Intriguing Quote

Our ability to feel sad is what stirs compassion in others and empathy in ourselves. There is no growth without loss, and no art without longing.
—A. O. Scott

I’ve been pondering this quote for a while. I don’t believe there is no growth without loss any more than loss always leads to growth. Some of us can also grow from joy. Art and longing? Probably. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:

Every clod feels a stir of might,
And instinct within it that reaches and towers,
And, groping blindly above it for light,
Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers.
—-James Russell Lowell

That one resonates with me, no pondering there. It energizes me.


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13 Responses to Intriguing Quote

  1. Ursula says:

    Forgive me for spontaneously laughing out loud at your second quote. “Clod” being the operative word – lumpen. Though Lowell’s sentiment is indeed true to nature, I find his wording cloying, sickly sweet, a bit like a Greek pastry. Still, as they say, its’s the thought that counts even if the packaging leaves a lot to be desired.

    Your first quote is a fine example why I use quotes sparingly, if ever. This one sounds good, but what does it actually mean? I am not surprised you pondered it for a while. I would have thought it makes more sense if it read ”
    “Our ability to feel sad is what stirs compassion FOR others” and forget the rest of the sentence because it doesn’t make sense. Question springing to my mind: Since, by definition, a psychopath has no empathy, no compassion, does that mean a psychopath never feels sad?

    Other than that, yes, Jean, as you say, we grow by all sorts of means, be it obstacles, be it joy – and some people’s “growth” will be stunted, and some just wilt.

    Ursula´s last blog post ..In search of answers

    • Jean says:

      I like the Lowell quote because of the clod driven to grow by its instinct. It reminds me of skunk cabbages and other plants that will grow through cracks in the sidewalk. There is an irrepressible part of me that identifies with that.

  2. Rummuser says:

    One has to first define “growth”. Why is it important to grow? What is the process?

    I prefer words like change and impermanence.
    Rummuser´s last blog post ..First Name.

  3. Mike says:

    I agree with Ursula. I seldom use quotes in blogging. I do, however, use them on Facebook, often without attribution , just to stir thoughts in others. I used “The proportion of the world’s population living in extreme poverty is below 10% for the first time…. ever. (2016)” yesterday and one fellow came back with “Source?” I answered, “World Bank.”

    One can also “grow” by deciding to. Most people never really challenge themselves. They just proceed through life, day by day, without exploring, without learning, just living life as couch potato consumers.
    Mike´s last blog post ..1918 Merry Christmas

    • Jean says:

      Personal growth was my hobby for years, starting when I was an adolescent. I still do it, I suppose, but it’s more automatic now. The present world gives us all a chance to practice.

  4. tammy j says:

    I wonder. I just don’t know what I think about the loss and growth thing.
    I once worked for a woman who was actually quite wonderful as a boss and a person all around. she was about 50 years old. we (the manager and I who was her assistant) would often talk about Eleanor and how she seemed to have had a remarkable life.
    she had a husband and children and grand children. even her parents were still alive and well even at an advanced age. they still had their own home and were able to maintain it.
    she had a beautiful home herself and did all the hostess things that people like that do. she sang in her church choir… and on and on… blah blah blah… perfect life? she even admitted she had never known sorrow personally.
    at 52 years of age she got cancer. it was operable. she had treatment afterward also.
    she just literally fell apart. she had a nervous breakdown. (do they still call it that?) she went into a full deep depression that nothing could get her out of.
    she died a few months later. even though the diagnosis of her cancer was to be a full recovery and not that bad.
    so… I don’t know. perhaps loss in one’s early life does make a person stronger. in growth I don’t know. but stronger to withstand what life throws at us… probably! (and I see I have written a full post here. sorry)
    tammy j´s last blog post ..moving on old bean

  5. A long-held idea that suffering brings out the most intense and creative performance in people has been demonstrated many times (Pollock, Monet, Van Gogh), but I’m sure it’s not a rule that you must suffer to do great art! But I do love Scott’s quote!
    Still the Lucky Few´s last blog post ..Aging in Place With ElliQ and Other Innovations

    • Jean says:

      I believe that a certain amount of adversity can teach us life skills. Colleges have noticed that their students aren’t as psychologically resilient as ones in the past because their folks are so protective/do so much for them.

  6. Cathy in NZ says:

    Tammy’s answer reminds me of people who work hard all their life and really look forward to retirement so they can do all the things they didn’t do, missed out and so forth…and within a few short months/years – they are gone. Why because whilst they were working so hard, they forgot to play and when they had the time, it was too late (or similar). Sometimes, they didn’t get that medical check up regularly or really understand to slow down and enjoy the flowers…

    I had a huge loss for me in the 1990s when I became ill and my life changed forever. I rapidly had to adjust (I didn’t of course, and I got very angry) – then as time went on and there was no real medical mainstream help – I adopted a ‘self-management skill’ that I still use today…

    I’m having to put the #1 skill into play at the moment, and take many horizontals when the sticky pad (mid torso) starts agitating me – because of where it is, it’s a bit annoying even when I’m quietly sitting doing very little 🙂 I think actually it’s all healing quite well…because I’m doing what my signed note tells me what not to do 🙂

    • Jean says:

      I’ve also known people who have done all the “right” things and still die young. There are no guarantees, but I try to stack the odds in my favor. 🙂

      I’m sorry the pad is annoying you! 🙁

  7. Cindi says:

    My first thought was about psychopaths too.
    So I don’t agree.
    And of course there can be growth without loss.
    New paths can open up, new friends can be made, so many things can bring growth without loss.
    And about Art?
    Children create art everyday with a carefree heart, so again, I don’t agree.
    I’m kinda hating this quote.
    I mean, it’s really a downer.

    The second quote is quite nice.
    But it doesn’t energize me.
    I’m glad it does for you though! xoxo

    Here’s one that does it for me-
    “And those who were seen dancing
    were thought to be insane
    by those who could not hear the music.”
    – Friedrich Nietzsche
    Cindi´s last blog post ..Blue

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