Hope Is A Decision, Selected Essays of Daisaku Ikeda

“Hope is a flame that we nurture within our hearts… and kept burning through our own determination. Most crucial is our determination to continue to believe in the limitless dignity and possibilities of both ourselves and others.” – Daisaku Ikeda

Hopeful and Highly Relevant

Daisaku Ikeda is a Buddhist philosopher, educator, essayist and anti-nuclear activist. This book is a compilation of selected essays he has written during the bleak times when he battled his childhood illness, surviving through WWII in Japan, facing the death of his mother and brother – his essays explore humanism, free-thinking, poetry, cultural exchanges of peace, hope-based dialogue and ultimately the message that we should always be hopeful despite the hard times.

Even though Ikeda’s essays were written so long ago during WWII, a lot of his essays on hope can be applied to today’s society. At first I thought this will be a highly idealistic read but I was surprised on how essential these essays are to today’s world where hope is so fragile. How can we remain hopeful at times like these, and how can life be more meaningful? Ikeda teaches us that “the key to live in a stress-filled society lies in feeling the suffering of others as our own – in unleashing the universal human capacity for empathy.” There are some really great nuggets of wisdom in his essays, if you feel like a thought-provoking and reflective read, I highly recommend this book!

Some other great quotes from this book:

“We can best negotiate the challenges we face when guided by hope, not when motivated by fear.”

“There is no need for anyone to carry the burden of a heavy heart alone.”

“Genuine happiness can be achieved only when we transform our way of life from the unthinking pursuit of pleasure to one committed to enriching our inner lives, to a focus on being more rather than simply having more.”

– Review by NJ

 

The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934 by Anaïs Nin, Gunther Stuhlmann (editor)

“We once admired those who did not compromise, who destroyed themselves. We will come to admire those who fight the enemies of life.” – Anaïs Nin

“I postpone death by living, by suffering, by error, by risking, by giving, by losing… The romantic submits to life, the classicist dominates it.” – Anaïs Nin

5 stars – A reflective, poignant journal of Anaïs Nin’s internal surreal world

Reading The Diary of Anaïs Nin is like diving into an ocean of poetic feelings and nuanced perspectives written with artistry, eloquence and surrealism. It makes you want to swim in her sea of words and discover who she really is (beyond the essayist and writer). The Diary volume 1 is a interesting (but expurgated) account of Anaïs Nin’s life aged 28-31 years old. Anaïs is a complex woman; she is unafraid to explore her psyche and desperate need for love. She writes about all the roles that she must play in life for others – the artist, writer, patient, lover, daughter and friend.

Anaïs is an eloquent writer and a progressive thinker of her time. Her intimate diary accounts self-reflections on her relationships, art, being a woman, life, love, passion, writing, surrealism, seduction, feminism & femininity, psychoanalysis, compassion, honesty and her relationship with her father. I enjoyed reading her unique view of the world, which is truthful, perceptive and deeply poignant. She writes thoughtful and observant points about life and people. Near the end, I was shocked by her experiences and touched by her revelations. It’s no small thing to be able to describe feelings so accurately like she did. In my view, her diary is about self-discovery and individualism; it’s about her coming to terms with her own choices and her relationships. It’s also an intriguing read about her neurotic, artistic friends and lovers. Anaïs’ diary however does contain [spoiler alert] undertones of her incestuous relationship with her estranged father (you have been warned), this in no way detracts from her potent and expressive sophisticated writing. Recommended for readers that enjoy reading different perspectives on life and self-reflection, and readers who like eloquent, poetic writing and a provocative read. I will be getting the internationally acclaimed volume 2 soon!

– NJ

Other interesting quotes from the book:

“For my life is slowed up by thought and the need to understand what I am living.”

“He overlooked the deeper cravings of an artist, for whom deep love is the only possible form, no simmering life but a boiling one, no small compromise with reality.”

“Ordinary life does not interest me. I seek only the high moments. I am in accord with the surrealists, searching for the marvellous.”

“I thought of my difficulties with writing, my struggles to articulate feelings not easily expressed. Of my struggles to find a language for intuition, feelings, instincts which are, in themselves, elusive, subtle, and wordless.”

“You cannot possess without loving.”

“As an ordinary woman I might have been serenely happy with such a miniature life, but I am not that woman.”

“I want the key, the key to the lies” [Henry] “Passion and violence never opened a human being.” [Anais] “What opens human beings?” “Compassion.”

“You have no gratitude because you have no love. To be grateful, one must first know how to love.”

“Proofs of love and friendship are what I give to others all the time. And everyone seems to need them.”

“I want to give him life and adventure, but I cannot convey to him that it is the mood, not the places, the relationships which can light up shabby hotel rooms, stained cafe tables, brimming  noisy streets, sour wine.”

“Create a world, your world. Alone. Stand alone. Create. And then love will come to you.”

“I wondered whether he was right that it was the rituals we had lost, or whether it was that people had lost the power to feel, and that no ritual would give it to them.”

“For the absolute, one dies if one wants the absolute.” 

“The neurotic is the modern romantic who refuses to die because of his illusions and fantasies prevent him from living. He enters a combat to live. We once admired those who did not compromise, who destroyed themselves. We will come to admire those who fight the enemies of life.”

“When others asked the truth of me, I was convinced it was not the truth they wanted, but an illusion they could bear to live with. I was convinced of people’s need of illusion.”

“It is the woman who has to speak. And it is not only the woman Anais who has to speak, but I who have to speak for many women. As I discover myself, I feel I am merely one of many, a symbol. I begin to understand June, Jeanne, and many others…, women of yesterday and today. The mute ones of the past, the inarticulate, who took refuge behind wordless intuitions; and the women of today, all action, and copies of men. And I, in between… My life has been one long series of efforts, self-discipline, will. Here I can sketch, improvise, be free, and myself.”

“We love best those who are, or act for us, a self we do not wish to be or act out.”

“The struggle to live by my own truth is so difficult, so weary… I am like the adventurer who leaves all those he loves, and returns with his arms full of gold; and then they are happy and they forget how they tried to keep this adventurer from exploring, from his voyage and his search.”

“Poetic vision is not the outcome of blindness but of a force which can transcend the ugliest face of reality, swallow and dissolve it by its strength, not evasion.” 

Click here for the book blurb on Goodreads.

Be the Exception by Annie Meehan

“Gentleness is about knowing and naming the hurt in your soul, embracing it, and, in that same breath, removing the power it has over you.” – Annie Meehan

4 stars. Great for self reflection.

An authentic and empowering self-help read with useful and practical tips/exercises  to change life for the better. Annie Meehan (the author and motivational speaker) has written a perceptive and inspiring book on ways to put fear, anxiety and life’s traumas into perspective. She uses her own life experiences and trauma to convey a message of hope, faith and courage that enables the reader to feel empowered to live an exceptional life. Annie’s anecdotal accounts of her childhood and past traumas was shockingly sad and raw, I applaud her bravery and spirit in reconstructing her life, which is indeed exceptional. Recommended if you’re going through a tough time, over thinking issues, struggling with identity, relationships or simply after some tips to live a better life.

Other notable quotes:

“I was buried in sorrow not because of his absence, but because he had always been absent. I grieved for what wasn’t and what would never be.” – Annie Meehan

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom” – Anaïs Nin

Click here to read the book blurb on Goodreads.

-NJ

The Wave in the Mind: Talks & Essays on the Writer, the Reader & the Imagination by Ursula K. Le Guin

 5 stars!  A book that changes the way you think.

“We will not know our own injustice if we cannot imagine justice. We will not be free if we do not imagine freedom. We cannot demand that anyone try to attain justice and freedom who has not had a chance to imagine them as attainable.” – Le Guin

Thoughtful, profound and inspiring. I found Le Guin’s voice to be refreshing, present and ever so relevant in today’s society for authors and readers alike. Topics explored include (but not limited to): imagination, family life, beauty, society, oppression, feminism, reading and writing. Le Guin’s progressive and well thought-out perspectives and critiques are insightful, honest, delightful and empowering to read. I absolutely loved “Being taken for granite”, “Unquestioned assumptions”, “The question I get asked most often”, “My libraries” and “All happy families.” Highly recommended if you’re after an interesting, inspiring and provocative read.

Another interesting quote:

“…And why? In order to imply that happiness is easy, shallow, ordinary; a common thing not worth writing a novel about? Whereas unhappiness is complex, deep, difficult to attain, usual; unique indeed; and so a worthy subject for a great, a unique novelist? Surely that’s a silly idea. But silly or not, it has been imposingly influential among novelists and critics for decades.” – Le Guin

Click here for the book blurb on Goodreads.

– NJ