Posted in Quotes

Walking to Listen

I really enjoyed this book “Walking to Listen” by Andrew Forsthoefel. It is his story of walking across the US with a sign on his back saying “walking to listen”. He documents his journey and talks about all the different people that he met in his journey.

This book reminded me of two things in my life. One was my train trip across the US, where I just met so many different people, and it was a space that was normal to talk to others. I met people from all walks of life. I wish that this was something I would be able to do in my everyday life.

The other thing it reminded me of was doing chaplaincy. When many people talk about their time in chaplaincy, they talk about being a vessel to hold pain or sadness. But for me, I really think that it is walking to listen. I walked around the hospital to listen to people. At times they needed to share fear or sadness, but other times they wanted to share things that make them happy or pieces of who they are outside of the hospital walls. For many, their illness is not something that defines them, but rather is just something that is part of a whole. And if you walk to listen- then you are able to see the different pieces that make up the whole.

Here are some quotes that he quoted that I really liked:

pg. 48

“This is in the end the only kind of courage that is required of us,” Rilke wrote, in his Letters. “The courage to face the strangest, most unusual, most inexplicable experiences that can meet us…But the fear of the inexplicable has not only impoverished the reality of the individual; it has also narrowed the relationship between one human being and another, which has as it were been lifted out of the riverbed of infinite possibilities and set down in a fallow place on the bank, where nothing happens.” The inexplicable. The unknown. The serendipitous. Best make room for them, I thought, so something will happen. 

pg. 241

Whitman was with Rilke on this one:

“You shall no longer take things at second or third hand… nor look through the eyes of the dead… nor feed on the spectres in books,

You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,

You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself”

Posted in Quotes

Alone

I met someone who had this poem by Chaim Nahman Bialik framed on his wall. It seems appropriate.

לְבַדִּי

כֻּלָּם נָשָׂא הָרוּחַ, כֻּלָּם סָחַף הָאוֹר,

שִׁירָה חֲדָשָׁה אֶת-בֹּקֶר חַיֵּיהֶם הִרְנִינָה;

וַאֲנִי, גּוֹזָל רַךְ, נִשְׁתַּכַּחְתִּי מִלֵּב

תַּחַת כַּנְפֵי הַשְּׁכִינָה.

 

בָּדָד, בָּדָד נִשְׁאַרְתִּי, וְהַשְּׁכִינָה אַף-הִיא

כְּנַף יְמִינָהּ הַשְּׁבוּרָה עַל-רֹאשִׁי הִרְעִידָה.

יָדַע לִבִּי אֶת-לִבָּה: חָרֹד חָרְדָה עָלַי,

עַל-בְּנָהּ, עַל-יְחִידָהּ.

 

כְּבָר נִתְגָּרְשָׁה מִכָּל-הַזָּוִיּוֹת, רַק-עוֹד

פִּנַּת סֵתֶר שׁוֹמֵמָה וּקְטַנָּה נִשְׁאָרָה –

בֵּית-הַמִּדְרָשׁ – וַתִּתְכַּס בַּצֵּל, וָאֱהִי

עִמָּהּ יַחַד בַּצָּרָה.

 

וּכְשֶׁכָּלָה לְבָבִי לַחַלּוֹן, לָאוֹר,

וּכְשֶׁצַּר-לִי הַמָּקוֹם מִתַּחַת לִכְנָפָהּ –

כָּבְשָׁה רֹאשָׁהּ בִּכְתֵפִי, וְדִמְעָתָהּ עַל-דַּף

גְּמָרָתִי נָטָפָה.

 

חֶרֶשׁ בָּכְתָה עָלַי וַתִּתְרַפֵּק עָלָי,

וּכְמוֹ שָׂכָה בִּכְנָפָהּ הַשְּׁבוּרָה בַּעֲדִי:

“כֻּלָּם נָשָׂא הָרוּחַ, כֻּלָּם פָּרְחוּ לָהֶם,

וָאִוָּתֵר לְבַדִּי, לְבַדִּי…”

 

וּכְעֵין סִיּוּם שֶׁל-קִינָה עַתִּיקָה מְאֹד,

וּכְעֵין תְּפִלָּה, בַּקָּשָׁה וַחֲרָדָה כְּאַחַת,

שָׁמְעָה אָזְנִי בַּבִּכְיָה הַחֲרִישִׁית הַהִיא

וּבַדִּמְעָה הַהִיא הָרוֹתַחַת –

 

תמוז, תרס”ב.

Levadi –Alone

Wind blew, light drew them all.
New songs revive their mornings.
Only I, small bird, am forsaken
under the Shekhina’s wing.

Alone.  I remain alone.
The Shekhina’s broken wing
trembled over my head.  My heart knew hers:
her fear for her only son.

Driven from every ridge –
one desolate corner left –
in the House of Study she hides in shadow,
and I alone share her pain.

Imprisoned beneath her wing
my heart longed for the light.
She buried her face on my shoulder
and a tear fell on my page.

Dumbly she clung and wept.
Her broken wing sheltered me:
“scattered to the four winds of heaven;
they are gone, and I am alone”.

It was an ancient lament
a suppliant cry I heard
in that lost and silent weeping,
and in that scalding tear.

And when it is put to music.

Posted in Life, Quotes

The Road to Character

I find it amazing when a book that I see in the airport is actually a book that I think has substance. I found “The Road to Character” by David Brooks,  a great book to read. I learned about interesting people and how they found their strength to do in the world. David Brooks, gave a great summary of “The Lonely Man of Faith”. The characters that he brought are not only men, but also women who created great change in the world. Here are some quotes that I found especially meaningful while reading.

pg. xi-xii

Modernizing Soloveitchik’s categories a bit, we could say that Adam I is the career-oriented, ambitious side of our nature. Adam I is the external, resume Adam. Adam I wants to build, create, produce and discover things. He wants to have high status and win victories.

Adam II is the internal Adam. Adam II wants to have a serene inner character, a quiet but solid sense of right and wrong- not only to do good, but to be good. Adam II wants to love intimately, to sacrifice self in the service of others, to live in obedience to some transcendent truth, to have a cohesive inner soul that honors creation and one’s own possibilities.

While Adam I wants to conquer the world, Adam II wants to obey a calling to serve the world. While Adam II wants to obey a calling to serve the world. While Adam I is creative and savors his own accomplishments, Adam II sometimes renounces worldly success and status for the sake of some sacred purpose. While Adam I asks how things work, Adam II asks why things exist, and what ultimately we are here for. While Adam I wants to venture forth, Adam II wants to return to his roots and savor the warmth of a family meal. While Adam I’s motto is “Success,” Adam II experience life as a moral drama. His motto is “Charity, love, and redemption.”

Soloveitchik argued that we live in the contradiction between these two Adams. The outer, majestic Adam and the inner, humble Adam are not fully reconcilable. We are forever caution in self-confrontation. We are called to fulfill both personae, and must master the art of living forever within the tension between these two natures.

The hard part of this confrontation, I’d add, is that Adams I and II live by different logic. Adam I- the creating, building, and discovering Adam- lives by a straightforward utilitarian logic. It’s the logic of economics. Input leads to output. Effort leads to reward. Practices makes perfect. Pursue self-interest. Maximize your utility. Impress the world.

Adam II lives by an inverse logic. It’s moral logic, not an economic one. You have to give to receive. You have to surrender to something outside yourself to gain strength within yourself. You have to conquer your desire to get what you crave. Success leads to the greatest failure, which is pride. Failure leads to the greater success, which is humility and learning. In order to fulfill yourself, you have to forget yourself. In order to find yourself, you have to lose yourself.

To nurture your Adam I career, it makes sense to cultivate your strengths. To nurture your Adam II moral core, it is necessary to confront your weakness.

pg. 23

Life…”ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets before the individual.”

pg. 24

Frankl, like Perkins, had a vocation, a vocation is not a career. A person choosing a career looks for job opportunities and room for advancement. A person choosing a career is looking for something that will provide financial and psychological benefits. If your job or career isn’t working for you, you choose a different one.

A person does not choose a vocation. A vocation is a calling. People generally feel like they have no choice in the matter. Their life would be unrecognizable unless they pursued this line of activity.

Pg. 34

Perkins kept a folder titled “Notes on the Male Mind” and recorded this episode in it. It played a major role in her political education: “I learned from this that the way men take women in political life is to associate them with motherhood. They know and respect their mothers — 99 percent of them do. It’s primitive and primary attitude. I said to myself, ‘That’s the way to get things done. So behave, dress, and so comport yourself that you remind them subconsciously of their mothers.’

Pg. 46-47

As Reinhold Neibuhr put it in 1952:

Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from out standpoint. Therefore we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.

Pg. 63 (Eisenhower’s pick me-up poem)

Take a bucket, fill it with water,

Put your hand in–clear up to the wrist.

Now pull it out; the hole that remains

Is a measure of how much you’ll be missed…

The moral of this quaint example:

To do just the best that you can,

Be proud of yourself, but remember,

There is no Indispensable Man!

Pg. 78 Thoughts by Dorothy Day on living in New York – which very well could be my own, just written much nicer.

In all that great city of seven millions, I found no friends; I had no work, I was separated from my fellows. Silence in the midst of city noises oppressed me. My own silence, the feeling that I had no one to talk to overwhelmed me so that my very throat was constricted; my heart was heavy with unuttered thoughts; I wanted to weep my loneliness away.

Pg. 168 Some more ideas that seem too true to my life right now.

Mary Anne [Evens, ie. George Elliot], for her part, was also lonely, but maturing. She wrote to Cara Bray, “My troubles are purely psychical – self dissatisfaction and despair of achieving anything worth doing.” In her journal she embraced the sentiment that was first written by the feminist author Margeret Fuller: ‘I shall always reign through the intellect, but the life! The life! O my god! Shall that never be sweet?’

Pg. 170 On Love

Love is like an invading army that reminds you that you are not master of your own house. It conquers you little by little, reorganizing your energy levels, reorganizing your sleep patterns, reorganizing your conversational topics, and, toward the end of the process, rearranging the objects of your sexual desire and event he focus of your attention. When you are in love, you can’t stop thinking about your beloved. You walk through a crowd and think you see her in a vaguely familiar form every few yards. You flight from highs to lows and feel pain at the slights and you know are probably trivial or illusory. Love is the strongest kind of army because it generates no resistance. When the invasion is only half complete, the person being invaded longs to be defeated, fearfully, but utterly and hopelessly.

Love is a surrender. You expose your deepest vulnerabilities and give up your illusions of self-mastery. This vulnerability and the desire for support can manifest itself in small ways. Eliot once wrote, “There is something strangely winning to most women in that offer of the firm arm; the help is not wanted physically at the moment, but the sense of help, the presence of strength that is outside them and yet theirs, meets a continual want of imagination.”

Pg. 197

Lewis Smedes, expressing an Augustinian thought, describes the mottled nature of our inner world:

‘Our inner lives are not partitioned like day and night, with pure light on one side of us and total darkness on the other. Mostly, our souls are shadowed places; we live at the border where our dark sides block our light and throw a shadow over our interior places…We cannot always tell where our light ends and our shadow begins or where our shadow ends and our darkness begins.’

Pg. 206

Paul Tillich puts it this way in his collection of essays, Shaking the Foundations:

‘Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life… It strikes us when our disgust for our own being, our indifference, our weakness, our hostility, and our lack of direction and composure have become intolerable to us. It strikes us when, year after year, the longed-for perfection of life does not appear, when the old compulsions reign within us as they have for decades, when despair destroys all joy and courage. Sometimes at the moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness and it is as though a voice were saying: ‘You are accepted. You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later. Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much. Do not seek for anything; do not perform anything; do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted.’ If that happens to us, we experience grace. After such an experience we may not be better than before and we may not believe more than before. But everything is transformed. In that moment, grace conquers sin, and reconciliation bridges the gulf of estrangement. And nothing is demanded of this experience, no religious or moral or intellectual presupposition, nothing but acceptance.’

Pg. 266

No good life is possible unless it is organized around a vocation. If you try to use your work to serve yourself, you’ll find your ambitions and expectations will forever run ahead and you’ll never be satisfied. If you try to serve the community, you’ll always wonder if people appreciate you enough. But if you serve work that is intrinsically compelling and focus just on being excellent at that, you will wind up serving yourself and the community obliquely. A vocation is not found by looking within and finding your passion. It is found by looking without and asking what life is asking of us. What problem is addressed by an activity you intrinsically enjoy?

 

Posted in Quotes

Inner Light in a Time of Darkness

I was reading “We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For: Inner Light in a Time of Darkness” by Alice Walker, and there are two poems that really hit me this week.

When Life Descends into the Pit (pg. 39)

When life descends into the pit

I must become my own candle

Willingly burning myself

To light up the darkness

Around me

When We Let Spirit Lead Us (pg. 181-182)

We we let Spirit

Lead us

It is impossible

To know

Where

We are being led.

All we know

All we can believe

All we can hope

Is that

We are going

Home

That wherever

Spirit

Takes us

Is where

We live.

Posted in Life, Quotes

Knowledge of Your Soul

…Her grandmother was too practical for automobiles.

“They are the beginning of the end for our country” she would say. “Even if everyone else thinks otherwise. You see, little one, the speed of the body – for that is what cars are, really, the speed of the atoms in your body, rattling like bullets against your being – the speed of the body leaves no time for the knowledge of God in your soul. How can you, with all that sound and air rushing past you? Grandmother Shahrzad had smiled. “And the same thing goes for your essence.”

“Where are we going, Maman Bozorg?” Zadi had to skip to keep up with her grandmother’s strong legs.

“No questions, joon-e man. Not yet. Just silence. Just follow the silence. It will lead you down all the right paths, sooner or later.” (The Margaret Thatcher School of Beauty, by Marsha Mehran, pg. 72-73)

Posted in Daily Prompt, Quotes

Grain

I bizarrely have lots of thoughts about grain, almost none of them related to each other.

I think about grain and Halacha. What are the grains? What bracha do you say on them? When are grains a grain? What is the status of rice?

I think about grain in relation to the laws of Shabbat. About borrer and zoreh. I think about how so many of our laws are based on agriculture. They are based on knowing how to work the land and create out food, something that I feel very separate from today. I do cook, but I am not farming. I am not grinding my own wheat. I am not really doing any acts of separation. But all the ideas are something I think about.

I think about going against the grain. What does it mean to go in the way that you feel is right for you, when it is not the thing that anyone else is doing? How do you keep up the strength to continue to fight? Is it actually worth it to go against the grain?

I think about how small each grain is and can be. That all the very small pieces are horrible to clean up if they fall on the floor. That when they are cooked together they are able to provide food and nourishment. That when they are raw (for the most part) they are almost inedible, but when something is done to them they are the main source of food for people.


This is just a quote that I found that I liked a lot. It has nothing to do with grain, but I didn’t want to have two separate posts.

To have a friend, to call him or her by name and to be called by him or her, is already to know that one of the two of you will go first, that one will be left to speak the name of the other in the other’s absence. Again, this is not only the ineluctable law of human finitude but the law of the name. Mourning thus begins already with the name. (The Good Death, by Ann Neumann, pg. 206)

Posted in Quotes

Some Quotes from This Weekend’s Books

When I am at my parent’s house, I tend to read A LOT. Like in the past 25 hours I read 3.5 books. Here are some quotes that I really liked.

“Willful Disregard” by Lena Anderson

Revolution is incompatible with the functioning of the human brain. That is, with being human. We cannot deal with the inherent absolutism and abrubtness of revolution. Everything a human does in gradual. All her insights, all her thoughts, everything that happens and is said is part of a process, layer upon layer of experience gained. Life itself is lived gradually, by defintion, and consciousness is created that way, by evolution. We are drawn to love in order to feel that someone is seeing us. (pg. 42-43)

Also from “Willful Disregard”:

When you love and someone receives that love, the body feels light. When the opposite happens, one kilo weighs three. Love that is just beginning is like dancing on a finely honed edge. It can happenthat a kilo never regains its proper weight, which generates a degree of apprehension in the fearful, the experienced and the farsighted.And in those who do not have Ester’s extraordainary capacity for hope. (pg. 55)

“What is Not Yours is Not Yours” by Helen Oyeyemi

To you who eat a lof of rice because you are lonely

To you who sleep a lot because you are bored

To you who cry a lot beause you are sad

I write this down.

Chew on your feelings that are cornered

Like you would chew on rice.

Anyway life is something you need to digest.- Chun Yang Hee (pg. 53)