Coffee companion collects quotations for great life
COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
“Part of our task in life is to choose worthy companions who will cultivate what is good in us,” Rabbi David Wolpe once wrote. I’ve just encountered his good advice thanks to one of our own worthy coffee companions who has long helped cultivate goodness in many.
Barbara Hollenbach is a linguist and Scripture translation consultant working among indigenous communities in Mexico. I first met her in the 1960s while studying phonology the science of language sound systems under her. (Yes, that sort of dates both of us, doesn’t it?)
One of Barbara’s hobbies is collecting inspirational quotations, such as Wolpe’s. She’s collected many, many quotes, now, and has started sharing some of them in her correspondence with friends.
One of her favourites of late, she says, is from Thomas Bailey Aldrich: “To keep the heart unwrinkled, to be hopeful, kindly, cheerful, reverent that is to triumph over old age.” This comes “close to being a mission statement for me since I became a senior citizen,” she wrote me the other day.
She’s been organizing her collection into categories, and from A to Z (or at least to W no categories for X, Y or Z, yet) she is creating a treasure chest of wisdom on the joys of being human.
Under A for “Acceptance,” for example, she cites Nikos Kazantzakis: “Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality.”
And under W for “Writing,” she cites Sholem Asch: “Writing comes more easily if you have something to say.”
Well, Barbara certainly has something to say, so I asked her if she’d share with our other coffee companions what motivated her to take quotation collecting so seriously. She wrote back:
WELL, BARBARA HAS very good taste in the quotations she’s collected. Here are some more I find especially meaningful:
“Self-pity is our worst enemy, and if we yield to it, we can never do anything wise in the world.” Helen Keller
“Forgiveness is the answer to the child’s dream of a miracle by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is again made clean.” Dag Hammarskjöld
“We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life waiting for us.” Joseph Campbell
And finally this one from Barbara’s husband Bruce: “Sometimes the most important thing we do is not to quit.” (See my April 21, 2004 column on Bruce and butterflies.)
© 2007 Warren Harbeck