A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Wednesday, 11 February 2009


A final selection from my mother's commonplace book. It has been good to linger a while with this. But I think it's also a good thing not to linger too long - with anything. Life constantly moves us onwards and forwards.
Just what is this thing called life all about? One thing's for sure - you can't live your children's lives for them. A 3rd century Persian poet wrote this:


You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls.
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow.
You may strive to be like them,
But seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

Thomas Burke thought that living was to do with hunger, with continual renewal, with suffering, with the serving of love (Agape rather than Eros) and the recognition of beauty:

He showed me that I must go back to Lavender Hill and go on writing and stop being a damned young fool. That all living is hunger and that without hunger we perish. That each man's city of refuge must be built within himself - of broken toys. That the only people who truly live are those who are always beginning again. That it was not I, or Cicely, who mattered, but love itself; not my suffering that must be eased, but love that must be served. That only by love do we come to understanding and truth. That the mocking magic that comes and goes is the lamp that is lighting us to beauty. That this beauty is the happiness of God and is not in clouds or on hill tops, but everywhere about us.

Thomas Carlyle thought that living was to do with cherishing the present moment, embracing love now, seizing the day:

Cherish what is dearest while you have it near you, and wait not till it is far away. Blind and deaf that we are; oh, think, if thou yet love anybody living, wait not till death sweep down the paltry little dust clouds and dissonances of the moment, and all be at last so mournfully clear and beautiful, when it is too late.

This Celtic Rune of Hospitality embraces the action of extending hospitality to a stranger - the kind of hospitality and generous welcome I myself encountered from time to time on the Camino:

I saw a stranger yestreen,
I put food in the eating place,
Drink in the drinking place,
Music in the music place;
And in the sacred name of the Triune
He blessed myself and my house, my cattle and my dear ones,
And the lark said in her song:
Often, often, often, goes the Christ in the stranger's guise.

This American Indian prayer affirms life in the presence of death and urges a clear-eyed, positive relationship between the dead and the living:

When I am dead
Cry for me a little.
Think of me sometimes
But not too much.
Think of me again and again
As I was in life.
At some moments it's pleasant to recall
But not for long.
Leave me in peace
And I shall leave you in peace
And while you live
Let your thoughts be with the living.


The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

These are lovely quotes, one and all. I have really enjoyed the lines you've shared from your mother's commonplace book. She was obviously both wise and thoughtful, with an open heart and a seeker's spirit. It is no coincidence, I think, that you are the "Solitary Walker."

You may, indeed, "dwell in the house of tomorrow," but the rooms are familiar and carry your mother's fine imprint.

am said...

Have not been out commenting and so am catching up a little. Thanks so much for the selections from your mother's commonplace book. Gracias.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Your quotes from your mother's book have been so interesting, Robert - I expect you have read them all with a mixture of sadness and interest. Hope things are getting back to "normal" for you now.

Jay said...

The American Indian prayer is speaking to me today. Thank you for that. :)

Bella said...

The first quote I thought sounded very much like Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931).
Thanks for the lovely quotes.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Grizzled speaks so wisely and truly in his comment!

I like to cherish the present moment as Carlyle says, and in simple things too.

Bella said...

SW, I particularly liked the Thomas Burke quote. Do you know where the quote is from? I did a wiki search but alas, many men with this name...an Irish theologian or an English poet/ writer?
If you don't know, its all good either way, as the quote is indeed sufficient

The Solitary Walker said...

No idea which of the many Tom Burkes it originates with, Bella!