Book Quotes #1 – When All You’ve Wanted Isn’t Enough – Harold Kushner

I read a good amount of books (last year I averaged one every two weeks). I also underline any passage I find interesting and later type it into a large spreadsheet. I’m not sure fully sure why I’m doing this other than a feeling that this will save me lots of time later or help me in some way.

I’ve decided to start sharing the quotes from each book I read.

I read this a few months ago, but just got around to typing in the quotes, and I like them a lot, so I’ll start with it:

When All You’ve Wanted Isn’t Enough by Harold Kushner:

“Oscar Wilde once wrote, “In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wnats, and the other is getting it.” ” (16)

“About a third of my cases are suffering from no clinically defineable neurosis, but from the senselessness and emptiness of their lives. This can be described as the general neurosis of our time.” (18) (quoting Carl Jung in Modern Man in Search of a Soul)

“What we miss in our lives, no matter how much we have, is that sense of meaning.” (20)

“There is an old Yiddish saying, “To a worm in horseradish, the whole world is horseradish.” (22)

“You don’t become happy by pursuing happiness. You become happy by living a life that means something… It is always a by-product, never a primary goal.” (22-23)

“We overlook the essential fact that the achievements which society rewards are won at the cost of a diminution of personality.” (23) (quoting Carl Jung)

“Like hunting dogs who have been trained to bring back the game birds in their mouths without taking a bite out of them, we have become useful to society by denying our own healthy instincts.” (25)

“Having fun can be the spice of life but not its main course, because when it is over, nothing of lasting value remains.” (39)

“If the wise man does in fact see more clearly, what he sees is the futility of life. The wiser he is, the more he sees unfairness, injustice, tragedy.” (41)

To what purpose then should one exert oneself to be wise? The rich man loses his wealth when he dies, but the wise man may lose his wisdom even sooner.” (41)

[Fit American tourist cant climb steep mountain while woman with babies and old men can, asks why] “It is because you have the typical American habit of seeing everything as a test. You see the mountain as your enemy and you set out to defeat it. So, naturally, the mountain fights back and it is stronger than you are. We do not see the mountain as our enemy to be conquered. The purpose of our climb is to become one with the mountain and so it lifts us up and carries us along.” (50)

“Nothing around him has changed but something inside him has changed, and he can look forward to his remaining years in the active ministry as being productive and gratifying ones.” (51)

“The quest for wealth and power, and the exercise of that power, tends to separate you from other people.” (52)

“If you love someone because he always tries to please you, because he does only what you want him to do, that is not love.” (52)

“Love can be generated only between people who see themselves as equals, between people who can be mutually fulfilling to each other. Where one commands and one obeys, there can be loyalty and gratitude but not love.” (52-53)

“Hell is not “other people.” Hell is having worked so hard for success that it corroded your relationships with other people, so that you learned to see them only in terms of what they could do for you.” (53-54)

“Nietzsche once said that morality is a conspiracy of the sheep to persuade the wolves that it is wicked to be strong.” (59)

“Sam Levenson used to say, “When I was a kid, they told me to do what my parents wanted. When I became a parent, they told me to do what my kids wanted. When do I get to do what I want?” (61)

“To view the human body and the whole natural world with disgust or mistrust is as much a heresy as to view it with unqualified reverence.” (85)

[on Hinduism] “I will not let you hurt me. I will experience the worst that can happen and triumph over it. I will learn the art of detachment and transcend the pain.” (87)

“Nobody suffers in this world except people who want things they cannot have. When you learn not to desire, you will rise beyond suffering.” (88)

“The way to keep from going through life in constant pain was to lower your expectations. Do not expect life to be fair, and you will not have your heart broken by injustice. There have always been crime, corruption, and accidents, and there always will be. It is part of the human condition.” (91)

“A teacher of mine used to say, “Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person is like expecting the bull not to charge you because you are a vegetarian..”

“learn to say… “I am truly sorry that this is the way the world is, but I won’t change it by being aggravated by it, so why be aggravated?” (91)

“The Talmud says, “Who is wealthy? He who is content with what he has.” (92)

“And yet we have to grow. Any woman who has had a baby knows how much pain is involved in giving birth to a new life. In a sense, it is almost as painful to give birth to a new self during our lives, to outgrow the person we used to be, shed the skin which protected us so well, and take on the risk of a new identity. Being an adolescent was a painful experience for many of us, because we were giving birth to a new self, a new sense of who we were. And changing our habits later in life can be an equally painful, and equally necessary, ordeal.” (93)

“Ecclesiastes… read all the books, heard all the learned lectures, and what he learned was that the meaning of life is not to be found in philosophy.” (104)

“We use our intelligence not to figure out the right thing to do, but to make clever excuses for having done the wrong thing.” (107)

[Erich Fromm on how cultured Germans could have let Hitler into power] “The problems of life become so overwhelming that we despair of ever solving them. Should someone come along and say in a loud, confident voice, “Follow me without question, do everything I tell you to, and I will lead you out of this,” many of us would find that a very tempting offer. When life becomes difficult, we want someone to say to us, “Don’t worry your little head about it. Let me do it for you, and all I want in return is your gratitude and total obedience.” (129)

“True religion should not say to us, “Obey! Conform! Reproduce the past!” It should call upon us to grow, to dare, even to choose wrongly at times and learn from our mistakes rather than being repeatedly pulled back from the brink of using our own minds. For responsible religious adults, God is not the authority telling them what to do. God is the divine power urging them to grow, to reach, to dare. When God speaks to such people, He does not say, as one might to a child, “I will be watching you to make sure you don’t do anything wrong.” He says rather, “Go forth into an uncharted world where you have never been before, struggle to find your path, but no matter what happens, know that I will be with you.” (132)

“Religion is not a nagging parent, nor is it a report card keeping track of our achievements and failures and grading us for performance. Religion is a refining fire, helping us get rid of everything that is not us, everything that distorts, dilutes, or compromises the person we really want to be, until only our authentic selves remain. God’s first words to Abraham, “Go forth out of your land, your birthplace, your father’s house, to the land which I will show you,” can be understood to mean, “Follow Me and obey Me without question.” But they can also mean, “Leave behind all influences that keep you from being the person you are capable of being, so that the real Abraham can emerge.” (134)

“We accompanies Ecclesiastes on five well-traveled paths that turned out to be dead ends, the way of selfishness and self-interest, the way of renouncing all bodily pleasures, the way of wisdom, the path of piety and religious surrender.” (139)

“If logic tells you that in the long run, nothing makes a difference because we all die and disappear, then don’t live in the long run. Instead of brooding over the fact that nothing lasts, accept that as one of the truths of life, and learn to find meaning and purpose in the transitory, in the joys that fade.” (141)

“Trying to find one Big Answer to the problem of living is like trying to eat one Big Meal so that you will never have to worry about being hungry again.” (142)

“There is no Answer, but there are answers: love and the joy of working, and the simple pleasures of food and fresh clothes, the little things that tend to get lost and trampled in the search for the Grand Solution to the Problem of Life and emerge, like the proverbial bluebird of happiness, only when we have stopped searching.” (142)

“Corita Kent says, “Life is a series of moments / to live each one is to succeed.” (143)

“We never solve the problem of living once and for all. We can only deal with it day by day, a constant struggle to fill each day with one day’s worth of meaning.” (143)

“The key to our happiness, to our being able to find pleasure in our work, is the sense that we are using our abilities, not wasting them, and that we are being appreciated for it. “Whatever it is in your power to do, do with all your might.” (149)

“We become whole people, not on the basis of what we accumulate, but by getting rid of everything that is not really us, everything false and inauthentic. Sometimes to become whole, we have to give up the Dream.” (150)

“I sometimes think of this [regret] as the “instant coffee” theory of life. When you open a jar of instant coffee, you dole it out in generous, heaping spoonfuls, because after all you have a whole full jar of it and you see that you are only using a little at a time. By the time you get down toward the bottom of the jar, you realize that you don’t have all that much left, and your portions are more carefully measured. You reach after every last grain in the corner of the jar. I think we tend to treat time that way.” (159)

“It is a sign of maturity when we stop asking, What does life have in store for me? and start asking, What am I doing with my life?” (159)

Horace Kallen wrote “There are persons who shape their lives by the fear of death, and persons who shape their lives by the joy and satisfaction of life. The former live dying; the latter die living. I know that fate may stop me tomorrow, but death is an irrelevant contingency. Whenever it comes, I intend to die living.” (161)

“What are the things you absolutely must have and do so that you can feel that you have lived your life and not wasted it?

Belong to people.
Accept pain as part of your life.
Know that you have made a difference.” (162)

“All the things in our lives, all the complicated structures we spend so much time and energy creating, are built on sand. Only our relationships to other people endure.” (166)

“The Talmud says there are three things one should do in the course of one’s life: have a child, plant a tree, and write a book.” (172)

“It may be hard to be good, given all the distractions and temptations of the world, but it is a lot harder to be told that you don’t have what it takes to be good, so you are excused from trying.” (178)