And so we turned from the mystery of the Antarctic, with all its white-bound secrets still unread, as if we had stood before ancient volumes that told of the past and the beginning of all things, and had not opened to read. Now we must go home to the world that is worn down with the feet of many people, to gnaw in our discontent the memory of what we could have done, but did not do. — W.G. Burn Murdoch, on leaving Antarctica.
Reflecting on those who had come before him to Antarctica. . . “for scientific leadership give me Scott; for swift and efficient travel, Amundsen; but . . . in a hopeless situation, when there seems no way out, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton.” — Edmund Hillary.
The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater. – J.R.R. Tolkien, from The Fellowship of the Ring, 1954, cited in Parabola: The Search for Meaning, Volume 43, Number 4, Winter 2018-2019, page 9.
Oft hope is born when all is forlorn. – J.R.R. Tolkien, from the Return of the King, cited in Parabola: The Search for Meaning, Volume 43, Number 4, Winter 2018-2019, page 128.
We have to go into the despair and beyond it, by working and doing for somebody else, by using it for something else. – Elie Wiesel, cited in Parabola: The Search for Meaning, Volume 43, Number 4, Winter 2018-2019, page 128.
They loved their lives. But they died unfearing. It was living without fear, that made their lives worth loving. Or so I think. – Alexander the Great. Mary Renault, The Persian Boy, Vintage Books, 1988, p. 179.
One must live, he’d said to me long ago, as if it would be forever, and as if each moment might be the last. – Alexander the Great. Mary Renault, The Persian Boy, Vintage Books, 1988, p. 388.
Life is short. Break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably, and never regret anything that makes you smile. – Does the Noise in my Head Bother You. Steven Tyler, HarperCollins Publishers, 2011, p. 1.
Think where man’s glory most begins and ends. And say my glory was I had such friends. – William Butler Yeats.
Nihil est melius quam vita diligentissima. (Nothing is better than a most diligent life.)
Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm. Churchill.
Interpreters of texts are always dishonest – not intentionally of course – but they cannot step outside their own historical frame. Nor, for that matter, out of their autobiographical frame. – When Nietzsche Wept, Irvin D. Yalom, p. 51.
Whether or not you believe in God,” the camerlengo said, his voice deepening with deliberation, “you must believe this. When we as a species abandon our trust in the power greater than us, we abandon our sense of accountability. Faith . . . all faiths . . . are admonitions that there is something we cannot understand, something to which we are accountable . . . With faith we are accountable to each other, to ourselves, and to a higher truth. Religion is flawed, but only because man is flawed. If the outside world could see this church as I do . . . looking beyond the ritual of these walls . . . they would see a modern miracle . . . a brotherhood of imperfect, simple souls wanting only to be a voice of compassion in a world spinning out of control. – Dan Brown, Angels & Demons, Washington Square Press, 2000, p. 322.
Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
If we are to be happy–completely happy–we must … in one way or another, directly or through some medium that gradually reaches out further afield (a line of research, a venture, an idea, perhaps, or a cause), transfer the ultimate interest of our lives to the advancement and success of the world we live in. – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, On Love & Happiness (Harper Collins, 1984).
Pope Francis was once asked abut panhandling by an Italian magazine. What if a panhandler uses the money for a glass of wine? he was asked. The Holy Father answered by opening questions: What if this was his only happiness? What happiness do you secretly seek? What other sources of happiness do you have that he doesn’t have? How do you pass by helping such a man, leaving it to another? Give and focus on how you give, this was the pope’s counsel. Look into eyes and touch hands, remembering that this is a human being with a life of equal value to your own. – The Golden Ticket by Tracy Cochran, Parabola, Summer 2017 at 35.
Try again. Fail again. Fail better. – Samuel Beckett.
Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. – Pope Francis.
This essential vulnerability is the wellspring of our compassion. – Watching the Wild Things by Tracy Cochran, Parabola, Summer 2019 at 37.
There is nothing in this world that is fixed and unchanging. Everything depends on other things, which means there really is no way to split off and be separate. – Watching the Wild Things by Tracy Cochran, Parabola, Summer 2019 at 37.
[I]t was clear that the wisdom of the old monk came from living through hard things. He too had suffered and caused suffering, and had carried this consciously until it was no longer a burden but a source of strength and compassion. – Watching the Wild Things by Tracy Cochran, Parabola, Summer 2019 at 38.
Suzuki Roshi said, “I don’t really understand you Americans. When you put so much milk and sugar on your cereal, how will you taste the true spirit of the grain? Why don’t you taste the true nature of each moment instead of trying to make everything taste just the way you want it to? Why don’t you taste your own true spirit? What, did you think you could add milk and sugar to each moment of your life to make it taste the way you want.?” – Tasting the True Spirit of the Grain by Edward Espe Brown, Parabola, Summer 2019 at 77.
This is Buddhist truth: there is no way to get moment after moment to be according to your taste. It’s not your fault. It can’t be done. It’s not because of your lack of skill or lack of trying or lack of savvy or lack of competence or your lack of self-esteem. It’s not your fault that you can’t get this moment or the next moment to be to your liking. That’s the First Noble Truth. It can’t be done. Not even enlightenment will help you have everything according to your taste.
So go ahead and taste the truth of the moment, the true spirit of the grain, the true nature of sadness or sorrow, the true nature of grief, the true nature of being, the true nature of joy, of pleasure, of happiness, of delight, of love. Go ahead and taste it and let the taste come home to your heart and digest it. Take in and digest what you are eating, what you are experiencing. – Tasting the True Spirit of the Grain by Edward Espe Brown, Parabola, Summer 2019 at 78-79.
But if you spend all your life trying to get the moment to be just right and just to your taste, you will overdo it. Pretty soon you won’t be able to enjoy or savor much of anything because nothing is quite right. Eat widely so that you have the capacity to digest widely rather than having a narrow diet. – Tasting the True Spirit of the Grain by Edward Espe Brown, Parabola, Summer 2019 at 79.
How do you develop the capacity to handle a wide range of experiences? Take in a wide range of experiences. – Tasting the True Spirit of the Grain by Edward Espe Brown, Parabola, Summer 2019 at 79.
But the aching love of having burns in folks more cruelly than the fires of ever smoldering Mount Aetna. – Precious Perils: Boethius, rendered into modern English by Thomas Powers, Book II—Meter 5, Parabola, Summer 2019 at 89.