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Published: Fri Jul 1 2016
Anna Schuleit Haber, And there is a magnet, which pointeth due east (detail), 2022, mixed media on BFK paper
Angels and Demons: Aphorisms

It’s a sign of spiritual maturity when lesser transgressions prick our conscience more than before.

Inhibitions might be the handmaidens of conscience.

As with all battles, how we fight determines who we become.

Every enmity with another is part of our unfinished work on ourselves; a free person has no enemies.

As we make peace with ourselves, we become more tolerant of our faults—in others.

No grace is possible—physical or spiritual—without attention.

The demon honors you by their attentions; seek to be a worthy foe.

Where there are demons, there is something precious worth fighting for.

At the heart of every vice sits selfishness, yawning.

Scars are treasure chests.

In our inverted era, the Love that dare not speak its name is Divine.

The grades of love we are ashamed to confess: from the playground crush to Divine madness.

To truly begin, again, requires utter humility.

Our salvation lies on the other side of our gravest danger.

A poem arrives like a hand in the dark.

The world of images is not that of the spirit.

There’s nothing casual about intimacy, or passing through a temple without bowing.

Where ocean and shore greet, a metaphor, for where Spirit and body meet.

Poetic ideal: a language scrubbed clean by silences.

Certain silences are more damning than words; they are actions.

Certain silences are hard to take back.

Aphorisms respect the wisdom of silence by disturbing it, briefly.

As protection from your lower soul, surround yourself with reminders of your higher soul.

An apocalyptic viewpoint is a veiled death wish.

Numbness is a spiritual malady, true detachment its opposite.

The contemplative life is not a passive one.

The problem with being full of yourself is that you cannot fill up with much else.

Mysticism is the disappearing act that takes a lifetime.

The true poet, and the mystic, are not too proud to admit that, in matters great and small, they cannot proceed until they receive further instructions.

You can’t bury pain and not expect it to grow roots.

If we ask life for favors, we must be prepared to return them.

To acquire a third eye, one cannot blink.

Miracles are everyday occurrences, recognizing them is not.

Mysticism teaches us that, if we can hold our breath long enough, we may breathe under water.

Yahia Lababidi began writing aphorisms as a teenager in Egypt more than twenty years ago. Today, Lababidi is an internationally published aphorist, poet, and essayist, with work appearing in such publications as World Literature Today, Cimarron Review, AGNI, Rain Taxi, and Philosophy Now. He is the author of two collections of aphorisms, Where Epics Fail (Unbound, forthcoming 2017), featured on PBS NewsHour, and Signposts to Elsewhere (Jane Street Press, 2008), selected as a Book of the Year by The Independent (U.K.); three poetry collections, Balancing Acts: New & Selected Poems (1993–2015) (Press 53), Barely There (Wipf and Stock Publishers), and Fever Dreams (Crisis Chronicles Press); and an essay collection, Trial by Ink: From Nietzsche to Belly Dancing. Another of his projects is a series of ecstatic literary dialogues in collaboration with Alex Stein, The Artist as Mystic: Conversations with Yahia Lababidi. Lababidi’s work has appeared in several anthologies, including the bestselling Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing and Geary’s Guide to the World’s Great Aphorists. His writing has been translated into Arabic, Slovak, Dutch, Swedish, Turkish, Spanish, Hebrew, German, and Italian, and he was chosen as a juror for the 2012 Neustadt Prize for International Literature. Lababidi is included in the first anthology of contemporary American aphorists, Short Flights: Thirty-Two Modern Writers Share Aphorisms of Insight, Inspiration, and Wit (Schaffner Press). (updated 2/2016)

Read Alex Stein‘s “The Prayer of Attention: A Conversation with Yahia Lababidi,” an AGNI Online interview excerpted in Harper’s Magazine’s “Links” for April 21, 2010.

A second interview appears in AGNI 74, Alex Stein‘s “The Exquisites: A Conversation with Yahia Lababidi.”

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