Duly Quoted

"A library is a hospital for the mind."

“You must be very polite with yourself when you are learning something new.”

Book: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

For the entire month after finals, I didn’t read a single book. Or write a single page. Or think about anything other than my next meal and my next nap, really. I had absolutely no ish. No chutzpah. No enthusiasm. Nuthin. My ish was in the negatives, even–proven by the fact that in that time, I watched 2 seasons of The Hills instead of doing anything remotely intellectual. I was burned out to a crisp. On reading, on writing…on a lot of things. Not gonna lie, it was pretty bad. I decided on one mission: to make it my utmost priority to be happy, and to relocate my inspiration.

I started with the most effortless inspiration-feed possible: an Oprah podcast. And you know what? It was great. Oprah’s great. I felt lighter in my (rain)boots (damnit Portland) almost immediately!

Then, I turned to a popular choice of Oprah’s book club: Eat, Pray, Love.

I liked it a lot. Was it the best thing I’ve ever read? No. Did I get something really positive out of reading it? Yes. I love what Gilbert says about the United States. I love her descriptions of Italian carbs. I love her humor, her honesty, and her flexible but very powerful conviction in faith and spirituality. Her writing is a breeze to read, and it makes for an interesting travelogue. In parts, especially at the end, I did feel it got a little bit “this-is-the-secret-of-life”ish (similar to Coelho, perhaps), and I was a bit disappointed in the relative brevity of her acknowledgements–she was pretty casual about somehow having the practical resources to do all that traveling/uninterrupted self-exploration. But I’m really, really glad I read it. Gilbert rekindled my desire to read more this summer, as I remembered what it’s like to read a passage and feel so warmly “connected” over our mutual internal battles or what have you. She helped me sort through a lot of my own internal “priorities” debates (i.e. what is most important to me in life, what should be most important, etc. etc.). I don’t think this book will become my next always-on-my-nightstand favorite, but I do think that the people who dismiss it as un-literary “fluff” are missing out.

Have you read it? What were your thoughts? Have you been planning on reading it? Why/why not? If not, do these excerpts make you want to at least reconsider? :).

In the end, what I have come to believe about God is simple. It’s like this—I used to have this really great dog. She came from the pound. She was a mixture of about ten different breeds, but seemed to have inherited the finest features of them all. She was brown. When people asked me, “What kind of dog is that?” I would always give the same answer: “She’s a brown dog.” Similarly, when the question is raised, “What kind of God do you believe in?” my answer is easy: “I believe in a magnificent God.”

Addiction is the hallmark of every infatuation-based love story. It all begins when the object of your adoration bestows upon you a heady, hallucinogenic dose of something you never even dared to admit you wanted – an emotional speedball, perhaps, of thunderous love and roiling excitement. Soon you start craving that intense attention, with the hungry obsession of any junkie. When the drug is withheld, you promptly turn sick, crazy and depleted (not to mention resentful of the dealer who encouraged this addiction in the first place but who now refuses to pony up the good stuff anymore – despite the fact that you know he has it hidden somewhere, goddamn it, because he used to give it to you for free). Next stage finds you skinny and shaking in a corner certain only that you would sell your soul or rob your neighbors just to have that thing even one more time. Meanwhile, the object of your adoration has now become repulsed by you. He looks at you like you’re someone he’s never met before, much less someone he once loved with high passion. The irony is, you can hardly blame him. I mean, check yourself out. You’re a pathetic mess, unrecognizable even to your own eyes.

Because God never slams a door in your face without opening a box of Girl Scout cookies (or however the old adage goes).
They come upon me all silent and menacing like Pinkerton Detectives, and they flank me- Depression on my left, Loneliness on my right. They don’t need to show me their badges. I know these guys very well. We’ve been playing a cat-and-mouse game for years now. Though I admit that I am surprised to meet them in this elegant Italian garden at dusk. This is no place they belong.

I say to them, “How did you find me here? Who told you I had come to Rome?”
Depression, always the wise guy, says, “What- you’re not happy to see us?”
“Go away,” I tell him.
Loneliness, the more sensitive cop, says “I’m sorry ma’am. But I might have to tail you the whole time you’re traveling. It’s my assignment.”
“I’d really rather you didn’t,” I tell him, and he shrugs almost apologetically, but only moves closer.

Then they frisk me. They empty my pockets of any joy I had been carrying there. Depression even confiscates my identity; but he always does that. Then Loneliness starts interrogating me, which I dread because it always goes on for hours. He’s polite but relentless, and he always trips me up eventually. He asks if I have any reason to be happy that I know of. He asks why I am all by myself tonight, yet again. He asks (though we’ve been through this line of questioning hundreds of times already) why I can’t keep a relationship going, why I ruined my marriage, why I messed things up with David, why I messed things up with every man I’ve ever been with. He asks me where I was the night I turned thirty, and why things have gone so sour since then. He asks why I can’t get my act together, and why I’m not at home living in a nice house and raising nice children like any respectable woman my age should be. He asks why, ecaxtly, I think I deserve a vacation in Rome when I’ve made such a rubble of my life. He asks me why I think that running away to Italy like a college kid will make me happy. He asks where I think I’ll end up on my old age, if I keep living this way.

When you’re lost in those woods, it sometimes takes you a while to realize that you are lost. For the longest time, you can convince yourself that you’ve just wandered off the path, that you’ll find your way back to the trailhead any moment now. Then night falls again and again, and you still have no idea where you are, and its time to admit that you have bewildered yourself so far off the path that you don’t even know from which direction the sun rises anymore.

You must be very polite with yourself when you are learning something new.

Generally speaking, though, Americans have an inability to relax into sheer pleasure.  Ours is an entertainment-seeking nation, but not necessarily a pleasure-seeking one.  Americans spend billions to keep themselves amused with everything from porn to theme parks to wars, but that’s not exactly the same thing as quiet enjoyment.  Americans work harder and longer and more stressful hours than anyone in the world today . . . Of course we all inevitably work too hard, then we get burned out and have to spen the whole weekend in our pajamas, eating cereal straight out of the box and staring at the TV in a mild coma (which is the opposite of working, yes, but not exactly the same thing as pleasure).  Americans don’t really know how to do nothing.  This is the cause of that great sad American stereotype – the overstressed executive who goes on vacation, but who cannot relax.

For me, though, a major obstacle in my pursuit of pleasure was my ingrained sense of Puritan guilt. Do I really deserve this pleasure? This is very American, too—the insecurity about whether we have earned our happiness.

But never again use another person’s body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings.

Do not apologize for crying. Without this emotion, we are only robots.

In a world of disorder and disaster and fraud, sometimes only beauty can be trusted.  Only artistic excellence is incorruptible.  Pleasure cannot be bargained down.  And sometimes the meal is the only currency that is real.

To devote yourself to the creation and enjoyment of beauty, then, can be a serious business – not always necessarily a means of escaping reality, but sometimes a means of holding on to the real when everything else is flaking away into…rhetoric and plot.

You were given life; it is your duty (and also your entitlement as a human being) to find something beautiful within life, no matter how slight.

He sits down across from me and drawls, “Man, they got mosquitoes ‘round this place big enough to rape a chicken.”

Ladies and Gentleman, Richard from Texas has arrived.

And nothing pisses off a control freak more than life not goin’ her way.

The other day in prayer I said to God, “Look—I understand that an unexamined life is not worth living, but do you think I could someday have an unexamined lunch?”

“Guilt’s just your ego’s way of tricking you into thinking that you’re making moral progress. Don’t fall for it, my dear.”

This is what rituals are for. We do spiritual ceremonies as human beings in order to create a safe resting place for our most complicated feelings of joy or trauma, so that we don’t have to haul those feelings around with us forever, weighing us down. We all need such places of ritual safekeeping.

I think you are free to search for any metaphor whatsoever which will take you across the worldly divide whenever you need to be transported or comforted. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about.

People universally tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will maybe descend upon you like fine weather if you’re fortunate enough. But that’s not how happiness works. Top of Form  Bottom of FoTop of Form   HHHHappiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it, you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it. If you don’t, you will leak away your innate contentment. It’s easy enough to pray when you’re in distress but continuing to pray even when your crisis has passed is like a sealing process, helping your soul hold tight to its good attainments.

Everything is love there. Heaven is love.

I have no nostalgia for the patriarchy, please believe me. But what I have come to realize is that, when that patriarchic system was (rightfully) dismantled, it was not necessarily replaced by another form of protection.

To feel physically comfortable with someone else’s body is not a decision you can make. It has very little to do with how two people think or act or talk or even look. The mysterious magnet is either there, buried somewhere deep behind the sternum, or it is not. When it isn’t there (as I have learned in the past, with heartbreaking clarity) you can no more force it to exist than a surgeon can force a patient’s body to accept a kidney from the wrong donor.

“To lose balance sometimes for love is part of living a balanced life.”

Yet what keeps me from dissolving right now into a complete fairy-tale shimmer is this solid truth, a truth which has veritably built my bones over the last few years—I was not rescued by a prince; I was the administrator of my own rescue.


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