Valarie Kaur Quotes
“Today I remember all that is beautiful and good and worth fighting for.
Today I remember that the labor for justice has gone on for centuries before me and will go on for centuries after me.
Today I remember that I am not alone - that if millions of women are listening to the wisdom within them too, and still choose to return to the work, then we will usher in a new era - where women are believed, where women lead.”
“Deep listening is an act of surrender. We risk being changed by what we hear. When I really want to hear another person's story, I try to leave my preconceptions at the door and draw close to their telling. I am always partially listening to the thoughts in my own head when others are speaking, so I consciously quiet my thoughts and begin to listen with my senses. Empathy is cognitive and emotional—to inhabit another person's view of the world is to feel the world with them. But I also know that it's okay if I don't feel very much for them at all. I just need to feel safe enough to stay curious. The most critical part of listening is asking what is at stake for the other person. I try to understand what matters to them, not what I think matters. Sometimes I start to lose myself in their story. As soon as I notice feeling unmoored, I try to pull myself back into my body, like returning home. As Hannah Arendt says, 'One trains one's imagination to go visiting.' When the story is done, we must return to our skin, our own worldview, and notice how we have been changed by our visit. So I ask myself, What is this story demanding of me? What will I do now that I know this?”
“America needs to reconcile with itself and do the work of apology: To say to indigenous, black, and brown people, we take full ownership for what we did. To say, we owe you everything. To say, we see how harm runs through generations. To say, we own this legacy and will not harm you again. To promise the non-repetition of harm would require nothing less than transitioning the nation as a whole. It would mean retiring the old narrative about who we are—a city on a hill—and embracing a new narrative of an America longing to be born, a nation whose promise lies in the future, a nation we can only realize by doing the labor: reckoning with the past, reconciling with ourselves, restructuring our institutions, and letting those who have been most harmed be the ones to lead us through the transition.”
“No one should be asked to feel empathy or compassion for their oppressors. I have learned that we do not need to feel anything for our opponents at all in order to practice love. Love is labor that returns us to wonder—it is seeing another person's humanity, even if they deny their own. We just have to choose to wonder about them.”
“Think of today as an entire lifetime," Wise Woman says to me before I fall asleep.
"What was the hardest part in this lifetime? Notice where you sense that hardship in your body. How did you get through it?" We somehow managed to make it to the end of this day, the end of this lifetime.
"What was the most joyful part of this lifetime?" Every day and every lifetime, no matter how hard, contains moments of joy. Notice what made it joyful. Sense what feels like joy in your body."
"What are you most grateful for in this lifetime? Every day and every lifetime offers a new reason for gratitude. Sense that gratitude in your body."
"Now, are you ready to let go of this lifetime? Are you ready to think of the work you have done today and know that it was enough? Are you ready to behold everyone and everything you have ever known and loved, kiss them, and let them go? Are you ready to die a kind of death?"
Each night, I die a kind of death. Each morning, I wake to the gift of a new lifetime. In between, I labor in love. It is enough.”
“Papa Ji was like a great redwood tree,” Joyce said to me. “He was ancient and life-giving at the heart of the forest that is your life. The tree provided shade and you didn’t know how the forest could be without it. Then one day, the tree fell—there was a thunderous crash, and it threw up dirt and shook the entire forest. Every time you walk through the forest now, you stumble over the fallen tree and bloody your knees, over and over. You do not know how to move through the forest without crashing into it. In time, you will slowly learn to walk around the tree. And then one day, you will decide to sit on its great trunk and notice how moss is growing over it, and flowers now, and it is becoming part of the forest. You will learn to be still and take in the beauty and be in it. Then you will find him.”
“It sounds like you feel ashamed that you did not live up to your parents’ expectations,” she said. His eyes filled with tears. That was it. The need to belong. To be seen. To be loved. To succeed. To matter. His rage was a symptom of his pain. “Pain that is not transformed is transferred,” says Franciscan priest Richard Rohr. When we leave people alone with their pain, their alienation becomes the precondition for radicalization. But in listening to people’s pain, we can help them transform it. If you are like Sister Simone, you might be in a position to listen to disaffected white people in your family or community who are terrified by our nation’s demographic transition. You might be able to help them grieve the illusion that America ever belonged only to them. Maybe you can invite them to see that they do not need to fear or hate us. Maybe you can show them spaces where white people and people of color are congregating around common pain to push for change—in healthcare, criminal justice, and education. Then again, maybe you can’t move them at all. But what you learn can still help someone like me. I want to hold up a vision of an America that has a place for all of us—them, too.”
- Description: Valarie Kaur is an American activist, documentary filmmaker, lawyer, educator, and faith leader.