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Most popular passages from – The God Delusion – Richard Dawkins

Rather than argue the case for or against this popular book, i’d refer to this:

Let [Truth] and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter. Milton, “Areopagitica,” 1644

The word ‘truth’ has it’s origins in the word Tree; the notion of “steadfast as an oak, from same root ‘drutas’ “firm,” Welsh drud, or “strong,” Welsh derw “true,” old Irish derb “sure.”
‘When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called Religion.’
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one of the truly bad effects of religion is that it teaches us that it is a virtue to be satisfied with not understanding.
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The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.
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I have found it an amusing strategy, when asked whether I am an atheist, to point out that the questioner is also an atheist when considering Zeus, Apollo, Amon Ra, Mithras, Baal, Thor, Wotan, the Golden Calf and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I just go one god further.
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Seneca the Younger: ‘Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.’
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‘We must respect the other fellow’s religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.’
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‘The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one.’
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Deists differ from theists in that their God does not answer prayers, is not interested in sins or confessions, does not read our thoughts and does not intervene with capricious miracles. Deists differ from pantheists in that the deist God is some kind of cosmic intelligence, rather than the pantheist’s metaphoric or poetic synonym for the laws of the universe. Pantheism is sexed-up atheism. Deism is watered-down theism.
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Remember Ambrose Bierce’s witty definition of the verb ‘to pray’: ‘to ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner, confessedly unworthy’.
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Carl Sagan put it well:’… if by “God” one means the set of physical laws that govern the universe, then clearly there is such a God. This God is emotionally unsatisfying … it does not make much sense to pray to the law of gravity.’
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10 most Meaningful Passages from ‘Doing What Must Be Done’ by Chad Hymas

Chad Hymas tells about his experience and accident. More than that, he gives us nitty-gritty, real-world details on how to live life when bad things happen to good people. This is more than a book that is just inspirational. It is a book that will give you the power — and the how-to — to get things done in your own life. Watch this video as I walk through the book with you citing specific incidents from the book that Chad shared with you. You will be a better person because you read this book. Enjoy the video as we take a walk through “Doing What Must Be Done” by Chad Hymas.

So here are 10 of the most commonly highlighted, referenced or shared quotations from Chad’ book…

The most difficult thing is the decision to act; the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own

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are never destroyed by circumstance. They live or die in your heart. My dreams come true not in spite of my circumstance but because of
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give in to your deprivations. Live up to your expectations.
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Freedom isn’t free. We believe freedom is our right, but it comes with a price. We may have to deal with despair, and
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The miracles of our lives do not come about by grand events, but by the little things we have chosen to do… The biggest problems come about, because I avoid the little things too long… The difficult takes time; the impossible just takes a little longer.”
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my life is not determined by what happens to me, but by how I respond to what happens. It is not about what life brings to me, but rather what I bring to life.
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Thoughts are powerful. A change in our thinking changes our lives. Whether mystical or natural, one new thought can cause a chain reaction, creating new events and new outcomes. New thinking creates new assumptions. New assumptions create different feelings and attitudes. New attitudes create a new approach to old challenges. A new approach creates newcircumstances.
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man is but the product of his thoughts… what he thinks, he becomes.
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To regret the experience is to regret the lesson –
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But spending too much time in regret denies us the opportunity of getting the most out of our experience – devastating though the experience may seem.

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How to Avoid the Natural Reactions that Prevent Good Decision Making – Gregory Ciotti

Most of us like to think that we are in control of our actions. Turns out, your brain can be a big jerk, and you are susceptible to a large list of biases and reactions that can hold you back from acting objectively. Luckily, some good social psychology books (spurred on by well-research papers and experiments!) have revealed a large amount of these biases to the common reader.

Here are five notorious social biases and the ways that you can recognize them and react.

Fundamental Attribution Error

This is a very insidious bias that we all fall victim to from time-to-time.

The calling card of the fundamental attribution error is when we place a large amount of emphasis on situational explanations when rationalizing when things happen to us, but we use personality-based explanations when rationalizing what happens to others.

As an example:

If Alice saw Bob trip over a rock and fall, Alice might consider Bob to be clumsy or careless (personal/dispositional).

If Alice tripped over the same rock herself, she would be more likely to blame the placement of the rock (situational).

First uncovered by the classic study The attribution of attitudes, there are STILL no concrete explanations to explain its occurrence.

Some of the more common reasons cited include:

  • The just-world phenomenon: our brains are naturally inclined to have a belief that the world is balanced or “fair”, and that things that happen to others happen for a reason. While we often see other people this way, we have a tendency to see ourselves as “victims” instead.
  • Salience of the actor: individuals capture our attention, so when observing their situation, we are focused on them, when observing our own situation, we focus on the environment.
  • Automaticity & processing: we often process things on a subconscious level, and it’s often easier for our brain to wave away a situation as happening “just because they deserve it” rather than looking at the circumstances.

Dealing with it: Unfortunately, there isn’t much beyond an agreed list of “best practices” when it comes to dealing with the fundamental attribution error (it’s that pervasive!). The best I’ve got for you is to remind yourself of the old adage of, “Walking a mile in someone’s shoes,” and determining if the situation is playing a major role in the event.

For instance, if a beginner makes a mistake, recall a time when you were a beginner yourself at the same activity or another; it’s likely that your nervousness, inexperience, and other outside factors caused you to make some errors as well.

Halo Effect

The Halo effect is an attributional bias where our brain makes judgements about the character or competency of others based off of our general impression of them. In some cases, it can be viewed as a form of social proof.

The problem occurs when these impressions are wrong, and since they are often based off of superficial judgements (such as if the person is attractive to us), we can be wrong quite often.

What is also worrisome is that this bias seems to be present even at the highest levels of society in realms where objectivity should rule. In fact, it’s been shown that on average, attractive people serve shorter prison sentences than others who were convicted of similar crimes.

Dealing with it: The most important way to battle against this bias is to try and detach yourself from the person at hand and to take the actions in as much of a “vacuum” as you are able.

If the same action were committed by someone whom you didn’t admire, would it impact you the same way? We have a tendency to get swept up in the stories of others, so ask yourself if the “mystique” about someone was gone, would you perceive their actions differently?

It’s important to ask yourself these questions when trying to objectively evaluate the actions of someone who may have left a strong impression on you or is someone who you truly respect: those qualities don’t always lead to the person being right.

Naive Cynicism

The “naive cynicism” bias occurs quite often, even in the most trusting of people.

It states that people are, on average, likely to assume that others have more of an egocentric biasthan themselves. This means that people believe that others are more likely to be egocentric than themselves when dealing with people.

We have data to show that this is not the case (statistically speaking), such as how Malcom Gladwell’s Blink showed that most people do not sue their doctors when injured due to negligence, despite the often pervasive idea that patients are always taking advantage of malpractice in this manner.

In one series of experiments, groups including married couples, video game players, darts players and debaters were asked how often they were responsible for good or bad events relative to a partner.

Participants evenly apportioned themselves for both good and bad events, but expected their partner to claim more responsibility for good events than bad events than they actually did.

Dealing with it: The important thing to remember about this bias is that it’s more of an outlook on others. While circumstance often plays a huge role in people’s outlook on the world (those born in a crowded, crime-ridden city may have different views on other people than those who grew up in a quiet suburb), but it’s important to remember that there are a LOT of people in the world and that, on average, most people evaluate situations in the same fashion that you do.

People by and large will give credit where it’s due, and you should try to react to situations where you have some sort of inclination that the opposite will happen, not just assume that everyone is more egocentric than yourself.

In-Group Favoritism

This one probably didn’t need a study to confirm it, am I right?

It’s very obvious to many of us that people favor those who are in “their” group, but there is something a lot scarier about this bias than you may realize: people often form groups from the most trivial distinctions.

In a notorious study called Social categorization and intergroup behaviour, social psychologist Henri Tajfel was able to show that people could be placed into groups from meaningless choices (choosing between two painters who they had never met) and then have these choices affect their reactions when it came time to dole out real rewards.

Think about that.

People who chose the same painter (again, the choice was meaningless) would then, when queued to deal out real rewards to any participant, chose to FAVOR those who chose the same painter and DISCRIMINATE against those who didn’t.

To make matters worse, in a study on customer loyalty programs, consumer researchers showed that people became more loyal to the programs when they new that they were in a “gold” class and above other people enrolled in the program, showing that meager distinctions of superiority can make people more loyal to a supposed in-group.

Additional studies have shown that things as shallow as similar purchases can trigger the effect. So if you meet someone and they also own some tennis racquets, terrariums, a pair of Crocs, or aDolphin Power Boat (yes, that’s real), you are susceptible to in-group favoritism rearing its ugly head. Meeting someone with a common item, such as a guy who also wears pants, probably won’t trigger the effect, or at least I hope so…

Dealing with it: This (as with all of these biases) is tough to handle, but this one is especially tricky because it can we can encounter it due to the actions of others. To maintain our own objectivity, the best way is to envision an interaction without group constructs in place.

If this or that person weren’t connected with you in some way, would you still feel the same about their actions? Conversely, if someone from the “other team” were on your side, would their actions be different in your eyes? It’s important to consider these distinctions when evaluating individual situations because, as the research shows, we can be heavily influenced by them.

Dunning-Kruger Effect

No list would be complete without this one.

The Dunning-Kruger effect states that unskilled individuals are likely to suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. Conversely, those who are highly competent may have feelings of inferiority, because they believe everybody else has the same competency that they do.

According to Charles Darwin:

“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.”

It turns out that he was far more correct than many of us would like to admit.

In some recent research (2008), Dunning & Kruger asserted that individuals who were most likely to suffer from illusory superiority were those who were disinclined to receive feedback from others on their performance. Blocking out of any critiques allowed them to create a sense of accomplishment that wasn’t necessarily true.

Dealing with it: Lacking confidence in oneself is just as bad as being overconfident. What then can we do to avoid falling victim to both sides of the Dunning-Kruger effect?

I think that the solution is best addressed in one of my favorite quotes by Ernest Hemingway:

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

Focusing on improving yourself and not worrying about the performance of others or your skill in relation to them.

It’s fine to be competitive, but when you spend too much time analyzing what other people are doing (especially if it’s not for a competitive sport or activity), you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment as you set goals based on other people’s lives rather than your own.

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48 Laws of Power – 10 most Meaningfull Passages

Well here it is; some might say, the most important book ever written…Hmmm perhaps not. Is Greene’ book merely a collection of cautionary reminders, where every relationship is founded on mistrust and one upmanship, more likely? That aside, Greene’ 48 laws have their spiritual counterparts, some may say they are a rehash of many world philosophies, excised from the womb of histories greatest minds.
Here are the 10 most meaningful (kindle) passages for the 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene:
Never take your position for granted and never let any favors you receive go to your head.
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Half of your mastery of power comes from what you do not do, what you do not allow yourself to get dragged into.
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The most important of these skills, and power’s crucial foundation, is the ability to master your emotions. An emotional response to a situation is the single greatest barrier to power, a mistake that will cost you a lot more than any temporary satisfaction you might gain by expressing your feelings. Emotions cloud reason, and if you cannot see the situation clearly, you cannot prepare for and respond to it with any degree of control.
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All working situations require a kind of distance between people. You are trying to work, not make friends; friendliness (real or false) only obscures that fact. The key to power, then, is the ability to judge who is best able to further your interests in all situations. Keep friends for friendship, but work with the skilled and competent.
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Learn the lesson: Once the words are out, you cannot take them back. Keep them under control. Be particularly careful with sarcasm: The momentary satisfaction you gain with your biting words will be outweighed by the price you pay.
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In most areas of life, the less you say, the more profound and mysterious you appear.
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If deception is the most potent weapon in your arsenal, then patience in all things is your crucial shield.
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Never waste valuable time, or mental peace of mind, on the affairs of others—that is too high a price to pay.
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By saying less than necessary you create the appearance of meaning and power. Also, the less you say, the less risk you run of saying something foolish, even dangerous.
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Seem to want something in which you are actually not at all interested and your enemies will be thrown off the scent, making all kinds of errors in their calculations.
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10 Most Meaningful Passages The Heart Of Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh

Comprehensive, inspiring and practical,  The Heart Of Buddha’s Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh helps us to integrate Buddhist ideas into our everyday life without becoming too encumbered with terminology. Although Thich Nhat Hanh does tend to repeat himself in subtle ways, within this book and across his other books, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching seems to integrate many of his ideas into one very coherent and practical treatise on the nature suffering as one of the most basic human conditions we spend our lives trying to accept, or possibly escape. I hope these 10 passages effectively condense the beauty of this book.

From Publishers Weekly:

Thich Nhat Hanh’s introduction begins with the Turning the Dharma Wheel Sutra, the classic tale of Buddha’s announcement in the Deer Park of his awakening. Nhat Hanh then proceeds through a series of laundry-list definitions of core Buddhist terminology: Four Noble Truths, The Noble Eightfold Path, The Three Dharma Seals, The Three Doors of Liberation, The Twelve Links of Causation, The Three Jewels, The Six Harmonies, The Five Powers, The Five Wonderful Precepts and The Four Immeasurable Minds. Despite the tedium of the list, Nhat Hanh does present Buddhism as way of thinking and a well-traveled path toward enlightenment. Buddhism, he teaches, is not only about the individual’s attainment of enlightenment but also about the community, past and present, which has fostered the possibility of an individual’s enlightenment. As an introduction to Buddhism, this is a masterful inventory of the basic accouterments of a well-furnished Buddhist life.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
In, out Deep, slow Calm, ease Smile, release Present moment, wonderful moment
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Mindfulness is the energy that allows us to recognize our habit energy and prevent it from dominating us.
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Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything — anger, anxiety, or possessions — we cannot be free.
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The Buddha said many times, “My teaching is like a finger pointing to the moon. Do not mistake the finger for the moon.”
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When we are mindful, touching deeply the present moment, the fruits are always understanding, acceptance, love, and the desire to relieve suffering and bring joy.
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My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground on which I stand.
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The greatest miracle is to be alive. We can put an end to our suffering just by realizing that our suffering is not worth suffering for!
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After calming, the third function of shamatha is resting.
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The Buddha called suffering a Holy Truth, because our suffering has the capacity of showing us the path to liberation. Embrace your suffering, and let it reveal to you the way to peace.
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The first function of meditation — shamatha — is to stop. The second function of shamatha is calming.
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10 Most Meaningful Passages – Mans Search For Meaning

“Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl is among the most influential works of psychiatric literature since Freud.”
Frankl, who survived the concentration camps, writes that suffering is inevitable and that avoiding suffering is futile. Rather, one should be worthy of one’s suffering and make meaning of it instead of surrendering to nihilism, bitterness and despair. He uses poetic, moving anecdotes from the concentration camps to illustrate those souls who find a deeper humanity from their suffering or who become animals relegated to nothing more than teeth-clenched self-preservation. Though not specifically religious, this masterpiece has a religious purpose–to help us find meaning. This book succeeds immeasurably.
…everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms-to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
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Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.
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Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it.
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Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.
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“Don’t aim at success-the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.
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“Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now!”
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Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. It finds its deepest meaning in his spiritual being, his inner self. Whether or not he is actually present, whether or not he is still alive at all, ceases somehow to be of importance.
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When a man finds that it is his destiny to suffer, he will have to accept his suffering as his task; his single and unique task. He will have to acknowledge the fact that even in suffering he is unique and alone in the universe. No one can relieve him of his suffering or suffer in his place. His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his burden.
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Life is not primarily a quest for pleasure, as Freud believed, or a quest for power, as Alfred Adler taught, but a quest for meaning. The greatest task for any person is to find meaning in his or her life. Frankl saw three possible sources for meaning: in work (doing something significant), in love (caring for another person), and in courage during difficult times. Suffering in and of itself is meaningless; we give our suffering meaning by the way in which we respond to it.
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Frankl approvingly quotes the words of Nietzsche: “He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How.”

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10 Most Meaningful Passages – The Alchemist

I love this book! As a practicing ‘alchemist’, even more so! Because perhaps the greatest riddles are hidden in plain sight, and this work by Paulo Coelho is no exception, showing a breadth of understanding quite rare in modern short stories, and a lively prose peppered with four dimensional characters.

Here are the 10 most meaningful passages from The Alchemist as chosen by literally thousands of reader from around the world. Enjoy!

“It’s this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.”
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“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.”
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There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
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It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting,
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Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.
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when each day is the same as the next, it’s because people fail to recognize the good things that happen in their lives every day that the sun rises.
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“We are afraid of losing what we have, whether it’s our life or our possessions and property. But this fear evaporates when we understand that our life stories and the history of the world were written by the same hand.”
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‘The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon.’”
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“Because I don’t live in either my past or my future. I’m interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man. You’ll see that there is life in the desert, that there are stars in the heavens, and that tribesmen fight because they are part of the human race. Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we’re living right now.”
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“That’s what alchemists do. They show that, when we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too.”

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If this has wet your appetite, you can find a full digital edition here.