“Believe what you want,” she said, turning away and heading for the stairs. But that was impossible and Greta knew it. You could try to believe what you wanted, but it never worked. Your brain and your heart decided what you were going to believe and that was that. Whether you liked it or not.
It was a deal I’d made with myself months before and the only thing that allowed me to hike alone. I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me. Insisting on this story was a form of mind control, but for the most part, it worked. Every time I heard a sound of unknown origin or felt something horrible cohering in my imagination, I pushed it away. I simply did not let myself become afraid. Fear begets fear. Power begets power. I willed myself to beget power. And it wasn’t long before I actually wasn’t afraid. I was working too hard to be afraid.
–Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
One of the biggest problems, says Shafir, is the message the poor receive from the system: You’re poor because you’re no good. “It’s very easy for the poor to swallow this idea,” he says. “The attitude that the poor are less successful is very common and very wrong. These days the survivor is the one with luck: Once in a blue moon someone pulls through. So the system isn’t ‘survival of the fittest’ at all.”
“Don’t look back! Don’t look back, Soren! Believe!” But this time it was not Grimble calling. It was Gylfie. Just as they reached the stone rim, they felt a curl of warm air. And it was as if vast and gentle wings had reached out of the night, and swept them up into the sky. They did not look back. They did not see the torn owl on the library floor. They did not hear Grimble, as he lay dying, chant in the true voice of the Boreal Owl, in tones like chimes in the night, an ancient owl prayer: “I have redeemed myself by giving belief to the wings of the young. Blessed are those who believe, for indeed they shall fly.”
There is something beautiful about broken glass and the tiny visions it creates. For instance, the glass from that shattered beer bottle told me there was a twenty-dollar bill hidden in the center of an ant pile. I buried my arms elbow-deep in the ants but all I found was a note that said Some people will believe in anything. And I laughed.
“Close to the sky,” Soren repeated softly. Once he, too, had been close to the sky. Once he had lived in a hollow high up in a fir tree lined with the fluffy down from his parent’s breasts. Once he had lived close to that blueness. That blueness of the day sky and the blackness of the night had been so near. No wonder a little owlet could almost believe it could fly before it really could. The sky was a part of owls and owls were a part of the sky.
“What if my parents’ God, their whole belief system, is just something concocted by a bunch of scientists to keep us under control? And not just their beliefs about God and whatever else is out there, but about right and wrong, about selflessness? Do all those things have to change because we know how our world was made?.“