking about what’s next regardless of what they have at the time. I’m part of the latter group. It’s either called ambition or the formula for a miserable life, but as I get older I’m making more of an effort to be appreciative of what I have and where I am. Sometimes those “what’s next” hopes and dreams are fuel, and sometimes they get in the way of happiness.

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Those Few Great Moments

The Hours is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I liked it so much, in fact, I read nearly the entire thing again. At times I would start to cry without recognizing my reaction right away, as if the story was in more control of my emotion than I was. It was definitely a book for me, because like most people, I’ve always tried to figure out what it is about life that makes people happy, what makes people persevere or strive, and why some people can never seem to find any satisfaction or contentment. Michael Cunningham condenses the life’s source of happiness (or pleasure, or contentment, or whatever you want to call it), in a way that’s neither too bleak to handle nor too optimistic to allow yourself to believe it:

We throw our parties; we abandon our families to live alone in Canada; we struggle to write books that change the world, despite our gifts and our unstinting efforts, our most extravagant hopes. We live our lives, do whatever we do, and then we sleep–it’s as simple and ordinary as that. A few jump out of windows or drown themselves or take pills; more die by accident; and most of us, the vast majority, are slowly devoured by some disease or, if we’re very fortunate, by time itself. There’s just this for consolation: an hour here or there when our lives seem, against all odds and expectations, to burst open and give us everything we ever imagined, though everyone but children (and perhaps even they) knows these hours will inevitably be followed by others, far darker and more difficult. Still, we cherish the city, the morning; we hope, more than anything, for more.

When thinking of my own life, there are memories that jump out at me–moments of complete happiness that I’m grateful I got to have. They belong to me, they are exclusive to me, and I will have them as long as I’m capable of remembering. Of course, I want more. I would risk spoiling one of these moments to try re-creating it, or topping it. With this, my destructive nature in mind, I want to honor those moments the best I can and dwell in them a little longer. It has given me a prompt for at least three creative non-fiction essays I should have already written.

Talkin’ Bout My Generation

I’ve been reading Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids, a collection of essays assembled by Meghan Daum that offers 16 unique perspectives from the childless by choice. Right now I’m not sure whether I will or won’t have kids, but the book has challenged me in other ways. Mainly, my assumptions about other people’s motivations.

I read a really fantastic selection by Lionel Shriver, “Be Here Now Means Be Gone Later.” Shriver illustrates the Be Here Now movement as less hippie-free-bird and more this-modern-life. The woman of the essay both annoys me and reminds me of myself. What I was most impressed with was Shriver’s one-paragraph summation of, well, you be the judge:

To be ridiculously sweeping: baby boomers and their offspring have shifted emphasis from the communal to the individual, from the future to the present, from virtue to personal satisfaction. Increasingly secular, we pledge allegiance to lower-case gods of our own private devising. We are concerned with leading less a good life than the good life. In contrast to our predecessors, we seldom ask ourselves whether we serve a greater social purpose; we are more likely to ask ourselves if we are happy. We shun self-sacrifice and duty as the soft spots of suckers. We give little thought to the perpetuation of lineage, culture, or nation; we take our heritage for granted. We are ahistorical. We measure the value of our lives within the brackets of our own births and deaths, and we’re not especially bothered with what happens once we’re dead. As we age–oh, so reluctantly!–we are apt to look back on our pasts and question not did I serve family, God, and country, but did I ever get to Cuba, or run a marathon? Did I take up landscape painting? Was I fat? We will assess the success of our lives in accordance not with whether they were righteous, but with whether they were interesting and fun.

Motivation! (Can I Get That In Writing?)

With my current set of goals, I’m feeling stuck in a rut. Sometimes a solid quote and a deep breath can elevate the world of crap circling my brain; probably because something so simple can be so refreshing. We’ll see when I re-read these tomorrow…

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.
-Arthur Ashe, Champion Tennis Player

The secret of getting ahead is getting started.
-Mark Twain, American Author

Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.
-Chuck Swindoll, Evangelist

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.
-C.S. Lewis, Apologist Writer

A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.
-Ayn Rand, Novelist

10 Lovely Love Quotes from Better Writers

For (Valentine’s Day, Eight-Year-Three-Month-and-One-Day Anniversary, early President’s Day and belated Chinese New Year) Lovers:

Looking back, I have this to regret, that too often when I loved, I did not say so.
-Ray Stannard Baker, American journalist & reformist

Love is always being given where it is not required.
-E.M. Forster, author of A Passage to India and A Room with a View

Love is space and time measured by the heart.
-Marcel Proust, revered French novelist

Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our lives.
-C.S. Lewis, Christian writer & philosopher

We waste time looking for the perfect lover instead of creating the perfect love.
-Tom Robbins, best-selling American author

The way to love anything is to realize that it may be lost.
Gilbert K. Chesterton, 20th century English writer

Doubt thou the stars are fire, Doubt that the sun doth move, Doubt truth to be a liar, But never doubt I love.
-From William Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Love is when he gives you a piece of your soul, that you never knew was missing.
-Torquato Tasso, 16th century Italian poet

Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.
-Robert A. Heinlein, American Sci-Fi author

Love conquers all.
-Virgil, ancient Roman poet

From Russia, With Love

“I don’t like people who have never fallen or stumbled. Their virtue is lifeless and it isn’t of much value. Life hasn’t revealed its beauty to them.”
-Boris Pasternak

I can’t pinpoint the reason, but there are some historical cultures I’ve just always been fascinated by, like Ancient Egypt or 20th century Germany. At any point in it’s timeline, I have a feeling surpassing curiosity about Russia. Though I’m no expert in Russian history, it’s difficult to ignore the impact of the country’s past on it’s artists. While I love the whimzy of The Nutcracker, I’m drawn to the dramatic minor chords of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff. I read Atlas, Shrugged by the great Ayn Rand last year, and developed a major girl-crush on assertive Dagny Taggart. I’m recording the War and Peace TV miniseries adapted from Tolstoy’s popular novel, and I’m currently working on Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, which I’m finding to be a pleasantly surprising page-turner even though I’m a slow reader.

With all of this Russian through my head (!), I thought a lame pun could be excused (?). Really, though, when I found out it was Boris Pasternak’s birthday today (1890-1960), it seemed fitting to pay it forward, and not in rubles.

Pasternak penned the novel that became one of my favorite films, Doctor Zhivago. In the story, Zhivago is both an upper crust doctor and love-torn poet at the mercy of the Russian Civil War. Wrongly labeling Pasternak a novelist, I learned that he only wrote the one, and is well-known in Russia for his poetry. I found the below poem at PoetryFoundation.org and thought first of a woman, then of the White army:

Fresh Paint
I should have seen the sign: “Fresh Paint,”
But useless to advise
The careless soul, and memory’s stained
With cheeks, calves, hands, lips, eyes.

More than all failure, all success,
I loved you, for your skill
In whitening the yellowed world
As white cosmetics will.

Listen, my dark, my friend: by God,
All will grow white somehow,
Whiter than madness or lamp shades
Or bandage on a brow.