I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story.
From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out.
I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.
--Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
For it is said that humans are never satisfied, that you give them one thing and they want something more. And this is said in disparagement, whereas it is one of the greatest talents the species has and one that has made it superior to animals that are satisfied with what they have.I'm not sure where I stand on this. It's true that it forces people to. . . do stuff and keep doing stuff, but it also makes happiness into a dangling carrot. Maybe it's not that way for everyone who wants and wants. I guess it depends on what it is you want and how you propose to get it.
--John Steinbeck, The Pearl
--Gary Paulsen, Puppies, Dogs, and Blue Northers
The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.It's true, mostly. And the funny thing is that I never realized it, or didn't accept it, until very recently. [A housemate said something similar to this a few years ago, and I found it really hard to accept. But that may have been because she's a strong believer in the God 2.0 of the New Testament. (Hey--maybe 'my' god ain't so hot, but he's mine, dammit, and if I'm going to believe in a god, it'll be him.) Dawkins, on the other hand, is a strong atheist.] Dawkins discusses how children are influenced to believe otherwise--I can't do justice to his ideas in summarizing them, but it made a lot of sense.
-Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion
- Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield
Generally we obtain very surely and very speedily what we are not too anxious to obtain.
- Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Anxiety never yet successfully bridged over any chasm.
- Giovanni Ruffini
Our anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, but only empties today of its strength.
- Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Work has been interesting because I've had to push through my phone anxiety repetitively. I can't say I'm getting any better at making phone calls, or any less anxious about it, but at least I do it and accomplish what I need to accomplish.
As to happiness, I am not so sure. Birds, it's true, die of hunger in large numbers during the winter, if they are not birds of passage. But during the summer they do not foresee this catastrophe, or remember how nearly it befell them in the previous winter. With human beings the matter is otherwise[...]every human death by starvation is preceded by a long period of anxiety, and surrounded by the corresponding anxiety of neighbors. We suffer not only the evils that actually befall us, but all those that our intelligence tells us we have reason to fear. The curbing of impulses to which we are led by forethought averts physical disaster at the cost of worry, and general lack of joy. I do not think that the learned men of my acquaintance, even when they enjoy a secure income, are as happy as the mice that eat the crumbs from their tables while the erudite gentlemen snooze.
--Bertrand Russell, "Ideas that Have Helped Mankind," from his book Unpopular Essays
(I'm not trying to brush off animals' suffering at starvation; it's his general point that I agree with.)
The underlined sentence is a little awkward, but what he's saying is: forethought makes us curb our impulses.
(I underlined it because I like the point of the sentence, not because it was awkward.)
Also, on an entirely different note, it has come to my attention that some people think that I have a cat because I cannot at this moment have a dog. This is blatantly untrue. I have a cat because there was a friendly, flea-infested kitten living on my back porch in December, and I have been conditioned by either my environment or my biology to want to take such things inside, bathe them, and give them a warm place to sleep. It is about as simple as that.
“The mind is its own place and in itself can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n.”
--John Milton, Paradise Lost
Denmark's a prison.
Then is the world one.
A goodly one; in which there are many confines,
wards and dungeons, Denmark being one o' the worst.
We think not so, my lord.
Why, then, 'tis none to you; for there is nothing
either good or bad, but thinking makes it so: to me
it is a prison.
Why then, your ambition makes it one; 'tis too
narrow for your mind.
O God, I could be bounded in a nut shell and count
myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I
have bad dreams.
Marge: Homer, did you eat my whole pan of brownies?
Bart: Uh oh. You're in for it now, Dad.
Homer: Marge, I'm feeling a lot of shame right now.
Marge: I'm hearing that you feel a lot of shame.
Homer: And I feel that you hear my shame.
Marge: I'm feeling annoyance and frustration, but also tolerance.
Homer: I feel validated by that.
"I-statements" and discussing feelings is nice, but sometimes it's just a bit much.
the idea of giving birth and raising children began to seem almost a retro, labor-intensive enterprise, like growing your own vegetables or sewing your own clothes.
-from a salon.com article
My mother said once that children are really a luxury today and serve no real purpose - large families used to be necessary (or at least helpful) so there would be enough people to work on family farms. Technically it's sort of true, but it's silly, really.
He was flying in formation, that day, with another plane. When Grey realized something was wrong with his plane, he radioed the other pilot.
'You're on your own,' Grey said.
Then he crashed and died.
I think about those words a lot. They're a reminder.
We're all on our own, aren't we? That's what it boils down to.
We come into this world on our own--in Hawaii, as I did, or New York, or China, or Africa, or Montana--and we leave it in the same way, on our own, wherever we happen to be at the time--in a plane, in our beds, in a a car, in a space shuttle, or in a field of flowers.
And between those times, we try to connect along the way with others who are also on their own.
If we're lucky, we have a mother who reads to us.
We have a teacher or two along the way who make us feel special.
We have dogs who do the stupid dog tricks we teach them and who lie on our bed when we're not looking, because it smells like us, and so we pretend not to notice the paw prints on the bedspread.
We have friends who lend us their favorite books.
Maybe we have children, and grandchildren, and funny mailmen, and eccentric great-aunts, and uncles who can pull pennies out of our ears.
All of them teach us stuff. They teach us about combustion engines and the major products of Bolivia, and what poems are not boring, and how to be kind to each other, and how to laugh, and when the vigil is in our hands, and when we just have to make the best of things even though it's hard sometimes.
Looking back together, telling our stories to one another, we learn how to be on our own.
from Looking Back: a book of memories, by Lois Lowry.