Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Five Quotes to Live By

Getting caught up in the day to day experiences of life can blind one to the things they truly care about. It doesn't do a lot of good to lose focus and lose balance. But these following quotes--chosen because they a) are great and b) aren't cliche--are short meditations on what it is to embrace one's priorities. Read through and maybe you'll find one that speaks to you today:

1. Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise: seek what they sought. ~Basho

In my writing classes, I try and stress the ideas of respect and acceptance of our fellow classmates. This is sometimes harder to achieve than you might think. In my classes students are encouraged to write about their own experiences and what has brought them to their beliefs. This causes a lot of trouble between different ideologies the students might hold. But this quote really puts into focus what I try and stress to the class. "Whatever you've been through, whatever you've done, it's brought you here," I tell the class. "We have at least something in common, some part of the goals we reach involve this place and this time. Don't knock what has brought the person next to you. You didn't need to go through that to get here; he or she did."

Basho is one of the great masters of the haiku, so it is perhaps without surprise that he is so quotable (if you haven't read any of his poems, you need to). It always reminds me that my life doesn't to be like that of the people or religious leaders whom I admire. There may be a lot of things to learn from their lives, but my lessons will be different.

2. Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. ~ Mark Twain

Twain in perhaps my favorite author. To me, he really shows his stuff in the second part of this quote. While he, being somewhat of a sailor, may have meant it more literally than I take it, it really speaks to the adventurous nature of this quote. Many of us, I'm sure, have read and understand that first sentence in some form or another, it's the second part that really brings it to life, that lets you feel what he means. Taking this pulnge to follow your dreams has never sounded more exciting and appealing than he makes it sound. This quote often inspires me to drop my petty concerns about a project, a trip, an expenditure, or a big decision.

3. Happiness is the absence of the striving for happiness. ~Chuang-tzu

How Taoist is this quote? Just decide to be happy and you are. How can it be that easy? Well, if we apply this notion to the ways in which we are always striving to get more, more, more, then it comes to light. This can be seen as a tremendous argument for simplicity. Decide, for yourself, how much is going to be enough. How big of a house, how much stuff, how much money, how much time shopping, how much vacation time, and hit that mark. If you don't have any idea of what kind of ceiling there is, you'll keep wanting more. And if you want more, then by definition, you will always feel unsatisfied with what you have. So stop trying. Look around you, look at what you have, decide that that is enough.

4. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same. ~Carlos Castaneda

I know people who spend all their time being miserable. They complain about their days, they whine about service at a restaurant, they loath their coworkers, the weather has ruined their day, etc. They are the type of people who put a negative spin on everything. And I catch myself doing this at times. It's not appealing. Look around and decide that you're going to be happy. Decide that no matter how bad this day gets, it can be turned around. The kids can have a terrible morning, whining and crying, and I can have a terrible day at work. But, in the moment it takes to complain about something, we can change our days and our focus. We can make ourselves and our families happy and remind them that the day is never lost.

5. The mind is its own place, and of itself Can make a hell of heaven, a heaven of hell. ~Satan from Milton's Paradise Lost

There's nothing like using a quote from Satan to put a positive spin on your day. But this quote is very related to the last two. It is our frames of mind that make us happy, that make us miserable, that make us satisfied or unsatisfied. And I imagine that Satan, with his experiences in Heaven and Hell would be as much an authority of their properties as anyone. So let's trust the guy. This quote is a tremendous argument to rid yourself of anxiety and pressures, of assessing your situation and being content with it, of making the most of things. If things don't turn out like you planned, adjust to the new plan.

I write these quotes down today as an affirmation. I want today to be good. I'm stressed, I'm behind in my grading, I have one more week left of my statistics class. But there are reminders everywhere of the power of our own determination to take control of our days. To make the most of things and set a good example for ourselves and for our kids.

Deep breath.

Let's go.


Anonymous said...

I love your selection of qutoes - so inspiring and almost mantra-esque. I am a bit of a quote collector too and I remind myself of my favorites on more difficult parenting days.

Thanks for sharing!
If there is no wind, row.
-Japanese proverb

Huckdoll said...

Basho is the man!! Awesome post.