Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand and Eternity in an hour

November 28th, 2011
sun through haze

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

Auguries of Innocence


To see a world in a grain of sand
And a Heaven in a wild flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

A Robin Redbreast in a cage
Puts all Heaven in a rage;
A dove-house filled with doves and pigeons
Shudders hell through all its regions;
A dog starved at his master’s gate
Predicts the ruin of the State;
A game-cock clipped and armed for fight
Doth the rising sun affright;
A horse misused upon the road
Calls to Heaven for human blood;
Every wolf’s and lion’s howl
Raises from hell a human soul;
Each outcry of the hunted hare
A fibre from the brain doth tear;
A skylark wounded on the wing
Doth make a cherub cease to sing.

by William Blake (28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827)
from his poem Auguries of Innocence

Symbols and Quests

When Angelina Jolie’s character in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider quoted William Blake’s poem Auguries of Innocence, she joined others as diverse as Jim Morrison and Hannibal Lecter. Jim Morrison used a line from this poem in lyrics from the Doors first album, and in the book Red Dragon, Hannibal Lecter used the line “A robin redbreast in a cage puts all heaven in a rage” as a clue for the FBI. Bob Dylan and Agatha Christy also used lines from Auguries of Innocence.

Poetry is powerful. It can tap into something stronger than time.

What are Auguries? An “augury” is an omen, a sign of things to come. Augury can also be the practice of being sensitive to omens – like divination, or magical foresight. In this case, the poem is a series of pairs of lines that can be read as comparing good and evil, kindness and cruelty, beauty and corruption – auguries that challenge us to be aware and to gently love our natural world.

What’s an omen without a little interpretative divination? Each line can be taken as a call for a deeper “sight” into the little decisions that make up an hour, or a life.

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams

November 25th, 2011
Eleanor Roosevelt holds Human Rights Declaration

Eleanor Roosevelt holds Human Rights Declaration

Believe in yourself. You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you stop to look fear in the face… You must do that which you think you cannot do… The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.

by Eleanor Roosevelt (October 11, 1884 – November 7, 1962)
from It Seems to Me: Selected Letters of Eleanor Roosevelt
image – United Nations; Treaty Collection

Making the Good Stuff Happen

This first appeared in QuoteSnack two years ago. I needed to see it again today.

There are a fair number of Eleanor Roosevelt quotes floating around. I’m chalking that up to three main reasons.

First off, let’s get fame out of the way. She had a built-in audience because she was the wife of a president, but I don’t think that’s why her words are still loved.

Second, she had a charm that was easy to identify with. She was not physically beautiful, yet was a very public figure, involved in beautiful human issues – emphasis on involved. She kept her head held high through her husband’s cheating. She could laugh at herself. She knew her importance, yet was not self-important.

Third, and I think this is most important, she was prolific. She got involved and worked, continually – and wrote about it. For example, Eleanor Roosevelt’s newspaper column “My Day” ran from 1936, three years after beginning her twelve-year stint as First Lady, until 1962, the year of her death. She engaged, wrote about what she engaged with and shared the process of working her life.

To repeat: Eleanor Roosevelt worked her life.

Bring Eleanor Roosevelt Home

What do you work? What would you like to work? What makes you think there is any time but the present, in which to do that work?

A lot of us have a special something, but don’t follow through. Set aside imaginary prerequisites. Take a page out of Eleanor’s book and keep the faith about the possibilities of today. “You must do that which you think you cannot do.” There is no other way to grow.

We don’t describe the world we see – we see the world we describe

November 24th, 2011
woman against the dark with birthday candles

Twenty three reasons and many, many storyies

We don’t describe the world we see – we see the world we describe. Language, as the single most fundamental force of the human intellect, has the power to alter perception. We think in words, and these words have the power to limit us or to set us free; they can frighten us or evoke our courage. Similarly, the stories we tell ourselves about our own lives eventually become our lives. We can tell healthy stories or horror stories. The choice is ours.

by Dan Baker Ph.D. and Cameron Stauth
from What Happy People Know: How the New Science of Happiness Can Change Your Life for the Better (2003)
Chapter 2
image – Lachlan

Writing Prompt – November 23, 2011

November 23rd, 2011

QuoteSnack offers fresh quotes several days a week, attributed and linked to a confirmed, published source. In addition, I’ll sometimes post a writing prompt with simple instructions. The next post will be a quote that has something to do with the prompt, so you can take a peek at differences or similarities in how someone else relates to using the same words.

There is no wrong approach. Don’t worry if something seems to be a lot more emotionally charged than it is on the surface, or if some prompts are duds for you. This is a mind-opening exercise; anything is possible.

The Prompt


  1. Be ready to write, word processor open, or pad and pencil in hand. Set a timer for five minutes.
  2. Clear your mind.
  3. Click “Reveal Writing Prompt” below, and look at the prompt for the space of one deep, quiet breath.
  4. As you start the second breath, clear your mind of expectations.
  5. Write, full on, whatever comes to you, for five minutes. Do not stop to correct anything – just go.
  6. When the time is up, you have to stop.
  7. Get up and wiggle. Move. Laugh. Growl. Pat self on back.

You’re welcome to leave comments about the experience and anything that comes of it, including links or even your entire prompt-generated exercise. However, please don’t look at any comments until after finishing your own writing. What you’re doing right now is a personal thing.

This time you will see an image. Make up a story.


Process tells us how. Purpose tells us why… Process is really purpose.

November 22nd, 2011
painted lines on asphalt

It is academic to draw a line between them, they are part of a continuum

Let us look at what is called process. Process tells us how. Purpose tells us why. But in reality, it is academic to draw a line between them, they are part of a continuum. Process and purpose are so welded to each other that it is impossible to mark where one leaves off and the other begins, or which is which. The very process of democratic participation is for the purpose of organization rather than to rid the alleys of dirt. Process is really purpose.

by Saul David Alinsky (January 30, 1909 – June 12, 1972)
from Rules for Radicals (Oct 23, 1989)
image – Dominic’s pics

I am not a vegetarian for the sake of my health, but for the health of the chickens

November 21st, 2011

For the animals, every day is Treblinka - just maybe not this one

Isaac loved kasha (roasted buckwheat groats), and nothing in the world could diminish that love. “It’s my food. My body needs this food!” he would exclaim. Having eaten kasha in Poland his entire youth, he both spiritually and physically craved this grain.

When I first met him, Isaac had been a strict vegetarian for almost thirty years. When people asked him why, he always said, “I am not a vegetarian for the sake of my health, but for the health of the chickens. For the animals, every day is Treblinka.”

In Poland and the Ukraine, kasha had been highly popular among the poor because it was so inexpensive. My family was of Russian and Polish background, and my grandmother cooked kashe-varnishkes (kasha with bow tie noodles) as naturally as one bakes a potato in America.

by Isaac Bashevis Singer (November 21, 1902 – July 24, 1991)
from Master of Dreams: A Memoir of Isaac Bashevis Singer
as told by Dvorah M. Telushkin
Chapter 9: Secret Kasha
image – eschipul


The author goes on to describe Isaac Singer, reading the kasha package.

“Buckvheat has over eighty percent of the protein quality of eggs,” Isaac read to me from the Wolff’s brand kasha box. “Vith none of the cholesterol or fat. Plus buckvheat keeps glucose levels in check better than any other carbohydrate.”

I read this and thought, “Ohhhh, a food nerd, there’s another thing we have in common. He can be a bastard sometimes, but he likes what he likes, he has a sense of humor and he reads the kasha box to whoever will listen – probably if anyone is there or not.”

Storytellers do that. They tell the tale in a way that lets you in. They speak, you become like another person in their room.

This memoir is the story of a storyteller, Isaac Bashevis Singer, told by a storyteller, Dvorah Telushkin. Devorah, if you google your name one day and see this, please take note of my encouragement to publish another book. I will quote you!

As for Isaac Bashevis Singer, on October 5th, 1978, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. He’s probably best known in the popular media for the novella “Yentl the Yeshiva boy,” a tale of transgendered identity, set in 1870’s Poland. Doesn’t ring a bell? By the time it became a movie, “Yentl” underwent a few plot twists. Singer did not approve.

Of course “Yentl the Yeshiva boy” wasn’t his only story – check out Singer’s bio on the Nobel Prize web site. If you’d like to hear Singer’s voice, his Nobel lecture is available as an audio file. He gives his speech in both Yiddish and English. There’s just something about that language. I don’t understand Yiddish, but the shape of it does something to me; of that, Singer would approve.

True life begins where the tiny bit begins – where what seem to us minute and infinitely small alterations take place

November 20th, 2011
eroding seaside cliff

True life is not lived where great external changes take place

Bryullóv (a painter) one day corrected a pupil’s study. The pupil, having glanced at the altered drawing, exclaimed: “Why, you only touched it a tiny bit, but it is quite another thing.” Bryullóv replied: “Art begins where the tiny bit begins.”

That saying is strikingly true not only of art but of all life. One may say that true life begins where the tiny bit begins – where what seem to us minute and infinitely small alterations take place. True life is not lived where great external changes take place – where people move about, clash, fight, and slay one another – it is lived only where these tiny, tiny, infinitesimally small changes occur.

by Leo Tolstoy (September 9, 1828 – November 20, 1910)
from “Why Do Men Stupefy Themselves?”
found in Essays and Letters
image – Randy Son Of Robert

True life is lived when tiny changes occur

Leo Tolstoy wrote the passage above as a preface for an acquaintance’s book. Tolstoy was an idealist and a reformer most of his life, increasingly so in his later years. Here, he’s urging readers to seriously consider the smallest of personality changes caused by using alcohol, drugs and even cigarettes. In the next section he goes on to talk about the goriest of murderer and earlier he’d described war crimes, but here in the middle we have a gently taught lesson from art.

Part of this passage is sometimes quoted out of context as “True life is lived when tiny changes occur.” I like very much the irony of stripping his warnings down to a few bare words and seeing, instead, an encouragement.

I suspect that warnings ring truest before revolutions; afterward we mine for inspirations that come from peace.

All our dignity lies in thought. Let us strive, then, to think well.

November 19th, 2011
boy looking through reeds

Boy looking through reeds, adding a little whimsy to his space and time

Man is only a reed, the weakest thing in nature, but he is a thinking reed. The whole universe does not need to take up arms to crush him; a vapour, a drop of water, is enough to kill him. But if the universe were to crush him, man would still be nobler than what killed him, because he knows he is dying and the advantage the universe has over him. The universe knows nothing of this.

All our dignity lies in thought. It is from this that we must raise ourselves, and not by space and time, which we cannot fill.

Let us labor, then, to think well. This is the principle of morality.

Between us, and heaven or hell, there is only life, of all things in the world the most frail.

by Blaise Pascal (June 19, 1623 – August 19, 1662)
from a translation of his Pensées
or “Thoughts on Religion”
image – DavidDennisPhotos.com