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Margaret Lee Runbeck

  • Remorse is a simpering form of shame.

  • ... value is never in the object, as heat is not in the thermometer, but value is only the mercury running up and down and registering the temperature of the wanter.

  • He worshiped figures, and the laws of figures. They were the only constancy in the universe. Women might scream and fall silent in the snow. Houses might lift up wings of flame and fly into oblivion in a few mad hours. Men might starve and steal and starve again. But figures, untouched and inviolate, held their ineffable sanity.

  • A good buyer has two-faced eyes that see everything wrong with merchandise before it's bought, and everything right with it when it's to be sold again.

  • Once you've loved a child, you love all children. You give away your love to one, and you find that by the giving you have made yourself an inexhaustible treasury.

  • There is nothing that so harasses an architect giving birth to a house as the presence of the prospective owners.

  • Strangers ... are just your friends that you don't know yet.

  • ... giving is a necessity sometimes ... more urgent, indeed, than having.

  • ... regret without grief makes more intelligent discipline. Repentance of the intellect instead of the heart, is our aim; since the heart is a sensitive little instrument intended not for hammering nails, but for telling time forever.

  • A child's business is an open yard, into which any passer-by may peer curiously. It is no house, not even a glass house. A child's reticence is a little white fence around her business, with a swinging, helpless gate through which grown-ups come in or go out, for there are no locks on your privacy ...

  • They're all poets when they're very young.

  • We have our own front page, as all people do who live in the country. It is the sky and the earth, with headlines new every morning. We wake to take in its news as city dwellers reach across thresholds for their newspapers.

  • ... we can always explain away miracles — afterward.

  • Miracles may be phosphorescent, so to speak; only to be seen in darkness.

  • ... all prayers, whatever form they assume, are of profit to the man who utters them; of that I have become convinced. What might seem like only a weak outcry to one man may serve as the fulcrum of courage to another.

  • Prayers, I have no doubt, differ as widely as love-making or fun-making.

  • ... Fairst's way is not to rush at you with an outstretched hand. His chestnuts wait within burrs.

  • Happiness is a habit, to be established early. It is like the magnetic beam by which the pilots fly.

  • When one learns that the abundance of beauty is unlimited, one wants constantly less, and that less more perfected.

  • A silver lining is usually pretty wistful optimism. In fact, the chances are, you have to find a silver lining to the silver lining, if you know what I mean. As for me, I like my silver without any cloud.

  • So, a baby had been born to them at last. Not circumstantially of their bodies, but desirously of their hearts. They had both borne this child, as Tom had facetiously said; they had looked for it and waited, looking and looking until at last they found their own.

  • The pages of our living turn so silently we scarcely hear them, and it is only afterward that we can look back and say, 'That was one chapter.'

  • ... the people who are willing to talk about imagination seldom have much. Imagination is a guilty secret, usually, a possession best kept inside the privacy of one's own skull ...

  • When half the world is still plagued by terror and distress, you stop guiltily sometimes in the midst of your house-laughter and wonder if you've a right to it. Ought any of us to laugh, until all of us can again, you ask yourself, sometimes.

  • ... happiness is not a station you arrive at, but a manner of traveling.

  • Apology is a lovely perfume; it can transform the clumsiest moment into a gracious gift.

  • When the great joys are stilled, the minor ones must sing.

  • The protective coloration of the young is general brainlessness. So we soon learn to make silly sounds in order to pursue our thoughts in private.

  • Dust, heat, perspiration, and perfume swirl in clouds. Everything that can move, vibrates; everything that can utter a sound, yells; everything that can give off an aroma, broadcasts itself. The bullfight is a carnival of the senses. All the fives senses indulge in a paroxysm of reaction, and must go home prostrated and stunned for another week.

  • Conversation was a kind of little flashlight, with which you explored caves you had never been in before. You never could guess, when you started, what you would find.

  • Youth, in most ways, is a grossly overadvertised commodity. It is supposed to be the best part of life; but actually it is a jungle and a swamp and a desert. Everything is too terribly important to be borne; that is why we have to appear irresponsible and downright silly. We just couldn't bear caring so much about everything, if we didn't.

  • ... I suppose it is the inexhaustible nature of us that we feel alive only while we search. Man must go on sparring with himself in excruciating unbalance, alive only when he is scintillating like an agitated needle on some huge instrument, tremulous between the agony of desiring and the lethargy of satiety.

  • There is no power on earth more formidable than the truth.

  • Silences make the real conversations between friends. Not the saying, but the never needing to say, is what counts.

  • We are good friends because we never need forgive each other the gaucherie of eloquence.

  • ... I showed no surprise, for my first principle of getting along with the young is never to be amazed at anything.

  • ... there is nothing more fatal than to give before asking has come from the deepest level of consciousness. Too many times I have rushed into this moment and killed it by my eagerness. Now I wait until I am sure.

  • The base from which all growth is predicated then, is in the future, not from the past. Growing is always into, not away from.

  • But it is the assignment of the soul to keep all questions precariously unresolved, up to the very brink of the absolute. As soon as solid ground lies under us, our eyes desert the safety of each peak of certitude, to scale the rising doubt beyond.

  • The art of keeping oneself acceptable may lie in the nimble ability to confirm what others think they know about us.

  • ... he received most of his early schooling alone. In this way he may have escaped some educational dogmas and biases which often standardize a lively intellect.

  • Even when we love people, we're fairly philosophical about their suffering and what it will bring them!

  • Some people are born into their religions, as they are born into being blondes, or French, or inhabitants of the upper brackets of wealth. This inherited religion is often too perfunctory to be of much practical use. As in most other values, the intimately important religion is the one which has been chosen voluntarily.

  • If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.

  • I believe anyone who momentarily perceives the Absolute will never again need any other circumstance for happiness.

  • If prayers are going to be answered at all, human beings probably have to answer them for each other.

  • I may not believe in God. But I do believe in the people who believe in God.

  • You can't cheat a praying man. If he comes to hear a sermon, he hears a sermon.

  • You can't defeat a praying man. He finds his answers everywhere he looks.

  • One person never tells anything about another person. Only about herself.

  • Learning is always rebellion ... Every bit of new truth discovered is revolutionary to what was believed before.

  • A man does not steal from one victim only, but from everyone who comes near to the theft.

  • The simple remark was like a sharp knife splitting open a melon in one stroke ... The words split open the future in a dazzling vision, showing seeds from which much trouble could grow.

  • The distance she traveled in that hour is the longest in human experience. It may take a decade, or a generation, or a century; yet sometimes it seems as if it is made in a single brave leap. It is the distance between being enslaved and becoming free. The trip cannot be given; it must be taken.

  • Children are wholesomely objective about their own faults. They wear their little selves turned inside out; the patches and seams have no privacy.

  • The people in my house always think if you're talking on the telephone it is their chance to engage your other ear, without your being able to talk back.

  • Memory is a slick politician who will support either side of the argument loyally.

  • Nobody has ever written a juvenile book on 'How to win friends and influence people.' Children are born knowing.

  • Babies are an acquired taste.

  • If work is not its own reward, there comes no other pay worth having.

  • ... words are sometimes the most expensive and dangerous luxuries between the generations.

  • To succeed in anything, one always works a little harder than one feels possible.

  • Metaphors are as tactful as they are informative, for if you know nothing at all about the subject, you are not offended or rebuked, because they offer your eye an agreeable still life, valuable for itself. Metaphors are the diplomats of rhetoric; they lead you urbanely to the brink, but it is you who states some unique conclusion to your own discovering self.

  • ... the best things in life are secret. And must stay that way, until we find them for ourselves.

Margaret Lee Runbeck, U.S. writer

(1910 - 1956)