This is a compilation of thoughts and quotes that I have found or written recently, as well as many that I've collected throughout the years. Most thoughts are posted randomly, as I feel inspired. A listing of quotes can be found alphabetically (check the 2008 and 2009 archives listing), or by source.

Feel free to suggest additions!

“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” – Proverbs 23:7

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Middle Earth Wisdom: Quotes from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit

Some believe that it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I've found. I found it is the small things. Every day deeds by ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide.  All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."

Courage will now be your best defense against the storm that is at hand.

I will not say "Do not weep", for not all tears are an evil.

True courage is about knowing not when to take a life, but when to spare one.

Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.

Only a small part is played in great deeds by any hero.

A treacherous weapon is ever a danger to the hand.

It is wisdom to recognize necessity, when all other courses have been weighed, though as folly it may appear to those who cling to false hope.

The wise speak only of what they know.

To crooked eyes truth may wear a wry face.

Often does hatred hurt itself!

The burned hand teaches best. After that advice about fire goes to the heart.

It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succor of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.

Such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.

Sworn word may strengthen quaking heart.

(With Elrond) "Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens," said Gimli.
"Maybe," said Elrond, "but let him not vow to walk in the dark, who has not seen the nightfall."

Do not trouble your hearts overmuch with thought of the road tonight. Maybe the paths that you each shall tread are already laid before your feet, though you do not see them.

Thus is it spoken: Oft hope is born, when all is forlorn.

Follow what may, great deeds are not lessened in worth.

Things will go as they will; and there is no need to hurry to meet them.

Good and ill have not change since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men. It is a man's part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house.

The hasty stroke goes oft astray.

Deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised.
His grief he will not forget; bit it will not darken his heart, it will teach him wisdom.
There are some things that it is better to begin than to refuse, even though the end may be dark.

None of us should wander alone, you least of all. Frodo? I know you suffer, I see it day by day. Are you sure you do not suffer needlessly? There are other ways, Frodo, other paths we might take.

War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.

The praise of the praiseworthy is above all rewards.

Better mistrust undeserved than rash words.

It is useless to meet revenge with revenge: it will heal nothing.

It must often be so, when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.

Where will wants not, a way opens.

It is not always good to be healed in body. Nor is it always evil to die in battle, even in bitter pain.

From an ancient prophecy translated by Bilbo:
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What Faith Can Do - song by Kutlass

A great message on the power of faith:

What Faith Can Do

Everybody falls sometimes
Gotta find the strength to rise
From the ashes
And make a new beginning

Anyone can feel the ache
You think it's more than you can take
But you're stronger
Stronger than you know

Don't you give up now
The sun will soon be shining
You gotta face the clouds
To find the silver lining

I've seen dreams that move the mountains
Hope that doesn't ever end
Even when the sky is falling
I've seen miracles just happen
Silent prayers get answered
Broken hearts become brand new
That's what faith can do

It doesn't matter what you've heard
Impossible is not a word
It's just a reason
For someone not to try

Everybody's scared to death
When they decide to take that step
Out on the water
It'll be alright

Life is so much more
Than what your eyes are seeing
You will find your way
If you keep believing

I've seen dreams that move the mountains
Hope that doesn't ever end
Even when the sky is falling
I've seen miracles just happen
Silent prayers get answered
Broken hearts become brand new
That's what faith can do

Overcome the odds
You don't have a chance
(That's what faith can do)
When the world says you can't
It'll tell you that you can

I've seen dreams that move the mountains
Hope that doesn't ever end
Even when the sky is falling
And I've seen miracles just happen
Silent prayers get answered
Broken hearts become brand new
That's what faith can do
That's what faith can do

Even if you fall sometimes
You will have the strength to rise

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Excerpts from Man's Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

Hailed as one of the great books of our time, Man's Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl is a powerful read.  By understanding the horror of life in a Nazi concentration camp that he survived, and then applying his psychological and spiritual understanding of life, some great perspectives are attained.

Viktor Emil Frankl, MD, PhD was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor. His best-selling book chronicles his experiences as a concentration camp inmate which led him to discover the importance of finding meaning in all forms of existence, even the most sordid ones, and thus a reason to continue living. 

Here are some quotes and excerpts from his book:

Foreword by Harold S. Kushner:
"He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how" - Nietzsche

The greatest task for any person is to find meaning in his or her life. Frankl saw three possible sources for meaning: in work (doing something significant), in love (caring for another person), and in courage during difficult times. 

Suffering in and of itself is meaningless; we give our suffering meaning by the way in which we respond to it.

Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.  You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.

Part 1:
Love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire.  Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.

No man should judge unless he asks himself in absolute honesty whether in a similar situation he might not have done the same.

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.

Any man can...decide what shall become of him - mentally and spiritually.

"There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings." - Dostoevski

It can be said that they were worthy of their sufferings; the way they bore their suffering was a genuine inner achievement.  It is this spiritual freedom - which cannot be taken away - that makes life meaningful and purposeful.

If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering.  Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death.  Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete.

The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity - even under the most difficult circumstances - to add a deeper meaning to his life.  It may remain brave, dignified and unselfish.  Or in the bitter fight for self-preservation he may forget his human dignity and becme no more than an animal.  Here lies the chance for a man either to make use of or to forgo the opportunities of attaining the moral values that a difficult situation may afford him.  And this decides whether he is worthy of his sufferings or not.

Everywhere man is confronted with fate, with the chance of achieving something through his own suffering.

What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life.  We had to learn ourselves and furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.

Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfil the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.

There was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.

What you have expereinced, no power on earth can take from you.

Having been is also a kind of being, and perhaps the surest kind.

No one has the right to do wrong, not even if wrong has been done to them.

Part 2:
What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.  What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.

Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked.  In a word, each man is questioned by life; and only he can answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.

The more one forgets himself - by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love - the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself.

Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality.  No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him.

We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed.  For what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one's predicament into a human achievement.

In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.

Life's meaning is an unconditional one, for it even includes the potential meaning of unavoidable suffering.

A life whose meaning depends upon...happenstance - as whether one escapes or not - ultimately would not be worth living at all.

The person who attacks the problems of life actively is like a man who removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it neatly and carefully away with its predecessors, after first having jotted down a few diary notes on the back.  He can reflect with pride and joy on all the richness set down in these notes, on all the life he has already lived to the fullest.  What will it matter to him if he notices that he is growing old?  Has he any reason to envy the young people whom he sees, or wax nostalgic over his own lost youth?  What reasons has he to envy a young person? For the possibilities that a young person has, the future which is in store for him? 

"No, thank you," he will think.  "Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered.  These sufferings are even the things of which I am most proud, though these are things which cannot inspire envy."

Pleasure is, and must remain, a side-effect or a by-product, and is destroyed and spoiled to the degree to which it is made a goal in itself.

To be sure, a human being is a finite thing, and his freedom is restricted.  It is not freedom from conditions, but it is a freedom to take a stand toward the conditions.

I also bear witness to the unexpected extent to which man is capable of defying and braving even the worst conditions concievable.

One of the main features of human existence is the capacity to rise above such conditions, to grow beyond them.  Man is capable of changing the world for the better if possible, and of changing himself for the better if necessary.

Freedom, however, is not the last word.  Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth.  Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness.  In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness.

We watched and witnessed some of our comrades behave like swine while others behaved like saints.  Man has both potentialities within himself; which one is actualized depends on decisions but not on conditions.

Our generation is realistic, for we have come to know man as he really is.  After all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord's Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips.

Postscript 1984:
The Case for a Tragic Optimism - I speak of tragic optimism, that is, optimism in the face of tragedy and in view of the human potential which at its best always allows for 1) turning suffering into a human achievement and accomplishment; 2) deriving from guilt the opportunity to change oneself for the better; and 3) deriving from life's transitoriness an incentive to take responsible action.

One must have a reason to "be happy".  Once the reason is found, however, one becomes happy automatically.  As we see, a human being is not one in pursuit of happiness but rather in search of a reason to become happy, last but not least, through actualizing the potential meaning inherent and dormant in a given situation.

Once an individual's search for meaning is successful, it not only renders him happy but also gives him the capability to cope with suffering.

To invoke an analogy, consider a movie: it consists of thousands upon thousands of individual pictures, and each of them makes sense and carries a meaning, yet the meaning of the whole film cannot be seen before its last sequence is shown.  However, we cannot understand the whole film without having first understood each of its components, each of the individual pictures.  Isn't it the same with life?  Doesn't the final meaning of life, too, reveal itself, if at all, only at its end, on the verge of death?  And doesn't this final meaning, too, depend on whether or not the potential meaning of each single situation has been actualized to the best of the respective individual's knowledge and belief?

Even the helpless victim of a hopeless situation, facing a fate he cannot change, may rise above himself.  He may turn a personal tragedy into a triumph.

(Quoting from a letter from Jerry Long who became paralyzed from the neck down in an accident): "I view my life as being abundant with meaning and purpose.  The attitude that I adopted on that fateful day has become my personal creedo for life:  I broke my neck, it didn't break me.  I am currently enrolled in my first psychology course in college.  I believe that my handicap will only enhance my ability to help others.  I know that without the suffering, the growth that I have achieved would have been impossible."

If one cannot change a situation that causes his suffering, he can still choose his attitude.  Long had not chosen to break his neck, but he did decide not to let himself be broken by what had happened to him.

Live as if you were living for the second time and had acted wrongly the first time as you are about to act now.

There is no reason to pity old people.  Instead, young people should envy them.  It is true that the old have no opportunities, no possibilities in the future.  But they have more than that.  Instead of possibilities in the future, they have realities in the past - the potentialities they have actualized, the meanings they have fulfilled, the values they have realized - and nothing and nobody can ever remove these assets from the past.

Everything great is just as difficult to realize as it is rare to find.

Afterword by William J. Winslade:
He once remarked "I do not forget any good deed done to me, and I do not carry a grudge for a bad one."

Frankl was once asked to express in one sentence the meaning of his own life.  He wrote the response on paper and asked his students to guess what he had written.  After some moments of quiet reflection, a student surprised Frankl by saying, "The meaning of your life is to help others find the meaning of theirs."

"That was it, exactly," Frankl said.  "Those are the very words I had written."

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Beauty of Winter

Cold but Beautiful: Winter in Utah.  

Photos by Ken R. Young and DeNeise Young.

In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.  - Albert Camus

People don't notice whether it's winter or summer when they're happy. - Anton Chekov

Let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius. Pietro Aretino

Winter is the time of promise because there is so little to do - or because you can now and then permit yourself the luxury of thinking so. - Stanley Crawford

You can't get too much winter in the winter. - Robert Frost

In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy. - William Blake

When the bold branches bid farewell to rainbow leaves - welcome wool sweaters. - B. Cybrill

O, wind, If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind? - Percy Bysshe Shelley

One kind word can warm three winter months- Japanese Proverb

As winter strips the leaves from around us, so that we may see the distant regions they formerly concealed, so old age takes away our enjoyments only to enlarge the prospect of the coming eternity. - Jean Paul

While I relish our warm months, winter forms our character and brings out our best. - Tom Allen

Even in winter an isolated patch of snow has a special quality. - Andy Goldsworthy

"Kindness is like snow - it beautifies everything it covers." - Kahlil Gibran

For more scenes of beauty, see:
The Beauty of Autumn