Late last year I showcased a series of pithy proverbs — those bursts of truth in 20 words or so — in a new blog feature entitled More to Consider.* Six months later, I’m back with the ones I’ve highlighted since that original post.
My love for the short and to-the-point adage comes from my Grandmother Brown, who was known to say things such as, “Some folks are born in the objective mood.” Grandmother did not have a lot of patience with folks who were always complaining and objecting to what others did. Both my grandparents, as well as my father, always had a positive outlook and attitude toward people. I wonder what they would think of our president?
Well, let’s don’t go down that rabbit hole! Instead, here are the More to Consider proverbs, quotes, adages, and sayings from the last six months, beginning with the one that is on the blog at this moment, from African American poet Langston Hughes. In this time of reconsideration of our nation’s direction, it seemed especially appropriate for the July 4th holiday:
“Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed— / Let it be that great strong land of love / Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme / That any man be crushed by one above.”Langston Hughes from “Let America Be America Again”
“An old man says to his grandson: ‘There’s a fight going on inside me. It’s a terrible fight between two wolves. One is evil – angry, greedy, jealous, arrogant, and cowardly. The other is good – peaceful, loving, modest, generous, honest, and trustworthy. These two wolves are also fighting within you, and inside every other person too.’ After a moment, the boy asks, ‘Which wolf will win?’ The old man smiles. ‘The one you feed.'”Rutger Bregman, “Humankind: A Hopeful History”
The quote from Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh came to me when reading Barbara Brown Taylor’s most recent book, Holy Envy. I thought it was especially illustrative in helping us see how our view is only one small part of a much larger landscape.
“While living the life of a wave, the wave also lives the life of water. It would be sad if the wave did not know that it is water.”Thich Nhat Hanh
Author James Baldwin’s life and work has never been more necessary than in this time of upheaval around social injustice and the racial profiling of African Americans by the police. In the book Biased, I came across this quote which struck me as helpful to remember as we each undertake our journeys in life:
“A journey is called that because you cannot know what you will…do with what you find, or what you find will do with you.”James Baldwin
While undertaking some research for another post, I came across this gem from the running guru George Sheehan. It seemed a good reminder as we sit in our sheltered places in the midst of a pandemic, perhaps eating and drinking too much.
“Don’t be concerned if running or exercise will add years to your life, be concerned with adding life to your years.”Dr. George Sheehan
Speaking of global pandemics — and our country’s absolutely idiotic response to a virus that doesn’t care about political ideology, re-election timelines, anti-science tomfoolery, or much else — I thought columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr. hit the nail on the head when he wrote in an April 24th column:
“(W)e seemed to have tapped the U.S. Strategic Stupid Reserve. The result has been a truly awe-inspiring display of America’s matchless capacity for mental mediocrity.”Leonard Pitts, Jr.
One of the wonderful people we lost as a result of our nation’s horrific response to COVID-19 was the singer/songwriter John Prine. In April I used More to Consider to quote a favorite Prine song, which he sings with the incomparable Iris DeMent.
“In spite of ourselves, we’ll end up sitting on a rainbow / Against all odds, honey we’re the big door prize / We’re gonna spite our noses right off our faces / There won’t be nothing but big old hearts dancing in our eyes.”John Prine from “In Spite of Ourselves”
One of the more thoughtful people I know is my friend Deborah Meister. As the full extent of the challenges we find ourselves in as a country came into (even) clearer view this spring, I thought her take on the subject was spot on. And I’m always looking for quotes from people — like Deborah — who have thought deeply about a variety of topics, which is why I decided to highlight two in March from economist Albert Hirschman and President Theodore Roosevelt:
“The good things in our nation did not come about by chance, and they will not be preserved by indifference.”The Rev. Dr. Deborah Meister
“This is probably all one can ask of history, and the history of ideas in particular: not to resolve issues, but to raise the level of the debate.”Albert O. Hirschman
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”Theodore Roosevelt
Before the pandemic slowed everything to a standstill and led to a reckoning with multiple crises at once, I was considering the question of potential in a rather simplistic fashion. Today, this Angela Duckworth line still rings true, but perhaps in a much deeper and broader way.
“Our potential is one thing, what we do with it is quite another.”Angela Duckworth, from “Grit”
And to begin the year, I selected three quotes from three very different individuals: a relatively young American novelist, one of the 20th century’s most important African American voices, and a world-renowned theologian. In different ways, they were setting me up for the year that we’re in without even knowing it.
“When we accept diminished substitutes, we become diminished substitutes.”Jonathan Safran Foer
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”James Baldwin
“What power people always discover is that you cannot finally silence poets. They just keep coming at you in threatening and transformative ways.”Walter Brueggermann
Listen to the poets, read widely and deeply, and strive for quality in our work and in our leaders. Those all seem like good thoughts to remember here in 2020. I hope you found something to make you stop and consider, if even for just a minute.
More to come…
Image from Pixabay
*As a reminder, to capture some of my favorite sayings without having to write an entire blog post about them, I created a feature on More to Come that I labeled More to Consider. Every other week or so I update these quick bursts of truth. This section of the website is easiest to see on a laptop, where it resides near the top of the right hand column. But most people read my posts from their phones, where you have to scroll almost to the bottom before finding the saying for the week.