The Tribe Gifts Us with Meaning

“(This book)…is about why-for many people-war feels better than peace and hardship can turn out to be a great blessing and disasters are sometimes remembered more fondly than weddings or tropical vacations. Humans don’t mind hardship, in fact they thrive on it, what they mind is not feeling necessary. Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary.”

-Sebastian Junger in Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging

Made to Measure

“(What fabrications they are, mothers. Scarecrows, wax dolls for us to stick pins into, crude diagrams. We deny them an existence of their own, we make them up to suit ourselves- our own hungers, our own wishes, our own deficiencies. Now that I’ve been one myself, I know.)”

-from The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

Self-Fulfilling Rat Race

“But these were days of self-fulfillment, where settling for something that was not quite your first choice of a life seemed weak-willed and ignoble. Somewhere, surrendering to what seemed to be your fate had changed from being dignified to being a sign of your own cowardice. There were times when the pressure to achieve happiness felt almost oppressive, as if happiness were something that everyone should and could attain, and that any sort of compromise in its pursuit was somehow your fault.”

-Hanya Yanagihara in A Little Life, p 41

21st Century Pilgrimage

“He understood that in walking to atone for the mistakes he had made, it was also his journey to accept the strangeness of others. As a passer-by, he was in a place where everything, not only the land, was open. People would feel free to talk, and he was free to listen. To carry a little of them as he went. He had neglected so many things, that he owed this small piece of generosity to Queenie and the past.”

-From The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, p 107

Life Coach

“Schwartz knew that people loved to suffer, as long as the suffering made sense. Everybody suffered. The key was to choose the form of your suffering. Most people couldn’t do this alone; they needed a coach. A good coach made you suffer in a way that suited you. A bad coach made everyone suffer in the same way, and so was more like a torturer.”

from The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

On Life and Soul of Spaces

“The great Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy suggested that the fountain in a hot country was equivalent in importance to the open fire (in a fireplace) in a cold country- in terms of both practical use and symbolic significance. There is much to be said for this analogy as it brings home both the practical necessity and the intense symbolic significance of the fountain and the fire alike: how both help equally to reconnect with nature and the environment through different ways, both practically and symbolically. Just as the fountain is a living grace as it were at the heart of the courtyard house, the garden or mosque, so the fire- to those who live in a cold climate- brings not only much needed warmth but also essential cheer and homeliness, the ‘life and soul’ of the house in fact. It is no accident that heart and hearth are etymologically connected.”

-Emma Clark in her essay “Islamic Gardens” from Critical Muslim No. 19  Nature

Split Purgatory

“Before now she would have felt exhilarated by the idea of existing without obligation or consequence, but the experience is nothing like she once imagined. This is a half-life, a split purgatory where her body and mind coexist but occupy separate realities. Her eyes look at what is ahead- the road, a fallen tree- but her mind scours the past, judges each choice made, relives every failure, roots out what she overlooked, took for granted, and didn’t pay attention to. The present scarcely registers.”

  • from Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg