It is better to risk starving to death than giving up on your dream. If you have given up on your dream, what's left?
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It is better to risk starving to death than giving up on your dream. If you have given up on your dream, what’s left?

-Manoj Arora

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Build your house on granite. By granite I mean your nature that you are torturing to death, the love in your child's body, your wife's dream of love, your own dream of life when you were sixteen. Exchange your illusions for a bit of truth. Throw out your politicians and diplomats! Take your destiny into your own hands and build your life on rock. Forget about your neighbor and look inside yourself! Your neighbor, too, will be grateful. Tell you're fellow workers all over the world that you're no longer willing to work for death but only for life. Instead of flocking to executions and shouting hurrah, hurrah, make a law for the protection of human life and its blessings. Such a law will be part of the granite foundation your house rests on. Protect your small children's love against the assaults of lascivious, frustrated men and women. Stop the mouth of the malignant old maid; expose her publicly or send her to a reform school instead of young people who are longing for love. Don;t try to outdo your exploiter in exploitation if you have a chance to become a boss. Throw away your swallowtails and top hat, and stop applying for a license to embrace your woman. Join forces with your kind in all countries; they are like you, for better or worse. Let your child grow up as nature (or 'God') intended. Don't try to improve on nature. Learn to understand it and protect it. Go to the library instead of the prize fight, go to foreign countries rather than to Coney Island. And first and foremost, think straight, trust the quiet inner voice inside you that tells you what to do. You hold your life in your hands, don't entrust it to anyone else, least of all to your chosen leaders. BE YOURSELF! Any number of great men have told you that.

-Wilhelm Reich

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How oddly situated a man is apt to find himself at age thirty-eight! His youth belongs to the distant past. Yet the period of memory beginning with the end of youth and extending to the present has left him not a single vivid impression. And therefore he persists in feeling that nothing more than a fragile barrier separates him from his youth. He is forever hearing with the utmost clarity the sounds of this neighboring domain, but there is no way to penetrate the barrier.Honda felt that his youth had ended with the death of Kiyoaki Matsugae. At that moment something real within him, something that had burned with a vibrant brilliance, suddenly ceased to be.Now, late at night, when Honda grew weary of his legal drafts, he would pick up the dream journal that Kiyoaki had left him and turn over its pages.(...)Since then eighteen years had passed. The border between dream and memory had grown indistinct in Honda’s mind. Because the words contained in this journal, his only souvenir of his friend, had been traced there by Kiyoaki’s own hand, it had profound significance for Honda. These dreams, left like a handful of gold dust in a winnowing pan, were charged with wonder.As time went by, the dreams and the reality took on equal worth among Honda’s diverse memories. What had actually occurred was in the process of merging with what could have occurred. As reality rapidly gave way to dreams, the past seemed very much like the future.When he was young, there had been only one reality, and the future had seemed to stretch before him, swelling with immense possibilities. But as he grew older, reality seemed to take many forms, and it was the past that seemed refracted into innumerable possibilities. Since each of these was linked with its own reality, the line distinguishing dream and reality became all the more obscure. His memories were in constant flux, and had taken on the aspect of a dream.

-Yukio Mishima

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Suppose after all that death does end all. Next to eternal joy, next to being forever with those we love and those who have loved us, next to that, is to be wrapt in the dreamless drapery of eternal peace. Next to eternal life is eternal sleep.Upon the shadowy shore of death the sea of trouble casts no wave. Eyes that have been curtained by the everlasting dark, will never know again the burning touch of tears. Lips touched by eternal silence will never speak again the broken words of grief. Hearts of dust do not break. The dead do not weep. Within the tomb no veiled and weeping sorrow sits, and in the rayless gloom is crouched no shuddering fear.I had rather think of those I have loved, and lost, as having returned to earth, as having become a part of the elemental wealth of the world – I would rather think of them as unconscious dust, I would rather dream of them as gurgling in the streams, floating in the clouds, bursting in the foam of light upon the shores of worlds, I would rather think of them as the lost visions of a forgotten night, than to have even the faintest fear that their naked souls have been clutched by an orthodox god.I will leave my dead where nature leaves them. Whatever flower of hope springs up in my heart I will cherish, I will give it breath of sighs and rain of tears. But I cannot believe that there is any being in this universe who has created a human soul for eternal pain. I would rather that every god would destroy himself; I would rather that we all should go to eternal chaos, to black and starless night, than that just one soul should suffer eternal agony.I have made up my mind that if there is a God, he will be merciful to the merciful.Upon that rock I stand. –That he will not torture the forgiving. –Upon that rock I stand. –That every man should be true to himself, and that there is no world, no star, in which honesty is a crime.Upon that rock I stand.The honest man, the good woman, the happy child, have nothing to fear, either in this world or the world to come.Upon that rock I stand.

-Robert G.

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When reading the history of the Jewish people, of their flight from slavery to death, of their exchange of tyrants, I must confess that my sympathies are all aroused in their behalf. They were cheated, deceived and abused. Their god was quick-tempered unreasonable, cruel, revengeful and dishonest. He was always promising but never performed. He wasted time in ceremony and childish detail, and in the exaggeration of what he had done. It is impossible for me to conceive of a character more utterly detestable than that of the Hebrew god. He had solemnly promised the Jews that he would take them from Egypt to a land flowing with milk and honey. He had led them to believe that in a little while their troubles would be over, and that they would soon in the land of Canaan, surrounded by their wives and little ones, forget the stripes and tears of Egypt. After promising the poor wanderers again and again that he would lead them in safety to the promised land of joy and plenty, this God, forgetting every promise, said to the wretches in his power:—'Your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness and your children shall wander until your carcasses be wasted.' This curse was the conclusion of the whole matter. Into this dust of death and night faded all the promises of God. Into this rottenness of wandering despair fell all the dreams of liberty and home. Millions of corpses were left to rot in the desert, and each one certified to the dishonesty of Jehovah. I cannot believe these things. They are so cruel and heartless, that my blood is chilled and my sense of justice shocked. A book that is equally abhorrent to my head and heart, cannot be accepted as a revelation from God.When we think of the poor Jews, destroyed, murdered, bitten by serpents, visited by plagues, decimated by famine, butchered by each, other, swallowed by the earth, frightened, cursed, starved, deceived, robbed and outraged, how thankful we should be that we are not the chosen people of God. No wonder that they longed for the slavery of Egypt, and remembered with sorrow the unhappy day when they exchanged masters. Compared with Jehovah, Pharaoh was a benefactor, and the tyranny of Egypt was freedom to those who suffered the liberty of God.While reading the Pentateuch, I am filled with indignation, pity and horror. Nothing can be sadder than the history of the starved and frightened wretches who wandered over the desolate crags and sands of wilderness and desert, the prey of famine, sword, and plague. Ignorant and superstitious to the last degree, governed by falsehood, plundered by hypocrisy, they were the sport of priests, and the food of fear. God was their greatest enemy, and death their only friend.It is impossible to conceive of a more thoroughly despicable, hateful, and arrogant being, than the Jewish god. He is without a redeeming feature. In the mythology of the world he has no parallel. He, only, is never touched by agony and tears. He delights only in blood and pain. Human affections are naught to him. He cares neither for love nor music, beauty nor joy. A false friend, an unjust judge, a braggart, hypocrite, and tyrant, sincere in hatred, jealous, vain, and revengeful, false in promise, honest in curse, suspicious, ignorant, and changeable, infamous and hideous:—such is the God of the Pentateuch.

-Robert G.

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Very well, but - who are you?' again asked Gil Gil, in whom curiosity was beginning to get the better of every other feeling.'I told you that when I first spoke to you - I am your friend. And bear in mind that you are the only being on the face of the earth to whom I accord the title of friend. I am bound to you by remorse! I am the cause of all your misfortunes.''I do not know you,' replied the shoemaker.'And yet I have entered your house many times! Through me you were left motherless at your birth; I was the cause of the apoplectic stroke that killed Juan Gil; it was I who turned you out of the palace of Rionuevo; I assassinated your old house-mate, and, finally, it was I who placed in your pocket the vial of sulfuric acid.'Gil Gil trembled like a leaf; he felt his hair stand on end, and it seemed to him as if his contracted muscles must burst asunder.'You are the devil!' he exclaimed, with indescribable terror.'Child!' responded the black-robed figure in accents of amiable censure, 'what has put that idea into your head? I am something greater and better than the wretched being you have named.''Who are you, then?''Let us go into the inn and you shall learn.'Gil hastily entered, drew the Unknown before the modest lantern that lighted the apartment, and looked at him with intense curiosity.He was a person about thirty-three years old; tall, handsome, pale, dressed in a long black tunic and a black mantle, and his long locks were covered by a Phrygian cap, also black. He had not the slightest sign of a beard, yet he did not look like a woman. Neither did he look like a man... ("The Friend of Death")

-Pedro Antonio

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believe that this way of living, this focus on the present, the daily, the tangible, this intense concentration not on the news headlines but on the flowers growing in your own garden, the children growing in your own home, this way of living has the potential to open up the heavens, to yield a glittering handful of diamonds where a second ago there was coal. This way of living and noticing and building and crafting can crack through the movie sets and soundtracks that keep us waiting for our own life stories to begin, and set us free to observe the lives we have been creating all along without ever realizing it.I don’t want to wait anymore. I choose to believe that there is nothing more sacred or profound than this day. I choose to believe that there may be a thousand big moments embedded in this day, waiting to be discovered like tiny shards of gold. The big moments are the daily, tiny moments of courage and forgiveness and hope that we grab on to and extend to one another. That’s the drama of life, swirling all around us, and generally I don’t even see it, because I’m too busy waiting to become whatever it is I think I am about to become. The big moments are in every hour, every conversation, every meal, every meeting.The Heisman Trophy winner knows this. He knows that his big moment was not when they gave him the trophy. It was the thousand times he went to practice instead of going back to bed. It was the miles run on rainy days, the healthy meals when a burger sounded like heaven. That big moment represented and rested on a foundation of moments that had come before it.I believe that if we cultivate a true attention, a deep ability to see what has been there all along, we will find worlds within us and between us, dreams and stories and memories spilling over. The nuances and shades and secrets and intimations of love and friendship and marriage an parenting are action-packed and multicolored, if you know where to look.Today is your big moment. Moments, really. The life you’ve been waiting for is happening all around you. The scene unfolding right outside your window is worth more than the most beautiful painting, and the crackers and peanut butter that you’re having for lunch on the coffee table are as profound, in their own way, as the Last Supper. This is it. This is life in all its glory, swirling and unfolding around us, disguised as pedantic, pedestrian non-events. But pull of the mask and you will find your life, waiting to be made, chosen, woven, crafted.Your life, right now, today, is exploding with energy and power and detail and dimension, better than the best movie you have ever seen. You and your family and your friends and your house and your dinner table and your garage have all the makings of a life of epic proportions, a story for the ages. Because they all are. Every life is.You have stories worth telling, memories worth remembering, dreams worth working toward, a body worth feeding, a soul worth tending, and beyond that, the God of the universe dwells within you, the true culmination of super and natural. You are more than dust and bones.You are spirit and power and image of God.And you have been given Today.

-Shauna Niequist

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Dear Neil Armstrong,I write this to you as she sleeps down the hall. I need answers I think only you might have. When you were a boy, and space was simple science fiction, when flying was merely a daydream between periods of History and Physics, when gifts of moon dust to the one you loved could only be wrapped in your imagination.. Before the world knew your name; before it was a destination in the sky.. What was the moon like from your back yard?Your arm, strong warm and wrapped under her hair both of you gazing up from your back porch summers before your distant journey. But upon landing on the moon, as the earth rose over the sea of tranquility, did you look for her? What was it like to see our planet, and know that everything, all you could be, all you could ever love and long for.. was just floating before you. Did you write her name in the dirt when the cameras weren't looking? Surrounding both your initials with a heart for alien life to study millions of years from now? What was it like to love something so distant? What words did you use to bring the moon back to her? And what did you promise in the moons ear, about that girl back home? Can you, teach me, how to fall from the sky?I ask you this, not because I doubt your feat, I just want to know what it's like to go somewhere no man had ever been, just to find that she wasn't there. To realize your moon walk could never compare to the steps that led to her. I now know that the flight home means more. Every July I think of you. I imagine the summer of 1969, how lonely she must have felt while you were gone.. You never went back to the moon. And I believe that's because it dosen't take rockets to get you where you belong. I see that in this woman down the hall, sometimes she seems so much further. But I'm ready for whatever steps I must take to get to her.I have seem SO MANY skies.. but the moon, well, it always looks the same. So I gotta say, Neil, that rock you landed on, has got NOTHING on the rock she's landed on. You walked around, took samples and left.. She's built a fire cleaned up the place and I hope she decides to stay.. because on this rock.. we can breath.Mr. Armstrong, I don't have much, many times have I been upside down with trauma, but with these empty hands, comes a heart that is often more full than the moon. She's becoming my world, pulling me into orbit, and I now know that I may never find life outside of hers. I want to give her EVERYTHING I don't have yet.. So YES, for her, I would go to the moon and back.... But not without her. We'd claim the moon for each other, with flags made from sheets down the hall. And I'd risk it ALL to kiss her under the light of the earth, the brightness of home... but I can do all of that and more right here, where she is..And when we gaze up, her arms around ME, I will NOT promise her gifts of moon dust, or flights of fancy. Instead I will gladly give her all the earth she wants, in return for all the earth she is. The sound of her heart beat and laughter, and all the time it takes to return to fall from the sky,down the hall, and right into love.God, I'd do it every day, if I could just land next to her.One small step for man, but she's one giant leap for my kind.

-Mike McGee

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{From Luther Burbank's funeral. He was loved until he revealed he was an atheist, then he began to receive death threats. He tried to amiably answer them all, leading to his death}It is impossible to estimate the wealth he has created. It has been generously given to the world. Unlike inventors, in other fields, no patent rights were given him, nor did he seek a monopoly in what he created. Had that been the case, Luther Burbank would have been perhaps the world's richest man. But the world is richer because of him. In this he found joy that no amount of money could give.And so we meet him here today, not in death, but in the only immortal life we positively know--his good deeds, his kindly, simple, life of constructive work and loving service to the whole wide world.These things cannot die. They are cumulative, and the work he has done shall be as nothing to its continuation in the only immortality this brave, unselfish man ever sought, or asked to know.As great as were his contributions to the material wealth of this planet, the ages yet to come, that shall better understand him, will give first place in judging the importance of his work to what he has done for the betterment of human plants and the strength they shall gain, through his courage, to conquer the tares, the thistles and the weeds. Then no more shall we have a mythical God that smells of brimstone and fire; that confuses hate with love; a God that binds up the minds of little children, as other heathen bind up their feet--little children equally helpless to defend their precious right to think and choose and not be chained from the dawn of childhood to the dogmas of the dead.Luther Burbank will rank with the great leaders who have driven heathenish gods back into darkness, forever from this earth.In the orthodox threat of eternal punishment for sin--which he knew was often synonymous with yielding up all liberty and freedom--and in its promise of an immortality, often held out for the sacrifice of all that was dear to life, the right to think, the right to one's mind, the right to choose, he saw nothing but cowardice. He shrank from such ways of thought as a flower from the icy blasts of death. As shown by his work in life, contributing billions of wealth to humanity, with no more return than the maintenance of his own breadline, he was too humble, too unselfish, to be cajoled with dogmatic promises of rewards as a sort of heavenly bribe for righteous conduct here. He knew that the man who fearlessly stands for the right, regardless of the threat of punishment or the promise of reward, was the real man.Rather was he willing to accept eternal sleep, in returning to the elements from whence he came, for in his lexicon change was life. Here he was content to mingle as a part of the whole, as the raindrop from the sea performs its sacred service in watering the land to which it is assigned, that two blades may grow instead of one, and then, its mission ended, goes back to the ocean from whence it came. With such service, with such a life as gardener to the lilies of the field, in his return to the bosoms of infinity, he has not lost himself. There he has found himself, is a part of the cosmic sea of eternal force, eternal energy. And thus he lived and always will live.Thomas Edison, who believes very much as Burbank, once discussed with me immortality. He pointed to the electric light, his invention, saying: 'There lives Tom Edison.' So Luther Burbank lives. He lives forever in the myriad fields of strengthened grain, in the new forms of fruits and flowers, plants, vines, and trees, and above all, the newly watered gardens of the human mind, from whence shall spring human freedom that shall drive out false and brutal gods. The gods are toppling from their thrones. They go before the laughter and the joy of the new childhood of the race, unshackled and unafraid.

-Luther Burbank

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My darling Julie, I know you'll never see this letter, but it helps to write to you every day. It keeps you close to me. G-d, I miss you so. You haunt every hour of my life. I wish I'd never met you. No-I don't mean that! What good would my life be without my memories of you to make me smile. I keep wondering if you're happy. I want you to be. I want you to have a glorious life. That's why I couldn't say the things I knew you wanted to hear when we were together. I was afraid if I did, you'd wait for me for years. I knew you wanted me to say I loved you. Not saying that to you was the only unselfish thing I did in Colorado, and I now I regret even that. I love you, Julie. Christ, I love you so much. I'd give up all my life to have one year with you. Six months. Three. Anything. You stole my heart in just a few days, darling, but you gave me your heart, too. I know you did- I could see it in your eyes every time you looked at me. I don't regret the loss of my freedom any more or rage at the injustice of the years I spent in prison. Now, my only regret is that I can't have you. You're young, and I know you'll forget about me quickly and go on with your own life. That's exactly what you should do. It's what you must do. I want you to do that, Julie.That's such a lousy lie. What I really want is to see you again, to hold you in my arms, to make love to you over and over again until I've filled you so completely that there's no room left inside of you for anyone but me, ever. I never thought of sexual intercourse as 'making love' until you. You never knew that.....I wish I had time to write you a better letter or that I'd kept one of the others I've written so I could send that instead. They were all much more coherent than this one. I won't send another letter to you, so don't watch for one. Letters will make us both hope and dream, and if I don't stop doing that, I will die of wanting you.Before I go--I see from the newspapers that Costner has a new movie coming out in the States. If you dare to start fantasizing over Kevin after you see it, I will haunt you for the rest of your life.I love you, Julie. I loved in Colorado. I love you here, where I am. I will always love you. Everywhere. Always.

-Judith McNaught

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The night before brain surgery, I thought about death. I searched out my larger values, and I asked myself, if I was going to die, did I want to do it fighting and clawing or in peaceful surrender? What sort of character did I hope to show? Was I content with myself and what I had done with my life so far? I decided that I was essentially a good person, although I could have been better--but at the same time I understood that the cancer didn't care.I asked myself what I believed. I had never prayed a lot. I hoped hard, I wished hard, but I didn't pray. I had developed a certain distrust of organized religion growing up, but I felt I had the capacity to be a spiritual person, and to hold some fervent beliefs. Quite simply, I believed I had a responsibility to be a good person, and that meant fair, honest, hardworking, and honorable. If I did that, if I was good to my family, true to my friends, if I gave back to my community or to some cause, if I wasn't a liar, a cheat, or a thief, then I believed that should be enough. At the end of the day, if there was indeed some Body or presence standing there to judge me, I hoped I would be judged on whether I had lived a true life, not on whether I believed in a certain book, or whether I'd been baptized. If there was indeed a God at the end of my days, I hoped he didn't say, 'But you were never a Christian, so you're going the other way from heaven.' If so, I was going to reply, 'You know what? You're right. Fine.'I believed, too, in the doctors and the medicine and the surgeries--I believed in that. I believed in them. A person like Dr. Einhorn [his oncologist], that's someone to believe in, I thought, a person with the mind to develop an experimental treatment 20 years ago that now could save my life. I believed in the hard currency of his intelligence and his research.Beyond that, I had no idea where to draw the line between spiritual belief and science. But I knew this much: I believed in belief, for its own shining sake. To believe in the face of utter hopelessness, every article of evidence to the contrary, to ignore apparent catastrophe--what other choice was there? We do it every day, I realized. We are so much stronger than we imagine, and belief is one of the most valiant and long-lived human characteristics. To believe, when all along we humans know that nothing can cure the briefness of this life, that there is no remedy for our basic mortality, that is a form of bravery.To continue believing in yourself, believing in the doctors, believing in the treatment, believing in whatever I chose to believe in, that was the most important thing, I decided. It had to be.Without belief, we would be left with nothing but an overwhelming doom, every single day. And it will beat you. I didn't fully see, until the cancer, how we fight every day against the creeping negatives of the world, how we struggle daily against the slow lapping of cynicism. Dispiritedness and disappointment, these were the real perils of life, not some sudden illness or cataclysmic millennium doomsday. I knew now why people fear cancer: because it is a slow and inevitable death, it is the very definition of cynicism and loss of spirit.So, I believed.

-Lance Armstrong

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This "sir, yes sir" business, which would probably sound like horseshit to any civilian in his right mind, makes sense to Shaftoe and to the officers in a deep and important way. Like a lot of others, Shaftoe had trouble with military etiquette at first. He soaked up quite a bit of it growing up in a military family, but living the life was a different matter. Having now experienced all the phases of military existence except for the terminal ones (violent death, court-martial, retirement), he has come to understand the culture for what it is: a system of etiquette within which it becomes possible for groups of men to live together for years, travel to the ends of the earth, and do all kinds of incredibly weird shit without killing each other or completely losing their minds in the process. The extreme formality with which he addresses these officers carries an important subtext: your problem, sir, is deciding what you want me to do, and my problem, sir, is doing it. My gung-ho posture says that once you give the order I'm not going to bother you with any of the details--and your half of the bargain is you had better stay on your side of the line, sir, and not bother me with any of the chickenshit politics that you have to deal with for a living. The implied responsibility placed upon the officer's shoulders by the subordinate's unhesitating willingness to follow orders is a withering burden to any officer with half a brain, and Shaftoe has more than once seen seasoned noncoms reduce green lieutenants to quivering blobs simply by standing before them and agreeing, cheerfully, to carry out their orders.

-Neal Stephenson

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