The Living Book

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We ought never to be afraid to repeat an ancient truth when we feel that we can make it more striking by a neater turn, or bring it alongside of another truth, which may make it clearer, and thereby accumulate evidence. It belongs to the inventive faculty to see clearly the relative state of things, and to be able to place them in connection, but the discoveries of past ages belong less to their first authors than to those who make them practically useful to the world.

Luc de Clapiers, marquis de Vauvenargues (1715 – 1747)

The harmony and happiness of man
Yields to the wealth of nations; that which lifts
His nature to the heaven of its pride,
Is bartered for the poison of his soul;
The weight that drags to earth his towering hopes,
Blighting all prospect but of selfish gain,
Withering all passion but of slavish fear,
Extinguishing all free and generous love
Of enterprise and daring, even the pulse
That fancy kindles in the beating heart
To mingle with sensation, it destroys,
Leaves nothing but the sordid lust of self,
The groveling hope of interest and gold,
Unqualified, unmingled, unredeemed
Even by hypocrisy.

How vainly seek
The selfish for that happiness denied
To aught but virtue! Blind and hardened, they,
Who hope for peace amid the storms of care,
Who covet power they know not how to use,
And sigh for pleasure they refuse to give,
Madly they frustrate still their own designs;
And, where they hope that quiet to enjoy
Which virtue pictures, bitterness of soul,
Pining regrets, and vain repentances,
Disease, disgust and lassitude pervade
Their valueless and miserable lives.

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 – 1822)

The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life. To become aware of the possibility of the search is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair.

Walker Percy (1916 – 1990)

Great endeavors and hard struggles await those who are converted, but afterwards inexpressible joy. If you want to light a fire, you are troubled at first by smoke, and your eyes water. But in the end you achieve your aim. Now it is written: Our God is a consuming fire. So we must light the divine fire in us with tears and struggle.

The Desert Fathers

If you did not desire your present position, you would not be doing everything possible to maintain it… If you cease doing those things which maintain your position, you will lose at once that position which you claim is forced upon you and which is your burden… It is impossible for any man to be placed against his own will in a condition which is contrary to his conscience.

Leo Tolstoy (1828 – 1910)

Three brothers were in the habit of going to see the blessed Anthony every year. The first two would ask him questions about their thoughts and the salvation of the soul. But the third would keep silence without asking anything. Eventually Abba Anthony said to him, “You have been coming here to see me for a long time now and you never ask me any questions.” The other replied, “One thing is enough for me, Father… to see you.”

The Desert Fathers

A little boy wearing the mask of a lion looks quite fierce. He runs out where his little sister is playing and shrieks out in a horrible voice, which shocks and terrifies his sister, making her cry out in terror, and making her attempt to escape from the frightening creature. But when her brother takes off the mask, she runs back to exclaim, “It is my nice brother after all!”

Sri Ramakrishna (1836 – 1886)

I am done with great things and big things, great institutions and big success, and I am for those tiny, invisible molecular moral forces that work from individual to individual, creeping through the crannies of the world like so many rootlets, or like the capillary oozing of water, yet which, if you give them time, will rend the hardest monuments of man’s pride.

William James (1842 – 1910)

Many think that dying to themselves is what causes them so much pain. But it is actually the part of them that still lives that causes the problem. Death is only painful to you when you resist it. Your imagination exaggerates how bad death will be. Self-love fights with all of its strength to live. Die inwardly as well as outwardly. Let all that is not born of God within you die.

Francois Fenelon (1651 – 1715)

Chance will not do the work — chance sends the breeze, but if the pilot slumber at the helm, the very wind that wafts us towards the port may dash us on the shelves. The steersman’s part is vigilance, blow it rough or smooth.

Walter Scott (1771 – 1832)