Inspiring quotes from the departed

This year we have lost many wonderful amazing human beings who made this planet a better place- my father being one of those. He was a maths teacher and lived his life the way he wanted to, despite threats and ridicule, helping the poor and disadvantaged. There are many like him, who have died unknown.  Their legacy lies in themselves, while the luckier ones also achieved fame (see the quote from Stan Lee below).  Regardless of whether you achieve fame or not in the end, I think the greatest achievement is to live your life in your own way, using your talents to help others.

Here I have selected some quotes from more famous people to reflect on, and to provide inspiration for the year ahead.  These humans weren’t perfect because no one can be and you may not like them but what they say is an enduring testimony to the power of inspiration. Some quotes will make you even think about fame in a different way. Let me know if any of these appeal to you or if you have other inspiring quotes from people who passed away this year.

“However ordinary each of us may seem, we are all in some way special, and can do things that are extraordinary, perhaps until then… even thought impossible.”
– Sir Roger Bannister (UK athlete and neurologist, who broke the human speed record)

“Every guy in the world would love to be Mr Macho, but I am camp and you cannot lie to the public. If you’re yourself, they’ll either love you or they won’t.”
– Dale Winton (UK TV presenter)

“Because you run against each other, that doesn’t mean you’re enemies. Politics doesn’t have to be uncivil and nasty.”
– George HW Bush (past US president)

“Nothing in life is more liberating than to fight for a cause larger than yourself, something that encompasses you but is not defined by your existence alone.”
– John McCain (US senator)

“Every time I go to a comic book convention, at least one fan will ask me: ‘What is the greatest superpower of all?’ I always say that luck is the greatest superpower, because if you have good luck then everything goes your way.”
– Stan Lee (US creator of many superhero comic characters)

“Being a singer is a natural gift. It means I’m using to the highest degree possible the gift that God gave me to use. I’m happy with that.”
– Aretha Franklin (US singer)

And finally these great words-

“One, remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Two, never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. Three, if you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don’t throw it away.”
– Professor Stephen Hawking (UK scientist)

Absolute happiness and relative misery

In the world today where we are being shown images of the rich and famous enjoying themselves, social media where we can see what our so called friends are up to and the constant newsfeed that tells us what we must do to be slim, beautiful and wise- it is easy to compare ourselves with others. Yet, having thought about it, I believe it is the surefire way to be miserable.  But can we avoid this?

Selfie stick.jpg
A woman records herself on a selfie stick while missing out on the scenery from a train in Sri Lanka

I think if you really must want to compare yourself with others, then pick the people who have less than you.  Pick up people who you might see in the streets, homeless, who have suffered from illness or crime, etc.  See how lucky you have been, what privileges you have had and  how much better off you are.  This is not about gloating about your life but realising that though there may be many people who are healthier, wealthier and more beautiful than you, there are even more people who are in less fortunate position than you. Then do something to help these people. That will make you happier even.  And as the Beatles sang, ‘Money can’t buy you love!’  But this is still relative happiness. Do it only if you want relative happiness.

But by helping others, you can turn relative happiness into absolute happiness.  The feeling of ‘absolute and unshakeable’ happiness is amazing and empowering. If your friend is sad, offer a shoulder to cry on; if you see someone homeless think of ways to help them (and it doesn’t need to involve money!) and do some work in the community. Open up your life to others and the environment.  It is not the relative happiness where you end up comparing yourself with others who you think are higher up in life’s ladder than yourself.  Or even with others less lucky than you.  Misery is always relative while it is possible to achieve absolute happiness.  Think about how much mental energy and time it takes you to compare yourself to others- and just to end up with misery as the final goal.

Good luck, bad luck, who knows?

I read this parable a long time ago in a book edited by Mark Tully.  The name of the book escapes me but I remember the parable so well.  In that book, it was attributed to a Chinese man but on the Internet, I have seen it attributed to Jewish, African, Indian and other cultures- perhaps it is universal.  It goes like this-

There once lived a farmer who owned a horse.  He had a son. One day, the farmer’s horse ran away. The neighbours came to console him on his bad luck. But the farmer said, “Good luck, bad luck- who knows?”

After a few days, the farmer’s horse came back with other wild horses. Now, the neighbours were slightly jealous and said, “You are so lucky- this is such a good thing!” But the farmer said again,”Good luck, bad luck- who knows?”

The next day, the farmer’s son fell off while trying to tame one of the new horses and broke his leg. The neighbours came over to commiserate, “Your only son has broken his leg.  Now you don’t have anyone to help you- what bad luck!”  The farmer said again,”Good luck, bad luck- who knows?”

Soon came the news that a war had broken out and all young men needed to be conscripted into the army. However due to his broken leg, the farmer’s son could not be drafted.  His neighbours remarked enviously, “How lucky! Your son won’t get killed or maimed in battle.”

As usual, the farmer replied, “Good luck, bad luck- who knows?”

Who knows what happened to the farmer or his son after that.  But what is clear is that the farmer had great wisdom and did not get carried away by immediate things.  This parable shows that life, luck and things happen to everyone and everything has its positive and negative.  Sometimes our short sightedness does not allow us to judge the long term effects.

John F Kennedy said in 1959 that the Chinese word for ‘crisis’ has two characters- one for danger and one for opportunity.

Crisi-tunity

Although some experts believe that the second character means ‘crucial point’, I like that even better- the idea that danger brings one to a ‘crucial point’ in life- one where choices are very important if you want to keep following your heart. That crucial point is when you view everything as a positive.

And sometimes we can turn anything that happens to us into a good thing over time!