As college classes digitally commenced this week, I was immersed in a very fascinating speech by my professor of Masterpieces of East Asian Literature. After introducing the course, she spent about 20 minutes articulating how little we will remember of her or our other peers in this class. In essence, she was reminding us of our finitude and ability to be forgotten. However, she explained that what we will remember—and what we ought to latch on to—are certain fragments and phrases of the texts we will read that touch our hearts. It was because of her words that I recalled and compiled nine passages from works of literature that have remained with me long after I turned the last page and placed the book back on my desk to sit idle.
"For each of us as women, there is a dark place within, where hidden and growing our true spirit rises, "beautiful/and tough as chestnut/stanchions against (y)our nightmare of weakness/" and of impotence...The woman's place of power within each of us is neither white nor surface; it is dark, it is ancient, and it is deep."
"A certain part of me has died as I've learned to leave behind the qualities of my youth—the overanxiousness, oversensitivity, and self-consciousness, not to mention arrogance and idealism, that diminish with life experience. I was a late bloomer, but at long last, I lost my innocence. Like anyone else when they're young, I harbored lofty expectations but lacked the self-knowledge to comprehend my own passions and vices."
"They say addiction might be linked to bipolar disorder. It's the chemicals in our brains, they say. I got the wrong chemicals, Ma. Or rather, I don't get enough of one or the other. They have a pill for it. They have an industry. They make millions. Did you know people get rich off of sadness? I want to meet the millionaire of American sadness. I want to look him in the eye, shake his hand, and say, 'It's been an honor to serve my country.'"
"Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day."
"The axiom of equality states that x always equals x: it assumes that if you have a conceptual thing named x, that it must always be equivalent to itself, that it has a uniqueness about it, that it is in possession of something so irreducible that we might assume it is absolutely, unchangeably equivalent to itself for all time, that its very elementalness can never be altered. But it is impossible to prove. Always, absolutes, nevers: these are the words, as much as numbers, that make up the world of mathematics. Not everyone liked the axiom of equality—Dr. Li had once called it coy and twee, a fan dance of an axiom—but he had always appreciated how elusive it was, how the beauty of the equation itself would always be frustrated by the attempts to prove it. I was the kind of axiom that could drive you mad, that could consume you, that could easily become an entire life."
"Everyone succumbs to finitude. I suspect I am not the only one who reaches this pluperfect state. Most ambitions are either achieved or abandoned; either way, they belong to the past. The future, instead of the ladder toward the goals of life, flattens out into a perpetual present. Money, status, all the vanities the preacher of Ecclesiastes described, hold so little interest: a chasing after wind, indeed."
"And did you get what you wanted from this life, even so? I did. And what did you want? To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth."
"All men have stars, but they are not the same things for different people. For some, who are travelers, the stars are guides. For others, they are no more than little lights in the sky. For others, who are scholars, they are problems...But all these stars are silent. You—You alone will have stars as no one else has them...In one of the stars, I shall be living. In one of them, I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars will be laughing when you look at the sky at night...You, only you, will have stars that can laugh! And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows), you will be content that you have known me...You will always be my friend. You will want to laugh with me. And you will sometimes open your window, so, for that pleasure...It will be as if, in place of the stars, I had given you a great number of little bells that knew how to laugh."
"If you stumble about believability, what are you living for? Love is hard to believe, ask any lover. Life is hard to believe, ask any scientist. God is hard to believe, ask any believer. What is your problem with hard to believe?"
As Percy Bysshe Shelley demonstrated in his sonnet "Ozymandias," the one thing that remained long after Ozymandias and his kingdom decayed into dust and oblivion was art. More specifically, the artist's sculpture and words that adorned the sculpture. As my professor wonderfully delineated, the poignant words etched into our minds and hearts will continue to be remembered long after everything else has ceased.