Others’ Words

Bishop G.E. Patterson Classic Ressurection Sermon ‘The Dawn of a New Day’ 1990

from “At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails with Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Others” by Sarah Bakewell
“Experiencing such situations is, for Jaspers, almost synonymous with existing, in the Kierkegaardian sense. Although they are hard to bear, these are puzzles in our existence, and thus open the door to philosophising. We cannot solve them by thinking in the abstract; they must be lived, and in the end we make our choices with our entire being. They are existential situations. Jaspers’ interest in border situations probably had much to do with his own early confrontation with mortality. From childhood, he had suffered from a heart condition so severe that he always expected to die at any moment. He also had emphysema, which forced him to speak slowly, taking long pauses to catch his breath. Both illnesses meant that he had to budget his energies with care in order to get his work done without endangering his life.”

Roald Dahl in Donald Sturrock’s Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl
“I mean this. I know that serious illness is a good thing for the mind. It is always worth it afterwards. There’s something of the yogi about it, with all its self-disciplines and horrors. And it’s one of the few experiences that you’d never had up to now. So take my view and be kind of thankful that it came. And if afterwards, it leaves you with an ache, or a pain, or a slight disability, as it does me, it doesn’t matter a damn; at least not to anyone but yourself. And as you’ve taught me so well, that is the only unimportant person — oneself.”

“My Struggle: Book 2: A Man in Love” by Karl Ove Knausgaard
“…grass grows, and the earth, yes, the earth, it swallows all life and eradicates all vestiges of it, spews out new life in a cascade of limbs and eyes, leaves and nails, hair and tails, cheeks and fur and guts, and swallows it up again. And what we never really comprehend, or don’t want to comprehend, is that this happens outside us, that we ourselves have no part in it, that we are only that which grows and dies, as blind as the waves in the sea are blind.”

“High Dive: A novel” by Jonathan Lee
“Cynicism and sarcasm were all very well, but only if underwritten by a proper depth of feeling. Irony might be the modern mode, but shouldn’t someone sing the virtues of earnestness?This didn’t mean turning away from the darker aspects of a life. It did not mean conspiring to make your days something falsely warm and neat. But it did involve looking closely at the dark stuff, paying attention to its variety of shades, its aliveness, the ridiculous and the terrible, the fart jokes and the tragedies. For to be alive, to be capable of laughter and surprise— this itself was a beautiful thing. All this he said to the guest and in response the guest said, “Churchgoer?””

“My Struggle: Book 1” by Karl Ove Knausgaard,(Don Bartlett trans.)
“…I opened the door to the room where we had been the day before, did not enter himself, and I stood in front of Dad again. This time I was prepared for what awaited me, and his body – the skin must have darkened even further in the course of the previous twenty-four hours – aroused none of the feelings that had distressed me before. Now I saw his lifeless state. And that there was no longer any difference between what once had been my father and the table he was lying on, or the floor on which the table stood, or the wall socket beneath the window, or the cable running to the lamp beside him. For humans are merely one form among many, which the world produces over and over again, not only in everything that lives but also in everything that does not live, drawn in sand, stone, and water. And death, which I have always regarded as the greatest dimension of life, dark, compelling, was no more than a pipe that springs a leak, a branch that cracks in the wind, a jacket that slips off a clothes hanger and falls to the floor.”

quotes from Jean Paul Sartre

Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.

Everything has been figured out, except how to live.

We do not judge the people we love.

Do you think that I count the days? There is only one day left, always starting over: it is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk.

from”My Struggle: Book 1″ by Karl Ove Knausgaard

As your perspective of the world increases not only is the pain it inflicts on you less but also its meaning. Understanding the world requires you to take a certain distance from it. Things that are too small to see with the naked eye, such as molecules and atoms, we magnify. Things that are too large, such as cloud formations, river deltas, constellations, we reduce. At length we bring it within the scope of our senses and we stabilize it with fixer. When it has been fixed we call it knowledge. Throughout our childhood and teenage years, we strive to attain the correct distance to objects and phenomena. We read, we learn, we experience, we make adjustments. Then one day we reach the point where all the necessary distances have been set, all the necessary systems have been put in place. That is when time begins to pick up speed.”


At Franciscan churches, a friar with brown robe and white cord often welcomes each animal with a special prayer. The Blessing of Pets usually goes like this:

“Blessed are you, Lord God, maker of all living creatures. You called forth fish in the sea, birds in the air and animals on the land. You inspired St. Francis to call all of them his brothers and sisters. We ask you to bless this pet. By the power of your love, enable it to live according to your plan. May we always praise you for all your beauty in creation. Blessed are you, Lord our God, in all your creatures! Amen.”

Richard Flanagan
Gould’s Book of Fish

“Rough work with a soul will always be open to all, including condemnation & reviling, while fine work housing emptiness is closed to all insults & is easily ivied over with paid praises…

“while the truth is never far away but up close in the dirt, in the vile details of slime & scale & filth along with the Devil, along with the angels, & all snared within the earth & us, all embodied in a single pulse of a heart—mine…”


William Blake
(Fragments from “Auguries of Innocence”

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

A Robin Redbreast in a Cage
Puts all Heaven in a Rage.
A dove house fill’d with doves and pigeons
Shudders Hell thro’ all its regions.
A Dog starv’d at his Master’s Gate
Predicts the ruin of the State.
A Horse misus’d upon the Road
Calls to Heaven for Human blood.
Each outcry of the hunted Hare
A fiber from the Brain does tear.<

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

I can only meditate when I’m walking. When I stop, I cease to think; my mind only works with my legs.





Vincent Van Gogh
If one wants to be active, one mustn’t be afraid to do something wrong sometimes, not afraid to lapse into some mistakes. To be good – many people think that they’ll achieve it by doing no harm – and that’s a lie… That leads to stagnation, to mediocrity. Just slap something on it when you see a blank canvas staring at you with a sort of imbecility.

You don’t know how paralyzing it is, that stare from a blank canvas that says to the painter you can’t do anything. The canvas has an idiotic stare, and mesmerizes some painters so that they turn into idiots themselves.

Many painters are afraid of the blank canvas, but the blank canvas IS AFRAID of the truly passionate painter who dares – and who has once broken the spell of “you can’t.”

Life itself likewise always turns towards one an infinitely meaningless, discouraging, dispiriting blank side on which there is nothing, any more than on a blank canvas.

But however meaningless and vain, however dead life appears, the man of faith, of energy, of warmth, and who knows something, doesn’t let himself be fobbed off like that. He steps in and does something, and hangs on to that, in short, breaks, “violates”.

Baba Ram Dass
Aging, Death & Dying – Open Heart Extra – Embracing Aging in the Community

When you look at your community, which includes the churches, the bureaucracy, the social groups you are a part of, you’re standing back to look at the part you’re playing in all those situations and standing back again to fit that that into the context of, “Where am I in this stage of life?” Because different stages of life require a different way of playing in all of the systems. If you’re arriving at the stage of life where you’re beginning to feel the desire to spend a little more quiet time reflecting and you’re still holding onto the model that, “I’m supposed to serve and do and do and do,” you push away the other thing as laziness or as loss of energy or as an error, and then you’re not really hearing the whole issue of what is unique about this stage of life.

I think it is very naïve to think that people as they age suddenly are going to say, “Well, I’ve finished my work in the world, goodbye world!” Because your ego is part of the system of the world, and you’ll do violence to it if you walk away that way. And not only that, but society needs the kind of stuff you have to offer at this point, you’ve just got to figure out how to offer it. Offering into society the wisdom of your experience. Offering your time to other people.

Seamus Heaney
“After Liberation” from THE SPIRIT LEVEL
“…to have lived through and now be free to give
Utterance, body and soul–to wake and know
Every time that it’s gone and gone for good, the thing
That nearly broke you–
“Is worth it all, the five years on the rack,
The fighting back, the being resigned, and not
One of the unborn will appreciate
Freedom like this ever.
“…Omnipresent, imperturbable
Is the life that death springs from.
And complaint is wrong, the slightest compliant at all,
Now that the rye crop waves beside the ruins.”

Seeing the bright side of a half-blind dog
Thurber is named after James Thurber, the iconic New Yorker cartoonist and essay writer.
We weren’t looking for a puppy. We were still grieving for Sally — the rescued border collie who had been the sweet, funny, demanding center of our family for nine years, before dying of a brain tumor. But then we got a call from our vet. He had just finished his exam of a litter of border collies from a nationally-respected breeder, an admired acquaintance, whose pups famously grow up to work as professional herders. One of them had a blind eye. Would we take him?

We named him Thurber, after James Thurber, the iconic New Yorker cartoonist and essay writer who loved to draw dogs, and who also had a blind eye. (His brother had shot him in the eye with an arrow during a game of William Tell.)
Our Thurber is cheerful, handsome, smart, and eager to please. The minute we brought him home, he filled my bottomless sorrow with endless elation. Folks tell us he’s the cutest puppy they’ve ever seen. We forget he has a blind eye.

One blind eye isn’t much of a disability (unless you’re an “eye dog” like a working border collie, who must move dozens, sometimes hundreds, of other animals by the force of his stare). And Thurber has never known anything different. But what often seems remarkable to us humans is that even animals who acquire disabilities later in life — losing a leg, an eye, their hearing — seem to get on with life just as joyously as Thurber has started his.

I love to watch a video that became a YouTube sensation a few years ago. It shows five partly paralyzed dogs using wheels in place of their back legs, playing fetch in a field with three able-bodied ones — and a person who is getting plenty of upper body exercise herself throwing the stick. (If you have a dog or cat who could use one of these nifty aids, there are a number of models, including at Eddie’s Wheels in Shelburne Falls.)

The person in the video is Gritta Goetz, whose animal sanctuary in Lanzenhainer, Germany, has hosted at times up to eight paralyzed dogs. Thanks to their wheelchairs, she says in a comment on the video, those dogs “are fast enough to get [the stick]. And the smallest paralyzed dog is the one who can protect the stick against anybody. If she gets it, even the leader has no chance anymore.”

These dogs clearly love their lives. But, as the well-known veterinarian Dr. Mark Pokras told me, some people automatically insist that an animal with a disability is better off put down. An associate professor at Tufts, he also ran the School of Veterinary Medicine’s wildlife clinic from 1995-2008, and he’s had many spirited discussions with his medical colleagues, arguing for an animal’s life. He knows firsthand that life can continue undiminished — or even enhanced — after a seemingly catastrophic illness or injury. He lost a leg to cancer in his 20s, and it never slowed him down. If anything it may have increased his compassion for his patients.

Though some people may feel sorry for animals with disabilities, the animals themselves don’t. (Animals “do not sweat and whine about their condition,” Walt Whitman observed; nor do they “lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins.”) Take Faith, a dog born with deformed forelegs, who learned to walk and run on her two hind legs in the posture of a person. Faith wowed Oprah Winfrey when she appeared on the TV host’s show in 2008. “She’s a demonstration of what it looks like to persevere,” Faith’s owner told the audience.

Animals like Faith don’t need our pity. They have much to teach us.

Thurber is not the only one-eyed pup on our street. Down the road, August, a golden retriever, was born with such severe glaucoma in one eye that it had to be removed. The puppy accompanies her owner, a psychologist who specializes in trauma, to the office. Of course the clients love having a puppy around. But, August’s owner tells me, the folks seeking help for their problems also love being around “someone else who isn’t perfect.”

As for our Thurber, every once in a while, when the light is right, we can see a greenish cast to his right eye to remind us it’s blind. But I never think of it as a “bad” eye. It’s his beautiful, blessed, beloved eye — the eye that brought him to us, and changed my sorrow to joy.


Bob Dylan
I Threw It All Away

I once held her in my arms
She said she would always stay
But I was cruel
I treated her like a fool
I threw it all away

Once I had mountains in the palm of my hand
And rivers that ran through ev’ry day
I must have been mad
I never knew what I had
Until I threw it all away

Love is all there is, it makes the world go ’round
Love and only love, it can’t be denied
No matter what you think about it
You just won’t be able to do without it
Take a tip from one who’s tried

So if you find someone that gives you all of her love
Take it to your heart, don’t let it stray
For one thing that’s certain
You will surely be a-hurtin’
If you throw it all away

Elizabeth Barrett Browning
from Aurora Leigh

“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware
More and more from the first similitude.”

Immanuel Kant

    What Is Enlightenment?

Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed lack of maturity. This lack of maturity is the inability to use one’s own understanding without another’s guidance. This non-maturity is self-imposed if its cause lies not in lack of understanding but in indecision and lack of courage to use one’s own mind without another’s guidance. Dare to know! (Sapere aude.) “Have the courage to use your own understanding,” is therefore the motto of the enlightenment.
Translated by Mary C. Smith


Traleg Kyabgon
“Karma: What It Is, What It Isn’t, Why It Matters”
The Buddha uniquely challenged our “commonsense” feeling of there being an agent existing without reference to actions and disputed the one-way paradigm of action as being subordinate to the agent. According to him, we become what we are as a result of what we are doing, and hence the great emphasis on the importance of karma, of action in the wider sense. It follows from this, too, that if we do not think about karma, then we cannot really be Buddhist, as we will be unable to fully relate to who we are, or what we are, as an individual.

William Shakespeare, 1564 – 1616

The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘T is mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown:
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore,…
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy.

Karen Horney
The Pride System

In Neurosis and Human Growth, Karen Horney explains that the pride system results in a particular kind of egocentricity: “To begin with, the pride system removes the neurotic from others by making him egocentric. To avoid misunderstanding: by egocentricity I do not mean selfishness or egotism in the sense of considering merely one’s advantage. The neurotic may be callously selfish or too unselfish — there is nothing in this regard that is characteristic for all neuroses. But he is always egocentric in the sense of being wrapped up in himself. This need not be apparent on the surface — he may be a lone wolf or live for and through others.

Jiddu Krishnamurti

    Truth is a pathless land

You may remember the story of how the devil and a friend of his were walking down the street, when they saw ahead of them a man stoop down and pick up something from the ground, look at it, and put it away in his pocket. The friend said to the devil, “What did that man pick up?” “He picked up a piece of Truth,” said the devil. “That is a very bad business for you, then,” said his friend. “Oh, not at all,” the devil replied, “I am going to let him organize it.”

I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. That is my point of view, and I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or to coerce people along any particular path. If you first understand that, then you will see how impossible it is to organize a belief. A belief is purely an individual matter, and you cannot and must not organize it. If you do, it becomes dead, crystallized; it becomes a creed, a sect, a religion, to be imposed on others. This is what everyone throughout the world is attempting to do. Truth is narrowed down and made a plaything for those who are weak, for those who are only momentarily discontented. Truth cannot be brought down, rather the individual must make the effort to ascend to it. You cannot bring the mountain-top to the valley. If you would attain to the mountain-top you must pass through the valley, climb the steeps, unafraid of the dangerous precipices.

The Nobel laureate and blind storyteller
Jorge Luis Borges

Diane Arbus

A writer, or any man must believe that whatever happens to him is an instrument; everything has been given for an end. This is even stronger in the case of the artist. Everything that happens, including humiliations, embarrassments, misfortunes; all has been given like clay, like material for one’s art. One must accept it…. Those things are given to us to transform, so that we may make from the miserable circumstances of our lives things that are eternal, or aspire to be. If a blind man feels this way, he is saved. Blindness is a gift.

Buddhism in the Twenty-first Century
HRH 14th Dalai Lama

But as far as the idea of the four noble truths and altruism and all these are concerned: You see, Buddhism deals with emotions, and today’s human emotions are the same as the human emotions 2600 years ago. People’s emotions have been the same for I think the last three or four thousand years and will remain the same for the next few thousand years. After ten thousand or twenty thousand years, some new shape of brain will have evolved, and then maybe things will be a little different. But that’s too far ahead. There’s no need to modify the teachings for our generation, the second generation, the third generation – it’s the same human brain and the same human emotions. You can ask scientists about this, brain specialists, and they’ll say, “Oh, it will be the same brain for at least the next few centuries. No change.” Like that. So the basic Buddhist teaching must be authentic….

Now I think perhaps I have some constructive criticism. In the West I’ve met some people who know just a little bit, but who felt: “Oh, I have full knowledge!” Then, due to their own limited knowledge and misconceptions, they make up teachings. Of course among Tibetans as well this is possible, particularly those people who don’t study these big philosophical texts.

There’s one example that I think I can share with you. I visited San Francisco immediately after a great earthquake. My driver at that time was not from the State Department. It was a private car, and the driver was one of the Dharma center’s members who practiced dzogchen. I casually asked him, “When the great earthquake happened, what did you feel?” And he said, “Oh, it was a great opportunity to practice dzogchen, because it was a shock, a great shock.”

But to be in a state of shock with no thoughts – if he felt that was genuine dzogchen practice, then I think it would be quite easy: get hit and you can practice dzogchen! Dzogchen is not that easy. I myself have practiced dzogchen. Oh, it’s very difficult, very difficult….

Recently I was in Patna, Bihar State. They made a huge construction of a Buddhist vihara, a Buddhist temple. They acquired some relics from different Buddhist countries, and I also offered them some relics. At that function, the chief minister mentioned that due to Buddha’s blessings, Bihar state will progress rapidly. Then I told him – because I know him, he’s a very close friend – “If Buddha’s blessings can help to develop Bihar state, it would have developed much earlier, because Buddha’s blessings were already there. Until an effective chief minister comes, development will not take place. Buddha’s blessings must go through a human’s hand.”

Prayer has no real effect, although prayer is something very nice but doing something is different, isn’t it? Real effect requires action. That’s why Buddhism says, “Karma, karma.” Karma implies “action.” So we must be active.