A Commonplace Book

What is a commonplace book? One of my favorite definitions is “a central resource or depository for ideas, quotes, anecdotes, observations and information you come across during your life and didactic pursuits.” In other words, a place to preserve materials that strike a chord.

…it is the huge nothing that pulls me into itself. I look at it, and with fewer things to look at I see better. I listen to nothing and its silent tunes and rhythms sound harmonic.

Sara Maitland, A Book of Silence

…we had a chance to change the world and opted for the Home Shopping Network instead.

Stephen King, On Writing

…only now do I understand that our only way out is if each of us becomes an unselfish version of ourselves. It is going to be a few billion individual decisions, repeated and reaffirmed every day, that will change us, change the planet. Not some great decision by a great leader, or a great law passed by a great Congress, none of which exist.

Karl Taro Greenfield, The Subprimes

Little by little I came to understand that it was for each of us to sift the garbage in search of knowledge, freedom and hope[.]

Roger Scruton, Notes From Underground

We cannot reasonably expect the leaders of our own or other people’s nations to adopt more humane policies if we ourselves continue to live egotistically, unkindly, and greedily, and give free rein to unexamined prejudice.

Karen Armstrong, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life

Houses and buildings were full of desperate people who deeply misunderstood their desperation. This was due to artful explanation on the part of the government.

Jesse Ball, The Curfew

It is truly shocking that we reward those in our culture who already have too much as it is. And that there are folks for whom there is no such thing as having too much. They believe that having too much — everything they ever want every moment of their lives — is their birthright. And it’s still not enough.

Lewis Black, I’m Dreaming of a Black Christmas

Man is not the only creature who kills for bread, or love, or power, because animals in the jungle do that in various ways, but he is the only creature who kills because of faith.

Hassan Blasim, The Corpse Exhibition: And Other Stories of Iraq

You can’t find happiness looking for the meaning of life. Meaning is only the third most important thing. It comes after loving and being.

Matt Haig, The Humans

The secret of a happy marriage: not honesty, not forgiveness, but acceptance that is a kind of respect for the other’s right to make mistakes. Or rather, the right to make choices.

Alice LaPlante, Turn of Mind

So marijuana is illegal and alcohol is not. Shit-faced drunk versus pothead hippie. Mean, drunken, wife-beating, car-wrecking, child-abusing, fighting, swearing, brawling, puking alcoholic is allowed to buy booze at the corner liquor store. But flower-child hippie can be thrown in jail for a joint. It doesn’t make any sense today and it didn’t make any sense in the sixties.

Ray Manzarek, Light My Fire

When there are no consequences, being wrong is simply an interesting diversion.

Ian McEwan, Saturday

There is always a price for changing.

Nnedi Okorafor, Who Fears Death

The road to self-deception is narrow to begin with, but there’s always someone ready to broaden it out.

José Saramago, Cain

Self-hate is rarely unconditional.

Darin Strauss, Half a Life

We come unbidden into this life, and if we are lucky we find a purpose beyond starvation, misery, and early death which, lest we forget, is the common lot.

Abraham Verghese, Cutting for Stone

You live [life] forward, but understand it backward. It is only when you stop and look to the rear that you see the corpse caught under your wheel.

Abraham Verghese, Cutting for Stone

The curse of having to be important dooms a lot of us.

Mark Vonnegut, Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So

Most people I know live their lives moving in a constant forward direction, the whole time looking backward.

Charles Yu, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe