Dear 100 Hour Board,
What's a quote that defines you or changed how you saw the world? Why?
-My Name Here
I have several!
Obviously my poem (The Guesthouse by Rumi) has changed pretty much everything about my outlook on life. It reminds me that even in bad times, I can and should "see each sunrise as a gift" (thanks, Chris) (also, the song Up&Up is amazing and definitely backs up the poem in terms of significance.) I'm not going to put the whole thing here because I've done that before too many times.
Another one that became important to me comes from the book The Chosen by Chaim Potok. It says,
"The blink of an eye in itself is nothing. But the eye that blinks, that is something. A span of a life is nothing. But the man who lives that span, he is something. He can fill that tiny span with meaning, so its quality is immeasurable though the quantity may be insignificant."
This came at a time when I was being really teenager-y and existential. Things felt meaningless, everyone around me seemed fake, and I had a superiority complex where I thought being angsty and philosophical made me cool, so I thought about "the meaning of life" a lot. Anyway, this quote struck me because I was contemplating how stupid life seemed if I truly believed in living for eternity, that compared to the universe we are all so small. But the experiences, memory, and love that I fill my life with make something out of that nothing, and that is incredibly important. It also changed the way that I respected other people.
The last one that sticks with me through everything is the Thomas S. Monson quote,
"Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved."
To me, that's as Christlike as it can get. In pretty much every relationship known to man, our patience will be tested. Often, our vision of others is blurred by all the things we see wrong with them, or wrong in our connection with them. But to truly become like Christ, we must overrule our impatience with compassion. (Obviously, situations of abuse are a bit different, and this doesn't excuse us from solving big problems like racism. The point is, if love is our motivation and takes precedence over everything else, then our problems have a tendency to shrink themselves.)
I attended a small lecture about humanitarian engineering and the speaker, a former BYU grad told us all "You don't have to save the world by the time you're 30." She went on to talk about how real changes in the world take time, and how we have 30-40 years as professionals to be the difference we want to be. It really helped me chill out and be less focused on trying to do everything at once and instead focus on a few small things and do those well.
Not possessing natural ability doesn't block your potential.
This isn't a quote that I've heard (I'm sure I've heard quotes that express the same sentiment, but the phrasing hasn't stuck in my mind), but I would say that the underlying philosophy is pretty defining of my life. Waaay back when I was in elementary school, I remember having extreme difficulty with learning my times tables. It got to a point where I was convinced that this was just something I was Bad at. When expressing this frustration to my mom she told me that my oldest sister had also struggled with learning times tables. I've always looked up to this sister as one of the smartest people I know, so hearing that she had trouble with something academic made me realize that I didn't have to be good initially to be good eventually. I had the power to choose what my talents would be (and it was around this time that I very consciously decided that I was going to like and be good at math--which if you know anything about me, you know is one of my defining characteristics and representative of my life choices).
This principle has changed my decision process for what I pursue from "what am I good at and enjoy?" to "what am I motivated enough to put in the work?". When I'm focused on accomplishing something, I'm determined to not let even my own ineptitude get in the way. This kind of mindset is also probably one of the reasons I'm so attracted to challenges; I'm in a constant process of proving to myself that despite the difficulty I can come to a point of excellence. And honestly, I've grown to love/be a bit addicted to the rush of conquering difficulties.
A lot of my personality is a direct result of designing beforehand a special mold for myself, and then working like heck to fit it until it's become a natural part of who I am.
My parents have two go-to sayings that have stuck with me my entire life. I don't know whether they're based off of quotes or not, but I live my life by them. They are:
"Everything is always more complicated than it seems." (I am a real believer in grey area. This is why.)
"Communication is what is received, not what is sent." (It really doesn't matter what you meant to communicate; the message you actually communicated is always what the other person received from you. So listen to the people you're talking to, and understand that what they're hearing is only part of communication that matters.)
As for quotes that changed how I see the world, there's this reported quote from Joseph Smith (although my dad tells me it may be paraphrased; Truman Madsen sometimes did that when storytelling):
“Sister, when I have heard of a story about me [and he could have said there had been many], I sit down and think about it and pray about it, and I ask myself the question, ‘Did I say something or was there something about my manner to give some basis for that story to start?’ And, Sister, often if I think about it long enough I realize I have done something to give that basis. And there wells up in me a forgiveness of the person who has told that story, and a resolve that I will never do that thing again.”1
My dad told me about this quote when I was fairly young. It helped me understand how to take criticism - there's power in having the humility to try to find a lesson in everything. It's also a reminder to give people the benefit of the doubt and to try to find validity in what they're saying, even if it doesn't feel good to do so.
1From the reported recollection of Jesse W. Crosby in Cox, “Stories from Notebook,” p. 2; Andrus, They Knew, p. 14, as quoted in "Joseph Smith Lecture 6: Joseph Smith as Teacher, Speaker, and Counselor," Truman G. Madsen, available at https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/truman-g-madsen/joseph-smith-teacher-speaker-counselor/
I've shared this quotation before in previous answers, but this observation by Abraham Herschel changed the way I relate to faith and spirituality almost singlehandedly.
“It is customary to blame secular science and anti-religious philosophy for the eclipse of religion in modern society. It would be more honest to blame religion for its own defeats. Religion declined not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, insipid. When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion--its message becomes meaningless.”
I've been a voracious reader of Latter-day Saint apologetics and thought for a long time (it was a 2016 FairMormon presentation entitled "The Courage of Our Convictions" that introduced me to this quotation, and I highly recommend reading it). Personally, it's really important to me that the good news of the gospel be shared and that I'm able to make a thorough and defensible case for my thoughts and beliefs. And, as a political conservative who was socialized in a thoroughly blue state, it quickly became apparent to me growing up that being able to make one's point thoughtfully, sincerely, and kindly--in a way that others would actually want to listen to--was a lot more important than merely pounding on the cold hard facts, or the settled science, or the official doctrine. The more time I spend among friends who were irreligious and didn't care about God, the more prescient Herschel's words seem. Increasingly, people aren't asking whether or not religion is right. They're asking why they should care whether it's right, and why they should give up so much to live a life that asks them to make sacrifices. And too many people, when presented with an opportunity to answer that question with compassion and empathy, instead choose the cold, unflinching voice of authoritative truth. You don't tend to make compelling cases that way, even if all the facts are on your side. What good is it to be right if your audience no longer wants to listen?
This is probably surprising to no one, but this was never more relevant to me than it was on my mission. I can't tell you how frustrating it was to see missionaries bemoan a lack of success and blame opposition from local antagonistic churches when, to be honest, the problem (usually) had more to do with lackluster training and rote, inflexible, irrelevant teaching. I don't mean to be overly critical--certainly there were many exceptional missionaries in my mission, and I saw lots of good come about as a direct result of missionaries far better than I myself was--but for a long time in the mission there was very little genuine self-critique, very little introspection, as to how effectively we were contacting and teaching people. There were the "elect" and the "non-elect" and that was that--no question of whether it was our messaging that needed changing. I'm happy to report that by the time I left there were encouraging changes underway at all levels of the mission, but I was trained--and I know many others who were trained--with a strong emphasis on the cold hard facts of restored priesthood authority, even though it's a question that was insignificant and spoke to almost none of the concerns of the vast majority of people I taught.
So, as I've said many times before, one of the single most important qualities to me is an ability to dialogue with sensitivity and compassion, and to listen to others' needs, even in times of disagreement--because while this quote is about a supposed conflict between secularism and religion, the principle runs far deeper than that. It's not enough just to be right. If we can't learn to speak with compassion and to respond with what other people need rather than what we want to say, our ability to understand and learn from one another is greatly diminished. This applies to everything--missionary efforts, interfaith dialogue, political debate, and every other ideological conflict you can dream up. A little honest self-examination does far more good than attacking the "other" ever does.
”Autobiography of Eve” by Ansel Elkins:
Wearing nothing but snakeskin
boots, I blazed a footpath, the first
radical road out of that old kingdom
toward a new unknown.
When I came to those great flaming gates
of burning gold,
I stood alone in terror at the threshold
between Paradise and Earth.
There I heard a mysterious echo:
my own voice
singing to me from across the forbidden
side. I shook awake—
at once alive in a blaze of green fire.
Let it be known: I did not fall from grace.
"Because I have known despair, I value hope. Because I have tasted frustration, I value fulfillment. Because I have been lonely, I value love." (Leonard Nimoy)
"We must do all we can do without destroying our ability to keep doing it." - Orson Scott Card, Xenocide
I just think a lot comes back to this. First off, it hits on our moral responsibility to do things. We are supposed to be working towards worthwhile causes - self improvement, helping others, etc. etc. etc. But it also gets at the element of moderation that I think helps that goal feel more achievable. It's not about running yourself to death and still feeling like you didn't accomplish enough. So frequently, the right answer is for us to allocate our resources and efforts in a way that isn't "running faster than we have strength," to adapt the scripture. Instead, we are trying to preserve and build upon our ability to act for good, and that means taking care of ourselves as well.
Dear My Name Here,
I have a couple of poems (or excerpts, in one case) framed above my piano. They are basically my thesis statements. I was going to try only quoting part of one of them, "The Journey" by Mary Oliver, but it turns out I cannot really edit it down.
One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice,
though the whole house began to tremble
and you felt the old tug at your ankles.
"Mend my life!" each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried with its still fingers
at the very foundations, though their melancholy was terrible.
It was already late enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen branches and stones.
But little by little, as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds.
There was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own
that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world,
determined to do the only thing you could do, determined to save
the only life you could save.
If you read the Board between 2008 and 2010 you may know a bit about how compassionate and codependent I can be. I used to be almost completely consumed with the (real, pressing, painful) issues of others, even as my own life had become completely unmanageable. It has been a really hard transition to try to make, and I still haven't made it completely. This framing of the issue is helpful for me.
Next to "The Journey" is an excerpt from "I Sing the Body Electric, Especially When My Power is Out" by Andrea Gibson. Those lines go like this:
I said to the the sun
“Tell me about the big bang”
The sun said
“it hurts to become”
I have had a lot of huge scary changes I have had to make to how I used to see and interact with the world. It has been an intensely painful process, and the first section helps me remember that it is natural that it should be painful. I'm currently trying to recover from borderline personality disorder and C-PTSD, and that therapeutic process takes years. My therapist called one particularly ghastly months-long transitional period "the betwixt and between." I called it "the valley of the shadow of death." Sometimes it is extremely difficult to keep going, because so much of what I have to do and get good at to recover are my literal least favorite activities on this earth. These lines help me remember that while it can be painful and heavy, it is the way of things and it is and potentially worthwhile.
Other very potential answers to this question are the famous Buddy Wakefield line, "Go find your spine and ride it out of here," and the line "Tyler Clementi dove into the Hudson River convinced he was entirely alone. My bones said, write the poems," from Andrea Gibson's "The Madness Vase."
- The Black Sheep
Dear My Name Here,
All things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.
Fun fact: from ages like 10 -14 I was obsessed with "quotes". I thought that "quotes" were discrete morsels that people made and presented, fully formed and without surrounding context. Over the years I figured out that quotes are just things people said or wrote that were pulled from a greater work. I totally forgot about that until this question, and now I'm remembering how weird and hilarious that was. But yeah, I spent hours and hours collecting quotes I thought sounded good. Now I know I was really just studying philosophy in bytes. That hobby probably had a big hand in developing my basic sense of morality, tbh.
So, back then I consumed a lot of cross-stitch wisdom, which would now be considered cliche but really had a lot to do with how I thought about the world. This makes it really hard to pick one most influential quote, but I was seriously constantly ingesting them. I was a big fan of Ralph Waldo Emerson:
These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world. Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members... It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs...Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness.
I'll give two:
"One night my father came to me in a dream. I began to chide him for not helping me know what to do. He said he was aware of my situation but he was busy where he was and his former business was not terribly important. 'Chris, we really don’t care about the business up here,' he said. 'What we care about very much is what you become because of your business.'"
This is from a dream J. Christopher Lansing's dream he had while struggling to keep his father's business afloat. And you can get the same lesson from countless philosophers and even playing D&D—succeeding in life is great, and failures suck, but it's really who you become in the midst of it all that really matters.
"The kingdom of God is within you."
From Jesus. As elucidated here, this tells us both what heaven is and what it's not. It's who we are, not a place we go when we die (though I do hope it can outlast death). It's how we treat others, not what arbitrary rules we obey. It's knowable here, now. Any physical second coming of Jesus will be secondary to the coming of Jesus into hearts and relationships around the world, whether or not they know God by that name. If I want to live in the kingdom of God, I must be the kingdom of God here and now.
"There is no ethical consumption under capitalism."