Tuesday, March 29, 2005

A Smattering of Quotations

I collect quotations. Seldom do I go looking for them (a specific, partly remembered quotation, yes; but almost never do I go trolling for them), but when I find one that resonates, I keep a record of it. Many of them come from A Word a Day, to which I've subscribed for some years. You can, too, at http://www.wordsmith.org/awad/subscribe.html.

Here's a smattering of them, in no order whatsoever:

That man is truly good who knows his own dark places. -Beowulf

Scriptures, n. The sacred books of our holy religion, as distinguished from the false and profane writings on which all other faiths are based.
-Ambrose Bierce, writer (1842-1914) [The Devil's Dictionary]

A book lying idle on a shelf is wasted ammunition. Like money, books must be kept in constant circulation. Lend and borrow to the maximum. -Henry Miller, novelist (1891-1980)

When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it? -Eleanor Roosevelt, diplomat and writer (1884-1962)

Where it is a duty to worship the sun, it is pretty sure to be a crime to examine the laws of heat. -John Morley, statesman and writer (1838-1923)

Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it's the only one you have.
-Emile Chartier, philosopher (1868-1951)

Today's public figures can no longer write their own speeches or books, and there is some evidence that they can't read them either. -Gore Vidal (1925- )

Readers may be divided into four classes: 1. Sponges, who absorb all that they read and return it in nearly the same state, only a little dirtied. 2. Sand-glasses, who retain nothing and are content to get through a book for the sake of getting through the time. 3. Strain-bags, who retain merely the dregs of what they read. 4. Mogul diamonds, equally rare and valuable, who profit by what they read, and enable others to profit by it also. -Samuel Taylor Coleridge, poet, critic (1772-1834)

Whenever 'A' attempts by law to impose his moral standards upon 'B', 'A' is most likely a scoundrel. -H.L. Mencken, writer, editor, and critic (1880-1956)

Wrongs are often forgiven, but contempt never is. Our pride remembers it forever. -Lord Chesterfield, statesman and writer (1694-1773)

If you torture data sufficiently, it will confess to almost anything. -Fred Menger, chemistry professor (1937- )

I cannot believe in a God who wants to be praised all the time. -Friedrich Nietzsche, philosopher (1844-1900)

When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us. -Alexander Graham Bell, inventor (1847-1922)

If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all. -Noam Chomsky, linguistics professor and political activist (1928- )

The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity... and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself. -William Blake, poet, engraver, and painter (1757-1827)

Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation. Tooting, howling, screeching, booming, crashing, whistling, grinding, and trilling bolster his ego. -Jean Arp, artist and poet (1887-1948)

Our admiration of fine writing will always be in proportion to its real difficulty and its apparent ease. -Charles Caleb Colton, author and clergyman (1780-1832)

In order to improve the mind, we ought less to learn than to contemplate. -Rene Descartes, philosopher and mathematician (1596-1650)

I never desire to converse with a man who has written more than he has read. -Samuel Johnson, lexicographer (1709-1784)

He that is the author of a war lets loose the whole contagion of hell and opens a vein that bleeds a nation to death. -Thomas Paine, philosopher and writer (1737-1809)

The man who strikes first admits that his ideas have given out. -Chinese proverb

Good deeds are the best prayer. -Serbian proverb

There are three truths: my truth, your truth, and the truth. -Chinese proverb

The more people are reached by mass communication, the less they communicate with each other. -Marya Mannes, writer (1904-1990)

A teacher who is attempting to teach, without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn, is hammering on a cold iron. -Horace Mann, educational reformer (1796-1859)

The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life - the sick, the needy and the handicapped. -Hubert Horatio Humphrey, US Vice President (1911-1978)

As I stood before the gates I realized that I never want to be as certain about anything as were the people who built this place. -Rabbi Sheila Peltz, on her visit to Auschwitz

If it is committed in the name of God or country, there is no crime so heinous that the public will not forgive it. -Tom Robbins, writer (1936- )

The love of one's country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border. -Pablo Casals, cellist, conductor, and composer (1876-1973)

What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. -J.D. Salinger, writer (1919- )

The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none. -Thomas Carlyle, writer (1795-1881)

Time has no divisions to mark its passage, there is never a thunderstorm or blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year. Even when a new century begins it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols. -Thomas Mann, novelist, Nobel laureate (1875-1955)

The spirit of democracy cannot be imposed from without. It has to come from within. -Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948)

The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule. -H.L. Mencken, writer, editor, and critic (1880-1956)

Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it. -Mark Twain, author and humorist (1835-1910)

Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. -John F. Kennedy, 35th US president (1917-1963)

A faith that cannot survive collision with the truth is not worth many regrets. -Arthur C Clarke, science fiction writer (1917- )

Substitute damn every time you're inclined to write very; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. -Mark Twain, author and humorist (1835-1910)

The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall; nations perish; civilizations grow old and die out; and, after an era of darkness, new races build others. -Clarence Day, writer, (1874-1935)

My aim is to agitate and disturb people. I'm not selling bread, I'm selling yeast. -Miguel de Unamuno, writer and philosopher (1864-1936)

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower. -Albert Camus, writer and philosopher (1913-1960)

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty or safety. -Benjamin Franklin

The mind is but a barren soil; a soil which is soon exhausted, and will produce no crop, or only one, unless it be continually fertilized and enriched with foreign matter. -Joshua Reynolds, painter (1723-1792)

Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge. -Charles Darwin, naturalist and author (1809-1882)

It is inaccurate to say I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office. -H.L. Mencken, writer, editor, and critic (1880-1956)

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts. -Bertrand Russell, philosopher, mathematician, author, Nobel laureate (1872-1970)

It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is hell. -William Tecumseh Sherman, Union General in the American Civil War (1820-1891)

The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty. -John Adams, 2nd US president (1735-1826)

It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defence, we would sanction the subversion of one of those liberties which make the defence of our nation worthwhile. -Earl Warren, jurist (1891-1974)

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

The best writing is rewriting. -E.B. White, writer (1899-1985)

I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires. -Susan B Anthony, reformer and suffragist (1820-1906)

A thing long expected takes the form of the unexpected when at last it comes. -Mark Twain, author and humorist (1835-1910)

As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air - however slight - lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness. -William O. Douglas, judge (1898-1980)

A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman; but a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist. -Louis Nizer, lawyer (1902-1994)

Irreverence is the champion of liberty and its only sure defense. -Mark Twain

It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets. -Voltaire

If you want total security, go to prison. There you're fed, clothed, given medical care and so on. The only thing lacking... is freedom. -Dwight D. Eisenhower, U.S. general and 34th president (1890-1969)

If we were to wake up some morning and find that everyone was the same race, creed and color, we would find some other cause for prejudice by noon. -George D. Aiken, US senator (1892-1984)

The more I study religions the more I am convinced that man never worshipped anything but himself. -Richard Francis Burton, explorer and writer (1821-1890)

We have just enough religion to make us hate but not enough to make us love one another. -Jonathan Swift, satirist (1667-1745)

The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact than a drunken man is happier than a sober one. -George Bernard Shaw, writer, Nobel laureate (1856-1950)

America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter, and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves. -Abraham Lincoln, 16th U.S. President (1809-1865)

Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth. -Albert Einstein, physicist, Nobel laureate (1879-1955)

One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for 1,000 years. To read is to voyage through time. -Carl Sagan, astronomer and writer (1934-1996)

One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important. -Bertrand Russell, philosopher, mathematician, author, Nobel laureate (1872-1970)

You have to hold your audience in writing to the very end -- much more than in talking, when people have to be polite and listen to you. -Brenda Ueland, writer (1891-1985)

He who opens a school door, closes a prison. -Victor Hugo, poet, novelist, and dramatist (1802-1885)

Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you. -Pericles, statesman (430 BCE)

The light which experience gives is a lantern on the stern, which shines only on the waves behind us. -Samuel Taylor Coleridge, poet, critic (1772-1834)

But words are things, a small drop of ink, / Falling like dew upon a thought, produces / That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think. -Lord Byron, poet (1788-1824)

Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than in the one where they sprang up. -Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., US Supreme Court Justice (1841-1935)

The penalty that good men pay for not being interested in politics is to be governed by men worse than themselves. -Plato, philosopher (427-347 BCE)

In a democracy dissent is an act of faith. Like medicine, the test of its value is not in its taste, but in its effects. -J. William Fulbright, US Senator (1905-1995)

Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could; Some blunders and absurdities crept in; Forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

Absolute faith corrupts as absolutely as absolute power. -Eric Hoffer, philosopher and author (1902-1983)

What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset. -Crowfoot, Native American warrior and orator (1821-1890)

No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee. -John Donne, poet (1573-1631)

Our deeds determine us, as much as we determine our deeds. -George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), novelist (1819-1880)

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. -William Arthur Ward, college administrator, writer (1921-1994)

The world in general doesn't know what to make of originality; it is startled out of its comfortable habits of thought, and its first reaction is one of anger. -W. Somerset Maugham, writer (1874-1965)

Post-Easter Ramble

Last week's Newsweek featured an interesting cover story, "From Jesus to Christ." A great deal of it we've heard before, but it is nevertheless fascinating to contemplate how Christianity grew from a handful of disheartened followers of an executed leader to the worldwide force it is today. Interestingly, a lot of it has to do with the early church's adaptability--something to consider, perhaps, for those who inexplicably insist that the church is somehow "unchanging."

Meanwhile, Time magazine a couple of weeks ago ran a cover story about "The Protestant Mary." (The article is available online to Time subscribers only.) The gist of it is that many Protestant ministers, theologians, and laypeople are "discovering" Mary as a central New Testament figure. Not so much the "Mother of God" angle that my church typically takes, but rather the "first disciple" angle, a key figure who was relegated to the background in the aftermath of the Reformation.

On the whole, I find that cheering. I've long felt it unfortunate that in the Reformers' desire to dissociate themselves from Rome, one of the discarded gems was the pantheon of saints. To those of us who believe in eternity, asking, St. Anthony, St. Jude, or, yes, St. Mary to pray for us is no different than asking a friend or family member to do so. (Contrary to popular misconception, a careful Catholic knows that he or she does not pray "to" a saint--that would be idolatry, which is heretical--but rather we ask a saint to pray for or with us. It's unfortunate that we will colloquially refer to praying "to" St. Christopher--it causes confusion for both Catholics and non-Catholics.) To look to the saints as exemplars of the holy life in no way diminishes the rightful focus on Christ. As a college friend of mine succinctly put it, "These are the guys who hang around with Jesus." It's curious, especially, that Mary all but vanished from the Protestantreligions, inasmuch as Martin Luther was himself a devotee of the Virgin.

That said, I am inherently suspicious of Mariology, especially those within my church who push to have the Vatican proclaim her "co-redemptrix" of the world. Nothing against Mary, but the foundation of the Christian faith is that there is one redeemer, viz., Jesus. Proponents insist that "co-" in this context does not imply equality, but the fact is that the prefix "co-" in modern usage does indeed connote an equal footing--two people writing a book are said to be co-authors; the people with whom I labor in the salt mines are my co-workers; and so on--and it's disingenuous to pretend otherwise, or hearken back to some antiquated or strict-constructionist definition of the prefix. In fact, it smacks of deceitfulness. I think Mary would agree that she probably has enough titles and honorifics already, and I suspect she too would/does look askance at attempts to elevate her to, effectively, goddess status.

As with the other saints, Mary deserves our contemplation and imitation...after all, she was the one who said yes! (Here's a thought for you: I'm enough of a Catholic to believe wholeheartedly in free will. So Mary, when approached by the angel, was free to take a pass on the whole deal. What would have happened in that case? Would God continue to prod her, as God is sometimes wont to do? Or would he have moved on to someone else? If nothing else, that would play havoc with my church's idea of the Immaculate Conception--which refers, by the way, to Mary's conception, not Jesus'--since that philosophy presumes that Mary was born without sin in preparation of her eventually carrying the Savior.) But none of them deserves idolatry.

Apropos of nothing, in searching for the Time magazine link above I landed upon the following: http://www.time.gov/, which gives "official" US time for the various time zones. Although I enjoy that sort of thing (in a past life, I would daily use my company's WATS line to call the US Naval Observatory Master Clock--this was pre-internet, obviously--and set my watch accordingly), I do have to ask myself if it really matters what the "official" time is. I mean, in our daily routine, does it matter that much if it's, say 1:14:01 or 1:15:34? Isn't "about" good enough?

And yet it bugs me inexplicably that I can't seem to get the digital clock on the microwave and the digital clock on the stove to stay in synch.

And it really bugs me that the TV networks can't coordinate their clocks--it's annoying to have to set the VCR manually when the capability exists to set it automatically simply because I can't trust the network to start a show at 8:00 and not 7:59...or worse, to end it on time! I mean, don't they know about http://www.time.gov/?