Wednesday, June 2, 2010
A Phrase to Carry with You
There are times when a passage in a book sticks with me and resonates for more than it was intended. It might be a passage or just a phrase. But it sticks around and I am continually reminded of it in my day to day life.
I am currently reading Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. A beautifully written story about a pair of twins who grow up to be doctors. In the book, Sister Mary Joseph Praise has an adage she lives by that is repeated several times, "Make something beautiful of your life." What a simple phrase. What a simple purpose. For Sister Praise, attending to the sick is her way of making something beautiful of her life. For another character parenting is the purest way of making something beautiful. That line has remained in my mind as I have continued through the book.
Yesterday I found myself looking through some old photographs of local boys who fought in WWII. Many of them died in action. Make something beautiful of your life. And I thought of their unfinished painting, still beautiful, but as striking for what was undone as for what was done.
I look at my 3-year old son and think what beauty he will make of his life and what beauty he already has created. And I think of how much more I have been inspired to create and beautify because of him.
It was probably 20 years ago I first read the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The phrase in that book that has stuck with me is, "You've got to cross that lonesome valley..." I have crossed a few lonesome valleys in the years since, and that line (and that book) has comforted me, given me perspective.
I could list a few more examples, and I am sure there have been a million other equally poignant lines or passages that have gone unnoticed. But that is the beauty of books and the arts, they speak to us in ways far deeper than we expect, and we can take what they give and carry it with us.
Is there a phrase or passage from a book that has stuck with you through the years?
We are discussing the book Cutting for Stone at our Thursday Evening Book Club this week. Stop by if you've read the book.