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The Future is Unwritten

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John Graham Mellor (Joe Strummer)

21 August 1952 – 22 December 2002 

Fifteen years ago today Joe Strummer made his sudden and untimely transition. His words and music have had, and still, have, a huge impact on my life. I took the below photo in the spring of 2012 (I think). It was a mural on the side of a bar, Niagara, at the corner of East 7th and Avenue A in NYC’s East Village. In 2003 graffiti artists Zephyr and Dr. Revolt paid homage to Joe a few months after his death. Someone told me that they came back every year to touch it up. But then, a few years ago, the wall had to be repaired so it was removed, much to the dismay of pretty much everyone. Since then there is a new version of it up, though I still prefer the original which is pictured. Anyhow, at the bottom of this post is a truly moving video of the artists painting the mural while Joe Strummer sings his rendition of Redemption song as a backdrop. What is interesting is that at one point, towards the beginning, the filmmaker puts a clip of Joe Strummer in the crowd as if he was watching it being painted. Anyhow, if you have a few minutes I hope you’ll watch it. The music alone is worth the watch, but seeing the faces of the people watching is really moving. Turn it up.

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“And so now I’d like to say – people can change anything they want to. And that means everything in the world. People are running about following their little tracks – I am one of them. But we’ve all got to stop just following our own little mouse trail. People can do anything – this is something that I’m beginning to learn. People are out there doing bad things to each other. That’s because they’ve been dehumanised. It’s time to take the humanity back into the center of the ring and follow that for a time. Greed, it ain’t going anywhere. They should have that in a big billboard across Times Square. Without people you’re nothing. That’s my spiel.”

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“Authority is supposedly grounded in wisdom, but I could see from a very early age that authority was only a system of control and it didn’t have any inherent wisdom. I quickly realised that you either became a power or you were crushed”

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“The future is unwritten.”

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“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. There is nothing more common then unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not. Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not. The world if full of educated derelicts. Persistence and Determination alone are Omnipotent.”

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“Everybody has a story to tell.”

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A selfie and a quote…

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Urban Simplicity.

One pic and two quotes…

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So a couple things. One is that this photo and the quotes below have nothing to do with each other except that I find them truly inspiring (so in a way I suppose they do have something in common). Anyhow, the pic above was taken yesterday just after it rained…I was on a walk and looked up and there it was. The only camera I had with me at the time was my cellphone. And here’s the photo.

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

~Mahatma Gandhi

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”

~Mark Twain

Urban Simplicity.

Five or Eight Quotes from Harvey Milk…

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May 22, 1930 – November 27, 1978

“All men are created equal. Now matter how hard they try, they can never erase those words. That is what America is about.”

 “I know that you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. And you…And you…And you…Gotta give em hope.” 

“It takes no compromise to give people their rights…it takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no political deal to give people freedom. It takes no survey to remove repression.”

“Politics is theater. It doesn’t matter if you win. You make a statement. You say, “I’m here, pay attention to me”

“Hope is never silent.”

“The fact is that more people have been slaughtered in the name of religion than for any other single reason. That, that my friends, that is true perversion!”

“Rights are won only by those who make their voices heard.”

“Let me have my tax money go for my protection and not for my prosecution. Let my tax money go for the protection of me. Protect my home, protect my streets, protect my car, protect my life, protect my property…worry about becoming a human being and not about how you can prevent others from enjoying their lives because of your own inability to adjust to life.” 

Urban Simplicity. 

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Seven fading flowers and a quote…

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As every flower fades and as all youth
Departs, so life at every stage,
So every virtue, so our grasp of truth,
Blooms in its day and may not last forever.
Since life may summon us at every age
Be ready, heart, for parting, new endeavor,
Be ready bravely and without remorse
To find new light that old ties cannot give.
In all beginnings dwells a magic force
For guarding us and helping us to live.

Serenely let us move to distant places
And let no sentiments of home detain us.
The Cosmic Spirit seeks not to restrain us
But lifts us stage by stage to wider spaces.
If we accept a home of our own making,
Familiar habit makes for indolence.
We must prepare for parting and leave-taking
Or else remain the slaves of permanence.

~Hermann Hesse

The Glass Bead Game

Urban Simplicity.

Five or twelve quotes from Ram Dass…

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Image found here.

 Born Richard Alpert 84 years ago today.

“We’re all just walking each other home.”

“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.”

“The most exquisite paradox… as soon as you give it all up, you can have it all. As long as you want power, you can’t have it. The minute you don’t want power, you’ll have more than you ever dreamed possible.”

“Be here now.”

“Suffering is part of our training program for becoming wise.”

“Treat everyone you meet like God in drag.”

“The spiritual journey is individual, highly personal. It can’t be organized or regulated. It isn’t true that everyone should follow one path. Listen to your own truth.”

“What you meet in another being is the projection of your own level of evolution.”

“The next message you need is always right where you are.”

“We are all affecting the world every moment, whether we mean to or not. Our actions and states of mind matter, because we are so deeply interconnected with one another.”

“It’s very different because the Indians live as if they are their souls and Americans live as if they are their egos.”

“Everything in your life is there as a vehicle for your transformation.”

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Five or Nine Quotes from Marian Wright Edelman

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Image Credit Nikki Kahn

“You really can change the world if you care enough.”

“Being considerate of others will take your children further in life than any college degree.”

“A lot of people are waiting for Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi to come back-but they are gone. We are it. It is up to us. It is up to you.”

“Failure is just another way to learn how to do something right.”

“Service is the rent we pay for living.”

“If you don’t like the way the world is, you change it. You have an obligation to change it. You just do it one step at a time.”

“You were born God’s original. Try not to become someone’s copy.”

“If we don’t stand up for children, then we don’t stand for much.”

“It’s time for greatness — not for greed. It’s a time for idealism — not ideology. It is a time not just for compassionate words, but compassionate action.”

Urban Simplicity.

Five or ten (or eleven) quotes from Thomas Merton…

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Thomas Merton, January 31, 1915 – December 10, 1968

Priest, mystic, monk, activist, writer, poet, and artist, Fr. Merton was a true renaissance man. He was friends with Thich Nhat Hanh, and the Dalai Lama, and a contemporary of Martin Luther King, Jr. Before his untimely death he penned a huge number of books pertaining to spirituality, poems, artwork, and an incredible and moving autobiography. His work continues to touch countless souls…including the one typing these words. I love the opening line to his autobiography, the Seven Story Mountain…“On the last day of January 1915, under the sign of the Water Bearer, in a year of a great war, and down in the shadows of some French mountains on the borders of Spain, I came into the world.”  Thomas Merton was born 100 years ago this month; to read more about him click here or here.

“Peace demands the most heroic labor and the most difficult sacrifice. It demands greater heroism than war. It demands greater fidelity to the truth and a much more perfect purity of conscience.”

“Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.”

“Just remaining quietly in the presence of God, listening to Him, being attentive to Him, requires a lot of courage and know-how.”

“Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.”

“A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all. No man can serve two masters. Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire.” 

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”

“I cannot make the universe obey me. I cannot make other people conform to my own whims and fancies. I cannot make even my own body obey me.”

“We stumble and fall constantly even when we are most enlightened. But when we are in true spiritual darkness, we do not even know that we have fallen.” 

“The man of faith who has never experienced doubt is not a man of faith.” 

“Perhaps I am stronger than I think.”

To read more in the Five Quotes series, click here.

Urban Simplicity. 

Five or eleven quotes about darkness and light for the longest night…

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First a quick note regarding this photo. I came across this on my hard-drive today; I had forgotten about it. It’s a photo I had taken from my front porch last winter of what I thought was the moon and a star. A reader emailed to tell me the star was in fact the planet Venus. You can see those posts here and here. Anyhow, when I stumbled upon the photo today I thought it was perfect for these quotes. To read more in the Five Quotes series, click here.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

~Martin Luther King jr.

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”

~Plato

“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”

~Mary Oliver

“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.”

~Anne Frank

“There are darknesses in life and there are lights, and you are one of the lights, the light of all lights.”

~Bram Stoker

“When you light a candle, you also cast a shadow.”

~Ursula K. LeGuin

“What hurts you, blesses you. Darkness is your candle.”

~Rumi

“What makes night within us may leave stars.”

~Victor Hugo

“How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also If I am to be whole”

~C.G. Jung

“Just remember, a dark shadow need light to exist but light doesn’t need darkness to be luminous.”

~Gwen Hayes

“When darkness is at its darkest, a star shines the brightest.”

~Louise Philippe

Urban Simplicity. 

One photo, one short video, one quote, and just a few other words…

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“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
~John Lennon
October 9, 1940 – December 8, 1980

It seems as if the lyrics to the below video/song are just as relevant today–maybe even more so–than when they were originally written and sung. This video/song give me goose bumps. Turn up your speakers before you hit play.


Urban Simplicity.

Five or Seven Quotes from Malala Yousafzai

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“We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced”

“Let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons.”

“I don’t want revenge on the Taliban, I want education for sons and daughters of the Taliban.”

“The extremists are afraid of books and pens, the power of education frightens them. they are afraid of women.”

“I raise up my voice-not so that I can shout, but so those without a voice can be heard.”

“I don’t want to be thought of as the “girl who was shot by the Taliban” but the “girl who fought for education.” This is the cause to which I want to devote my life.”

“Education is education. We should learn everything and then choose which path to follow.” Education is neither Eastern nor Western, it is human.”

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14 Quotes from the 14th Dalai Lama

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Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.

There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness.

Today, more than ever before, life must be characterized by a sense of Universal responsibility, not only nation to nation and human to human, but also human to other forms of life.

We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.

My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.

“Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.”

“Silence is sometimes the best answer” 

“Choose to be optimistic, it feels better.” 

“If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.”

“Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.” 

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” 

“If you can cultivate the right attitude, your enemies are your best spiritual teachers because their presence provides you with the opportunity to enhance and develop tolerance, patience and understanding.” 

“Only the development of compassion and understanding for others can bring us the tranquility and happiness we all seek.”

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”  

Click here to go to the Dalai Lama’s website. 

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Five or Seven Quotes from Helen Keller

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Helen Adams Keller
June 27, 1880 – June 1, 1968

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.”

“Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there’s a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see.”

“Many people know so little about what is beyond their short range of experience. They look within themselves – and find nothing! Therefore they conclude that there is nothing outside themselves either.”

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”

“The marvelous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome. The hilltop hour would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse.”

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

“I believe in the immortality of the soul because I have within me immortal longings.”

Click here to read more about the amazing life of Helen Keller.
Urban Simplicity.

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Five (or ten) Quotes from Maya Angelou

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“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” 

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.” 

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” 

“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.”

“I believe we are still so innocent. The species are still so innocent that a person who is apt to be murdered believes that the murderer, just before he puts the final wrench on his throat, will have enough compassion to give him one sweet cup of water.”

“I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.”

“Life is pure adventure, and the sooner we realize that, the quicker we will be able to treat life as art.” 

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style” 

“I do not trust people who don’t love themselves and yet tell me, ‘I love you.’ There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.”  

To read five quotes from other people that inspire me, click here.

Urban Simplicity.  

Five or Eleven Quotes from Steve Jobs…

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“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful, that’s what matters to me.”

“We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it.”

“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

“Things don’t have to change the world to be important.”

“If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.”

“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.”

“Sometimes life is going to hit you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith.”

“Let’s go invent tomorrow instead of worrying about what happened yesterday.”

“Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”

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Five or Eight Quotes and a Poem from E.E. Cummings

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Edward Estlin Cummings

October 14, 1894 – September 3, 1962

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”

“Unbeing dead isn’t being alive.”

“Whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself.”

“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”

“I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.”

“Life’s not a paragraph and death I think is no parenthesis”

“I’m living so far beyond my income that we may almost be said to be living apart.”

“I imagine that yes is the only living thing.”

Humanity I love You

Humanity i love you

because you would rather black the boots of

success than enquire whose soul dangles from his

watch-chain which would be embarrassing for both

parties and because you

unflinchingly applaud all

songs containing the words country home and

mother when sung at the old howard

Humanity i love you because

when you’re hard up you pawn your

intelligence to buy a drink and when

you’re flush pride keeps

you from the pawn shops and

because you are continually committing

nuisances but more

especially in your own house

Humanity i love you because you

are perpetually putting the secret of

life in your pants and forgetting

it’s there and sitting down

on it

and because you are

forever making poems in the lap

of death Humanity

i hate you

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Urban Simplicity

Five or Eight Quotes from Rev. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale

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May 31, 1898 – December 24, 1993

“Plant seeds of expectation in your mind; cultivate thoughts that anticipate achievement. Believe in yourself as being capable of overcoming all obstacles and weaknesses.”

“Become a possibilitarian. No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see possibilities — always see them, for they’re always there.”

“Believe it is possible to solve your problem. Tremendous things happen to the believer. So believe the answer will come. It will.”

“Stand up to your obstacles and do something about them. You’ll find they haven’t half the strength you think they have.”

“If you want things to be different, perhaps the answer is to become different yourself.”

“Do not be awe struck by other people and try to copy them. Nobody can be you as efficiently as you can.”

“If you want a quality, act as if you already have it. If you want to be courageous, act as if you were – and as you act and persevere in acting, so you tend to become.”

“Change your thoughts and you change your world.”

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Five Quotes and a Poem from Mary Oliver

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Photo credit: Rachel Giese

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”

“Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”

“Listen–are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?”

“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.”

When Death Comes, by Mary Oliver

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps his purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering;
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

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Urban Simplicity.

Five (or ten) Quotes from Booker T. Washington

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April 5, 1856 – November 14, 1915

“The happiest people are those who do the most for others. The most miserable are those who do the least.”

“I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.”

“Associate yourself with people of good quality, for it is better to be alone than to be in bad company”

“Character, not circumstance, makes the person.”

“We all should rise, above the clouds of ignorance, narrowness, and selfishness.”

“My experience has been that the time to test a true gentleman is to observe him when he is in contact with individuals of a race that is less fortunate than his own.”

“I have begun everything with the idea that I could succeed, and I never had much patience with the multitudes of people who are always ready to explain why one cannot succeed.”

“The longer I live and the more experience I have of the world, the more I am convinced that, after all, the one thing that is most worth living for-and dying for, if need be-is the opportunity of making someone else more happy.”

“Character is power.”

“Success is not to be measured so much by the status one has attained in life but rather by the obstacles one has overcome while trying to succeed.”

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