Thinking about work as a day job has made a big difference in the way I approach what I do. It also helped me not to confuse who I am with what I do.
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Thinking about work as a day job has made a big difference in the way I approach what I do. It also helped me not to confuse who I am with what I do.

-Bob Goff

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I do not write every day. I write to the questions and issues before me. I write to deadlines. I write out of my passions. And I write to make peace with my own contradictory nature. For me, writing is a spiritual practice. A small bowl of water sits on my desk, a reminder that even if nothing is happening on the page, something is happening in the room--evaporation. And I always light a candle when I begin to write, a reminder that I have now entered another realm, call it the realm of the Spirit. I am mindful that when one writes, one leaves this world and enters another. My books are collages made from journals, research, and personal experience. I love the images rendered in journal entries, the immediacy that is captured on the page, the handwritten notes. I love the depth of ideas and perspective that research brings to a story, be it biological or anthropological studies or the insights brought to the page by the scholarly work of art historians.When I go into a library, I feel like I am a sleuth looking to solve a mystery. I am completely inspired by the pursuit of knowledge through various references. I read newpapers voraciously. I love what newspapers say about contemporary culture. And then you go back to your own perceptions, your own words, and weigh them against all you have brought together. I am interested in the kaleidoscope of ideas, how you bring many strands of thought into a book and weave them together as one piece of coherent fabric, while at the same time trying to create beautiful language in the service of the story. This is the blood work of the writer.Writing is also about a life engaged. And so, for me, community work, working in the schools or with grassroots conservation organizations is another critical component of my life as a writer. I cannot separate the writing life from a spiritual life, from a life as a teacher or activist or my life intertwined with family and the responsibilities we carry within our own homes. Writing is daring to feel what nurtures and breaks our hearts. Bearing witness is its own form of advocacy. It is a dance with pain and beauty.

-Terry Tempest

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Tom Paine has almost no influence on present-day thinking in the United States because he is unknown to the average citizen. Perhaps I might say right here that this is a national loss and a deplorable lack of understanding concerning the man who first proposed and first wrote those impressive words, 'the United States of America.'But it is hardly strange. Paine's teachings have been debarred from schools everywhere and his views of life misrepresented until his memory is hidden in shadows, or he is looked upon as of unsound mind.We never had a sounder intelligence in this Republic. He was the equal of Washington in making American liberty possible. Where Washington performed Paine devised and wrote. The deeds of one in the Weld were matched by the deeds of the other with his pen.Washington himself appreciated Paine at his true worth. Franklin knew him for a great patriot and clear thinker. He was a friend and confidant of Jefferson, and the two must often have debated the academic and practical phases of liberty.I consider Paine our greatest political thinker. As we have not advanced, and perhaps never shall advance, beyond the Declaration and Constitution, so Paine has had no successors who extended his principles. Although the present generation knows little of Paine's writings, and although he has almost no influence upon contemporary thought, Americans of the future will justly appraise his work. I am certain of it.Truth is governed by natural laws and cannot be denied. Paine spoke truth with a peculiarly clear and forceful ring. Therefore time must balance the scales. The Declaration and the Constitution expressed in form Paine's theory of political rights. He worked in Philadelphia at the time that the first document was written, and occupied a position of intimate contact with the nation's leaders when they framed the Constitution.Certainly we may believe that Washington had a considerable voice in the Constitution. We know that Jefferson had much to do with the document. Franklin also had a hand and probably was responsible in even larger measure for the Declaration. But all of these men had communed with Paine. Their views were intimately understood and closely correlated. There is no doubt whatever that the two great documents of American liberty reflect the philosophy of Paine....Then Paine wrote 'Common Sense,' an anonymous tract which immediately stirred the fires of liberty. It flashed from hand to hand throughout the Colonies. One copy reached the New York Assembly, in session at Albany, and a night meeting was voted to answer this unknown writer with his clarion call to liberty. The Assembly met, but could find no suitable answer. Tom Paine had inscribed a document which never has been answered adversely, and never can be, so long as man esteems his priceless possession.In 'Common Sense' Paine flared forth with a document so powerful that the Revolution became inevitable. Washington recognized the difference, and in his calm way said that matters never could be the same again. It must be remembered that 'Common Sense' preceded the declaration and affirmed the very principles that went into the national doctrine of liberty. But that affirmation was made with more vigor, more of the fire of the patriot and was exactly suited to the hour... Certainly [the Revolution] could not be forestalled, once he had spoken.{The Philosophy of Paine, June 7, 1925}

-Tom Paine

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When I was a child, an angel came to say,A true friend is coming my warrior to sweep you away,It won’t be easy the path because it leads through hell,But if you’re faithful, it will be the greatest story to tell,You will move God’s daughters to a place of hope,Your story will teach everyone there is nothing they can’t cope,You will suffer a lot, but not one tear will you waste,Because for all that you do for me, you will be graced,For I am bringing you someone that wants to travel your trail,Someone you already met when you passed through heaven’s veil,A warrior, a friend that whispers your heart’s song,Someone that will run with you and pull your spirit along,Don’t you see the timing was love's fated throw,Because I put you both there to help one another grow,I am the writer of all great stories your chapters were written by me,You suffered, you cried because I needed you to see,That your faith in my ending goes far beyond two,It was going to change more hearts than both of you knew,So hush my child and wait for my loving hand,The last chapter is not written and still in the sand,It is up to you to finish, before the tide washes it away,All that is in your heart, I’ve put their for you to say,This is not about winning, loss or pain,I made you the way you are because true love stories are insane,I wrote you in heaven as I sat on its sandy shore,You know with all of my heart I loved you both more,There is no better ending two people seeing each other's heart,Together your spirits will never drift apart,Because two kindred spirits is what I made you to be,The waves and beach crashing together because of-- ME.

-Shannon L.

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What infinite heart's-easeMust kings neglect, that private men enjoy!And what have kings, that privates have not too,Save ceremony, save general ceremony?And what art thou, thou idle ceremony?What kind of god art thou, that suffer'st moreOf mortal griefs than do thy worshippers?What are thy rents? what are thy comings in?O ceremony, show me but thy worth!What is thy soul of adoration?Art thou aught else but place, degree and form,Creating awe and fear in other men?Wherein thou art less happy being fear'dThan they in fearing.What drink'st thou oft, instead of homage sweet,But poison'd flattery? O, be sick, great greatness,And bid thy ceremony give thee cure!Think'st thou the fiery fever will go outWith titles blown from adulation?Will it give place to flexure and low bending?Canst thou, when thou command'st the beggar's knee,Command the health of it? No, thou proud dream,That play'st so subtly with a king's repose;I am a king that find thee, and I know'Tis not the balm, the sceptre and the ball,The sword, the mace, the crown imperial,The intertissued robe of gold and pearl,The farced title running 'fore the king,The throne he sits on, nor the tide of pompThat beats upon the high shore of this world,No, not all these, thrice-gorgeous ceremony,Not all these, laid in bed majestical,Can sleep so soundly as the wretched slave,Who with a body fill'd and vacant mindGets him to rest, cramm'd with distressful bread;Never sees horrid night, the child of hell,But, like a lackey, from the rise to setSweats in the eye of Phoebus and all nightSleeps in Elysium; next day after dawn,Doth rise and help Hyperion to his horse,And follows so the ever-running year,With profitable labour, to his grave:And, but for ceremony, such a wretch,Winding up days with toil and nights with sleep,Had the fore-hand and vantage of a king.The slave, a member of the country's peace,Enjoys it; but in gross brain little wotsWhat watch the king keeps to maintain the peace,Whose hours the peasant best advantages.

-William Shakespeare

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But, it didn’t matter that my mother suspected and knew that I was a writer. It was expected of me to take care of my share of the responsibility of making our way in the world as a family. In those days, also, it was unheard of, by us certainly, that to get any help, even from members of our own family, let alone from the government, which would have been disgraceful. Thank God that that kind of folly in thinking is obsolete. There is a temptation to feel, ‘Well, we all made it; why can’t these other poor people make it?’ And, of course, nothing is more than stupid than that attitude. I must confess that I find that attitude among many countrymen of my own who do find themselves taking undue pride in their own sense of ability — of being equal to any situation, and of seeing it through and improving it, and so on. And then, putting that against other people who don’t have that, and thereby implying that the other people are lazy. Not taking into account the whole different structure and identity and a people who have survived for centuries under very harsh conditions and members of a very great culture, and I am talking about the Indians, to begin with, in the Valley — the San Joaquin Valley, in Fresno, in Tulare, and the mountains, and there are many tribes of them, of different kinds, and I am talking about, also, the Mestizos, the mixtures of Mexican, Spaniards with Indians, making the Mexican. And I am talking about any minority which is considered by anybody as being innately of itself indolent. This kind of narrow thinking is a temptation to all sorts of people, and one has to be sympathetic with the people who are wrong, too, you see. It is not enough just to be sympathetic with the people who are belittled; it is necessary to be sympathetic with the people who belittle them. So, in worrying about the persecuted, one is obliged also to worry about the persecutors. I consider that a basic measure of growth.

-William Saroyan

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Fifteen years ago, a business manager from the United States came to Plum Village to visit me. His conscience was troubled because he was the head of a firm that designed atomic bombs. I listened as he expressed his concerns. I knew if I advised him to quit his job, another person would only replace him. If he were to quit, he might help himself, but he would not help his company, society, or country. I urged him to remain the director of his firm, to bring mindfulness into his daily work, and to use his position to communicate his concerns and doubts about the production of atomic bombs.In the Sutra on Happiness, the Buddha says it is great fortune to have an occupation that allows us to be happy, to help others, and to generate compassion and understanding in this world. Those in the helping professions have occupations that give them this wonderful opportunity. Yet many social workers, physicians, and therapists work in a way that does not cultivate their compassion, instead doing their job only to earn money. If the bomb designer practises and does his work with mindfulness, his job can still nourish his compassion and in some way allow him to help others. He can still influence his government and fellow citizens by bringing greater awareness to the situation. He can give the whole nation an opportunity to question the necessity of bomb production.Many people who are wealthy, powerful, and important in business, politics, and entertainment are not happy. They are seeking empty things - wealth, fame, power, sex - and in the process they are destroying themselves and those around them. In Plum Village, we have organised retreats for businesspeople. We see that they have many problems and suffer just as others do, sometimes even more. We see that their wealth allows them to live in comfortable conditions, yet they still suffer a great deal.Some businesspeople, even those who have persuaded themselves that their work is very important, feel empty in their occupation. They provide employment to many people in their factories, newspapers, insurance firms, and supermarket chains, yet their financial success is an empty happiness because it is not motivated by understanding or compassion. Caught up in their small world of profit and loss, they are unaware of the suffering and poverty in the world. When we are not int ouch with this larger reality, we will lack the compassion we need to nourish and guide us to happiness.Once you begin to realise your interconnectedness with others, your interbeing, you begin to see how your actions affect you and all other life. You begin to question your way of living, to look with new eyes at the quality of your relationships and the way you work. You begin to see, 'I have to earn a living, yes, but I want to earn a living mindfully. I want to try to select a vocation not harmful to others and to the natural world, one that does not misuse resources.'Entire companies can also adopt this way of thinking. Companies have the right to pursue economic growth, but not at the expense of other life. They should respect the life and integrity of people, animals, plants and minerals. Do not invest your time or money in companies that deprive others of their lives, that operate in a way that exploits people or animals, and destroys nature.Businesspeople who visit Plum Village often find that getting in touch with the suffering of others and cultivating understanding brings them happiness. They practise like Anathapindika, a successful businessman who lived at the time of the Buddha, who with the practise of mindfulness throughout his life did everything he could to help the poor and sick people in his homeland.

-Thích Nhất

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Electrons, when they were first discovered, behaved exactly like particles or bullets, very simply. Further research showed, from electron diffraction experiments for example, that they behaved like waves. As time went on there was a growing confusion about how these things really behaved ---- waves or particles, particles or waves? Everything looked like both.This growing confusion was resolved in 1925 or 1926 with the advent of the correct equations for quantum mechanics. Now we know how the electrons and light behave. But what can I call it? If I say they behave like particles I give the wrong impression; also if I say they behave like waves. They behave in their own inimitable way, which technically could be called a quantum mechanical way. They behave in a way that is like nothing that you have seen before. Your experience with things that you have seen before is incomplete. The behavior of things on a very tiny scale is simply different. An atom does not behave like a weight hanging on a spring and oscillating. Nor does it behave like a miniature representation of the solar system with little planets going around in orbits. Nor does it appear to be somewhat like a cloud or fog of some sort surrounding the nucleus. It behaves like nothing you have seen before.There is one simplication at least. Electrons behave in this respect in exactly the same way as photons; they are both screwy, but in exactly in the same way….The difficulty really is psychological and exists in the perpetual torment that results from your saying to yourself, "But how can it be like that?" which is a reflection of uncontrolled but utterly vain desire to see it in terms of something familiar. I will not describe it in terms of an analogy with something familiar; I will simply describe it. There was a time when the newspapers said that only twelve men understood the theory of relativity. I do not believe there ever was such a time. There might have been a time when only one man did, because he was the only guy who caught on, before he wrote his paper. But after people read the paper a lot of people understood the theory of relativity in some way or other, certainly more than twelve. On the other hand, I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics. So do not take the lecture too seriously, feeling that you really have to understand in terms of some model what I am going to describe, but just relax and enjoy it. I am going to tell you what nature behaves like. If you will simply admit that maybe she does behave like this, you will find her a delightful, entrancing thing. Do not keep saying to yourself, if you can possible avoid it, "But how can it be like that?" because you will get 'down the drain', into a blind alley from which nobody has escaped. Nobody knows how it can be like that.

-Richard Feynman

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Did you ever think much about jobs? I mean, some of the jobs people land in? You see a guy giving haircuts to dogs, or maybe going along the curb with a shovel, scooping up horse manure. And you think, now why is the silly bastard doing that? He looks fairly bright, about as bright as anyone else. Why the hell does he do that for living?You kind grin and look down your nose at him. You think he’s nuts, know what I mean, or he doesn’t have any ambition. And then you take a good look at yourself, and you stop wondering about the other guy…You’ve got all your hands and feet. Your health is okay, and you make a nice appearance, and ambition-man! You’ve got it. You’re young, I guess: you’d call thirty young, and you’re strong. You don’t have much education, but you’ve got more than plenty of other people who go to the top. And yet with all that, with all you’ve had to do with this is as far you’ve got And something tellys you, you’re not going much farther if any.And there is nothing to be done about it now, of course, but you can’t stop hoping. You can’t stop wondering……Maybe you had too much ambition. Maybe that was the trouble. You couldn’t see yourself spending forty years moving from office boy to president. So you signed on with a circulation crew; you worked the magazines from one coast to another. And then you ran across a little brush deal-it sounded nice, anyway. And you worked that until you found something better, something that looked better. And you moved from that something to another something. Coffee-and-tea premiums, dinnerware, penny-a-day insurance, photo coupons, cemetery lots, hosiery, extract, and God knows what all. You begged for the charities, You bought the old gold. You went back to the magazines and the brushes and the coffee and tea. You made good money, a couple of hundred a week sometimes. But when you averaged it up, the good weeks with the bad, it wasn’t so good. Fifty or sixty a week, maybe seventy. More than you could make, probably, behind agas pump or a soda fountain. But you had to knock yourself out to do it, and you were standing stil. You were still there at the starting place. And you weren’t a kid any more.So you come to this town, and you see this ad. Man for outside sales and collections. Good deal for hard worker. And you think maybe this is it. This sounds like a right town. So you take the job, and you settle down in the town. And, of course, neither one of ‘em is right, they’re just like all the others. The job stinks. The town stinks. You stink. And there’s not a goddamned thing you can do about it. All you can do is go on like this other guys go on. The guy giving haircuts to dogs, and the guy sweeping up horse manute Hating it. Hating yourself.And hoping.

-Jim Thompson

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