“The Buddha described the dharma as ‘going against the stream.’ As long as one swims with the current of a river, one remains unaware of it. But if one chooses to turn against it, suddenly it is revealed as a powerful, discomforting force. The ‘stream’ refers to the accumulated habits of conditioning. The practice of dharma means to turn around midstream, to observe mindfully and intelligently the forces of conditioning instead of impulsively reacting to their promptings.”
~ Stephen Batchelor
Some days, I find this a fairly accurate job description…
“I have spent most of the day putting in a comma and the rest of the day taking it out.”
~ Oscar Wilde
“A drop of rain falling on the ground disappears in no time at all. But it is still there somehow; even if it is absorbed into the soil, it’s still there in another form. If it evaporates, it’s still there in the air. It’s become vapor; you don’t see the drop of rain, but that doesn’t mean it’s no longer there. A cloud can never die. A cloud can become rain or snow or ice, but a cloud cannot become nothing. To die means from something we become nothing, from being we pass into nonbeing. That is our idea of death. But meditation helps us to touch our true nature of no-birth and no-death. Before the cloud manifests as a cloud, the cloud has been water vapor, has been the ocean. So it has not come from nonbeing into being. Our notion of birth is just a notion. Our notion of death is just a notion.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh, The World We Have: A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology
“I decided…I was going to do at least one thing every day toward my future life as a poet. I calculated that no matter how small a step I took each day, over a year that would come to a grand total of 365 actions toward the life I wanted. One thing a day adds up to a great deal over time. One thing a day is a powerful multiplier.”
~ David Whyte, Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity
Like many people, I imagine, I enjoy gathering quotes. In fact, I’ve posted a few here on this blog. So it’s hardly surprising that, given my mantra, a number of my favorite quotes would delve into the meaning of home.
For instance, I have no idea how I came upon this first quotes, but you can probably see why I held on to it…
A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.
~ George Moore
Then there’s Kathleen Norris, who’s lived the question of home in a rather deep and conscious way. In her twenties, Norris left New York City to spend what she thought would be a few years attending to the estate of her grandparents in rural South Dakota, a place she’d visited extensively throughout her childhood. This temporary move ended up lasting nearly twenty years, during which time Norris plumbed the social and geographical aspects of home—what ties people to a place and to each other, and how culture emerges from these interconnections.
I suspect that when modern Americans ask “what is sacred?” they are really asking “what place is mine? what community do I belong to?”
~ Dakota: a spiritual geography
To be an American is to move on, as if we could outrun change. To attach oneself to place is to surrender to it, and suffer with it.
~ The Cloister Walk
However, the two home-quotes that have spoken most vividly to me come from Wallace Stegner’s novel Angle of Repose (one of my all-time favorites) and Natalie Goldberg’s Long Quiet Highway: Waking Up in America (which she autographed for me at a bookstore in Boulder, where I was then living and where she’d once studied). Continue reading
Filed under My Quest, Quotes
Aside from Kurt Vonnegut and Barbara Kingsolver, the author whose oeuvre I’ve plunged the deepest is Haruki Murakami. Known for his gritty and mundane, yet surreal and whimsical, fiction (I especially recommend his novel The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and short story collection The Elephant Vanishes), this “heroically imaginative” writer exhibits “deadpan mania and genius,” according to the website Goodreads.
The following quotes come from his memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. I had no idea that one of my favorite writers had such a Sudbury-esque outlook. Here, it turns out, is a wildly successful, internationally renowned author for whom conventional schooling only got in the way…
“I could never stand being forced to do something I didn’t want to do at a time I didn’t want to do it. Whenever I was able to do something I liked to do, though, when I wanted to do it, and the way I wanted to do it, I’d give it everything I had…From elementary school up to college I was never interested in things I was forced to study…I only began to enjoy studying after I got through the educational system and became a so-called member of society. If something interested me, and I could study it at my own pace and approach it the way I liked, I was pretty efficient at acquiring knowledge and skills.”
What a testimonial to the power of innate curiosity! I also find it interesting that a writer from Japan—whose education system was held up for years and years as something we in the West should emulate—would come down squarely on the side of educational freedom.
“People have their own individual likes and dislikes. Some people are suited more for marathon running, some for golf, others for gambling. Whenever I see students in gym class all made to run a long distance, I feel sorry for them. Forcing people who have no desire to run, or who aren’t physically fit enough, is a kind of pointless torture. I always want to advise teachers not to force all junior and senior high school students to run the same course, but I doubt anybody’s going to listen to me. That’s what schools are like. The most important thing we ever learn at school is the fact that the most important things can’t be learned at school” (emphasis added).
Filed under Quotes, Sudbury
“We should work like the rain. The rain just falls. It doesn’t ask, am I making a nice sound down below? Or, will the plants be glad to see me? Will they be grateful? The rain just falls, one raindrop after another. Millions and billions of raindrops, only falling. This is the open secret of Zen.”
~ Jakusho Kwong, No Beginning, No End: The Intimate Heart of Zen