Quotes from Paradise

Toni Morrison ·  318 pages

Rating: (19.9K votes)


“Let me tell you about love, that silly word you believe is about whether you like somebody or whether somebody likes you or whether you can put up with somebody in order to get something or someplace you want or you believe it has to do with how your body responds to another body like robins or bison or maybe you believe love is how forces or nature or luck is benign to you in particular not maiming or killing you but if so doing it for your own good. Love is none of that. There is nothing in nature like it. Not in robins or bison or in the banging tails of your hunting dogs and not in blossoms or suckling foal. Love is divine only and difficult always. If you think it is easy you are a fool. If you think it is natural you are blind. It is a learned application without reason or motive except that it is God. You do not deserve love regardless of the suffering you have endured. You do not deserve love because somebody did you wrong. You do not deserve love just because you want it. You can only earn - by practice and careful contemplations - the right to express it and you have to learn how to accept it. Which is to say you have to earn God. You have to practice God. You have to think God-carefully. And if you are a good and diligent student you may secure the right to show love. Love is not a gift. It is a diploma. A diploma conferring certain privileges: the privilege of expressing love and the privilege of receiving it. How do you know you have graduated? You don't. What you do know is that you are human and therefore educable, and therefore capable of learning how to learn, and therefore interesting to God, who is interested only in Himself which is to say He is interested only in love. Do you understand me? God is not interested in you. He is interested in love and the bliss it brings to those who understand and share the interest. Couples that enter the sacrament of marriage and are not prepared to go the distance or are not willing to get right with the real love of God cannot thrive. They may cleave together like robins or gulls or anything else that mates for life. But if they eschew this mighty course, at the moment when all are judged for the disposition of their eternal lives, their cleaving won't mean a thing. God bless the pure and holy. Amen.”
― Toni Morrison, quote from Paradise


“How exquisitely human was the wish for permanent happiness, and how thin human imagination became trying to achieve it.”
― Toni Morrison, quote from Paradise


“Love is divine only and difficult always.”
― Toni Morrison, quote from Paradise


“They shoot the white girl first, but the rest they can take their time. No need to hurry out here. They are 17 miles from a town which has 90 miles between it and any other. Hiding places will be plentiful in the convent, but there is time, and the day has just begun. They are nine. Over twice the number of the women, they are obliged to stampede or kill, and they have the paraphernalia for either requirement--rope, a palm leaf cross, handcuffs, mace, and sunglasses, along with clean, handsome guns.”
― Toni Morrison, quote from Paradise


“I've traveled. All over. I've never seen anything like you. How could anything be put together like you? Do you know how beautiful you are? Have you looked at yourself?'

'I'm looking now.”
― Toni Morrison, quote from Paradise



“A voluntary act to fill empty hours had become intensive labor streaked with the bad feelings that ride the skin like pollen when too much about one's neighbors is known.”
― Toni Morrison, quote from Paradise


“Over and over and with the least provocation, they pulled from their stock of stories tales about the old folks, their grands and great-grands; their fathers and mothers. Dangerous confrontations, clever manoeuvres. Testimonies to endurance, wit, skill and strength. Tales of luck and outrage. But why were there no stories to tell of themselves? About their own lives they shut up. Had nothing to say, pass on. As though past heroism was enough of a future to live by. As though, rather than children, they wanted duplicates.”
― Toni Morrison, quote from Paradise


“There is honey in this land sweeter than any I know of, and I have cut cane in places where the dirt itself tasted like sugar, so that's saying a heap.”
― Toni Morrison, quote from Paradise


“They shoot the white girl first.”
― Toni Morrison, quote from Paradise


“But can't you even imagine what it must feel like to have a true home? I don't mean heaven. I mean a real earthly home. Not some fortress you bought and built up and have to keep everybody locked in or out. A real home. Not some place you went to and invaded and slaughtered people to get. Not some place you claimed, snatched because you got the guns. Not some place you stole from the people living there, but your own home, where if you go back past your great-great-grandparents, past theirs, and theirs, past the whole of Western history, past the beginning of organized knowledge, past pyramids and poison bows, on back to when rain was new, before plants forgot they could sing and birds thought they were fish, back when God said Good! Good!-- there, right there where you know your own people were born and lived and died. Imagine that, Pat. That place. Who was God talking to if not to my people living in my home?"
"You preaching, Reverend."
"No, I'm talking to you, Pat. I'm talking to you.”
― Toni Morrison, quote from Paradise



“Misner walked away from the pulpit, to the rear wall of the church. There he stretched, reaching up until he was able to unhook the cross that hung there. He carried it then, past the empty choir stall, past the organ where Kate sat, the chair where Pulliam was, on to the podium and held it before him for all to see - if only they would. . . . Without this sign, the believer's life was confined to praising God and taking the hits. The praise was credit; the hits were interest due on a debt that could never be paid. . . . But with it, in the religion in which this sign was paramount and foundational, well, life was a whole other matter.”
― Toni Morrison, quote from Paradise


“Now they will rest before shouldering the endless work they were created to do down here in paradise.”
― Toni Morrison, quote from Paradise


“He talking Louisiana, you speaking Tennessee. The music so different, the sound coming from a different part of the body. It must of been like hearing lyrics set to scores by two different composers. But when you made love he must of have said I love you and you understood that and it was true, too, because I have seen the desperation in his eyes ever since—no matter what business venture he thinks up.”
― Toni Morrison, quote from Paradise


“The visionary language of the doomed reaches heights of linguistic ardor with which language of the blessed and saved cannot compete.”
― Toni Morrison, quote from Paradise


About the author

Toni Morrison
Born place: in Lorain, Ohio, The United States
Born date February 18, 1931
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