What are some of your favorite literary quotes, excerpts or passages?
As you might imagine, there are many that speak to me, but one of the top contenders is definitely the following excerpt from A Ring of Endless Light.
"When are you most completely you, Vicky?"
It wasn't at all what I had expected him to say. I was looking for answers, not more questions.
"When?" he repeated.
Maybe because I was feeling extraordinarily tired I was thinking in scenes, rather than logical sequences, and across my mind's eye flashed a picture of the loft, with the old camp cots, and the windows overlooking the ocean, and the lighthouse at night with its friendly beam, and on the far wall the lines of the poem Grandfather had painted there, If thou could'st empty all thyself of self...
I was not really myself when I was all replete with very me. So when was I?
"When you first took me to meet Basil [a dolphin]," I said slowly, "and when I was petting him and scratching his chest..."
"Who were you thinking about?"
"Were you thinking about you?"
"But were you really being you?"
"So that's the contradiction, isn't it? You weren't thinking about yourself at all. You were completely thrown out of yourself in concentration on Basil. And yet you were really being you.
I leaned my head against Adam's shoulder. "Much more than when I'm all replete with very me."
His right hand drew my head more comfortably against his shoulder. "So, when we're thinking concsiously about ourselves, we're less ourselves than when we're not being self-centered."
"Okay, here's another analogy. Where are you when you write poetry?"
"This summer I'm usually up in the loft."
"You know that's not what I mean. When you're actually writing a poem, when you're in the middle of it, where are you?"
"I'm not sure. I'm more in the poem than I am in me. I'm using my mind, really using it, and yet I'm not directing the poem or telling it where to go. It's telling me."
His strong fingers moved gently across my hair. "That's the way it is with science, too. All the great scientists, like Newton, like Einstein, repeat the same thing- that the discoveries don't come when you're consciously looking for them. They come when for some reason you've let go of conscious control. They come in a sudden flash, and you can receive that flash, or you can refuse to. But if you're willing to receive it, then for that instantaneous moment that you're really you, but you're not conscious in the same way you have to be later on when you look at what you saw in the flash, and then have to work out the equations to prove it."
I heard every word he said. And I think I understood. At the same time my entire body was conscious of the feel of his fingers stroking my hair. I wondered if he felt it as strongly as I did. But I asked, "Has that happened to you, that knowing in a flash?"
"Not in the way it did to Einstein with his theory of relativity. Or to Dr. O'Keefe, with his work on limb regeneration. But in little ways with Basil, yes. He's taught me more about himself than I could have learned with just my thinking self. And Basil- Basil has taught you, hasn't he?"
"Yes. Oh, yes."
He lifted his hand and stopped stroking. "And you saw Jeb with Ynid."
Yes, I had seen Dr. Nutteley with Ynid. In the midst of his pain, Jeb had been wholly real.
"What I think"- Adam's hand began caressing my hair again- "is that if we're still around after we die, it will be more like those moments when we let go, than the way we are most of the time. It'll be- it'll be the self beyond the self we know."
At that moment there was a rip in the clouds and an island of star-sparkled sky appeared, its light so brilliant it seemed to reach down beyond the horizon and encircle the earth, a ring of pure and endless light.
~ A Ring of Endless Light by Madeline L'Engle, pages 162-164