Food For Thought

A Collection of Heretical Notions and Wretched Adages
compiled by Jack Tourette

author index




No great genius has ever existed without some touch of madness.

Aristotle (384-322 BC)
Attributed by Seneca in "De Tranquillitate Animi"
Moral Essays
Section 17, subsec. 10

It is sweet to let the mind unbend on occasion.

Horace (65-8 BC)
Odes, Book IV, 13 BC
ode xii, line 27

In love inhere these evils -- first war, then peace: things almost as fickle as the weather, shifting about by blind chance, and if one were to try to reduce them to fixed rule for himself, he would no more set them right than if he aimed at going mad by fixed rule and method.

Horace (65-8 BC)
Satires, Epistles and Ars Poetica
Translated by Henry Rushton Fairclough, 1926

There is no great genius without some touch of madness.

Seneca (4 BC - AD 65)
De tranquillitae animi, c.62
Part II

Great wits are sure to madness near allied,
And thin partitions do their bounds divide.

John Dryden (1631-1700)
Absalom and Achitophel
Part I, 1680, line 150

There is a pleasure sure
In being mad which none but madmen know.

John Dryden (1631-1700)
The Spanish Friar, 1681
Act II, scene i

The world is a comedy to those who think, a tragedy to those that feel.

Horace Walpole (1717-1797)
Letter to the Countess of Upper Ossory
21 August 1776

The world is so full of simpletons and madmen, that one need not seek them in a madhouse.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
17 March 1830
Conversations of Goethe with Eckermann and Soret, 1875
Translated by John Oxenford

To different minds, the same world is a hell, and a heaven.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Journal, 20 December 1822

Insanity is often the logic of an accurate mind overtasked.

Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894)
The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table, 1858
Chapter 2

"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.

"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad, you're mad."

"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.

"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here."

Lewis Carroll (1832-1898)
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, 1865
Chapter 6, "Pig and Pepper"

Let us consider that we are all partially insane. It will explain us to each other; it will unriddle many riddles; it will make clear and simple many things which are involved in haunting and harassing difficulties and obscurities now.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Christian Science, 1907
Book I, Chapter 5

Good sense travels on the well-worn paths; genius, never. And that is why the crowd, not altogether without reason, is so ready to treat great men as lunatics.

Cesare Lombroso (1836-1909)
The Man of Genius, 1891

Mad, adj. Affected with a high degree of intellectual independence; not conforming to standards of thought, speech and action derived by the conformants from study of themselves; at odds with the majority; in short, unusual. It is noteworthy that persons are pronounced mad by officials destitute of evidence that themselves are sane. For illustration, this present (and illustrious) lexicographer is no firmer in the faith of his own sanity than is any inmate of any madhouse in the land; yet for aught he knows to the contrary, instead of the lofty occupation that seems to him to be engaging his powers he may really be beating his hands against the window bars of an asylum and declaring himself Noah Webster, to the innocent delight of many thoughtless spectators.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)
The Devil's Dictionary, 1911

"His remarks were always wise, well-expressed and beautiful," went on Monsieur Bergeret, "and that used to frighten us. Logic is what alarms us most in a madman."

Anatole France (1844-1924)
Monsieur Bergeret in Paris, 1924
Edited by James Lewis May and Bernard Miall

Insanity is something rare in individuals -- but in groups, parties, people, ages it is the rule.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
Beyond Good and Evil, 1886
Part 4: "Maxims and Interludes"
Aphorism 72

The longer I live the more I am inclined to the belief that this sphere is used by other planets as a lunatic asylum.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
George Bernard Shaw: Man of the Century, 1972
Part IX "Model for a Superman"
Chapter 62 "Anecdotes and Noble GBeSsences"
By Archibald Henderson (1877-1963)

Sanity is a madness put to good uses; waking life is a dream controlled.

George Santayana (1863-1952)
Chapter X "The Elements and Function of Poetry"
Interpretations of Poetry And Religion, 1900

The last thing that can be said of a lunatic is that his actions are causeless. If any human acts may loosely be called causeless, they are the minor acts of a healthy man; whistling as he walks; slashing the grass with a stick; kicking his heels or rubbing his hands. It is the happy man who does the useless things; the sick man is not strong enough to be idle. It is exactly such careless and causeless actions that the madman could never understand; for the madman (like the determinist) generally sees too much cause in everything. The madman would read a conspiratorial significance into those empty activities. He would think that the lopping of the grass was an attack on private property. He would think that the kicking of the heels was a signal to an accomplice. If the madman could for an instant become careless, he would become sane. Every one who has had the misfortune to talk with people in the heart or on the edge of mental disorder, knows that their most sinister quality is a horrible clarity of detail; a connecting of one thing with another in a map more elaborate than a maze. If you argue with a madman, it is extremely probable that you will get the worst of it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed by the things that go with good judgment. He is not hampered by a sense of humour or by charity, or by the dumb certainties of experience. He is the more logical for losing certain sane affections. Indeed, the common phrase for insanity is in this respect a misleading one. The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
Orthodoxy, 1908
Chapter II "The Maniac"

Where does one go from a world of insanity?
Somewhere on the other side of despair.

T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)
The Family Reunion
Part 2, Scene 2

We participate in a tragedy; at a comedy we only look.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
The Devils of Loudun, 1952

Maybe this world is another planet's Hell.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)

There is only one difference between a madman and me. I am not mad.

Salvador Dali (1904-1989)
Diary of a Genius, 1966
May 1952 entry

Only the stoical and the cynical can preserve a measure of stability; yet stoicism is the wisdom of madness and cynicism the madness of wisdom. So none escapes.

Bergen Evans (1904-1978)
The Natural History of Nonsense, 1945

Everyone, in some small sacred sanctuary of the self, is nuts.

Leo Calvin Rosten (1908-1997)

Insanity is hereditary; you get it from your children.

Sam Levenson (1911-1980)
You Can Say That Again, Sam!, 1975
Originally in Diner's Club Magazine, November 1963

No one is more dangerously insane than one who is sane all the time....

Alan Watts (1915-1973)
The Joyous Cosmology, 1962

Too much sanity may be madness. And maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be!

Dale Wasserman (1917-2008)
Man of La Mancha, 1965

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awww!"

Jack Kerouac (1922-1969)
On the Road, 1957
Part 1, Chapter 1

...Let us call schizophrenia is a successful attempt not to adapt to pseudo-social realities.

R.D. Laing (1927-1989)
The Politics of Experience, 1967
Chapter 3 "The Mystifications of Experience"

In over 100 cases where we studied the actual circumstances around the social event when one person comes to be regarded as schizophrenic, it seems to us that without exception the experience and behavior that gets labeled schizophrenic is a special strategy that a person invents in order to live in an unlivable situation.

R.D. Laing (1927-1989)
The Politics of Experience, 1967
Chapter 5 "The Schizophrenic Experience"

Madness need not be all breakdown. It may also be breakthrough. It is potentially liberation and renewal as well as enslavement and existential death.

R.D. Laing (1927-1989)
The Politics of Experience, 1967
Chapter 6 "Transcendental Experience"

In a totally sane society, madness is the only freedom.

J.G. Ballard (b.1930)
Running Wild, 1988

Sanity is a cozy lie.

Susan Sontag (1933-2004)
Against Interpretation, 1966

Truly great madness can not be achieved without significant intelligence.

Henrik Tikkanen (1924-1984)

Within the Western model we recognize and define psychosis as a suboptimal state of consciousness that views reality in a distorted way and does not recognize that distortion. It is therefore important to note that from the mystical perspective our usual state fits all the criteria of psychosis, being suboptimal, having a distorted view of reality, yet not recognizing that distortion. Indeed from the ultimate mystical perspective, psychosis can be defined as being trapped in, or attached to, any one state of consciousness, each of which by itself is necessarily limited and only relatively real.

Roger Walsh (b.1946)
"The consciousness disciplines and the behavioral sciences:
Questions of comparison and assessment"
American Journal of Psychiatry
137(6), 663-673; page 665 (1980)


As any honest magician knows, true magic inheres in the ordinary, the commonplace, the everyday, the mystery of the obvious. Only petty minds and trivial souls yearn for supernatural events, incapable of perceiving that everything -- everything! -- within and around them is pure miracle.

Edward Abbey (1927-1989)
"Coda: Cape Solitude"
Abbey's Road, 1979



Man is the measure of all things, of things that are that they are, and of things that are not that they are not.

Protagoras (c.485-c.410 BC)
Fragment 1

A Physician is not angry at the Intemperance of a mad Patient; nor does he take it ill to be railed at by a Man in a Fever: Just so should a wise Man treat all Mankind, as a Physician does his Patient; and looking upon them only as sick, and extravagant....

Seneca (4 BC - AD 65)
The Classics, Greek & Latin, 1909
by Marion Mills Miller

What audacity in man! What criminal perverseness! thus to sow a thing in the ground for the purpose of catching the winds and the tempests, it being not enough for him, forsooth, to be borne upon the waves alone! Nay, still more than this, sails even that are bigger than the very ships themselves will not suffice for him, and although it takes a whole tree to make a mast to carry the cross-yards, above those cross-yards sails upon sails must still be added, with others swelling at the prow and at the stern as well -- so many devices, in fact, to challenge death! Only to think, in fine, that that which moves to and fro, as it were, the various countries of the earth, should spring from a seed so minute, and make its appearance in a stem so fine, so little elevated above the surface of the earth! And then, besides, it is not in all its native strength that it is employed for the purposes of a tissue; no, it must first be rent asunder, and then tawed and beaten, till it is reduced to the softness of wool; indeed, it is only by such violence done to its nature, and prompted by the extreme audacity of man, and that it is rendered subservient to his purposes.

Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79)
The Natural History of Pliny, 1856
Book XIX "The Nature and Cultivation of Flax, and
an Account of Various Garden Plants"
Chapter 1
Translated by John Bostock and Henry Thomas Riley

Such is the audacity of man, that he hath learned to counterfeit Nature, yea, and is so bold as to challenge her in her work.

Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79)
Paraphrase of above? See caveat

What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form, in moving, how express and admirable! in action, how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god! the beauty of the world -- the paragon of animals! And yet to me what is this quintessence of dust?

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
Hamlet, 1600-1601
Act II, scene ii, line 317

What is man in nature? Nothing in relation to the infinite, everything in relation to nothing, a mean between nothing and everything and infinitely far from understanding either. The ends of things and their beginnings are impregnably concealed from him in an impenetrable secret. He is equally incapable of seeing the nothingness out of which he was drawn and the infinite in which he is engulfed.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
Pensees, 1670, number 72

What a chimera then is man! What a novelty! What a monster, what a chaos, what a contradiction, what a prodigy! Judge of all things, feeble earthworm, depository of truth, a sink of uncertainty and error, the glory and the shame of the universe.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
Pensees, 1670
Number 434

Man is to himself the most wonderful object in nature; for he cannot conceive what the body is, still less what the mind is, and least of all how a body should be united to a mind. This is the consummation of his difficulties, and yet it is his very being.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
Pensees II, 1670
Number 72

Man is a social animal.

Benedict Spinoza (1632-1677)
Ethics, 1677, Part IV
Proposition 35: note

I confess freely to you, I could never look long upon a monkey, without very mortifying reflections.

William Congreve (1670-1729)
Letter to Dennis, 1695
William Congreve: Letters and Documents, 1964
Edited by John C. Hodges

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of mankind is man.
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the skeptic side,
With too much weakness for the stoic's pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a god, or beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reas'ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little or too much;
Chaos of thought and passion, all confus'd;
Still by himself abus'd, or disabus'd;
Created half to rise, and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl'd;
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!

Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
An Essay on Man, 1733-1734
Epistle II, Line 1

An honest man's the noblest work of God.

Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
An Essay on Man, 1733-1734
Epistle IV, Line 247

Man has been always reproached with having made God in his own image.

Voltaire (1694-1778)
A Philosophical Dictionary
"Grace (Of)", Section III
Translated by John G. Gorton, 1824

If God created us in his own image, we have more than reciprocated.

Voltaire (1694-1778)
Alternate translation or mistranslation of above?

Art may make a suit of clothes: but Nature must produce a man.

David Hume (1711-1776)
Essays: The Epicurean
Number XV, 1741-1742

Man...knows only when he is satisfied and when he suffers, and only his sufferings and his satisfactions instruct him concerning himself, teach him what to seek and what to avoid. For the rest, man is a confused creature; he knows not whence he comes or whither he goes, he knows little of the world, and above all, he knows little of himself.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
Conversations with Goethe, 1836
by John Peter Eckermann

There is
One great society alone on earth:
The noble Living and the noble Dead.

William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
The Prelude, 1799-1805
Book XI, line 393

A man is a god in ruins.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Nature, 1836
Section 4

"Well, there were sixty-eight people there, and sixty-two of them had no more desire to throw a stone than you had."


"Oh, it's true. I know your race. It is made up of sheep. It is governed by minorities, seldom or never by majorities. It suppresses its feelings and its beliefs and follows the handful that makes the most noise. Sometimes the noisy handful is right, sometimes wrong; but no matter, the crowd follows it. The vast majority of the race, whether savage or civilized, are secretly kind-hearted and shrink from inflicting pain, but in the presence of the aggressive and pitiless minority they don't dare to assert themselves. Think of it! One kind-hearted creature spies upon another, and sees to it that he loyally helps in iniquities which revolt both of them. Speaking as an expert, I know that ninety-nine out of a hundred of your race were strongly against the killing of witches when that foolishness was first agitated by a handful of pious lunatics in the long ago. And I know that even to-day, after ages of transmitted prejudice and silly teaching, only one person in twenty puts any real heart into the harrying of a witch. And yet apparently everybody hates witches and wants them killed. Some day a handful will rise up on the other side and make the most noise -- perhaps even a single daring man with a big voice and a determined front will do it -- and in a week all the sheep will wheel and follow him, and witch-hunting will come to a sudden end."

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
The Mysterious Stranger, 1916
Chapter IX

Man will swear and Man will storm -
Man is not at all good form -
Man is of no kind of use -
Man's a donkey - Man's a goose -
Man is coarse and Man is plain -
Man is more or less insane -
Man's a ribald - Man's a rake,
Man is Nature's sole mistake!

Sir W.S. Gilbert (1836-1911)
"Princess Ida; or, Castle Adamant", 1884
Act II

It is either through the influence of narcotic potions, of which all primitive peoples and races speak in hymns, or through the powerful approach of spring, penetrating with joy all of nature, that those Dionysian stirrings arise, which in their intensification lead the individual to forget himself completely.... Not only does the bond between man and man come to be forged once again by the magic of the Dionysian rite, but alienated, hostile, or subjugated nature again celebrates her reconciliation with her prodigal son, man.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
The Birth of Tragedy, 1872

Man is a rope stretched between the animal and the Superman - a rope over an abyss.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
Thus Spake Zarathustra, 1883-1891
Zarathustra's Prologue, Section 4

I sometimes think that God in creating man, somewhat overestimated His ability.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
In Conversation
Wit and Humor of Oscar Wilde, 1959
Edited by Alvin Redman

I have found little that is "good" about human beings on the whole. In my experience most of them are trash, no matter whether they publicly subscribe to this or that ethical doctrine or to none at all. This is something you cannot say aloud, or perhaps even think.

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)
Letter, 09 October 1918
"Psycho-Analysis and Faith: The Letters of Sigmund Freud
and Oscar Pfister", 1963
The International Psycho-Analytical Library, Number 59

The folly of mistaking a paradox for a discovery, a metaphor for a proof, a torrent of verbiage for a spring of capital truths, and oneself for an oracle, is inborn in us.

Paul Valery (1871-1945)
Introduction to the Method of Leonardo da Vinci, 1895

L'homme n'est l'homme qu'à sa surface. Lève la peau, dissèque, ici commencent les machines. (Man is only man at the surface. Remove the skin, dissect, and immediately you come to machinery.)

Paul Valery (1871-1945)
"Cahier B 1910"
Oeuvres, Volume II, 1924

But schools are out to teach patriotism; newspapers are out to stir up excitement; and politicians are out to get re-elected. None of the three, therefore, can do anything whatever toward saving the human race from reciprocal suicide.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell, 1961
Part XI "The Philosopher of Politics"
Chapter 51 "Politically Important Desires"

The human race may well become extinct before the end of the century.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
Playboy, March 1963

The significance of man is that he is that part of the universe that asks the question, What is the significance of Man? He alone can stand apart imaginatively and, regarding himself and the universe in their eternal aspects, pronounce a judgement: The significance of man is that he is insignificant and is aware of it.

Carl Lotus Becker (1873-1945)
Progress and Power, 1936

Man is a clever animal, who behaves like an imbecile.

Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965)
Quoted in Point of Departure: An Attempt at Autobiography, 1967
Chapter 10
by James Cameron (1911-1985)

A human being is a part of a whole, called by us the "universe", a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest - a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Ideas and Opinions, 1954

What is man, when you come to think upon him, but a minutely set, ingenious machine for turning with infinite artfulness, the red wine of Shiraz into urine?

Isak Dinesen (1885-1962)
"The Dreamers"
Seven Gothic Tales, 1934

The world of men is dreaming, it has gone mad in its sleep, and a snake is strangling it, but it can't wake up.

D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930)
Letter, 14 May 1915
The Letters of D.H. Lawrence, 1981
Volume 2
Edited by George J. Zytaruk and James T. Boulton

Know ye, beloved, that in the beginning man had no image by physical body. Intellect was. Men were created Spirit by Spirit. Know ye that intellect sought flesh for a purpose. Spirit as spirit hath no identity; only after long experience on planes of matter doth spirit feed its essence. Thus cometh identity: through trial and through error, through life as mortal being. Man was divine from the beginning, a thought-force of the Father, knowing good and evil, creating no material thing without a loving purpose.

William Dudley Pelley (1890-1965)
The Golden Scripts, 1941
Chapter 6

I believe that man will not merely endure; he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.

William Faulkner (1897-1962)
Nobel Prize Speech
10 December 1950

Humans are amphibians -- half spirit and half animal.... As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)
The Screwtape Letters, 1941
Letter VIII

The great mystery is not that we should have been thrown down here at random between the profusion of matter and that of the stars; it is that from our very prison we should draw, from our own selves, images powerful enough to deny our nothingness.

Andre Malraux (1901-1976)
Man's Fate, 1933

Man was nature's mistake - she neglected to finish him - and she has never ceased paying for her mistake.

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983)
Reflections on the Human Condition, 1973
Aphorism 4

Gods and Buddhas in the Orient are, accordingly, not final terms -- like Yahweh, the Trinity, or Allah, in the West -- but point beyond themselves to that ineffable being, consciousness, and rapture that is the All in all of us. And in their worship, the ultimate aim is to effect in the devotee a psychological transfiguration through a shift of his plane of vision from the passing to the enduring, through which he may come finally to realize in experience (not simply an article of faith) that he is identical with that before which he bows.

Joseph Campbell (1904-1987)
The Flight of the Wild Gander, 2002
Chapter VI "The Secularization of the Sacred"

I like to see a man standing at the foot of a skyscraper. It makes him no bigger than an ant -- isn't that the correct bromide for the occasion? The God-damn fools! It's the man who made it -- the whole incredible mass of stone and steel. It doesn't dwarf him, it makes him greater than the structure. It reveals his true dimensions to the world.

Ayn Rand (1905-1982)
The Fountainhead, 1943
Part III, Chapter 9

A living entity that regarded its means of survival as evil, would not survive. A plant that struggled to mangle its roots, a bird that fought to break its wings would not remain for long in the existence they affronted. But the history of man has been a struggle to deny and to destroy his mind.

Ayn Rand (1905-1982)
Atlas Shrugged, 1957
Part Three "A is A"
Chapter VII "'This is John Galt Speaking'"

The world began without the human race and it will end without it.... Man has never - save only when he reproduces himself - done other than cheerfully dismantle million upon million of structures and reduce their elements to a state in which they can no longer be reintegrated.

Claude Levi-Strauss (1908-2009)
Tristes Tropiques, 1955
Part 9, Chapter 40, Conclusion

We are, perhaps, uniquely among the earth's creature, the worrying animal. We worry away our lives, fearing the future, discontent with the present, unable to take in the idea of dying, unable to sit still.

Lewis Thomas (1913-1993)
"The Youngest and Brightest Thing Around"
The Medusa and the Snail, 1979

...the privileged being which we call human is distinguished from other animals only by certain double-edged manifestations which in charity we can only call "inhuman."

R.A. Lafferty (1914-2002)

[L]iving organisms, including people, are merely tubes which put things in at one end and let them out at the other, which both keeps them doing it and in the long run wears them out. So to keep the farce going, the tubes find ways of making new tubes, which also put things in at one end and let them out at the other. At the input end they even develop ganglia of nerves called brains, with eyes and ears, so that they can more easily scrounge around for things to swallow. As and when they get enough to eat, they use up their surplus energy by wiggling in complicated patterns, making all sorts of noises by blowing air in and out of the input hole, and gathering together in groups to fight with other groups. In time, the tubes grow such an abundance of attached appliances that they are hardly recognizable as mere tubes, and they manage to do this in a staggering variety of forms. There is a vague rule not to eat tubes of your own form, but in general there is serious competition as to who is going to be the top type of tube. All this seems marvelously futile, and yet, when you begin to think about it, it begins to be more marvelous than futile. Indeed, it seems extremely odd.

Alan Watts (1915-1973)
The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are, 1972
Chapter One "Inside Information"

An Animal that knows who it is, one that has a sense of his own identity, is a discontented creature, doomed to create new problems for himself for the duration of his stay on this planet. Since neither the mouse nor the chimp knows what is, he is spared all the vexing problems that follow this discovery. But as soon as the human animal who asked himself this question emerged, he plunged himself and his descendants into an eternity of doubt and brooding, speculation and truth-seeking that has goaded him through the centuries as relentlessly as hunger or sexual longing. The chimp that does not know that he exists is not driven to discover his origins and is spared the tragic necessity of contemplating his own end. And even if the animal experimenters succeed in teaching a chimp to count one hundred bananas or to play chess, the chimp will develop no science and he will exhibit no appreciation of beauty, for the greatest part of man's wisdom may be traced back to the eternal questions of beginnings and endings, the quest to give meaning to his existence, to life itself.

Selma H. Fraiberg (1918-1981)
The Magic Years, 1959
Part IV "Three Years to Six"
Chapter 6 "A Shift in the Center of the Universe"
"'Who Am I?' 'Where Did I Come From?'"

People are the most precious things on earth. If we abandon that basic truth, we will tolerate untold human suffering.

Wally Hickel (1919-2010)
Speech at the "Why War?" Non-Governmental Organizations Conference
United Nations Headquarters, New York
22 September 1994

We shall never understand peace, justice and the living of life until we recognize that all people are human and that humans are the most precious things on earth.

Wally Hickel (1919-2010)
Misquotation from U.N. speech?
See caveat

...The Universe is thronged with fire and light,
And we but smaller suns which, skinned and trapped and kept
Enshrined in blood and precious bones,
Hold back the night.

Ray Bradbury (b.1920)
"The Young Galileo Speaks"
Science Digest, October 1976

The essential aims of life are present naturally in every person. In everyone there is some longing for humanity's rightful dignity, for moral integrity, for free expression of being and a sense of transcendence over the world of existence. Yet, at the same time, each person is capable, to a greater or lesser degree, of coming to terms with living within the lie. Each person somehow succumbs to a profane trivialization of his inherent humanity, and to utilitarianism. In everyone there is some willingness to merge with the anonymous crowd and to flow comfortably along with it down the river of pseudo-life. This is much more than a simple conflict between two identities. It is something far worse: it is a challenge to the very notion of identity itself.

Vaclav Havel (b.1936)
Open Letters: Selected Writings, 1965-1990, 1992
"The Power of the Powerless" would all be done with keys on alphanumeric keyboards that stood for weightless, invisible chains of electronic presence or absence. If patterns of ones and zeros were "like" patterns of human lives and deaths, if everything about an individual could be represented in a computer record by a long string of ones and zeros, then what kind of creature could be represented by a long string of lives and deaths? It would have to be up one level at least -- an angel, a minor god, something in a UFO. It would take eight human lives and deaths just to form one character in this being's name -- its complete dossier might take up a considerable piece of the history of the world. We are digits in God's computer...And the only thing we're good for, to be dead or to be living, is the only thing He sees. What we cry, what we contend for, in our world of toil and blood, it all lies beneath the notice of the hacker we call God.

Thomas Pynchon (b.1937)
Vineland, 1990

...I would go so far as to suggest that, were it not for our ego and concern to be different, the African apes would be included in our family, the hominidae.

Richard Erskine Frere Leakey (b.1944)
The Making of Mankind, 1981
Chapter 1 "Understanding Our Origins"

The individual is like a wave in a vast ocean which, while it lasts, has an individual form, but in itself is nothing but ocean and so need not fear falling back into itself, where it has always been anyway.

Buddhist analogy


[see also: DRUGS]

[Y]ou will eventually have an existential crisis. That is part of what is cool about pot. It puts you outside of yourself and actually makes you act more, not less, moral because you start to feel a Heideggerian angst, a fear of nothing. This is why most people who used to smoke have quit: They can’t take the nothingness. But it is, as Heidegger says, only when we face this angst, which is the fear of our own nothingness, that we are truly authentic. Far from being peace and love, sometimes weed is Sein und Zeit.

You may not always like this, but it is good for you when you think: “What am I doing with my life? I’m wasting everything.” Because, you know, you really will die, whether you hide from it or not. There are a couple other dangers to watch out for: Robin Thicke said he wrote ‘Blurred Lines’ when he was high. We don’t need any more white celebrity kids stealing Marvin Gaye songs and making them rape-y.

Baynard Woods (Am. Writer, b.1972)
"The High Life"
Baltimore City Paper, 30 September 2014


[see also: HATE, LOVE]

Male and female have the power to fuse into one solid, both because both are nourished in both and because soul is the same thing in all living creatures, although the body of each is different.

Hippocrates (c.460-c.377 BC)
Regimen, Book I, section 28

It was also said, "Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce." But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Bible, Matthew 5:31-32

We cannot do without it, and yet we disgrace and vilify the same. It may be compared to a cage, the birds without despair to get in, and those within despair to get out.

Montaigne (1533-1592)
"Upon Some Verses of Virgil"
Essays, 1595
Book III, Chapter 5

One was never married, and that's his hell; another is, and that's his plague.

Robert Burton (1577-1640)
The Anatomy of Melancholy, 1621-1651
Part I, section 2, member 4, subsec. 7

Marriage has many pains, but celibacy has no pleasures.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia, 1759
Chapter XXVI "The Princess Continues Her Remarks Upon Private Life"

The sum which two married people owe to one another defies calculation. It is an infinite debt, which can only be discharged through all eternity.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
Elective Affinities, 1808
Book I, Chapter 9

Love is an ideal thing, marriage a real thing; and a confusion of the real with the ideal never goes unpunished.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
Conversation with Chancellor Friedrich von Muller
14 September 1823
Wisdom and Experience, 2007
Selections by Ludwig Curtius
Translated and edited by Hermann J. Weigand

Is not marriage an open question, when it is alleged, from the beginning of the world, that such as are in the institution wish to get out, and such as are out wish to get in.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
"Montaigne; or, The Skeptic"
Representative Men, 1850

In his Lord Chesterfield's Ears, Voltaire pokes fun at that immortal soul who for nine months dwelt amidst excrement and urine. Like all idlers, Voltaire hated mystery. He might at least have detected, in this choice of dwelling-place, a grudge or satire directed by Providence against love -- and thus, in the method of procreation, a sign of Original Sin. After all, we can make love only with the organs of excretion.

Being unable to abolish love, the Church sought at least to disinfect it, and thus created marriage.

Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)
Section XXX
My Heart Laid Bare, and other prose writings, 1951
Edited by Peter Quennell
Translated by Norman Cameron

Love, n - A temporary insanity curable by marriage.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)
The Devil's Dictionary, 1911

When two people are under the influence of the most violent, most insane, most delusive, and most transient of passions, they are required to swear that they will remain in that excited, abnormal, and exhausting condition continuously until death do them part.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
Getting Married, 1908

Shaw: "It is most unwise for people in love to marry. I have myself loved one or two women, but the thought of living with them and sharing the everyday life would have driven me crazy and most likely have made the women hate me. The two things don't go together, and as to making a living from writing while she works! Better become a bookmaker."

Winsten: "I cannot imagine people living together without the bond of love."

Shaw: "You're an uxorious monster. Marriage should be prohibited to people in love. Marriage is a partnership of equals if you like, but let love come between them and all is lost."

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
Quoted in Days with Bernard Shaw, 1949
By Stephen Winsten
Chapter 24

Bachelors know more about women than married men. If they didn't they'd be married too.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)
"Sententiae: Masculum et Feminam Creavit Eos"
A Mencken Chrestomathy, 1949

The concept of two people living together for twenty-five years without having a cross word suggests a lack of spirit only to be admired in sheep.

Alan Patrick Herbert (1890-1971)
News Chronicle, 1940

Marriage isn't a word - it's a sentence.

King Vidor (1894-1982)
Caption from silent film "The Crowd", 1928



The good Christian should beware of mathematicians, and all those who make empty prophecies. The danger already exists that mathematicians have made a covenant with the devil to darken the spirit and confine man in the bonds of Hell.

Saint Augustine (340-430)
De Genesi ad Litteram
Book II, xviii, 37

If we consider the love of the world, the fear of God, and the love of God, in the first ratio which they bear to each other, it will appear, that the love of the world is infinitely greater than the fear of God, and the fear infinitely greater than the love; so that the fear of God is a middle proportional between the love of the world and the love of God, in the first or nascent ratio of these affections. In like manner, if we take their last ratio, or that in which the love of the world, and the fear of God, vanish into the love of God, the love of the world will be infinitely less than the fear of God, and the fear infinitely less than the love; so that the fear of God will still be a middle proportional between the love of the world and the love of God. Let us suppose the fear of God to be a middle proportional between the love of the world and the love of God in all the intermediate states of these affections, from their first rise in infancy, till their ultimate absorption and evanescence in the love of God, and see how this supposition will tally with experience, and how each affection varies in respect of the other two. Call therefore the love of the world W, the fear of God F, and the love of God L. Since then W : F : : F : L, W = F2 / L.

David Hartley (1705-1757)
Observations on Man, his Frame, his Duty, and his Expectations
Volume 2, 1801
Chapter III "Of the Rule of Life", Section VII, Scholium

[A]s far as the propositions of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
"Geometry and Experience"
Lecture before the Prussian Academy of Sciences
27 January 1921

The greatest mathematics has the simplicity and inevitableness of supreme poetry and music, standing on the borderland of all that is wonderful in Science, and all that is beautiful in Art. Mathematics transfigures the fortuitous concourse of atoms into the tracery of the finger of God.

Herbert Westren Turnbull (1885-1961)
The Great Mathematicians, 1929

You cannot apply mathematics as long as words still becloud reality.

Hermann Weyl (1885-1955)
"The Mathematical Way of Thinking"
The World of Mathematics, 1956
Volume 3, Part XII, Chapter 6
Edited by James Roy Newman (1907-1966)

There may be said to be two classes of people in the world; those who constantly divide the people of the world into two classes, and those who do not.

Robert Benchley (1889-1945)
Of All Things, 1921
Chapter XX "The Most Popular Book of the Month"

David Hartley offered a vest-pocket edition of his moral and religious philosophy in the formula W = F2 / L, where W is the love of the world, F is the fear of God, and L is the love of God. It is necessary to add only this. Hartley said that as one grows older L increases and indeed becomes infinite. It follows then that W, the love of the world, decreases and approaches zero.

W.H. Auden (1907-1973)
A Certain World, 1970

The Indian system [of decimal notation] (also known as the Indo-Arabic system) was introduced to Europeans by Gerbert of Aurillac in the tenth century. He traveled to Spain to learn about the system first-hand from Arab scholars, prior to being named Pope Sylvester II in 999 CE. However, the system subsequently encountered stiff resistance, in part from accountants who did not want their craft rendered obsolete, to clerics who were aghast to hear that the Pope had traveled to Islamic lands to study the method. It was widely rumored that he was a sorcerer, and that he had sold his soul to Lucifer during his travels. This accusation persisted until 1648, when papal authorities reopened Sylvester's tomb to make sure that his body had not been infested by Satanic forces.

David H. Bailey (b.1948)
Jonathan M. Borwein (b.1951)
"The Greatest Mathematical Discovery?"
12 May 2010

Recent high resolution mapping of deep-sea topography shows clearly that there's a hole in the bottom of the sea. To repeat, there's a hole in the bottom of the sea. There's a hole -- there's a hole -- there's a hole in the bottom of the sea. Moreover, more careful analysis indicates that there is a multitude of scale lengths in the bathymetric data. For instance, there's a log in the hole in the bottom of the sea. There's a bump on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea. There's a frog on the bump on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea. And there's a flea on the frog on the bump on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea. Figure 1 shows the 5 orders of magnitude inherent in the data plotted in log-log space and indicates a fractal dimension d = 2.76. Plotting in log-frog space gives d = 2.5. No attempt has been made to understand this result.

    |                                      |
    | 0                                    |
    |        0             d = 2.76        | -log M
log |                                      |
M   |                   0                  | (anti M)
    |                                      |
    |                            0         |
    |                                      |
    |                                    0 |
     flea    frog     bump     log     hole
                  Log T
Marc W. Spiegelman (b.1963)
and Chris Scholz (b.1943)
"Fractal Analysis of Deep Sea Topography", 1991
EOS Transactions, American Geophysical Union, 72(44):456

Back in July, Ben Terrett wrote a post about how many instances of the word "helvetica" set in unkerned 100 pt Helvetica it would take to go from the Earth to the Moon:

The distance to the moon is 385,000,000,000 mm. The size of an unkerned piece of normal cut Helvetica at 100pt is 136.23 mm. Therefore it would take 2,826,206,643.42 helveticas to get to the moon.

But let's say you wanted to stretch one "helvetica" over the same what point size would you need to set it? The answer is 282.6 billion points. At that size, the "h" would be 44,600 miles tall, roughly 5.6 times as tall as the Earth.

Jason Kottke (b.1973)
09 September 2010

It was mentioned on CNN that the new prime number discovered recently is four times bigger then the previous record.

John Blasik
rec.humor.funny post
28 March 1992

Philosophy is a game with objectives and no rules. Mathematics is a game with rules and no objectives.



[see also: AGING, YOUTH]

A man's maturity -- consists in having found again the seriousness one had as a child, at play.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
Beyond Good and Evil, 1885-1886
"Epigrams and Interludes"
Number 93
Translated by Walter Kaufmann

The test of maturity, for nations as for individuals, is not the increase of power, but in the increase of self-understanding, self-control, self-direction, and self-transcendence. For in a mature society, man himself, not his machines or his organizations is the chief work of art.

Lewis Mumford (1895-1990)
"The Origins of War," 1959
Interpretations and Forecasts: 1922-1972, 1973

To live with fear and not be afraid is the final test of maturity.

Edward Weeks (1898-1989)
Look, 18 July 1961


[see also: ANECDOTES]

...And yet the true creator is necessity, which is the mother of invention.

Plato (c.428-348 BC)

It is the quality rather than the quantity that matters.

Seneca (4 BC-AD 65)
Moral Epistles
Volume I, Epistle 291
XLV On Sophistical Argumentation
Translated by Richard M. Gummere, 1917-1925

Most of our pocket wisdom is conceived for the use of mediocre people, to discourage them from ambitious attempts, and generally console them in their mediocrity.

Robert Lewis Stevenson (1850-1894)
"Crabbed Age and Youth"
Virginibus Puerisque, 1881

What is all wisdom save a collection of platitudes? Take fifty of our current proverbial sayings -- they are so trite, so threadbare, that we can hardly bring our lips to utter them. None the less they embody the concentrated experience of the race and the man who orders his life according to their teaching cannot go far wrong.

Norman Douglas (1868-1952)
South Wind, 1917
Chapter 16

Proverbs are always platitudes until you have personally experienced the truth of them.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
Jesting Pilate, 1926
Chapter 4

Proverbs contradict each other. That is the wisdom of a nation.

Stanislaw Jerzy Lec (1909-1966)
Unkempt Thoughts, 1962
Translated by Jacek Galazka
page 125

Until a friend or relative has applied a particular proverb to your own life, or until you've watched him apply the proverb to his own life, it has no power to sway you.

Nicolson Baker (b.1957)
U. and I.: A True Story, 1991
Chapter 4


[see also: PURPOSE]

The decisive question for man is: Is he related to something infinite or not? That is the telling question of his life.

Carl Gustave Jung (1875-1961)
Memories, Dreams, Reflections, 1963
Chapter XI "On Life After Death"

Once I ventured the guess that men worked in response to a vague inner urge for self-expression. But that was probably a feeble theory, for some men who work the hardest have nothing to express. An hypotheis with rather more plausibility in it now suggests itself. It is that men work simply in order to escape the depressing agony of contemplating life -- that their work, like their play, is a mumbo-jumbo that serves them by permitting them to escape from reality. Both work and play, ordinarily, are illusions. Neither serves any solid and permanent purpose. If work has what is called value, then it only condemns more human beings to work. But life, stripped of such illusions, instantly becomes unbearable. Man cannot sit still, contemplating his destiny in this world, without going frantic. So he invents ways to take his mind off the horror. He works. He plays. He accumulates the preposterous nothing called property. He strives for the coy eye-wink called fame. He founds a family, and spreads his curse over others. All the while the thing that moves him is simply the yearning to lose himself, forget himself, to escape the tragi-comedy that is himself. Life, fundamentally, is not worth living. So he confects artificialities to make it so. So he erects a gaudy structure to conceal the fact that it is not so.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)
Prejudices: Sixth Series, 1927
III "The Human Mind"
2. "On Suicide"

Philosophy offers the rather cold consolation that perhaps we and our planet do not actually exist; religion presents the contradictory and scarcely more comforting thought that we exist but that we cannot hope to get anywhere until we cease to exist. Alcohol, in attempting to resolve the contradiction, produces vivid patterns of Truth which vanish like snow in the morning sun and cannot be recalled; the revelations of poetry are as wonderful as a comet in the skies -- and as mysterious. Love, which was once believed to contain the Answer, we now know to be nothing more than an inherited behavior pattern.

James Thurber (1894-1961)
"Thinking Ourselves Into Trouble"
Collecting Himself, 1939
Part 1

Anybody can mean what he says. It's saying what one means that's the real difficulty.

James Hilton (1900-1956)
The Meadows of the Moon, 1927
Chapter 1, "Michael", 16

Some turns of speech are used so frequently that the meaning has worn off them, just as a hero's head wears off an old, much-used coin. They still pass as legal tender between one mind and another, but they are really only blank and useless tokens for what once were ideas. We use them just as we use a thin dime; we accept them for what they represent, not for what they are; but if we stop to weigh and examine them on the scales of sense and in the light of reason, we see how much time and rough usage have reduced them.

Louis Dickinson Rich (1903-1991)
We Took to the Woods, 1942
Chapter IX

The fact that life has no meaning is a reason to live -- moreover, the only one.

E.M. Cioran (1911-1995)
Anathemas and Admirations, 1986

The search for "meaning" in life is usually in large part a search for feeling; unless the individual becomes aware of the nature of his search, he may spend his life in a never-ending pursuit of cognitive "insights" or "understandings," like those scholars and scientists who keep searching for a "discovery" when their greatest needs would be met by standing up openly for what they already know or believe, thus exposing themselves to the danger and excitement of external conflict.

Joe K. Adams (1920-1989)
"Psychosis: 'Experimental' and Real"
The Psychedelic Reader, 1965



To your request of my opinion of the manner in which a newspaper should be conducted so as to be most useful, I should answer, 'by restraining it to true facts & sound principles only.' Yet I fear such a paper would find few subscribers. It is a melancholy truth that a suppression of the press could not more completely deprive the nation of its benefits than is done by its abandoned prostitution to falsehood. Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle. The real extent of this state of misinformation is known only to those who are in situations to confront facts within their knowledge with the lies of the day. I really look with commiseration over the great body of my fellow citizens who, reading newspapers, live & die in the belief that they have known something of what has been passing in the world in their time; whereas the accounts they have read in newspapers are just as true a history of any other period of the world as of the present, except that the real names of the day are affixed to their fables. General facts may indeed be collected from them, such as that Europe is now at war, that Bonaparte has been a successful warrior, that he has subjected a great portion of Europe to his will, etc., etc., but no details can be relied on. I will add that the man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them, inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors. He who reads nothing will still learn the great facts, and the details are all false.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Letter to John Norvell, 14 June 1807
The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, 1905
Edited by Andrew Adgate Lipscomb and Albert Ellery Bergh

Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Letter to Col. Charles Yancey, 06 January 1816
The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 9, 1905
Edited by Andrew Adgate Lipscomb and Albert Ellery Bergh

I read no newspaper now but Ritchie's [Richmond Enquirer], and in that chiefly the advertisements, for they contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Letter to Nathaniel Macon, 12 January 1819
The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 15, 1905
Edited by Andrew Adgate Lipscomb and Albert Ellery Bergh

The public has a dog for its amusement. That dog is the Media. If there is someone better than the public, someone who distinguishes himself, the public sets the dog on him and all the amusement begins. The biting dog tears up his coat-tails, and takes all sort of vulgar liberties with his leg -- until the public bores of it all and calls the dog off. That is how the public levels.

Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)
Two Ages: The Age of Revolution and The Present Age, 1846
III "Conclusions from a Consideration of the Two Ages"
"The Present Age"

Hitherto one believed that the creation of the Christian myth under the Roman Empire was only possible because the printing press was not yet invented. But it is just the opposite: the daily press and the telegraph, which spreads the inventions of the press in a few seconds over the whole globe, fabricate more myths in a single day than could be produced formerly in a century.

Karl Marx (1818-1883)
Leter to Kugelmann
27 July 1871

Somebody who reads only newspapers and at best books of contemporary authors looks to me like an extremely nearsighted man who scorns eyeglasses. He is completely dependent on the prejudices and fashions of his times, since he never gets to see or hear anything else.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
"On Classic Literature"
Written for the Jungkaufmann, a monthly publication of the
"Schweizerischer Kaufmaennischer Verein, Jugendbund"
29 February 1952
Ideas and Opinions, 1954

Some people may think that leaders of a free press would perhaps accomplish more if their claims of constitutional right were less expansive. I do not agree with this. I say it is their duty to fight like tigers right down the line and not give an inch. This is the way our freedoms have been preserved in the past and it is the way they will be preserved in the future.

Harold Raymond Medina (1888-1990)
"Press Should 'Fight Like Tiger' for Its Freedom, Judge Medina Says"
Los Angeles Times, 20 November 1972, page B7

...the price of freedom of religion or of speech or of the press is that we must put up with, and even pay for, a good deal of rubbish.

Robert H. Jackson (1892-1954)
Dissenting, United States v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78 (1944)

...Today the press is still legally free; but most of the little papers have disappeared. The cost of wood-pulp, of modern printing machinery and of syndicated news is too high for the Little Man. In the totalitarian East there is political censorship, and the media of mass communication are controlled by the state. In the democratic West there is economic censorship and the media of mass communication are controlled by members of the Power Elite. Censorship by rising costs and the concentration of communication power in the hands of a few big concerns is less objectionable than State ownership and government propaganda; but certainly it is not something of which a Jeffersonian democrat could possibly approve.

In regard to propaganda the early advocates of universal literacy and a free press envisaged only two possibilities: the propaganda might be true, or it might be false. They did not foresee what in fact has happened, above all in our Western capitalist democracies -- the development of a vast mass communications industry, concerned in the main neither with the true nor the false, but with the unreal, the more or less totally irrelevant. In a word, they failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions.

...Only the vigilant can maintain their liberties, and only those who are constantly and intelligently on the spot can hope to govern themselves effectively by democratic procedures. A society, most of whose members spend a great part of their time, not on the spot, not here and now and in the calculable future, but somewhere else, in the irrelevant other worlds of sport and soap opera, of mythology and metaphysical fantasy, will find it hard to resist the encroachments of those who would manipulate and control it.

In their propaganda today's dictators rely for the most part on repetition, suppression and rationalization -- the repetition of catchwords which they wish to be accepted as true, the suppression of facts which they wish to be ignored, the arousal and rationalization of passions which may be used in the interests of the Party or the State. As the art and science of manipulation come to be better understood, the dictators of the future will doubtless learn to combine these techniques with the non-stop distractions which, in the West, are now threatening to drown in a sea of irrelevance the rational propaganda essential to the maintenance of individual liberty and the survival of democratic institutions.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
Brave New World Revisited, 1958
Chapter IV "Propaganda in a Democratic Society"

He who attacks the fundamentals of the American system [of broadcasting] attacks democracy itself.

William Samuel Paley (1901-1989)
Chairman of CBS
"The Viewpoint of the Radio Industry"
Educational Broadcasting 1937, 1937

Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.

A.J. Liebling (1904-1963)
"Do You Belong in Journalism?"
The New Yorker, 14 May 1960

Free press: Two hundred men imposing their prejudices on two hundred million.

Leonard Louis Levinson (1909-1974)
The Left-Handed Dictionary, 1963

The bigger the information media, the less courage and freedom they allow. Bigness means weakness.

Eric Sevareid (1912-1992)
"The Press and the People" television program

People in the media say they must the president with a microscope. Now, I don’t mind a microscope, but boy, when they use a proctoscope, that’s going too far.

Richard Milhous Nixon (1913-1994)
NBC TV, 08 April 1984

There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows.

Katherine Meyer Graham (1917-2001)
Owner of Washington Post
Regardies magazine
04 April 1990

Today [1988] fifty corporations own most of the output of daily newspapers and most of the sales and audience in magazines, broadcasting, books, and movies. The fifty men and women who head these corporations would fit in a large room. They constitute a new Private Ministry of Information and culture.

Each citizen's fate is shaped by powerful forces in distant places. The individual now depends on great machines of information and imagery that inform and instruct. The modern systems of news, information, and popular culture are not marginal artifacts of technology. They shape the consensus of society. It is a truism among political scientists that while it is not possible for the media to tell the population what to think, they do tell the public what to think about. What is reported enters the public agenda. What is not reported may not be lost forever, but it may be lost at a time when it is most needed. More than any other single private source and often more than any other government source, the fifty dominant media corporations can set the national agenda.

Americans, like most people, get images of the world from their newspapers, magazines, radio, television, books, and movies. The mass media become the authority at any given moment for what is true and what is false, what is reality and what is fantasy, what is important and what is trivial. There is no greater force in shaping the public mind; even brute force triumphs only by creating an accepting attitude toward the brutes.

Ben Haig Bagdikian (b.1920)
The Media Monopoly, 1983

The media get most of their news from "official," "expert," corporate-owned, and other established and generally conservative sources -- mainly the public information offices of corporations and government. These sources are considered respectable and reliable, and they also can most easily afford to pour out news to the media, without charge or much effort on the media' part.

In 1975, a Senate intelligence committee found that the CIA owned outright more than 200 wire services, newspapers, magazine, and book publishing complexes and subsidized many more....

"A study of some 2,500 guests on the ABC "Nightline" news program...showed officials predominating and unofficial and dissenting groups virtually absent -- including labor, consumer, and environmental advocates; peace activists; the working class; the American opposing U.S. foreign policy. "If you want to critique U.S. foreign policy," the show's host said, "you don't bring on the opponents of U.S. foreign policy and let them speak their mind," he said, displaying his keen understanding of democracy the role of the Free Press, "what you do is bring on the architects of US foreign policy and hold them to account" (spoken like a Pravda editor) in the sense that the mass media have been "holding them to account" year after year....

Patricia Cayo Sexton (b.1924)
The War on Labor and the Left.
Understanding America's Unique Conservatism
, 1991
Chapter 16 "The Media"

First, it is not possible for anyone living in the current commercial media environment to be media literate today without understanding that the primary function of commercial media is the segmentation and packaging of audiences for sale to advertisers.

Len Masterman
"The Media Education Revolution"
Forward to Teaching the Media: International Perspectives, 1998
Edited by Andrew Hart


[see also: HEALTH]

Life is short, the art long, opportunity fleeting, experiment treacherous, judgement difficult.

Hippocrates (c.460-c.377 BC)
Aphorisms, Section I, number 1

For extreme diseases extreme strictness of treatment is most efficacious.

Hippocrates (c.460-c.377 BC)
Aphorisms, Section I, number 6

The Lord hath created medicines out of the earth: and he that is wise will not abhor them. Was not the water made sweet with wood, that the virtue thereof might be known?

Apocrypha, Ecclesiastes 38:4-5

Cure the disease and kill the patient.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
Essays: Of Friendship, 1625

Invited to contribute to a series of articles in a Manchester paper in reply to the question "Have We Lost Faith?" Mr. George Bernard Shaw gives his answer in this single sentence: "Certainly not; but we have transferred it from God to the General Medical Council."

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
Doctors' Delusions: Crude Criminology and Sham Education, 1932

If a person (a) is poorly, (b) receives treatment intended to make him better, and (c) gets better, then no power of reasoning known to medical science can convince him that it may not have been the treatment that restored his health.

Peter Brian Medawar (1915-1987)
The Art of the Soluble, 1967

What happens in a changing field of medicine, where we have to ask ourselves whether medicine is to remain a humanitarian and respected profession or a new but depersonalized science in the service of prolonging life rather than diminishing human suffering?

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (b.1926)
On Death and Dying, 1969
Chapter 2 "Attitudes Toward Death and Dying"

Ironically, the only clear way for genetic engineering to save as many lives as penicillin does, would be to engineer an immortal strain of the tobacco mosaic virus and destroy the world's tobacco crop.

Michael O'Brien
"Mr. P. and the Boring '90s"
Ask Mr. Protocol column
SunExpert Magazine, March 1998


[see also: NOSTALGIA]

It is a most mortifying reflection for a man to consider what he has done, compared to what he might have done.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
Life of Johnson, 1770
by James Boswell (1740-1795)

"It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards," the Queen remarked.

Lewis Carroll (1832-1898)
Through the Looking-Glass, 1872
Chapter 5 "Wool and Water"

When I was younger I could remember anything, whether it happened or not; but I am getting old, and soon I shall remember only the latter.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Mark Twain, A Biography, 1912
by Albert Bigelow Paine (1861-1937)

Things said or done long years ago,
Or things I did not do or say
But thought that I might say or do,
Weigh me down, and not a day
But something is recalled,
My conscience or my vanity appalled.

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
"Vacillation", V, stanza 2
The Winding Stair and Other Poems, 1933

Not the power to remember, but its very opposite, the power to forget, is a necessary condition of our existence. If the lore of the transmigration of souls is a true one, then these, between their exchange of bodies, must pass through the sea of forgetfulness.

Sholem Asch (1880-1957)
The Nazarene, 1939
Chapter 1

It is strange how life is made up of small recollections. Memory, it seems, often does not consider worth filing for future reference things we consider of vast importance. Instead, it selects experiences like these as if to point out to us how unimportant are most of the day-to-day concerns we labor so heavily over.

Roy Barrette (1897-1995)
A Countryman's Journal, 1981
"Pardon the Past - Give Grace for the Future", Part Four

You have to begin to lose your memory, if only in bits and pieces, to realize that memory is what makes our lives. Life without memory is no life at all, just as an intelligence without the possibility of expression is not really an intelligence. Our memory is our coherence, our reason, our feeling, even our action. Without it, we are nothing.

Luis Bunuel (1900-1983)
My Last Sigh, 1983
Chapter 1

When a man rides a long time through wild regions he feels the desire for a city. Finally he comes to Isidora, a city where the buildings have spiral staircases encrusted with spiral seashells, where perfect telescopes and violins are made, where the foreigner hesitating between two women always encounters a third, where cockfights degenerate into bloody brawls among the bettors. He was thinking of all of these things when he desired a city. Isidora, therefore, is the city of his dreams: with one difference. The dreamed-of city contained him as a young man; he arrives at Isidora in his old age. In the square there is the wall where the old men sit and watch the young go by; he is seated in a row with them. Desires are already memories.

Italo Calvino (1923-1985)
Invisible Cities, 1972
Part 1, "Cities & Memory: 2"


[see also: FEMINISM]

It is funny the two things most men are proudest of is the thing that any man can do and doing does in the same way, that is being drunk and being the father of their son.

Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)
Everybody's Autobiography, 1937
Chapter 2 "What Was the Effect Upon Me of the Autobiography"

Men have a much better time of it than women. For one thing, they marry later, for another thing, they die sooner.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)
"Sententiae: Masculum et Feminam Creavit Eos"
A Mencken Chrestomathy, 1949


[see also: WAR]

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969)
Farewell Radio and Television Address to the American People
17 January 1961



Men ought to know that from nothing else but the brain come joys, delights, laughter and sports, and sorrows, griefs, despondency, and lamentations. And by this, in an especial manner, we acquire wisdom and knowledge, and see and hear, and know what are foul and what are fair, what are bad and what are good, what are sweet, and what unsavory; some we discriminate by habit, and some we perceive by their utility. By this we distinguish objects of relish and disrelish, according to the seasons; and the same things do not always please us. And by the same organ we become mad and delirious, and fears and terrors assail us, some by night, and some by day, and dreams and untimely wanderings, and cares that are not suitable, and ignorance of present circumstances, desuetude, and unskilfulness. All these things we endure from the brain, when it is not healthy, but is more hot, more cold, more moist, or more dry than natural, or when it suffers any other preternatural and unusual affection. And we become mad from its humidity. For when it is more moist than natural, it is necessarily put into motion, and the affection being moved, neither the sight nor hearing can be at rest, and the tongue speaks in accordance with the sight and hearing.

Hippocrates (c.460-c.377 BC)
On the Sacred Disease, 400 BCE
Translated by Francis Adams

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

Aristotle (384-322 BC)

King art thou, ruled by mind; by body, slave.

Marcus Porcius Cato (234-149 BC)
Minor Latin Poets, 1934
Dicta Catonis
Cato, Section III "Collection of Single Lines"
by John Wight Duff, Arnold Mackay Duff is the mind which is entertained by what we see; but the mind may be entertained in many ways, even though we could not see at all. I am speaking of a learned and a wise man, with whom to think is to live.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC)
The Tusculan Disputations
Book V "Whether Virtue Alone be sufficient for a Happy Life"
Translated by C.D Yonge, 1872

Vivere est cogitare. (To think is to live.)

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC)
Common version of above.

We must fight against old age, as it were against a disease. Attention must be paid to health: we must use moderate exercise: so much food and drink must be taken, as that our powers may be recruited, not oppressed. Nor indeed must the body alone be sustained, but still more the mind and the soul.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC)
De Senectute (On Old Age)
Section XI
Translated by The Rev. Dr. M'Kay, 1857

The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it.

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121-180)
Meditations, IV, 3

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
Hamlet, 1600-1601
Act II, Scene ii, line 259

The secret thoughts of a man run over all things, holy, profane, clean, obscene, grave, and light, without shame or blame.

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)
Leviathan, 1651
Part I, Chapter 8

A mind not to be chang'd by place or time.
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heav'n of hell, a hell of heav'n.

John Milton (1608-1674)
Paradise Lost, 1667
Book I, line 253

Thoughts without content are empty; intuitions without concepts are blind.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)
Critique of Pure Reason, 1789
Part II "Transcendental Logic"
Introduction "Idea of a Transcendental Logic"
Section I "On Logic As Such"
Translated by Werner S. Pluhar

Thoughts without content are void; intuitions without conceptions, blind.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)
Critique of Pure Reason, 1789
Part II "Transcendental Logic"
Introduction "Idea of a Transcendental Logic"
Section I "On Logic in General"
Translated by J.M.D. Meiklejohn

Facts are to the mind the same as food to the body. On the due digestion of facts depends the strength and wisdom of the one, just as vigor and health depend on the other. The wisest in council, the ablest in debate, and the most agreeable companion in the commerce of human life, is that man who has assimilated to his understanding the greatest number of facts.

Edmund Burke (1729-1797)

Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Essays: First Series, 1841

A chief event of life is the day in which we have encountered a mind that startled us.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Essays: Second Series, 1844

Every one is familiar with the phenomenon of feeling more or less alive on different days. Every one knows on any given day that there are energies slumbering in him which the incitements of that day do not call forth, but which he might display if these were greater. Most of us feel as if we lived habitually with a sort of cloud weighing on us, below our highest notch of clearness in discernment, sureness in reasoning, or firmness in deciding. Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake. Our fires are damped, our drafts are checked. We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources. In some persons this sense of being cut off from their rightful resources is extreme, and we then get the formidable neurasthenic and psychasthenic conditions, with life grown into one tissue of impossibilities, that the medical books describe.


The human individual lives usually far within his limits; he possesses powers of various sorts which he habitually fails to use. He energizes below his maximum, and he behaves below his optimum. In elementary faculty, in coordination, in power of inhibition and control, in every conceivable way, his life is contracted like the field of vision of an hysteric subject -- but with less excuse, for the poor hysteric is diseased, while in the rest of us it is only an inveterate habit -- the habit of inferiority to our full self -- that is bad.

William James (1842-1910)
Address to American Philosophical Association
Columbia University, 28 December 1906
The Writings of William James, 1902
Edited by J.J. McDermott

What is Matter? -- Never mind.
What is Mind? -- No matter.

Punch (1845)
Volume VIII, page 1

All I ask of my body is that it carry around my head.

Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931)

We find it hard to believe that other people's thoughts are as silly as our own, but they probably are.

James Harvey Robinson (1863-1936)
The Mind in the Making, 1921
Part II, Chapter 3 "On Various Kinds of Thinking"

It will be said that the joy of mental adventure must be rare, that there are few who can appreciate it, and that ordinary education can take no account of so aristocratic a good. I do nor believe this. The joy of mental adventure is far commoner in the young than in grown men and women. Among children it is very common, and grows naturally out of the period of make-believe and fancy. It is rare in later life because everything is done to kill it during education. Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth -- more than ruin -- more even than death. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible; thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit; thought is anarchic and lawless, indifferent to authority, careless of the well-tried wisdom of the ages. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. It sees man, a feeble speck, surrounded by unfathomable depths of silence; yet it bears itself proudly, as unmoved as if it were lord of the universe. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1967)
Principles of Social Reconstruction, 1916
Chpater 5 "Education"

We all have a tendency to think that the world must conform to our prejudices. The opposite view involves some effort of thought, and most people would die sooner than think -- in fact, they do so.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
"Is the Universe Finite?"
Psyche, Volume 6
July 1926

"You attacked reason," said Father Brown, "it's bad theology."

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
The Innocence of Father Brown, 1911
Chapter I "The Blue Cross"

To downgrade the human mind is bad theology.

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
Paraphrase of previous quotation?

What monstrosities would walk the streets were some people's faces as unfinished as their minds.

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983)
Reflections on the Human Condition, 1973
Aphorism 89

Well, allow me to introduce myself to you as an advocate of Ornamental Knowledge. You like the mind to be a neat machine, equipped to work efficiently, if narrowly, and with no extra bits or useless parts. I like the mind to be a dustbin of scraps of brilliant fabric, odd gems, worthless but fascinating curiosities, tinsel, quaint bits of carving, and a reasonable amount of healthy dirt. Shake the machine and it goes out of order; shake the dustbin and it adjusts itself beautifully to its new position.

Robertson Davies (1913-1995)
Tempest-Tost, 1951


Total abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.

Saint Augustine (340-430)
On the Good of Marriage, c.401

A thing moderately good is not so good as it ought to be. Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle is always a vice.

Thomas Paine (1737-1809)
The Rights of Man
Part II, 1792, Chapter 5

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.

William Blake (1757-1827)
"Proverbs of Hell", Plate 7
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, 1790-1793

You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.

William Blake (1757-1827)
"Proverbs of Hell", line 46
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, 1790-1793

The excesses of our youth, are drafts upon our old age, payable with interest, about thirty years after date.

C.C. Colton (1780-1832)
Lacon: Or, Many Things in Few Words: Addressed to
Those who Think
, 1837
Number LXXVI

Moderation is a fatal thing. Enough is as bad as a meal. More than enough is as good as a feast.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891
Chapter 15

I have not been afraid of excess: excess on occasion is exhilarating. It prevents moderation from acquiring the deadening effect of a habit.

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965)
The Summing Up, 1938
Chapter 15

It may, after all, be the bad habit of creative talents to invest themselves in pathological extremes that yield remarkable insights but no durable way of life for those who cannot translate their psychic wounds into significant art or thought.

Theodore Roszak (b.1933)
"In Search of the Miraculous"
Harpers, 1981


[see also: POVERTY, WEALTH]

If Heaven had looked upon riches to be a valuable thing, it would not have given them to such a scoundrel.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)
Letter to Miss Vanhomrigh, 12-13 August 1720
[Original source of "If you want to know what God thinks of
money, look at the people he gives it to"), by Dorothy Parker?]

Money is human happiness in the abstract: he, then, who is no longer capable of enjoying human happiness in the concrete devotes his heart entirely to money.

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)
Parerga and Paralipomena, 1851
Volume 2, Chapter 26, Section 320

No graven images may be
Worshipped, except the currency.

Arthur Hugh Clough (1819-1861)
The Latest Decalogue, 1862
line 3

There are two fools in this world. One is the millionaire who thinks that by hoarding money he can somehow accumulate real power, and the other is the penniless reformer who thinks that if only he can take the money from one class and give it to another, all the world's ills will be cured. They are both on the wrong track. They might as well try to corner all the checkers or all the dominoes of the world under the delusion that they are thereby cornering great quantities of skill. Some of the most successful money-makers of our times have never added one pennyworth to the wealth of men. Does a card player add to the wealth of the world?

Henry Ford (1863-1947)
My Life and Work, 1923
Chapter XIX "What We May Expect"

There is nothing so degrading as the constant anxiety about one's means of livelihood.... Money is like a sixth sense without which you cannot make a complete use of the other five.

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965)
Of Human Bondage, 1915
Chapter 51

If you would know what the Lord God thinks of money, you have only to look at those to whom He gives it.

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)
Quoting Maurice Baring
In interview by Marion Capron
The Paris Review, Issue 13, Summer 1956
[See Swift above]

Money is a singular thing. It ranks with love as man's greatest source of joy. And with death as his greatest source of anxiety. Over all history it has oppressed nearly all people in one of two ways: either it has been abundant and very unreliable, or reliable and very scarce.

John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006)
The Age of Uncertainty, 1977
Chapter 6 "The Rise and Fall of Money"

Anyone can be great with money.

With money greatness is not a talent but an obligation.

The trick is to be great without money.

Robert Crichton (1925-1993)
The Secret of Santa Vittoria, 1966
Part 2 "Italo Bombolini"


Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the oftener and more steadily we reflect on them: the starry heavens above and the moral law within. I have not to search for them and conjecture them as though they were veiled in darkness or were in the transcendent region beyond my horizon; I see them before me and connect them directly with the consciousness of my existence.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)
The Critique of Practical Reason, 1788
(Thomas Kingsmill Abbott translation)

I consider our relations with others as constituting the bounds of morality.... To ourselves, in strict language, we can owe no duties... Self-love, therefore, is no part of morality. Indeed it is exactly its counterpart. It is the sole antagonist of virtue, leading us constantly... in violation of our moral duties to others.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
The Basis of Rules of Morality, 1814

However great an evil immorality may be, we must not forget that it is not without its beneficial consequences. It is only through extremes that men can arrive at the middle path of wisdom and virtue.

Karl Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767-1835)
The Limits of State Action, 1792
Chapter 8

First, it is a voice forever sounding across the centuries the laws of right and wrong. Opinions alter, manners change, creeds rise and fall, but the moral law is written on the tablets of eternity. For every false word or vanity, the price has to be paid at last; not always by the chief offenders, but paid by some one. Justice and truth alone endure and live. Injustice and falsehood may be long-lived, but doomsday comes at last to them, in French revolutions and other terrible ways.

James Anthony Froude (1818-1894)
"The Science of History"
Short Studies on Great Subjects, 1894

The fact that man knows right from wrong proves his intellectual superiority to the other creatures; but the fact that he can do wrong proves his moral inferiority to any creatures that cannot.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
"What is Man", 1906
Section 6

Morality is herd instinct in the individual.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
The Gay Science, 1887
Book 3, 116 "Herd instinct"

If your morals make you dreary, depend upon it, they are wrong. I do not say give them up, for they may be all you have, but conceal them like a vice lest they should spoil the lives of better and simpler people.

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)
"Lay Morals"
Across the Plains, 1892

What is morality in any given time or place? It is what the majority then and there happen to like, and immorality is what they dislike.

Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947)
Dialogues of Alfred North Whitehead, 1953
Chapter 22
30 August 1941

Nothing sublimely artistic has ever arisen out of mere art, any more than anything essentially reasonable has ever arisen out of pure reason. There must always be a rich moral soil for any great aesthetic growth.

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
A Defense of Nonsense, 1911

Ordinary morality is only for ordinary people.

Aleister Crowley (1875-1947)
The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, 1929
Chapter 22

Modern morality and manners suppress all natural instincts, keep people ignorant of the facts of nature and make them fighting drunk on bogey tales.

Aleister Crowley (1875-1947)
The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, 1929
Chapter 57

I make no defense of expediency, military, political, temporary, or otherwise. For I believe the moral losses of expediency always far outweigh the temporary gains. And I believe that every drop of blood saved through expediency will be paid for by twenty drawn by the sword.

Wendell Lewis Willkie (1892-1944)
"One World", 1943
Edited by Max Lerner

Morality, then, seems to be concerned with three things. Firstly, with fair play and harmony between individuals. Secondly, with what might be called tidying up or harmonising the things inside each individual. Thirdly, with the general purpose of human life as a whole: what man was made for: what course the whole fleet ought to be on: what tune the conductor of the band wants it to play.

You may have noticed that modern people are nearly always thinking the first thing and forgetting the other two.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)
Mere Christianity, 1952
Book III "Christian Behaviour"
Chapter 1 "The Three Parts of Morality"

To set up as a standard of public morality a notion which can neither be defined nor conceived is to open the door to every kind of tyranny.

Simone Weil (1909-1943)
"Human Personality", 1943
La Table Ronde, December 1950

In a society as hypocritical as ours is today, the most socially unacceptable and dangerous acts are those which are most in accordance with the private moral convictions of the individual.

Joe K. Adams (1920-1989)
"Psychosis: 'Experimental' and Real"
The Psychedelic Reader, 1965

For those who say I can't impose my morality on others, I say just watch me.

Joseph M. Scheidler (b.1927)
Executive Director, Pro-Life Action League
"Pro-Life Action News", 08 August 1989,
from "The Far Right, Speaking For Themselves,"
a Planned Parenthood pamphlet

Mankind's true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude toward those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it.

Milan Kundera (b.1929)
The Unbearable Lightness of Being, 1984
Part 7 "Karenin's Smile", Chapter 2

[A] question I hear a lot is, "What can we learn of moral value from the ants?” Here again I will answer definitively: nothing. Nothing at all can be learned from ants that our species should even consider imitating. For one thing, all working ants are female. Males are bred and appear in the nest only once a year, and then only briefly. They are pitiful creatures with wings, huge eyes, small brains, and genitalia that make up a large portion of their rear body segment. They have only one function in life: to inseminate the virgin queens during the nuptial season. They are built to be robot flying sexual missiles. Upon mating or doing their best to mate, they are programmed to die within hours, usually as victims of predators.

E.O. Wilson (b.1929)
"Ants Are Cool but Teach Us Nothing", 10 September 2014

Like most people, she had no clear moral determinant, depending upon taboos and specific circumstances to modify her behavior, and the "good," the principled, was to her a kind of intellectual afterlife to which she planned someday to aspire, but only after she had exhausted the potentials of pleasure and thus gained the experience necessary for the achievement of such an aspiration.

Lucius Shepard (b.1947)
The Scalehunter's Beautiful Daughter, 1988
Chapter 1


[see also: DEATH]

Life is eating us up. We all shall be fables presently. Keep cool: it will be all one a hundred years hence. Life's well enough, but we shall be glad to get out of it, and they will all be glad to have us.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Representative Men, 1849

Let a man once overcome his selfish terror at his own finitude, and his finitude is, in one sense, overcome.

George Santayana (1863-1952)
The Ethics of Spinoza, 1910


Whoever destroys a single life is as guilty as though he had destroyed the entire world; and whoever rescues a single life earns as much merit as though he had rescued the entire world.

Talmud (compiled c.6th century AD)
Mishna, Sanhedrin

Murder is a horror, but an often necessary horror, never criminal, which it is essential to tolerate in a republican State.... Is it or is it not a crime? If it is not, why make laws for its punishment? And if it is, by what barbarous logic do you, to punish it, duplicate it by another crime?

Marquis de Sade (1740-1814)
"Dialogue the Fifth: Yet Another Effort,
Frenchmen, If You Would Become Republicans"
Philosophy in the Bedroom, 1795

If once a man indulges himself in murder, very soon he comes to think little of robbing; and from robbing he comes next to drinking and Sabbath-breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination.

Thomas De Quincey (1785-1859)
Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts, 1827

Kill a man, one is a murderer; kill a million, a conqueror; kill them all, a God.

Jean Rostand (1894-1977)
Pensees d'un Biologiste, 1939

Murder is unique in that it abolishes the party it injures, so that society has to take the place of the victim and on his behalf demand atonement or grant forgiveness; it is the one crime in which society has a direct interest.

W.H. Auden (1907-1973)
"The Guilty Vicarage"
Harpers, New York, May 1948


If there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those ways can result in a catastrophe, then someone will do it.

Edward A. Murphy, Jr. (1917-1990)
See Murphy's Law

Anything that can go wrong will.

"Finagle's Law of Dynamic Negatives"
Popularized by Larry Niven


[see also: ART]

Alas! all music jars when the soul's out of tune.

Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616)
Don Quixote de la Mancha, 1615
Part II, Book 6, Chapter 11

Ce qui est trop sot pour etre dit on le chante.
(What is too stupid to be spoken is sung.)

Voltaire (1694-1778)
Misattibuted to Voltaire by Wagner in Richard Wagner's Prose Works, 1892
Waking the Face That No One Is, 2004
Chapter 1 "Rhythm, Variation, and Unity of Form"
Section 1.1 "Wagner, Mallarme, and the social circumstances of music making"
Page 6, footnote 16
By Louis Wirth Marvick
See Beaumarchais (1732-1799)

Of all noises I think music the least disagreeable.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
The Morning Chronicle, 16 August 1816

Ce qui ne vaut pas la peine d'etre dit, on le chante.
(What isn't worth saying, is sung.)

Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (1732-1799)
Le Barbier de Seville, 1775
Act 1, Scene 2

Going to the opera, like getting drunk, is a sin that carries its own punishment with it, and that a very severe one.

Hannah More (1745-1833)
Letter to her sister, 1775
The Letters of Hannah More, 1925

Architecture in general is frozen music.

Friedrich von Schelling (1775-1854)
Philosophie der Kunst, 1809

How wonderful opera would be if there were no singers.

Gioacchino Antonio Rossini (1792-1868)

A few can touch the magic string,
And noisy Fame is proud to win them;
Alas for those that never sing,
But die with all their music in them!

Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894)
"The Voiceless", 1858

"...there's many a man who don't understand the language of music! But you," meaning his friends, "know somewhat of it: so I'll tell you a little about it." With these words, he seated himself at his piano, took up Weber's "Invitation to the Dance", and played it. "Now she speaks," he said; "that's the prattle of love. Now he speaks," he continued; "that's the man's earnest voice. Now they both speak at once," interpreted he, going on with his music; "and I clearly hear what the two lovers say. Isn't all that much better than any thing jurisprudence can utter?"

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Quoted in Life of Robert Schumann, 1871
Chapter I "Robert Schumann's Childhood, Youth, and Student Life"
By Wilhelm Joseph von Wasielewski (1822-1896)
Translated by A.L. Alger

Without music, life would be a mistake.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
The Twilight of the Idols, 1889

Sirs, I have tested your machine. It adds a new terror to life and makes death a long-felt want.

Herbert Beerbohm Tree (1853-1917)
When pressed by a gramophone company for a written testimonial
Quoted in Beerbohm Tree, 1956
Chapter 19
by Hesketh Pearson (1887-1964)

Music is essentially useless, as life is: but both lend utility to their conditions.

George Santayana (1863-1952)
Little Essays, 1920
Part III, Number 54

To study music, we must learn the rules. To create music, we must forget them.

Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979)
Quoted by Aaron Copland in Copland 1900 Through 1942, 1984
By Aaron Copland and Vivian Perlis

The present day composers refuse to die. They have realized the necessity of banding together and fighting for the right of each individual to secure fair presentation of his work.

Edgar Varese (1883-1965)
and Carlos Salzedo (1885-1961)
From the manifesto of The International Composer's Guild, 1921

Arthur Honegger: The profession of composer of music offers the peculiarity of being the activity and the preoccupation of a man who exerts himself to manufacture a product which no one is eager to consume. I might even compare it to the manufacture of top hats, button shoes and whalebone corsets.

We know well enough how little the public of today cares for these objects which only yesterday were the signs of a most refined taste. In music, though here my comparison breaks down, everyone wants only what was manufactured a hundred years ago. For this public, the art of music is summed up in the performance of classical or romantic works. The contemporary composer is therefore a sort of intruder who persists in stubbornly trying to impose himself at a banquet to which he has not been invited.

Bernard Gavoty: People are sincere when they express so absurd an opinion; they are convinced that genius is an attribute of centuries past.

AH. It is clear that the first specification for a composer is to be dead.

BG. Genius - that posthumous decoration -

AH. The listener swallows what is put before him with appetite or with disgust, but he is interested only in what he is made to hear frequently. That is why new works arouse a distrust which is translated staying away from 'first performances'.

Arthur Honegger (1892-1955)
I Am a Composer, 1966
Chapter 2 "Complaints"
Translated from the French by Wilson O. Clough in
collaboration with Allan Arthur Willman
Originally published in Paris in 1951

You know that a man exposed continuously to a powerful light finally grows blind. Our existence is increasingly dominated by the noise amid which we live. By force of living in such noise, we shall in a brief time be quite deaf. Your landlady's radio or your neighbour's pours forth a flood of noise from dawn to midnight. It might be the Mass in B minor or the vile belchings of lunatic accordians. You hear it everywhere, in the streets, in the shops, cafes, restaurants, even the taxis. It is even forced on one in the factories. Do you persuade yourself that a man who has heard the Symphony in C minor perhaps six times in one day is going to rush to the concert hall in the evening to pay a relatively high fee to hear it a seventh time? Many school children and students do their mathematics homework in front of their radio set in action. They become accustomed to thinking of music as a 'noise in the background' to which the mind pays no attention, no more than to the whitewash on the wall. Would we look at a Velazquez endlessly repeated before our eyes? That is what is ahead in the near future.

Arthur Honegger (1892-1955)
I Am a Composer, 1966
Chapter 2 "Complaints"
Translated from the French by Wilson O. Clough in
collaboration with Allan Arthur Willman
Originally published in Paris in 1951

The public doesn't want new music; the main thing that it demands of a composer is that he be dead.

Arthur Honegger (1892-1955)
ASCAP Today, September 1971

Aside from purely technical analysis, nothing can be said about music, except when it is bad; when it is good, one can only listen and be grateful.

W.H. Auden (1907-1973)
A Certain World; A Commonplace Book, 1970

It is better to make a piece of music than to perform one, better to perform one than to listen to one, better to listen to one than to misuse it as a means of distraction, entertainment, or acquisition of "culture."

John Cage (1912-1992)
"Forerunners of Modern Music; At Random"
Tiger's Eye, New York, March 1949

To understand music, you must listen to it. But so long as you are thinking, "I am listening to this music," you are not listening. To understand joy or fear, you must be wholly and undividedly aware of it. So long as you are calling it names and saying, "I am happy," or "I am afraid," you are not being aware of it. Fear, pain, sorrow, and boredom must remain problems if we do not understand them, but understanding requires a single and undivided mind. This, surely, is the meaning of that strange saying, "If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.

Alan Watts (1915-1973)
The Wisdom of Insecurity, 1951
Chapter V "On Being Aware"

Once, somebody asked Robert Schumann to explain the meaning of a certain piece of music he had just played on the piano.

What Robert Schumann did was sit back down at the piano and play the piece of music again.

David Markson (1927-2010)
Wittgenstein's Mistress, 1988
Page 214
Novel; unknown if this story is true

The second piece featured [Giuseppi] Logan’s bass clarinet. The sounds he produced -- shrieks, swoops, and gargles -- brought to mind Eric Dolphy at his most extreme but lacked the latter’s technical brilliance, emotional force, and sense of contrast. With this kind of playing, it is sometimes hard to decide which notes are voluntary and which are accidental.

Dan Morgenstern (b.1929)
Review of Bud Powell, Byron Allen, Albert Ayler, Giuseppi Logan
concert at Town Hall, New York City, 01 May 1965
Down Beat, Volume 32, Number 15, 15 July 1965

Music is the cup that holds the wine of silence. Sound is that cup, but empty. Noise is that cup, broken.

Robert Fripp (b.1946)
Musician magazine, August 1984

Singing is a trick to get people to listen to music for longer than they would ordinarily.

David Byrne (b.1952)
Stop Making Sense, 1984
Liner notes

Music and politics have one very important thing in common: They're both too important to be left to professionals.

Michelle Shocked (b.1962)
"Shocked and Pondering, Far From Home"
By Evelyn McDonnell
Newsday, 01 May 1990

A wave of vulgar, filthy and suggestive music has inundated the land. The pabulum of theater and summer hotel orchestras is 'coon music.' Nothing but ragtime prevails, and the cake-walk with its obscene posturings, its lewd gestures.... One reads with amazement and disgust of the historical and aristocratic names joining in this sex dance. Our children, our young men and women, are continually exposed to its contiguity, to the monotonous attrition of this vulgarizing music. It is artistically and morally depressing and should be suppressed by press and pulpit. The 'coon song' must go.

Editorial entitled "Degenerate Music"
Musical Courier, 13 September 1899


[see also: MEANING, REALITY]

I would rather live in a world where my life is surrounded by mystery than live in a world so small that my mind could comprehend it.

Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969)
"Mystery of Life"
Riverside Sermons, 1958


There are, indeed, things that cannot be put into words. They make themselves manifest. They are what is mystical.

Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951)
Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 1921
Section 6.522

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Last update: 03-July-2015
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