Saturday, December 30, 2017

Favorite quotes from some of the books I read in 2017

Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living by Krista Tippett
~History always repeats itself until we honestly and searchingly know ourselves. ~
~My work has shown me that spiritual geniuses of the everyday are everywhere. They are in the margins and do not have publicists. They are below the radar, which is broken. The discourse of our common life inclines towards despair. ~
~We create transformative, resilient new realities by becoming transformed, resilient people.~
~Everything is no longer political, as the old saying goes, but nearly everything now holds civic importance.~
~I can disagree with your opinion, it turns out, but I can’t disagree with your experience. And once I have a sense of your experience, you and I are in relationship, acknowledging the complexity in each other’s position, listening less guardedly. The difference in our opinions will probably remain intact, but it no longer defines what is possible between us. ~
~The world is made up of stories; it’s not made up of facts. ~
~Listening is an everyday social art, but it’s an art we have neglected and must learn anew.~
~My only measure of the strength of a question now is in the honesty and eloquence it elicits.~
~People ask me about the common denominators of the wisest people I’ve encountered. Alongside all the virtues that accompany and anchor wisdom, there is a characteristic physical presence that Jean Vanier epitomizes with others I’ve met like Desmond Tutu, Wangari Maathai, Thích Nhât Hanh. Here’s what it feels like, what I can report: an embodied capacity to hold power and tenderness in a surprising, creative interplay. This way of being is palpable, and refreshing, and in its way jarring, hard to figure out. Among other things, it transmutes my sense of what power feels like and is there for. This is the closest I can come to describing the sense I have, at this point, of wisdom incarnate, and it is an experience of physical presence as much as consciousness and spirit. ~
~Wisdom, of the everyday sort, is about how we reckon with the surprises and mysteries that make life life as opposed to stasis. Mystery lands in us as a humbling fullness of reality we cannot sum up or pin down. ~
~I grow if anything more richly rooted in one of the most inexplicable things he taught me: God is love. ~

Small Great Things: A Novel by Jodi Picoult
~Marie has no idea how often I have to just take a deep breath, and move on. White people don’t mean half the offensive things that come out of their mouths, and so I try not to let myself get rubbed the wrong way. ~
~Corinne is one of those people for whom life is just the space between crises. ~
~And then it hits me with the force of a blow: they don’t have a problem with what I’ve done. Just with who I am. ~
~Anger, it turns out, is a renewable source of fuel. ~
~When I was a child my mother’s intuition was so uncanny it took me many years to realize she wasn’t psychic. She didn’t know the future; she just knew me.~
~On the day before classes were supposed to start, Mama took me out to dinner. “You’re destined to do small great things,” she told me. “Just like Dr. King said.” She was referring to one of her favorite quotes: If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way. ~
~If the first freedom you lose in prison is privacy, the second is dignity.~
~Now I know: adulthood is a line drawn in the sand. At some point, your child will be standing on the other side.~
~Pride is an evil dragon; it sleeps underneath your heart and then roars when you need silence.~
~It is amazing how you can look in a mirror your whole life and think you are seeing yourself clearly. And then one day, you peel off a filmy gray layer of hypocrisy, and you realize you’ve never truly seen yourself at all.~
~It is a strange thing, being suddenly motherless. It’s like losing a rudder that was keeping me on course, one that I never paid much mind to before now. Who will teach me how to parent, how to deal with the unkindness of strangers, how to be humble? ~
~She brought me into this world. I will help her leave it. ~
~We all do it, you know. Distract ourselves from noticing how time’s passing. We throw ourselves into our jobs. We focus on keeping the blight off our tomato plants. We fill up our gas tanks and top off our Metro cards and do the grocery shopping so that the weeks look the same on the surface. And then one day, you turn around, and your baby is a man. One day, you look in the mirror, and see gray hair. One day, you realize there is less of your life left than what you’ve already lived. And you think, How did this happen so fast? It was only yesterday when I was having my first legal drink, when I was diapering him, when I was young. When this realization hits, you start doing the math. How much time do I have left? How much can I fit into that small space? Some of us let this realization guide us, I guess. We book trips to Tibet, we learn how to sculpt, we skydive. We try to pretend it’s not almost over. But some of us just fill up our gas tanks and top off our Metro cards and do the grocery shopping, because if you only see the path that’s right ahead of you, you don’t obsess over when the cliff might drop off. Some of us never learn. And some of us learn earlier than others. ~
~All mothers worry, but Black mothers, we have to worry a little bit more.~
~What if the puzzle of the world was a shape you didn’t fit into? And the only way to survive was to mutilate yourself, carve away your corners, sand yourself down, modify yourself to fit?~
~Equality is treating everyone the same. But equity is taking differences into account, so everyone has a chance to succeed.”~
~But even if we took every white supremacist on the planet and shipped them off to Mars, there would still be racism. That’s because racism isn’t just about hate. We all have biases, even if we don’t think we do. It’s because racism is also about who has power…and who has access to it.~
~Freedom is the fragile neck of a daffodil, after the longest of winters. It’s the sound of your voice, without anyone drowning you out. It’s having the grace to say yes, and more important, the right to say no. At the heart of freedom, hope beats: a pulse of possibility. I am the same woman I was five minutes ago. I’m rooted to the same chair. My hands are flattened on the same scarred table.~

Firefly Lane: A Novel by Kristin Hannah
~“We’ll be best friends forever,” Kate said earnestly. “Okay?” “You mean you’ll always be there for me?” “Always,” Kate answered. “No matter what.” Tully felt an emotion open up inside her like some exotic flower. She could practically smell its honeyed scent in the air. ~
~Thoughts—even fears—were airy things, formless until you made them solid with your voice, and once given that weight, they could crush you.~
~That was what a best friend did: hold up a mirror and show you your heart. ~
~That was the thing about best friends. Like sisters and mothers, they could piss you off and make you cry and break your heart, but in the end, when the chips were down, they were there, making you laugh even in your darkest hours.~
~Success had only made long days longer.~
~Friendships were like marriages in that way. Routines and patterns were poured early and hardened like cement.~

The Key to Rebecca by Ken Follet
~Bogge never objected to making people send him copies for the file: it enabled him to poke his finger into things without taking any responsibility.~
~One man could not win the war, but one man could lose it.~
~Neither of them had ever come close to marrying, for they were too fond of themselves to love another person. What brought them together was not love, not even affection, but shared lusts. The most important thing in life, for both of them, was the indulgence of their appetites.~
~There were brutes everywhere, and sometimes they got into power, and then you had to fight them.~
~The walls you build to protect you also close you in.~

A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel H. Pink
~Knowledge workers and their thinking style have indeed shaped the character, leadership, and social profile of the modern age. ~
~They’ve created an SAT-ocracy—a regime in which access to the good life depends on the ability to reason logically, sequentially, and speedily. ~
~For most of history, our lives were defined by scarcity. Today, the defining feature of social, economic, and cultural life in much of the world is abundance. ~
~ For businesses, it’s no longer enough to create a product that’s reasonably priced and adequately functional. It must also be beautiful, unique, and meaningful, abiding what author Virginia Postrel calls “the aesthetic imperative.” ~
~High concept involves the ability to create artistic and emotional beauty, to detect patterns and opportunities, to craft a satisfying narrative, and to combine seemingly unrelated ideas into a novel invention. High touch involves the ability to empathize, to understand the subtleties of human interaction, to find joy in one’s self and to elicit it in others, and to stretch beyond the quotidian, in pursuit of purpose and meaning.~
~Hollywood, Bollywood, and other entertainment centers revere story. But the rest of society, to the extent anyone even thinks about it, considers it fact’s less dependable younger sibling. Stories amuse; facts illuminate. Stories divert; facts reveal.~
~“Humans are not ideally set up to understand logic; they are ideally set up to understand stories.” —ROGER C. SCHANK, cognitive scientist~
~Stories are important cognitive events, for they encapsulate, into one compact package, information, knowledge, context, and emotion.~
~How did you and your spouse meet? What was your first job? When was the first time you were away from home overnight? Who was the worst teacher you ever had? What was the happiest day of your life? The saddest? The most terrifying? What was the best decision you ever made? You’ll be amazed at the stories that pour out—and you’ll be thrilled to have them recorded~
~Symphony, as I call this aptitude, is the ability to put together the pieces. It is the capacity to synthesize rather than to analyze; to see relationships between seemingly unrelated fields; to detect broad patterns rather than to deliver specific answers; and to invent something new by combining elements nobody else thought to pair. Symphony is also an attribute of the brain’s right hemisphere in the literal, as well as the metaphorical, sense.~

Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable...About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business by Patrick M. Lencioni
~There is simply no substitute for a good meeting—a dynamic, passionate, and focused engagement—when it comes to extracting the collective wisdom of a team. The hard truth is, bad meetings almost always lead to bad decisions, which is the best recipe for mediocrity.~            
~Lethargic. Unfocused . Passionless. Those were the most common words that visitors used to describe what they witnessed after attending even part of an executive staff meeting.~
~But the point is, consensus is usually not achievable. The likelihood of six intelligent people coming to a sincere and complete agreement on a complex and important topic is very low.” “So what do you do?” Michelle wondered. “You have a passionate, unfiltered, messy, provocative discussion that ends when the leader of the team decides all the information has been aired.~         
~ “The biggest problem with our meetings, and with meetings in general,” he paused for effect, “is structure.”~
~Meetings are a puzzling paradox. On one hand, they are critical. Meetings are the activity at the center of every organization. On the other hand, they are painful. Frustratingly long and seemingly pointless. The good news is that there is nothing inherent about meetings that makes them bad, and so it is entirely possible to transform them into compelling, productive, and fun activities. The bad news is that in order to do this, we will have to fundamentally rethink much of the way we perceive and manage meetings.~
~That means we cannot keep hating them. And we must abandon our search for technological solutions that will somehow free us from having to sit down face to face. And we have to stop focusing on agendas and minutes and rules, and accept the fact that bad meetings start with the attitudes and approaches of the people who lead and take part in them.~
~To make meetings less boring, leaders must look for legitimate reasons to provoke and uncover relevant, constructive ideological conflict.~           
~While it is true that much of the time we currently spend in meetings is largely wasted, the solution is not to stop having meetings, but rather to make them better. Because when properly utilized, meetings are actually time savers. That’s right. Good meetings provide opportunities to improve execution by accelerating decision making and eliminating the need to revisit issues again and again.~

A Religion of One's Own: A Guide to Creating a Personal Spirituality in a Secular World by Thomas Moore
~To be religious even in a personal way, you have to wake up and find your own portals to wonder and transcendence.~
~ Georgia O’Keeffe didn’t paint Madonnas; she painted flowers and skulls, but she portrayed them with such vibrancy and symbolic innuendo that their sacredness is inescapable. ~
~God is in the space between sentences. God is the unspoken and unwritten. God is who is summoned but not seen.~
~Spiritual traditions around the world, large and small, have two major gifts to offer: wisdom and beauty.~

Saturday, December 16, 2017

About words

As I watch in disbelief how our human race  seemingly completely willingly marches towards the abyss, I think about words, how much they matter, how they can and do shape our thoughts and reality. And, at times, I feel completely hopeless (like today). And then I remember, I have a blog, which amplifies my small voice and I can use my voice for something good. 

For instance, just yesterday, as if to prove this point, it was reported that the current United States administration literally banned certain words from use in the official CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) documents. Those were good, real words such as “fetus," "transgender," "diversity”...  

And while good words are being banned, there are so many terrible, gut-wrenching words out there in our collective consciousness. Words such as “pedophile," "rape," "pervert," "treason," "genocide," "terror” and others are now part of our AND our children’s daily lexicon.  “Fake news” was named the “word of the year” by Collins Dictionary. 

In his book, Politics and the English Language, George Orwell, wrote: “[...] if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better. [...] This invasion of one's mind by ready-made phrases […] can only be prevented if one is constantly on guard against them.” These awful words pound my psyche with such furiousness that being “on guard” requires every ounce of my being. 

Elif Shafak, in her TED talk “The revolutionary power of diverse thought” says that words not only have an immense power to shape thoughts, but that words can have color and taste.

So this is the punch line of today's poorly written blog post: as an antidote to all this awfulness and darkness, I would like to remind myself and anyone who comes across this blog of all the good, sturdy, positive and inspiring words.

I invite all of you to a feast of some lovely words, some my favorite words in English language. I invite you to taste them together with me, say them out loud, guard them, paint the world with their beauty, and share them with others. Let these words go deep into the soul of our universal consciousness and grow in the most unexpected and wonderful directions from there.

Here we go!

         Handling it