Collected Quotes.

Worthy quotes and lines of text I’ve collected over the years.

It is not so much… the understanding that constitutes the specific difference between man and the other animals, as it is his property of being a free agent. Nature commands every animal, and the Beast obeys. Man experiences the same impressions, but he recognizes himself free to acquiesce or to resist; and it is mainly in the consciousness of this freedom that the spirituality of his soul exhibits itself: for Physics in a way explains the mechanism of the senses and the formation of idea; but in the power of willing, or rather of choosing, and in the sentiment of this power, are found purely spiritual acts about which nothing is explained by the Laws of Mechanics.
Rousseau, Second Political Discourse, Sec. 16

“… the spiritual disorder of our time, the civilizational crisis of which everyone so readily speaks, does not by any means have to be borne as an inevitable fate; … on the contrary, everyone possesses the means of overcoming it in his own life. And our effort should not only indicate the means, but also show how to employ them. No one is obliged to take part in the spiritual crisis of a society; on the contrary, everyone is obliged to avoid this folly and live his life in order…”
Eric Voegelin, in Science, Politics and Gnosticism, 1968, p. 15.

I am like a feather on the breath of God.
Bernadette Farrell, songwriter

Where the fulfillment of the calling cannot directly be related to the highest spiritual and cultural values, or when, on the other hand, it need not be felt simply as economic compulsion, the individual generally abandons the attempt to justify it at all. In the field of its highest development, in the United States, the pursuit of wealth, stripped of its religious and ethical meaning, tends to become associated with purely mundane passions, which actually give it the character of sport.
Max Weber, 1905

When we are young we are often puzzled by the fact that each person we admire seems to have a different version of what life ought to be, what a good man is, how to live, and so on. If we are not especially sensitive it seems more than puzzling, it is disheartening. What most people usually do is to follow one person’s ideas and then another’s, depending on who looms largest ones for horizon at the time. The one with the deepest voice, the strongest appearance, the most authority and success is usually the one who gets our momentary allegiance; we try to pattern ideals after him. But as life goes on we get a perspective on this, and all these different versions of truth become a little pathetic. Each person thinks that he has the formula for triumphing over life’s limitations and knows with authority what it means to be a man, and he usually tries to win the following for his particular patent. Today we know that people try so hard to win converts for their point of you because it is more than merely an outlook on life; it is an immortality formula. Not everyone; of course has the authority of Kant speaking the words we have used in our epigraph to this chapter, but in matters of immortality everyone has the same self-righteous conviction. The thing seems perverse because each diametrically opposed view is put forth with the same maddening certainty; and authorities who are equally unimpeachable hold opposite views!

Ernest Becker, Denial of Death, 1973. P. 255

My life is …. a mystery which I do not attempt to really understand,
as though I were led by the hand in a night where I see nothing, but
can fully depend on the Love and Protection of Him Who guides me.
Thomas Merton

The creative-investigative scientist… will not only try to define his concepts and to formulate his theories with the greatest accuracy and rigor that he can muster, but he will, at the same time, via the open-endedness of his concepts and theories and via their clearly cicumscribed vagueness at their growing points, acknowledge the eventual transience of his conceptual working tools.
Heinz Kohut, in The Search for the Self: Four Basic Concepts.

There can be no “knowledge” of God separated from the relationship with men. The Other is the very locus of metaphysical truth, and is indispensable for my relation with God. He does not play the role of a mediator. The other is not the incarnation of God, but precisely by his face, in which he is disincarnate, is the manifestation of the height in which God is revealed. … Everything that cannot be reduced to an interhuman relation represents not the superior form but forever primitive form of religion.
Emmanueal Levinas, Totality and Infanity, 78-9

Most men in power have not the strength nor wisdom to be satisfied with the way things are.
The sane know contentment, for beauty is their lover, and beauty is never absent from this world.
The farther away light is from one’s touch the more one naturally speaks of the need for change.
Yes, overthrow any government inside that makes you weep.
The child blames the external and focuses his energies there; the warrior conquers the realms within and becomes gifted.
Only the inspired should make decisions that affect the lives of many, never a man who has not held God in his arms and become the servant of unity.
St. Theresa of Avila

If I were to die tonight and were asked what moves me most in this world, I would perhas reply: It is the way God passes through our hearts. Everything is swallowed up by love.
Julien Green, as quoted in “The Discernment of Spirits” by Timothy Gallagher, OMV.

The will of God is not a question of rules established from the outset. It is something new and different in each situation in life, and for this reason a man must forever rexamine what the will of God may be. The will of God may lie deeply concealed beneath a great number of possibilities.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics

The enjoyment of God should be the supreme end of spiritual technique; and it is in that enjoyment of God that we feel not only saved in the Evangelical sense, but safe: we are conscious of belonging to God, and hence are never alone… In that relationship Nature seems friendly and homely; even its vast spaces instead of eliciting a sense of terror speak of the infinite love; and the nearer beauty becomes the garment with which the Almighty clothes himself. Henry Guntrip, Psychotherapy and Religion

The Warrior’s loyalty, then, and his sense of duty are to something beyond and other than himself and his own concerns. The Hero’s loyalty is… really to himself – to impressing himself with himself and to impressing others. In this connection, too, the man accessing the Warrior is ascetic. He lives a life exactly the opposite of most human lives. He lives not to gratify his personal needs and wishes or his physical appetites but to hone himself into an efficient spiritual machine, trained to bear the unbearable in the service of the transpersonal goal. Robert Moore, King, Warrior, Magician, Lover

Whenever Christ calls us, his call leads us to death.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Lutheran theologian who was executed by the Nazis

… the will is infinite and he execution confined, that the desire is boundless and the act a slave to limit… [appetite] is an universal wolf, so doubly seconded with will and power… it must make perforce an universal prey, and last eat up himself.
Shakespeare, in Troilus and Cressida

The maintenance of the highly developed self entails a rift between self and society. Thus the highly developed self, although emerging in social interaction, is not simply a product of amiable sociability. It is not totally committed to friendly cooperation with others, but it also requires some measure of conflict for its very survival: it must at some point fight the system of which it is a part and those who wish to subject it to that system. Alvin Gouldner, The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology, p. 222.

We should be on our guard not to overestimate science and scientific methods when it is a question of human problems; and we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have a right to express themselves on questions affecting the organization of human society. Albert Einstein

One belief, more than any other, is responsible for the slaughter of individuals on the alter of the great historical ideas — justice or progress or happiness of future generations…or emancipation of a nation or race or class…this is the belief that somewhere…there is a final solution.
— Sir Isaiah Berlin, Two Concepts Of Liberty (1958)

The West… has two wellsprings: Greco-Roman philosophy and Judeo-Christian religion. More important, as long as these two sources are open to the ongoing challenge each presents to the other, the project of European civilization has no reason to come to an end. In this understanding, the genius of the West is that the question of the world’s meaning is always kept open, precisely because it is niether answered in a definitive manner nor abandoned as unanswerable.
Peter Causton, First Things, July 2009

“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:24)

My life is too valuable to spend it on money.
T. Hoyt, 7/3/09

Why do people tell lies?
Usually because they want something and they’re afraid the truth won’t get it for them.
Charade, 1963, in exchange between Carey Grant and Aubrey Hepburn

The human race has passed from a static conception of humanity to a more dynamic, evolutionary one. In consequence, there has arisen a new series of problems, a series as important as can be, calling for new efforts of analysis and synthesis.
from Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes

When intelligence is missing, the first law of self-preservation takes over.
Bernard Longergan, SJ

The best lack all conviction
The worst are full of passionate intensity.
W B Yeats, “Second Coming”

There is no safety, and there is no end. The word must be heard in silence; there must be darkness to see the stars. The dance is always danced above the hollow place, above the terrible abyss.
Sparrowhawk, in Le Guin’s The Farthest Shore, p. 121 of the 1980 Bantam paperback edition.

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are
always so certain of themselves while wiser people are so full of
doubt. Bertrand Russell

The last temptation that is (also) the greatest temptation is to do the right thing for the wrong reason.
T. S. Eliot

For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of our tasks; the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.
– Rainer Maria Rilke

A Thousand Serious Moves
What is the difference
Between your Existence
And that of a Saint?

The Saint knows
That the spiritual path
Is a sublime chess game with God
And that the Beloved
Has just made such a Fantastic Move
That the Saint is now continually
Tripping over joy
And Bursting out in Laughter
And saying, “I Surrender!”

Whereas, my dear,
I am afraid you still think
You have a thousand serious moves.

Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart
and try to love the questions themselves …
Don’t search for the answers,
which could not be given to you now,
because you would not be able to live them.
And the point is, to live everything.
Live the questions now.
Perhaps then, someday far in the future,
you will gradually, without even noticing it,
live your way into the answer.
Rainer Maria Rilke

A resolution that is a fine flame of feeling allowed to burn itself out without appropriate action, is not merely a lost opportunity, but a bar to future action.
William James

Real love is hard work. You have to decide if you want it in your story, or if you’d rather stay in the dream.
Joan of Arcadia, CBS

Certain forms of perplexity–for example, about freedom, knowledge, and the meaning of life–seem to me to embody more insight than any of the supposed solutions to these problems. Thomas Nagel, “The View From Nowhere”

We shall not cease from exploration, And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive from where we started And know the place for the first time.
TS Elliot

One of life’s quiet excitements is to stand somewhat apart from yourself and watch yourself softly becoming the author of something beautiful.
Normal Maclean, A River Runs Thru It

People will always regress from rehabilitation. They will not regress from transformation.
Robert Woodson, President, National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, Times Picayune, Oct. 30, 1994

I do nothing but go about persuading you, young and old alike, not to take thought for your persons or properties but first and chiefly to care about the greatest improvement of the soul. I tell you that virtue is not given by money, but that from virtue comes money and every other good, public as well as private.
Attributed to Socrates, in “The Apology of Socrates”, written by Plato

Human happiness depends wholly on the quality of the object which we love.

Reason is delicate, and it is very easy to destroy its subtlety with an unsubtle mind. The point is that the less subtle mind cannot know its lack of subtlety, and proclaims its understanding as having reached that subtlety. This, of course, has always been the fate of philosophy.
Posted by Dr. Onno on Kant list

In the seasons, in plants, in the body and above all in civil society, excessive action results in violent transformation into its opposite.
Plato, The Republic

Men would rather live for Nothingness than nothing.

For men are good in one way but bad in many.
Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, in Book 2 where Aristotle defines virtue as moderation, or the mean.

The wish to be normal conceals a deep desire negatively – an attempt to avoid the wage of our individuality, and positively, the desire to be fully ourselves within a community.
Thomas More, The Original Self

The tragedy of our day is that everyone desires the appearance of goodness but very few the reality… I. Kant

The psychotic messes into which many tumble are due either to a want of a knowledge of human nature or to a want of genuine religion.
F. Sheen, Peace of Soul

Of all the masks of freedom, discipline is the most impenetrable.

The world is full of scholars who speak about extending the frontiers of knowledge but who never use the knowledge that has already been acquired; who love to knock at the door of truth but would drop dead if that door ever opened to them.
Fulton Sheen, Peace of Soul

At the bottom of the modern man there is always a great thirst for self-forgetfullness, self-distraction… And therefore he turns away from all those problems and abysses which might recall to him his own nothingness.
Henri Amiel AIH

Most people prefer the certainty of misery to the misery of uncertainty.
Virginia Satir

We the willing, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much for so long, with so little, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing. Karachi’s top anti-terrorist operative. New Republic, 11/11/02

But when the time comes to enter the darkness in which we are naked and helpless and alone; in which we see the insufficiency of our greatest strength and the hollowness of our strongest virtues; in which we have nothing of our own to rely on, and nothing in our nature to support us, and nothing in the world to guide us or give us light – then we find out whether or not we live by faith.
Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

People ask, “How can I have courage when I’m afraid?” The answer is clear. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the willingness to move forward in spite of it. When fear comes up in your life, fully feel and experience it. If you try to push it away, it will only expand.
Hazelden, 3/22/00

We shall not cease from exploration, And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive from where we started And know the place for the first time.
TS Elliot

Indeed, we know that when the earthly tent in which we dwell is destroyed we have a dwelling provided for us by God, a dwelling in the heavens, not made by hands but to last forever. … Therefore we continue to be confident. We know that while we dwell in the body we are away from the Lord. We walk by faith, not by sight. I repeat, we are full of confidence and would much rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. This being so, we make it our aim to please him whether we are with him or away from him….
From St. Paul, 2 Corinthians 5: 1, 6-10. Spoken at the Memorial Service at Washington Cathedral on 9/14/01

The paradox of Christian ethics is precisely that it has always tried to devise a code for society as a whole from pronouncements which were addressed to individuals or small communities to separate themselves off from the rest of society.
Alisdair MacIntyre, A Short History of Ethics, p. 115.

Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians: 12

The Meditations it is true belongs still to the culture of the search, but Descartes has deformed the movement by reifying its partners into objects for an Archimedean observer outside the search. E. Voegelin, The Gospel and Culture, p. 177.

To imagine the search for truth not to be the essence of humanity but an historical imperfection of knowledge to be overcome, in history, by perfect knowledge that will put an end to the search, is an attack on man’s consciousness of his existence under God.
E. Voegelin, p. 226, “Published Essays: On Hegel”

The spiritual life is not a theory. We have to live it.
A.A. Big Book, p. 83.

God whose love it is that he who tears must suffer and even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart and in our despair against our will comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.

The truth is that we needed to be contented with who we were. By observing him, I could learn patience, steadiness, loyalty, the limitation of words, the value of silence, and the beauty of the concrete and the ordinary. From observing me, he could learn humor, exuberance, the value of vulnerability and feeling, the adventurous spirit, and the glory beyond the surface. I am the kite he holds securely so I won’t get carried away and lost in space. He is the earthbound basket stuck in the dirt which my balloon lifts up into the atmosphere. I am the bell that gladdens his silence. He is the hush that quiets my noise.

My illusive tools for survival, gifts for some primeval ancestor, passed in secret along the chain of my forebears. In the end, mine is a navigator’s sense of place and the strength again to hoist the sails, the will again to catch the winds; and even when the land and all that I ever loved are lost to me, and the stars are shrouded, and I am sore with losses, and afraid — even then the miracles all around leap to celebrate themselves, and I will celebrate them too. And even then, I’ll trust that a new shore will rise to meet me, and there in that new place, I will find new things to care about.
From “What Falls Away”

Spirituality means waking up. Most people, even though they don’t know it, are asleep. They’re born asleep, they live asleep, they marry in their sleep without ever waking up. They never understand the loveliness and the beauty of this thing that we call human existence. You know all the mystics – Catholic Christians, non-Christian, no matter what their theology, are unanimous on one thing: that all is well, all is well. Though everything is a mess, all is well. Strange paradox, to be sure. But tragically, most people never get to see that all is well, because they are asleep. They are having a nightmare.
Anthony de Mello, SJ “Awareness”

Fighters are most susceptible to giving up at the moment where the pain of the past meets fear of the future.
Judging Amy, CBS, 12/7/04.

The problem… lay not in “bad thoughts” but in a process of bad thinking that is really wrong vision – seeing things from the perspective of our fears and fantasies (unrealities) rather than seeing things truly. Logismos involves choosing to see the bad – bad in the sense of “unreal”, not fitting reality. Logismos are the arch-enemies of the soul, the demons from within that destroy the proper perspective on the world and thus prevent us from concentrating on the actual reality of our life, leading us further and further from our actual condition, making us try to solve problems that have not yet arisen and need never arise.
The Spirituality of Imperfection, p. 75,

Now that we have been justified by faith, we are at peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have gained access by faith to the grace in which we now stand, and we boast of our hope for the glory of God. But not that only – we even boast of our affliction! We know that affliction makes for endurance, and endurance for tested virtue, and tested virtue for hope. And this hope will not leave us disappointed, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
St. Paul to the Romans, Ch. 5:1-5.

It’s always a waste of good anger to get annoyed with other human beings… What the ascetic needs to do is to focus his attention… on the fact that he is annoyed. Instead of seeing some other human being angrily, he tries to see his own anger. He can then begin to fight against it.
Tugwell, Ways of Imperfection

Why do we try to spend our lives striving to be something that we would never want to be, if we only knew what we wanted? Why do we waste our time doing things which, if we only stopped to think about them, are just the opposite of what we were made for?
Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island

In questions of science, the authority of a 1000 is not worth the reasoning of a single humble individual.

What matters in the contemplative life is not for you or your spiritual advisor to be always right, but for you to be heroically faithful to grace and to love.
Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

Natural man is entirely for himself. He is numerical unity, the absolute whole which is relative only to itself or its kind. Civil man is only a fractional unity dependent on the denominator; his value is determined by his relation to the whole, which is the social body. He who in the civil order wants to preserve the primacy of the sentiments of nature does not know what he wants. Always in contradiction with himself, always floating between his inclinations and his duties, he will never be either man or citizen. He will be good neither for himself nor for others. He will be one of these men of our days: a Frenchman, an Englishman, a bourgeois…
J. Rousseau, Emile

… while even the most unscrupulous politician must constantly try to replace in his own mind political opinion by political knowledge in order to be successful, the scholarly student of political things will go beyond this by trying to state the results of his investigations in public without any concealment and without any partisanship: he will act the part of the enlightened and patriotic citizen who has no ax of his own to grind.
Leo Strauss, “What is Political Philosophy”, p. 15.

Faith is the human component of that mysterious interweaving of divine grace and human intention that can vanquish the power of attachment.
Gerald May, Addiction and Grace, p. 131

Poem by Rainer Maria Rilke

Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart
and try to love the questions themselves …
Don’t search for the answers,
which could not be given to you now,
because you would not be able to live them.
And the point is, to live everything.
Live the questions now.
Perhaps then, someday far in the future,
you will gradually, without even noticing it,
live your way into the answer. 

…there is a contemporary form of violence to which the idealist fighting for peace by nonviolent methods most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence. More than that, it is cooperation in violence. The frenzy of the activist neutralizes his or her work for peace. It destroys one’s own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of one’s own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.
Thomas Merton

The level of sanctimony in the rhetoric is inversely related to the public benefit of the policy.
Bill Clinton

The best things cannot be taught.
The second best things are misunderstood, by virtue of the fact that the thoughts about the best tend to be equated with the best.
When we think about ultimate realities, or the most important things, we get stuck on the thoughts, by virtue of the fact that these things cannot be directly thought. We get stuck on the thoughts because these are the thoughts which refer to that which cannot be thought.
The way we “get at” the greatest things is by talking about them.
Religion and deep philosophy is our attempt to talk about the good.

No matter what annoying habits she has, know that she’s dealing with a huge mountain of imperfections every day, so you might just want to let it go.
Sandra Bullock, in “Forces of Nature”, 9/1/08

Something in human nature causes us to start slacking off at our moment of greatest accomplishment. As you become successful, you will need a great deal of self-discipline not to lose your sense of balance, humility, and commitment.
H. Ross Perot

I’m coming to believe that if I do not accept all of what this program offers (demands?), but instead walk away from it as somehow more than I bargained for, I might get drunk. From “Came to Believe”, p. 118.

Imagine yourself standing in the rain on the bank of a raging river. Suddenly the water-swollen bank gives way. You fall in and find yourself being tossed around in the rapids. Your efforts to keep afloat are futile and you are drowning. By chance, along comes a huge log and you grab it and hold tight. The log keeps your head above water and saves your life. Clinging to the log you are swept downstream and eventually come to a place where the water is calm. There in the distance you see the riverbank and attempt to swim to shore. You are unable to do so, however, because you are still clinging to the huge log with one arm as you stroke with the other. How ironic. The very thing that saved your life is now getting in the way of your getting to where you want to go. There are people on the shore who see you struggle and yell, “Let go of the log!” But you are unable to do so because you have no confidence in your ability to make it to shore. And so, very slowly and carefully, you let go of the log and practice floating. When you start to sink, you grab back on. Then you let go of the log and practice treading water, and when you get tired, hold on once again. After a while, you practice swimming around the log once, twice, ten times, twenty times, a hundred times, until you gain the strength and confidence you need to swim to shore. Only then can you completely let go of the log.

From “Eating in the Light of the Moon, by Anita Johnston, 1996.

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