Others' Words of Wisdom

There are so many times that I am fascinated by quotations from books I read...
Although I often list quotations from books I review, inevitably there are tidbits that I would love to include, but I defer since I feel as if my reviews tend to be a bit lengthy anyway.
Then it occurred to me that I could create a page on this same blog for these seemingly random quotations with which I am enamored. So here goes! :) 
These are presented in no specific order of preference.

From The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts: Murder and Memory in an American City 
by Laura Tillman
***Page 6, Tillman's communication with one of the murderers, John:
"My correspondence to John was businesslike. 
I asked him lists of questions and thanked him for writing back. 
I didn't talk about myself or try to create a meaningful relationship. I didn't want to give John the impression that 
I was trying to get him released or get his sentence changed. False hope seemed the cruelest currency."
     Wow. Yes, that last sentence would be so very true...and sincere. 
     What struck me is that Tillman's communication with a death-row 
     inmate was so very different in nature to that of Bryan Stevenson. 
     He is the author of Just Mercy, which is definitely a must-read! 
     And yet, maybe not. Both of these people face challenges in 
     these relationships they form or formed with those convicted to die.  

***Page 72 of The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts, a letter from John to Tillman:
I had trouble keeping a job, always have. In part because I am slow, clumsy 
an dhave both dyslexia and ADHD. These are not excussess like many would 
think becaue if you read my school records all through out school 
that had been a problem I had to over come. 
I got better with time but never good enough. 
     Honestly, this made my heart break. How very sad to realize you were unable to be 
     "good enough." I can only imagine that this referred to his lifelong dream of serving in 
     the military as much as anything else, though he may well have felt that applied to his 
     whole life. It just makes me sad. I don't want anyone to have to feel this way. But John 
     obviously couldn't make it on his own; he was unable to support himself and especially 
     his family.

***Page 73 of The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts, regarding the U.S./Mexico border at 
Gloria Anzaldua, the poet, called the border una herida abierta--an open wound.
Bobby Burd, the essayist, called it an alley between the home of a rich man and a poor man. The rich man needs the labor that the poor man and his family provide, but he also fears them and wants to control them. 
     Yes! This is all too true, isn't it? And we still see it playing out in the U.S. to such an 
     unbelievable degree. Republicans setting voting district boundaries to prevent the votes 
     of minorities from having much impact, establishing voter ID laws to prevent minority 
     voters from registering and/or voting, and outright disenfranchising voters...because they 
     can. It is time this practice stopped!

***Pages 75-76 of The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts, regarding Tillman's trip across the
    border into Matamoros, Mexico:
That trip had a profound effect on my understanding of the border ever after.
The sudden transition from one country to the next was astounding.
No matter how poor Brownsville was in relation to the rest of the United States,
I had seen the other comparison just across the bridge.
The river snaked between the two countries, carving the curved edges of 
puzzle pieces. They interlocked, complicating each other, begging the answers 
to unspoken questions such as, how do we measure poverty? 
How does examining an alternative way of life help us to better 
understand ourselves, and what are the limits of that understanding? 
     The answer to the second question is that limits vary with each individual. Some are 
     totally unable to understand or try to place this into their knowledge banks; the best and 
     only thing they can do is ignore it. And for those same people poverty is an abstract 
     concept--just a word in their vocabulary, really, but nothing to care about or think about. 
     Others are totally sympathetic, and even empathetic, though few of us truly reach out 
     and interact with others living in poverty. Excellent questions to ponder...all too often 
     those who could help the most do nothing...

***Page 76 of The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts, the U.S./Mexico border:
Many people in Brownsville visited Matamoros more often than I did, even daily,
and argued that the cities were really part of a single region that was falsely 
divided by a political line. But the division had recently become explicit. 
The rust-colored border fence had transformed the local aesthetic, 
and a pastoral landscape had become a broadly gated prison. 
     Ack! Not as if there was so much beauty that the natural landscape shouldn't be 
     aesthetically pleasing, after all. Terrible what we humans do to each other. A fence 
     and/or wall can serve as just a beginning of future treachery. 

***Page 77 of The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts, for those who just don't understand why 
    people living in Mexico are so determined to cross that border. John had stated "they 
    knew where they could go if they lost the apartment." (Though they had been homeless ]     and sleeping in the streets before...):
They had more tools than some to support a little family, 
even though on the scale of US poverty, they were decidedly at the bottom. 
On this side of the border, they were sheltered from the extortion, 
lack of basic infrastructure, and institutional corruption 
that define life for many of the poor in Matamoros. 
     That would be why. So they didn't have to live in pulled-together shacks of discarded 
     wood, aluminum roofing, etc. So they could at least have a life without fear of being   
     kidnapped, killed, etc.

***Page 77 of The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts, John as a father:
Maybe it would have taken years and medication and sobriety for John to become 
the father the children needed...He knew that he loved his family and that 
he was a good dad, at least compared to the standard that had been set 
by Angela's abusive former boyfriend or John's own father.
     I thought it so insightful on Tillman's part that she realized John's delusions of being a 
     good provider and father were all he had to keep himself "alive in jail." There are times 
     when it is more beneficial to allow others their own view of 'reality' than to correct them, 
     and this was one of those.

***Pages 192-193 of The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts, from a study in the journal 
Time is a powerful force that transforms people's preferences, reshapes their values, 
and alters their personalities, and we suspect that people generally 
underestimate the magnitude of those changes. 
In other words, people may believe that who they are today is pretty much 
who they will be tomorrow, despite the fact that it isn't who they were yesterday. 
In the studies we describe here, we showed that people expect to change 
little in the future, despite knowing that they have changed a lot in the past, 
and that this tendency bedevils their decision-making.
Very thought-provoking...

***Page 204 of The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts, description of executions:
The inmates are treated...much like patients in a hospice--with respect for their privacy and a minimum of pain. Of course, this is all its own brand of theater: 
an intentional death of a healthy person made to look more like the mercy killing 
of a sick dog or cat. The pretense of magnanimity at executions prevents the martyrdom or sympathy that might be generated by a more torturous slaughter.
Oohh...strong words, those. Yet accurate, in my opinion.

*** Page 106 of Jam on the Vine, Miss Durden in the Willetson Herald:
"Each and every protest is a wave 
that moves us beyond the stagnant waters 
of servitude and oppression 
toward the shores of self-respect." 
So very very true. Each and every such attempt does help 
in the movement toward equality overall...
and not just for those who are directly experience discrimination, 
but for each and every individual.

So many excellent quotes from Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively:
Image result for moon tiger cover image

*** Laszlo, Claudia's 'surrogate son' from Budapest, muses about her on page 187 of Moon 
     Tiger by Penelope Lively
"Always I have been a little in love with Claudia...Always Claudia has seemed brighter cleverer more entertaining than other people, always I could talk to Claudia about anything, always when you leave Claudia you go flat a little...the brother, with whom she was so close...There was something strange there -- Claudia and Gordon, something not quite like sister and brother, they seemed set apart when they were together, they made you feel you were not there."
     Of course, Laszlo is correct, theirs was not a typical sibling relationship in many 
     ways...as Claudia describes herself below....

*** Claudia describing her relationship with her dead brother, Gordon, on page 187 of Moon 
     Tiger by Penelope Lively
"I am separate from him now. No day passes in which I do not think of him, but I can do so with detachment. He is complete; he has beginning and end. The times in which we were together are complete. I do not mourn him any the less, but I have had to move away: there is no choice. We were children together; we made narcissistic love; we grew up and depended upon one another. From time to time we loathed each other but even in hatred we were united, exclusive, a community of two. I knew Gordon as ruthlessly as I know myself -- and as indulgently. What I felt for Gordon was classifiable as love for lack of a better word: he was my sense of identity, my mirror, my critic, judge and ally. Without him I am diminished."
     What a beautiful sentiment! Being an only child, I can't relate very well, but I feel it is so 
     poignant, this connection that has been physically severed, leaving Claudia bereft...

*** Claudia musing on the concept of 'afterlife' on page 125 of Moon Tiger by Penelope 
"...we all survive in the heads of others. I shall survive -- appallingly misrepresented -- in Lisa's head and in Sylvia's and in Jasper's and in the heads of my grandsons (if there is room alongside football players and pop stars) and the heads of mine enemies. As a historian, I know only too well that there is nothing I can do about the depth and extent of the misrepresentation, so I don't care. Perhaps, for those who do, who struggle against it, this is the secular form of hell -- to be preserved in forms that we do not like in the recollection of others."
     This made me laugh! Mainly because it is so true! No matter what we do or don't do, 
     others form their own unique impressions of us with total disregard for how we would 
     like to be remembered! :) Someone once told me their goal was to "make everyone 
     love" them. What a heavy burden to place upon oneself! Particularly given the fact this is 
     a totally unrealistic and unattainable goal! No matter how "nice" you are, not everyone 
     will even like you or accept you as you are, let alone LOVE you! 

*** Tom discussing 'reporters' vs. 'chroniclers' of war with Claudia on page 102 of Moon 
     Tiger by Penelope Lively
"...it's the chroniclers I'm thinking of rather than the reporters. I take it you don't regard yourself as a chronicler. The chroniclers, not having been in the thick of things, concentrate on justice and valour and all that. And statistics. When you find yourself in a position of a statistic it looks rather different."
     It is true, isn't it? Once we experience something directly, rather than considering our 
     role as a 'statistic,' we are instead concerned with surviving and thriving beyond the 
     specific event/situation. It becomes personal. We do not consider ourselves to just be a 

*** Tom answers Claudia's question, "Are we going to win the war?" on page 102 of Moon 
     Tiger by Penelope Lively
"Yes. I assume so. Not because of the Lord's intervention or because justice will prevail but because in the last resort we have greater resources. Wars have little to do with justice. Or valour or sacrifice or the other things traditionally associated with them. That's one thing I hadn't quite realized. War has been much misrepresented, believe me. It's had a disgracefully good press."
     Having just read Messenger of Truth by Jacqueline Winspear where the victim was 
     forced to create propaganda for the English military during World War I, this statement 
     certainly spoke volumes to me regarding the 'propoganda' we common citizens are fed. 
     (Think 'weapons of mass destruction' in Iraq...) And yet, this is World War II and there is 
     Hitler. He would have never stopped, though as Tom so eloquently states, we did have 
     greater resources--thankfully! 

*** Claudia speaking of Sasha, a Russian immigrant, on page 66 of Moon Tiger by 
     Penelope Lively
"He should have been a statistic...a part of those figures that freeze the blood: the million dead of Leningrad, the three million labour slaves from Belorussia and the Ukraine, the two million prisoners of Kiev, the quarter million maimed by frostbite, the twenty million give or take the odd man, woman or child who were simply no longer citizens of Russia or indeed of anywhere by 1945." 
     Indeed, I often forget these unbelievable statistics of death and destruction heaped upon
     humanity by despotic rulers and political upheaval...and we should NEVER 
     forget!! Unfortunately, in 2015, we still have refugee crises around the globe. Will we 
     never learn? How can this ever be stopped? 

*** Page 42 of Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively
"Children are not like us. They are beings apart: inpenetrable, unapproachable. They inhabit not our world but a world we have lost and can never recover. We do not remember childhood -- we imagine it. 
     I believe some adults are much better at reconnecting with their childhood. I certainly 
     don't feel that I am and I totally agree with this sentiment. It is as if we cannot truly ever 
     recapture childhood, can we? 

*** Claudia, speaking of her life partner, on page 65 of Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively
"Jasper will have none of either nature or nurture because Jasper is sublimely egotistical, and the egotist of course sees himself as self-propagated. He can afford no debts or attributions. His achievements are his own."
     This passage made me think of a couple of people who are acquaintances. They would        never willingly admit that they are not in control of every detail of their lives or that           
     anything or anyone else could possibly wield such input into who they are! Quite 
     arrogant, eh? 

*** Page 30 of Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively
"There was a spaniel on board the Mayflower. This little dog once, was chased by wolves not far from the plantation and ran to crouch between its master's legs for 'succour'. Smart dog--it knew that muskets are sharper than teeth. What I find remarkable about this animal is that I should know of its existence at all, that it's unimportant passage through time should be recorded. It becomes one of the those vital inessentials that convince one that history is true."
    The utter truth of this struck me hard. It is the details that tend to create believability and       credibility, isn't it? And for me, it is some of these seemingly trivial details that make such     a strong impression that I can remember historical information longer. Perhaps because       details can be related directly to our own personal experience? I believe that creates the       indelible connection to our memory.

*** At the beginning of A Sudden Light by Garth Stein:
       "We do not see things the way they are, 
we see them as we are." 
          Anais Nin
     What strikes me about this is the truth it reveals; we are always   
     applying filters to every experience, though typically 
     subconsciously. Research keeps proving this over and over again. 
     I believe the more we can realize this, the better we can 
     sympathize with others' viewpoints and accept their unique 
     interpretations of events, as well as our own--they will not always
     match! And that is okay, to be expected even! 

*** This from one of the people I have most admired and who carried with her the 
      most pervasive spiritual presence I've experienced in another's presence...
       "I've learned that people will forget what you said, 
people will forget what you did, 
but people will never forget how you made them feel."
          Maya Angelou
     I try to be aware of this when interacting with others. Do I always succeed in my goal 
     of leaving each individual feeling at least a little bit better as a result of our interaction? 
     Probably not, but at least I am working to train myself to literally "think before I speak" 
     and work to make others feel better about themselves... Truly, all we can do is try. :)

*** quote posted on Goodreads:
"Suppose time is a circle, bending back on itself. 
The world repeats itself, precisely, endlessly." 
Alan Lightman
      What struck me is the accuracy of this statement. 
      The more I learn of history, the more I believe this to be true and I wonder...will the 
      human race EVER truly evolve beyond this cyclical nature thus far evidenced? I have 
      faith it will, regardless of the past repetitions. I really want to read his book Einstein's 

*** From page 110 of The Shoemaker's Wife:
"Orphans have many parents."  Adriana Trigiani

      Though never technically an orphan myself, I have long felt that 
      friends are "family you choose." I believe that blends with this     
      sentiment in that not only orphans can be open to others helping
      and nurturing them, but each of us can benefit from that same 
      welcoming attitude toward others we encounter throughout our 
      lives. As well as offering others aid in whatever way(s) possible.

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