Quotes


“Quotes allow me to share what resonates with me, and are articulated in words better than I can do” - Amit Kapoor

Mindfulness

“If we want to nurture the mind, we add things. If we want to nurture the spirit, we subtract.” - Joy Cowley

“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the whole earth revolves - slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future. Live the actual moment. Only this actual moment is life.” - Thich Nhat Hanh

There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”

The capital-T Truth is about life BEFORE death.

It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:

“This is water.” “This is water.” - David Foster Wallace

“Addition is mostly mindless, but subtraction can be mindful” - Amit Kapoor

Creativity

"”Everything simple is false. Everything which is complex is unusable.” - Paul Valéry

The right attitude for learning and creativity is to “argue as if you are right and listen as if you are wrong,” which strikes me as the right path for developing “strong opinions, weakly held.” - Adapted from Karl Weick

“It seems obvious that there comes period in your life when you have to learn to say no to things you don’t want to do. But the biggest trickiest lesson in holding on the stalwart committment to your creativity is learning how to say no to the things you do want to do.” - Elizabeth Gilbert

“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard” - Allen Wong

“While you are at it, make your art. Do the stuff that only you can do.

The urge, starting out, is to copy. And that’s not a bad thing. Most of us only find our own voices after we’ve sounded like a lot of other people. But the one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.

The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.” - Neil Gaiman

“I heard a great story recently, I love telling it, of a little girl who was in a drawing lesson, she was 6 and she was at the back, drawing, and the teacher said this little girl hardly paid attention, and in this drawing lesson she did. The teacher was fascinated and she went over to her and she said, “What are you drawing?” and the girl said, “I’m drawing a picture of God.” And the teacher said, “But nobody knows what God looks like.” And the girl said, “They will in a minute.” - Ken Robinson

“Nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish somebody had told this to me — is that all of us who do creative work … we get into it because we have good taste. But it’s like there’s a gap, that for the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good, OK? It’s not that great. It’s really not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not quite that good. But your taste — the thing that got you into the game — your taste is still killer, and your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you, you know what I mean?

A lot of people never get past that phase. A lot of people at that point, they quit. And the thing I would just like say to you with all my heart is that most everybody I know who does interesting creative work, they went through a phase of years where they had really good taste and they could tell what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be — they knew it fell short, it didn’t have the special thing that we wanted it to have.

And the thing I would say to you is everybody goes through that. And for you to go through it, if you’re going through it right now, if you’re just getting out of that phase — you gotta know it’s totally normal.

And the most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work — do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week, or every month, you know you’re going to finish one story. Because it’s only by actually going through a volume of work that you are actually going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions. It takes a while, it’s gonna take you a while — it’s normal to take a while. And you just have to fight your way through that, okay?” - Ira Glass on Storytelling

Courage

“Richard, Geoffrey and John were locked in the dungeon and Henry was coming down to execute them. Richard tells his brothers not to cower but to take it like men and Geoffrey says, ‘You fool! As if it matters how a man falls down.’ And Richard says, ‘When the fall’s all that’s left, it matters a great deal.’” - Lion in Water

“If you can’t walk the talk, you might as well stop the talk” - Amit Kapoor

Kindness

“I’d say as a goal in life, you could do (no) worse than, try to be kinder… What I regret most in life are failures of kindness.” ― George Saunders

“You can search the whole world and not find a single being more worthy of love than yourself. Since each and every person is so precious to themselves, let the self respecting harm no other being.” ― Buddha

“In understanding loving kindness, perhaps it is best to put the emphasis on kindness.” ― Dalai Lama

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” ― John Watson

“My religion is simple. My religion is kindness.” - Dalai Lama

Vulnerability

“Vulnerability is the only authentic state. Being vulnerable means being open, for wounding, but also for pleasure. Being open to the wounds of life means also being open to the bounty and beauty. Don’t mask or deny your vulnerability: it is your greatest asset. Be vulnerable: quake and shake in your boots with it. The new goodness that is coming to you, in the form of people, situations, and things can only come to you when you are vulnerable and open.” — Stephen Russell

Change

“Change happens, if it needs to, when we become aware of what we are, not when we try to become what we are not.” - Philippa Perry

Silence

“Not speaking and speaking are both human ways of being in the world, and there are kinds and grades of each. There is the dumb silence of slumber or apathy; the sober silence that goes with a solemn animal face; the fertile silence of awareness, pasturing the soul, whence emerge new thoughts; the alive silence of alert perception, ready to say, “This… this…”; the musical silence that accompanies absorbed activity; the silence of listening to another speak, catching the drift and helping him be clear; the noisy silence of resentment and self-recrimination, loud and subvocal speech but sullen to say it; baffled silence; the silence of peaceful accord with other persons or communion with the cosmos.” - Paul Goodman

Feedback

“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”” - Neil Gaiman

Altruism

“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Forgiveness

“If you want to see the brave, look to those who can return love for hatred. If you want to see the heroic, look to those who can forgive.” - The Bhagavad Gita

“There’s a story of two ex-prisoners of war. One says to the other, “Have you forgiven your captors yet?” And the second says “No, never.” And the first one then says “Well, they still have you in prison, don’t they?”

“The past is over: Forgiveness means giving up all hope of a better past” - Jack Kornfield

“Forgiveness is the feeling of peace that emerges as you take your hurt less personally, take responsibility for how you feel, and become a hero instead of a victim in the story you tell.” - Fred Luskin

Letting Go

“In India, they sometime use a particular way of trapping monkeys, where they take a coconut and cut a small hole in one end. Then they tie the coconut with a wire to the base of the tree. And they put a banana inside the coconut. Monkeys come down from the tree and they put their hand in the coconut. But the hole is crafted so that if you grasp the banana, you can not get your hand out of the hole. The fist is too big. You have to let go of the banana, to actually release your hand. So the monkeys don’t want to let go. And that’s how they are trapped.” - Jon Kabat-Zinn

“Every relationship, every person, every job — has its time in life, and then all of a sudden, it doesn’t. You could feel sorry for yourself that something was ending, or be excited and appreciative that it had ever even existed.” - Nicholas Carr

Friendship

This guy’s walking down a street, when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep. He can’t get out.

A doctor passes by, and the guy shouts up “Hey you! Can you help me out?” The doctor writes him a prescription, throws it down the hole and moves on.

Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up “Father, I’m down in this hole, can you help me out?” The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on.

Then a friend walks by. “Hey Joe, it’s me, can you help me out?” And the friend jumps in the hole!

Our guy says “Are you stupid? Now we’re both down here!” and the friend says,

“Yeah, but I’ve been down here before, and I know the way out.” - The West Wing, Leo and Josh

Stories

“In listening to stories we tend to suspend disbelief in order to be entertained, whereas in evaluating statistics we generally have an opposite inclination to suspend belief in order not to be beguiled.” - John Allen Paulos

“I can take any empty space and call it a bare stage. A man walks across this empty space whilst someone else is watching him, and this is all that is needed for an act of theatre to be engaged.” - Peter Brook, The Empty Space

“I think people have begun to forget how powerful human stories are, exchanging their sense of empathy for a fetishistic fascination with data, networks, patterns, and total information… Really, the data is just part of the story. The human stuff is the main stuff, and the data should enrich it.” - Jonathan Harris

“There’s an old story about David Ogilvy, one of the original mad men that established the dominance of the advertising field in the 50s and 60s, that seems to deal with storytelling as an avenue to create empathy. One morning on his walk to work, Ogilvy saw a beggar with a sign around his neck.

[I am blind]

The poor man slouched in a corner and would occasionally hold the cup up to his ear to give it a rattle, because he was unable to tell how much money was in it by looking. Most days, the beggar didn’t hear much. Ogilvy was in good spirits that day. It was late April in New York, when the air is beginning to warm, and there’s a peaceful pause before the city falls into the oppressive heat of summer. He decided to help the beggar, and dropped a contribution into the cup. Ogilvy explained what he did for a living when the beggar thanked him, and he asked for permission to modify the sign around the man’s neck. Upon receiving consent, he took the sign and added a few words.

That night, on his way home, Ogilvy said hello to the beggar, and was pleased to see his cup overflowing. The beggar, frazzled with his success, and uncertain of what Ogilvy did to the sign, asked what words were added.

[It is spring & I am blind]

Ogilvy was able to create empathy in the passersby, who would have ignored the blind man, by adding a story.” - Frank Chimero, Stories and Void

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life:

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.”It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf will win?”

You might heard the story ends like this: The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

In the Cherokee world, however, the story ends this way:

The old Cherokee simply replied, “If you feed them right, they both win.” and the story goes on:

“You see, if I only choose to feed the white wolf, the black one will be hiding around every corner waiting for me to become distracted or weak and jump to get the attention he craves. He will always be angry and always fighting the white wolf. But if I acknowledge him, he is happy and the white wolf is happy and we all win. For the black wolf has many qualities – tenacity, courage, fearlessness, strong-willed and great strategic thinking – that I have need of at times and that the white wolf lacks. But the white wolf has compassion, caring, strength and the ability to recognize what is in the best interest of all.

“You see, son, the white wolf needs the black wolf at his side. To feed only one would starve the other and they will become uncontrollable. To feed and care for both means they will serve you well and do nothing that is not a part of something greater, something good, something of life. Feed them both and there will be no more internal struggle for your attention. And when there is no battle inside, you can listen to the voices of deeper knowing that will guide you in choosing what is right in every circumstance. Peace, my son, is the Cherokee mission in life. A man or a woman who has peace inside has everything. A man or a woman who is pulled apart by the war inside him or her has nothing.

“How you choose to interact with the opposing forces within you will determine your life. Starve one or the other or guide them both.”

– Cherokee Story

Knowledge

“I think the trick with knowledge is to “acquire it, and forget all except the perfume” — because it is noisy and sometimes drowns out one’s own “brain voices”. The perfume part is important because it will help find the knowledge again to help get to the destinations the inner urges pick.” - Alan Kay

“I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost… I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes me a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in. It’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault. I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down another street.”

The Meaning of Life

“Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life - think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success, that is way great spiritual giants are produced.” - Swami Vivekananda

“What we fight with is so small, and when we win, it makes us small. What we want is to be defeated, decisively, by successively greater things” - Rainer Maria Rilke

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” - Viktor Frankl

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” ― Rumi

“Two there are who are never satisfied – the lover of the world and the lover of knowledge.” ― Rumi”

“Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you’re perfectly free.” ― Rumi

“Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it’s to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential — as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth.

You’ll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you’ll hear about them.

To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.” - Bill Waterson

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
Answer.
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.
- Walt Whitman (Leaves of Grass)

If

If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master; If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling

Impermance

This Too Shall Pass Away

Once in Persia reigned a King,
Who upon his signet ring
Graved a maxim true and wise,
Which, if held before his eyes,
Gave him counsel at a glance,
Fit for every change and chance.
Solemn words, and these are they;
“Even this shall pass away.”

Trains of camels through the sand
Brought him gems from Samarkand;
Fleets of galleys through the seas
Brought him pearls to match with these;
But he counted not his gain,
Treasures of the mine or main;
“What is wealth?” the king would say;
“Even this shall pass away.”

Mid the revels of his court,
At the zenith of his sport,
When the palms of all his guests,
Burned with clapping at his jests,
He, amid his figs and wine;
Cried, ‘O loving friends of mine;
Pleasures come, but not to stay;
“Even this shall pass away”

Lady, fairest ever seen,
Was the bride he crowned his queen.
Pillowed on his marriage bed,
Softly to his soul he said:
Though no bridegroom ever pressed;
Fairer bosom to his breast,
Mortal flesh must come to clay-
“Even this shall pass away”

Fighting on a furious field,
Once a javelin pierced his shield;
Soldiers, with a loud lament,
Bore him bleeding to his tent.
Groaning from his tortured side,
“Pain is hard to bear,” he cried;
“But with patience, day by day,
Even this shall pass away.

Towering in the public square,
Twenty cubits in the air,
Rose his statue carved in stone.
Then the king, disguised, unknown,
Stood before his sculptured name,
Musing meekly: “What is fame?”
Fame is but a slow decay;
Even this shall pass away.

Struck with palsy, sore and old,
Waiting at the Gates of Gold,
Said he with his dying breath,
“Life is done, but what is death?”
Then, in answer to the king,
Fell a sun beam on his ring,
Showing by a heavenly ray,
“Even this shall pass away.”

Theodore Tilton

Zen Quotes

A monk asked Zhaozhou. “Does a dog have Buddha nature [i.e., is a dog capable of being enlightened]?”

Zhaozhou answered, “Mu [a word whose strict meaning is “nothingness”].”

Huairang asked Mazu the reason for his long bouts of dhyana.

Mazu: “I want to become a Buddha, an enlightened being.”

Saying nothing, the master quietly picked up a brick and started rubbing it on a stone.

Curious after watching the master for a while, Mazu: “Why are you rubbing that brick on a stone?”

Huairang: “I am polishing it into a mirror.’

Mazu probably knew by this time that he had been set up, but he had to follow through: “But how can you make a mirror by polishing a brick on a stone?”

The master: “How can you become enlightened by sitting in meditation?”