The more turmoil the world is in, the more we long for solace and wisdom. Lately, that’s a lot of longing.
By coincidence, about a year ago (just before things got in quite such a mess) I started writing down pieces of solace and wisdom that I came across on the Internet, or in books and magazines.
I just printed out a copy, and the file contains...
Good grief. Twenty-seven pages worth?
Not surprisingly, most of my favorite quotes are from writers. But there are also some activists, preachers, sages, and oddballs scattered among them. I’d like to pass along some of the solace and wisdom to you now, so I can clean out my file and make room for more.
• Minister Tom Ehrich, on religion: “We tend to define God in a way that preserves our limited horizons. But God isn’t swayed or deterred. He sees the sadness within our self-protection.”
• From the Kaballah, a sacred Hebrew text, on peace of mind: “To contemplate truth, without sorrow, is the greatest gift.”
• Film director Jean Renoir, on the human condition: “The awful thing about life is that everybody has their reasons.”
• An old Hungarian saying, on the human condition: “Life is like licking honey from a thorn.”
• Author Jim Harrison on politics: “Most politicians have the same moral imperative as a cancer cell: continue what you’re up to at all costs.”
• Author Marcel Proust, on art: “Only through art can we emerge from ourselves and see what another person sees.”
• Pianist and composer Peter Kater, on art: “Creativity is not about making something. That’s putting the cart before the horse. Creativity is about listening, about being aware in the moment. What you make from that awareness is just the by-product.”
• Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, on art: “We have art so that we do not perish in the truth.”
• Professor William Strunk Jr., on writing: “Vigorous writing is concise.”
• Author Franz Kafka, on writing: “A writer who does not write is a monster courting insanity.”
• Author Sinclair Lewis, on writing: “As writers, we have the power to bore people long after we are dead.”
• Author Erika Nelson, on hometowns: “Always remember where you came from, but never forget why you left.”
• Author Jean-Paul Sartre, on freedom: “Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.”
• Author Edward Abbey, on the outdoors: “Our suicidal poets (Plath, Berryman, Lowell, Jarrell, et al.) spent far too much of their lives inside rooms and classrooms when they should have been trudging up mountains, slogging through swamps, rowing down rivers. The indoor life is the next best thing to premature burial.”
• Director Woody Allen, on peace: “Someday, the lion shall lie down with the lamb. But the lamb is not going to get much sleep.”
• And finally, perhaps the best piece of advice any writer can ever receive, from poet David Knoebel: “The English language includes more than 250,000 words. Good combinations are still available.”
I heard that.
Dale Short is a native of Walker County. His columns, photos, and radio features are available on his website, carrolldaleshort.com. His weekly radio program "Music from Home" airs each Sunday at 6 pm on Oldies 101.5 FM, streams live online at www.oldies1015fm.com, and is archived afterward on his website.