Wisdom from my commonplace book

In the 1700s, people copied favorite passages into commonplace books, which became repositories of wisdom, adages and poetry. I have collected quotations for three decades, writing them at first in the inside cover of my first book of quotations and later on paper. These are some of my favorites.

“Good taste grows through what it feeds upon and becomes increasingly exacting.” — Blanche Yurka, “Dear Audience”

“The rip ’n’ roar of daily life often blocks the once-open pathways to these (soft pools of peace that lie deep within each of our spirits) — we bathe in them all too fleetingly. We miss their nurture and soothing solitude, and we seek magic — a renewal of contact with our inner calm — through sun-soaked Caribbean island sojourns.” — David Yeardon, “Caribbean Travel and Life,” April 1996

“Television and the automobile have caused a massive privatisation of the once strongly communal lifestyle. An integral part of the confusion concerning cultural identity is this final introduction of urban loneliness.” — “The Northern Fiddler,” about fiddlers in northern Ireland

“It struck me that this amiable person was the natural product of a society in which no man need defer to another. Free from the emotional indigestion caused by swallowing too much pride, he could turn a friendly face to everyone.” — Kenneth MacLeish, National Geographic, March 1968

“We inhabit a deteriorating society which is falling apart because it is ceasing to be a society and becoming an economic arrangement held together by a romantic awe of technology.” — Archibald MacLeish, National Geographic, May 1970

“Within each of us lies the power of our consent to health and to sickness, to riches and to poverty, to freedom and to slavery. It is we who control these, and not another.” Richard Bach, “Illusions”

“I am the son of a bread truck driver who taught me never to enter a restaurant or store in which I couldn’t shake the hand of the owner.” — Steve Lopez, “Time,” July 10, 2000

“Many of us who limit spirituality to a book or a church long for something more. Traditional peoples know that nature feeds the spiritual life as nothing else can. What is required is simple proximity, contemplation, ritual, and a spirit of piety. If we can allow ourselves to be stunned by nature’s beauty, complexity, simplicity, devastating power, vast dimensions, and unexpected quirkiness, then lessons in spirituality will pour into us without effort on our part.”

“We blame each other for not having the moral fortitude to maintain traditional values and sustain church commitments, but we don’t complain about the commercial obliteration of nature by the great screen of advertising that lines every American town and city road, or by the ever-present noise and light of an insensitive culture that keeps nature’s presence blissfully blocked out.” — Thomas Moore, “The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life”

“He had a term for people like this: temporal provincials — people who were ignorant of the past and proud of it.

“Temporal provincials were convinced that the present was the only time that mattered, and that anything that had occurred earlier could be safely ignored. The modern world was compelling and new, and the past had no bearing on it.” — Michael Crichton, “Timeline”

“Adolescents were a good deal older for their age in 1940s society — which, for all its faults, at least encouraged young people to be positive, strong, responsible, and self-reliant — than they are in our present society, which encourages young people to be quite the opposite.” — Benjamin Hoff, “The House on the Point”

“I was in a mood to curse our so-called Industrial Civilization and all its works, concerned for nothing but itself, for nothing but greater and yet greater room for its own monstrous growth. For the first time in my life I saw it as a cancerous organism, desolating the earth, defiling the rivers, laying waste the forests, poisoning the air with its foul breath, and all the while reaching farther and farther out to clutch and destroy even such crumbs of land as this.” — James Norman Hall, “Lost Island”

“Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company.” — George Washington

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