Collected Aphorisms 2014

Editorial Note:  I have been asked by a small number of people over the last few years if I were going to write a book with my pithy thoughts and aphorisms.  I probably won’t because books are expensive to produce and I would like what I’ve learned from my mistakes to be freely available to anyone who wants to use it or to critique my youthful and not-so-youthful stupidity.  So I’ve collected some of my thoughts from the past year for those who are interested to review them and ponder or laugh at how silly I am.  Whichever.  See my thoughts from 2011, 2012, and 2013 if you care to.

December 31st, 2014 – An ending is a beginning that has run its course. Let us embrace our beginnings in such a way that all we have left to do when they have run their course is to celebrate their endings.

December 25th, 2014 – It is not ideas that liberate us; ideas show us our destination. Liberation is achieved through practice, habit, and discipline. Those who languish in the realm of ideas will remain chained in their midst, always seeking another idea and finding one after another that inevitably fails to liberate them.

December 23rd, 2014 – It is a glorious paradox of life that we can find our center by seeking out our limits.

December 18th, 2014 – Love in the deepest and most meaningful sense is not something we fall into; it is not something we find; it is not merely a sensation we experience. We act our way into love by thousands of small acts of giving of ourselves to others; we become love by keeping our focus on love so strongly that we leave no room for indifference or hatred in our lives.

December 15th, 2014 – We should not seek relationships with others to fill the holes in our lives; we should seek relationships with others because we want to share with them what is healthy about our lives, because we want to share the goodness overflowing our hearts with others, and because together we can make that goodness even more abundant in the world.

December 11th, 2014 – A few moments with a great person can turn an awful day into a wonderful day. So let us seek to be great people.

December 9th, 2014 – Not trusting just anyone with everything is a sign of prudence. Not trusting oneself with everything is a sign of maturity.

December 5th, 2014 – For those who can read it, the story of our traumatic experiences is written on our personalities by the behaviors we use to cope with bearing the weight of those experiences. We don’t get to decide whether or not the story is told, but we do get to decide whether that story is one of defining ourselves by those hurtful experiences and living in them for the rest of our lives or one of transcending those experiences and living the rest of our lives unbound by them.

December 2nd, 2014 – The end of the vice of pride is the beginning of the path to wisdom.

November 30th, 2014 – It’s true that I would rather be the owner of a lonely heart than a broken heart, but fortunately those are not the only options.

November 28th, 2014 – Doubt is an invitation to carefully and methodically work our way to the truth; doubt is not an excuse for us to avoid the hard work of finding the truth in favor of wallowing in the perpetual certainty of having something about which we can be uncertain.

November 28th, 2014 – Philosophical discipline is not useful because it allows us to prove ourselves correct; it is useful because it allows us to understand how difficult it is to arrive at correctness by showing us how often we are incorrect.

November 26th, 2014 – The life of a mystic is made possible by the lifestyle of the ascetic; asceticism is the process of separating ourselves from the addictions and pathologies preventing us from reaching true unity with the human family and the divine family. Asceticism creates the space we need in our lives to grow in healthy relationship so as to achieve the goal of the mystic.

November 25th, 2014 – Sharing our opinions is almost always less useful than reaching out in love to try to understand the perspective of others.

November 23rd, 2014 – Loving the idea of people or the abstract qualities of persons is no virtue because it is easy to love when we are blinded to the faults of others, and virtue is not an easy thing. Love requires us to meet people in their brokenness, to reach into their messy lives with a helping hand when they ask for help, to risk inconvenience and harm to ourselves for the benefit of others. A love that will not take risks for others is not a love at all.

November 21st, 2014 – It’s a good thing to look down on other people as long as you look down on them with compassion and seek to help them up so that you can walk with them on their journey.

November 15th, 2014 – There will always be something that motivates us, something we use to cope with life, and something we believe in deeply. Will we choose love or fear as our motivation? Will we choose our addictions or self-denial as our coping mechanism? Will we believe in what leads us to love or believe in what rationalizes our hate?

November 11th, 2014 – Even when by any external objective measure, a sacrifice was for nothing, it is still true that a sacrifice is a gift offered in love, and thus is for everything.

November 10th, 2014 – The most important freedom is not given to us by our fellow citizens or a Constitution, but by our removal of the chains of our addictions and pathologies from our hearts and minds.

November 9th, 2014 – Love is best when shared and given while it is fresh; love spoils when left hidden too long.

November 8th, 2014 – One of the terrible things about our addictions is that they are so often a barrier between us and deeper relationships.  Addictions are buffers we place between us and reality so that we can assure the temporary comfort of the ego, buffers that also frequently come between us and those we love who live in that reality.  As we make more and more space for our egos with our addictions, we have less and less space for the deeper relationships which require us to move that ego out of the way so that the relationship can flourish.

November 6th, 2014 – It is a wondrous paradox of life that self-denial is a process of letting go of our pathologies and addictions so that our best self can be gradually revealed.

November 5th, 2014 – Though we may think that we have nothing left to give, the truth is that we can always give thanks, a gift of great importance indeed.

November 3rd, 2014 – We all have a choice between giving of ourselves and giving to our selves; we can feed those who are hungry among our brothers and sisters or feed our egos with our own pleasures until they are so large that we no longer have any room in our lives for our brothers and sisters.

November 3rd, 2014 – Our strengths are not meant to merely aid us in lifting ourselves up to new heights; our strengths are also meant to enable us to lift others up to new heights along with us, to reach out and help carry the burdens of others in solidarity with them so that they can grow stronger in themselves. Our strengths are greatest when we strengthen others through them.

November 2nd, 2014 – The addictions that harm us the most are the ones we believe to be most beneficial. We cling to them more strongly when someone tries to take those addictions away, driving their barbs more deeply into us. These are the addictions we most need to abandon and the most difficult addictions for us to abandon.

October 30th, 2014 – Forgiveness is important because it is a beginning, not because it is an end. Forgiveness helps us to move the wrongs we have committed out of way to create an opportunity to build something good in the place of those wrongs.  Forgiveness allows us to bridge a chasm in our relationship caused by a wounding, a bridge we can then cross to build a joyful relationship of healthy mutuality.

October 27th, 2014 – It takes great strength to bear one’s own pain in peace. It takes greater strength to bear another’s expressions of pain in peace. It takes the greatest strength to reach out and embrace another’s pain as if it were your own, loving to death their internal war and bringing them peace.

October 26th, 2014 – As a child, my moral goal was to not be a bad person. As a youth, my moral goal was to be a good person. As an adult, my moral goal is to be a person of the highest virtue, to turn away from both what is evil and from what is merely acceptable toward what is most excellent, what is most true, and what is most beautiful.

October 24th, 2014 – Love isn’t a skill which we can master in this life; there is no easy technique for love that we can learn from a teacher. Love is learned through the painful process of gradually separating ourselves from the many things that separate us from acts of loving kindness.

October 20th, 2014 – I much prefer a friend who would risk harming our friendship to tell me the truth over a friend who would risk harming the truth to maintain our friendship.

October 18th, 2014 – Our practice of a religion must move away from a gut-wrenching “No!” to what has wounded us and move toward a serene “Yes!” to what will heal us of those wounds so that we can reach out to those who have wounded us and help them to heal as well.

October 17th, 2014 – Good should not be a feeling which passes over or through us; by doing good consistently we become good and suffuse our being with goodness in such a way that a mere passing experience of feeling good seems drab and empty by comparison.

October 15th, 2014 – The truth may set us free, but most of us would rather not be free of our ideologies. We like the comfort of those chains of ideology that keep us away from those pesky facts that might force us to let those chains go.

October 14th, 2014 – I have learned that the trick to finding the answers is to stop worrying about what the answers are going to be and instead focus on developing the capacity to ask the most precise and meaningful questions. Finding the correct answers only becomes possible once we have formulated the questions correctly.

October 13th, 2014 -Writing poetry starts with a feeling. Sometimes the feeling is something coiled and ready to spring open. It may have been waiting for years to be expressed.

It’s like a star collapsing in upon itself, compressing until it can no longer be compressed, then exploding outward in trillions of pieces, the infintesimal invisible particles somehow creating a magnificent halo visible from millions of miles away.

Poetry transforms the invisible into the visceral.

October 12th, 2014 – Loving ain’t always easy, but it is always worth it.

October 11th, 2014 – Most people love as best they know how to love with the understanding of love they’ve been taught. Our problem is usually not that we are unwilling to love, but rather that we don’t yet fully understand what it is to love.

October 4th, 2014 – Secrecy is an easy way to kill trust, and honesty is a hard way to build trust. I prefer to do things the hard way.

October 4th, 2014 – Atonement is not some quirky act of self-flagellation; it is a beautiful act in which we move with loving kindness to make our relationships whole by repairing them where we have neglected to treat them with the consistent tenderness that reflects their true importance.

October 2nd, 2014 – Love isn’t always on time, but it should be welcomed with joy at the time it arrives.

October 1st, 2014 – It often takes many days to understand that the difficulties of one day will pass away, that one way or another we will pass through them, hopefully with greater love to give the next day.

September 29th, 2014 – La vida loca es la vida sin sentido.  (English Translation:  The insane life is the life without meaning.)

September 25th, 2014 – The journey toward healing is in large part a process of moving our psyches out of the trap of continuously reacting to our past traumas in our decisions about present difficulties, leaving us free to create a future in which we make choices unchained from our wounds.

September 24th, 2014 – If we want to learn how to love our enemies, then we should begin by learning how to love ourselves, for we are often our own worst enemies and thus the best person on which to practice the love of an enemy.

September 23rd, 2014 – It sometimes helps me to remember that a bad day is a drop in the ocean of the times of my life, and that it’s a great opportunity to appreciate all the good times of my life.

September 21st, 2014 – La via dolorosa es la via solamente.  (English Translation: The way of suffering is the only way.)

September 20th, 2014 – It’s easy to make a hasty decision because we’ve been hurt by someone or something. It’s much more difficult and much better to take a moment to slow down and reconsider that decision in light of our love and gratitude. As much as possible, our decisions should come from love rather than our wounds.

September 17th, 2014 – Life is a journey full of small steps, stumbles, and crawling toward becoming the best person we can be. Every moment is an opportunity to move toward that better person or to slip back into our same old comfortable selves which wallow in our current unhealthy habits.

September 16th, 2014 – The best way to tell someone that you love them is to stop telling them and show them by your actions instead.

September 9th, 2014 – Sometimes good things need to end so that better things can begin.

September 6th, 2014 – If we begin to think that we have overcome our confirmation bias, then it’s most likely the case that our confirmation bias has overcome us.

August 30th, 2014 – Whether the rule is that we greet those we love with a kiss, a hug, or a handshake, the fundamental truth remains the same; the rules of our relationships are what help us to effectively communicate to one another our deep love and respect for each person. A lack of rules does precisely the opposite; it communicates to others that our personal predilections of the moment are more valuable to us than the relationship we share with others, that our needs come before theirs rather than being in balance with them. When we choose to follow the rules of love, we choose in each instance, over and over, to move gradually beyond valuing our mere passing desires toward valuing the relationship which fulfills our deep and lasting desires of the heart.

August 26th, 2014 – I can’t get everything done in a day, but I can get a lot done if I stop worrying about getting everything done.

August 25th, 2014 – When love becomes a one way street, it usually reaches a dead end pretty quickly.

August 13th, 2014 – Some days, my greatest accomplishment is giving up, letting go, and stepping back so that I can see that what looks like a mountain is actually a molehill.

August 11th, 2014 – Relationships are often viewed as a means of getting to know another person in order to satisfy our transient emotional needs. I tend to think that relationships are a great way to learn about ourselves as well, as long as we are willing to view our flaws and gifts in the mirror of another’s love for us, thus satisfying our deepest need.

July 27th, 2014 – As I get older, I am progressively less concerned with how best to survive and more concerned with how best to love.

July 24th, 2014 – Every thing fades away and disappears in the course of time. Fortunately, that which is most valuable is not a thing.

July 21st, 2014 – Los muertos son las personas sin amor. (English Translation: The dead are the people without love.)

July 8th, 2014 – Life is a great mystery. The best part of it is that we never quite figure it all out.

July 3rd, 2014 – I find that to truly love someone, I have to move beyond liking them; I love more deeply when the initial luster of the relationship has worn off and I choose to be with them not as a means of producing pleasant feelings, but because I will the good for both of us.

June 24th, 2014 – Loss is not merely a tragedy; it is also an opportunity to become more than we are so as to fill the space left by that which we have lost.

June 19th, 2014 – Perhaps the things we need the most aren’t things.

June 8th, 2014 – I agree with Nietzsche that the will itself is what is saved through ascetical practices. The ascetic gradually rescues the will from the clutches of transient desires and whims, from that most terrible slavery of a constant submission to the ego.

June 2nd, 2014 – It takes strength of character to bear one’s own suffering with dignity. It takes even more to share in the sufferings of others and bear them as well. The most difficult of all is to let others share in our sufferings when we are afraid to let them be seen.

May 12th, 2014 – Love always breaks our hearts one way or another, and if we let it, love breaks the walls around our hearts so that we might let more love in to help us begin to heal. Love breaks our hearts so that they can be put back together stronger than ever.

May 11th, 2014 – The monster of pride cannot be reasoned away with the best argumentation. It cannot be pushed away by the strongest arms. It cannot be driven away by our desire. It must be loved to death by acts of humility.

May 11th, 2014 – There are many forms of courage, but the courage of a mother is special indeed. She has the courage to carry a new person within her and risk her life for them without ever knowing who they will become. She has the courage to care for the child even when the child hates her and spurns her in their childish ingratitude. She has the courage to stand up to anything to protect her child from harm. A mother has the courage to sacrifice and not count the cost, and that’s an example we can all learn from.

May 1st, 2014 – The first step to having a healthy relationship that is fulfilling and meaningful to you is not to find the right person, but rather to be the right person.

April 30th, 2014 – Inequalities are not created equal.

April 23rd, 2014 – In the liturgy, we lift up our hearts in love and are lifted up in the embrace of divine love, and by this love we gradually put to death those parts of us that can not partake of divine love.

April 14th, 2014 – The practice of philosophy should be performed at the boundaries of our understanding and thereby allow us to learn how very little we know. It should expose our inconsistencies, fallacies, and cognitive errors so that we can improve our thought process after seeing how very much we need to improve it. The lovers of wisdom must realize how little wisdom they have in order to understand the immense effort required to acquire more of it and to put forth that effort into the quest for truth.

April 13th, 2014 – We would all like to change our lives, but many of us would prefer not to have to change ourselves at all in the process. Changing ourselves is by far the most effective means we have of changing our lives, so we should not be surprised that our lives do not change very much when we don’t change ourselves very much.

April 12th, 2014 – The starving do not just need our food. The poor do not just need our money. The weak do not just need our strength. They need our understanding; we must know what it is to be hungry, to be poor, to be weak. If we do not allow ourselves to experience suffering, then we become less able to be in solidarity with those whose lives are drowning in suffering. And not understanding them, we may all too often pass them by entirely.

April 2nd, 2014 – If you would have liberty, take responsibility for your actions and thereby recognize your own liberty. If you do not take care of your own liberty through responsibility, others are unlikely to respect it or recognize that you need it. Without responsibility to nourish it, liberty withers on the vine and bears no good fruit.

March 24th, 2014 – Sometimes re-entering the past is the best way to orient oneself toward the future; just don’t get stuck in that past and let it cover you in a blanket of cozy nostalgia that keeps you from awaking to that future.

March 23rd, 2014 – The good life is a life in which we manage to kill our unhealthy egotistical desires before they kill us.

March 21st, 2014 – Many people look to the acquisition of wealth as a means of finding happiness. Beyond having enough money to provide for your needs, money increases contentment and comfort rather than happiness. This contentment and comfort often lead you away from happiness because they remove various motivations for the genuine growth which allows us to move toward happiness and away from all that we don’t need in life that’s taking up the time and energy we could use to build the joy and peace we so desire. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable if you want to be happy.

March 19th, 2014 – When life seems to be dragging you down, take a look at what you’re carrying with you each day and you’ll usually find at least one thing you can let go of to lighten your load. Maybe it’s negative thoughts, bad feelings, or needless stuff cluttering things up. Whatever it is, drop it so that you can move forward with life being less of a drag.

March 9th, 2014 – Asceticism divorced from mysticism is in danger of becoming merely a habit of useless self-flagellation. Mysticism divorced from asceticism is in danger of becoming merely a habit of useless self-validation. Either mysticism or asceticism not centered on the goal of cultivating love for one’s fellow human beings is worse than useless.

March 5th, 2014 – Healthy relationships with others will cause growth in your own life; growth in your own life will strengthen healthy relationships. Growth in our relationships reinforces the growth taking place in us, leading to a synergistic improvement in all aspects of life.   But for this to happen, we must first remove the wall which keeps us from growing in our own lives or in sharing the lives of others: pride.

February 28th, 2014 – Life is a puzzle, but not like a puzzle that we find in the boxes at toy stores. Those puzzles only have one way to solve them, and the solution is not of our choosing. The solution to the puzzle of life is chosen; we decide what will be the central piece around which we build our life, and as we keep our focus on that central piece our decisions shape the puzzle such that the pieces of our life begin to fit around it, slowly filling in our life’s puzzle with the consequences of our choice of focus.

February 2nd, 2014 – Freedom is being able to choose without coercion by the ego. It is easy to say Yes to what we like and No to what we don’t like with the ego pushing us. To be free we must also learn how to say Yes to things we don’t like and No to things we do like.

January 26th, 2014 – True compassion isn’t just a warm and fuzzy feeling towards others; compassion grows from humility, the understanding and acceptance of our own weaknesses and limitations. Once we understand and accept our own weaknesses, the weaknesses of others become understandable and acceptable as well, allowing us to participate in their vulnerability while helping them to move through it and overcome it.

January 25th, 2014 – The problem with having no government is that the strong will often oppress the weak. The problem with having government is that it often becomes the mechanism by which the strong oppress the weak. This makes me suspect that the real problem here is not the government or lack thereof, but the failure of human beings to treat each other with love, dignity, and mutual respect.

January 23rd, 2014 – The insecurities of others should not be the measure of your conduct; your own insecurities should not be the measure of the conduct of others.

January 13th, 2014 – Our thoughts shape our behaviors, which means that if we want to consistently behave constructively then we must first discipline ourselves to think constructively.

January 12th, 2014 – Shed your addictions; one by one our unhealthy attachments to things and pleasures must be knocked down and out of our way so that we can arrive at the place of peace where we find perfect freedom.

January 1st, 2014 – I look forward to another year to walk on my path toward a life of discipline and passion for loving service. The journey will require more of me than ever before, and I accept the challenge happily with the knowledge that it means growing into a new person.

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2 Responses to Collected Aphorisms 2014

  1. Pingback: Collected Aphorisms 2015 | Isorropia

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