There is something about revisiting an old favourite that feels like coming home – whether that be a memory, a food, a hobby, or book. Something I haven’t done in a while is revisit a favourite book, so in this post I thought I would take a trip down memory lane and dig up three of my favourite quotes (in no particular order) from a few books that are very close to my heart.
“…I can be myself around you, even if I don’t know who I am yet.”
Ever since I read this a few months ago, I have not been able to stop thinking about that quote. It’s such a simple, innocent statement, yet it holds so much power. As a teenager, I really did think that I would have it all figured out by now – that I would be so sure and confident in my life, choices, and path that I was taking to accomplish all I set my mind to. The harsh reality check is that I could not be farther from that place, and the even harder pill to swallow is that that’s okay, because newsflash: you are always kind of going to be a work in progress. But the sliver lining is that through all the chaotic mess of question marks that is your life, there is a good chance that the stars will align just right in order to bring you people with which you feel you can be your true self around – regardless of if you even know who that is yet. And maybe you will never really know who you are just yet, because once you think you know, life throws another curve ball, but sometimes finding someone you can be the work-in-progress ‘you’ around while you try to make sense of it all is one of the luckiest, most magical things one could ever ask for.
“The world, my friend Govinda, is not imperfect, or on a slow path towards perfection: no, it is perfect in every moment, all sin already carries the divine forgiveness in itself, all small children already have the old person in themselves, all infants already have death, all dying people the eternal life. It is not possible for any person to see how far another one has already progressed on his path; in the robber and dice-gambler, the Buddha is waiting; in the Brahman, the robber is waiting. In deep meditation, there is the possibility to put time out of existence, to see all life which was, is, and will be as if it was simultaneous, and there everything is good, everything is perfect, everything is Brahman. Therefore, I see whatever exists as good, death is to me like life, sin like holiness, wisdom like foolishness, everything has to be as it is, everything only requires my consent, only my willingness, my loving agreement, to be good for me, to do nothing but work for my benefit, to be unable to ever harm me. I have experienced on my body and on my soul that I needed sin very much, I needed lust, the desire for possessions, vanity, and needed the most shameful despair, in order to learn how to give up all resistance, in order to learn how to love the world, in order to stop comparing it to some world I wished, I imagined, some kind of perfection I had made up, but to leave it as it is and to love it and to enjoy being a part of it.”
Okay that probably isn’t even considered a quote, it’s more like a passage, and if you read it all, I’m impressed. Hopefully you came away from it thinking really hard about what it means, because I know I did. I feel like I say this a lot, but this book changed my life and searching through my copy for quotes made me want to read it again, ASAP. I will never forget New Years Eve in 2014 going into 2015, there was this wall that everyone was writing their wishes for the new year on, and all I wrote on the wall was, “to be happy.” “To be happy” – what a general, vague statement, that of course means different things to different people, but at the time (and even now), is really all I wanted out of life. When I think about it now, it’s silly that I wished for something I had in me all along, and that I knew that no matter what happened, I would always have somewhere. I didn’t need a new years wish to hope that my year or life would be happy, because it was and is, just as it’s miserable and seemingly unbearable too. What Siddartha is saying is that you need both – you need to experience both extremes in order to appreciate the full picture. As difficult as it is to see sometimes, Siddartha is right when he says that everything that exists is good, because everything that exists makes up the full picture that is your life, and as far as I know we only get one of those, so I hope the picture you make of it is one that’s beautiful.
“When they asked me what I wanted to be I said I didn’t know.
“Oh, sure you know,” the photographer said.
“She wants,” said Jay Cee wittily, “to be everything.”
This book. Not even going to lie, reading this book was like inviting a dark fog to form around my perspective of the world to the point where it suffocated me. Why, then, is it one of my favourite books of all time? Because Sylvia Plath puts into words thoughts and feelings I have never known how to express myself. I have never connected so much to the words of an author, which, when you read about her personal life, is really sad, but there is just something about her writing that gets to me and this quote is no exception. The main character in this book, Esther, is extremely overwhelmed by life and by the finality of making choices that affect it. Like Esther, I have always felt that way too. Sometimes I wish that I could experience everything – that I could be and do and live out every path to see which one suits me best, to see which one brings me the “best” life. I don’t think Esther meant it when she said she didn’t know who she wanted to be, I think she just wanted to be so many things and didn’t know which to choose, because choosing one path means missing out on all the others. But the thing is, the choosing and risking having regrets about it isn’t the scary part. The scary part is actually the not choosing of anything because you’re too afraid and having every option rot at your feet because you took too long to decide. Being everything like I wish I could be doesn’t have to come from living all versions of my choices out side by side to see which one is best; contrary to my belief, being everything can actually come from making tough choices that lead me to better than I could have ever dreamed on my own.
To anyone who made it this far, thank you for reading. I hope you find a book whose words impact you as much as these ones did for me.