Friday, July 18, 2008

And Said As Much

    It has always seemed absurd to suppose that a god would choose for his companions, during all eternity, the dear souls whose highest and only ambition is to obey. -Robert Green Ingersoll, lawyer and orator (1833-1899)
Regular readers of this chronicle know that I am inordinately fond of collecting quotations, from many sources but most frequently these days from the excellent newsletter A Word A Day. I allow them to pile up on the hard drive, then occasionally assemble them here for your amusement, and mine.

In crafting this batch, however, I came to reflect on why I enjoy collecting quotations and aphorism. I had never thought on that before. I suppose it has to do with something that someone said which somehow resonates...the above quotation from Ingersoll, for instance. Even as a lad, I thought that the idea of God creating creatures whose function was to obey him seemed--to use a phrase that I find myself employing quite often anymore--insulting to God. I recall from childhood catechism lessons the old Q and A:

    "Why was I created?"

    "I was created to love God with my whole heart, my whole mind, and my whole soul."

Indeed, it's one of the few things I do remember from those days, perhaps because even as I occupied a desk at good old St. Joan of Arc School, I thought that seemed a little odd. Could it really be that God is so small that he brought the whole of creation into existence solely so that it can tell him how great he is? That seems more a human attribute than a godly one, no?

As I ponder my attraction to quotations, and the sort of quotations to which I am attracted, I find that they seem to fall into three broad categories:
    1. Religion and Morality
    2. Hypocrisy and Morality
    3. Humor, often involving Religion, Hypocrisy, and Morality

    How can one better magnify the Almighty than by sniggering with him at his little jokes, particularly the poorer ones. -Samuel Beckett, author (1906-1989)

Just so. As often as not, "Humor" really should be rendered "Irony" or "Cynicism":

    Be not too hasty to trust or admire the teachers of morality; they discourse like angels but they live like men. -Samuel Johnson, lexicographer (1709-1784)
In the main, I guess, the quotations have to do with The Human Condition, whatever exactly that is.
    It is better to have loafed and lost than never to have loafed at all. -James Thurber, writer and cartoonist (1894-1961)
I think too that there is some solace, some feeling that one is less alone, upon discovering that someone else--even 100 or 1,000 years ago--looked at things and saw them differently than those around him. And said as much.

    There is wisdom in turning as often as possible from the familiar to the unfamiliar: it keeps the mind nimble, it kills prejudice, and it fosters humor. -George Santayana, philosopher (1863-1952)

    Nothing, to my way of thinking, is a better proof of a well-ordered mind than a man's ability to stop just where he is and pass some time in his own company. -Lucius Annaeus Seneca, philosopher (BCE 3-65 CE)

    The louder he talks of honour, the faster we count our spoons. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

    Who knows what Columbus would have discovered if America hadn't got in the way. -Stanislaw J. Lec, poet and aphorist (1909-1966)

    The world is a story we tell ourselves about the world. -Vikram Chandra,novelist (b. 1961)
    Many are concerned about the monuments of the West and the East- to know who built them. For my part, I should like to know who in those days did not build them- who were above such trifling. -Henry David Thoreau, naturalist and author (1817-1862)

    Right now I'm having amnesia and deja vu at the same time. I think I've forgotten this before. -Steven Wright, comedian (b. 1955)

    There is a wonderful mythical law of nature that the three things we crave most in life -- happiness, freedom, and peace of mind -- are always attained by giving them to someone else. -General Peyton C. March (1864-1955)

    The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers. -M. Scott Peck, psychiatrist and author (1936-2005)

    Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet. -Roger Miller, musician (1936-1992)

    This is my living faith, an active faith, a faith of verbs: to question, explore, experiment, experience, walk, run, dance, play, eat, love, learn, dare, taste, touch, smell, listen, argue, speak, write, read, draw, provoke, emote, scream, sin, repent, cry, kneel, pray, bow, rise, stand, look, laugh, cajole, create, confront, confound, walk back, walk forward, circle, hide, and seek. To seek: to embrace the questions, be wary of answers. -Terry Tempest Williams, naturalist and author (b. 1955)

    Imagine a world in which generations of human beings come to believe that certain films were made by God or that specific software was coded by him. Imagine a future in which millions of our descendants murder each other over rival interpretations of Star Wars or Windows 98. Could anything -- anything -- be more ridiculous? And yet, this would be no more ridiculous than the world we are living in. -Sam Harris, author (1967- )

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