Sanai (on pearls, swine, and patience)

Jesus Christ, when he made the famous statement Cast not pearls before swine, must have meant something like “Hey buddy, don’t waste your breath. No sense talkin’ if there’s nobody listenin’.” Something like, “Speak not until ye obtain a hearing”. Something like, Don’t let a precious thing be plopped down into the porking feedlot of distraction.

Sanai, I read recently, put it this elegant way:

“If to the fool my love you’d bring,

Or think my secret can be told

To him who is not wise —

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Oliver Sacks (on awakening to the end)

Oliver Sacks is the neurologist and professor who was brought to cinematic life by Robin Williams in Awakenings, helping and observing as Bob DeNiro’s coma patient emerges from the darkness. (Side note which I vaguely promise will not turn into an intolerably long digression, but the length of whose prefatory remarks must even now be giving pause to sensitive and perceptive readers such as you: I notice suddenly the number of films in which Williams is the psychiatrist/healer. Not just Awakenings, but his gruff and brilliant therapist to Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting, and his turn as Patch Adams, the unconventional MD who used humour and nonsense to heal and console his patients. All of which did Williams no good at all in calming his own demons, or so it would seem. Terminate digression.)

Sack’s books on psychological oddities and wonders — Awakenings was his second book, I think, followed by such titles as The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat, Musicophilia, An Anthropologist on Mars — made him famous and beloved, though not always embraced by medical rivals. Now that he’s dying, as he announced recently, I want to read more than I have. Typical.

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John Wooden (on failure)

“Success is never final; failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.”

John Wooden (191o-2010) was not only the greatest basketball coach of all time, but a wise teacher for 20th and 21st century America. I quoted his wisdom in a recent article here. He was my hero, perhaps even Number 2 among the greatest men I can imagine, and I can’t believe he’s been gone three years already. He was a writer and an educator, though, and his words live on, as does his example. His advice runs through my mind nearly as often as that of ‘Abdu’l-Baha. In the immediate calm-down after an incredible NBA finals, where I loved the Spurs and admired the heck out of LeBron and the Heatles, I miss basketball and coaching. I miss John Wooden.

A Hall of Fame player, tough and fiery, with a degree in English literature and teaching as a day job.

Humble victor, though he won again and again and again and again. A great man with feet of granite.

Shakespeare’s Friar Lawrence (on wisdom in love)

Everyone knows the play, Romeo and Juliet, but fewer have read carefully enough to note that it is not the story of a “perfect love”, but the story of impulsive, even mad behaviour by the lovers, by Juliet’s distant and self-absorbed parents, and by Romeo’s friends, to say nothing of a city poisoned by the “ancient grudge” between the Montagues and the Capulets. Friar Lawrence, though a coward in the end, tries to heal fractured Verona and be a loving father confessor for Romeo. When Romeo “stand[s] on sudden haste” in marrying Juliet, Lawrence chides him (Act 2 Scene 3):

“Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast.”

Later, though he is daunted by the desperation of the young lovers (Juliet has already threatened suicide), he again speaks of wisdom and the true nature of love. Nobody listens, even 400 years after Shakespeare wrote the lines:

These violent delights have violent ends
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which as they kiss consume: the sweetest honey
Is loathsome in his own deliciousness
And in the taste confounds the appetite:
Therefore love moderately; long love doth so;
Too swift arrives as tardy as too slow. (Act 2 Scene 6)

We still prefer the Balcony Scene, and yes, Billy did some pretty great writing there, too.