··· North ···


The devil once went for a walk with a friend. They saw a man ahead of them stoop down and pick up something from the ground.

“What did that man find?” asked the friend.

“A piece of the truth,” said the devil.

“Doesn’t that disturb you?” asked the friend.

“No,” said the devil, “I shall let him make a belief out of it.”

— Anthony de Mello  <link>

The trouble with our age is all signpost and no destination.

— Louis Kronenberger  <link>

The safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.

— C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters  <link>

359° Blind

The way in which we view something defines for us what we’re going to allow ourselves to see of it. A point of view is merely one degree out of the three hundred and sixty degrees of a circle; each point of view can see from that point only, and so is three hundred and fifty nine degrees blind. When we become fixated on our point of view, our interpretations and expectations blind us.

— Anzan Hoshin, Before Thinking [via]  <link>

Empty-handed I entered the world
Barefoot I leave it.
My coming, my going—
Two simple happenings
That got entangled.

— 14th century Japanese Zen monk [via]  <link>

On the thin border
Between faith and doubt walks Christ,
Calling all to trust.

— Mark Woodward  <link>

Learning to Read

As one has to learn to read or to practice a trade, so one must learn to feel in all things, first and almost solely, the obedience of the universe to God. It is really an apprenticeship. Like every apprenticeship, it requires time and effort. He who has reached the end of his training realizes that the differences between things or between events are no more important than those recognized by someone who knows how to read, when he has before him the same sentence reproduced several times, written in red ink and blue, and printed in this, that, or other kind of lettering. He who does not know how to read only sees the differences. For him who knows how to read, it all comes to the same thing, since the sentence is identical. Whoever has finished his apprenticeship recognizes things and events, everywhere and always, as vibrations of the same divine and infinitely sweet word. This does not mean that he will not suffer. Pain is the color of certain events. When a man who can and a man who cannot read look at a sentence written in red ink, they both see the same red color, but this color is not so important for the one as for the other.

— Simone Weil, Waiting for God  <link>

Thinking gives off smoke to prove the existence of fire
There are wonderful shapes in rising smoke
    that imagination loves to watch
But it’s a mistake to leave the fire for that filmy sight
Stay here at the flame’s core

— Rumi  <link>

Theories and Stories

Theories lie more easily than stories. That is why our psychologists tell us we are good and our novelists tell us we are evil.

— Peter Kreeft  <link>

The knack of holiness is to keep on looking
where we doubt God is.

— Joan Chittister  <link>

Only in silence the word,
only in dark the light,
only in dying life:
bright the hawk’s flight
on the empty sky.

— Ursula K. LeGuin  <link>

We shall not cease from exploring,
And the end of our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

— T.S. Eliot  <link>

Journeys bring power and love
Back into you.
If you can’t go somewhere,
Move in the passageways of the self.
They are like shafts of light,
Always changing,
And you change
When you explore them.

— Rumi  <link>

Taste and Smell

But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.

— Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past (vol. 1, “Swann’s Way”)  <link>

Desire and Destiny

We are what our deep, driving desire is.
As our deep, driving desire is, so is our will.
As our will is, so is our deed.
As our deed is, so is our destiny.

— The Upanishads, Brihadaranyaka IV.4.5 [via]  <link>

Peace—it does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.

— Author unknown  <link>

For there are two silences: a silence can be no more than the absence of noise, it can be inert, or at the other end of the scale, there is a nothingness that is infinitely alive, and every cell in the body can be penetrated and vivified by this second silence’s activity. The body then knows the difference between two relaxations—the soft floppiness of a body weary of stress telling itself to relax, and the relaxation of an alert body when tensions have been swept away by the intensity of being. The two silences, enclosed within an even greater silence, are poles apart.

— Peter Brook, Threads of Time [via]  <link>

In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.

— Yogi Berra  <link>

Our current mental-hygiene philosophy stresses the idea that people ought to be happy, that happiness is a symptom of maladjustment. Such a value system might be responsible for the fact that the burden of unavoidable unhappiness is increased by unhappiness about being unhappy.

— Edith Weisskopf-Joelson  <link>

He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.

— Friedrich Nietzsche  <link>

The Meaning of Life

Woe to him who saw no more sense in his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point in carrying on. He was soon lost. …

What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.

These tasks, and therefore the meaning of life, differ from man to man, and from moment to moment. Thus it is impossible to define the meaning of life in a general way. Questions about the meaning of life can never be answered by sweeping statements. “Life” does not mean something vague, but something very real and concrete, just as life’s tasks are also very real and concrete.

— Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
(writing from his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp)  <link>

Live the Question

Be patient with regard to all that in your heart is still unresolved and try to love the questions themselves like closed parts and books written in an extremely foreign language. Do not seek for the moment of the answer because you would not be able to live through it. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will live thereafter and gradually without realizing it, one day, live your way into the answer.

— Rainer Maria Rilke  <link>

Live in the now!

— Author unknown  <link>

You have been told, O man, what is good,
     and what the Lord requires of you:
Only to do the right and to love goodness,
     and to walk humbly with your God.

— Micah 6:8  <link>


Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now!

— Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning  <link>

I wanna tell you something…, something you do not yet know…. The universe will expand, then it will collapse back on itself, then will expand again. It will repeat this process forever. What you don’t you know is that when the universe expands again, everything will be as it is now. Whatever mistakes you make this time around, you will live through on your next pass. Every mistake you make, you will live through again, and again, forever. So my advice to you is to get it right this time around, because this time is all you have.

— Prot, from K-Pax
(Except for the last six words, does Prot describe a version of hell?)  <link>

Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.

— Abraham Lincoln  <link>

Men are disturbed, not by things that happen, but by their opinion of things that happen.

— Epictetus [via]  <link>

This craving to be otherwise, to be elsewhere, permeates the body, feelings, perceptions, will—consciousness itself. It is like the background radiation from the big bang of birth, the aftershock of having erupted into existence.

— Stephen Bachelor, Buddhism Without Beliefs [via]  <link>

That Which Separates

Two prisoners whose cells adjoin communicate with each other by knocking on the wall. The wall is the thing which separates them but is also their means of communication. It is the same with us and God. Every separation is a link.

— Simone Weil  <link>

Persistent Longing

Your persistent longing is your persistent voice. But when love grows cold, the heart grows silent. Burning love is the outcry of the heart! If you are filled with longing all the time, you will keep crying out, and if your love perseveres, your cry will be heard without fail.

— St. Augustine  <link>

The danger is not lest the soul should doubt whether there is any bread, but lest, by a lie, it should persuade itself that it is not hungry.

— Simone Weil  <link>

Look to this day for it is life.
In its brief course lie all the realities and truths of existence,
the joy of growth, the glory of action, the splendor of beauty…
Today, well lived,
makes every yesterday a memory of happiness
and every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore, to this day.

— ancient Sanskrit proverb [via]  <link>

In the flowing river there are so many things—fishes, leaves, dead animals—but it is always moving, and your mind is like that. It is everlastingly restless, flitting from one thing to another like a butterfly.

— Jiddu Krishnamurti [via]  <link>


Like a butterfly alighting in my palm
Too delicate to grasp
Too lovely to lose

— Author unknown [via]  <link>

Gradually I began to realize how feeble and transitory the thoughts and emotions that had troubled me for years actually were, and how fixating on small problems had turned them into big ones. Just by sitting quietly and observing how rapidly, and in many ways illogically, my thoughts and emotions came and went, I began to recognize in a direct way that they weren’t nearly as solid or real as they appeared to be. And once I began to let go of my belief in the story they seemed to tell, I began to see the “author” beyond them—the infinitely vast, infinitely open awareness that is the nature of mind itself.

— Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche [via]  <link>

Conspiracy Theory?

The hypothesis that the Apostles were knaves is quite absurd. Follow it out to the end and imagine these twelve men meeting after Jesus’s death and conspiring to say that he had risen from the dead. This means attacking all the powers that be.

The human heart is singularly susceptible to fickleness, to change, to promises, to bribery. One of them had only to deny his story under these inducements, or still more because of possible imprisonment, tortures and death, and they would all have been lost.

Follow that out.

— Blaise Pascal [via]  <link>

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

— Leonard Cohen, from lyrics of “Anthem”  <link>

My Breath

In the physical world, we become aware of our bodies through transactions with other phenomena. We hear our voices via the vibration of air, we see our faces via the bending of light, and we mark our comings and goings via the signs we leave on the furniture of our everyday lives. Breath is as essential attribute of one’s person, whose existence we may only infer through other media: the sight of our chest rising and falling, the sound of air rushing into our sinuses, the disturbance of the atmosphere near our skin. We mentally connect this evidence-of-breath into a coherent whole, and then label it “my breath”. Yet what distinguishes “my breath” from mere air and, further, what distinguishes this breath from my person?

— Scott Snibbe, description to the work of art Blow Up [via]  <link>

A philosopher once visited Buddha and asked him: “Without words, without the wordless, will you tell me the truth?”

Buddha kept silence.

After a while the philosopher rose up gently, made a solemn bow and thanked Buddha saying: “With your loving kindness, I have cleared away all my delusions and entered the true path.”

When the philosopher had left, Ananda, a senior disciple of Buddha, inquired: “O, Blessed one, what hath this philosopher attained?”

Buddha replied: “A good horse runs even at the shadow of the whip!”

— Author unknown (Paul Reps, ed., Zen Flesh, Zen Bones) [via]  <link>

Spiritual reality cannot be represented in any other way except through symbols.

— Leonid Ouspensky, The Meaning of Icons [via]  <link>

True spirituality cannot be abstracted from truth at one end nor from the whole man and the whole culture at the other. If there is a true spirituality, it must encompass all.

— Francis Schaeffer, The God Who Is There  <link>


A few harmless flakes working together can unleash an avalanche of destruction.

— Author unknown [via]  <link>

None of us are as dumb as all of us.

— Author unknown [via]  <link>

For it is not death or hardship that is a fearful thing, but the fear of death and hardship.

— Epictetus  <link>

Nothing is terrible in things except the fear itself.

— Seneca  <link>

Courage can show us what being is, and being can show us what courage is.

— Paul Tillich, The Courage to Be  <link>

Contradiction is the instrument of transcendence.

— Simone Weil  <link>

The Call of Meaning

What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.

— Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning  <link>

Sed omnia praeclara tam difficilia quam rara sunt.
(But all things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.)

— Spinoza, last line of Ethics  <link>