Category Archives: Favourite Quotes (archive)

Advent Quote: “This being human” by Rumi

I thought it would be appropriate to offer a reflective piece of poetry as this especially tempestuous year ends: we need all the wisdom we can receive, especially in relation to the dark thoughts, the shame and the malice from which no person is immune – could we but take responsibility for those shadow qualities in ourselves as individuals and nations, refraining from projecting them onto others, the world would probably be less fractured than it is….

“This being human” is by far the most popular and most often read of all the quotes I have posted on my blog in the last few years. Here it is once more. It holds so much wisdom.

” This being human “

The poet Rumi

The poet Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all
even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture.

Still treat each guest honourably,
he may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

from the Persian poet Rumi

(1207-1273)

New Year Quote: “This being human” by Rumi

I thought it would be appropriate to offer a reflective piece of poetry as the New Year begins : we need all the wisdom we can receive, especially in relation to the dark thoughts, the shame and the malice from which no person is immune – could we but take responsibility for those shadow qualities in ourselves as individuals and nations, refraining from projecting them onto others, the world would probably be less fractured than it is….

” This being human “

 

The poet Rumi

The poet Rumi

 

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all
even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture.

Still treat each guest honourably,
he may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

from the Persian poet Rumi

(1207-1273)

Invincible summer – in the chill of winter….

All my life I have loved and been inspired by quotes.

Here are two which I pinned up in our kitchen,  absorbing their energy and wisdom during that long period of recovery 2001-8, at a very dark time when my own energy was perilously low.

At this bleak time of year approaching the solstice, when we in Scotland are waiting, and wondering if another severe winter awaits us, I thought some of you might find them inspiring!

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Winter creativity - spot the Tai Chi person!!Winter creativity – spot the Tai Chi person!!
photo: Anne Whitaker
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“It is far more creative to work with the idea of mindfulness rather than with the idea of will.Too often people try to change their lives by using the will as a kind of hammer to beat their lives into shape. If you work with a different rhythm, you will come easily and naturally home to yourself. Your soul knows the geography of your destiny. Your soul alone has the map of your future, therefore you can trust this indirect, oblique side of yourself. If you do, it will take you where you need to go.”

John O’Donohue, pp 83-4 “Anam Cara” Bantam Books 1999

(John O’Donohue 1956-2008 was an Irish poet turned priest, whose writing merged Celtic spirit and love of the natural world )

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“In the midst of winter
I finally learned
That there was in me
An invincible summer”       – how inspiring is this! I love it……

This is a popular quote whose original source I have as yet not traced, but have come across a slight variation ie ‘within me there lay an invincible summer’ – different sites have different versions. Come on, detectives out there! Where in Camus’ writings does this quote appear? Let me know!

Albert Camus

( Albert Camus 1913-1960 was a French philosopher best known for his book L’Etranger (The Outsider) whose existentialist philosophy influenced a whole post-war generation)

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300 words copyright Anne Whitaker/John O’Donohue/Albert Camus/ 2011
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page


Homage to an ancient postmodernist….

……who displayed an attractive humility which is very evident by its absence in certain contemporary discourses, especially in the realms of eg science, and of religion…..

“The gods did not reveal, from the beginning,
All things to us, but in the course of time
Through seeking we may learn and know things better.
But as for certain truth, no man has known it,
Nor shall he know it,neither of the gods
Nor yet of all the things of which I speak.
For even if by chance he were to utter
The final truth, he would himself not know it:
For all is but a woven web of guesses”

 Xenophanes (c. 570-475 BC)

Xenophanes

Xenophanes

http://www.goodreads.com/

Cheer up, it’ll soon(-ish) be Spring!

In the last year I have intermittently been reading my way through the work of  that well-known writer, broadcaster and former Bishop of Edinburgh, Richard Holloway. Whilst leafing through a slim collection of  poems sent to us supporters of the charity ZANE at the end of last year, I came across the following quotation from his work.

In my current January mood, as I sit here in my life, grumpy, with a metaphorical blanket pulled over my head, these words speak powerfully to me: I offer them to my fellow January-ites out there, with the thought that it really, truly, will soon be Spring….

St Magnus Cathedral Window, Orkney

St Magnus Cathedral Window, Orkney

photo: Anne Whitaker

“This is my dilemma. I am dust and ashes, frail and wayward, a set of predetermined behavioural responses, … riddled with fear, beset with needs…the quintessence of dust and unto dust I shall return…. But there is something else in me…. Dust I may be, but troubled dust, dust that dreams, dust that that has strong premonitions of transfiguration, of a glory in store, a destiny prepared, an inheritance that will one day be my own…so my life is spread out in a painful dialectic between ashes and glory, between weakness and transfiguration. I am a riddle to myself, an exasperating enigma…this strange duality of dust and glory.”

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(NOTE: Having googled this quotation, I discovered that it has got around, and some of the wording varies slightly depending on who is quoting! So I hope Richard Holloway will forgive me any minor errors which may appear in this version, whilst I track down the exact quote, in the precise book in which it appears….)

Richard F. Holloway (born 26 November 1933) is a Scottish writer and broadcaster and was formerly Bishop of Edinburgh in the Scottish Episcopal Church. To read more about him and his writing, click HERE

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300 words copyright Anne Whitaker/Richard Holloway 2011
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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Favourite Quotes: on the mystery of “our deeply strange existence” from scientist David Eagleman

As anyone with even half a braincell tuned into current affairs will know, we are living in an era where humans seem to need the strong seasoning of certainty even more than ever. Militant atheism seems hell bent (pardon the expression, a tad inappropriate in this context, eh what?!) on ramming down our collective throats their conviction that religion is pernicious rubbish. And militant religious fanatics have been turning to their usual tools, honed to a fine art  over many bloodsoaked centuries, of persecution and/or slaughter in the name of whatever faith they aver is ‘the one and only truth’.

How totally refreshed I was, therefore, given our current less than calm and reasonable collective context, to come across a wonderful opinion piece in last week’s New Scientist magazine, from which the following quote is taken:

” But when we reach the end of the pier of everything we know, we find that it only takes us part of the way. Beyond that all we see is uncharted water. Past the end of the pier lies all the mystery about our deeply strange existence: the equivalence of mass and energy, dark matter, multiple spatial dimensions, how to build consciousness, and the big questions of meaning and existence….good scientists are comfortable holding many possibilities at once, rather than committing to a particular story over others. In light of this, I have found myself surprised by the amount of certainty out there….”

 

Where from here?

Where from here?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/patrick-smith-photography/2892650570/sizes/s/in/photostream/

David Eagleman is a neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. His book of ‘possibilian’ tales, Sum, became an international best-seller and is published in 22 languages.

To read the whole of the opinion piece  “Why I am a ‘possibilian'” which I found so refreshing, click HERE.

And now I am away to Amazon to order a copy of Sum which looks to be a most intriguing and stimulating read.

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300 words copyright Anne Whitaker/David Eagleman 2010
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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Favourite Quotes: “On loan to each other” – an Aztec prayer

Each morning since a week last Tuesday I have stepped out of our third floor flat onto a very silent landing. No kids’ clutter outside the door opposite. Double doors firmly shut. Our next door neighbours and friends are in Australia for a month. I miss them. Second floor next. More closed doors. Since a week last Wednesday another family of neighbours and friends has been gone, en route to California for six months. Wee Lauchie has just started to walk. I miss them too.

It is a blessing to have neighbours who are friends, to have neighbours with lively twins who aged 10 make you cakes and yorkshire puddings. These things are precious and we should not take them for granted.

Another of my communities is in shock. One of our members, only 51, died suddenly last Saturday. We all grieve for his wife, family and friends. We are brutally reminded of how fleeting life is – a fact we do not care to face in western society which likes to insulate itself from life’s rough edges, from risk, from death, from transience.

But today there was an uplifting email from a young friend, a former student of mine, whom I have not seen for a long time. After many difficulties, she has just been allocated a flat she can afford, in a part of London she loves, within a supportive community. Better still, her art work is coming together in a wonderful way. She sounds joyful; at last her direction is opening out.

Many years ago I read her horoscope, telling her she needed to paint her life on a big canvas – that symbolic art, perhaps astrological art, could be her forte. She got in touch to tell me that her work is now taking off in just that direction.  She also said kind things about my first book, which she has just read. Her email made my day.

As I walked to my office, a passage about the richness and transience of life, and our connectedness with one another, floated into my mind and lodged there. It expresses beautifully and poignantly how I feel today. Aware of the rich weave of dark and light which is our life: very, very aware of the importance and also the underlying frailty of all our relationships. Truly, we are but on loan to one another, should cherish one another….

Beautiful Rainbow Obsidian

(http://www.statemaster.com/encyclopedia/Obsidian)

“ There is an ancient Aztec Indian prayer that reflects on the preciousness of life and the fleetingness of it. As the Aztecs thank the Creator for their life and breath, they acknowledge that they are only on loan to each other for a short while, and just like the drawings that they have made in crystalline obsidian fade, so, too, will their life quickly be gone.

‘Oh, only for so short a while you have loaned us
to each other,
because we take form in your act
of drawing us.
And we take life in your painting us,
And we breathe in your singing us.
But only for so short a while have you loaned us
to each other.’ ”

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Grateful thanks to my friend C.M. for reading me this passage recently, thereby inspiring me to use it too!

(from p55, PRAYING OUR GOODBYES The Spirituality of Change by Joyce Rupp 1988)

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550 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2010

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page


Favourite Quotes: Richard Holloway on Doubt

Along with most people in Scotland who have more than a passing interest in matters spiritual, religious and theological, I have known about Richard Holloway for a long time. (see below this quote for biographical details) However, until recently I had not got around to reading any of his writing.

I had, however, listened to a eulogy for my late mother-in-law, written by Richard Holloway for her funeral service ten years ago. She had been a Samaritan volunteer and churchgoer in Edinburgh for many years and as such knew Richard Holloway, then Bishop of Edinburgh, quite well. I was struck by the straightforward fluency and honesty of what he wrote, delivering an admiring and affectionate word portrait, but not shirking mention of the more problematic aspects of her character.

I have always appreciated honesty which avoids unkindness, but values truth more than comfort. That is what came across during the eulogy, revealing itself again as I work my way through Holloway’s deep probing writing on questions of faith and doubt as they thread themselves though the ever-present gifts and frailties of humankind – admiring his blend of humour, erudition, compassionate feeling and dispassionate analysis.

If  you appreciate and are challenged by this quote, join me in reading through his books!

Light - and Dark....

Light - and Dark....

Because there is such an intrinsic connection between faith and doubt, the Church ought to be big enough to contain both sympathetically.This is the kind of theological magnanimity that is important for itself, but it is also important for secondary reasons. Since it is possible to believe and to doubt for the wrong reasons as well as the right ones, and we don’t always know the one from the other, we need the constant challenge of the other tendency to keep us honest. This will make life uncomfortable, of course, but the work of our purgation demands it. Growth is painful, but no element in our nature is exempt from the process of  sanctification. The Church….should be as inclusive as possible. It should be big enough to hold Thomas the empiricist, as well as John the mystic, and Peter, who was often baffled and confused…..the paradox of justification by faith is that it is God’s faith in us that ultimately matters, and not our faith in God. There is a faith beyond faith, which is deeper than trust in our own trustfulness and is an abandonment to the ultimate graciousness of the universe….This is the trust beyond trust that says ‘yes’ even to the night.It is close to the dereliction of Good Friday….

Light - and Dark....

Light - and Dark....

(from Anger Sex Doubt & Death by Richard Holloway, SPCK Publications, 1992, UK, pp 81-82. I realise this is quite a lengthy extract! Should Richard Holloway or SSPK object, please let me know how many words I can quote and I will edit accordingly….)

Richard F. Holloway (born 26 November 1933) is a Scottish writer and broadcaster and was formerly Bishop of Edinburgh in the Scottish Episcopal Church. To read more about him and his writing, click HERE

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500 words copyright Anne Whitaker/Richard Holloway 2010
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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Favourite Quotes: Max Planck on scientific truths

“A new scientific truth does not triumph

by convincing its opponents and making

them see the light, but rather because its

opponents eventually die.

Max Planck

(April 23, 1858 – October 4, 1947)

Nobel Prize-winning German physicist

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As I slowly emerge from the post-Festive fug, my only resolution for 2010 is to embark on some re-reads of a few of the books which have made the most powerful impression on me in the last few years. One of these is undoubtedly Peter Russell’s “From Science to God”, from which (p17) the above quote is taken. The book is “…the story of Peter Russell’s lifelong exploration into the nature of consciousness – how he went from being a convinced atheist, studying mathematics and physics, to realising a profound personal synthesis of the mystical and scientific.”

I have had a lifelong interest in science. But my capacity to understand its paradigms is seriously handicapped by having done Classics instead of science at school – not that reading Homer in the original Greek wasn’t great fun! Thus people like Russell, who can clarify and inspire without being patronising to the scientifically uneducated like me, are a great gift to the world! If you want to find out more about Peter Russell, his website is : www.peterussell.com

NOT the Xmas Round Robin….

At Christmas time 2004,  having read about a dozen round robins arriving with their respective cards, all eulogising each family’s travels and achievements in the year just ending, I became seriously fed up.

The “Not the Xmas round robin” concept was born in that moment.

Life is not all sunshine and achievement as depicted in the standard end of the year card insert, I thought to myself. So why not produce something a bit different – a piece of reflection conveying some shadow as well as light, something more honest, something offering a bit of inspiration from our common experiences of being human ?

Since then I have written a “not the Xmas round robin” piece of end-of-year reflection for inclusion in my Xmas cards every year. People like it. So this year I thought I’d share it with you – my increasing band of loyal readers here at “Writing from the Twelfth House”.

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“not the Xmas round robin 2009”

……a quotation from “Simple Abundance” by Sarah Ban Breathnach for  8 December states……

“ Gloom we have always with us, a rank and sturdy weed, but joy requires tending.”
Barbara Holland

As you legions of devoted fans of Anne Whitaker’s Annual Thought for the Day will be well aware by now, Ian and I have had a pretty hefty allocation of family and health difficulties in recent years although our overriding feeling continues to be one of gratitude for my full recovery from what I now think of (with a characteristic tinge of melodrama, but not that much!) as my Descent and Return from the Underworld, 2001-08.

There have been many consequences flowing from this experience, and I am very slowly beginning to appreciate what riches one can bring back from the Underworld – provided that the experience of Descent and Return is understood as part of “the stormy journey of the soul” and accepted in that spirit. (not easy, by the way!!)

 

Ian and me, Dartmoor, August 2009

Ian and me, Dartmoor, August 2009

One of the gifts for both Ian and myself – and probably the most important development of 2009 – has been a growing understanding of how vulnerable we all are behind our carefully crafted defences, how ephemeral this life is, and how quickly and brutally all that we thought we had can be taken from us.

Thus we have been learning to live as fully as we can in each day, never being too busy to stop and appreciate the many small but pleasurable moments in life therein.

The still watchfulness of the herons on the nearby River Kelvin. The delightful smile on nine month old neighbour wee Lauchie’s face, as he leans over to rub noses, his latest favourite trick. A peaceful cup of coffee whilst listening to children rehearsing carols in Princes Square, Glasgow’s elegant city centre shopping precinct, magically decorated at this time of year, during a pause in Xmas shopping on a wet and dreary Glasgow day. Having a good laugh, either at our own or the world’s stupidities (have you done your risk assessment before digging out the Xmas tree lights yet?!)

So the quotation above means a lot to me. It is easy to moan and buckle under life’s many pains great and small. But cultivating joy (if you can – I appreciate that life is simply too hard for many people in this world to be able to manage to do so) and living in the moment as much as possible has recently been confirmed by research as being the route to happiness.

So – let me and Ian confirm this truth for you for free. It works!

In conclusion, lest you are beginning by now to think I am losing my sardonic edge in the declining years, I leave you all, especially the over-50s, with this observation recently made to me by a rather cynical but witty person I know:

“Anyone over fifty who is not in pain for one reason or another, is dead!”

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650 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2009
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page