Prior Quotes of the Week
April 5, 1998
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of the Week (1998.03.29)
The Mission and Leaving Home
"The Voice was hushed. The bush no longer
burned. In fact, it looked just like it had yesterday and the day
before and the day before that. The mountain was just as usual
with the wind yelling 'Whoo-youuu' against its rocky knots. There
was nothing to speak to the senses of Moses and verify what he
had heard and to hold him to what he had so unwillingly promised.
That is, nothing but the rod he held in his hand. Therefore it
was not a vision and neither was it a dream. This bush had blazed
with fire before his eyes, but it had not burned as was natural.
A serpent had become a rod to his hand and a rod had become a
serpent and back again. Life could never be again what it once
was. He had promised a god to go down into hated Egypt and
command a man whom he hated and who hated him to permit a people
whom Pharaoh hated to leave his servitude and go free. Moses
dropped to a shady rock and sat with his face covered until the
sun got low and red. Then he dragged himself home behind his
. . . .
Jethro had dismounted and stood by Moses, showing
all the old affection he felt.
"'Be sure and come back, son. I hope you
don't come by yourself, but come back home' He leaned his old
head on Moses' broad chest like a child. 'I wish I was in your
shoes, Moses. Going on missions is a great privilege.'
"'I thought you was over-anxious for me to
go, Jethro. That feeling helped me to consent to the Voice. I
could feel how much it meant to you.'
"'I'm anxious for you to go, but I'm more
anxious for you to come back. I realize it now when you are
going. Don't let old Pharaoh kill you. You got power. Use it.
Nothing can stand against your hand when you lift it up. All my
love and all my powers go with you, son. And don't hold my
impatience against me. You will know what it is to get tired of
waiting on visions when you get old like me.
"Moses looked past the outline of Aaron
mounted on a camel toward the Red Sea, and for a moment he
wavered. Then he looked back at the shape of Mount Sinai with its
shoulder-wrapping clouds and heard the mutter of thunder from its
throat. He embraced Jethro affectionately and turned his feet
resolutely towards Egypt. Jethro stood watching him for a long
time, but Moses was on his way. He never looked back."
Moses, Man of the Mountain
pp. 127-128, 132, Harper Perennial
Quote of the Week
Waiting at the Point of Highest Tension
"'When I have drawn the bow, the moment
comes when I feel: unless the shot comes at once I shan't be able
to endure the tension. And what happens then? Merely that I get
out of breath. So I must loose the shot whether I want to or not,
because I can't wait for it any longer.'
"'You have described only too well,' replied
the Master, 'where the difficulty lies. Do you know why you
cannot wait for the shot and why you get out of breath before it
has come? The right shot at the right moment does not come
because you do not let go of yourself. You do not wait for
fulfillment, but brace yourself for failure. So long as that is
so, you have no choice but to call forth something yourself that
ought to happen independently of you, and so long as you call it
forth your hand will not open in the right way--like the hand of
a child.' . . .
"'The right art,' cried the Master, 'is
purposeless, aimless! The more obstinately you try to learn how
to shoot the arrow for the sake of hitting the goal, the less you
will succeed in the one and the further the other will recede.
What stands in your way is that you have a much too willful will.
You think that what you do not do yourself does not happen.' . .
"'I can't help it,' I answered, 'the tension
gets too painful.'
"'You only feel it because you haven't
really let go of yourself. It is all so simple. You can learn
from an ordinary bamboo leaf what ought to happen. It bends lower
and lower under the weight of snow. Suddenly the snow slips to
the ground without the leaf having stirred. Stay like that at the
point of highest tension until the shot falls from you. So,
indeed, it is: when the tension is fulfilled, the shot must
fall, it must fall from the archer like snow from a bamboo leaf,
before he even thinks it.'"
Zen in the Art of Archery
pp. 30-31, 47-48, Vintage Books
of the Week (1998.03.15)
Change, the Individual and Commitment
"As the aborigines in Australia put it, 'You
must become the change you want to see in the world.'
"There is a passage in the Gospel of Thomas,
one of the unofficial Gnostic Gospels which you won't find in the
Bible. It goes like this: 'If you bring forth what is within you,
what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth
what is within you, then what you do not bring forth will destroy
you.' To that add a remark by the director of the Boston Fine
Arts Museum. He said, 'We used to think that it was a special
sort of person who became an artist or an actor or whatever. Now
I think that 's wrong. I think that every person is an artist in
some way.' We don't have to change the world; it is challenge
enough to live up to our dream of what kind of person we could
be. That, in itself, will make a difference. I also like the
Japanese idea that life is a game, not a trivial child's game,
but a serious game, a challenge. It is our job to excel in this
game of life with whatever skill or expertise we have. . .
"[Zygmunt] Bauman is worried by the privatization of
society--. . . the fact that, increasingly, we now belong to, or
are committed to, nothing besides ourselves. Even the family can
often turn out to be a relationship of convenience, to be
discontinued if it doesn't suit. At work, our loyalty and
responsibility are first to ourselves and our future, secondly to
our current group or project, and only lastly, and minimally, to
"Without commitment to anyone or anything else, however,
there is no sense of responsibility for others, and without
responsibility there is no need for morality--anything goes, or
at least anything that is legal, if it's what you want. To be a
citizen seems to mean nothing much more than being a customer,
letting others make decisions which you can then take or leave,
or take and then complain about. . . .
"It may all be a rational response to a chaotic world,
one where the future is there to be invented, not predicted, and
certainly not to be controlled; but it makes for a lonely world,
one in which the neighborhood is a jungle, the stranger a beast
to hide from, and our home a privatized prison. Bauman quotes Max
Frisch: 'We can now do what we want, and the only question is
what do we want? At the end of our progress we stand where Adam
and Eve once stood; and all we are faced with now is the moral
The Hungry Spirit: Beyond Capitalism:
A Quest for Purpose in the Modern World
p. 103, 65-66, Broadway Books
of the Week (1998.03.08)
Are You Part of a Mature Organizational Ecosystem?
"Complex systems--such as a wildfire, a
storm pattern, or a waterfall--are not 'run' by anyone in
particular, but are instead controlled by countless individual
interactions that occur inside the system. Every day, for
instance, customers in hundreds of countries make decisions to
buy or not to buy, and those decisions in turn affect the price
of beans and stocks. In the same way, countless interactions in a
natural system--eating or being eaten, for instance--weave
together to define the community. Just as the invisible hand of
the marketplace determines whether a company lives or dies, so
natural selection works from within to shape the nature of life.
"Over billions of years, natural selection
has come up with winning strategies adopted by all complex,
mature ecosystems. The strategies in the following list are
tried-and-true approaches to the mystery of surviving in place.
Think of them as the ten commandments of the redwood clan.
Organisms in a mature ecosystem:
- Use waste as a resource
- Diversify and cooperate to fully use the habitat
- Gather and use energy efficiently
- Optimize rather than maximize
- Use materials sparingly
- Don't foul their nests
- Don't draw down resources
- Remain in balance with the biosphere
- Run on information
- Shop locally"
Janine M. Benyus
Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature
p. 253, William Morrow and Company, Inc.
Quote of the Week
The Canvas of Your Venture
"It can be terrifying to confront a blank
canvas--is it a fear of destroying it?
"You are about to create a world in this
pure and empty space, a world in which complex goals have been
set. In one way you have become God; in another way you know you
"It becomes a courageous act to make a mark
on that canvas. Once the mark is made and the initial anxiety
overcome, a tension is set up on the canvas; a dialogue between
you and your work is now possible.
"The intellect and emotions have been acted
upon and transferred to the canvas. The macrocosm of life has now
been synapsed in the microcosm of the artist's confrontation with
Art & Soul: Notes on Creating
p. 12, Arkana, 1991
Quote of the Week (1998.02.22)
"Because it is a radical act of freedom,
creative achievement is a heroic process that requires, in all
its permutations, specific strengths of character. This is not to
say that creative people are necessarily 'good' or even 'happy'
people in societal terms; I mean that certain heroic habits of
mind seem to inform their attitude toward their own work. It is
impossible to speak of these strengths without using moral
language: words like 'integrity,' 'courage,' 'endurance,' and
'freedom' itself. These virtues, irrelevant to the more routine
uses of intelligence, become essential when one's challenges
involve self-discovery, spirited inquiry, and individual
expression. They are necessary because of the extreme difficulty
of original thinking, which must be developed over long periods
of time, quite often without adequate societal support. Since
creativity partakes of such heroic virtues, we must see it as
having a moral dimension.
". . . the study of creativity holds both
pleasure and pain. Of all the kinds of joy, none perhaps is so
pure as that occasioned by sudden insight. To come to terms
independently with a new idea is to celebrate, in the broadest
sense of the word, the reality of nature and to appreciate fully
one's own human presence. But creativity does not confine itself
to happy subjects, or always bring happy results. Too many
examples of tragic vision, or of genius in the service of malice,
argue the contrary. Moreover, though creative insight may be
delightful in itself, it normally is predicated on training,
prolonged concentration, and exhausting practice that are not
pleasant in the same sense.
" Finally, creativity is dangerous. We
cannot open ourselves to new insight without endangering the
security of our prior assumptions. We cannot propose new ideas
without risking disapproval and rejection. Creative achievement
is the boldest initiative of mind, an adventure that takes its
hero simultaneously to the rim of knowledge and the limits of
propriety. Its pleasure is not the comfort of the safe harbor,
but the thrill of the reaching sail."
The Grace of Great Things: Creativity and Innovation
pp. 7, 9, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1990
Quote of the Week (1998.02.15)
Management of Ventures and Other Living Ideas
". . . ideas as profound and intimate as
'tree' are always unfinished, evolving, inscrutably interwoven,
alive. You cannot package and distribute living ideas. You cannot
manage them; they manage you. To understand a subject is
not to cut it down to size but to expand into it. To interact
with living ideas you need a mode of understanding, a method of
interpretation, that is open, generous, forgiving,
unpunctuated--a liberty of ideas. Such a liberty, I think, exists
in cultures that have not been forced down the relatively narrow
avenues of literacy and technology. Such a liberty was also,
though for a limited time and to a limited number of people, the
province of Western art."
On Dialogue: an Essay in Free Thought
pp. 34-35, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996
Quote of the Week (1998.02.08)
The Truthful Moment and Attaining Perfection
"Free now to be guided by their own inclination, my hands
sunk deep into a progression of low, resonant chords in the bottom of the piano.
Slowly, they built into an energetic crescendo that almost shook the piano and
filled the hall. Gradually, this movement evolved into something else, and then
into something else again. There was a truthfulness in my playing now that I
hadn't felt comfortable to expose before. Why is this truthfulness so important,
I wondered. Can't I just sit down
and play? But there is more to it than that. I know that when I step onto the
stage, just focusing on technique and what I have played before is not enough.
It is being truthful to the moment that counts. That is all a performer can
depend on. Even though it offers no guarantees, it is all that I have to give.
Once that shift occurred, what had at first seemed like hours now felt like
minutes, and all too soon it was over."
Michael Jones, quoted by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat in
Spiritual Literacy: Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life
p. 300, Scribner, 1996
[Below: The author describes an experience of hers in art
that involved firing a clay pot, then cracking and breaking the pot into pieces,
and then gluing the pieces back together to make the finished product.]
"That same week a letter came from a woman
who had spent years living with and writing about the Shakers. In
her letter I read, 'The Latin root of the word
"perfect" means only "finished," not
"We start out whole. Complete. Along the
way, we may feel that something is wrong, or missing. We aren't
the way we'd like to be or the way we think we should be. A
crossroads, a new stage in life, a turning point, a crisis, when
we feel we may crack, or we do crack, can be a difficult,
"And, sometimes we deliberately crack our own bowl.
"With time and great care and tender patience, we can reexamine
the pieces, knowing that when we are ready, a solution will come. We can glue the pieces
"This bowl looks far more interesting, more
beautiful than before it broke. The pieces are the same, but it's
a different bowl than when I started."
Everyday Sacred: A Woman's Journey Home
Quote of the Week (1998.02.01)
Living and Working (Pattern 41)
"When someone tells you where he 'lives,' he
is always talking about his house or the neighborhood his house
is in. It sounds harmless enough. But think what it really means.
Why should the people of our culture choose to use the word
'live,' which, on the face of it applies to every moment of our
waking lives, and apply it only to a special portion of our
lives--the part associated with our families and houses. The
implication is straightforward. The people of our culture believe
that they are less alive when they are working than when they are
at home; and we make this distinction subtly clear, by choosing
to keep the word 'live' only for those places in our lives where
we are not working. Anyone who uses the phrase 'where do you
live' in its everyday sense, accepts as his own the widespread
cultural awareness of the fact that no one really 'lives' at his
place of work--there is no song or music there, no love, no
food--that he is not alive while working, not living, only
toiling away, and being dead.
"As soon as we understand this situation it
leads at once to outrage. Why should we accept a world in which
eight hours of the day are 'dead'; why shall we not create a
world in which our work is as much part of life, as much alive,
as anything we do at home with our family and with our
Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, Murray Silverstein
A Pattern language: Towns, Buildings, Construction
p. 223, Touchstone, 1997
Quote of the Week (1998.01.25)
The Role of Storytelling in the Persistence of Community
"Many people think of storytelling as
something that is done at bedtime, that it is something done for
small children. But when I use the term storytelling,
I'm talking about something much bigger than that. I'm talking
about something that comes out of an experience and an
understanding of that original view of Creation--that we are all
part of a whole; we do not differentiate or fragment stories and
experiences. . . .
The stories are always bringing us together,
keeping this whole together, keeping this family together,
keeping this clan together. 'Don't go away, don't isolate
yourself, but come here, because we have all had these kinds of
experiences.' And so there is this constant pulling together to
resist the tendency to run or hide or separate oneself during a
traumatic emotional experience. This separation not only
endangers the group but the individual as well--one does not
recover by oneself. . . .
No matter how funny or sad an incident might be,
someone could always recall a similar incident. The effect was to
reassure the victim that she was not so isolated by her
experience, that others had suffered similar calamities, and that
she and her story now were joined with the stories of others just
like her. Similarly, a person with great good fortune was not
allowed to set himself apart from the rest of the village,
because there was always someone who could narrate the details of
others who had enjoyed good fortune, again so that the individual
did not think himself somehow separate from others just because
of his good luck. The storytelling had the effect of placing an
incident in the wider context of Pueblo history so that
individual loss or failure was less personalized and became part
of the village's eternal narratives about loss and failure,
narratives that identify the village and that tell the people who
Leslie Marmon Silko
Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit:
Essays on Native American Life Today
pp. 50, 52, 91, Touchstone, 1997
Quote of the Week (1998.01.18)
Writing Business Plans? Consider Randomness as the Root of Order
"Most people see randomness as annoying at
best, destructive at worst. They view randomness in opposition to
order: randomness undoes order, it makes things disorderly.
"Despite its image as 'antiorder,'
randomness plays an important role in many self-organizing
systems. People often assume that seeds are needed to initiate
patterns and structures. When people see a traffic jam, for
example, they assume the traffic jam grew from a seed--perhaps a
broken bridge or a radar trap. In general, this is a useful
intuition. The problem is that most people have too narrow a
conception of seeds. They think only of preexisting
inhomogeneities in the environment--like a broken bridge on the
highway, or a piece of food in an ant's world.
"This narrow view of seeds causes
misintuitions when people try to make sense of self-organizing
systems. In self-organizing system, seeds are neither preexisting
nor externally imposed. Rather, self-organizing systems often
create their own seeds. It is here that randomness plays
a crucial role. In many self-organizing systems, random
fluctuations act as the seeds from which patterns and structures
Turtles, Termites, and Traffic Jams: Explorations in Massively Parallel
p. 137, The MIT Press, 1995
Quote of the Week (1998.01.12)
The Design of the Evolving Venture, and the Elimination of
"In 1988 Harvard geneticist John Cairns and
colleagues published evidence of environmentally induced
mutations in the bacterium E. coli. Their claim was
audacious: that under certain conditions the bacteria
spontaneously crafted needed mutations in direct response to
stresses in their environment...
"This means that the successful bugs did not
desperately throw off all kinds of mutations to find the one that
works; they pinpointed the one alteration that fit the bill. . .
. These kinds of miraculous change are not the kosher fare of
serial random accumulation that natural selection is supposed to
run on. They have the smell of design...
"To evolve is to surrender choices.
To become something new is to accumulate all the things you can
no longer be.
"A complex system (such as a zebra or a
company) is severely limited in the directions and ways it can
evolve, because it is a hierarchy composed entirely of
subentities, which are also limited in their room for adaptation
because they are composed of sub-subentities, and so on down the
"It should be no surprise, then, to find
that evolution works in quantum steps. The given constituents of
an organism can collectively make this or that, but not
everything in between this and that. The hierarchical nature of
the whole prevents it from reaching all the possible states it
might theoretically hit. At the same time, the hierarchical
arrangement of the whole gives it power to make some large-scale
shifts. So a record of this organism would show it leaping from
this to that."
Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems,
and the Economic World
pp. 375, 376, Penguin Group, 1982
Quote of the Week
Art, Ritual and Rainbows:
Reality and Transformation
"The artist [of the latter half of the 20th
Century] returned us to the position of primal people who have
usually regarded art conceptually--not as an object of the eye
but as an experience of the mind, as a ritual form. . . .
"In watching a ritual you do not see what is
physically before you. What you see is an interaction of forces
by which something else arises. Those who see only what is before
them are blind to all the other potentials of experience. Ritual,
like art, requires us to really see. What we see is a
virtual image that is not unreal, for when we are confronted by
it, it really does exist. The image in a mirror is such an image;
so is a rainbow. It seems to stand on earth or in the clouds, but
it really 'stands' nowhere. It is only visible, not tangible. It
is the unspeakable, the ineffable made visible, made
". . . what the Western mind needs, is more
"People like American Indians, who do not
normally make a distinction between dreaming and waking, are
capable of a type of projection or transference which they
experience as 'transformation.'
"In one memorable episode of the Don Juan
tetralogy, an automobile owned by Carlos disappears and
reappears. Baffled, the young apprentice asks his Indian teachers
if such a mystical event had really occurred or if it
was simply an illusion. The brujos laugh and tell
Carlos: 'But everything really happens!'
"That is not an easy conviction for people
of the West, for they must believe within the confines of their
beliefs. Wallace Stevens understood this dilemma very well when
he observed that 'reality is not what it is. It consists of the
many realities which it can be made into.' Transformation is one
of the most valuable ways of making realities.
"A Zuni Indian once asked an ethnologist who
was meticulously notating each word of a traditional story, 'When
I tell these stories, do you see it, or do you just
write it down?"
The Primal Mind: Vision and Reality in Indian America
pp. 44, 61, 62, 68, Penguin Group, 1982
Other Prior Quotes:
October 5, 1997 through December
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