A collection of excerpts, letters, poems and other writings that have impacted me throughout the years of internet browsing and book mining. This is a continuously changing page, you'll definitely see additions to it and you may see some subtractions. I hope some of these move you as they have to me.
"Deep listening is an act of surrender. We risk being changed by what we hear.
When I really want to hear another person’s story, I try to leave my preconceptions at the door and draw close to their telling. I am always partially listening to the thoughts in my own head when others are speaking, so I consciously quiet my thoughts and begin to listen with my senses.
Empathy is cognitive and emotional—to inhabit another person’s view of the world is to feel the world with them. But I also know that it’s okay if I don’t feel very much for them at all. I just need to feel safe enough to stay curious.
The most critical part of listening is asking what is at stake for the other person. I try to understand what matters to them, not what I think matters. Sometimes I start to lose myself in their story. As soon as I notice feeling unmoored, I try to pull myself back into my body, like returning home. As Hannah Arendt says, ‘One trains one’s imagination to go visiting.’ When the story is done, we must return to our skin, our own worldview, and notice how we have been changed by our visit."
See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love by Valerie Kaur
"The world is increasingly designed to depress us. Happiness isn’t very good for the economy. If we were happy with what we had, why would we need more? How do you sell an anti-ageing moisturizer? You make someone worry about ageing. How do you get people to vote for a political party? You make them worry about immigration. How do you get them to buy insurance? By making them worry about everything. How do you get them to have plastic surgery? By highlighting their physical flaws. How do you get them to watch a TV show? By making them worry about missing out. How do you get them to buy a new smartphone? By making them feel like they are being left behind.
To be calm becomes a kind of revolutionary act. To be happy with your own non-upgraded existence. To be comfortable with our messy, human selves, would not be good for business."
Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig
"Compare the difference between the life of a man who does no reading and that of a man who does. The man who has not the habit of reading is imprisoned in his immediate world, in respect to time and space. His life falls into a set routine; he is limited to contact and conversation with a few friends and acquaintances, and he sees only what happens in his immediate neighborhood. From this prison there is no escape.
But the moment he takes up a book, he immediately enters a different world, and if it is a good book, he is immediately put in touch with one of the best talkers of the world. This talker leads him on and carries him into a different country or a different age, or unburdens to him some of his personal regrets, or discusses with him some special line or aspect of life that the reader knows nothing about. An ancient author puts him in communion with a dead spirit of long ago, and as he reads along, he begins to imagine what that ancient author looked like and what type of person he was...
Now to be able to live two hours out of twelve in a different world and take one's thoughts off the claims of the immediate present is, of course, a privilege to be envied by people shut up in their bodily prison."
"One of my favorite moments of the year involved a beetle doing yoga on a desert dune. In the Namib desert in Africa, the darkling beetle’s day begins with an ascent of a massive sand dune. A tiny creature faced with a Himalaya-sized trek. Undeterred, it marches on, it’s legs as skinny as a runner’s, up towards the summit above which a fog from the Atlantic hovers.
When it gets there, the beetle inverts it’s body into a headstand and stands very still. Then magic occurs. No, wait, it is something more fantastic than magic, it’s nature. This is a planet about to do some of its very best work.
Droplets of water form on its shell as the fog condenses on its body. Then slowly, using grooves in the beetle’s casing, the water rolls into its thirsty mouth. This is how life is sustained on earth."
"Noise to signal ratio. We are more constantly bombarded by unnatural stimuli than ever before. We need to put ourselves in places of decreased sensory input so we can hear the background signals of our psychological processes. As the noise decreases the signals become clearer. We can hear ourselves again. We can reunite. Time alone simplifies the heart, memory catches up, opinions form. We meet truth again and it teaches us. Landing on stable feet between our reaching out and retreat. Letting us know we are not lonely in our state, just alone. Because our unconscious mind now has room to reveal itself, we see it again. It dreams, perceives, and thinks in pictures which we now can observe. In this solitude we then begin to think in pictures and actualize what we see. Our souls become anonymous again and we realize we are stuck with the one person we can never be rid of, ourselves. The Socratic dialogue can be ugly, painful, lonesome, hard, guilt ridden, and a nightmare viscous enough to need a mouth guard not to naw our fangs into nubs while we sweat cold into feverish panic. We are forced to confront ourselves and this is good. We more than deserve this suffrage, we've earned it. An honest mans pillow is his peace of mind and no matter whose in our bed each night we sleep with ourselves. We either forgive or get sick and tired of it herein lies the evolution. Now with no where to run and forced to deal with ourselves, our ugly everyday suppressions break out of the zoo and monkey around. Where we find ourselves in the ring with them deciding "no more or let it slide". Whatever the verdict, we grow. It's us and us. Our always our only company. We tend to ourselves and get in good graces once again. Then we return to civilization able to better tend to our tendencies. Why? because we took a walk-a-bout."
In Greenlights by Mathew McConaughey
"We need finites, borders, gravity, demarcations, shape, and resistance to have order. This order, creates responsibility, the responsibility creates judgement (& consequence), the judgement creates choice. In the choice lies the freedom. To create the weather that gives us the most favorable wind, we must first remove that which causes the most friction to our core being. This process of elimination creates order by default therefore rendering more to go toward, for instance, and less to back away from. We then embrace these affirmations because doing so brings us pleasure and less pain. So we cultivate them until they become habit and form our constitution, then they proliferate and become emanations of are essence. This is where true identity is born. We fool ourselves from freedom if we think it means getting rid of the constraints around us. This is the art of living - of self satisfaction - in a thread of lineage with our past, looking forward to our future, we need to deal with our present, and choose."
In Greenlights by Mathew McConaughey
John B McLemore was featured in the mysterious and wonderful podcast series named S-Town.
"I’ve coaxed many infirm clocks back to mellifluous life, studied projected geometry and built astrolabes, sundials, taught myself 19 century electroplating, bronzing, patination. Micromachinery, horology, learned piano. Read Poe, De Maupassant, Boccaccio, O’Connor, Welty, Hugo, Balzac, Kafka, Bataille, Gibran, as well as modern works like Mortimer, Hawking, Kunstler, Klein, Jacobi, Heinberg, Hedges, Hitchens and Rhodes.
But the best times of my life, I realize, were the times I spent in the forest and field. I’ve walked in solitude besides my own babbling creek, and wondered at the undulations, meanderings, and tiny atolls that were occasionally swept into its midst. I’ve spent time in idle palaver with Violets, Lileas, Sage, Heliopsis and Monkshood, and marveled at the mystery of Monotropa uniflora. I’ve audited the discourse of the Hickories, Oaks and Pines, even when no wind was present. I have peregrinated the woods in Winter under the watchful guard of vigilant dogs, and spent hours entranced by the exquisiteness and delicacy of tiny mosses and molds, entire forests within a few square inches. I’ve also ran thrashing and flailing from yellow jackets.
Before I could commence this discourse, I spent a few hours out under the night’s sky reacquainting myself with the constellations like old friends. Sometimes I just spend hours playing my records, sometimes I took my record players and CD players apart, just to peek inside and admire the engineering of their incongruous entrails. Sometimes I watched Laverne & Shirley or old movies or Star Trek. Sometimes I sat in the dark and listened to the creaking of the old house.
I’ve lived on this blue orb now for about 17,600 days, and when I look around me and see the leaden dispiritedness that envelops so many persons, both young and old, I know that if I died tonight my life has been inestimably better than that of most of my compatriots. Additionally, my absence makes room and leaves some resources for others that deserve no less than I enjoyed. I’d hope that all persons reading this can enjoy some of the aspects of life that I have enjoyed, as well as those aspects that I never will and will take cognizance of the number of waiting days he has remaining and use them prudently.
To all that is given so much, much love and respect,
John B McLemore"
"As I see it then, the formula runs something like this: a man must choose a path which will let his ABILITIES function at maximum efficiency toward the gratification of his DESIRES. In doing this, he is fulfilling a need (giving himself identity by functioning in a set pattern toward a set goal), he avoids frustrating his potential (choosing a path which puts no limit on his self-development), and he avoids the terror of seeing his goal wilt or lose its charm as he draws closer to it (rather than bending himself to meet the demands of that which he seeks, he has bent his goal to conform to his own abilities and desires).
In short, he has not dedicated his life to reaching a pre-defined goal, but he has rather chosen a way of life he KNOWS he will enjoy. The goal is absolutely secondary: it is the functioning toward the goal which is important. And it seems almost ridiculous to say that a man MUST function in a pattern of his own choosing; for to let another man define your own goals is to give up one of the most meaningful aspects of life— the definitive act of will which makes a man an individual.
Let’s assume that you think you have a choice of eight paths to follow (all pre-defined paths, of course). And let’s assume that you can’t see any real purpose in any of the eight. THEN— and here is the essence of all I’ve said— you MUST FIND A NINTH PATH.
Naturally, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. You’ve lived a relatively narrow life, a vertical rather than a horizontal existence. So it isn’t any too difficult to understand why you seem to feel the way you do. But a man who procrastinates in his CHOOSING will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance."
Letter to a friend written by Hunter S. Thompson
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