Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Quote File: Love and Relationships

(I meant to post this last week for Valentine's Day, but circumstances escaped me; here it is now.)

  • Love is not something in its own right, it is what people are and have become. -- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • We're each of us alone, to be sure. What can you do but hold your hand out in the dark. --Ursula LeGuin
  • It is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult must be a reason the more for us to do it. To love is good, too: love being difficult. For one being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation. -- Rainer Maria Rilke
  • Love, I find, is like singing. Everybody can do enough to satisfy themselves, though it may not impress the neighbors as being very much. -- Zora Neale Hurston
  • Love is the true means by which the world is enjoyed: our love to others, and others' love to us. -- Thomas Trahern
  • To know the needs of another and to bear the burden of their sorrow, that is the true love. -- Reb Moshe Leib
  • The lover knows much more about absolute good and universal beauty than the logician or theologian, unless the latter, too, be lovers in disguise. -- George Santayana
  • We perceive when love begins and when it declines by our embarrassment when alone together. -- Jean de la Bruyere
  • One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can't utter. -- James Earl Jones
  • It is kindness immediately to refuse what you intend to deny. -- Publilius Syrus
  • The minute you settle for less than you deserve, you get even less than you settled for. --Maureen Dowd
  • Absence is to love as wind to fire; it extinguishes the little flame, it fans the big. -- Umberto Eco
  • Jealousy in romance is like salt in food. A little can enhance the savor, but too much can spoil the pleasure and, under certain circumstances, can be life-threatening. -- Maya Angelou
  • The desire of the man is for the woman, but the desire of the woman is for the desire of the man. -- Madame de Stael
  • What is man that woman lies down to adore him? -- Grace Paley
  • When you feel a pull, go with it. -- Grace Paley
  • How idiotic civilization is! Why be given a body if you have to keep it shut up in a case like a rare, rare fiddle? -- Katherine Mansfield
  • If you're really listening, if you're awake to the poignant beauty of the world, your heart breaks regularly. In fact, your heart is made to break; its purpose is to burst open again and again so that it can hold ever-more wonders. -- Andrew Harvey
  • I never said, 'I want to be alone.' I only said, 'I want to be left alone.' There is all the difference. -- Greta Garbo
  • It is best to love wisely, no doubt; but to love foolishly is better than not to be able to love at all. -- William Thackeray
  • oh god it's wonderful / to get out of bed / and drink too much coffee / and smoke too many cigarettes / and love you so much. -- Frank O’Hara
  • To find a person who will love you for no reason, and to shower that person with reasons, that is the ultimate happiness. -- Robert Brault
  • Love doesn't just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; re-made all the time, made new. -- Ursula K. LeGuin
  • Love doesn't make the world go 'round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile. -- Franklin P. Jones
  • Writing is like getting married. One should never commit oneself until one is amazed at one's luck. -- Iris Murdoch
  • A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers. -- Robert Quillen
  • To keep your marriage brimming, / With love in the loving cup, / Whenever you're wrong, admit it; / Whenever you're right, shut up. -- Ogden Nash
  • We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person. -- W. S. Maugham
  • On the contrary, when each of the two persons, instead of being a nothing, is a something; when they are attached to one another, and are not too much unlike to begin with; the constant partaking in the same things, assisted by their sympathy, draws out the latent capacities of each for being interested in the things which were at first interesting only to the other; and works a gradual assimilation of the tastes and characters to one another, partly by the insensible modification of each, but more by a real enriching of the two natures, each acquiring the tastes and capacities of the other in addition to its own . . . When the two persons both care for great objects, and are a help and encouragement to each other in whatever regards these, the minor matters on which their tastes may differ are not all-important to them; and there is a foundation for solid friendship, of an enduring character, more likely than anything else to make it, through the whole of life, a greater pleasure to each to give pleasure to the other, than to receive it . . . What marriage may be in the case of two persons of cultivated faculties, identical in opinions and purposes, between whom there exists that best kind of equality, similarity of powers and capacities with reciprocal superiority in them -- so that each can enjoy the luxury of looking up to the other, and can have alternately the pleasure of leading and being led in the path of development -- I will not attempt to describe. -- John Stuart Mill, On the Subjection of Women
  • It is something--it can be everything--to have found a fellow bird with whom you can sit among the rafters while the drinking and boasting and reciting and fighting go on below. -- Wallace Stegner
  • Perhaps the secret of living well is not in having all the answers but in pursuing unanswerable questions in good company. -- Rachel Naomi Remen
  • For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love. -- Carl Sagan

And this last quote is not actually about love and romance, but I love it so much I quote it whenever I can:

  • The postmodern reply to the modern consists of recognizing that the past, since it cannot really be destroyed, because its destruction leads to silence, must be revisited: but with irony, not innocently. I think of the postmodern attitude as that of a man who loves a very cultivated woman and knows he cannot say to her, ''I love you madly,'' because he knows that she knows (and that she knows that he knows) that these words have already been written by Barbara Cartland. Still, there is a solution. He can say, ''As Barbara Cartland would put it, I love you madly.” – Umberto Eco


  1. May I share two that I love?

    Love isn't what you feel. Love is what you do.
    -Madeleine L'Engle, The Wind in the Door

    “Living as a couple never means that each gets half. You must take turns at giving more than getting. It’s not the same as a bow to the other whether to dine out rather than in, or which one gets massaged that evening with oil of calendula; there are seasons in the life of a couple that function, I think, a little like a night watch. One stands guard, often for a long time, providing the serenity in which the other can work at something. Usually that something is sinewy and full of spines. One goes inside the dark place while the other one stays outside, holding up the moon.”
    Marlena de Blasi, A Thousand Days in Venice p147

  2. "And may the gods accomplish your desire: a home, a husband, and harmonious converse with him -- the best thing in the world being a strong house held in serenity where man and wife agree, delighting their friends and confounding their enemies! But all this they know best."

    Odysseus to Nausicaa, Fitzgerald translation (mostly)

  3. I also happen to love the last quote from Eco, both for what it says about postmodernity and about love. but the bit you posted is incomplete. It goes on saying:

    "At this point, having avoided false innocence, he will nevertheless have said what he wanted to say to the woman: that he loves her; but he loves her in an age of lost innocence. If the woman goes along with this, she will have received a declaration of love all the same. Neither of the two speakers will feel innocent, both will have accepted the challenge of the past, of the already said which cannot be eliminated; both will consciously and with pleasure play the game of irony...But both will have succeeded, once again, in speaking of love"