Tag Archives: quotations

“It Seemed to Put One Part of Him to Sleep and Wake Another Part Up.”

“Setting the gently sloshing tank on the dresser, Ellsworth sprinkled in some food and spent a few minutes watching the little fish dart up and away from the surface, over and over again. Like always, it did something to him, that movement, something he could never quite figure out. It seemed to put one part of him to sleep and wake another part up, the part that sent ideas bubbling up and out.”

— Janet S. Anderson, The Last Treasure

A few months ago, my younger daughter got a beta fish. I’ve never had a fish before, and I’ve been surprised by how gratifying it is to see Esther swimming around in her tank. That bit of life.

Do People Ask Themselves the Right Questions?

“People often ask themselves the right questions. Where they fail is in answering the questions they ask themselves, and even there they do not fail by much…But it takes time, it takes humility and a serious reason for searching.”

— William Maxwell, Time Will Darken It

Agree, disagree?

I think it’s often very hard to think searchingly about questions that we know we should face, but don’t want to face.

 

Are Souls Like Athletes, That Must Be Pushed to Their Full Capacity to Develop?

“Souls are like athletes, that need opponents worthy of them, if they are to be tried and extended and pushed to the full use of their powers, and rewarded according to their capacity.”

–Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

What do you think — do you agree or disagree with Merton?

I’ve read a lot of Merton’s work, I have such a complex reaction to it — and his character. Let’s just say that Merton was a…complicated person. (I plan to write a “portrait of a Rebel” analysis of him, stay tuned for that). I just re-read Merton’s autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, and was reminded that it was his book that prompted me to read Story of a Soul, the memoir of my spiritual master, Saint Thérèse of Lisieux.

I’ve always wondered about the meaning of the title, “The Seven Storey Mountain” and just looked it up. I figured it was something from Dante — and yes! In The Divine Comedy, the seven storey mountain is the mountain of Purgatory that must be climbed to reach Paradise.

Is It Better To Be Held to an Action By Habit, Than Not To Be Held at All?

“The things that we are obliged to do, such as hear Mass on Sunday, fast and abstain on the days appointed, etc. can become mechanical and merely habit. But it is better to be held to the Church by habit than not to be held at all. The Church is mighty realistic about human nature.”

–Flannery O’Connor, letter to T. R. Spivey, August 19, 1959, quoted in The Habits of Being

I think of this quotation often when someone asks me (and it comes up surprisingly often), “You make a habit of kissing your husband every morning and every night – but if it’s a habit, doesn’t it become an empty, inauthentic gesture?”

Yes, kissing my husband can become mechanical and merely habit. But it’s better to be kissing by habit than not kissing at all.

Also, although we assume that actions follow feelings, in truth, feelings often follow actions, so we should act the way we want to feel. When I act in a tender, romantic way, I feel more tender and romantic. So the habit doesn’t make me feel less loving, but rather, more loving.

How about you? Is there a habit that you keep in this way?

How Are Your Habits Shaped by Your Surroundings?

“There is a myth, sometimes widespread, that a person need only do inner work…that a man is entirely responsible for his own problems; and that to cure himself, he need only change himself…The fact is, a person is so formed by his surroundings, that his state of harmony depends entirely on his harmony with his surroundings.” —Christopher Alexander, The Timeless Way of Building

One of the items on my Habits Manifesto is “It’s easier to change our surroundings than ourselves.”

Have you found ways to change your surroundings, in a way that helps you keep your good habits? Sometimes it’s as simple as not buying ice cream, or keeping the TV remote control hidden on a high shelf, or making your bed.

This comes up often with Obligers. Obligers often say to me, “I need to build my self-esteem,” “I need to learn to honor my own priorities,” or “I need to make time for myself.” My response is — change your surroundings, not yourself. Add external accountability, and you’ll meet that inner expectation. And adding external accountability is so much easier than trying to change ourselves.

What has worked for you?