Voices in the Evening by Natalia Ginzburg

★★★☆☆ (3/5)

A selection of my favourite passages from the book

  • If one does not go about and show oneself, people say that such a person is giving himself airs, and they don’t seek one out any more.
  • He would answer the simplest questions with confused and rambling explanations which faded away slowly on the sad wave of that burr.
  • ‘Happiness,’ he said, ‘always seems nothing. It is like water; one only realizes it when it has run away.’
  • She said that all Balotta’s children, for one thing or another, dead or alive, had always had eccentric ideas and had brought trouble on themselves.

  • ‘In the village,’ he said, I don’t feel free. Everything weighs on me.’ ‘What weighs on you?” ‘Everything weighs on me,’ he said, ‘everything— Putillo, the factory, Gemmina, and even the dead. Even the dead—do you understand?—weigh on me. ‘Some day or other,’ he said, ‘I shall pack it up and go away.’
  • ‘You have told this story to me millions of times,’ said my father. ‘Why do you want to bother Tommasino with it, with persons he has never seen and never will see?’
  • ‘I do not,’ I said, ‘put you away from me. I keep you there among my things. If I did not, there are times when I could not put up with my picture frame.’ ‘You put up with it,’ he said, ‘before l existed for you.’ ‘Yes, I did,’ said. ‘It irked me, but I put up with it. But I did not know then that life could have another pace. I imagined one vaguely, but I did not know.’
  • What I think about now, I tell a little of it to myself, and then I bury it, I send it underground. Then, little by little, I shall not tell things any more even to myself, I shall drive everything underground at once, every random thought, before it can take shape.
  • And when one sees the things of the future so clearly as though they were already happening, it is a sign that they should never happen. They have already happened in a sense in our minds, and it is really not possible to experience them further.

Thoughts in Solitude by Thomas Merton

★★☆☆☆ (2/5)

A selection of my favourite passages from the book

  • Before we can see that created things (especially material) are unreal, we must see clearly that they are real.download
  • Temperament does not predestine one man to sanctity and another to reprobation. All temperaments can serve as the material for ruin or for salvation.
  • If we make good use of what we have, if we make it serve our good desires, we can do better than another who merely serves his temperament instead of making it serve him.
  • But human freedom does not act in a moral vacuum. Nor is it necessary to produce such a vacuum in order to guarantee the freedom of our activity. Coercion from outside, strong temperamental inclinations and passions within ourselves, do nothing to affect the essence of our freedom. They simply define its action by imposing certain limits on it. They give it a peculiar character of its own.
  • If we really deny ourselves, our self-denial will sometimes even deprive us of things we really need. Therefore we will feel the need of them.
  • Nor does the spiritual life exclude thought and feeling. It needs both. It is not just a life concentrated at the “high point” of the soul, a life from which the mind and the imagination and the body are excluded. If it were so, few people could lead it. And again, if that were the spiritual life, it would not be a life at all. If man is to live, he must be all alive, body, soul, mind, heart, spirit.
  • A purely mental life may be destructive if it leads us to substitute thought for life and ideas for actions.
  • The activity proper to man is not purely mental because man is not just a disembodied mind. Our destiny is to live out what we think, because unless we live what we know, we do not even know it. It is only by making our knowledge part of ourselves, through action, that we enter into the reality that is signified by our concepts.
  • Self-conquest is really self-surrender. Yet before we can surrender ourselves we must become ourselves. For no one can give up what he does not possess.
  • Discretion warns us against wasted effort: but for the coward all effort is wasted effort.
  • Without courage we can never attain to true simplicity. Cowardice keeps us “double minded” —hesitating between the world and God. In this hesitation, there is no true faith—faith remains an opinion.
  • The proud man claims honor for having what no one else has. The humble man begs for a share in what everybody else has received.
  • Meditative prayer is a stern discipline, and one which cannot be learned by violence. It requires unending courage and perseverance, and those who are not willing to work at it patiently will finally end in compromise. Here, as elsewhere, compromise is only another name for failure.
  • In meditative prayer, one thinks and speaks not only with his mind and lips, but in a certain sense with his whole being. Prayer is then not just a formula of words, or a series of desires springing up in the heart—it is the orientation of our whole body, mind and spirit to God in silence, attention, and adoration.
  • you want to have a spiritual life you must unify your life. A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all. No man can serve two masters. Your life is shaped by the end you live for.
  • And yet we, who can have many things we don’t need and many more which are scandalous for us to have—we are poor, because we have them with permission!
  • Great though books may be, friends though they may be to us, they are no substitute for persons, they are only means of contact with great persons, with men who had more than their own share of humanity, men who were persons for the whole world and not for themselves alone.
  • A humility that freezes our being and frustrates all healthy activity is not humility at all, but a disguised form of pride.
  • In our age everything has to be a “problem.” Ours is a time of anxiety because we have willed it to be so. Our anxiety is not imposed on us by force from outside. We impose it on our world and upon one another from within ourselves.
  • A man knows when he has found his vocation when he stops thinking about how to live and begins to live. Thus, if one is called to be a solitary, he will stop wondering how he is to live and start living peacefully only when he is in solitude.
  • It is not speaking that breaks our silence, but the anxiety to be heard. The words of the proud man impose silence on all others, so that he alone may be heard. The humble man speaks only in order to be spoken to. The humble man asks nothing but an alms, then waits and listens.
  • When we receive our solitude by intervals, we taste its value by contrast with another value. When we really live alone, there is no contrast.
  • Landscape is a good liberator from all such images, for it calms and pacifies the imagination and the emotions
  • Do not flee to solitude from the community. Find God first in the community, then He will lead you to solitude.
  • A man cannot understand the true value of silence unless he has a real respect for the validity of language: for the reality which is expressible in language is found, face to face and without medium, in silence. Nor would we find this reality in itself, that is to say in its own silence, unless we were first brought there by language.
  • God does not tell His purest secrets to one who is prepared to reveal them. He has secrets which He tells to those who will communicate some idea of them to others. But these secrets are the common property of many. He has other secrets, which cannot be told. The mere desire to tell them makes us incapable of receiving them.

Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Hector Garcia

★★★☆☆ (3/5)

A selection of my favourite passages from the book

  • There is a tension between what is good for someone and what they want to do. This is because people, especially older people, like to do things as they’ve always done them. The problem is that when the brain develops ingrained habits, it doesn’t need to think anymore. Things get done quickly and efficiently on automatic pilot, often in a very advantageous way. This creates a tendency to stick to routines, and the only way of breaking these is to confront the brain with new information.
  • The central premise of this stress-reduction method is focusing on the self: noticing our responses, even if they are conditioned by habit, in order to be fully conscious of them. In this way, we connect with the here and now and limit thoughts that tend to spiral out of control.
  • A stoic attitude—serenity in the face of a setback—can also help keep you young, as it lowers anxiety and stress levels and stabilizes behavior.
  • “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
  • Limits itself to the patient’s instincts.    Also deals with spiritual realities.    Is fundamentally incompatible with faith.    Is compatible with faith.    Seeks to reconcile conflicts and satisfy impulses and instincts.    Seeks to help the patient find meaning in his life and satisfy his moral principles.
  • “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.”
  • We all have the capacity to do noble or terrible things. The side of the equation we end up on depends on our decisions, not on the condition in which we find ourselves.
  • In Frankl’s view, the man not only didn’t need all those years of psychoanalysis, he also couldn’t even really be considered a “patient” in need of therapy. He was simply someone in search of a new life’s purpose; as soon as he found it, his life took on deeper meaning.
  • In the West, we tend to believe that what we think influences how we feel, which in turn influences how we act. In contrast, Morita therapy focuses on teaching patients to accept their emotions without trying to control them, since their feelings will change as a result of their actions.
  • Morita therapy is not meant to eliminate symptoms; instead it teaches us to accept our desires, anxieties, fears, and worries, and let them go.
  • “If we try to get rid of one wave with another, we end up with an infinite sea.”
  • “To be able to concentrate for a considerable amount of time is essential to difficult achievement.”
  • Bertrand Russell expressed a similar idea when he said, “To be able to concentrate for a considerable amount of time is essential to difficult achievement.”
  • Our brains can take in millions of bits of information but can only actually process a few dozen per second. When we say we’re multitasking, what we’re really doing is switching back and forth between tasks very quickly. Unfortunately, we’re not computers adept at parallel processing. We end up spending all our energy alternating between tasks, instead of focusing on doing one of them well.
  • If we’re not truly being challenged, we get bored and add a layer of complexity to amuse ourselves.
  • Write all of them on a piece of paper, then ask yourself these questions: What do the activities that drive you to flow have in common? Why do those activities drive you to flow? For example, are all the activities you most like doing ones that you practice alone or with other people? Do you flow more when doing things that require you to move your body or just to think?
  • Art, in all its forms, is an ikigai that can bring happiness and purpose to our days. Enjoying or creating beauty is free, and something all human beings have access to.
  • Never Stop Learning “You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then—to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.” —T. H. White, The Once and Future King

A Declaration from the Town Where People Live Longest
At 80 I am still a child.
When I come to see you at 90,
send me away to wait until I’m 100.
The older, the stronger;
let us not depend too much on our children as we age.
If you seek long life and health,
you are welcome in our village,
where you will be blessed by nature,
and together we will discover the secret to longevity.
-April 23, 1993 Ogimi Federation of Senior Citizen Clubs

  • It might seem basic, but in our modern lives, we can spend days without raising our arms above our ears. Think about it: our arms are down when using computers, when using smartphones, when reading books. One of the few times we raise our hands over our heads is when reaching for something in a cupboard or closet, while our ancestors were raising their hands over their heads all the time when gathering things from trees.
  • “Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better”

Every now and then you stumble upon a few lines, so perfectly crafted, so dense, so unforgettable, that you are forced to take hold of yourself, breathe in deeply and pause…right there, amidst the pages, between the transition. You shut your eyes tightly, as if resetting, and open again, slowly, resting your sight on the first word once again. You are now ready to receive the beauty of worlds unfolding before your eyes for a second time.

This gem is from Zora Neale Hurston’s masterpiece “Their Eyes were Watching God”