Category Archives: Quotes

Rabindranath Tagore, Gitanjali, 1

Thou hast made me endless, such is thy pleasure. This frail vessel thou emptiest again and again, and fillest it ever with fresh life.

This little flute of a reed thou hast carried over hills and dales, and hast breathed through it melodies eternally new.

At the immortal touch of thy hands my little heart loses its limits in joy and gives birth to utterance ineffable.

Thy infinite gifts come to me only on these very small hands of mine. Ages pass, and still thou pourest, and still there is room to fill.

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Epictetus, Stoicism, Anger

The exact date escapes me, but I remember that my studies of Buddhism started around the summer of 2012. Stoicism came into my life a few years later in a form of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. Currently reading Epictetus’ Discourses I come upon a point after point where similarities between the two philosophies are striking.

Buddhism, personally, feels more like a philosophy, rather than religion.

An important line of thinking that is shared by the two philosophies of Buddhism and Stoicism concerns our craving and want of things. Those wants are not limited to material possessions that we can acquire in exchange for money. Included is the achievement of certain benchmarks that we often treat as physical things that are to be achieved in life: a ‘good job’, high social status and the rest…if these “needs” could be met then most certainly we have achieved happiness. Right?

Let’s see what Epictetus has to say:

​If you must be affected by other people’s misfortunes, show them pity instead of contempt. Drop this readiness to hate and take offence. Who are you to use those common curses, like ‘We get angry because we put too high a premium on things that [people] can steal. Don’t attach such value to your clothes, and you won’t get angry with the thief who takes them. Don’t make your wife’s external beauty her chief attraction, and you won’t be angry with the adulterer. Realize that the thief and the adulterer cannot touch what’s yours, only what is common property everywhere and not under your control. If you make light of those things and ignore them, who is left to be angry with? As long as you honour material things, direct your anger at yourself rather than the thief or adulterer.“*

Have you seen a teenager wear a new pair of white sneakers, only to become enrage when someone accidentally steps on them? The addition of about a dozen years since I had graduated from high school graduation had given me a new perspective on purchasing sneakers. With age came a great many things to preoccupy my mind other than the cleanliness of my footwear: making the most out of being a husband and a dad, squeezing in more time for reading, work/job/career (can’t figure out which one is more appropriate). Most challenging part of life is not taking this said life too seriously.

It could be just that I live in New York City… lack of smiling faces, impatient drivers honking, dirt and garbage everywhere…but when all else fail I take a pause and think of what a wise man once said: don’t take things too seriously, remember that we are talking monkeys flying through space on a piece of rock.**

*Epictetus, Discourses and Selected Writings (ISBN: 9780141917481)
**paraphrasing Joe Rogan

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Far away worries

The dense block of wisdom that is Aldous Huxley’s The Perennial Philosophy provides many quotes for contemplation.

“​Sufficient not only unto the day, but also unto the place, the evil thereof. Agitation over happenings which we are powerless to modify, either because they have not yet occurred are occurring at an inaccessible distance us, achieves nothing beyond the inoculation of here and now with the remote or anticipated evil that is the object of our distress. Listening four or five times a day to newscasters and commentators, reading the morning papers and all the weeklies and monthly nowadays, this is described “taking an intelligent interest in politics.” St. John of the Cross would have called it indulgence in idle curiosity and the cultivation of disquietude for disquietude’s sake.” Aldous Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy, p, 103-104

Done as a cost cutting measure at the time, the decision not to sign up for cable TV three years ago has mostly been a positive one. In no way do I miss the gloom-and-doom newscasts.

There was a time when I felt compelled to read the Daily News and the New York Post. At times I had even picked up the pricier New York Times. Most likely because at that time I was still in college and had declared Political Science as one of my three majors. Reading newspapers is seems now like such a long time ago.

I wonder if the pre-Internet, pre-soundbite, generations were leading comparatively ‘happier’ lives than we do today?

Contemporary thinking tends to equate technological progress with quality of life. Much like what we mean by the term evolution is not a necessarily progress towards a positive, but only what is advantageous due to current circumstances, and also comes with trade-offs (see here), so is the thinking that what we have right now, today, is the best case scenario of the circumstances that have led us to live the way that we do today.

If there has never been a better time to live then now then what have we give up to have this luxury?

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“Alumnus Football”
Henry Grantland Rice

Bill Jones had been the shining star upon his college team.
His tackling was ferocious and his bucking was a dream.
When husky William took the ball beneath his brawny arm
They had two extra men to ring the ambulance alarm.

Bill hit the line and ran the ends like some mad bull amuck.
The other team would shiver when they saw him start to buck.
And when some rival tackler tried to block his dashing pace,
On waking up, he’d ask, “Who drove that truck across my face?”

Bill had the speed-Bill had the weight-Bill never bucked in vain;
From goal to goal he whizzed along while fragments, strewed the plain,
And there had been a standing bet, which no one tried to call,
That he could make his distance through a ten-foot granite wall.

When he wound up his college course each student’s heart was sore.
They wept to think bull-throated Bill would sock the line no more.
Not so with William – in his dreams he saw the Field of Fame,
Where he would buck to glory in the swirl of Life’s big game.

Sweet are the dreams of college life, before our faith is nicked-
The world is but a cherry tree that’s waiting to be picked;
The world is but an open road-until we find, one day,
How far away the goal posts are that called us to the play.

So, with the sheepskin tucked beneath his arm in football style,
Bill put on steam and dashed into the thickest of the pile;
With eyes ablaze he sprinted where the laureled highway led-
When Bill woke up his scalp hung loose and knots adorned his head.

He tried to run the ends of life, but with rib-crushing toss
A rent collector tackled him and threw him for a loss.
And when he switched his course again and dashed into the line
The massive Guard named Failure did a toddle on his spine.

Bill tried to punt out of the rut, but ere he turned the trick
Right Tackle Competition scuttled through and blocked the kick.
And when he tackled at Success in one long, vicious prod
The Fullback Disappointment steered his features in sod.

Bill was no quitter, so he tried a buck in higher gear,
But Left Guard Envy broke it up and stood him on his ear.
Whereat he aimed a forward pass, but in two vicious bounds
Big Center Greed slipped through a hole and rammed him out of bounds.

But one day, when across the Field of Fame the goal seemed dim,
The wise old coach, Experience, came up and spoke to him.
“Oh Boy,” he said, “the main point now before you win your bout
Is keep on bucking Failure till you’ve worn the piker out!”

“And, kid, cut out this fancy stuff – go in there, low and hard;
Just keep your eye upon the ball and plug on, yard by yard,
And more than all, when you are thrown or tumbled with a crack,
Don’t sit there whining-hustle up and keep on coming back;

“Keep coming back with all you’ve got, without an alibi,
If Competition trips you up or lands upon your eye,
Until at last above the din you hear this sentence spilled:
‘We might as well let this bird through before we all get killed.’

“You’ll find the road is long and rough, with soft spots far apart,
Where only those can make the grade who have the Uphill Heart.
And when they stop you with a thud or halt you with a crack,
Let Courage call the signals as you keep on coming back.

“Keep coming back, and though the world may romp across your spine,
Let every game’s end find you still upon the battling line;
For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name,
He writes – not that you won or lost – but how you played the Game.”

Alumnus Football

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The richest man…

“The richest man is not he who has the most, but he who needs the least.” – Unknown

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Senquez Golson, on giving your best effort

“Every time you skip a rep behind your coach’s back you’re not tricking him, you’re cheating your teammates and yourself.” – Senquez Golson

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Larry Brown, on failure

“Failure does not come from losing, but from not trying.” -Larry Brown

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Caught Up in an Activity Trap

“It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in an activity trap, in the business of life, to work harder and harder at climbing the ladder of success only to discover it’s leaning against the wrong wall. It is possible to be busy -very busy- without being very effective.”

“People often find themselves achieving victories that are empty, successes that have come at the expense of things they suddenly realize were far more valuable to them. people from every walk of life-doctors, academicians, actors, politicians, business professionals, athletes, and plumbers-often struggle to achieve a higher income, more recognition or certain degree of professional competence, only to find that their drive to achieve their goal blinded them to the things that really mattered most and now are gone.”

What is it that we are looking for? And do we ever find it?

The trade-offs. The sacrifice. The missed experiences and events. Are they worth it?

Have you become what through you wanted to be? Have you achived your potential?

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“This is the secret of life – to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.” – Alan Watts

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Do not spoil what you have…

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“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; but remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hope for.”

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