Tag Archives: quotation

Agree? “The Serious Problems in Life Are Never Fully Solved.”

“The serious problems in life, however, are never fully solved. If ever they should appear to be so it is a sure sign that something has been lost. The meaning and purpose of a problem seem to lie not in its solution but in our working at it incessantly. This alone preserves us from stultification and petrification.”

–Carl Jung, The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche

Agree, disagree?

A Little Happier: I Can’t Find It Outside Myself If I Can’t Find It Inside Myself.

I love fables, parables, paradoxes, and teaching stories of all kinds — and I also love koans.

A “koan” is a question, story, or statement that can’t be understood logically. Zen Buddhist monks meditate on koans as a way to abandon dependence on reason in their pursuit of enlightenment.  I’ve found that thinking about a koan stimulates mindfulness. Because koans force me to challenge the usual, straightforward boxes of meaning, they push me to think about thinking.

I’m always looking out for koans. For instance, when Pablo Picasso told an art dealer, “I often paint fakes.”

There’s a “koan” I love so much that I used it as the epigraph to The Happiness Project (choosing the epigraphs is probably my favorite part of writing a book).

It had great significance for my happiness project. In John Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson, Boswell quotes Johnson remarking:

“As the Spanish proverb says, ‘He who would bring home the wealth of the Indies must carry the wealth of the Indies with him, so it is with travelling, –a man must carry knowledge with him if he would bring home knowledge.’”

Put another way, by Henry David Thoreau, in his journal entry from August 30, 1856:

“It is in vain to dream of a wildness distant from ourselves. There is none such. It is the bog in our brains and bowels, the primitive vigor of Nature in us, that inspires that dream. I shall never find in the wilds of Labrador any greater wildness than in some recess of Concord, i.e. than I import into it.”

I think this means: I can’t find abundance, or adventure, or knowledge, or happiness outside myself unless I can find it inside myself.

Agree, disagree?

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One of My Cures for Feeling Anxious? Think about My Favorite Churchill Quotations.

One of my most useful resolutions is to “Find an area of refuge.”

We all suffer from negativity bias, that is, we react to the bad more strongly and persistently than to the comparable good.

Research shows one consequence of negativity bias is that when people’s thoughts wander, they tend to begin to brood. Anxious or angry thoughts capture our attention more effectively than happier thoughts.

And of course, we often have many difficult, upsetting, or worrying matters weighing on our minds.

If I feel myself struggling to calm my bad or anxious feelings, I seek a mental “area of refuge” for my mind.

Sometimes I look at photos of my family — research shows that reflecting on happy times in the past boosts happiness in the present.

Sometimes I think about my favorite scenes from books, movies, or TV shows. I often find myself thinking about classic funny scenes from The Office, for instance — like the time Jim wrapped Dwight’s desk in wrapping paper.

Most often, however, I reflect on my favorite quotations from Winston Churchill. When I was writing Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill, I collected a countless number of these — some funny, some sharp, some transcendent.

It’s impossible for me to choose my favorite, but this quotation is certainly one of my favorites. I’ve quoted it here before, but I can’t resist quoting it again.

In September 1940, Churchill gave one of his most memorable broadcasts — about the “Blitz,” the brutal nightly bombing of London.

I know the words practically by heart.

These cruel, wanton, indiscriminate bombings of London are, of course, a part of Hitler’s invasion plans. He hopes, by killing large numbers of civilians, and women and children, that he will terrorise and cow the people of this mighty imperial city, and make them a burden and anxiety to the Government…Little does he know the spirit of the British nation, or the tough fibre of the Londoners…who have been bred to value freedom far above their lives. This wicked man, the repository and embodiment of many forms of soul-destroying hatreds, this monstrous product of former wrongs and shame, has now resolved to try to break our famous Island race by a process of indiscriminate slaughter and destruction. What he has done is to kindle a fire in British hearts, here and all over the world, which will glow long after all traces of the conflagration he has caused in London have been removed.

My favorite line: “What he has done is to kindle a fire in British hearts, here and all over the world, which will glow long after all traces of the conflagration he has caused in London have been removed.”

If you want to listen to Churchill give his broadcast, you can listen here. The section I quote above begins at 7:43.

Ah, what a joy it was to write that book!

Like January 1 or a Birthday, Inauguration Day Prompts Me to Reflect. Plus, Schoolhouse Rock.

I often get what I call the “America feeling.” It’s such an intense emotion, that I usually get all choked up.

I got it when I went to see the Broadway show Hamilton, especially during the song “Cabinet Battle #1”:  “‘Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ We fought for these ideals; we shouldn’t settle for less.”

I get it every time I hear the song “The Farmer and the Cowman” from the musical Oklahoma! “I don’t say I’m no better than anybody else — but I’ll be danged if I ain’t jist as good!”

When I was clerking for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, I got it every time the Court was called to order before oral arguments. “Oyes! Oyez! Oyez! All persons having business before the Honorable, the Supreme Court of the United States, are admonished to draw near and give their attention, for the Court is now sitting. God save the United States and this Honorable Court.”

I get it every time I vote.

When I was writing my biography of John Kennedy, Forty Ways to Look at JFK, I got it each time I read my favorite speech of June 11, 1963. “This is one country.”

I got it when I applied for an emergency passport.

And today I keep thinking about something that always gives me the America feeling — the Schoolhouse Rock video, “Preamble.” How I love Schoolhouse Rock.

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

In seventh grade, we all had to memorize the Preamble to the Constitution, and Schoolhouse Rock made it easy.

Do you experience something like the “America feeling?”

(Fill in the name of your own country!) Under what circumstances?

Certain days, such as January 1 or the celebration of a birthday, often remind us to reflect on our lives and our hopes for the future.

For me at least, Inauguration Day is prompting me to think about the highest ideals of the United States, and how I, in my own way, can strive to fulfill its promise.

Upon Waking, I’ve Had This Odd Experience — How About You?

I was recently re-reading C. S. Lewis’s memoir Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life, and I was struck by his excellent description of something that I’d often experienced, but never been able to put into words.

He wrote:

“It was more like when a man, after long sleep, still lying motionless in bed, becomes aware that he is now awake.”

I’ve had exactly that experience: I’m in bed, I’m awake, but I’m not yet aware that I’m awake, and then slowly I do become aware that I’m awake.

I’ve often thought that this moment in my day is when I come closest to experiencing impersonal awareness — of being conscious, yet not having any sense of being “me.”

I’m present, but in a wholly impersonal way.

Then it’s an odd sensation when I do become “me,” when I begin to have thoughts like, “How soon do I have to get up?” “What’s the day of the week?” “What do I have to do today?”

Before that switch, however, I’m just…aware.

Am I right that when people meditate, they’re trying to get a place like this? Thoughts happening, perception happening, but apart from personality.

Is this what “thoughts without a thinker” looks like?

This experience isn’t under my conscious control. I can’t get to this state — I wake into it, and then it dissipates. (And as I describe in Better Than Before, I tried meditating, and gave it up because it did nothing for me.)

Perhaps relatedly, and I’ve never heard of anyone else experiencing this: I will experience my hearing turning “on.” I’ll be lying in silence, and then suddenly I’ll begin to hear the radio (for better or worse, my husband and I sleep with all-news radio playing all night).

I’ve had this happen while I’m awake, too. I’ll be thinking hard about something, and there will be silence, then suddenly something clicks “on” and I hear noises. It’s pretty weird.

These are such fleeting, inchoate moments…they’re hard to articulate.

Have you ever experienced this?

This waking-up experience is odd. Almost pleasant. Consciousness, but without ambition, worry, planning, reminders, judgment, and all that other noise.