Grains of Salt by Valus Markel (excerpts)

Proud is the oak, honest is the fire, humble is the ash.

Nobody can tell you what you are here to tell the world.

God is a furnace of mystery, and all creation is burning with questions.

We cringe before the moment, and crow before eternity.

Patience isn’t waiting for something.

A warm humor satisfies all paradoxes.

Some won’t drink, but want a drunk.

Women have flowers. Men have women.

Humility works hard to satisfy its pride.

The saints always talk about the saints,
and say, “They are no different from us, really.”

To be precise, Lord, I do not believe
in the peacefulness of your kingdom,
but in the kingdom of your peace.

God is known by His absence:

Don’t we all feel this presence?

Never let truth get in the way of the greatest story ever told:
Religion is the epitome of poetic license.

Children always think they’re playing.

The entire search for wisdom is,
in fact, an excavation of the psyche;
a process of expression.

When an idea no longer belongs to me, I write it down.

Man, remember how to “be”.
God will remember your works.

Pride covets Virtue;

Vanity covets her appearance.


The moral sense is strong in some, weak in others,
yet, even in this, the strong still persecute the weak.

Good men find their greatest pleasure in being virtuous,
while the rest of us find great pleasure a virtue.

Hatred of evil is the craftiest and least well-known of vices,
so easily is it mistaken for love of good.

It is superfluous to judge a man if he is guilty in his own eyes,
and ridiculous if he is not.

Crime may make a criminal,
but only conscience can make him guilty.

We tend to lose sympathy for a man to the extent that his suffering,
having quite overwhelmed him, begins to affect ourselves.

We generally reproach a man for the immodesty of his suffering
when it is ourselves who cannot bear so much as the suggestion of it.

We accessorize with the flesh of impoverished people;
what would put meat on their bones puts rings on our fingers
and ribbons in our hair.

The job of the artist is to break your heart.

If you cannot bring your imagination to life,
you can still bring life to your imagination –
and that is the finer thing.

Dreamers must shape the world, or it will never be real.

Whatever we labor on, we labor on ourselves. An industrious man keeps himself vigorous, disciplined, flexible, and alert. He is the true product of his labors. And while he cannot make a work great, the work, if it demands much of him, can make him great. For it is the masterpiece makes the master; he does not set his seal on it, but it sets its seal on him, as it falls upon him. Truly, if God gives calling to a stone, the stone will come. And if God has called him, it will be seen by his willingness to follow; that is, to place his trust in the Lord; that God will also give him the strength to perform what is asked. Indeed, the work itself will give him the strength to complete it! Do you think Atlas lifts the world because he is strong? I tell you, he is strong because he lifts the world. God does not call a man to great works because the man is great, and worthy of them, but, rather, that by undertaking the works, the man may become so. No mortal was ever prepared to hear the Word of the Lord. Only upon hearing it, do ears become keen and almost equal to the sound.

I give my Lord this moment, all else I leave to Him.

The earth is a part of you,
no less than the foot that walks upon it.
In fact, you would last longer without the foot.

Cynicism is the denial of hope by the fear of disappointment.

Substance is the height of style;
good form takes the form of the good.

Courage is ripeness of will.

Wise men carve the loneliest paths;
fools are always finding each other.

Asking God for mercy and forgiveness is like asking the sun for light and heat; these belong to the incorruptible nature of divinity itself; though clouds of ignorance may cast shadows of guilt over the souls of men, the sun does not go black, nor does the Lord condemn.

In silence there is sweetness.
Words fall, and often rise, into this;
and fall back through, to rise again.

Nothing teaches, and nothing prejudices, like experience.

We walk clumsily in another man’s shoes,
when we have yet to remove our own.

Dreams are the rebellion of sleep,
and stars are swords raised against a dethroned sun.

The bell of the world is struck
by the birth of the man, or is silent.

Every head is a headstone;
every body, a grave for restless spirits.

My passion is tame. It’s my reason that’s wild.

Every man’s philosophy is his own;
it will never fit anyone so well as himself,
and, even then, it will begin to pinch.

Have you been blinded in the darkest depths?
You will be blinded in the light, as well.
Look around you now.

The nut may not fall far from the tree,
but the roots spread into eternity.

Every vision is a veil we must get beyond. Every god beckons us to himself, only to yield us the way; that we may be beckoned by another, more godly than himself.

The horizon recedes on the crest of an eternal dusk.

Struck by the loss of a purpose for living,
we cannot make sense of the simplest chores.
The wisdom of the earth is lofty in the underworld.

The sins of a humble man are always before him, therefore he judges no one; but a proud man overlooks his own sins to look upon the sins of another.

A genius is a man who has his madness,
but whose madness does not have him.

Ages, nations, even families, decide who’s mad.

We resent the ones
who have given us the most,
for not having given us more;
it is with them that our appetites
and expectations have been spoiled.

The world is a longing for God.

Grace is a gust of wind, prayer is a beating of wings.

Speaking well is the art of treating with equal respect
the claims of both honesty and tact.

Liars are always the last to hear the truths they speak.

That which is mortal in us is undisturbed by loud noises and harsh words. Being of the same nature as these, it will only grow louder and more harsh itself, in order to accommodate them. But that which is divine is truly delicate. The slightest noise, the merest hint of discord, is enough to dispel it. A mound of stones is not upset by a strong wind, but a mound of powder is lost in the weakest breeze. Though we may not disturb what is coarse by behaving in our usual way, we must take greater care not to disturb what is fine. So it is that we must be gentle with one another, not for the sake of what is mortal, but for the sake of what is divine.

The first requirement for greatness is the audacity to be great;
one must begin upon the heights to ascend beyond the clouds.

Schooling ends in willful ignorance;
a conviction that one is educated:
The best pupils never graduate.

Sin is the manifestation in reality
of a perception rooted in unreality.
It is life lived according to the hallucination.

Have you exhausted the treasures of righteousness, that you should look elsewhere for an inheritance? God forbid! Only summon up the courage of your faith. There is gold enough among the good.

Billions of people pray for you; in churches, temples, mosques, all over the world, they pray; for the sick, the dying, the captive, the poor, the lovelorn, the addicted, and the lost; for seekers, travelers, laborers, widows, orphans, and mothers; the cowardly, the selfish, melancholy, wrathful, and tired; for people under every conceivable station and condition of life. Hearts turn and are lifted towards you. Good souls gather to remember you in their thoughts.

The soul is a fallen woman,
and the Lord, her unlikely suitor.
She eyes Him always with suspicion,
unable to believe that her longing
is answered by His love.
She is coy, elusive, silly.
He is sincere and devoted in pursuit.
By and by, He will win her heart
and, with it, the dowry of the world.


The young act as though they had invented youth;
the old, as though they’d left it of their own accord.
Remember, all those who you perceive aligned against you on this field of battle are, nonetheless, your allies, just as they are enemies to one another; on some other field.

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