Sherwin Nuland On What Everybody Needs

Brain Pickings2

Once a week I get a summary of Maria Popova’s delightful site Brain Pickings. I’ve learned a lot from Brain Pickings over the years, but I sat up when I read this week’s share about Sherwin Nuland. You should read her well written and curated post on Nuland at the Brain Pickings site yourself (and listen to those podcasts, perhaps buy those books) but I wanted to point out a few specifics.

When I read this quote from Nuland:

Do you know what I learned from writing [How We Die], if I learned nothing else? The more personal you are willing to be and the more intimate you are willing to be about the details of your own life, the more universal you are… And when I say universal, I don’t mean universal only within our culture…

That quote made me think about my favorite quote from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter:

“Be true! Be true! Be true! Show freely to the world, if not your worst, yet some trait whereby the worst may be inferred!”

Which I wrote about and expanded on in my recent blog post: Surgery As Public Spectacle: How To Get Over Your Fear Of Being Examined [Online]

And then I really love this quote:

When you recognize that pain — and response to pain — is a universal thing, it helps explain so many things about others, just as it explains so much about yourself. It teaches you forbearance. It teaches you a moderation in your responses to other people’s behavior. It teaches you a sort of understanding. It essentially tells you what everybody needs. You know what everybody needs? You want to put it in a single word?

Everybody needs to be understood.

And out of that comes every form of love.

If someone truly feels that you understand them, an awful lot of neurotic behavior just disappears — disappears on your part, disappears on their part. So if you’re talking about what motivates this world to continue existing as a community, you’ve got to talk about love…


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