Saturday, January 28, 2006

You Said It!

More of the quotations I like to collect. As usual, most if not all are from A Word A Day.

  1. As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too. Words are used to disguise, not to illuminate, action: you liberate a city by destroying it. Words are to confuse, so that at election time people will solemnly vote against their own interests. -Gore Vidal, writer (1925- )
  2. I love you, and because I love you, I would sooner have you hate me for telling you the truth than adore me for telling you lies. -Pietro Aretino, satirist and dramatist (1492-1556)
  3. In the republic of mediocrity genius is dangerous. -Robert G. Ingersoll, lawyer and orator (1833-1899)
  4. Whoever imagines himself a favorite with God holds others in contempt. -Robert Green Ingersoll, lawyer and orator (1833-1899)
  5. We will bankrupt ourselves in the vain search for absolute security. -Dwight David Eisenhower, U.S. general and 34th president (1890-1969)
  6. Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone? -Thomas Wolfe, novelist (1900-1938)
  7. A king can stand people fighting but he can't last long if people start thinking. -Will Rogers, humorist (1879-1935)
  8. The problem with being sure that God is on your side is that you can't change your mind, because God sure isn't going to change His. -Roger Ebert, film-critic (1942- )
  9. An open mind is a prerequisite to an open heart. -Robert M. Sapolsky, neuroscientist and author (1957- )
  10. Literature is the language of society, as speech is the language of man. -Louis de Bonald, philosopher and politician (1754-1840)
  11. It is one of the maladies of our age to profess a frenzied allegiance to truth in unimportant matters, to refuse consistently to face her where graver issues are at stake. -Janos Arany, poet (1817-1882)
  12. Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear. -Bertrand Russell, philosopher, mathematician, author, Nobel laureate (1872-1970)
  13. I don't hate my enemies. After all, I made 'em. -Red Skelton, comedian (1913-1997)
  14. Words are things; and a small drop of ink / Falling like dew upon a thought, produces / That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think. -Lord Byron, poet (1788-1824)
  15. Creative activity could be described as a type of learning process where teacher and pupil are located in the same individual. -Arthur Koestler, novelist and journalist (1905-1983)
  16. When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. -Abraham Joshua Heschel, theology professor (1907-1972)
  17. I place economy among the first and most important republican virtues, and public debt as the greatest of the dangers to be feared. To preserve our independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. -Thomas Jefferson, third US president, architect and author (1743-1826)
  18. Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little. -Edmund Burke, statesman and writer (1729-1797)
  19. We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. -Albert Einstein, physicist, Nobel laureate (1879-1955)
  20. Whoever, in the pursuit of science, seeks after immediate practical utility, may generally rest assured that he will seek in vain. -H.L.F. von Helmholtz, physiologist and physicist (1821-1894)
  21. The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. -Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd US President (1882-1945)
  22. These are not books, lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves. -Gilbert Highet, writer (1906-1978)
  23. In all history there is no war which was not hatched by the governments, the governments alone, independent of the interests of the people, to whom war is always pernicious even when successful. -Leo Tolstoy, author (1828-1910)
  24. We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person. -William Somerset Maugham, writer (1874-1965)
  25. If writers were good businessmen, they'd have too much sense to be writers. -Irwin S. Cobb, author and journalist (1876-1944)
  26. If you want to work on your art, work on your life. -Anton Chekhov, short-story writer and dramatist (1860-1904)
  27. A society that presumes a norm of violence and celebrates aggression, whether in the subway, on the football field, or in the conduct of its business, cannot help making celebrities of the people who would destroy it. -Lewis H. Lapham, editor and writer (1935- )
  28. When angry, count to four; when very angry, swear. -Mark Twain, author and humorist (1835-1910)
  29. Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough. -Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd US President (1882-1945)
  30. The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another, and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it. -J.M. Barrie, novelist and playwright (1860-1937)
  31. Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know. -Ernest Hemingway, author and journalist, Nobel laureate (1899-1961)
  32. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kind of dogmas or goals, it's always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt. -Robert T. Pirsig, author and philosopher (1928- )
  33. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested. -Francis Bacon, essayist, philosopher, and statesman (1561-1626)
  34. The power to command frequently causes failure to think. -Barbara Tuchman, author and historian (1912-1989)
  35. For me, words are a form of action, capable of influencing change. -Ingrid Bengis, writer and teacher (1944- )
  36. Laws too gentle are seldom obeyed; too severe, seldom executed. -Benjamin Franklin, statesman, author, and inventor (1706-1790)
  37. It is lamentable, that to be a good patriot one must become the enemy of the rest of mankind. -Voltaire, philosopher (1694-1778)
  38. Literature is the art of writing something that will be read twice; journalism what will be grasped at once. -Cyril Connolly, critic and editor (1903-1974)
  39. The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude. -Aldous Huxley, novelist (1894-1963)
  40. In the case of good books, the point is not how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you. -Mortimer J. Adler, philosopher, educator and author (1902-2001)
  41. Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule. -Friedrich Nietzsche, philosopher (1844-1900)
  42. The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone. -Harriet Beecher Stowe, abolitionist and novelist (1811-1896)
  43. An idea is not responsible for the people who believe in it. -Don Marquis, humorist and poet (1878-1937)
  44. New opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason but because they are not already common. -John Locke, philosopher (1632-1704)
  45. Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.--John Steinbeck, novelist, Nobel laureate (1902-1968)
  46. A quiet conscience sleeps in thunder. -English proverb
  47. Questions show the mind's range, and answers its subtlety. -Joseph Joubert, essayist (1754-1824)
  48. The voice of conscience is so delicate that it is easy to stifle it; but it is also so clear that it is impossible to mistake it. -Madame De Stael, writer (1766-1817)
  49. Political freedom cannot exist in any land where religion controls the state, and religious freedom cannot exist in any land where the state controls religion. -Samuel James Ervin Jr., lawyer, judge, and senator (1896-1985)
  50. You can't do anything about the length of your life, but you can do something about its width and depth. -H.L. Mencken, writer, editor, and critic (1880-1956)
  51. Learning is weightless, a treasure you can always carry easily. -Chinese Proverb
  52. To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting. -Edmund Burke, statesman and writer (1729-1797)
  53. A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case he is justly accountable to them for the injury. -John Stuart Mill, philosopher and economist (1806-1873)
  54. Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it. -Flannery O'Connor, writer (1925-1964)
  55. In this age, the mere example of nonconformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service. -John Stuart Mill, philosopher and economist (1806-1873)
  56. The high minded man must care more for the truth than for what people think. -Aristotle, philosopher (384-322 BCE)
  57. You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions. -Naguib Mahfouz, writer (1911- )
  58. It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry. -Thomas Paine, philosopher and writer (1737-1809)
  59. The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready he is to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause. A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people's business. - Eric Hoffer, philosopher and author (1902-1983)
  60. A sneer is the weapon of the weak. -James Russell Lowell, poet, editor, and diplomat (1819-1891)
  61. People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them. -Dave Barry, author and columnist (1947- )
  62. They defend their errors as if they were defending their inheritance. -Edmund Burke, statesman and writer (1729-1797)

Good and Evil

Here's a letter to the editor, which I wrote a week or so ago and which ran in my local newspaper this morning. The genesis, as alluded to, was a previous letter whose author asserted that "leftists" don't know the difference between good and evil, therefore are always wrong, therefore "aren't worth anything"--or words to that effect. I saved a copy of that letter, but lost it. Anyhow, here's mine:


Good v. evil

January 28, 2006, 2:55 am

A recent letter-writer mean-spiritedly claimed that liberals (or, as he insisted, "leftists") know not the difference between good and evil.

Nonsense. We liberals do indeed know the difference between good and evil. For instance:

  • Deceiving Americans and their elected representatives to launch a war against a country that did not attack us and which did not possess nor was building weapons of mass destruction: Evil.

  • Questioning politicians and their cronies whose actions work against the good of the people, the progress of American society, and plain old common sense: Good.

  • Torturing prisoners who are incarcerated indefinitely without being charged: Evil.

  • Insisting that those in authority keep their promises, including their promise to uphold the Constitution: Good.

  • Crowing about being such moral Christians while ignoring inconvenient teachings of Christ (see especially Matthew 5:9, John 8:2-11, Luke 18:9-14, and Matthew 7:1-2 (yes, liberals read the Bible and go to church and everything): Evil.

  • Branding everyone who doesn't agree with you as "evil": Evil. And un-American.

  • Interesting aside: "Liberal" and "liberty" derive from the Latin "liber," meaning "free" - as in "free speech," "free choice," "free society", that old-fashioned stuff on which the United States was founded.


    I'll happily concede naivete, and I often suspect I'm nostalgic for a time that never was, but it seems to be more than ever that we are completely unwilling to listen to a contrary opinion...hell, it's not that we won't
    listen to it: we don't want any to be out there whether we have to listen to it or not!

    Whatever happened to that strange old notion, "I may not agree with what you say but I'll defend to the death your right to say it"? Or was it always just big talk?

    Of course, we have always demonized "the other" as a way to justify out opinion, position, or action. And I have to give conservatives their due: they've done a superb job as portraying anyone who disagrees with them as not just wrong but out-and-out evil. Many of my conservative acquaintances think this is just swell (they also think of themselves as pretty exemplary Christians, which is either ironic or hypocritical depending on what sort of mood I'm in when I think about it), and I suspect they will continue to think so right up until they find themselves on the "wrong" side of an issue.

    That may be a long time in coming, of course: most of my conservative acquaintances are so bobble-headed (always nodding yes) that they seem incapable of forming an opinion of their own but only regurgutate the latest doublespeak coming from Pennsylvania Avenue.

    "An open mind is a prerequisite to an open heart." -Robert M. Sapolsky, neuroscientist and author (1957- )