Tag Archives: inspirational quotes

Hope for a Second Opportunity on Earth

atkins-bookshelf-quotationsI do not mean to embody the illusions of Tonio Kröger, whose dreams of uniting a chaste north to a passionate south were exalted here, fifty-three years ago, by Thomas Mann. But I do believe that those clear-sighted Europeans who struggle, here as well, for a more just and humane homeland, could help us far better if they reconsidered their way of seeing us. Solidarity with our dreams will not make us feel less alone, as long as it is not translated into concrete acts of legitimate support for all the peoples that assume the illusion of having a life of their own in the distribution of the world.

Latin America neither wants, nor has any reason, to be a pawn without a will of its own; nor is it merely wishful thinking that its quest for independence and originality should become a Western aspiration. However, the navigational advances that have narrowed such distances between our Americas and Europe seem, conversely, to have accentuated our cultural remoteness. Why is the originality so readily granted us in literature so mistrustfully denied us in our difficult attempts at social change? Why think that the social justice sought by progressive Europeans for their own countries cannot also be a goal for Latin America, with different methods for dissimilar conditions? No: the immeasurable violence and pain of our history are the result of age-old inequities and untold bitterness, and not a conspiracy plotted three thousand leagues from our home. But many European leaders and thinkers have thought so, with the childishness of old-timers who have forgotten the fruitful excess of their youth as if it were impossible to find another destiny than to live at the mercy of the two great masters of the world. This, my friends, is the very scale of our solitude.

In spite of this, to oppression, plundering and abandonment, we respond with life. Neither floods nor plagues, famines nor cataclysms, nor even the eternal wars of century upon century, have been able to subdue the persistent advantage of life over death. An advantage that grows and quickens: every year, there are seventy-four million more births than deaths, a sufficient number of new lives to multiply, each year, the population of New York sevenfold. Most of these births occur in the countries of least resources – including, of course, those of Latin America. Conversely, the most prosperous countries have succeeded in accumulating powers of destruction such as to annihilate, a hundred times over, not only all the human beings that have existed to this day, but also the totality of all living beings that have ever drawn breath on this planet of misfortune.

On a day like today, my master William Faulkner said, “I decline to accept the end of man.” I would fall unworthy of standing in this place that was his, if I were not fully aware that the colossal tragedy he refused to recognize thirty-two years ago is now, for the first time since the beginning of humanity, nothing more than a simple scientific possibility. Faced with this awesome reality that must have seemed a mere utopia through all of human time, we, the inventors of tales, who will believe anything, feel entitled to believe that it is not yet too late to engage in the creation of the opposite utopia. A new and sweeping utopia of life, where no one will be able to decide for others how they die, where love will prove true and happiness be possible, and where the races condemned to one hundred years of solitude will have, at last and forever, a second opportunity on earth.

Excerpt from Colombian author and journalist Gabriel García Márquez’s speech, accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in Literature on December 8, 1982 in Stockholm, Sweden.

Read related post: William Faulkner on the Writer’s Duty
The Nobility of the Writer’s Craft

For further reading: nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1982/marquez-lecture.html


The Perfect Dogma Does Not Exist

atkins-bookshelf-quotations“If only there were a dogma to believe in. Everything is contradictory, everything tangential; there are no certainties anywhere. Everything can be interpreted one way and then again interpreted in the opposite sense. The whole of history can be explained as development and progress and can also be seen as nothing but decadence and meaninglessness. Isn’t there any truth? Is there no real and valid doctrine?”

The Master had never heard him speak so fervently. He walked on in silence for a little, then said, “There is truth, my boy. But the doctrine you desire, absolute, perfect dogma that alone provides wisdom, does not exist. Nor should you long for a perfect doctrine, my friend. Rather, you should long for the perfection of yourself. The deity is within you, not in ideas and books. Truth is lived, not taught. Be prepared for conflicts…”

From The Glass Bead Game (1943) by Hermann Hesse, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946.


The Wisdom of Morrie Schwartz

atkins-bookshelf-quotationsThis marks Bookshelf’s 500th post. This post is dedicated to Bookshelf’s loyal readers .

What happens when an individual is diagnosed with a terminal disease? Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a pioneering psychiatrist who studied grief and near-death experiences, provided this insight: “Those who learned to know death, rather than to fear and fight it, become our teachers about life.” And that is exactly what Morrie Schwartz, a sociology professor at Brandeis University, did when he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS): he taught us about life. Schwartz echoes Kubler-Ross’s paradoxical lesson about life: “Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.” Indeed, Schwartz’s impending mortality was his inspiration: “[He] refused to be depressed. Instead, Morrie had become a lightning rod of ideas. He jotted down his thoughts on yellow pads, envelopes, folders, scrap paper. He wrote bite-sized philosophies about living with death’s shadow.” Schwartz’s eloquent wisdom is collected over 14 Tuesday meetings with sports writer Mitch Albom. The resulting book, Tuesdays with Morrie, is Schwartz’s final informal college class that could be titled “Life’s Greatest Lessons 101.” Like the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet, Morrie shares profound, timeless truths about individual and family/community, love and work, happiness and despair, dignity and dishonor, health and illness, and life and death. Although Rilke and Schwartz have perished, their words should not die with them — they must be shared with new generations. Perhaps the world would be a better place if these two inspirational books, from these two remarkable teachers, were required reading in high school or college. And should an individual ever get lost in life, he or she can revisit these two books for inspiration and guidance. So that his life and words are not forgotten, Bookshelf presents the wisdom of Morrie:

Accept what you are able to do and what you are not able to do; accept the past as past, without denying it or discarding it; learn to forgive yourself and to forgive others.

Find someone to share your heart, give to your community, be at peace with yourself, try to be as human as you can be.

[The] culture we have does not make people feel good about themselves. We’re teaching the wrong things. And you have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn’t work, don’t buy it. Create your own. Most people can’t do it.

So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.

[If] you really want it, then you’ll make your dream happen.

Life is a series of pulls back and forth… A tension of opposites, like a pull on a rubber band. Most of us live somewhere in the middle. A wrestling match… Which side win? Love wins. Love always wins.

If you hold back on the emotions — if you don’t allow yourself to go all the way through them — you can never get to being detached, you’re too busy being afraid. You’re afraid of the pain, you’re afraid of the grief. You’re afraid of the vulnerability that loving entails. But by throwing yourself into these emotions, by allowing yourself to dive in, all the way, over your heard even, you experience them fully and completely.

The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in.

There are a few rules I know to be true about love and marriage: If you don’t respect the other person, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. If you don’t know how to compromise, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. If you can’t talk openly about what goes on between you, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. And if you don’t have a common set of values in life, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. Your values must be alike. 

I don’t allow myself any more self-pity than that. A little each morning, a few tears, and that’s all… It’s horrible to watch my body slowly wilt away to nothing. But it’s also wonderful because of all the time I get to say goodbye.

Sometimes you can’t believe what you see; you have to believe what you feel.

Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.

If you accept you are going to die at any time, then you might not be as ambitious as you are.

There is no foundation, no secure ground, upon which people may stand today if it isn’t the family.

This is part of what a family is about, not just love. It’s knowing that your family will be there watching out for you. Nothing else will give you that. Not money. Not fame. Not work. 

Don’t cling to things, because everything is impermanent.

What if today were my last day on earth?

If you’ve found meaning in your life, you don’t want to go back. You want to go forward. You want to see more, do more. You can’t wait until sixty-five.

Money is not a substitute for tenderness, and power is not a substitute for tenderness.

We’ve got a sort of brainwashing going on in our country… Do you know how they brainwash people? They repeat something over and over. And that’s what we do in this country. Owning things is good. More money is good. More property is good. More commercialism is good. More is good. More is good. We repeat it — and have it repeated to us — over and over until nobody bothers to even think otherwise. The average person is so fogged up by all of this, he has no perspective on what’s really important anymore.

Love is how you stay alive, even after you are gone.

Love each other or perish.

The big things — how we think, what we value — those you must choose yourself. You can’t let anyone — or any society — determine those for you.

Don’t let go too soon, but don’t hang on too long.

Be compassionate. And take responsibility for each other. If we only learned those lessons, this world would be so much better a place.

Forgive yourself before you die. Then forgive others.

As long as we can love each other, and remember the feeling of love we had, we can die without ever really going away. All the love you created is still there. All the memories are still there. You live on — in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here.

Death ends a life, not a relationship.

The important questions have to do with love, responsibility, spirituality, awareness.

You’re not a wave, you are part of the ocean.

There is no such thing as “too late” in life.

Read related posts: Letters to a Young Poet
Wisdom of a Grandmother
Wisdom of Tom Shadyac

For further reading: Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson by Mitch Albom, Doubleday (1997)
Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke, Vintage (1986)
On Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Scribner (1997)
On Children and Death: How Children and Their Parents Can and Do Cope With Death by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Scribner (1997)

 

 


Where to Find the Meaning of Life

atkins-bookshelf-quotationsSo many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.

From the touching memoir, Tuesdays with Morrie (1997), by Mitch Albom.  Morrie Schwartz, a sociology professor at Brandeis University who was dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease, graciously shared his wisdom with Albom, a former student, in a number of fascinating, profound conversations that were held each Tuesday.


Why Writers Write

atkins-bookshelf-quotationsNow with the passing of years I know that the fate of books is not unlike that of human beings: some bring joy, others anguish. Yet one must resist the urge to throw away pen and paper. After all, authentic writers write even if there is little chance for them to be published; they write because they cannot do otherwise, like Kafka’s messenger who is privy to a terrible and imperious truth that no one is willing to receive but is nonetheless compelled to go on.

Were he to stop, to choose another road, his life would become banal and sterile. Writers write because they cannot allow the characters that inhabit them to suffocate them. These characters want to get out, to breathe fresh air and partake of the wine of friendship; were they to remain locked in, they would forcibly break down the walls. It is they who force the writer to tell their stories.

Read related post: William Faulkner on the Writer’s Duty
The Responsibility of the Poet
The Power of Literature

From the essay, “A Sacred Magic Can Elevate the Secular Storyteller” (New York TImes, June 19, 2000) by Eliezer (Elie) Wiesel,  Holocaust survivor, activist, author (his most recognized work is Night, originally published in 1960), and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize (1986).


Life’s Most Important Questions

atkins-bookshelf-quotationsI think that when you get to the end of your life, you have to ask yourself only two questions: Did I live fully and did I love well? And if you can say yes to those two things, then you’re home free.

From Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You, screenplay written by Peter Cameron, Roberto Faenza, and Dahlia Heyman based on the novel by Peter Cameron.


How a Bag of Dimes Turned into a Novel

atkins-bookshelf-quotationsWhen I was in my 40s, I had no money for an office. I was wandering around UCLA one day… and I heard typing down below — in the basement of the library. And I went down to see what was going on. I found there was a typing room down there. And for 10 cents for a half an hour, I could rent a typewriter. I said, “My God. This is great! I don’t have an office. I’ll move in here with a bunch of students. And I’ll write!” So, I got a bag full of dimes, and in the next nine days — I spent $9.80 — and I wrote Fahrenheit 451.

Ray Bradbury (1920-20120), one of the most celebrated science fiction writers of the 20th century, speaking to the graduating class of 2000 at commencement ceremonies held at the California Institute of Technology. Bradbury’s other classic works include The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, and Something This Way Comes.


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