Quotes to Live By

In an attempt to be more mindful this year, I bought this journal that features weekly writing prompts in the form of lists. It’s a way for me to check in with myself emotionally and to also unplug (I write my lists by hand using a 0.1 mm drawing pen.) #yearofthepaper

This year I’ve made lists of the “Happiest Moments of My Life So Far,” a rather copious list of “My Favorite Characters from Books and Movies,” and a list of “What You Would Like Your Life to Look Like in Ten Years.” Writing these lists is forcing me to take cynicism out with the trash and to celebrate the happy memories I hold dear. I was shocked to discover how grateful I felt after jotting down a few happy childhood memories and writing about daily pleasures! Not going to lie though, the 10-year plan was a little tougher (basically just googled “How to Live Well in Your 30s” and “Things Every Woman in Her 40s Should Do” where I learned about finances, family relationships, and health & beauty, lol).

I thought I would share this week’s list with you: “List Your Favorite Quotes.” Here they are, in no particular order!

1. “A well-read woman is a dangerous creature.” –refrigerator magnet

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2. “Solvitur ambulando.”

I’ve seen this translated as “It is solved by walking” or “When in doubt, walk.” It’s like that line in the old Saxon poem: “Do the next thing.” Keep your head up. Don’t stop. Keep moving. Do not doubt. Long journeys require many steps. Take one today.

3. “Sleeping is an act of trust. You have done your work. Trust God to continue to do his.”

This is a rough re-phrasing of some advice our choir director gave us. Sticks with me, you know?

4. “Do not raise your voice. Improve your argument.” –Desmond Tutu

 

Or as Frost says, “Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.” Or as I tell my students, “The sign of education is not reacting, but responding.”

5. “You’re always on the edge of fear because your body senses it can do more than your mind will let it.” –Shirley Darlington

Okay, running inspiration quote! Even though Darlington is referring to parkour here [watch a video of her here], I totally relate to this as a runner. Many times, the only thing between me and the distance is a certain fear that I must overcome.

6. “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6

(Since I’m a follower of Jesus, you can expect some Bible verses to make this list!)

This particular Old Testament prophecy is one where the Lord is speaking about his servant, the Messiah, who Christians understand to be Jesus. The verse shows God’s love for all people, Jews and Gentiles alike, and his plan of salvation for people from all ethnic groups and nationalities—through the person of Jesus. I LOVE THIS VERSE. It is a big idea with Big Love and Big Hope.

7. “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 16:11

King David, the psalmist, wrote these words about God around 1000 B.C., and they speak truth to me in 2018.

While secularists in the West increasingly find no need for God, I think we would do well to remember that 86% of the 7.6 billion people on earth do believe in some sort of god. We cannot dismiss the idea of God so quickly if we care to be relevant and understanding at all in today’s world.

8. “‘The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself. I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad — as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth? They have a worth — so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane — quite insane: with my veins running fire, and my heart beating faster than I can count its throbs. Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations, are all I have at this hour to stand by: there I plant my foot.’” –Jane Eyre

You have to know the context of this quote (from my favorite novel). It has to do with a woman being forced to choose between her heart and her head, between societal expectations and logical thinking. Since heavily researching this novel in junior college, I’ve always been attached to Jane’s curiosity, hope, and marked principles.

Not that Charlotte Brontё was a fundamentalist—in fact, she was harshly criticized for the implications of her novel, which she wrote to convey a message about women in society and even to question the constructs of accepted religion. After receiving harsh critiques of her novel, Brontё wrote this in a new preface: “Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To attack the first is not to assail the last. To pluck the mask from the face of the Pharisee, is not to life an impious hand to the Crown of Thorns.”

I take this to mean, you can ask questions and still have principles. Which shouldn’t be so shocking, except that to many people, it is.

In any case, Jane is classy, always. To sum up, to have principles is to have class.

And finally, because I’m a hopeless romantic (despite what my more prickly posts may suggest) here’s a line from a Nicaraguan poet.

9. “Sin mujer, la vida es pura prosa.” –Rubén Darío

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Looking forward to traveling to Darío’s hometown in Nicaragua in seven days!

Cynic My Door

My latest, greatest writing assignment was to write poetry inspired by a graphic novel about a Japanese/Canadian Wiccan lesbian who gets into a relationship with her female English teacher. Putting aside my own thoughts on mature content in young adult graphic novels, I was struck by the abject cynicism that pervaded this text.

(As an aside, to those of you who have been following my whiny “identity” narrative, I should tell you that I’m not the only one who breaks stereotypes in this class. In our discussion of this novel, a very animated conversation erupted as future English teachers expressed their extreme distaste of the English teacher character. After nearly everyone had clearly expressed both their disgust and (what they thought universal) ethical standards regarding teacher/student relationships, one girl slowly raises her hands: “Um, just to add to this conversation, I started dating a teacher in high school, and he was fired because of it, and we’ve been together for six years! WHHHHAAAT!” she waves both hands. Nervous laughter. Awkward. Turtles. Floating BELLY-UP.)

Back to the novel: the simplest yet most important lesson I learned (two summers ago) was this:

My generation is cynical.

In class, we study hundred-year old notions of modernism, and we’re depressed for days after reading Samuel Beckett’s Endgame. We’re aware of the constructivist and relativist theories of the postmodern age, and we understand the skepticism of that time period.

But what we do not understand are the features of our own age. We do not articulate how we have moved beyond skepticism and have fallen deeply into cynicism.

There’s a difference of terms. Skepticism is a questioning attitude  toward knowledge, facts, or beliefs. But cynicism goes much further: it pushes beyond healthy questioning until there is “a general distrust of others’ apparent motives or ambitions, or a general lack of faith or hope in the human race or in individuals with desires, hopes, opinions, or personal tastes that a cynic perceives as unrealistic or inappropriate, therefore deserving of ridicule or admonishment. It is a form of jaded negativity.” Wikipedia

These are the features of our time: frustration, disillusionment, and distrust.

And in our Post-postmodern age, I believe we’re on the line between either cynicism… or fanaticism.

So, maybe, does… anyone want to do a Bible study about this? Because I would totally come!
I wrote a sonnet (a nice little convention, I must say) in response to reading the novel. Tell me what you think.

Today the cynic killed his skeptic mate

as questions died on lips reserved for hope

and faith in scientific facts and dates

that reason Him away to breathe and cope.

Today the cynic murders life itself

and massacres the faith of fresh desire,

and smothers breath til death is life and health,

and joyless life is real and fake as fire.

Here lies a cynic jaded; Corpse, beware:

New life is in my intravenous prayer.

Conversation in Frustration: Poem by Confusi(on)

Just go ahead

Float in your acid cynicism

That cool silvery blue

That curls up your crossed arms

Your raised eyebrow

 

But I believe in fairy tales,

I believe in true love that lasts forever.

I believe one man and one woman

Can always love, always love

 

Fairy tales happen every day.

Do you need a shoulder to cry on?

Here I am.

Do you need help with your labors?

Here I am.

How about giants and dragons?

They’re everywhere, but you call them different names, I think.

(And at some point, divinity will wipe them out.)

 

And what about true love, you ask?

My parents have been together 25 years.

That’s something.

 

That an old man and old woman holding hands at the park

Later go home to their respective spouses

Is a sick “maybe.”

 

You can’t base your life on that.

Or point to your family and say,

“Oh, sumo-sized issues, God does not exist.”

Does experience control your beliefs?

Is truth only experience?

It’s not. Truth is not only that.

 

Perhaps we’re confusing Truth with reality.

Perhaps our experiences aren’t True, but rather real.

 

Is what is real then True?

I do not think so.

 

It would seem that what is True is real,

But what is real is not necessarily true.

Maybe Truth just exists. Truth is not what happens, but it just is.

It exists.

“I AM that I AM.” Exodus 3:14

 

Truth IS.

And Truth defines reality.

Conversely, you can’t let reality define your Truth.

(Not “reality,” per se, but experience, or what happens).

 

Cynic, you stand for nothing.

(And PETA doesn’t count. I mean things you really stand for.

When your mother dies, you don’t consult PETA.)

Cynic, you base your beliefs on experience.

(I admit my naïve dogmatism is partly experiential as well.)

(Which is scary, because I argue a lot for my rich experience)

 

But you cannot base your beliefs solely on experience.

We must first find Truth to define our reality.

We must find Truth to determine our beliefs.

 

It would follow, then, that it is TRUTH, BELIEFS, then REALITY.

A lot of people go at it the other way, maybe?

 

Truth,

Then Faith,

Then Belief,

And then we survey our surroundings… and define that reality.

 

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17