After a Rough Week, Some Words of Comfort

This has been a rough week. A rough month. A rough year. Sometimes we don’t want to talk about it anymore; we just want comfort, wisdom, love so we can get strong enough to talk about it again and again, until we fix what’s gone wrong. But today, just some words from writers we love about how to love, how to listen, how to empathize:


My answer is: Recognize yourself in others.
— Nadine Gordimer

“People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” —Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

“To live is to be other. Even feeling is impossible if one feels today what one felt yesterday, for that is not to feel, it is only to remember today what one felt yesterday, to be the living corpse of yesterday’s lost life.
      "To wipe everything off the slate from one day to the next, to be new with each new dawn, in a state of perpetually restored virginity of emotion—that and only that is worth being or having, if we are to be or to have what we imperfectly are.” —Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

“At some point in life the world's beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint or even remember it. It is enough. No record of it needs to be kept and you don’t need someone to share it with or tell it to. When that happens—that letting go—you let go because you can.” —Toni Morrison, Tar Baby

“It would be wrong to deny the reader access to such literature—even if it means that he or she may learn more about the dark side of an admired author than he or she is comfortable with. For this is the only way we can learn real answers to the basic question: how can we build a happy world again on the ruins of a world that has been defiled?” —From the German publisher’s foreword to Hans Fallada’s novel Nightmare in Berlin, published in 1946.


“He would have to remain with the living. He too would live: like the rats among the ruins, but nonetheless alive. And while there is life there is always the chance that something might happen….” —Antal Szerb, Journey by Moonlight

Do not waste the remaining part of your life in thoughts about other people, when you are not thinking with reference to some aspect of the common good.
— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

“I would like to learn, or remember, how to live. I come to Hollins Pond not so much to learn how to live as, frankly, to forget about it. That is, I don’t think I can learn from a wild animal how to live in particular—shall I suck warm blood, hold my tail high, walk with my footprints precisely over the prints of my hands?—but I might learn something of mindlessness, something of the purity of living in the physical senses and the dignity of living without bias or motive. … I would like to live as I should, as the weasel lives as he should: open to time and death painlessly, noticing everything, remembering nothing, choosing the given with a fierce and pointed will.” —Annie Dillard, “The Weasel"

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“Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart
until, in our own despair, against our will,
comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.” —Aeschylus

“We will have difficult times. We’ve had difficult times in the past, but we—and we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; and it’s not the end of disorder. … let’s dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.” —Robert Kennedy, speech after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.


I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
— Maya Angelou

“The half-circle of blinding turquoise ocean is this love’s primal scene. That this blue exists makes my life a remarkable one, just to have seen it. To have seen such beautiful things. To find oneself placed in their midst.” —Maggie Nelson, Bluets

“One has a moral obligation to take responsibility for one’s actions, and that includes one’s words and silences, yes, one’s silences, because silences rise to heaven too, and God hears them, and only God understands and judges them, so one must be very careful with one’s silences.” —Roberto Bolaño, By Night in Chile

“However words are perverted, they provisionally keep their meaning. And it is clear to me that the romantic is the one who chooses the perpetual motion of history, and the announcement of a miraculous event at the end of time. If I have tried to define something, it is, on the contrary, simply the common existence of history and of man, everyday life with the most possible light thrown upon it, the dogged struggle against one’s own degradation and that of others.” —Albert Camus, “The Artist and His Time”

“My answer is: Recognize yourself in others.” —Nadine Gordimer


Recognize yourself in he and she who are not like you and me.
— Carlos Fuentes


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