When All You’ve Ever Wanted isn’t Enough by Harold Kushner

For those of you who have read previous entries, you may find this one of quotations rather strange. They are from Harold Kushner’s book “When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough” which uses the book of Ecclesiastes to examine the meaning and purpose of life.  For this entry I decided to copy the quotations, but in a future entry I will look at the concepts from a different perspective.

P 166 “To be fully and authentically human, we have to be prepared to take off the armor we usually go around wearing to keep the world from hurting us. We have to be prepared to accept pain, or else we will never dare to hope or to love. Without the readiness to feel, which must include feeling pain, we will never know the joy which Ecclesiastes identifies as one of the chief rewards of life. We have to make room in our souls for the tragic view of life.”

P 168 “When we are unable to fool ourselves, when the pain still hurts, we are at a loss. Never having learned to live with pain, some people see no other way out except to give up on living.”

P 141 “If logic tells us that life is a meaningless accident, says Ecclesiastes at the end of his journey, don’t give up on life. Give up on logic…If logic tells you that in the long run, nothing makes a difference because we all die and disappear, then don’t live in the long run…Instead of brooding over the fact that nothing lasts, accept that as one of the truths of life, and learn to find meaning and purpose in the transitory, in the joys that fade. In fact, learn to savor it because it is only a moment and will not last.”

P 142 “When we stop searching for the Great Answer, the Immortal Deed which will give our lives ongoing meaning, and instead concentrate on filling out individual days with moments that gratify us, then we will find the only possible answer to the question, What is life about? It is not about writing great books, amassing great wealth, achieving great power. It is about loving and being loved. It is about enjoying your food and sitting in the sun rather than rushing through lunch and hurrying back to the office. It is about savoring the beauty of moments that don’t last, the sunsets, the leaves turning color, the rare moments of true human communication.”

P 142 “There is no Answer, but there are answers: love and the joy of working, and the simple pleasures of food and fresh clothes, the little things that tend to get lost and trampled in the search for the Grand Solution to the Problem of Life and emerge, like the proverbial bluebird of happiness, only when we have stopped searching.”

Pp 134-5 “What is a person of integrity like? There is a Yiddish word which is untranslatable but describes him or her perfectly, a mensch. To be a mensch is to be the kind of person God had in mind when He arranged for human beings to evolve, someone who is honest, reliable, wise enough to be no longer naïve but not yet cynical, a person you can trust to give you advice for your benefit rather than his or her own. A mensch acts not out of fear or out of the desire to make a good impression but out of a strong inner conviction of who he or she is and what he or she stands for. A mensch is not a saint or a perfect person but a person from whom all falsehood, all selfishness, all vindictiveness have been burned away so that only a pure self remains. A mensch is whole and is one with his or her God.”

Pp 139-40 “We accompanied Ecclesiastes on five well-traveled paths that turned out to be dead ends, the way of selfishness and self-interest, the way of renouncing all bodily pleasures, the way of wisdom, the path of avoiding all feeling in an effort to avoid pain, and the path of piety and religious surrender…Ultimately, Ecclesiastes has an answer and he shares it with us in these words: Go, eat your bread in gladness and drink your wine in joy, for your action was long ago approved by God. Let your clothes always be freshly washed and your head never lack ointment, Enjoy happiness with a woman you love all the fleeting days of life that have been granted you under the sun. Whatever it is in your power to do, do with all your might. For there is no doing, no learning, no wisdom in the grave where you are going. (9:7-10)”

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One Response to “When All You’ve Ever Wanted isn’t Enough by Harold Kushner”

  1. Inger Lise Karlsen Says:

    Thank you it is absolutely true, except for the last sentence: “For there is no doing, no learning, no wisdom in the grave where you are going.” How can it be when it is no death, but a state of Mind… as some of the famous quotations such as:You are you own thoughts and Mind is the Builder.
    ACIM(a course in miracles)says:”I am not a body but as God have created me” (one of the favourites of mine, by-the-way).

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