Prior Quotes of the Week

April 5, 1998

(books may be ordered through our online knOwhere store)


Quote 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 mumbling sheep.

. . . .

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."

Zora Neale Hurston
Moses, Man of the Mountain
pp. 127-128, 132, Harper Perennial

Quote of the Week (1998.03.22)
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.'"

Eugen Herrigel
Zen in the Art of Archery
pp. 30-31, 47-48, Vintage Books

Quote 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 the organization.

"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 question.'"

Charles Handy
The Hungry Spirit: Beyond Capitalism:
A Quest for Purpose in the Modern World

p. 103, 65-66, Broadway Books

Quote 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:

  1. Use waste as a resource
  2. Diversify and cooperate to fully use the habitat
  3. Gather and use energy efficiently
  4. Optimize rather than maximize
  5. Use materials sparingly
  6. Don't foul their nests
  7. Don't draw down resources
  8. Remain in balance with the biosphere
  9. Run on information
  10. Shop locally"

Janine M. Benyus
Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature
p. 253, William Morrow and Company, Inc.

Quote of the Week (1998.03.01)
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 are not.

"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 the canvas."

Audrey Flack
Art & Soul: Notes on Creating
p. 12, Arkana, 1991

Quote of the Week (1998.02.22)
Creative Achievement

"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."

Robert Grudin
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."

Robert Grudin
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 "without flaws."'

"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, frightening time.

"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 back together.

"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."

Sue Bender
Everyday Sacred: A Woman's Journey Home
HarperCollins, 1996

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 friends?"

Christopher 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 they are."

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 grow."

Mitchel Resnick
Turtles, Termites, and Traffic Jams: Explorations in Massively Parallel Microworlds
p. 137, The MIT Press, 1995

Quote of the Week (1998.01.12)
The Design of the Evolving Venture, and the Elimination of Options

"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 tower.

"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."

Kevin Kelly
Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World
pp. 375, 376, Penguin Group, 1982


Quote of the Week (1998.01.01)
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 experiential.

". . . what the Western mind needs, is more rainbows.

"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?"

Jamake Highwater
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 21, 1997

copyrights, terms and conditions


© MG Taylor Corporation, 1995 - 2002

iteration 3.5