After finishing The Book of Lights, I wanted to read another Potok book, and I chose “The Chosen” as it is the one that was sitting on the coffee table at a friends house that toggled my desire to read him again to begin with. I read this book in one day as I flew back from CA to NC, and thought it was absolutely great. In fact, I liked it better than The Book of Lights, which is odd because I had thought I remembered liking that book the most of all the Potok books when I read nearly everything he wrote 10-12 years ago.
I think I’ll just have a bunch of quotes in this entry…
First is the quote that started the book, by Karl Menninger:
When a trout rising to a fly gets hooked on a line and finds himself unable to swim about freely, he begins with a fight which results in struggles and splashes and sometimes an escape. Often, of course, the situation is too tough for him.
In the same way, the human being struggles with his environment and with the hooks that catch him. Sometimes he masters his difficulties; sometimes they are too tough for him. His struggles are all that the world sees and it naturally misunderstands them. It is hard for a free fish to understand what is happening to a hooked one.
Now on to some quotes from the book:
…when a person comes to talk to you, you should be patient and listen. Especially if that person has hurt you in any way. [Note he doesn't say it will be easy!]
He told me once he wishes everyone could speak in silence… [this is a key concept in the book, but I won't go into it here...]
No one knows he is fortunate until he becomes unfortunate… [I don’t fully agree… We can know we are blessed/fortunate, though we may not understand it fully without having something taken away…]
The Talmud says everyone should do two things for himself. One is to acquire a teacher…. The other is to choose a friend.
… the most mysterious thing in the universe to man is man himself.
Honest difference of opinion should never be permitted to destroy a friendship.
This one needs its own quotes:
Human beings do not live forever… We live less than the time it takes to blink an eye, if we measure against eternity. So it may be asked what value is there to a human life. There is so much pain in the world. What does it mean to suffer so much if our lives are nothing more than the blink of an eye?… I learned a long time ago … that a blink of an eye in itself is nothing. But the eye that blinks, that is something. A span of life is nothing. But the man who lives that span, he is something. He can fill that tiny span with meaning, so its quality is immeasurable though its quantity may be insignificant. … A man must fill his life with meaning, meaning is not automatically given to life. It is hard work to fill one’s life with meaning.
And one more:
A man is born into this world with only a tiny spark of goodness in him. The spark is God, it is the soul; the rest is ugliness and evil, a shell. The spark must be guarded like a treasure, it must be nurtured, it must be fanned into a flame. It must learn to seek out other sparks, it must dominate the shell. [ This one is perhaps must deeper theologically than what you think at first read...]