Posts Tagged ‘God’


I like the word “gumption” because it’s so homely and so forlorn and so out of style it looks as if it needs a friend and isn’t likely to reject anyone who comes along. It’s an old Scottish word, once used a lot by pioneers, but which, like “kin,” seems to have all but dropped out of use. I like it also because it describes exactly what happens to someone who connects with Quality. He gets filled with gumption.

The Greeks called it enthousiasmos, the root of “enthusiasm,” which means literally “filled with theos,” or God, or Quality. See how that fits?

A person filled with gumption doesn’t sit around dissipating and stewing about things. He’s at the front of the train of his own awareness, watching to see what’s up the track and meeting it when it comes. That’s gumption…

…The gumption-filling process occurs when one is quiet long enough to see and hear and feel the real universe, not just one’s own stale opinions about it. But it’s nothing exotic. That’s why I like the word.

Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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The Tetons and the Snake River, Ansel Adams, 1942

The Tetons and the Snake River, Ansel Adams, 1942

Here he was, Yoreitone, my chief, sitting and telling me a story and looking at me with his one eye as he looked upon his family, his body full of gentleness, a finger now and then resting on my knee, and when he had finished the tale and sat there simply within the aura of its meaning, with no movement of any kind, it was as if he had opened his arms to welcome a child to his breast, and I cannot help but wonder who this man is, with his wrinkled face and eye that speaks to all of past and future, and I cannot help but wonder where within him lay the murder of that family that sent Wassen to the mission. Once, in childhood, an old man with a skull cap covering a bald patch, and a long grey beard with curls at its ends, used to sit at a kitchen table in the back of my father’s grocery store, teaching in Hebrew the Five Books of Moses. With each of my mistakes he cracked a thumb and finger on my head, and I left those books forever with no feeling for God, but only full of stories that talked of vengeance, hate, and war. Yoreitone, within my hearing, had not yet talked of death or war, but always he told of hunting trips for monkeys and birds, and other creatures that lived and stalked within the forest, tales of spirits that inhabited deer to feed the jaguar and therefore could not be tracked to kill, and tales that wandered in time and space and seemed to me no legend or symbol but did no more than tell of walks to new rivers and trees. Later, I asked Yoreitone what he thought of the white upon the mountains far in the distance, the mountains that could only be seen on the clearest of days, the mountains that reached up to twenty thousand feet and more. “Flowers,” he said. “They are white flowers.’

from Tobias Schneebaum’s Keep The River On Your Right

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(Part 29 Of An Ongoing Series)

Bringing Out the Dead

I realized that my training was useful in less than ten percent of the calls, and saving lives was rarer than that. After a while, I grew to understand that my role was less about saving lives than about bearing witness. I was a grief mop. It was enough that I simply turned up.

Frank Pierce (Nicolas Cage)

Scorsese and Schrader revisit Taxi Driver through an Ambulance Driver. Instead of Travis Bickle’s Archangel of Vengeance, it’s Frank Pierce’s Angel of Noble Failure. When you save a life you feel like God, so when you hit that inevitable slump and everyone you try to save just dies on you, you feel like the opposite of God. Not Satan; an impotent nothing. Maybe the road to salvation involves helping more people die.

In ’99, you could almost feel nostalgic for early ’90s New York. Back then the embers of the 70’s-80’s hellhole were still glowing, but it wasn’t quite the post-Giuliani tourist Mecca, and “post-9/11” didn’t exist yet either. It was exciting and slightly less dangerous than the worst case scenario. Purgatory, maybe, but still one hell of a ride.

As Patricia Arquette’s Mary says, “This city…it’ll kill you if you’re not strong enough.” But Frank wisely reminds her: “This city doesn’t discriminate.” And if you really want this city to kill you, it has a funny way of shocking you back to life.

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NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Nowhere does Bokonon warn against a person’s trying to discover the limits of his karass and the nature of work God Almighty has had it do. Bokonon simply observes that such investigations are bound to be incomplete.

Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle

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