I do not write this in a spirit of sourness or personal disappointment of any kind, nor do I have any romantic attachment to suffering as a source of insight or virtue. On the contrary, I would like to see more smiles, more laughter, more hugs, more happiness and, better yet, joy. In my own vision of utopia, there is not only more comfort, and security for everyone — better jobs, health care, and so forth — there are also more parties, festivities, and opportunities for dancing in the streets. Once our basic material needs are met — in my utopia, anyway — life becomes a perpetual celebration in which everyone has a talent to contribute. But we cannot levitate ourselves into that blessed condition by wishing it. We need to brace ourselves for a struggle against terrifying obstacles, both of our own making and imposed by the natural world. And the first step is to recover from the mass delusion that is positive thinking.
~ Barbara Ehrenreich, Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America
We do not know how this pandemic will change our lives, change the scenery of our world. For how long will “social distancing” remain? Will we ever return to cheap crowded flights? How long and desperate will the food lines get? It is as if someone has pulled the thread that held it all together, even as we struggle to “return to normal.” But the question is, what story are we trying to tell ourselves? Or are we between stories, in a state of unknowing and insecurity? What are our dreams telling us, what is the message of our hearts? As Leonard Cohen sings, “There is a crack in everything, That’s how the light gets in.” Is this a moment when the light can come in through the cracks, through the structures in our civilization that have been shown to fail?
~ Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee
Only through our connectedness to others can we really know and enhance self. And only through working on the self can we begin to enhance our connectedness to others.
~ Harriet Goldhor Lerner
Gain health from lusty, heroic exercise, from free, firm-nerved adventures without anxiety in them, with rhythmic leg motion in runs over boulders requiring quick decision for every step. Fording streams, tingling with flesh brushes as we slide down white slopes thatched with close snow-pressed chaparral, half swimming or flying or slipping — all these make good counter-irritants. Then enjoy the utter peace and solemnity of the trees and stars… Find a mysterious presence in a thousand coy hiding things.
~ John Muir
This is not a season
but a pause
between one future & another,
a day after a day,
a breathing space before death,
a breathing, the rain
throwing itself down out of the
bluegrey sky, clear joy.
~ Margaret Atwood, from Rain
The human heart is the first home of democracy. It is where we embrace our questions. Can we be equitable? Can we be generous? Can we listen with our whole beings, not just our minds, and offer our attention rather than our opinions? And do we have enough resolve in our hearts to act courageously, relentlessly, without giving up — ever — trusting our fellow citizens to join with us in our determined pursuit of a living democracy?
~ Terry Tempest Williams
“Heart” comes from the Latin cor and points not merely to our emotions, but to the core of the self, that center-place where all of our ways of knowing converge — intellectual, emotional, sensory, intuitive, imaginative, experiential, relational, and bodily, among others. The heart is where we integrate what we know in our minds with what we know in our bones, the place where our knowledge can become more fully human. Cor is also the Latin root from which we get the word courage. When all that we understand of self and world comes together in the center-place called the heart, we are more likely to find the courage to act humanely on what we know.
~ Parker J. Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy
The ordinary man has always been sane because the ordinary man has always been a mystic. He has permitted the twilight. He has always had one foot in earth and the other in fairyland. He has always left himself free to doubt his gods; but (unlike the agnostic of today) free also to believe in them. He has always cared more for truth than for consistency. If he saw two truths that seemed to contradict each other, he would take the two truths and the contradiction along with them. His spiritual sight is stereoscopic, like his physical sight: he sees two different pictures at once and yet sees all the better for that. Thus he has always believed that there was such a thing as fate, but such a thing as free will also.
~ G. K. Chesterton
Vulnerability is not a weakness, a passing indisposition, or something we can arrange to do without, vulnerability is not a choice, vulnerability is the underlying, ever present and abiding undercurrent of our natural state. To run from vulnerability is to run from the essence of our nature, the attempt to be invulnerable is the vain attempt to become something we are not and most especially, to close off our understanding of the grief of others. More seriously, in refusing our vulnerability we refuse the help needed at every turn of our existence and immobilize the essential, tidal and conversational foundations of our identity.
To have a temporary, isolated sense of power over all events and circumstances, is a lovely illusionary privilege and perhaps the prime and most beautifully constructed conceit of being human and especially of being youthfully human, but it is a privilege that must be surrendered with that same youth, with ill health, with accident, with the loss of loved ones who do not share our untouchable powers; powers eventually and most emphatically given up, as we approach our last breath.
The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability, how we become larger and more courageous and more compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance, our choice is to inhabit vulnerability as generous citizens of loss, robustly and fully, or conversely, as misers and complainers, reluctant and fearful, always at the gates of existence, but never bravely and completely attempting to enter, never wanting to risk ourselves, never walking fully through the door.
~ David Whyte, Consolations