Willow and Jaden Smith, Fuck Motivation, and a Healthy Self-Confidence

I’ve previously featured their father, Will, as one of my real life inspirations; so it’s no surprise to begin this entry tonight by writing about his two terrifically well-adjusted children, Willow and Jaden, whom I think are awesome.

In a word, they are that rare thing among people – individuals – those fine persons capable of thinking and acting for themselves, on their own behalf.

I had previously heard Jaden’s music before and thought it was good. I also greatly enjoyed reading the Willow and Jaden interview published by the New York Times, in which they talked about everything from the theory of relativity, to quantum mechanics, Prana energy, and nonduality – not particularly mainstream topics for musicians – leading Billboard to describe the interview as “totally bonkers” – an opinion that others were quick to follow.

I realize, however, that when people call something crazy, often they are describing something they do not understand – unfortunately, crazy gets taken at face value all too frequently and, as a result, people fail to question something that deserves a second look.

Thankfully, we who are seekers and thinkers have no problem giving crazy it’s fair due.

Excerpt from aforementioned NYT interview:

I’m curious about your experience of time. Do you feel like life is moving really quickly? Is your music one way to sort of turn it over and reflect on it?

WILLOW: I mean, time for me, I can make it go slow or fast, however I please, and that’s how I know it doesn’t exist.

JADEN: It’s proven that how time moves for you depends on where you are in the universe. It’s relative to beings and other places. But on the level of being here on earth, if you are aware in a moment, one second can last a year. And if you are unaware, your whole childhood, your whole life can pass by in six seconds. But it’s also such a thing that you can get lost in.

Read the entire Times piece, here.

Pretty abstract thinking for two teenagers (I think 14 and 16 at the time of the article).

Tonight, Willow caught my attention here, in a filmed interview/discussion with Chance The Rapper, as part of the Uncapped series by Vitamin Water and Fader Magazine. In the clip, I came across an interesting soundbite from Willow, containing a very Jungian sounding description of feminine and masculine dynamics (from 45 secs to 1:08):

“Having a brother is such an amazing experience, especially when you’re a girl – you’re just like yin and yang – like when you can really look at the masculine in him and the feminine, and then you can look at yourself and be like, ‘the feminine in you and the masculine’, you guys become one, and you can just like go back and forth – but that’s how it’s supposed to be with men and women.”

It’s great to hear someone in the mainstream spotlight who is still so young talk about the intersexuality of the soul, as described by Carl Jung in his writings on the anima / animus – an idea I didn’t discover until I was 27.

This prompted me to continue listening, and I enjoyed coming across the following soundbites as much as I did the first:

My mom’s favorite thing to tell me when I’m being really indecisive is, “Do you boo-boo, and nobody else can do you like you”, and that’s the best part about being unique and being on this earth. The universe is the unknown, “the uni-verse”, the “you-niverse” that’s within you, is unknown. Like how can you even know anything about the deepest parts of yourself.

And on the topic of hustle:

Hustle means to me that you have a goal, and you’re going to do whatever it takes to get to that goal. It’s not tunnel vision because you can see what’s going on around you, but, you know that like, you’re focused, you’re like I’m getting this and nothing’s going to stop me from getting what I need to get in my life. 

One of the reason’s I enjoy Willow’s perspective so much here is that it reflects my own newly evolved views on reality, success, and motivation. Namely that, motivation isn’t a thing. Let me expound upon this briefly:

Fuck Motivation.

For a long time I thought I simply lacked motivation, and that motivation was the key to me believing in myself, which would be the key to my success – if I could just get motivated enough. But I was missing a key piece of the puzzle, which, in light of, I see now why I failed to succeed.

What I ended up grasping, which led me to a new understanding of how reality operates, is just that we can do anything. Anything we are capable of doing we can do. And our personal potential is the only limit to our capabilities, our reality. It’s hard to describe now how I felt before, but I just spent so many mornings listening to motivational stuff, just believing that if I could believe in myself enough, I could succeed.

But I didn’t.

No matter how much motivational stuff I listened to, deep down I just couldn’t shake my perspective, I couldn’t fool myself into believing I could have the things I wanted.

I, of course, realize now, and I can admit to myself now, that my goals were completely impotent, because I lacked the confidence in myself to be successful (As well as true, burning desire).

In hindsight, I think the motivational videos were keeping me stuck. They were perpetuating the idea that motivation is something we need from others, and they were perpetuating the idea that motivation is about believing in yourself – as if we should need a professional to teach us how, as if we shouldn’t naturally; as if motivation were an intermittent thing we needed to dose ourselves with, like caffeine.

No. Motivation is bullshit. Confidence is bullshit.

Not as ideas in themselves, but as we have come to understand them – as we have been sold on them – they are pure crap. Bullshit.

Motivation as something we can get from outside of ourselves is bullshit.

Confidence as something based on what others think of you, also bullshit.

Fuck your motivational speech. Fuck your opinion of me.

I do not need to wake up and tell myself “I can do it.”

I know I can do it.

I know that if it’s not impossible then it’s possible – and if it is possible, then I can do it.

This isn’t motivation, this is just fact.

Do not rely on motivation to believe in yourself. You don’t need it. You should believe in yourself because you are a rational being – you don’t need any other permission to believe in yourself. You exist. Your potential is a thing. Nothing else is needed…

Well almost. You need desire.

Motivation as inspiration is not a thing. Desire is.

My efforts to find motivation in a million and one different motivational speakers did very little for me beyond make me feel like I needed to keep listening…

It was only when I started to explore my why, that I became motivated in the true sense, in that I had a significant enough reason to take action.

Does a lion need motivation to hunt? No; she hunts because her hunger is strong enough to motivate her to hunt; her desire for food is stronger than her fear or her laziness.

Humans are the only creatures who are gullible and insecure enough to think that we need a reason for our reasons. Of course, don’t tell this to the motivational business. Lord knows how big the self-improvement business is. And it is a business. It serves a need. A perceived need.

Note: I mean how fucking egotistical do these motivational people need to be to think they are the one to deliver someone from their lack of belief in themselves by telling them how important it is to believe in themselves. I mean, I’m sure you guys mean well, but give me a fucking break – come on… fuckoouttahere with that snakeoil.

Do you think Warren Buffet is looking in the mirror in the morning going, You can do this Warren. Fuck no. He would see that as silly. He’s looking in the mirror and thinking of the best way to do what he’s going to do; he already knows he can do it, he already gets how life works on an action / reaction basis. He is beyond the idea of having to believe in himself, and, like so many other wildly successful people, he is not trapped by the false belief that he could succeed, if only he believed in himself enough. A man like Warren Buffet, or anyone pursuing their desires in a pragmatic and bold enough manner, knows that success is the result of action, not belief. Of course, I’m not saying belief isn’t required, but all that is needed is a healthy belief in one’s-self – something few people posses.

A healthy belief in yourself is simply an understanding that limiting your life because of a lack of belief in yourself is irrational. Period.

This, I assert, is the biggest difference between the way rich people think, and the way poor people think. And before you stop me and tell me money isn’t everything, let me just remind you of another difference between rich people and poor people: for them, in their game of life, money is just a way of keeping score. Now, I’m not saying that Avicci [Worth $60 Million
] is the best DJ in the world, but he doesn’t suck (listen to the whole song, not just the long monotonous intro, and tell me from 1:09 to 2:09 you didn’t get the feels), and to get to where he is today, he [Avicci] most surely possessed a healthy belief in himself.

And I’m not saying it [a healthy belief in oneself] is something someone necessarily gets from birth (Although, I do think wealth consciousness is a thing, often passed generationally, in the same way poverty consciousness is.) I think we all, and often the most successful people, have to find it ourselves. This is what the in the wilderness part of the heroes journey is about. It is, to paraphrase the immortal words of Joseph Campbell, entering the cave we fear, to find the treasure we seek. 

The cave is of course, our own darkness. But once we emerge from it (As wonderfully written and acted in this Awesome music video), no one can take our treasure from us. Once you have a healthy, rational belief in yourself, grounded in a pragmatic and logical understanding of reality – no one can take it from you. No one can tell you you don’t deserve something or that you can’t do something, because you see; you come to understand, that is just their opinion – their reality.

As I’ve come to see this year, life is a game of potentials – but it is won by wills. The human will, this is something innate and powerful. Only a poverty-consciousness stricken person would stifle their will because of a lack of a healthy belief in themselves.

If I could write a not to my younger self, I would say, forget believing in yourself, instead, seek to understand how reality works. 

There are no limits in reality (beyond the laws of physics).

The only possible limiting factor of your success is you. Period.

I look back on all those early morning walks on the beach, listening to Les Brown tell me “I am going to make it!“, and I realize I was caught up in a false paradigm.

Now that I understand how life works, how human potential is an innate measure of capability, I see that I didn’t need motivation. I needed desire.

Desire, dreams, the things you want deep down in the bottom of your soul, these are the only thing that can ever motivate you. Everything else is just noise. Somebody selling you on the belief that you need something you don’t posses.

And your confidence, how you feel about yourself, this is your right. The idea that what people think of you should influence your opinion of yourself, this is horseshit. The only excuse reason you ever need to be confident is your own desire to be happy. Period.

You’re like, I’m getting this and nothing’s going to stop me from getting what I need to get in my life.

Reading the excerpt from Willow’s quote above, I get that she understands life like I do.

Because I’m getting this, and nothing is going to stop me from getting what I need to get in my life.

And seriously, if you didn’t click the “Awesome music video” link, watch it now:

I’ve really come to understand that no external motivation can work for me. My motivation is my desire. And desire begins in the mind.

Bonus: Here is some food for thought desire for me:

p.s. Consider anything I’ve previously written on the topic of motivation usurped.

“The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who’s going to stop me.” – Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

Earl Nightengale quote

 

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Real Life Inspiration: Ed Ricketts

I heard an anecdote recently in relation to John Steinbeck (Prayerhand-6god-emoji) guy pal (And total bad ass) Ed Ricketts (Add another prayerhand-6god-emoji).

EFRicketts_42
Ricketts, photo taken aged 43 in 1939.

Ed Ricketts is a man whom I deeply admire. He was, like all the people I admire, a stark individual.

“His mind had no horizons,” as Steinbeck wrote of him, or rather, as “Doc”, the Ricketts inspired beer-loving bohemian science-philosopher who cut himself out of the granite-like sardine-packing population of “whores, pimps, gamblers, and sons of bitches.”

Yeah, Ed Ricketts was a fucking cool guy.

Perhaps one of the coolest who ever lived. Ricketts is most definitely one of my “spiritual grandfathers”. In fact, he inspired another spiritual grandfather of mine: the great mythologist, Joseph Campbell.

Essentially Ed Ricketts = Star Wars.

And if you get that reference, you might actually be kind of cool too.

If you didn’t, hold on tight.

So, the anecdote with Ricketts is that he basically learned how to like himself through others. He got the idea that if other people could like Ed, then Ed could like Ed.

So he did.

And from the myriad legacy he left, we can only surmise that his comfort in his own skin made it very easy for others to like him. And I can surmise this, because I know the opposite to also be true: having experienced how discomfort in one’s skin ultimately manifests itself in ways that strangely serve to push others away.

I actually, as a treat, just found the Ricketts anecdote, which is from perhaps the man who knew best knew Ed: Steinbeck.

The story is quoted verbatim from the philosophy laden ‘The Log of The Sea of Cortez’, Steinbeck’s 1940 month long inward journey with Ed, then aged 44, to the Mexican sea of the same name:

Once Ed said to me, “For a very long time I didn’t like myself.” It was not said in self-pity but simply as an unfortunate fact. “It was a very difficult time,” he said, “and very painful. I did not like myself for a number of reasons, some of them valid and some of them pure fancy. I would hate to have to go back to that. Then gradually,” he said, “I discovered with surprise and pleasure that a number of people did like me. And I thought, if they can like me, why cannot I like myself? Just thinking it did not do it, but slowly I learned to like myself and then it was all right.” This was not said in self-love in its bad connotation but in self-knowledge. He meant literally that he had learned to accept and like the person “Ed” as he liked other people. It gave him a great advantage. Most people do not like themselves at all. They distrust themselves, put on masks and pomposities. They quarrel and boast and pretend and are jealous because they do not like themselves. But mostly they do not even know themselves well enough to form a true liking. They cannot see themselves well enough to form a true liking, and since we automatically fear and dislike strangers, we fear and dislike our stranger-selves.

So, Ed is helping me like myself in the very same way that I can like an admire my friends – only, I get to be less critical of myself now. haha

Sadly, Ed died too young. But he made sure to live before he did. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

You’ve really inspired me Ed.

Thank You.

This past weekend I was up in Monterey (Guest of a girl I have been trying to date), and seeing the life-sized versions of Ed’s lab and some of his things, just really made me feel blessed. I’m just grateful to have found people I can admire and look up to in the ways that they too once looked up to their own little ambitious and upstart part of themselves.

Because I really am. I’m looking up to things that feel true in myself.

And it’s really nice. It’s nice to finally be at home with myself, where there are no horizons.

horizons
“His mind had no horizons.”

A Case of Narcissism: in Defense of a Reborn Ego

I had to write this tonight because I am feeling really, really smart.

Like, I’m getting good at life.

But beyond stating the obvious, something lighthearted has been a long time coming – to myself and my writing. Yeah, that winter of 2014 took a long time to thaw – but, thank the 6 god, spring is here motherfuckers (Samuel L. Jackson voice).

If there was such thing as an apology letter – please understand that I write my exes Poems – then this is the antithesis of it. But I am not here to flex my ego; although, it’s not an entirely bad idea; you see, like any hyper self-aware and intelligent man with a hint of integrity, by my late twenties, my ego had become my arch nemesis – a foe whom I avowed to avenge my misery on.

And let me tell you, there is nothing like a major break up, followed by self-administered entheogenic therapy, to kill the ego. I mean, I murdered that motherfucker (Lawrence Black voice).

In the wake of my ego, I became obsessed with my own humility, which, ironically, is actually a terrible case of narcissism in itself – albeit a more unconscious one. But in my desire to become uber-humble, I became infinitely small. Dreams, ideas, feelings – everything – was atrophied. In hindsight, I cannot believe what I had become – and in honesty, it wasn’t the winter of 2014 that froze my soul like Winterfell, it was the winter of 2009.

But today, I am a long way from Seattle, and for the first time: glad.

Defeats are the one thing we will become anything in order to escape. And I did, I became the picture of defeat; in my effort to hide, I hid in plain sight from myself.

But this is life. I smile on it now. 

I smile because my ego has finally emerged from my shadow. From the dark night of the soul, to the aftermath and through the entire Jungian alchemical process, I have been through the Heroes Journey.

Welcome home Lawrence Black.

In my twenties I was a lot of things I wasn’t. But I see now that I also wasn’t a lot of the things I was. Yes, I have been reading lots of Zen literature (I recommend D.T. Suzuki to the uninitiated – Watts is for space cowboys).

I have also been reading the Upanishads, “Which contain some of the central philosophical concepts of Hinduism.” – to save you a google search.

And – like everything else in my life has and always will – these texts have come to me at exactly the right time.  Yes: this Western boy’s mind is starting to tilt heavily on an Eastern axis.

However, I am not writing this to espouse my evolved views, but – holy fuck – let me tell you, there is no better way to shake off the weight of Christian guilt in the collective unconscious than to read some shit written way before that shit was even a fucking thing (Sam Jackson voice).

I am constantly reminded today that a man’s beliefs are only his theories. Well, I got theories too bitch! (Law Black voice).

But returning to the Upanishads, they have shown me an entirely new way of thinking, of being, and of living a “spiritual life”, which is to say: a life in which one feels themselves worthy of having their own theories.

As Steve Jobs – a spiritual guy himself – said:

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

And, as I recently quoted, I don’t want to be a product of my environment, I want my environment to be a product of me.

But those words from a movie – they really didn’t resonate with me the first time I watched The Departed – they really didn’t mean anything until I came to understand that Steve Jobs’ words held so much more weight than their logical and aesthetic appeal. It is only now that I see just how trapped I was by other people’s thinking – my own included.

But now, I get it. Yup, this could be us.

But it is so much more than just coming full circle after gaining compassion for myself, having seen life more objectively for the first time.

No, it is more than that: it is the Ego which took me here. Full circle.

Yes, I have vilified and called my ego 24601 for a long time; I have trashed the ego as wonderfully as the Gurus taught me to.

But, let me tell you, I was wrong. Whoops. Sorry life. Sorry Lawrence that I fucked up the last four years of your life (Save for Shannon, who is the greatest woman I have ever dated  – love you Bunny).

But yeah: I was oh so wrong – but it’s all good. It was my path. Love your fate, as I always say. And I am not mad at all now that I see what a salty motherfucker I was (Kenny Fucking Powers’ voice).

And like the Upanishads, this re-emergence of the ego (As spoofed excellently by Kenny Fucking Powers.) has arrived at the right time in my life.

And to thank, I have Brahman and Atman, as well as Ayn Rand’s Anthem and Marie Louise Von Franz’s writing on the function and value of the ego.

One sometimes feels that the unconscious is leading the way in accordance with a secret design… this creatively active aspect of the psychic nucleus can come into play only when the ego gets rid of all purposive and wishful aims and tries to get to a deeper, more basic form of existence. The ego must be able to listen attentively and to give itself, without any further design or purpose, to that inner urge toward growth. – M.L.V.F.

These three things – the concept of the Self as taught by the Upanishads, Ayn Rand’s heroic picture of the ego in Anthem, and Jung protege Marie Louise Von Franz’s understandings on the role of ego in individuation – have given me an far greater, more absolute understanding of my ego, and myself, than I have ever possessed (Well, excepting before I knew what my ego was and I again then had a healthy one). But this is now.

I was a fragile creature playing strong from 25 through 30, living in a glass castle, naked and afraid, but no longer – and I am not sorry that the emperor has finally seen his reflection; I just wish someone would have told me what a terrified little asshole I was. 

I know, I didn’t listen.

But hey, I just gotta laugh at it now.

And to really flex my ego like a human being with my DNA at this point in space and time should: I really feel whole; I feel complete. I will even go so far as to say that I have reached what Jung called individuation.

To quote C.G. Jung:

To find out what is truly individual in ourselves, profound reflection is needed; and suddenly we realize how uncommonly difficult the discovery of individuality in fact is.

Yes. All that dying I did down in the rabbit hole I spent the last five years of my life in (Save for some of the rare moments when I was actually happy, thanks in large part to B.S.W) paid off.

I made it. I know who I am.

Note to Jung fans: like the synchronicity with the Kenny Powers’ soundbites in that song? (See prev link dickhead).

P.S. As Jung wrote: “Synchronicity is an ever present reality for those who have eyes to see.” And now that my ego has joined the living again – joined to a healthy and cleansed soul – I have eyes. And I see the beautiful young girl who adores me, and I see my success this month, and I see myself happy – every single day. 

Lawrence, SKW, friends, family: I am sorry.

But, it could’t have been any different.

In conclusion: I am no longer just an asshole – now I am a reborn one. In my defense, it is so much better to be an asshole than to be miserable.

To thine own self be true.

With Love,

Me

p.p.s., I recall a dialogue between therapist number one and I (Back in the pre-Seattle days, when I picked therapists based on their looks), in which I said to her that I believed myself to be ‘slightly narcissistic’, to which she replied, “Yes Lawrence, all highly successful people are.” 

Maybe, maybe not, but I would rather be a happy narcissist than a fucking dickhead.

Dear Society

There is a pain to growing up, a hurt inherent to not knowing how to ease the woes that accompany a given life.

Woes arising from the truths we dare not face; our identity naturally in opposition to anything that threatens our core underlying beliefs about who we are.

These core beliefs are typically unconscious, childlike assumptions about life, formed at in early age in order to allow us to understand our families, thus becoming our blueprint for navigating the world at large.

This is why childhood patterns of anguish persist throughout adult life. Our guiding stories – paticularly in regards to relationships, and generally from a gender correlative view – in turn become our very limited and incorrect assumptions. It’s as if our parents are the unconscious, assumptive benchmark by which we judge everyone else – for better or for worse.

And from an evolutionary and anthropological standpoint this no doubt equipped us with a set of intutive assumptions about our kin, by which we could cohesively assimilate into primitive, tribal, or village cultures – essentially the world that humans knew for tens of thousands of years before the relatively recent development of modern, high-density societies.

Only, today, instead of a few hundred, interrelated realities intersecting, we’ve got tens of thousands in a given city, all with their own homegrown beliefs about how people are supposed to be. And if you grew up in an average middle class family, with relatively neurotypical parents who instilled fairly vanilla values into you, this might not be so terrible, for you are apt to follow a fairly typical life path, and assimilate healthily into a world that needs more accountants, realtors, or whatever you end up doing; however, if you grew up like I did, which is to say the typical childhood of a writer, painter, or whatever oddity life has made you, well then, your woes are apt to be much grander – at least in your own eyes – for life is a little more difficult for those whose values do not center primarily around fitting in. The artist has world views that often oppose reality entirely, or values which fall into direct opposition to society’s priorities. Read enough ‘great’ writers, and you will see this truth time and time again, both in their characters and in the lives of the writers themselves.

This is why the artist is such a tortured soul. It’s his values that torture him; he is a misanthrope – a castaway from his own people – he worships different Gods, which is to say he cares naught for the trappings of society, and if he does, then he secretely detests what he lacks the courage to renounce.

Story of my twenties; so rife were the last five years with torment; I lived as one does who lacks ample courage to be completely true to himself; in a word, I was miserable.

I spent the last five years trying to escape my woes, afraid to face what I could not, opting instead to cling to my innocence, as if my idealism were the Jedi force by which the world would magically conform to my view of it (This is a fantastic recipe for self-pity, by the way).

Ironically, our futile attempts to deny or escape the truths we find ugliest only strengthen their presence in our lives, proving the adage that, what we resists persists.

I’ve quoted it a dozen times, and I again lay the words out like a blanket on the grass:

Until we make the unconscious conscious, it will direct our life and we will call it fate. – C.G. Jung

The unconscious, repressed truths we feel incabable of accepting posess us, directing our fate back to them in a grotesque paradox. But it’s through the same inescapable and utterly painful truths that we become whole, mature, actualized adults.

For me this has culminated in a coexistence between my ideals and reality.

To quote Jung’s protege, Marie Louis Von Franz:

If we can stay with the tension of
opposites long enough —sustain it,
be true to it—we can sometimes
become vessels within which the
divine opposites come together and
give birth to a new reality.

Which, after years of the unuterable. and inescapable truths I fought to deny kicking the absolute shit out of me, I am finally managing to do; for, my beliefs are in almost all aspects directly oppositional to reality. If I did not posess the learning I do, I surely would have found the chasm between my soul and reality too great, and would likely have killed myself. But, having the balm of art, philosophy, shamanism, and psychology, I have tended my wounds and in the process kept my head.

My soul intact, my heart whole – my spirit resilient – I am ready to dive into the gulf, to live between the hard facts of life and the comforts of my beliefs, refusing to again sacrifice one for the other at the expense of myself.

Wonderfully, at this same time, I am reconnecting to my childhood dreams in a very realistic, almost magical way. I do not want to say too much – for I desire to go about my plans quietly – but it is as if I am becoming who I was meant to be, who I dreamed of becoming. The priviledge of a lifetime, as Joseph Campbell said about being who you are.

The depth I have as a man and as a writer has been hard won, but it would be completely false for me to say my life hasn’t been guided by something greater than myself. And if I had let the world shape my values I simply wouldn’t be who I am, which is an individual – in the most rugged and impractical sense.

Have your life society. Get fucked. Swipe right all day. Keep up with the Joneses Kardashians.

I am going to keep on following my intuition, my heart, my G-d, my dreams, my passions, and my purpose.

And that is the difference between you and I.

Dear Society

Reached a truce at truth
Let go after thirty years of youth
“Innocence lost”
Feared the cost
Clung to notions,
In oceans of debauch

Feared for naught
Never taught
Bitter truths
As a youth,
Thought my family was the bad of the lot
Hah

Passages: East of Eden, John Steinbeck

Original copyright 1952. Centennial edition (from Steinbeck’s birth in 1902), Penguin Books, copyright 2002

Chapter 1

“You can boast about anything if it’s all you have. Maybe the less you have, the more you are required to boast.”

– p. 4


“And it never failed that during the dry years the people forgot about the rich years, and during the wet years they lost all memory of the dry years. It was always that way.”

– p. 6


Chapter Two

“Samuel had no equal for soothing hysteria and bringing quiet to a frightened child. It was the sweetness of his tongue and the tenderness of his soul. And just as there was a cleanness about his body, so there was a cleanness in his thinking. Men coming to his blacksmith shop to talk and listen dropped their cursing for awhile, not from any kind of restraint but automatically, as though this were not the place for it.”

– p. 11


“The early settlers took up land they didn’t need and couldn’t use; they tool up worthless land just to own it. And all proportions changed. A man who might have been well-to-to on ten acres in Europe was rat-poor on two thousand in California.”

– p. 12


“They and the coyotes lived clever, disparaging, submarginal lives. They landed with no money, no equipment, no tools, no credit, and particularly with no knowledge of the new country and no technique for using it. I don’t know whether it was a divine stupidity or a great faith that let them do it. Surely such venture is neatly gone from the world. And the families did survive and grow. They had a tool or a weapon that is also nearly gone, or perhaps it is only dormant for a while. It is argued that because they believed in a just, moral God they could put their faith there and let the smaller securities take care of themselves. But I think that because they trusted themselves and respected themselves as individuals, because they knew beyond doubt that they were valuable and potentially moral units – because of this they could give God their own courage and dignity and then receive it back. Such things have disappeared perhaps because men do not trust themselves any more, and when that happens there is nothing left except perhaps to find some strong sure man, even though he may be wrong, and to dangle from his coattails.”

– p. 12


Chapter Three

“Alice never complained, quarreled, laughed, or cried. Her mouth was trained to a line that concealed nothing and offered nothing too. But once when Adam was quite small he wandered silently into the kitchen. Alice did not see him. She was darning socks and she was smiling. Adam retired secretly and walked out of the house and into the woodlot to a sheltered place behind a stump that he knew well. He settled deep between the protecting roots. Adam was as shocked as though he had come upon her naked. He breathed excitedly, high against his throat. For Alice had been naked – she had been smiling. He wondered how she dared such wantonness. And he ached toward her with a longing that was passionate and hot. He did not know what it was about, but all the long lack of holding, of rocking, of caressing, the hunger for breast and nipple, and the softness of a lap, and the voice-tone of love and compassion, and the sweet feeling of anxiety – all of these were in his passion, and he did not know it because he did not know such things existed, so how could he miss them?”

– p. 22


Chapter Four

“He set down his loneliness and perplexities, and he put on paper many things he did not know about himself.”

– p. 35


Chapter Five

In small, cut-off communities such a man is always regarded with suspicion until he has proved he is no danger to others. A shining man like Samuel could, and can, cause a lot of trouble. He might, for example, prove too attractive to the wives of men who knew they were dull. Then there were his education and his reading, the books he bought and borrowed, his knowledge of things that could not be eaten or worn or cohabitated with, his interest in poetry and his respect for good writing. If Samuel had been a rich man like the Thornes or the Delmar’s, with their big houses and wide flat lands, he would have had a great library.”

– p. 38


“The first few years after Samuel came to Salinas Valley there was a vague distrust of him. And perhaps Will as a little boy heard talk in the San Lucas store. Little boys don’t want their fathers to be different from other men. Will might have picked up his conservatism right then. Later, as the other children came along and grew, Samuel belonged to the valley, and it was proud of him in the way a man who owns a peacock is proud. They weren’t afraid of him any more for he did not seduce their wives or lure them out of sweet mediocrity. The Salinas Valley grew fond of Samuel, but by that time Will was formed.”

– p. 38


“Tom, the third son, was most like his father. He was born in fury and he lived in lightning. He was a giant in joy and enthusiasms. He didn’t discover the world and its people, he created them. When he read his father’s books, he was the first. He lived in a world shining and fresh and as uninspected as Eden on the sixth day. His mind plunged like a colt in a happy pasture, and when later the world put up fences he plunged against the wire, and when the final stockade surrounded him, he plunged right through it and out. And as he was capable of giant joy, so did he harbor huge sorrow, so that when his dog died the world ended.”

– p. 39


“It was a well-blanced family, with its conservatives and its radicals, its dreamers and its realists. Samuel was well pleased with the fruit of his loins.”

– p. 43


Chapter Seven

“His voice had grown soft and he had merged many accents and dialects into his own speech, so that his speech did not seem foreign anywhere.”

– p. 56


Chapter Eight

“I believe there are monsters born in the world to human parents some you can see, misshapen and horrible, with huge heads or tiny bodies; summer born with no arms, no legs, some with three arms, some with tails or mouths in odd places. Students and no one’s fault, as used to be thought. Once they were considered the visible punishment for concealed sins.

And just as there are physical monsters, can there not be mental or psychic monsters born? The face and body may be perfect, but if a twisted gene or a malformed egg can produce physical monsters, may not the same process produces a malformed soul?

Monsters are variations from the accepted normal to a greater or less degree. As a child may be born without an arm, someone may be born without kindness or the potential of conscience. A man who loses his arms in an accident has a great struggle to adjust himself to the lack, but one born without arms suffers only from people who find him strange. Having never had arms, he cannot miss them. Sometimes when we are little we imagine how it would be to have wings, but there is no reason to suppose it is the same feeling birds have. No, to a monster the norm it must seem monstrous, since everyone is normal to himself. To the inner monster it must be even more obscure, since he has no visible thing to compare with others. To a man born without conscience, a soul-stricken man must seem ridiculous. To a criminal, honesty is foolish. You must not forget that a monster is only a variation, and that to a monster the norm is monstrous.”

– p. 71


“Nearly everyone in the world has appetites and impulses, trigger emotions, islands of selfishness, lusts just beneath the surface. And most people either hold such thing as in check or indulge then secretly. Cathy knew not only these impulses in others but how to use them for her own gain. It is quite possible that she did not believe in any other tendencies in humans, for while she was preternaturally alert in some directions she was completely blind in others.

Cathy learned when she was very young that sexuality with all its attendant yearnings and pans, jealousies and taboos, is the most disturbing impulse humans have. And in that day it was even more disturbing than it is now, because the subject was unmentionable and unmentioned. Everyone concealed that little hell in himself, while publicly pretending it did not exist – and when he was caught up in it he was completely helpless. Cathy learned that by the manipulation and use of this one part of people she could gain and keep great power over nearly anyone. It was at once a weapon and a threat. It was irresistible. And since the blind helplessness seems to have never fallen on Cathy it is probable that she had very little of the impulse herself and indeed felt a contempt for those who did. And when you think of it in one way, she was right.

What freedom men and women could have, were they not constantly tricked and trapped and enslaved and tortured by their sexuality! The only drawback in that freedom is that without it one would not be human. One would be a monster.”

– p. 74


Chapter Nine

“I can’t understand why a girl like you – ” he began, and fell right into the oldest conviction in the world – that the girl you are in love with can’t possibly be anything but true and honest.”

– p. 92

Continue reading “Passages: East of Eden, John Steinbeck”

Selected Quotations: Pithy Pellets

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Pithy Pellets, Claire Armin

Pithy: of language or style, concise or forcefully expressive.

Pellets: pellet are small particle typically created by compressing an original.

Selected quotations from an undated booklet, titled Pithy Pellets, compiled by Claire Armin.

*unattributed / unknown


“A person who aims at nothing usually hits it.” *


“The habit of being happy enables one to he freed, or largely freed, from the domination of outward conditions.”

– Robert Louis Stevenson


“The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem, but whether you are dealing with the same problem you had last year.” *


“To speak ill of others is a dishonest way of praising ourselves.”

– Will Durant


“Eventually, why not now.” *


“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”

– Aldous Huxley


“Time goes you say? Ah, no! Alas, time stays; we go.” *


“A mediocre plan, well executed, is better than an excellent plan, poorly executed.”

– Napoleon Bonaparte


“Whatever you dislike in another person be sure to correct it in yourself.” *


“Every man carries with him the world in which he must live.”

– J.M. Crawford


“We do not see things as they are, but as we are.”

– Tomlinson


“Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in a year as we make use of. One man gets only a week’s value out of a year, while another man gets a full year’s value out of a week.”

– Charles Richards


“The size of a man can be measured by the size of a thing that makes him angry.”

– J.K. Merely


“A committee of one gets things done.”

– Joe Ryan


“One often contradicts an argument when what is really uncongenial is the tone in which it is conveyed.”

– Nietzsche


“Great minds have purposes, others have wishes.” *


“A great leader takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.”

– Arnold Glascow


“Have patience. All things are difficult before they become easy.”

– Saadi


“What you are to be, you are now becoming.” *


“The difference between a conviction and a pleasure is that you can explain a conviction without getting angry.” *


“The best measure of a man’s mentality is the importance of the things he will argue about.” *


“Fools can make money. It takes a wise man to know how to spend it.”

– English proverb


“Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you’ll understand what little chance you have trying to change others.”

– Arnold Glasgow


“Much happiness is overlooked because it didn’t cost anything.”

– Forbes


“The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.”

– Theodore Roosevelt


“The true art of memory is the art of attention.”

– Johnson


“Character is a victory not a gift.” *


“No two people ever met and were the same ever again” *


“Judging others is a dangerous thing; not so much as you will make mistakes about them but because you may reveal the truth about yourself.”

– Philemon


“There is no pillow so soft as a clear conscience.”

– French proverb


“Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.” *


“Responsibilities gravitate to the man who can shoulder them.”

– Elbert Hubbard


“Every man should endeavor to belong to himself.” *


“Politeness is better than logic; you can often persuade when you cannot convince.”

– W.W. Shaw


“All problems become smaller if you don’t dodge them but confront them.

– William S. Halsey


“Lampis, the shipowner, on being asked how he acquired his great wealth, replied, “My great wealth was acquired with no difficulty, but my small wealth, my first gains, with much labor.

– Epictetus


“If you want to know whether you will be as success or failure in life, you can easily find out. The test is simple and infallible. Are you able to save money?”

– James J. Hill


“Let us not complain against men because of their rudeness, their ingratitude, their arrogance, their love of self, their forgetfulness of others. They are so made. Such is their nature. To be annoyed with them is like denouncing a stone for falling, or a fire for burning.”

– Jean De La Bruyere


“Variety is the spice of life, but it takes monotony to finance it.”

– Arnold Glasgow


“The less a fellow knows, the more eager he is to prove it to anybody who will listen.” *


“Genius is the ability to evade work by doing something right the first time it has to be done.” *


“The haves and the have-nots can often be traced back to the did and the did-nots.”

– D.O. Flynn


“It’s not what you would do with a million
    if it should fall to your lot.
But what you are doing today
    with the dollar and a quarter you’ve got.” *


“A great number of people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.”

– William James

Passages: Gift From The Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh

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Anne Morrow Lindbergh

In 1955 a forty-nine-year-old Anne Morrow Lindberg (Wife to famed aviator Charles Lindbergh) spent two weeks alone in a New England coastal cottage, where she penned her thoughts on aging, relationships, solitude, being a woman, and caring for the soul. Sixty years and three million copies in forty-three languages later, Gift From The Sea remains a highly relevant work of inspirational literature. Lyrical prose and uncommon insights elevate this book above the genre.


Copyright 1955, Pantheon Paperback Edition, 1997

The heart’s desire for grace

“I want to give and take from my children and husband, to share with friends and community, to carry out my obligations to man and to the world, as a woman, as an artist, as a citizen.

But I want first of all – in fact, as an end to these other desires – to be at peace with myself. I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out these obligations and activities as well as I can. I want, in fact – to borrow from the language of the saints – to live “in grace” as much of the time as possible.

I am not using this term in a strictly theological sense. By grace I mean an inner harmony, essentially spiritual, which can be translated into outward harmony. I am seeking perhaps what Socrates asked for in the prayer from the Phaedrus when he said, “May the outward and the inward man be at one.” I would like to achieve a state of inner spiritual grace from which I could function and give as I was meant to in the eye of God.”

– p. 23


The Balancing Act

“For life today in America is based on the premise of ever-widening circles of contact and communication. It involves not only family demands, but community demands, national demands, international demands on the good citizen, through social and cultural pressures, through newspapers, magazines, radio programs, political drives, charitable appeals, and so on. My mind reels with it. What a circus act we women perform every day of our lives. It puts the trapeze artist to shame. Look at us. We run a tight rope daily, balancing a pile of books on the head. Baby-carriage, parasol, kitchen chair, still under control. Steady now!”

– p. 26


The Contemplative

“How desirable and how distant is the ideal of the contemplative, artist, or saint – the inner inviolable core, the single eye.”

– p. 29


Shedding the mask of insincerity

“The most exhausting thing in life, I have discovered, is being insincere. That is why so much of social life is exhausting; one is wearing a mask. I have shed my mask.”

– p. 32


Grey hairs and cobwebs

“The unfinished beams in the roof are veiled by cobwebs. They are lovely, I think, gazing up at them with new eyes; they soften the hard lines of the rafters as grey hairs soften the lines on a middle-aged face. I no longer pull out grey hairs or sweep down cobwebs.”

– p. 33


Our fear of being alone and the vacuum of our inner life

“We seem so frightened today of being alone that we never let it happen. Even if family, friends, and movies should fail, there is still the radio or television to fill up the void. Women, who used to complain of loneliness, need never be alone any more. We can do our housework with soap opera heroes at our side. Even daydreaming was more creative than this; it demanded something of oneself and it fed the inner life. Now, instead of planting our solitude with our own dream blossoms, we choke the space with continuous music, chatter, and companionship to which we do not even listen. It is simply there to fill the vacuum. When the noise stops there is no inner music to take its place. We must re-learn to be alone.”

– pp. 41, 42


Spiritual isolation and the wilderness of the mind

“For it is not physical solitude that actually separates one from other men, not physical isolation, but spiritual isolation. It is not the desert island nor the stony wilderness that cuts you from the people you love. It is the wilderness in the mind, the desert wastes in the heart through which one wanders lost and a stranger. When one is a stranger to oneself then one is estranged from others too.”

– p. 44


Among the most important times in one’s life

“Actually these are among the most important times in one’s life – when one is alone. Certain springs are tapped only when one is alone. The artist knows he must be alone to create; the writer, to work out his thoughts; the musician, to compose; the saint, to pray.”

– p. 50


The problem of the stirring, hungry soul

“The problem is not entirely in finding the room of one’s own, the time alone, difficult and necessary as this is. The problem is more how to still the soul in the midst of its activities. In fact, the problem is how to feed the soul.”

– p. 51


Feeding the center

“Nothing feeds the center so much as creative work, even humble kinds like cooking and sewing. Baking bread, weaving cloth, putting up preserves, teaching and singing to children, must have been far more nourishing than being the family chauffeur or shopping at super-markets.”

– p. 53


The Kingdom of Heaven

“Men, too, are being forced to look inward – to find inner solutions as well as outer ones. Perhaps this change marks a new stage of maturity for modern, extrovert, activist, materialistic Western man. Can it be he is beginning to realize the kingdom of heaven is within?”

– p. 58


On relationships, and refinding oneself

“With each partner hungry for different reasons and each misunderstanding the other’s needs, it is easy to fall apart or into late love affairs. The temptation is to blame the situation on the other person and to accept the easy solution that a new and more understanding partner will solve everything.

But neither woman nor man are likely to be fed by another relationship which seems easier because it is at an earlier stage. Such a love affair cannot really bring back a sense of identity. Certainly, one has the illusion that one will find oneself in being loved for what one really is, not for a collection of functions. But can one actually find oneself in someone else? In someone else’s love? Or even in the mirror someone else holds up for one? I believe that true identity is found, as Eckhart once said, by “going into one’s own ground and knowing oneself.” It is found in creative activity springing from within. It is found, paradoxically, when one loses oneself. One must lose one’s life to find it. Woman can best refind herself by losing herself in some of creative activity of her own. Here she will be able to refind her strength, the strength she needs to look and work at the second half of the problem – the neglected pure relationship. Only a refound person can refind a personal relationship.”

– pp. 68-69


Rediscovering the double-sunrise

“One way of rediscovering the double-sunrise is to duplicate some of its circumstances. Husband and wife can and should go off on vacations alone and also on vacations alone together. For if it is possible that a woman can find herself by having a vacation alone, it is equally possible that the original relationship can sometimes be refound by having a vacation alone together.”

– p. 70


One-and-only, moments

“For not only do we insist on believing romantically in the “one-and-only” – the one-and-only love, the one and only mate, the one-and-only security – we wish the “one and only” to be permanent, ever-present and continuous. The desire for continuity of being-loved-alone seems to me “the error bred in the bone” of man. For “there is no one and only,” as a friend of mine once said in a similar discussion, “there are just one-and-only moments.”

– pp. 72-73


The fallacy of the permanent relationship

“One comes in the end to realize that there is no permanent pure-relationship and there should not be. It is not even something to be desired. The pure relationship is limited, in space and in time. In its essence it implies exclusion. It excludes the rest of life, other relationships, other sides of personality, other responsibilities, other possibilities in the future. It excludes growth.”

– pp. 73-74

Note: nineteen years after Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote these words, her husband, aviator Charles Lindbergh, would pass away, after forty-seven years with her, leaving her a widow for the last twenty-seven years of her life.


The dynamic nature of relationship

“One learns to accept the fact that no permanent return is possible to an old form of relationship; and, more deeply still, that there is no holding of a relationship to a single form. This is not tragedy but part of the ever-recurrent miracle of life and growth. All living relationships are in process of change, of expansion, and must permanently be building themselves to new forms. But there is no single fixed form to express such a changing relationship.”

– pp. 74-75


Middle age: a time to be completely oneself

“Perhaps muddle age is, or should be, a period of shedding shells; the shell of ambition, the shell of material accumulations and possessions, the shell of the ego. Perhaps one can shed at this stage of life as one sheds in beach-living; one’s pride, ones false ambitions, one’s mask, one’s armor. Was that armor not put on to protect one from the competitive world? If one cesses to compete, does one need it? Perhaps one can at last in middle age, if not earlier, be completely oneself. And what a liberation that would be!”

– pp. 84-85


Climbing above the plateau and freeing one’s self for spiritual growth

“Many people never climb above the plateau of forty-to-fifty. The signs that presage growth, so similar, it seems to me, to those in early adolescence: discontent, restlessness, doubt, despair, longing, are interpreted falsely as signs of decay. In youth one does not often misinterpret the signs; one accepts them, quite rightly, as growing pains. One takes them seriously, listens to them, follows where they lead. One I afraid. Naturally. But who is not afriad of pure space – that breath-taking empty space of an open door? But despite fear, one goes through to the room beyond.

But in middle age, because of the false assumption that it is a period of decline, one interprets these life I signs, paradoxically, as signs of approaching death. Instead of facing them, one runs away; one escapes – into depressions, nervous breakdowns, drink, loves affairs, or frantic, thoughtless, fruitless overwork. Anything rather than face them. Anything, rather than stand still and learn from them. One tries to cure the signs of growth, to exorcise them, as if they were devils, when really they might be the angels of annunciation.

Annunciation of what? Of a new stage in living when, having shed many of the physical struggles, the worldly ambitions, the material encumbrances of active life, one might be free to fulfill the neglected side of one’s self. One might be free for growth of the mind, heart, and talent; free at last for spiritual growth…”

– pp. 87-88


Two wholes, rather than two halves: the personal relationship

‘And in this new freedom, is there any place for relationship? I believe there is an opportunity for the best relationship of all: not a limited, mutually exclusive one, and not a dependent one; but the meeting of two whole, fully developed people as persons. It would be, to borrow the definition of the Scottish philosopher MacMurray, a fully personal relationship, this is, “a type of relationship into which people enter as persons with the whole of themselves.” “Personal relationships,” he goes on to explain,”… have no ulterior motive. They are not based on particular interests. They do not serve partial and limited ends. Their value lies entirely in themselves and for the same reason transcends all other values.’

– p. 93


Becoming world to one’s self

“Perhaps both men and women in America may hunger, in our material, outward, active, masculine culture, for the supposedly feminine qualities of heart, mind and spirit – qualities which are actually neither masculine nor feminine, but simply human qualities that have been neglected. It is growth along these lines that will make us whole, and will enable the individual to become world to himself.”

– p. 97


Communication as coffee; thirsting for the night stars

“…good communication is stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after. Before we sleep we go out again into the night. We walk up the beach under the stars. And when we are tired of walking, we lie flat on the same under a bowl of stars. We feel stretched, expanded to take in their compass. They pour into us until we are filled with stars, up to the brim.

This is what one thirsts for, I realize, after the smallness of the day, of work, of details, of intimacy – even of communication, one thirsts for the magnitude and universality of a night full of stars, pouring into one like a fresh tide.”

– pp. 102-103


The only real security in a relationship

“We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity, in the sense that the dancers are free, barely touching ad they pass, but partners in the same pattern. The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping, even. Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what it was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now.”

– pp. 108-109


The luxury of silence; communication as communion

“At home, when I meet my friends in those cubby-holed hours, time is so precious we feel we must cram every available instant with conversation. We cannot afford the luxury of silence. Here on the island I find I can sit with a friend without talking, sharing the day’s last sliver of pale green light on the horizon, or the whorls in a small white shell, or the dark scar left in the dazzling night sky by a shooting star. Then communication becomes communion and one is nourished as one never is by words.”

– p. 116


I bake biscuits and feel just as pleased

“There are all kinds of experiences on this island, but not too many. The simplicity of life forces me into physical as well as intellectual or social activity. I have no car, so I bicycle for my supplies and my mail. When it is cold, I collect driftwood for my fireplace and chop it up, too. I swim instead of taking hot baths. I bury my garbage instead of having it removed by a truck. And when I cannot write a poem, I bake biscuits and feel just as pleased.”

– p. 117

Note: this is the sublime.


The richness of the unknown

“We tend not to choose the unknown, which might be a shock or a disappointment or simply a little difficult to cope with. And yet it is the unknown with all its disappointments and surprises that is the most enriching.”

– p. 119


A false sense of values vs. conscious selectivity

“When I go back will I he submerged again, not only by centrifugal activities, but by too many centripetal ones? Not only by distractions but by too many opportunities? Not only by dull people but by too many interesting ones? The multiplicity of the world will crowd in on me again with its false sense of values. Values weighed in quantity, not quality; in speed, not stillness; in noise, not silence; in words, not in thoughts, in acquisivitiveness, not beauty.”

‘I will have to substitute a conscious selectivity based on another set of values – a sense of values I have become more aware here; simplicity of living, as much as possible, to attain a true awareness of life. Balance of physical, intellectual, and spiritual life. Work without pressure. Space for significance and beauty. Time for solitude and sharing. Closeness to nature to strengthen understanding and faith in the intermittency of life: life of the spirit, creative life, and the life of human relationships.’

“Island life has been my lens through which to examine my own life in the North. I must keep my lens when I go back. Little by little one’s holiday vision tends to fade. I must remember to see with island eyes.”

– pp. 129-120


American vs. European living

“The present is passed over in the race for the future; the here is neglected in favor of the there; and the individual is dwarfed by the enormity of the mass. America, which has the most glorious present still existing in the world today, hardly stops to enjoy it, in her insatiable appetite for the future. Perhaps the historian or the sociologist or the philosopher would say that we are still propelled by our frontier energy, still conditioned by our pioneer pressures or our Puritan anxiety to “do ye next thing.” Europe, on the other hand, which we think of as being enamored by the past, has since the last war, strangely enough, been forced into a new appreciation of the present. The good past is so far away and the near past is so horrible and the future so perilous, that the present has the chance to expand into the golden eternity of of here and now. Europeans today are enjoying the moment even if it means merely a walk in the country on Sunday or wiping a cup of black coffee at a sidewalk café.”

– pp. 126-227

Note: this is writing par excellence.


Growing pains as part of a necessary collective evolution

“Much of this exploration and new awareness is uncomfortable and painful for both men and women. Growth in awareness has always been painful. (One need only remember one’s own adolescence or watch one’s adolescent children.) But it does lead to greater independence and, eventually, cooperation in action. For the enormous problems that fave the world today, in both the private and public sphere, cannot be solved by women – or by men – alone. They can only be surmounted by men and women side by side.”

– p. 138

Passages: The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

This is the second entry in my Passages series, where I transcribe my favorite passages from a book I have just finished reading. Today I felt like an enjoyable read and thus returned to a story I relate to as both a writer and a human being. Fitzgerald manages to tell a story that is free from verbosity without being as robotic and curt as I find his contemporary chum Ernest Hemingway.

The Great Gatsby is, in my estimation, a novel without flaw. Read the passages below to discover why this work is considered to be a masterpiece of American literature.

Copyright 1925, Scribner paperback edition, 2004.

Jay Gatsby’s extraordinary gift of hope

“If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away. This responsiveness had nothing to do with that flabby impressionability which is dignified under the name of “creative temperament” – it was an extraordinary gift of hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again.”

– p. 2


Tom’s nature

“This was a permanent move, said Daisy over the telephone, but I didn’t believe it – I had no sight into Daisy’s heart, but I felt that Tom would drift on forever seeking, a little wistfully, for the dramatic turbulence of some irrecoverable football game.”

– p. 6


Daisy’s nature

“I looked back at my cousin, who began to ask me questions in her low, thrilling voice. It was the kind of voce that the ear follows up and down, as I’d each speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again. Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and a bright passionate mouth, but there was an excitement in her voice that men who cared for her found it difficult to forget: a singing compulsion, a whispered “Listen,” a promise that she had done gay exciting things just a while since and that there were gay, exciting things hovering in the next hour.”

– p. 9


Unpredictable, realistic dialogue

“You make me feel uncivilized Daisy,” I confessed over my second glass of corky but rather impressive claret. “Can’t you talk about crops or something?”

I meant nothing in particular by this remark, but it was taken up in an unexpected way.

“Civilization’s going to pieces,” broke out Tom violently.

“I’ve gotten to be a terrible pessimist about things. Have you read The Rise of the Colored Empires by this man Goddard?”

– p. 12


Tom’s psyche

“As for Tom, the fact that he “had some woman in New York” was really less surprising than that he had been depressed by a book. Something was making him nibble at the edge of stale ideas as if his sturdy physical egoism no longer nourished his peremptory heart.”

– p. 20


Insight, Intuition, Inference

“Something in his leisurely movements and the secure position of his feet upon the lawn suggested that this was Mr. Gatsby himself, come out to determine what share was his of our local heavens.”

– p. 20


How to begin a chapter

“There was music through my neighbor’s house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.”

– p. 39


Gatsby’s smile

“He smiled understandingly – much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced – or seemed to face – the whole eternal world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.”

– p. 48


Nick Carraway’s impression of himself

“Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known.”

– p. 59


Surprised characters

“As we crossed Blackwell’s Island a limousine passed us, in which sat three modish negroes, two bucks and a girl. I laughed aloud as the yolks of their eyeballs rolled toward us in haughty rivalry.

“Anything can happen now that we’ve slid over this bridge”, I thought; “anything at all”…

Even Gatsby could happen, without any particular wonder.”

– p. 69


Cultural commentary / observation

“Americans, while occasionally willing to be serfs, have always been obstinate about being peasantry.”

– p. 88


Daisy’s effect on Gatsby

“He hadn’t once ceased looking at Daisy, and I think he revalued everything in his house according to the measure of response it drew from her well loved eyes. Sometimes, too, he stared around at his possessions in a dazed way, as though in her actual presence none of it was any longer real. Once he nearly toppled down a flight of stairs.”

– p. 91


From Gatz to Gatsby: Jay’s reinvention and backstory

“I suppose he’d had the name ready for a long time, even then. His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people – his imagination had never really accepted them as his parents at all. The truth was that Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God – a phrase which, if it means anything means just that – and he must be about His Father’s business, the service of vast, vulgar, and meritorious beauty. So he invented the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen-year-old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end.”

– p. 98


Gatsby’s Achilles

“I wouldn’t ask too much of her,” I ventured. “You can’t repeat the past.”

“Can’t repeat the past?” he cried incredulously. “Why of course you can!”

He looked around him wildly, as if the past were lurking here in the shadow of his house, just out of reach of his hand.

“I’m going to fix everything just the way it was before,” he said, nodding determinedly. “She’ll see.”

He talked a lot about the past, and I gathered that he wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps that had gone into loving Daisy. His life had been confused and disordered since then, but if he could return to a certain starting place and go over it all slowly, he could find out what that thing was…”

– p.110


Daisy’s Voice

“She’s got an indiscreet voice,” I remarked. “It’s full of – ”
I hesitated.

“Her voice is full of money,” he said suddenly.

That was it. I’d never understood before. It was full of money – that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell with it, the jingle of it, the cymbals’ song of it… High in the white palace the king’s daughter, the golden girl….”

– p. 120


Gatsby anger

“She never loved you, do you hear?” he cried. “She only married you because I was poor and she was tired of waiting for me. It was a terrible mistake, but in her heart she never loved anyone except me!”

– p. 130


Carraway describes the Midwest

“That’s my middle west – not the wheat or the praries or the lost swede towns, but the thrilling returning trains of my youth, and the street lamps and sleigh bells in the frosty dark and the shadows of the hokky wreaths thrown by lighted windows on the snow. I am part of that, a little solemn with the feel of those long winters…”

– p. 176


Carraway’s breakup with Jordan Baker

“I thought you were rather an honest, straightforward person. I thought it was your secret pride.”

“I’m thirty,” I said. “I’m five years too old to lie to myself and call it honor.”

She didn’t answer. Angry, and half in love with her, and tremendously sorry, I turned away.”

– p. 177


Carraway’s verdict on Tom and Daisy

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they made…”

– p. 179


The End: Gatsby believed in the green light

“And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light on the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… And one fine morning –

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

– p. 180

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Passages: Inner Reaches of Outer Space, Joseph Campbell

Prologue: Introducing Passages

I have begun sharing select literary passages on Facebook as of late, where, despite my small list of friends, I have received a substantial amount of positive feedback in the form of likes, shares, and comments. Prompted by this experiment, and spurred by my desire to champion good literature, I will be publishing a series of entries entitled Passages, where I will share my favorite prose and wisdom within a given book.

I’m excited about this. As a writer, I’ll get to transcribe the passages I enjoy most, endearing their texture and syntax evermore deeply to me; and as a reader, this practice will foster more thoughtful, perceptive reading – something I am duly more conscientious of, having just read Mortimer J. Adler’s and Charles Van Doren’s classic literacy manual: How to Read a Book.

As I embark on this journey of transcribing these beautiful bits of books, I offer a caveat and a disclaimer: Passages are not CliffsNotes, nor it is not my wish to contribute to the pseudo-intellectual culture promulgated by the internet and television; that which gives the viewer a false sense of knowing, without any background, context, or experience, the same stacking of facts that allows people to quote so-and-so without ever actually having read blah-blah-blah.

I am not one who espouses highbrow elitism; however, I believe the world would be a better place if people read more books, for few things have profited my soul as time spent between pages.

Without further ado, I hope you enjoy these selected passages.

Inner Reaches of Outer Space, Joseph Campbell

Passages excepted from the 1988 Harper and Row Edition

The inner, transformational world of myth

“The seat of the soul is there, where the outer and inner worlds meet. That is the wonder-land (sic) of myth. From the outer world the senses carry images to the mind, which do not become myth, however, until there transformed by fusion with accordant insights, awakened as imagination from the inner world of the body.”

– p. 31


The borderless omnipresence of the holy land

“The holy land is no special place. It is every place that has ever been recognized and mythologized by any people as home.”

– p. 44


The transcendent, larger than life power of story

” …as noticed in the Chhāndogya Upanishad: “Just as those who do not know the spot might pass, time and time again, over a hidden treasure of gold without discovering it, so do all creatures of this world pass daily into that Brahmā world [in deep sleep], without discovering it, distracted as they are by false ideas.” The distinguishing first function of a properly read mythology is to release the mind from its naive fixation upon such false ideas, which are of material things as things-in-themselves [vs. metaphor]. Hence, the figurations of myth are metaphorical (as dreams normally are not) in two senses simultaneously, as bearing (1) psychological, but at the same time (2) metaphysical, connotations. By way of this dual focus the psychologically significant features of any social order, environment, or supposed history can be transformed through myth into transparencies revelatory of transcendence.”

– p. 56 | note: I find Campbell’s normally eloquent and succinct writing a bit obtuse here but if you can discern what he is saying – there is a lot to take away from this passage on happiness and the transcendent, larger than life power of story. To quote Gabriel Garcia Marquez from One Hundred Years of Solitude (a book I could not get into): “It’s not so much what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.” In other words, the story we tell ourselves matters more than the plot of our lives, for the story shapes the plot.


The metaphorical, transcendent nature of G-d

“…the term and concept “God” is itself but a metaphor of the unknowing mind, connotative, not only beyond itself, but beyond thought.”

– p. 57


Cross-cultural archetypes in myth and identification with the sacred

“The first task of any systematic comparison of the myths and religions of mankind should therefore be (it seemed to me) to identify these universals (or, as C.G. Jung termed them, archetypes of the unconscious) and as far as possible to interpret them; and the second task then should be to recognize and interpret the various locally and historically conditioned transformations of the metaphorical images through which these universals have been rendered. Since the archetypes are not limited in their distributions by cultural or even linguistic boundaries, they cannot be defined as culturally determined. However, the local metaphors by which they have been everywhere connoted, the local ways of experiencing and applying their force, are indeed socially conditioned and defined. Bastian termed such local figurations ” ethnic ideas,” völkergedanken, and Mircea Eliade has termed them “heirophanies” (from hieros-, “powerful, supernatural, holy, sacred,” plus phainein, “to reveal, show, make known.”).

“The very dialectic of the sacred,” Eliade declares, “tends to repeat a series of archetypes, so that a heirophany realized at a certain historical moment is structurally equivalent to a heirophany a thousand years earlier or later.”

The Elementary idea is grounded in the psyche; the Ethnic Idea through which it is rendered, in local geography, history, and society. A heirophany occurs when through some detail, whether of a local landscape, artifact, social custom, historical memory, or individual biography, a psychological archetype or elementary idea is reflected. The object so informed becomes thereby sacralized, or mythologized. Correspondingly, a religious experience will be realized when there is felt an immediate sense of identification with the revelation. The sense of a mere relationship is not the same. In popular cult the experience of relationship is frequently all that is intended. Thereby a sense of social solidarity may be rendered. Through identification, however, a transformation of character is effected.”

– p. 100


Schopenhauer on the synchronicity that shapes a life

“Schopenhauer, in his bold and really magnificent “Transcendent Speculation upon an Apparent Intention in The Fate of the Individual” (1850), takes up the idea, remarking that in the later years of a lifetime, looking back over the course of one’s days and noticing how encounters and events that appeared at the time to be accidental became the crucial structuring features of an unintended lifestory through which the potentialities of one’s character were fostered to fulfillment, one may find it difficult to resist the notion of the course of one’s biography as compatible to that of a clearly constructed novel, wondering who the author of the surprising plot can have been; considering further, that as the shaping of one’s own life was largely an effect of personalities accidentally encountered, so, too, one must have oneself worked effects upon others.

It is one great dream dream dreamed by a single being, but in such a way that all the characters dream too. Hence, everything links and accords with everything else.

– pp. 110-111


The restrictive, mechanistic, religious view of the sacred

“From the standpoint of an exclusively mechanistic view of human experience and action, any such attribution to nature of, “a presence… far more deeply interfused” as that of Wordsworth’s poetic lines of meditation written above Tintern Abbey, or of Schopenhauer’s “Will in Nature,” must be qualified in the derogatory sense as feelings; the so called pathetic fallacy: a sentimental projection of the imagination like Don Quixote’s morbid fantasy of a magician’s work in a windmill. Anthropologists, in the same vein, describe as “animism” the attribution in tribal mythologies, not only of consciousness, but also of a discreet indwelling spirit, to every material form of reality, whether it be animal, plant, stone, star, moon, sun, or cyclone. While in the vocabulary of Judeo-Christian theology, diabolism is the word for such beliefs.

For already in the Old Testament, as in post-Gallilean sciences, there is in nature itself no divinity. There is no god in all of earth but in Israel (II Kings 5:15), and the gods of the gentiles are devils. The texts of Christian missionaries to this same point in justification of their labors are legion, Satan himself being there recognized as even literally present in the idols, sacraments, sorceries, and miracles of every worship but the mission’s own.”

– p. 114


The priest vs. the artist and the artist as innovator

“Carl Jung somewhere has written that the function of religion is to protect us from an experience of God.

The priest’s practical maxims and metaphorical rites moderate transcendent light to secular conditions, intending harmony and enrichment, not disquietude and dissolution. In contrast, the mystic deliberately offers himself to the blast and may go to pieces.

Like the priest, the artist is a master of metaphorical language. The priest, however, is vocationally committed to a vocabulary already coined, of which he is the representative. He is a performing artist executing scripts already perfectly wrought, and his art is in the execution. Creative artists, in contrast, are creative only in so far as they are innovative. And of their innovations, two degrees are readily distinguished. One, the more immediately obvious, has to do with technical innovations; the other with innovative insights.”

– p. 121


The pornographic nature of art intended to foster desire

“Art that excites desire Joyce calls pornographic. All advertising art is in this sense pornographic, since it is intended that the viewer should desire to possess in some manner the object represented.”

– p. 123


The “proper” artist as revolutionary prophet, and mirror for the social mask

“For nature, as we know, is at once without and within us. Art is the mirror at the interface. So too is ritual; so also myth. These, too, ” bring out the grand lines of nature,” and in doing so, reestablish us in our own deep truth, which is at one with that of all being.

So that the artist, functioning in this “proper” way, is the true seer and prophet of his century, the justifier of life and as such, of course, a revolutionary far more fundamental in his penetration of the social mask of the day than any idealist fanatic spilling blood over the pavement in the name simply of another unnatural mask.”

– p. 132


The sublime nature of art that cleanses

“The word ” catharsis” (Greek katharsis; from kathairein, “to cleanse”) which in Aristotle’s usage denotes the effect of tragedy as “effecting through pity and terror a katharsis of these emotions,” was a term which referred in the Greek religious vocabulary to a spiritual transformation brought about by participation in a rite. The mind, “cleansed” of attachments may merely secular aims, desires, and fears, is released to a spiritual rapture. Plato writes of katharsis, for example, as a “defeat of the sensation of pleasure.” The ultimate effect, that is to say, is not to be of beauty (which when seen pleases), but of the sublime (outreaching human comprehension).”

– p. 134


The degradation of art, myth, and religion, and the artist as deliverer

“The question finally at issue, however, is not of individual psychology, alienation, and resentment, but of the irreducible conflict of metaphysics vis-à-vis morals within the jurisdiction, not only of art, but of myth, religion, and social action as well. For during the course of the nineteenth century, the separation of those two opposed orders of human experience, concern, and fulfillment became in the west exaggerated to such a degree by the radical materialism of the increasingly industrialized megalopolitan centers of mass intelligence and democratization, that anything like the functional grounding of a social order in a mythology (so that individuals of whatever social class, participating in the metaphorical festivals, should become joined with all in a profoundly shared experience of the ground and sense of their lives) simple disappeared into irrelevance. And with that, the proper artist lost his function. Today’s pitiful contracts to invent monuments commemorating local-historical events and personages are hardly compatible to the earlier challenges of art, to break through the walls of a culture to eternity. Thus, the only true service of a proper artist today will have to be to individuals: returning them to forgotten archetypes, les grandes lignes de la nature, which have been lost to view behind a cloud contending Jeremy Benthamoid philosophies of the greatest [economic] good to the greatest number.

– p. 144

A Deeper Reality

“If we must escape from reality, it should be to a deeper, or greater, reality. This is the reality of our inner life, of our own unique vision of the world. To discover this reality makes us happy; the experience is deeply satisfying to some part of ourselves we do not normally touch. In any event, the rules of reading a great work of literary art should have as an end or goal just such a profound experience. The rules should clear away all that stops us from feeling as deeply as we possibly can.”

– How to Read a Book, Mortimer J. Adler, p. 206

Completely Uncommon Advice on Happiness from Robina Courtin

Robina Courtin Quote

30-year Tibetan Buddhist Nun (and total bad ass) Robina Courtin delivered a talk at Google in 2008 that’s chock-full of immensely refreshing, yet completely uncommon advice on happiness, neurosis, and “being your own therapist”.

Powerful, powerful stuff.

Uncommon Advice on Happiness from Rebina Courtin’s 2008 Talk at Google: Be Your Own Therapist

Overview from Youtube:

We spend our lives being seduced by the outside world, believing without question that happiness and suffering come from “out there.” In reality, Buddhist teachings explain that they come from the way we perceive and interpret things, not the things themselves.

This deeply held misconception is at the root of our dissatisfaction, self-doubt, anger, depression, anxiety, and the rest. But our minds can change. By becoming deeply familiar with the workings of our own cognitive processes through introspection and learning to deconstruct them – truly, being our own therapists – we can loosen the grip of these neuroses and grow our marvelous potential for contentment, clarity, and courage, which are at the core of our being.


Note: Typically when I watch a talk, or read a book, I am thrilled if I can walk away with one really good idea to put into my toolkit; however, at 29 years old, the following quote is perhaps the best single piece of advice I’ve heard on happiness in the last five years. It’s the psychology of happiness in a single sentence.

“Happiness is – it’s really simple, it’s what you get when you give up the neurosis.” Robina Courtin

The rest of the entry contains a WEALTH of additional wisdom from the same talk, expanding on this idea.

Giving up Neurosis to Find Happiness

“The extent of which we are caught up in any given moment in low self-esteem, depression, anger, jealousy, you name it… The extent to which we’re caught up in those is the extent of which we suffer.

The extent of which we are not caught up in those and therefore the extent which we’re involved in kind of, you know, connecting with others, empathy, being harmonious, forgiving…T he extent of which they’re prevalent in our minds at any given moment is the extent to which we are happy.

It’s an incredibly simple little recipe in Buddhist terms. We (most people) think it [happiness] is what you get when you get what you want. He [The Buddah] says it’s what you get when you give up the neurosis – so the technique is learning to know your mind, being your own therapist.”

Don’t Think About Calming Your Mind, Think About Steadying it’s Focus

“A calm mind can be a busy mind. And if you think about it, what causes the problems isn’t a busy mind, it’s when the–the busy mind is caught up in fear about yourself and worry of what people think about you, am I good enough, am I too fat, am I too thin and depression and jealous and anxiety and all the rest. That’s the stuff that causes the misery. If you’re full of thoughts about being useful to others all day and being content with yourself, well, please go for it, you know. You don’t have a problem, believe me.”

On Using the Full Brilliant Power of Your Mind to Your Advantage

“Don’t try to hold yourself back. Love the fact that you’ve got a brilliant mind, that you’re a real thinker – this is the technique, this is the tool that you can use to be your own therapist, to use this cognitive process to deconstruct your own stuff. Okay, alongside that intelligence, you need some, you know integrity, you need humility, you need the wish to look at yourself, you need the will to want to, the ability–and the wish to want to go beyond blame and hurt that alongside this intelligence, that’s a marvelous packaging I tell you. That’s the stuff that we need. Intelligence on its own is a disaster. You can still be in an infantile at the age of 90 even if you’re a genius, you know?”

On Anger, Jealousy, Fear, and Attachment

“Lack of emotional intelligence is what we have when we have anger, and jealousy and fear, and attachment because these are totally self-centered, unhappy, miserable states of mind.”

Facing Self-Knowledge With Courage and Self-Compassion Rather Than Low Self-Esteem and Self-Loathing

“It’s a question of knowing yourself well – taking responsibility, but on the basis of the fact that you can change – not, “Oh, I’m so guilty, I’m so bad”. Not that at all, which is a knee-jerk reaction we tend to have when we point out problems in ourselves. That’s not the attitude here. It’s a courageous attitude. It’s just, “Okay, I am jealous, I get depressed, I am this, I am that, what a drag, it’s breaking my heart.” You’ve got to have compassion for yourself really, which is a brand new idea for us. We love to hate ourselves.”

The Importance of Identifying with Your Positive Potential

“The more strongly you can kind of identify with your positive potential, the more you have the courage, don’t you, to see the things that are holding you back. But the crucial one for me is we take one thing from this room: I can change. It sounds so simple, it’s almost embarrassing but you check the major level at which we suffer when things are going bad, we cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. This is why we despair.”

Mindfulness as Kind of Cognitive Behavioral Tool

“We can mold our minds, our thoughts and feelings into any shape we like, you know and this is the thing here. The level of which I’m discussing here, the level of practice based upon these really marvelous techniques where you can learn to focus your mind, you then use the skill of–of this–really a process of cognitive therapy and I’m really not kidding. Buddha is a master of cognitive therapies. You learn more and more clearly, literally to hear the millions of voices inside there that now are racing like I said out of control all day everyday.”

The Neurotic “I” – Neuroticism as a Product of our Sense of Self and Self-Centeredness

“The basis of the neurotic voices, the fearful ones, the angry ones, the jealous, the depression is a neurotic sense of self of”I.” You think about it, even if Monica and I are sitting, having a very friendly conversation, I’m listening to her and she is listening to me and I crack [her jokes]–you know I laugh at her jokes and she laughs at mine. You think about this carefully when it’s very easygoing, there’s no real vivid sense of “I” this, “I am listening to Monica” – you’re kind of connected to her. There’s a sense of interdependence, isn’t there? There’s a sense of “we.” Now you watch what happens when you start to argue, that “we” is cut in half right there. The unhappy “I” is kind of quiet like a sleeping lion, and there’s a sense of connected to otherness. But then when that’s cut, you kind of revert back into yourself and the “I” rises loudly and you’re panicking and your heart’s beating and the blood’s racing and ‘she did this’ and ‘I said that’, ‘it’s not fair’, ‘poor me’ this – that’s the voice – the “I”, the neurotic “I,” behind all the unhappy states of mind – that’s their character.”

The Neurotic Voices are Not at The Core of Your Being, They Can be Changed

“So even to think ‘wow, that’s interesting, maybe it’s possible, maybe what Buddha says is possible, that they’re not at the core of my being [the neurotic voices], that I can learn to look into these and deconstruct them and hear the voices and unpack them and slowly, cognitively change myself.’ This is the process I’m talking about here. “

A Question About Materialism and Happiness: The Distinction Between The Thing and Your Interpretation of It

Note: This might be the magnum opus of the lessons here. An attendee asks an assumptive question about the best way to live in order to be happy and the reply is just not at all what you would assume.

Question: “So since it’s pretty pointless to pursue a job and the girlfriend and the dollars and the car, would the most practical thing for us to be, is to just take care of a little bit of shelter and food and spend all the rest of the time in contemplation?”

Answer: “How revolting. I couldn’t stand a life like that. No, you’ve gone ridiculous. There’s nothing wrong with millions of dollars and jobs and girlfriends and gorgeous things, no, no you’re chucking the baby out of the bath water. You went too far, you became kind of nihilistic. No, that’s not the point. You can have your cake and eat it too sweetheart, and I’m really serious here. The Buddha makes this enormous distinction between the thing itself and your interpretation of it, and what he is describing here–the problem is our interpretation of the girlfriend, of the money – if you put all your eggs in those baskets, believing primordially that having them equals happiness, he says that’s when you will be disappointed, because you just got the wrong recipe. So he doesn’t say give them up, he says change your way of interpreting them.

Happiness is dependent upon you changing, getting rid of your neurotic attachment, getting rid of all your craving for people to love you, getting –I mean I am talking of the neurotic side here–rid of the craving for people to approve of you, to think you’re fantastic, for the dollars in the bank – the neurotic dependence on that stuff is what I am talking about, not the stuff itself. …So that’s not the answer, we’re in this world of abundance and money and things and color and shapes and music and sounds, it’s kind of a sophisticated view. The first level is maybe you back away for a while, while you go into retreat mode, you know. But eventually with skill, you’re going to have your cake and eat it too. It’s giving up the neurotic attitude towards the things, not the things themselves. That’s a major, major point. Makes sense, doesn’t it?”

Watch the full Talk Below

Note: I really enjoyed Robina Courtin’s demeanor – she seems like a definite non-people pleaser, which I mean as a compliment; although I did cringe at a few of the things she said, but watching this was a reminder that spirituality does not have to strip you of your confidence nor your personality and that decreasing your suffering can empower you to live the highest manifestation of both.

Follow Robina Courtin on Facebook.

Update: 11/8/2014

The following was a comment I posted on a thread in the Stoicism group I am in on facebook. I wanted to add it here as it relates to my own personal ethos on life, from an increasingly Buddhist perspective.

In my very limited (but growing) understanding of Buddhist teachings, I feel that The Buddha was a master of perspective. I feel like Buddhism compliments Stoicism very well; through Stoicism I gain understanding, through Buddhism I gain perspective. Definitely something I would love to see a dedicated thread on in the future. And regarding positive thought, I am inclined to agree with you, especially when examining the Stoic practice of negative visualization (imagining loss, ex: preparing for bad traffic in LA). The older I get the less I subscribe to new age positive thinking, instead favoring wisdom. There’s certainly a point at which mere positivity becomes an almost weakness, disconnecting you from the true reality of things. If there’s a lesson to be learned from positivity, I think it’s “don’t be neurotic”.

 

 

Applying The Rule of 3: Is it true? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind?

I enjoy subscribing to certain questions on Quora.

Today I received an email with a particularly good answer to the question: What is the best advice your father ever gave you?

The answer I received is as follows:

My father told me to follow the rule of 3 in life.
Some of the examples are:

If you want to buy something, ask yourself 3 questions:

    Is it necessary?
    Do I need it right now?
    Is it worth its price?

If answer to all of this is yes then only buy it.

Before you speak anything, ask yourself 3 questions:

    Is it true?
    Is it necessary?
    Is it kind?

If the answer to all of this is yes then only speak.
 
This has helped me tremendously in my life because I can apply this method to almost everything in my life.


Of course, this is the kind of thing we see posted on social media almost daily – with a myriad of inaccurate sources, and as such, it can be easy to let it go as unnoticed as any of the dozen-or-so quotes you may encounter on a daily basis.

However, what makes this wonderful is that it’s not just a quote, but a paradigm; a lens via which we can look through to gain better clarity before we act.

How many times have we spoken without certainty that something is necessary, true, or kind?

How many times have we purchased something that wasn’t necessary, that we didn’t need right then, or that wasn’t worth the price?

By applying the “rule of 3”, as the answer calls it, we have a simple framework for making better decisions.

Interestingly, upon Googling the quote, it turns out it originates from a Victorian book of poems called “Miscellaneous Poems,” published in 1872 (Source: FakeBuddahQuotes.com). The poem is written by Mary Ann Pietzker and is aptly titled “Is It True? Is It Necessary? Is It Kind?

“Is It True? Is It Necessary? Is It Kind?

Oh! Stay, dear child, one moment stay,
Before a word you speak,
That can do harm in any way
To the poor, or to the weak;
And never say of any one
What you’d not have said of you,
Ere you ask yourself the question,
“Is the accusation true?”

And if ’tis true, for I suppose
You would not tell a lie;
Before the failings you expose
Of friend or enemy:
Yet even then be careful, very;
Pause and your words well weigh,
And ask it it be necessary,
What you’re about to say.

And should it necessary be,
At least you deem it so,
Yet speak not unadvisedly
Of friend or even foe,
Till in your secret soul you seek
For some excuse to find;
And ere the thoughtless word you speak,
Ask yourself, “Is it kind?”

When you have ask’d these questions three—
True,—Necessary,—Kind,—
Ask’d them in all sincerity,
I think that you will find,
It is not hardship to obey
The command of our Blessed Lord,—
No ill of any man to say;
No, not a single word.

May the Rule of 3 serve you well my dear reader – and perhaps as the gentleman’s father had taught him to apply a rule of 3 for purchases, you too can create and apply your own rules of 3 to help you make better decisions in your life; i.e., before you eat, ask yourself “Am I hungry?, do I need to eat something?, and is this healthy?”

This is just an example made up on the fly, and of course life isn’t always that simple, but picking up little tricks along the way like the rule of 3 can help us improve our ability to make healthy and intelligent decisions. As the answer’s author wrote: This has helped me tremendously in my life because I can apply this method to almost everything in my life.