Lessons From The Text: Epiphanies Inspired By Great Writers

Isn't it funny how we spend most of our lives playing it by ear after crafting some of the most elaborate and detailed plans of how we will deal with life events? Some of our wisdom comes from previous life experiences, some of it from culture and family but I believe that most of it is internalized from the stuff we've read. Here are five bad-ass snippets from great writers that were eye-opening for me (and I suppose, LOTS of others as well) when I first read them.

1."And society is basically meaningless, a Roman mixed bath. And school, school is just society in miniature: that's why we're always being ordered around. A bunch of blind men tell us what to do, tear our unlimited ability to shreds." — The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea, Yukio Mishima

Interpretation: Society will DESTROY you, if you let it. Societies always find ways to perpetuate themselves and this is largely achieved by turning people into cogs of a larger machine. The real mission in this life is to find out what you want, go after it and ignore the noise.

2. The people I know who used to sit in the bathroom with pornography, now they sit in the bathroom with their IKEA furniture catalogue. — Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk

Interpretation: The narrator in "Fight Club" seems to be a typical Gen-X male struggling with notions of human connection and materialism in the post-modern world. He realizes that he's alone and that the things he owns in reality, own him. By graduating from porn to consumer products, we have been seduced by the trappings of the post-modern world. The reality is that we need consumer products to function in modern society but getting these things should never supersede human connection.

3. Nothing in the world is more distasteful to a man than to follow the path that leads to himself. — Demian, Hermann Hesse

Interpretation: No stranger to big thoughts, Hermann Hesse repeats a line that some thinkers believe is the meaning of life — the journey to embracing who you really are. What's painful about about walking this path is that the journey is a public spectacle: not only do you have to look into the mirror and see who you are, you also have to show others who you believe you are or can be as well. This can be something life-changing like telling people about a hidden sexual orientation, taboo ideological sentiments or simply opening up about your dreams after spending a protracted period of time presenting yourself to the world as a cynic. Most people fear this path because of the pain associated with it but it is a path we ALL have to walk.

4. I was about to tell him he was wrong to insist on this last point: it didn't really matter that much. But he interrupted me and pleaded with me one last time, drawing himself up to his full height and asking me if I believed in God. I said no. He sat down indignantly. He told me that it was impossible, that all men believed in God, even those who wouldn't face up to Him. That was his belief, and if he should ever doubt it, his life would become meaningless. — The Outside (The Stranger), Albert Camus

Interpretation: people are always going to ascribe meaning to events, belief systems and cultural ideas because this is what gives their lives purpose and value. The important thing to note is that THESE ARE THEIR BELIEFS, NOT YOURS. Yours is not to be argumentative but to understand that this is what makes people tick — this is the stuff of life. Know and understand that their beliefs don't have to be yours.

5. Crooks leaned forward over the edge of the bunk. "I ain't a southern negro," he said. "I was born right here in California. My old man had a chicken ranch, 'bout ten acres. The white kids come and play at our place, an' sometimes I went to play with them, and some of them was pretty nice. My ol' man didn't like that. I never knew till long later why he didn't like that. But I know now." He hesitated, and when he spoke again his voice was softer. "There wasn't a colored family for miles around. And now there ain't a colored man on this ranch an' there's jus' one family in Soledad." He laughed. "If I say something, why it's just a n***er sayin' it." — Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck

Interpretation: If you build your life around acceptance by others, you are in for a world of hurt. This reminds me of "The Whore of Mensa", a short story by Woody Allen that centers around, Kaizer Lupowitz, a salesman who pays pseudo-intellectual women to have stimulating conversations with him because he can't have them with his wife. This whole premise centers around unfulfilled desires and acceptance, something so elusive that it probably doesn't really exist. There is always going to be some arbitrary reason as to why people do not accept others: the important lesson here is to accept yourself without any expectations of acceptance from others.

I hope you've learned as much from these snippets as I did when I first encountered them years ago. Do yourself a favor and pick those books up at your local bookstore. There is so much to learn from the greats.

You can find out about me and what I do by CLICKING HERE AND HERE. Note: I personally believe in God and belong to a Protestant denomination in the Christian faith — just to clear it up in case there was some confusion, LOL.