A Quibble with Quotes
I've tried, but I've failed. I thought that, through the summer months, I would provide in this space not my own tenuous thoughts and conclusions about life, but those of my spiritual mentors--"Summer Lite" reading, pithy sayings to help focus our minds on the deeper things of life. I thought this would give me a break from the relentless pressure of producing an inspirational blog each week. I thought this would connect you with teachers with something lasting to say. I was wrong on both counts.
The first problem was choosing the quotes. If you've read a lot of a particular writer or thinker, you suppose it would be easy to find just the right passage where they say it all, where finally they put a lifetime's study into a few lines of pregnant prose. But mostly, they don't. They weren't thinking of the ready quip or the twenty-second clip as they pored over their tomes and thought their deep thoughts. And who could blame them? You spend your entire life reflecting on the mysteries of the universe and, what, condense it all into one sentence?
Finding pithy quotes became as time-consuming and as preoccupying as any blog I've ever written from scratch. More so, even! The project did not free up my summer months, to fix the front steps, or go for a drive, or sit by a languid lake. Every day it haunted me, well into July, this impossible quest I had set for myself. It would have been better just to bite the bullet and stop the presses altogether. But no, I combed my library over and over, I thumbed through page after page in search of underlined passages, I wrote down bits and fragments, hoping they would all add up to some satisfying whole.
But then, when I would find a suitable quote (there was never a "perfect" quote), I suffered the guilt of trivializing the very depths and riches I was attempting to plumb. It was like proof-texting, that vexatious habit of the fundamentalist, plucking this verse out of the Bible and not the next, holding one above the others as the decisive text, the one through which to interpret them all. So, having embarked on an ill-advised mission to begin with, and having pursued it to the end, I am left feeling the shame of having diminished the very teachers I had hoped to venerate. Plus, I now realize, looking back, they were nearly all men! Where were my female mentors? To them and to you, I'm so sorry.
I'm relieved, then, finally, to have that monstrous project behind me. It was a failure. I can now return to what comes both more easily and more naturally to me--writing about myself--which is all I've ever really wanted to do, right from the beginning. Yes, I admit it. It IS all about me! But hopefully, it's about you too, or else, why would any of us speak personally about anything? I tell you my story so that you might tell your own. That makes this a conversation, not a personal journal or, worse, a sermon.
So, please, this week and in the weeks to come, leave a comment below or drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org), if anything moves you, tickles you, or leaves you scratching your head." The sages have all gone home now. It's just us here, you and me.
This Week, on The Mystic Cave podcast: What We Did on our Summer Vacations.