Importance of the mountain

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“The desert was created simply to be itself, not to be transformed by men into something else. So too the mountain and the sea. The desert is therefore the logical dwelling place for the man who seeks to be nothing but himself – that is to say, a creature solitary and poor and dependent on no one but God.”

— Thomas Merton, “Thoughts in Solitude”

Enchirdion 45 for urbanites.

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“Does anyone bathe in a mighty little time? Don’t say that he does it ill, but in a mighty little time. Does anyone drink a great quantity of wine? Don’t say that he does ill, but that he drinks a great quantity. For, unless you perfectly understand the principle from which anyone acts, how should you know if he acts ill? Thus you will not run the hazard of assenting to any appearances but such as you fully comprehend.”

— Epictetus, Enchiridion 45.


“Does anyone signal for a turn in a mighty little time?  Don’t say the he does it badly, but just that he does it in a mighty little time.  Does anyone drive by weaving in and out of traffic?  Don’t say that he does it like an asshole, but that he drives by weaving in and out.  For unless you understand the principle from which anyone pilots a vehicle, how should you know if he does so badly?  Thus you will not run the hazard of assenting to any appearances but such as you fully comprehend.”

— Enchirdion 45 (with some artistic license)

On Cato, a philosopher’s uniform, and training.

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“Seeing the lightest and gayest purple was then most in fashion, he would always wear that which was the nearest black; and he would often go out of doors, after his morning meal, without either shoes or tunic; not that he sought vain-glory from such novelties, but he would accustom himself to be ashamed only of what deserves shame, and to despise all other sorts of disgrace.”

— Plutarch, The Life of Cato the Younger.

Kipling’s “The Palace.”

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The Palace
1902

When I was a King and a Mason — a Master proven and skilled —
I cleared me ground for a Palace such as a King should build.
I decreed and dug down to my levels. Presently, under the silt,
I came on the wreck of a Palace such as a King had built.

There was no worth in the fashion — there was no wit in the plan —
Hither and thither, aimless, the ruined footings ran —
Masonry, brute, mishandled, but carven on every stone:
“After me cometh a Builder. Tell him, I too have known.”

Swift to my use in my trenches, where my well-planned ground-works grew,
I tumbled his quoins and his ashlars, and cut and reset them anew.
Lime I milled of his marbles; burned it, slacked it, and spread;
Taking and leaving at pleasure the gifts of the humble dead.

Yet I despised not nor gloried; yet, as we wrenched them apart,
I read in the razed foundations the heart of that builder’s heart.
As he had risen and pleaded, so did I understand
The form of the dream he had followed in the face of the thing he had planned.

* * * * *

When I was a King and a Mason — in the open noon of my pride,
They sent me a Word from the Darkness. They whispered and called me aside.
They said — “The end is forbidden.” They said — “Thy use is fulfilled.
“Thy Palace shall stand as that other’s — the spoil of a King who shall build.”

I called my men from my trenches, my quarries, my wharves, and my sheers.
All I had wrought I abandoned to the faith of the faithless years.
Only I cut on the timber — only I carved on the stone:
“After me cometh a Builder. Tell him, I too have known!”

A very high price, indeed.

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“The thief is stronger than the man who is not a thief. That is why I lost my lamp, because in the matter of keeping awake the thief was better than I was. However, he bought a lamp for a very high price; for a lamp he became a thief, for a lamp he became faithless, for a lamp he became beast-like.”

— Epictetus

On paradoxes.

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“Whenever philosophy or life presents you with a seeming paradox, thinking on whence that word came might be valuable. Paradox comes from the Greek meaning ‘against the popular opinion,‘ not originally an incongruous or contradictory idea.

“A paradox offers a chance to think differently, to approach something from a new direction, and quite literally to change the way our brains operate.”

— K.L. Patrick