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You are not the oil, you are not the air—merely the point of combustion, the flash-point where the light is born. You are merely the lens in the beam. You can only receive, give, and possess the light as the lens does. If you seek yourself…you rob the lens of its transparency.

— Dag Hammarskjöld , a journal entry from Markings  <link>

Gratitude is something very profound. It takes us to the edge of time and space and beyond. To be grateful for life as it truly is is also to be grateful for death as it truly is—not to underestimate life, not to underestimate death. Our complaining mind divides the mystery of life and death into two parts, one called life, and one called death. But in the light of gratitude, we know that things really aren’t like that.

— Norman Fischer, essay titled “Gratitude”  <link>

There are always moments when one feels empty and estranged. Such moments are most desirable, for it means the soul has cast its moorings and is sailing for distant places. This is detachment—when the old is over and the new has not yet come. If you are afraid the state may be distressing, there is really nothing to be afraid of. Remember: What ever you come across—go beyond.

— Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj [via]  <link>

On a country road in Kentucky where the pavement changes from blacktop to dirt, the sign posted says: Pick rut carefully, you’ll be stuck in it for next 20 miles.

What is morality? It’s the difference between what is right and what you can rationalize.

— Christopher Moore, Practical Demonkeeping  <link>

Always Where One Least Expects to Find It

No worldly mind would ever have suspected that He Who could make the sun warm the earth would one day have need of an ox and an ass to warm Him with their breath; that He Who, in the language of Scriptures, could stop the turning about of Arcturus would have His birthplace dictated by an imperial census; that He, Who clothed the fields with grass, would Himself be naked; that He, from Whose hands came planets and worlds, would one day have tiny arms that were not long enough to touch the huge heads of the cattle; that the feet which trod the everlasting hills would one day be too weak to walk; that the Eternal Word would be dumb; that Omnipotence would be wrapped in swaddling clothes; that Salvation would lie in a manger; that the bird which built the nest would be hatched therein—no one would have ever suspected that God coming to this earth would ever be so helpless. And that is precisely why so many miss Him. Divinity is always where one least expects to find it. …

No man can love anything unless he can get his arms around it, and the cosmos is too big and too bulky. But once God became a Babe and was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger, men could say, “This is Emmanuel, this is God with us.” By His reaching down to frail human nature and lifting it up to the incomparable prerogative of union with Himself, human nature became dignified. So real was this union that all of His acts and words, all of His agonies and tears, all of His thoughts and reasonings, resolves and emotions, while being properly human, were at the same time the acts and words, agonies and tears, thought and reasonings, resolves and emotions of the Eternal Son of God.

— Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Life of Christ  <link>

“Allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.”

“So what do we do?”

“Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.”


“I don’t know. It’s a mystery.”

— from the movie, Shakespeare In Love  <link>

If a tree falls, it makes a lot of noise;
but if a thousand flowers bloom,
it happens in the greatest of silence.

— Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J.  <link>

Winter Preserves and Strengthens

Winter preserves and strengthens a tree. Rather than expending its strength on the exterior surface, its sap is forced deeper and deeper into its interior depth. In winter a tougher, more resilient life is firmly established. Winter is necessary for the tree to survive and flourish.

Instantly you see the application. So often we hide our true condition with the surface virtues of pious activity, but once the leaves of our frantic pace drop away, the power of a wintry spirituality can have effect.

To the outward eye everything looks barren and unsightly. Our many defects, flaws, weaknesses, and imperfections stand out in bold relief. But only the outward virtues have collapsed; the principle of virtue is actually being strengthened. The soul is venturing forth into the interior. Real, solid, enduring virtues begin to develop deep within. Pure love is being birthed.

— Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home  <link>

Life is lived forward but understood backward.

— Søren Kierkegaard  <link>

When a spider plunges from a fixed point to its consequences, it always sees before it an empty space where it can never set foot, no matter how it wriggles.

— Søren Kierkegaard  <link>

Affliction is able to drown out every earthly voice…but the voice of eternity within a man it cannot drown.

— Søren Kierkegaard  <link>

Alas, fortune’s door does not open inward so that one can push it open by rushing at it; but it opens outward, and therefore one can do nothing about it.

— Søren Kierkegaard  <link>

The door to happiness opens outwards. Anyone who tries to push this door open thereby causes it to close still more.

— Viktor Frankl  <link>

Simply Assisting God

I am a humble artist
moulding my earthly clod,
adding my labour to nature’s,
simply assisting God.

Not that my effort is needed;
yet somehow, I understand,
my maker has willed it that I too should have
unmoulded clay in my hand.

— Piet Hein  <link>

A river remains what it is by changing what it contains.

— Author unknown (inspired by Heraclitus)  <link>

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.

— T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”  <link>

Untilled ground, however rich, will bring forth thistles and thorns; so also, the mind of man.

— St. Teresa of Avila  <link>

Let your desire be the vision of God, your fear the loss of Him, your sorrow His absence, and your joy in that which may take you to Him, and your life shall be in great peace.

— St. Teresa of Avila  <link>

I am certain everything is gift.
I am certain we are entitled to nothing.
I am certain the wells for pain and joy are not separate.
I am certain bitterness and healing are a choice.
I am certain that running from your darkness leads to greater darkness.
I am certain the darkness is held ultimately by light.
I am certain that the words from scripture “In Him we live and move and have our being” are not poetic, they are actual physical reality.

— Paula D’Arcy  <link>

I have often regretted my speech, never my silence.

— Xenocrates  <link>

Expectations are resentments waiting to happen.

— Author unknown  <link>

Flattery is like chewing gum, enjoy it, but don’t swallow it.

— Author unknown  <link>

At this very moment, you and I are either committing [selfishness], or about to commit it, or repenting it.

— C.S. Lewis  <link>

If the devil does not exist, and man has therefore created him, he has created him in his own image and likeness.

— Fyodor Dostoevsky  <link>

Silence…is not the absence of sound, but silence is in the sound.

— Taiun Michael Elliston  <link>

We are all too ready to believe that the self that we have created out of our more or less inauthentic efforts to be real in the eyes of others is a “real self.” We even take it for our identity. Fidelity to such a nonidentity is of course infidelity to our real person, which is hidden in mystery. Who will you find that has enough faith and self-respect to attend to this mystery and to begin by accepting himself as unknown?

— Thomas Merton  <link>

Reason and Faith

Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all. If you are merely a sceptic, you must sooner or later ask yourself the question, ‘Why should anything go right; even observation or deduction? Why should not good logic be as misleading as bad logic? They are both movements in the brain of a bewildered ape?’ The young sceptic says. ‘I have a right to think for myself.’ But the old sceptic, the complete sceptic, says, ‘I have no right to think for myself. I have no right to think at all.’

— G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy  <link>

Creation is not a one-time event. It is God’s ongoing gift on every level from the humblest quark to the highest stage of consciousness.

— Thomas Keating  <link>

Sometimes a blank wall is miles more eloquent than anything that might besmirch it.

— graffiti seen on a clean, blank restroom wall  <link>

What Bends?

Boy: Do not try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead…only try to realize the truth.

Neo: What truth?

Boy: There is no spoon.

Neo: There is no spoon?

Boy: Then you’ll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.

from the movie, Matrix  <link>

The soul is rewarded by enjoying things which are superior to it, but is punished by being subjected to things which are inferior to it.

— St. Thomas Aquinas, Disputed Questions on the Soul  <link>

The mystery of life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.

— Aart van der Leeuw  <link>

There are plenty to follow our Lord halfway, but not the other half.

— Meister Eckhart  <link>

The things we really need come to us only as gifts, and in order to receive them as gifts we have to be open. In order to be open we have to renounce ourselves, in a sense we have to die to our image of ourselves, our autonomy, our fixation upon our self-willed identity. We have to be able to relax the psychic and spiritual cramp which knots us in the painful, vulnerable, helpless “I” that is all we know as ourselves.

— Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander  <link>

We are caught in a traffic jam of discursive thought.

— Chögyam Trungpa,  <link>

Balance is always elusive.

— Author unknown  <link>

You Must Speak with the Heart

You must speak to Jesus also with the heart, besides with the lips; indeed, in certain cases you must speak to Him only with the heart.

— St. Pio of Pietrelcina  <link>

An excuse is worse and more terrible than a lie, for an excuse is a lie guarded.

— Pope John Paul II  <link>

To Those of You Who Think Religion is a Self-Delusion

To those of you who think religion is a self-delusion based on wish-fulfillment, all I can remark is that this religion does not fulfill my wishes. My wishes, if we are being honest, would run to polygamy, self-righteousness, vengeance and violence: a Viking religion would suit me better, or maybe something along Aztec lines. The Hall of Valhalla, where you feast all night and battle all day, or the paradise of the Mohammedans, where you have seventy-two dark-eyed virgins to abuse, fulfills more wishes of base creatures like me than any place where they neither marry nor are given in marriage. This turn-the-other cheek jazz might be based on any number of psychological appeals or spiritual insights, but one thing it is not based on is wish-fulfillment.

An absurd and difficult religion! If it were not true, no one would bother with it.

— John C. Wright, former atheist  <link>

God’s first language is Silence. Everything else is a translation.

— Thomas Keating  <link>

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

— Howard Thurman  <link>

Either you control your attitude or it controls you.

— Author unknown  <link>

Who plants trees although he knows he’ll never sit in their shadows has at least begun to recognize the sense of life.

— Author unknown  <link>

That the world is, is the mystical.

— Ludwig Wittgenstein  <link>

Too much sanity may be madness, and the maddest of all: to see life as it is and not as it should be.

— Miguel de Cervantes  <link>

Why Is There Something, Why Not Rather Nothing?

All my life I have been contemplating a question of Heidegger’s that has always struck me as strangely profound: why is there something, why not rather nothing?

Have you ever thought about that? We take our life, we take life, we take existence, for granted. We take it as a given, and then we complain that it isn’t working out as we wanted it to. But why should we be here in the first place? Why should we exist at all? Why should anything exist at all? Really there’s no reason for it. Why not nothing rather than something? Nothing would be simpler.

— Norman Fischer, essay titled “Gratitude”  <link>

Most religious practice has to do with cultivating gratitude.

— Norman Fischer, essay titled “Gratitude”  <link>

Nobody tells you when you get born here
How much you’ll come to love it
And how you’ll never belong here
So I call you my country
And I’ll be lonely for my home
And I wish that I could take you there with me

— Rich Mullins, from song “Land of My Sojourn”  <link>

Whoever tries to venture into silence on his own will shatter.

— Philip Gröning , filmmaker of Into Great Silence  <link>

God, not we, is the source of silence.

— Philip Gröning , filmmaker of Into Great Silence  <link>

The Value of Womanhood

To a great extent the level of any civilization is the level of its womanhood. When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.

— Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen  <link>

To love means loving the unlovable.
To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable.
Faith means believing the unbelievable.
Hope means hoping when everything is hopeless.

— G.K. Chesterton  <link>

Discouragement is not from God.

— St. Ignatius of Loyola  <link>

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

— Elizabeth Barrett Browning  <link>

Having resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.

— Malachy McCourt  <link>

In fact, everything we encounter in this world with our six senses is an inkblot test.
You see what you are thinking and feeling, seldom what you are looking at.

— Shiqin  <link>

The more we live by our intellect, the less we understand the meaning of life.

— Leo Tolstoy  <link>

Not in God’s wilds will you ever hear the sad moan, “All is vanity.” No, we are paid a thousand times for all our toil, and after a single day spent outdoors in their atmosphere of strength and beauty, one could still say, should death come—even without any hope of another life—“Thank you for this most glorious gift!” and pass on.

— John Muir  <link>

Life is mostly froth and bubble.
Two things stand like stone,
Kindness in another’s trouble,
Courage in your own.

— Author unknown  <link>

Just a Minute

I have only just a minute,
Only sixty seconds in it.

Forced upon me, can’t refuse it.
Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it.
But it’s up to me to use it.

I must suffer if I lose it.
Give account if I abuse it.

Just a tiny little minute,
but eternity is in it.

— Author unknown  <link>

Faith is always at a disadvantage; it is a perpetually defeated thing which survives all of its conquerors.

— G.K. Chesterton  <link>

Rabbi Zusya said that on the Day of Judgment, God would ask him, not why he had not been Moses, but why he had not been Zusya.

— Walter Kaufmann  <link>

Even stones have a love, a love that seeks the ground.

— Meister Eckhart  <link>

Every human situation, the Roman Stoic philosopher Epictetus once warned, is like a vase with two handles: If you have quarreled with your brother, you can grasp the handle which is the fact that you have quarreled, or you can grasp the handle which is the fact that he is your brother.

— Joseph Bottum, “Judgment of Memory” in First Things, March 2008  <link>

Problems worthy of attack prove their worth by hitting back.

— Piet Hein  <link>

On Problems

Our choicest plans have fallen through,
our airiest castles tumbled over,
because of lines we neatly drew
and later neatly stumbled over.

—Piet Hein  <link>

Losing Face

The noble art of losing face
may one day save the human race
and turn into eternal merit
what weaker minds would call disgrace.

— Piet Hein  <link>

There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.

— Charles Dickens [via]  <link>

We navigate our whole lives using words. Change and improve the words and I believe we can change and improve life.

— Martin Firrell [via]  <link>

Power is always temporary.

— Martin Firrell [via]  <link>

The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns, as it were, instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink.

— George Orwell  <link>

When you arise in the morning,
give thanks for the morning light,
for your life and strength.
Give thanks for your food, and the joy of living.
If you see no reason for giving thanks,
the fault lies with yourself.

— Tecumseh, Shawnee Chief  <link>

We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.

— Blessed Teresa of Calcutta  <link>

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.

— Pierre Teilhard de Chardin  <link>

What Grace Cannot Prevent

The spirit of the Gospels has not been handed down in a pure state from one Christian generation to the next. To undergo suffering and death joyfully was from the very beginning considered a sign of grace in the Christian martyrs—but grace cannot do more for a human being than it could for Christ.

Those who believe that God himself, once he became a man, could not face the harshness of destiny without a long tremor of anguish, should understand that those who give the impression of having risen to a higher plane, who seem superior to ordinary human misery, are those who resort to the aids of illusion, exaltation, and fanaticism to conceal the harshness of destiny from their own eyes.

The person who does not wear the armor of the lie cannot experience force without being touched by it to the very soul. Grace can prevent this touch from corrupting him, but it cannot spare him the wound. Having forgotten this all too well, Christian tradition only rarely recovers that simplicity that renders so poignant every sentence in the story of the Passion.

— Simone Weil, from “The Iliad: or the Poem of Force”  <link>

I bind to myself today:
God’s power to guide me,
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to teach me,
God’s eye to watch over me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to give me speech,
God’s hand to guide me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to shelter me,
God’s host to secure me.

— St. Patrick, portion of his Breastplate  <link>

What Christ Asks

If you have any knowledge at all of human nature, you know that those who only admire the truth will, when danger appears, become traitors. The admirer is infatuated with the false security of greatness; but if there is any inconvenience or trouble, he pulls back. Admiring the truth, instead of following it, is just as dubious a fire as the fire of erotic love, which at the turn of the hand can be changed into exactly the opposite, to hate, jealousy, and revenge. Christ, however, never asked for admirers, worshippers, or adherents. He consistently spoke of “followers” and “disciples.”

— Søren Kierkegaard  <link>

We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.

— Winston Churchill  <link>

From within or from behind, a light shines through us upon things and makes us aware that we are nothing, but the light is all.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson  <link>

O wondrous exchange, eternal life is promised to us by the humility of the Lord, who bowed himself down to our pride.

— St. Augustine, Confessions  <link>

There is in the worst of fortune the best of chances for a happy change.

— Euripides  <link>

My soul breathes only in thy infinite soul;
I breathe, I think, I love, I live but thee.

— George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul  <link>

We are the mother of Christ when we carry him in our heart and body by love and a pure and sincere conscience. And we give birth to him through our holy works which ought to shine to others by our example.

— St. Francis of Assisi  <link>

In the final analysis, the questions of why bad things happen to good people transmutes itself into some very different questions, no longer asking why something happened, but asking how we will respond, what we intend to do now that it happened.

— Pierre Teilhard de Chardin  <link>

By drawing close to others through almsgiving, we draw close to God.

— Pope Benedict XVI  <link>

I do not understand the mystery of grace—only that it meets us where we are, but does not leave us where it found us.

— Anne Lamott  <link>

The classic human problem: sinners tend to sin in response to being sinned against.

— Author unknown  <link>

Truly, it is in the darkness that one finds the light, so when we are in sorrow, then this light is nearest of all to us.

— Meister Eckhart  <link>

Why do you so earnestly seek the truth in distant places?
Look for delusion and truth in the bottom of your own hearts.

— Ryokan  <link>

When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: Either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly.

— Edward Teller  <link>