Archive for ‘2000s’



Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.

Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird (2007)



I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, “If this isn’t nice I don’t know what is.

Kurt Vonnegut, “Knowing What’s Nice” in In These Times (2003)



If you live in the sting, you will undoubtedly fail. My way of getting past the sting is to say, ‘No, I’m just not going to let this get me down.’

Sonia Sotomayor, My Beloved World (2013)



I think I’m greedy, but I’m not greedy for money – I think that can be a burden – I’m greedy for an exciting life. I want it to be exciting all the time, and I get it, actually. On the other hand, I can find excitement, I admit, in raindrops falling on a puddle and a lot of people wouldn’t. I intend to have it exciting until the day I fall over.

David Hockney in A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney (2011)



Instagram isn’t about reality – it’s about a well-crafted fantasy, a highlights reel of your life that shows off versions of yourself that you want to remember and put on display in a glass case for other people to admire and browse through. It’s why most of the photographs uploaded to Instagram are beautiful and entertaining slices of life and not the tedious time in-between of those moments, when bills get paid, cranky children are put to bed, little spats with friends. Instagram is a yearbook of our most memorable moments, not because they’re the moments worth remembering, but because they’re the moments worth projecting and sharing.

Jenna Wrotham, “Instagram Videos and the Death of Fantasy” (2013)



Err in the direction of kindness.

George Saunders, commencement address at Syracuse University (2013)

Note: I’ve linked to the whole speech, which is well, well, well worth a read. Phenomenal.

Note: Another note: I just got engaged!!! I had already scheduled this quote to run today, but it seems even more fitting as advice for married life 🙂



Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it’s to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential — as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth. You’ll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you’ll hear about them. To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.

Bill Watterson, Commencement Speech at Kenyon College (1990)



If you have never read—and grappled with—Hamlet, it  is very difficult to understand modern culture: the intense sense of individuality and the fear that you are the pawn of political forces beyond your control; the feeling of empowerment and the intensity of despair; the wild blend of savage humor and melancholy.

Stephen Greenblatt, in “Books Everyone Should Read…” on The Daily Beast (2013)



My advice is to abandon the passion mindset which asks “What does this job offer me? Am I happy with this job? Is it giving me everything I want?” Shift from that mindset to Steve Martin’s mindset, which is “What am I offering the world? How valuable am I? Am I really not that valuable? If I’m not that valuable, then I shouldn’t expect things in my working life. How can I get better?”

Cal Newport, interview with Eric Barker (2013)



You have nothing to lose unless it’s meant to be lost.

Anna Harris, in a conversation with me (2013)



In the family of punctuation marks these days…the apostrophe is the abused victim.     

John Humphrys, interview with The Guardian (2008)


on semicolons

No other piece of punctuation so compactly captures the way in which our thoughts are both liquid and solid, wave and particle.

Ben Dolnick, “Semicolons: A Love Story” (2012)


the arts

Go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an an enormous reward. You will have created something.

Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country (2005)



The secret of flight is this—you have to do it immediately, before your body realizes it is defying the laws.

Michael Cunningham, A Home at the End of the World: A Novel (2010)

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