This is a collection of inspirational excerpts, poems, and essays that I have read while living in Japan. Each of them has influenced the way in which I perceive my time here by deepening my understanding of my relationship to the people and the places I encounter everyday.

October 2011

David Orr                                                                                                                                      from What is Education For?

“The advance of knowledge always carries with it the advance of some form of ignorance.”

“It makes far better sense to reshape ourselves to fit a finite planet than to attempt to reshape the planet to fit our infinite wants.”

“The planet needs people who live well in their places.”

“In the modern curriculum we have fragmented the world into bits and pieces called disciplines and subdisciplines. As a result, after 12 or 16 or 20 years of education, most students graduate without any broad integrated sense of the unity of things.”

“Campus architecture is crystallized pedagogy that often reinforces passivity, monologue, domination, and artificiality…students are being taught in various and subtle ways beyond the content of the courses.”

“I propose we set a goal of ecological literacy for all of our students.”

Thomas Merton                                                                                                                        from David Orr’s What is Education For?

“[The purpose of education as a means for success is really] the mass production of people literally unfit for anything except to take part in an elaborate and completely artificial charade.”

“…be anything you like, be madmen, drunks, and bastards of every shape and form, but at all costs avoid one thing: success.”

Carl Jung                                                                                                                                      from Analysis of the Structure of the Psyche                                                                    as summarized by Joseph Campbell

“There are four psychological functions that link us to the outer world. These are sensation, thinking, feeling, and intuition. Sensation is the function that tells us that something exists; thinking, the function that tells us what it is; feeling, the function that evaluates its worth to us; and intuition, the function that enables us to estimate the possibilities inherent in the object or the situation. Feeling, thus, is the inward guide to value; but its judgments are related normally to outward, empirical circumstance.”

Joseph Campbell                                                                                                                      from Reflections on the Art of Living

“The only way you can talk about this great tide in which you’re a participant is as Schopenhauer did: the universe is a dream dreamed by a single dreamer where all the dream characters dream too.”

September 2011

D.T. Suzuki                                                                                                                                        from Buddha of Infinite Light

“When evil is altogether forsaken and the soul is no longer disturbed, there will be no anxiety, no annoyance, no worries whatsoever, for all worries come from our being addicted to the false idea of self. Therefore, when the self is surrendered, all storms are quieted and absolute peace, complete silence, prevails in our soul.”

“We cannot give any reason for our being here on earth. Why do we live? The answer necessarily is, ‘We live because we live.’ When we try to explain our existence, it inevitably results in contradiction. We cannot live even for a moment with such a contradiction.”

Mary Oliver                                                                                                                                from New and Selected Poems: Volumes One and Two

“I know several lives worth living.”

“If you notice anything, it leads you to notice more and more.”

“The first thing I do when I wake up is go out into the world.”

“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.”


If I envy anyone it must be                                                                                                           My grandmother in a long ago                                                                                                   Green summer, who hurried                                                                                                       Between kitchen and orchard on small                                                                               Uneducated feet, and took easily                                                                                                   All shining fruits into her eager hands.

That summer I hurried too, wakened                                                                                               To books and music and circling philosophies.                                                                                 I sat in the kitchen sorting through volumes of answers                                                         That could not solve the mystery of the trees.

My grandmother stood among her kettles and ladles.                                                                 Smiling, in faulty grammar,                                                                                                               She praised my fortune and urged my lofty career.                                                                       So to please her I studied – but I will remember always                                                               How she poured confusion out, how she cooled and labelled                                                     All the wild sauces of the brimming year.

When Death Comes

When death comes                                                                                                                             like the hungry bear in autumn;                                                                                               when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;                                                                                               when death comes                                                                                                                               like the measle-pox;

when death comes                                                                                                                               like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiousity, wondering:                                                     what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything                                                                                               as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,                                                                                               and I look upon time as no more than an idea,                                                                                 and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common                                                                               as a field daisy, and as singular.

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,                                                                     tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something                                                                           precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life                                                                                           I was a bride married to amazement.                                                                                               I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder                                                                                             if I have made of my life something particular, and real.                                                               I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,                                                                       or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.


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