“If you have a beautiful voice… (Thich Nhat Hanh)

“If you have a beautiful voice, don’t think that you have created that beautiful voice for yourself. It has been transmitted by your ancestors, your parents. If you have the talent of a painter, don’t think that you have invented that talent. It has been transmitted to you as a seed. So everything you have thought that you are has come from the cosmos, from your ancestors. The water in you, the heat in you, the air in you, the soil in you, belong to the water outside, the soil outside.
Without the forest how could you be? Without your father and mother how could you be there this moment? Therefore you say, in wisdom, that you are nothing. Everything that you think, you thought that you are, you have received from the cosmos, from parents – including your body. Suddenly non-self arises as an insight. You belong to the stream of life. If you bear hatred toward your father, you think that your life has been ruined by your father, that you don’t want to have anything to do with your father. It is out of ignorance that you have thought so. Because if you touch the reality of no-self, you see very clearly that you are your father. You are just a continuation of your father, and your father is a continuation of your grandfather.
We are one in a stream of life. To think that you are a separate entity, that you are a self that can be independent from your father, is a very funny thing. Because your father is inside you, you can never get rid of him. There is no alternative except to reconcile with your father. To reconcile with him means to reconcile with yourself. The other person, it might not be your father, he may be your brother or your spouse or anyone. You think that he or she has made you suffer so much, has made your life miserable. There is a tendency in you never to see him again, to hear from him again or from her again. That kind of willingness, that kind of feeling is born from your ignorance of the reality of no-self. Because we are all together. Not only are we together, we are inside each other, we inter-are. So if you surrender your idea of self, suddenly you release a lot of suffering, a lot of anger. You give yourself a chance for compassion and understanding to be born in your heart.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

“If You Knew” by Ellen Bass

What if you knew you’d be the last
to touch someone?
If you were taking tickets, for example,
at the theater, tearing them,
giving back the ragged stubs,
you might take care to touch that palm,
brush your fingertips
along the life line’s crease.

When a man pulls his wheeled suitcase
too slowly through the airport, when
the car in front of me doesn’t signal,
when the clerk at the pharmacy
won’t say Thank you, I don’t remember
they’re going to die.

A friend told me she’d been with her aunt.
They’d just had lunch and the waiter,
a young gay man with plum black eyes,
joked as he served the coffee, kissed
her aunt’s powdered cheek when they left.
Then they walked half a block and her aunt
dropped dead on the sidewalk.

How close does the dragon’s spume
have to come? How wide does the crack
in heaven have to split?
What would people look like
if we could see them as they are,
soaked in honey, stung and swollen,
reckless, pinned against time?

“If You Knew” by Ellen Bass from The Human Line




“Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. …

“Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. It is both. Appreciating the gloriousness inspires us, encourages us, cheers us up, gives us a bigger perspective, energizes us. We feel connected. But if that’s all that’s happening, we get arrogant and start to look down on others, and there is a sense of making ourselves a big deal and being really serious about it, wanting it to be like that forever. The gloriousness becomes tinged by craving and addiction. On the other hand, wretchedness–life’s painful aspect–softens us up considerably. Knowing pain is a very important ingredient of being there for another person. When you are feeling a lot of grief, you can look right into somebody’s eyes because you feel you haven’t got anything to lose–you’re just there. The wretchedness humbles us and softens us, but if we were only wretched, we would all just go down the tubes. We’d be so depressed, discouraged, and hopeless that we wouldn’t have enough energy to eat an apple. Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together.”
― Pema ChödrönStart Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living