Category: Quotes

A New Refutation of Time

Close up of fire

Time is a river that carries me away, but I am the river; it is a tiger that destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire.

Jorge Luis Borges, A New Refutation of Time

I was nineteen when I discovered Borges, as a first-year university student, an age when the world is still new and discoveries have a deep emotional effect. Reading Labyrinths for the first time is one of the motley experiences that shaped me into the person I am today.

The Refutation of Time (1946), an elegant essay on time, was later included in the Labyrinths volume from 1962. A mere quotation fails to convey Borges’ richness of thought, unexpected connections, and elegant prose.

If you haven’t read anything by Borges, I urge you to do so. I envy you the thrill of reading him for the first time.

Two books of Jorge Luis Borges

The first Borges books I bought back in the day from my meager student allowance. I still read them every few years, always remembering the joy I had experienced the first time. He imagined the universe as a library. Need I say more?


The Theory Of Willlessness

A pine tree top against a background of dark storm clouds.
Before the storm. Photo © Mihaela Limberea

Nothing can be willed into being, only waited on, for, or waited out.

A.K. Ramanujan from “Journeys: A Poet’s Diary”

I often find myself thinking of Ramanujan‘s words, especially when the blank page stares at me, the cursor steadily flickering its accusatory blink. I delete more than I write. The inner critic is always on duty. But write I do, in the end. After all, “you can always edit a bad page; you can’t edit a blank page”. Jodi Picoult would know.


Fragmentary Blue

Man and Pegasus statue by Carl Milles, at Millesgården, Sweden. Photo © Mihaela Limberea www.limberea.com
Man and Pegasus by Carl Milles, Millesgården, Sweden. Photo © Mihaela Limberea

Why make so much of fragmentary blue

In here and there a bird, or butterfly,

Or flower, or wearing-stone, or open eye,

When heaven presents in sheets the solid hue?

Since earth is earth, perhaps, not heaven (as yet)—

Though some savants make earth include the sky;

And blue so far above us comes so high,

It only gives our wish for blue a whet.

by Robert Frost (1874–1963)


Cultivate The Habit Of Zest

Shadows of leaves over a parking sport in black and white. www.limberea.com
Photo © Mihaela Limberea

Cultivate the habit of zest. Purposefully seek out the beauty in the seemingly trivial. Especially in the trivial. The colors and shapes of the foods you eat. The shadows a vase makes on your table. The interesting faces of the people on the bus with you. – Karen Salmansohn

I snapped the image above with my iPhone (remember, the best camera is the one that you have with you) on my daily walk. A play of light and shadows, tree branches over a parking spot.

I’d make this the first rule of photography: always bring the camera; and your attention.


The Fairest Thing We Can Experience Is The Mysterious

Angel Musicians by Carl Milles at Millesgården, Stockholm. Photo © Mihaela Limberea

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He who does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead, a sniffed-out candle. – Albert Einstein


There Is No Time For Despair

Photo © Mihaela Limberea

This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. This is how civilizations heal. I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge – even wisdom. Like art. – Toni Morrison

As always, books are comforting. Both to write and to read. To give away, to loan, or to borrow. To read aloud or listen to. A shelter from the madness outside. Consolation. Oh, the “sweet serenity of books” as Longfellow puts it. 

I write a bit, I delete a bit more, I pause, I stare through the window at the rough sea and the white clouds of surf. A blackbird jumps back and forth on the grass, looking for worms. The cat suns herself, lazily licking her paw. I write away the virus, the anxiety, the madding crowd.


The Rising Moon

Photo © Mihaela Limberea

Since my house burned down

I now have a better view

of the rising moon

Mizuta Masahide (1657–1723) 

Amid the alarming corona reports, fake news and yes, fear and anxiety, Masahide reminds us that beauty can be found everywhere, even in challenging times. We only need to pay attention.

So, take a break from your busyness, look around and see the world as it were new.


Our Uncertain Future, Temporarily Arrested

Photo © Mihaela Limberea

As for whether this is the last time we will hear a new Bob Dylan song. I certainly hope not. But perhaps there is some wisdom in treating all songs, or for that matter, all experiences, with a certain care and reverence, as if encountering these things for the last time. I say this not just in the light of the novel coronavirus, rather that it is an eloquent way to lead one’s life and to appreciate the here and now, by savouring it as if it were for the last time. To have a drink with a friend as if it were the last time, to eat with your family as it were the last time, to read to your child as if it were the last time, or indeed, to sit in the kitchen listening to a new Bob Dylan song as if it were the last time. It permeates all that we do with greater meaning, placing us within the present, our uncertain future, temporarily arrested.

Nick Cave, the Australian singer, songwriter and front figure of the rock band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, on a question about Bob Dylan’s latest song in his Red Hand Files (where he answers questions from fans).


Our Power Is Patience

“Novelists are not only unusually depressed, by and large, but have, on the average, about the same IQ as the cosmetics consultants at Bloomingdale’s department store. Our power is patience. We have discovered that writing allows even a stupid person to seem halfway intelligent, if only that person will write the same thought over and over again, improving it just a little bit each time. It is a lot like inflating a blimp with a bicycle pump. Anybody can do it. All it takes is time.”

Photo © Mihaela Limberea

I find solace in this Kurt Vonnegut quote in my moments of doubt, struggling with a text that doesn’t resemble in any way the picture I have in my head. I continue hammering at the keyboard, hoping to reach that exhilarating state when everything becomes possible.

From Suzanne McConnell’s book, Pity the Reader: On Writing with Style.


The Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself

One thing that seems to be spreading faster than the coronavirus is fear. I’ve stopped checking social media and the internet in general to avoid conspiration theories, self-appointed pandemic experts and doomsday prophets. I sometimes browse both for a few minutes (who am I kidding?) for a couple of hours, and it scares me (pun intended). Every time. Fear is now tangible. Palpable. Everywhere.

There are a lot of questions and few answers.

How long will this virus keep the whole world in its grasp? Will there be a vaccine? Will I or my family get sick? What happens with the economy? My job? Will life go back to the normal, ever?

Fear is normal, it’s a complex survival mechanism that serves us well. Living in a constant state of fear is not. Scared people are dangerous people. You never know what they’ll do, how they’re going to react when things get worse. When the reptile brain would simply take over and overwrite common sense and decency.

Others may become completely paralyzed, like deer caught in the headlights, incapable of action.

F. D. Roosevelt knew this. Here’s what he said in 1933, in the midst of another global crisis.

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. – Franklin D. Roosevelt, from the speech at his first presidential inauguration on March 4, 1933.

Another Roosevelt, Theodore, laconically advises us what to do: 

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

Yes, fear is normal in the middle of a pandemic with so many unknowns. But we should not give in to fear. As I’m writing this, the sun is shining over Stockholm in a cobalt blue sky and the birds twitter, drunk with spring and sunshine. This too shall pass.

I found the poem below in Tim Ferriss’ newsletter from Friday. A poem speaking of fear and despair, but also hope and resilience. Take a break, take a deep breath, take the time to read a poem and just pause this whirling world for a moment.

Nature is therapy. Pause and smell the flowers. Photo © Mihaela Limberea

Lockdown

Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
But,
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
Sing. 

– Fr. Richard Hendrick, OFM*
March 13th 2020

The Order of Friars Minor, also called the Franciscans, the Franciscan Order, or the Seraphic Order, has a postnominal abbreviation OFM. 

Stay healthy. Stay calm and soldier on. And don’t forget to laugh.