The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.
– Gustave Flaubert
Category Archives: Books
Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Suess. A monumental, groundbreaking piece of literature. One of the best books I’ve had the pleasure to read. A source of joy, inspiration, insight, sheer bliss…really a life-changer : )
….Read at Burning Man 2011. Perfect.
To make my life a reason unto itself. I know what I want up to the age of two hundred. Know what you want in life and go after it. I worship individuals for their highest possibilities as individuals, and I loathe humanity, for its failure to live up to these possibilities.” –Ayn Rand
Anthem, by Ayn Rand, is another work of fiction espousing her philosophy of objectivism, this time in novella form. It had been a while since I read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged–both fantastic works (note: they are works of art, not just books). I picked up Anthem to expand my Rand repertoire and get a much needed injection of her thought process. Anthem was perfect for this. Quite Brave-New-World-esque, Anthem describes a future society that has forgotten the most sacred of all words–I. The book opens:
“The existed only to serve the state. They were conceived in controlled Palaces of Matinh. They diesd in the Home of the Useless. From cradle to grave, the crowd was one—the great WE. In all that was left of humanity there was only one man who dared to think, seek, love. He, Equality 7-2521, came close to losing his life because his knowledge was regarded as a treacherous blasphemy…he has rediscovered the lost and holy word—I.”
Anthem could either be a great introduction to Rand’s philosophy or a poignant reminder of the hundreds of hours your invested reading the above works. Regardless of your feelings on her philosophies, it is worth reading any of the books and exploring sides of society we probably don’t discuss enough.
Quotes from Anthem:
“The greatest guilt today is that of people who accept collectivism by moral default; the people who seek protection from the necessity of taking a stand, by refusing to admit to themselves the nature of that which they are accepting; the people who support plans specifically designed to achieve serfdom, but hide behind the empty assertion that they are lovers of freedom, with no concrete meaning atteach to the word; the people who believe that the content of ideas need no be examined, that the principles need not be defined, and that facts can be eliminated by keeping one’s eyes shut.”
“Those who want slavery should have the grace to name it by its proper name.”
“We have come to see how great is the unexplored, and many lifetimes will not bring us to the end of our quest. But we wish no end to our quest. We wish nothing, save to be alone and to learn, and to feel as if with each day out sight were growing sharper than the hawk’s and clearer than rock crystal.”
”And yet there is no shame in us and no regret. We say to ourselves that we are a wretch and a traitor. But we feel no burden upon our spirit and no fear in our heart. And it seems to us that our spirit is clear as a lake troubled by no eyes save those of the sun. And in our heart—strange are the ways of evil!—in our heart there is the first peace we have known in twenty years.”
”The secrets of this earth are not for all men to see, but only for those who will seek them.”
“So long a road lies before us, and what care we if we must travel it alone!”
”There is no danger in solitude.”
”It is our world, a strange unknown world, but our own.”
“But we lived not, when we toiled for our brothers, we were only weary.”
“I AM. I THINK. I WILL.”
“I wished to know the meaning of things. I am the meaning. I wished to find a warrant for being. I need no warrant for being and no word of sanction upon my being. I am the warrant and the sanction.”
“Whatever road I take, the guiding star is within me; the guiding star and the lodestone which point the way. They point in but one direction. They point to me.”
“I know not if this earth on which I stand is the core of the universe or if it is but a speck of dust lost in eternity. I know not and I care not. For I know what happiness is possible to me on earth. And my happiness needs no higher aim to vindicate it. My happinesss is not the means to any end. It is the end. It is its own goal. It is its own purpose.”
“I guard my treasures: my thought, my will, my freedom. And the greatest of these is freedom.”
“I am neither friend nor foe to my brother, but such as each of them shall deserve of me. And to earn my love, my brother must do more than to have been born. I do not grant my life without reason, not to any chance passer-by who may wish to claim it. I honor men with my love. But honor is a thing to be earned.”
“I shall choose my friends among men, but neither slaves nor masters. And I shall choose only such as please me, and them I shall love and respect, but neither command nor obey. And we shall join hands when we wish, or walk alone when we so desire. For in the temple of his spirit, each man is alone.”
“[We] is the word by which the deprave steal the virtue of the good, by which the weak steal the might of the strong, by which the fools steal the wisdom of the sages.”
“But what is freedom? Freedom from what? There is nothing to take a man’s freedom away from him, save other men. To be free, a man must be free of his brothers. That is freedom. This and nothing else.”
“What brought it to pass? What disaster took their reason away from men? What whip lashed them to their knees in shame and submission? The worship of the word “We.’ “
“And man will go on. Man, not men.”
I’ve recently been reading The Places in Between by Rory Stewart–Scottish author, academic, and politician. I picked up his book because it merged two great interests of mine: alternative travel (aka walking across a war-torn nation) and Afghanistan/Central Asia. I thought it would be a good read, but way underestimated the book. Rory is extremely insightful, daring and knowledgeable. I’ve learned in recent years to slow down my modes of transportation because you absorb more along the way–those little details that fill the senses and define a moment. Moving around on my bike or scooter, I experience more. To walk on a journey is to take in every aspect of your surroundings, even though some may be better avoided. I have the utmost respect for Rory as one of the rare individuals who has taken the time to understand a culture and situation and is now able to make informed, rational recommendations. He is able to inform the world of the real situation, rather than the “BS” that tends to be churned out by media and governments. He is a great reminder to slow down and understand rather than rush to get to some end. Give the book a read or, in the meantime, check out his lecture Rory Stewart: Time to End the War in Afghanistan that I came across on Ted. Or watch it here:
A Walk Across Afghanistan
PITY the contemporary travel writer: routinely viewed as a kind of overstuffed guidebook author, struggling to explain exactly what he or she does. Specialists pounce on the tiniest “mistakes,” and ideologues condemn the whole enterprise as colonialism with a thesaurus. Meanwhile, there’s no single go-to word for what this most curious and searching of writers seeks to produce. Travel narrative? Peripatetic memoir? Adventure yarn? Not that this even matters, since — or so the prevailing wisdom goes — the best journeys have already been made. All that’s left is a specious sort of experiential plagiarism.
Not quite. Rory Stewart’s first book, “The Places in Between,” recounts his journey across Afghanistan in January 2002. Even in mild weather in an Abrams tank, such a trip would be mane-whitening. But Stewart goes in the middle of winter, crossing through some territory still shakily held by the Taliban — and entirely on foot. There are some Medusa-slayingly gutsy travel writers out there — Redmond O’Hanlon, Jeffrey Tayler, Robert Young Pelton — but Stewart makes them look like Hilton sisters.
Paul Theroux once described a certain kind of travel book as having mainly “human sacrifice” allure, and how close Stewart comes to being killed on his journey won’t be disclosed here. He is, however, sternly warned before he begins his walk. “You are the first tourist in Afghanistan,” observes an Afghan from the country’s recently resurrected Security Service. “It is mid-winter,” he adds. “There are three meters of snow on the high passes, there are wolves, and this is a war. You will die, I can guarantee.” For perhaps the first time in the history of travel writing, a secret-police goon emerges as the voice of sobriety and reason.
Recalling an American journalist who wondered if Stewart thought what he was doing was dangerous, he writes, “I had never found a way to answer that question without sounding awkward, insincere or ridiculous.” He’s then asked if he has read “Into the Wild,” Jon Krakauer’s account of a well-meaning young man’s doomed trek into the Alaskan wilderness. It is, Stewart is told, more than a little pointedly, “a great piece of journalism.”
So is “The Places in Between” — a pipsqueak title for what is otherwise a striding, glorious book. But it’s more than great journalism. It’s a great travel narrative. Learned but gentle, tough but humane, Stewart — a Scottish journalist who has served in both the British Army and the Foreign Office — seems hewn from 19th-century DNA, yet he’s also blessed with a 21st-century motherboard. He writes with a mystic’s appreciation of the natural world, a novelist’s sense of character and a comedian’s sense of timing.
Stewart’s travels in Afghanistan were part of a much longer journey, a walk across Iran, Pakistan, India and Nepal. The author and book to which he’s doomed to suffer comparison is Robert Byron, whose “Road to Oxiana” details a journey across Persia and Afghanistan in the 1930′s. (No doubt mindful of this, Stewart name-checks Byron twice.) But Stewart has little to worry about. In literary terms, he’s Byron’s equal, and in matters of temperament and compassion, he’s arguably Byron’s better. While Stewart’s chapters are typically short and episodic, every one has a haiku-like intensity.
Stewart is a rarity among travel writers: he’s not much interested in telling us about himself. He says he promised his mother this would be his last journey and he’d come home if he didn’t get killed, and that’s about as confessional as he gets. (You have to suspect that he wasn’t entirely straight with his mother: his second book, “The Prince of the Marshes: And Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq” will be published in August.)
Stewart clearly loves the people of Afghanistan, to whom he has partly dedicated this book. Despite sometimes being “greedy, idle, stupid, hypocritical, insensitive, mendacious, ignorant and cruel,” he explains, these people never attempted “to kidnap or kill me” — even though Stewart “represented a culture that many of them hated.” Thanking people for not killing you: this is defining deviancy down.
But Stewart, who speaks Persian, has no orientalist illusions; he romanticizes nothing and no one. Rather, he has written a kind of tonic to mindless Taliban-hating. He doesn’t pardon the Mullah Omars who replicated seventh-century conditions at the end of a weapon the prophet could scarcely have dreamed of, and he’s rightfully devastating on the remnants of the hard-core Taliban, describing them as “bullies with a strangled and dangerous view of God and a stupid obsession with death.” But the average citizens of Afghanistan, some of whom found themselves working for or aiding the Taliban, he beholds with admirable calm.
When Stewart meets one former Taliban commander, the man is living in comparatively high style, which amounts to owning a water pump, a wood-burning stove and an outhouse. Is this man worth hating? Is he someone who imperils Western freedom? What about his countrymen who have never seen a television or wandered very far from their villages? Can they really be expected to understand why two collapsed buildings in Manhattan have resulted in a sky prowled by American jets?
This is more political than Stewart allows himself to be. Ideologically, he’s well behaved. At worst, he’s agnostic on the question of the American-led invasion, though a late passage in the book offers a blistering, if mostly forgiving, critique of the foreign workers and diplomats, some of them Stewart’s friends, who work “12- or 14-hour days drafting documents for heavily funded initiatives” on “democratization” and “sustainable development.” Stewart’s most moving achievement is his determination to empathize with men — the book is, unavoidably, a Turkish bath house of masculinity — few have made any effort to understand.
Early in his trip, thanks to a noncommittal blessing from the warlord Ismail Khan (“A big journey,” Khan adjudges his mission, “which I would like to support”), Stewart picks up three Afghan traveling partners with predictably tangled loyalties. He grows to like these men, despite their fondness for threatening to shoot children, even as they cause him almost as much trouble as their protective presence otherwise curtails. During a hilarious dinner with a village headman, one of his companions confidently announces that Stewart is from Ukraine, speaks Russian, is a doctor and works for the United Nations. Later, a radio station in Herat announces that “Agha Rory” will be awarded $2 million once he reaches his destination. By this time, Agha Rory has become his mendicant protectors’ bipedal A.T.M. Stewart resentfully walks them all into the ground, and they take their exhausted leave of him.
Armed only with a wooden staff tipped with a metal nub scavenged from an old Soviet armored personnel carrier, Stewart meets a new friend who will help him complete his journey — a retired fighting dog “the size of a small pony” whose teeth have been knocked out and whose ears and tail have been snipped off. Stewart names him Babur, in honor of the descendant of Tamerlane who retreated from modern-day Uzbekistan across Afghanistan on his way to found India’s Mogul dynasty. Babur’s 16th-century autobiography, the “Baburnama,” is among the books Stewart packs, and “The Places in Between” details the haunting continuities between Babur’s meticulous impressions and what Stewart experiences.
The inclusion of a canine companion threatens to transform Stewart’s journey into “Travels With Charley While Dodging Kalashnikov Fire,” but Stewart is admirably allergic to sentiment. At one point, about to collapse from cold and exhaustion, “half buried in deep powder,” he looks up to see Babur barking at him. “His matter-of-factness made me feel that I was being melodramatic. If he was going to continue, so would I.”
The book is replete with fascinating, if fearfully context-dependent, travel tips. If you are forced to lie about being a Muslim, claim you’re from Indonesia, a Muslim nation few non-Indonesian Muslims know much about. Open land undefiled by sheep droppings has most likely been mined. If you’re taking your donkey to high altitudes, slice open its nostrils to allow greater oxygen flow. Don’t carry detailed maps, since they tend to suggest 007 affinities. If, finally, you’re determined to do something as recklessly stupid as walk across a war zone, your surest bet to quash all the inevitable criticism is to write a flat-out masterpiece. Stewart did. Stewart has. “The Places in Between” is, in very nearly every sense, too good to be true.
第十二章 Chapter 12
五 色 令 人 目 盲. The five colours blind the eye.
五 音 令 人 耳 聾. The five tones deafen the ear.
五 味 令 人 口 爽. The five flavours cloy the palate.
馳 騁 畋 獵, 令 人 心 發 狂. Racing and hunting, madden the mind.
難 得 之 貨, 令 人 行 妨. Rare goods, tempt men to do wrong.
是 以 聖 人 為 腹 不 為 目. Therefore, the Sage takes care of the belly, not the eye.
故 去 彼 取 此. He prefers what is within to what is without.
五 色 令 人 目 盲.
Wǔsè lìng rénmù máng.
five colors make people eye blind
The five colours blind the eye.
五 音 令 人 耳 聾.
Wǔyīn lìng rén ěr lóng.
five sound make people ear deaf
The five tones deafen the ear.
五 味 令 人 口 爽.
Wǔwèi lìng rénkǒu shuǎng.
five taste make people mouth spoil
The five flavours cloy the palate.
馳 騁 畋 獵, 令 人 心 發 狂.
Chíchěng tián liè, lìng rénxīn fākuáng.
race plain hunt make people mind go crazy
Racing and hunting, madden the mind.
難 得 之 貨, 令 人 行 妨.
Nándé zhī huò, lìng rén xíng fáng
hard get of goods make people behavior harm
Rare goods, tempt men to do wrong.
是 以 聖 人 為 腹 不 為 目.
shì yǐ shèngrén wéi fù bù wéi mù.
therefore sage for stomach not for eye
Therefore, the Sage takes care of the belly, not the eye.
故 去 彼 取 此.
Gùqù bǐ qǔ cǐ.
so abandon that take this
He prefers what is within to what is without.
“….a girl of nine married to a Saudi man died three days after her wedding. Instead of demanding an investigation of this scandalous situation, her parents hastened to apologize to the husband, as if trying to make amends for defective merchandise, and even offered him, in exchange, the dead child’s seven-year-old sister.”
“There is even a tribal proverb that says, ‘To guarantee a happy marriage, marry a nine-year-old girl.’”
I am Nujood, Age 10 Divorced is the true story of a young Yemeni girl who is married off by her family to a man over three times her age. Nujood’s is a remarkable story in that she is a fighter. In a strict, tribal and Muslim society this young girl let go of all cultural pressures and norms and stood up for herself, for justice. She went from child bride to abused wife to divorcee to women’s right activist to internationally acclaimed Glamour Women of the Year (with the likes of Hilary Clinton, Condoleeza Rice and Nicole Kidman). All by the third grade.
After the divorce, Nujood chose to live again with her family in Yemen and attend school in hopes of becoming a lawyer like the one that helped her win her case. While she was granted a divorce, rejoined her family and went back to school, things remain challenging. It has taken time for her family, especially the men to accept her. She supports them with her book royalties, so that’s likely why her brothers now treat her well. Her community was frustrated with the international spotlight. Some saw this as showing Yemen in a negative light rather than the progressive victory I view it to be. “Nujood’s rebellion, honorable in our eyes, is moreover considered by conservatives as an outrageous affront, punishable, according to extremists, by a murderous ‘honor crime’.”
Still, her story and book have been the inspiration for other young women…children really…to step forward and demand divorce. The book has been translated into 18 different languages. It has broken down a wall within Yemen and across the Middle East revealing child brides, abuse, rape.. young girls being striped of a voice before they even have a chance to develop their own.
“Nujood’s divorce kicked down a closed door. … A recent study revealed that more than half the girls in Yemen get married before the age of eighteen.”
To attend school and have a choice will result in girls changing the fabric of their culture. Providing young women education and a chance to live and grow is not only about human rights and morality, it has a profound impact on the world. Does it take some time and foresight? Of course. But doesn’t anything that is worthwhile?
In Nicolas Kristof’s Op-Ed Divorce Before Puberty he concluded: “The United States last month announced $150 million in military assistance for Yemen to fight extremists. In contrast, it costs just $50 to send a girl to public school for a year — and little girls like Nujood may prove more effective than missiles at defeating terrorists.” The more I read about cultural and social issues surrounding gender…the more I see where energy, at least my energy, should be focused. Nujood is the inspiration needed within a culture. Little, strong, determined girls like her are the foundation of a more peaceful world.
“Nujood’s story carries a message of hope. In this country of the Arabian Peninsula, where the marriage of little girls draws on traditions that until now have seemed unshakable, her unbelievable act of bravery has encouraged other small voices to speak out against their husbands. After Nujood’s day in court, two other girls—Arwa, nine years old, and Rym, twelve—also undertook the legal struggle to break their barbaric bonds of matrimony. In neighboring Saudi Arabia, one year after Nujood’s historic court case, an eight-year-old Saudi girl married off by her father to a man in his fifties successfully sued for divorce—the first time such a time has happened in that ultraconservative country.”
My long-running interest in Afghanistan led me to this vingette of the life of a family in Kabul. Norwegian journalist Åsne Seierstad moved to Afghanistan disguised in a burka just after September 11th. She ended up living with a Bookseller and his entire family, providing a rare glimpse into the lives people and families lead in the capital city. While Seierstad shares stories and experiences of each family member, she primarily focuses on the female experience. The Bookseller of Kabul goes beyond the historically, politically and militarily centric work on Afghanistan to present a picture of what life being lived on the ground is actually like.
Side note: This is the type of work policy-makers should be doing. Getting to know the people. The pulse of a culture and country. If more people were to look at it this way, US policy would be much more effective. Rather than spending trillions on defense and private contractors we could use those funds to see real change. It all starts with telling the right story…
[On The Taliban & Islam]
“When the Taliban arrived, all faces disappeared from Kabul’s streets.”
“Pakistan was the only country, besides Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, to officially recognize the Taliban regime.”
“Taliban are not in conflict with our culture. They respect the Koran, the Prophet, and our tradition. I would never have printed anything that went against Islam.”
“[under the Taliban] Life had lost its color.”
“September 1996 The Taliban rolled into Kabul, sixteen decrees were broadcast on Radio Sharia. A new era had begun. Prohibition against:
- Female exposure
- Mandatory Prayer
- The rearing of pigeons and bird fighting
- Eradication of narcotics and the uses thereof
- Kite flying
- Reproduction of pictures
- British and American hairstyles
- Interest on loans, exchange charges and charges on transactions
- The washing of clothes by river embankments
- Music and dancing at weddings
- Playing drums
- Tailors sewing women’s clothes or taking measurements of women
“Women, you must not leave you homes. If you do you must not be like those women who wore fashionable clothes and makeup and exposed themselves to every man, before Islam.”
“Islam is a religion of deliverance and it decides that a certain dignity belongs to women. Women must not make it possible to attract the attention of evil people who look lustfully upon them. A woman’s responsibility is to bring up a daughter and her family together and attend to food and clothes. If women need to leave the house, they must cover themselves up according to the laws of Sharia. If women dress fashionably, wear ornamented, tight, seductive clothes to show off, they will be damned by Islam Sharia and can never expect to go to heaven. They will be threatened, investigated, and severely punished by the religious police, as will the head of the family. The religious police have a duty and responsibility to combat these social problems and will continue their efforts until this evil is uprooted. Allahu akhbar—God is great.”
“[when wearing a Burka] The whole head must turn; another trick by the burka inventor: a man must know what his wife is looking at.”
“The Taliban forbade shoes with solid heels; the sound of women walking could distract men. But times have changed and if it were possible to click-clack in the mud, the whole bazaar would resound with an arousing cacophony of click-clack. Now and again one catch a glimpse of painted toenails under the burka, yet another little sign of freedom.”
“She [Suhaila Seddiq] was one of the very few omen under the Taliban who refused to wear the burka. In her own words: ‘When the religious police came with the canes and raised their arms to hit me, I raise mine to hit them back. Then they lowered their arms and let me go.’”
“The same thing was continually provoking me: the manner in which men treated women. The belief in man’ superiority was so ingrained that it was seldom questioned.”
“I imagine they regarded me as some sort of ‘bi-gendered’ creature. Had I been a man I could never have been able to live so close to the women of the household, without gossip circulating. At the same time there was no obstacle to my being a woman, in a man’s world”
“Poet Ferdusi said: “To succeed you must sometimes be a wolf and sometimes a lamb.”
“Height and fair skin are the most important Afghan status symbols.”
“The burka had been used for centuries, but not by large numbers of the population. It was reintroduced during the reign of Habibullah, from 1901 to 1919. He decreed that two hundred women in his harem should wear them so as not to entice other men with their pretty faces when they were outside the palace doors. …The burka become a garment of the upper class, shielding women from the eyes of the masses. As the use of the burka started among the upper class, they were the first to throw it off. The garment was now a status symbol among the poor, and many maids and servant girls took over the silk burkas of their employers.”
“One woman wipes her mouth; it is time to think of supper.”
“Jamila committed a serious crime, but more from ignorance than a wicked heart. She did not deserve to die. But Allah rules. However, one thing bothers her: the two days of family council when Jamila’s mother, her own mother agreed to kill her. She, the mother, it was, who in the end dispatched her three sons to kill the daughter. The brothers entered the room together. Together they put a pillow over her face; together they pushed it down, harder, harder until life was extinguished. Then they returned to the mother.”
“In Afghanistan a woman’s longing for love is taboo. … Young people have no right to meet, to love or to choose. Love has little to do with romance; on the contrary, love can be interpreted as committing a serious crime, punishable by death.”
“But in song and poem women have testified about their lives. … They protest with suicide and song.” … “One woman asks God to make her a stone in the next life, rather than a woman. None of the poems are about hope – on the contrary, hopelessness reigns.”
“Left alone, the women display a fierce, almost frightening power.”
“They are in one of the most lawless parts of the world, and they are bored.”
[On L-O-V-E & Marriage]
“Although it is not unusual for a man to take a second wife, and sometimes even a third, nevertheless, it is humiliating.”
“It’s a good sign when the bride is unwilling. That indicates a pure heart.”
“It’s a disgrace to be in love with a man one cannot have.”
“‘Imagine, when we’re married, and you’ve made my supper when I come home. You’ll always be there, waiting for me,’ Wakil dreams on ‘I’ll never be alone again.’”
“A bride must look artificial, like a doll. The word for doll and bride are the same—arus.”
“For the first time in her life someone is demanding an answer from her. He wants to know what she feels, what she thinks. But she feels nothing; she is not used to feeling anything. And she tells herself that she feels noting because she knows she must feel nothing. Feelings are a disgraces, Leila has been taught.”
“A wedding is like a small death.”
“First the Communists burnt my books, then the Mujahedeen looted and pillaged, finally the Taliban burnt them all over again.”
“About one quarter of Afghans are Tajiks.”
“Paradoxically, Kabul is one of the sunniest towns in the world. The sun shines nearly every day of the year, 6,000 feet above sea level.”
“Khost is a town without women, at least on the surface …They lead life locked in their backyard; they never go out, shop, or even visit. The law of purdah reigns, the total segregation of men and women.”
“In parts of Afghanistan, especially on the southeastern part of the country, homosexuality is widespread and tacitly accepted. Many commanders have young male lovers, and one often sees old men followed by a bunch of young boys. The boys adorn themselves with flowers in their hair, behind the ear, or in a buttonhole. This behavior is often explained by the strict purdah practiced in the southern and eastern parts of the country. It is not rare to see a goggle of mincing, swaying boy. They remind one of transvestites in the West. They stare, flirt, and wiggle their hips and shoulders. The commanders do not live as homosexuals only; the majority of them have wives and a large brood of children. But they are rarely home and life is lived among men. Often major jealous drama develop around the young men….”
“Do you know who that is?” he asks. They [Afghani men] shake their heads. “That is Osama bin Laden.”
“Books printed by the Mujahedeen government and the Taliban are useless. This is how first-year schoolchildren learn the alphabet: ‘I is for Israel, our enemy; J is for Jihad, our aim in life; K is for Kalashnikov, we will overcome; …M is for Mujahedeen, our heroes; …T is for Taliban… “
“War was the central theme in the math books too. Schoolboys—because the Taliban printed books only for boys—did not calculate in apples and cakes, but in bullets and Kalashnikovs, something like this: ‘Little Omar has a Kalashnikov with three magazines. There are twenty bullets in each magazine. He uses two-thirds of the bullets and kills sixty infidels. How many infidels does he kill with each bullet?” …. “Books from the Communist period cannot be used either. Their arithmetic problems deal with land distribution and egalitarian ideal. Red banner and happy collective farmer would guide children toward Communism.”
“Rumi says: ‘The Ego is a veil between humans and God’.”
“In prayer all are equal.”
Paulo Coehlo is perhaps one of the greatest writers on this earth. One of his greats, By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept is a must read… Enjoy the teasers (aka quotes), then go buy the book and read it in one night.
“Rarely do we realize we are in the midst of the extraordinary.”
“God is wherever we allow Him/Her to enter.”
“Roads are made to be traveled.”
“But we must never forget that spiritual experience is above all a practical experience of love. …The more we love, the closer we come to spiritual experience. Those who are truly enlightened, those whose souls are illuminate by love, have been able to overcome all the inhibitions and preconceptions of their era. They have been able to sing, to laugh and to pray out loud; they have danced and shared what Saint Paul called ‘the madness of saintliness’.”
“True love is an act of total surrender.”
“Sooner or later, we have to overcome our fears, because the spiritual path can only be traveled through the daily experience of love.”
“To love is to be in communion with the other and to discover in that other the spark of God.”
“May my tears from just as far, that my love might never know that one day I cried for him.”
“I remember my ‘magic moment’—that instant when a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ can change one’s life forever.”
“Seek to live. Remembrance is for the old.”
“You have to take risks,” he said. “We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.”
”But if people really pay attention to their everyday lives, they will discover that magic moment.”
‘Yes, we are going to suffer, we will have difficult times, and we will experience many difficulties—but all of this is transitory; it leaves no permanent mark.”
“I was there because suddenly life had presented me with Life.”
“The wise are only wise because they love. And the foolish are foolish only because they think they can understand love.”
“Let’s lie down on the ground and feel the planet’s heart beating.”
“Don’t just fall into playing a role.”
“There are some things in life that are worth fighting for to the end.”
“The Other is the one who taught me what I should be life, but not what I am. The Other believes that it is our obligation to spend our entire life thinking about how to get our hands on a much money as possible so that we will not die of hunger when we are old. So we think so much about money and our plans for acquiring it that we discover we are alive only when our days on earth are practically done. And then it’s too late.”
“I am just like everyone else who listens to their heart: a person who is enchanted by the mystery of life.”
“I resolved to become the person I had always wanted to be.”
“The universe always conspired to help the dreamer.”
“Our dreams are our own, and only we can know the effort required to keep them alive.”
“The moment we begin to seek love, love begins to seeks us. And to save us.”
“And happiness is something that multiplies when it is divided.”
“A thousand times I wanted to take his hand and a thousand times I stopped myself.”
“Love never comes just a little at a time.”
“Truth resides where there is faith!”
“The Buddhists were right, the Hindus were right, the Muslims were right, and so were the Jews. Whenever someone follows the path to faith—sincerely follows it—he or she is able to unite with God and to perform miracles.”
“God is the same, even though He has a thousand names; it is up to us to select a name for Him.”
“Only a man who is happy can create happiness in others.”
“If pain must come, may it come quickly. Because I have a life to live, and I need to live it the best way possible. If he has to make a choice, may he make it now. Then I will either wait for him or forget him. Waiting is painful. Forgetting is painful. But not knowing what to do is the worst kind of suffering.”
“Love can only be found through the act of loving.”
“Love doesn’t ask many questions, because if we stop to think we become fearful.”
“If I have to fall, may it be from a high place.”
“Thus if we acknowledge that God created us for happiness, then we have to assume that everything that leads to sadness and defeat is our own doing. That’s the reason we always kill God, whether on the cross, by fire, through exile, or simply our hearts. But those who understand him… They are the ones who transform the world—while making great sacrifices.”
“Follow your dream, transform your life, take the path that leads to God. Perform your miracles. Cure. Make Prophecies. Listen to your guardian angel. Transform yourself. Be a warrior and be happy and you wage the good fight. Take risks.”
“Then the world changes, and we change with it.”
“Fortunate are those who take the first steps.”
“Most human beings still cannot trust love.”
“I am going to sit here with you by the river. If you go home to sleep, I will sleep in front of your house. And if you go away, I will follow you—until you tell me to go away. Then I’ll leave. But I have to love you for the rest of my life.”
Here’s to starting the day off right!
As an early riser, I have TONS of time to accomplish things before work. Yesterday I purchased the book Vortex of Conflict. Its the latest by Dan Caldwell, a professor of mine, who will be doing a reading tomorrow night. Forgetting the density of academic work, I assumed I’d give it a run through in two days so I would be prepared with questions and interesting commentary. Yep, no biggy just 400 pages of academic writing on history and U.S. foreign policy toward Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. You know just some light reading on a Wednesday morning. Despite the change in pace from my typical book choices, I am really enjoying this one. It feels good to read something academic on an area that I am constantly reading more social/cultural commentaries on. Reminder: always seek out different perspectives.
So far, great book! Prof. Caldwell provides a solid historical framework on each individual country, the evolution of terrorism and the American response, allowing him to explore the whys and hows of policy and access its present and potential implications. More to come once I’ve finished… For now a fun fact: Osama bin Laden attended King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah–a school where I was offered a teaching position.
After some pretty heavy reading and Islamic contemplations, I pulled out The Bookseller of Kabul to reread the last chapter. It’s a true story that follows a family in Afghanistan (and, at times, Pakistan), focusing on individual experiences and how society, culture, Islam and gender play into the lives of real people in Kabul. This is the type of book I hope to write someday so I love looking over areas I’ve highlighted to remind myself of my interests and the person I am.
After getting into a travel, explore, write mentality, I jumped on the computer and saw that a dear friend was settled into her new home in Thailand, another friend emailed for China hiking advice, and yet another is trying to choose which continent to visit….
I realized: a) I have amazing, inspiring friends and LOVE that we share interests and goals, and b) I need to dance.
To conclude a unique start to another Wednesday, I put on a silky long dress from India, turned on some Rusted Root: Send Me on My Way, and danced my heart out. You know that kind of flailing, eyes closed, feeling the breeze you create, freedom/peace-loving dance. Yep. Try starting the day letting go of every care in the world. Maybe your form of meditation doesn’t involved dancing in flowy dresses, but we all could work toward calming our minds in someway. It’s a regular necessity (especially after reading about The Bush Doctrine) and puts you in a content, neutral place to start the day when you might not want to do whatever it is you have to, like sit in an office for 8 hours. It’s unnatural really. Happy Hump Day!
“In Mongolia, when a dog dies, he is buried high in the hills so people cannot walk on his grave. The dog’s master whispers into the dog’s ear his wishes that the dog will return as a man in his next life. Then his tail is cut off and put beneath his head, and a piece of meat or fat is placed in his mouth to sustain his soul on its journey; before he is reincarnated, the dog’s soul is freed to travel the land, to run across the high desert plains for as long as it would like. I learned that from a program on the National Geographic channel, so I believe it is true. Not all dogs return as men, they say; only those who are ready. I am ready.”
I was sold on this introduction after “In Mongolia”. I was already near tears with “I am ready.” This one is a feel good, cry a bit, think about life, easy read. It is narrated entirely by Enzo, a dog. We see life–its transformations, its ebbs and flows–through the eyes of a loyal and loving companion. It’s been compared to some of my favorites: Life of Pi and The Alchemist. Like these other giants of novels, The Art of Racing in the Rain takes you on a journey through a portion of a life, with stories that will resonate with every reader. Enzo tells his story from the porch where he is feebly living out his last days. From bachelor days with his master to the additions of a wife and daughter, through battles with cancer, custody disputes, false accusations, lives evolving, Enzo recounts the happy, sad and everything in between as a lovable and constant canine. He possesses consciousness, understanding and compassion and, in the end, is ready to be reborn as human…
As is my habit, some quotes:
“Let me tell you this: The Weather Channel is not about weather, it is about the world! It is about how weather affects us all, our entire global economy, health, happiness, spirit. The channel delves with great detail into weather phenomena of all difference kinds—hurricanes, cyclones, tornados, monsoons, hail, rain, lightening storms—and they especially delight in the confluence of multiple phenomena.” (Note: I adore TheWeatherChannel almost as much as I do maps)
“I learned that from a program on the National Geographic Channel, so I believe it to be true. Not all dogs return as men, they say, only those who are ready.”
“Parking lots are weird places. People love their cars so much when they are moving, but they hurry away from them so quickly when they stop moving. People are loath to sit in a parked car for long. They are afraid someone might judge them for it, I think. The only people who sit in parked cars are police and stalkers, and sometimes taxi drivers on a break, but usually only when they’re eating.”
“Because memory is time folding back on itself. To remember is to disengage from the present.”
“The true hero is flawed. The true test of a champion is not whether he can triumph, but whether he can overcome obstacles—preferably of his own making—in order to triumph.”
“People are always worried about what’s happening next. They often find it difficult to stand still, to occupy the now without worrying about the future. People are not generally satisfied with what they have; they are very concerned with what they are going to have. A dog can almost power down his psyche and slow his anticipatory metabolism, like David Blaine attempting to set the record for holding his breath at the bottom of a swimming pool—the tempo of the world around him simply changes.”
“Many of us have convinced ourselves that compromise is necessary to achieve goals, that all of our goals are not attainable so we should eliminate the extraneous, prioritize our desires, and accept less than the moon.”
“The race is long. It is better to drive within oneself and finish the race behind the others than it is to drive too hard and crash.”
“My soul has learned what it came to learn, and all the other things are just things. We can’t have everything we want. Sometimes, we simply have to believe.”
“Racers are often called selfish and edotistical. I myself have called race car drivers selfish; I was wrong. To be a champion, you must have no ego at all. You must not exist a separate entity. You must give yourself over to the race. You are nothing if not for your team, your car, your shoes, your tires. Do not mistake confidence and self-awareness for egotism.”
“This is what I would like. To play in those fields for a little longer. To spend a little more time being me before I become someone else. This is what I would like.”
I recently came across quotes I had saved in my email from the book City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell. Some are a bit cheesy and others really won’t make sense out of context, by why not share? They remind me of two things very dear to my heart: China and love. As I finished reading this book up in the Yellow Mountains (HuangShan) in China, I felt torn between feeling satisfied and at peace with myself and knowing there was a void in me I couldn’t cover up regardless of the number of miles traveled. So here’s a tribute to memories of conflicting satisfaction and longing in the Yellow Mountains…
“When it came time to board, my heart pounded and I suddenly wanted to change my mind; it seemed that doing something right shouldn’t hurt so much.”
“Although I love my family and will miss them, and although I have no idea what to expect of the days, weeks, and months ahead, here is my secret: I am happy.”
“I have no idea what this life will be like, nor can I guess whether I’ll be gone for five years or fifty. I know only that I am happy–in my heart mind and soul and even my body, which feels strong sturdy and healthy. I’m weary too, but I don’t mind the fatigue; I am on my way to China, and that is enough.”
“That’s my rule of thumb for guessing someone’s age here: subtract twenty years from how old they look.”
“Homes faced north because north was believe to be the side of darkness and for protection rom the northwest wind.”
“To know what you know and what you don’t know is the characteristic of one who knows.”
“…and I knew I had found heaven on earth in the North China Plain.”
“I was more whole and more myself because Katherine was my wife.”
“In China we received noodles on the occasion of our daughter’s birth and chrysanthemums at her death; lotus seed for health and ginseng for longevity; and, at the New Year, tangerines for good fortune, fish for abundance, dumplings for wealth.”
“I was determined to stay and decided that homesickness was a temporary inconvenience that wouldn’t last if I ignored it.”
“My home is with you, Meine liebe Herz. What more do I need?”
“When you leave a place your love, you leave a piece of your heart. But you take with you the hearts of your beloved.”
“Pine trees were believed to keep evil spirits away and to bring protection and peace to the dead.”
“My life changed because of the life I saw in you.”
“Because we knew where they were from, we knew them; we knew what they had left and what their customs were and what made them laugh and, to an extent we knew their pasts.”
“My life is colored by unexpected moments of grace, small awarenesses of God’s presence that speak to me of who He is as much as any mountaintop experience.”
“Certain smells make China instantly real to me: anything cooked with garlic, freshly cut wood, antiseptic, the crispness of the air on the first autumn day.”
“When I am in God’s will, sometimes I do feel comfortable and at ease, but I just as often feel anxious and unsettled, for He often leads me into unfamiliar waters.”