Tag Archives: quotations

Have You Read the Book “Peter Pan?”

“John lived in a boat turned upside down on the sands, Michael in a wigwam, Wendy in a house of leaves deftly sewn together. John had no friends, Michael had friends at night, Wendy had a pet wolf forsaken by its parents; but on the whole the Neverlands have a family resemblance, and if they stood in a row you could say of them that they have each other’s nose, and so forth. On these magic shores children at play are for ever beaching their coracles. We too have been there; we can still hear the sound of the surf, though we shall land no more.”

— J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan

One day, when I think I’m finally ready, I’ll undertake the great challenge of my writing life: to write the book I’ve been thinking about for decades, Symbols Beyond Words.

And when I do, J. M. Barrie is going to be all over that book. If you haven’t read Peter Pan, read it. It’s not what you expect.

Carl Jung, Flannery O’Connor, C. S. Lewis but not J.R.R. Tolkien (except for Tom Bombadil), Elias Canetti, Virginia Woolf, The Golden Bough,  the movie The Piano, the writing of Bob Dylan (I never listen to his music), Robertson Davies tried so hard but never really got there…I have a long way to go before I can write that book.

When Did You Experience the Truest Feeling of Joy You’ve Ever Known?

“To this day, the truest feeling of joy I have ever known is the door opening at a friend’s house to reveal my father — in his tweed overcoat– there to rescue me from a bad play date.”

— Lena Dunham, Not That Kind of Girl

This rang true for me, because I have to admit: Of my whole life, one of my most purely joyous memories is when a student came to our high school chemistry lab to tell us that field hockey practice was cancelled for the day, because the sprinklers had been running all night, so our cleats would have torn up the grass. I was so happy.

Do you have a memory like that — of such great happiness, over such a small thing?

Do You Ever Get the “Cold Fish Dying in Your Stomach Feeling?”

“It’s the cold fish dying in your stomach feeling. You try to forget about it, but as soon as you do, the fish starts flopping around under your heart and reminds you that something truly horrible is happening.

“[Great-grandmother] Jiko felt like that when she learned that her only son was going to be killed in the war. I know, because I told her about the fish in my stomach, and she said she knew exactly what I was talking about, and that she had a fish, too, for many years. In fact, she said she had lots of fishes, some that were small like sardines, some that were medium-sized like carp, and other ones that were as big as a bluefin tuna, but the biggest fish of all belonged to Haruki #1, and it was more like the size of a whale. She also said that after she became a [Buddhist] nun and renounced the world, she learned how to open up her heart so that the whale could swim away.”

–Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being

I really loved this novel–in fact, I loved it so much that I (more…)

Butter Scraped Over Too Much Bread–Know the Feeling?

For a while, I’d been feeling very…depleted. I kept feeling as though I needed to catch my breath.

As I was trying to describe how I felt, to myself, I was reminded of something Bilbo said to Gandalf in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring. It perfectly describes how I’d been feeling. Bilbo said:

I feel I need a holiday, a very long holiday, as I have told you before…Why, I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread. That can’t be right. I need a change, or something.”

So I decided to take a few weeks and try to re-charge my battery –which I do mostly through heavy reading. That really, really works for me. Now, once again, I feel like there’s enough butter on the bread.

What do you do, when you need to restore yourself?

What Did Flannery O’Connor Pray For?

Often when I read, I’m struck by something, but I’m not sure why.

I’ve read The Habit of Being several times — it’s a collection of Flannery O’Connor’s extraordinary letters. O’Connor is one of my favorite writers, but I can hardly bear to read her fiction; it makes my head explode.

On July 1, 1964, O’Connor (who was a devout Catholic) wrote to Janet McKane:

Do you know anything about St. Raphael besides his being an archangel? He leads you to the people you are supposed to meet…It’s a prayer I’ve said every day for many years.

A week later, she wrote McKane a follow-up letter, with the prayer, which reads in part:

O Raphael, lead us toward those we are waiting for, those who are waiting for us: Raphael, Angel of happy meeting, lead us by the hand toward those we are looking for. May all our movements be guided by your Light and transfigured with your joy.

O’Connor died of lupus two weeks later.

I’ve often thought about this idea, that was clearly so  important to O’Connor — the prayer for being led to the people you are supposed to meet. This struck me as an oddly specific domain for an angel — and why did this matter so much to O’Connor?

But yesterday, I was at an event, and someone told the story of how at a networking event, she’d met a guy, and she told him, “You should meet this other guy I know,” and she’d introduced them, and now they’d started a huge project together.

This chance meeting, and her introduction, had transformed their lives.

As I heard her tell this story, it suddenly became clear to me: for O’Connor, working on her writing, sick, weak, living with her mother in Milledgeville, Georgia, because she couldn’t manage to live on her own, the hope of “meeting the ones we are looking for” would have been enormously important.

We’ve all waited and hoped for a “happy meeting” to occur.

It’s a very important thing, to play the role of making introductions, connecting people, helping to lead them to the people they need to meet. It can be such a huge thing in a person’s life. I myself set up someone I hardly knew on a blind date, and the two people ended up getting married.

As I’m thinking about O’Connor…I wonder if her prayers to meet the person she was looking for was tied, at least in part, to her art.

On March 4, 1962, she wrote to Father J. H. McCown:

I’d like to write a whole bunch of stories like [“Everything That Rises Must Converge“], but once you’ve said it, you’ve said it, and that about expresses what I have to say on That Issue. But pray that the Lord will send me some more. I’ve been writing for sixteen years and I have the sense of having exhausted by original potentiality and being now in need of the kind of grace that deepens perception, a new shot of life or something…

Sometimes this type of renewal comes from an encounter with another person.

Has anyone ever made an introduction for you, that transformed your life? Or have you ever played that role for someone else?