Food For Thought

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

author index



[see also: MILITARY]

When the tyrant has disposed of foreign enemies by conquest or treaty, and there is nothing to fear from them, then he is always stirring up some war or other, in order that the people may require a leader.

Plato (c.428-348 BC)
Republic, Book VIII

In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy's country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good. So, too, it is better to recapture an army entire than to destroy it, to capture a regiment, a detachment or a company entire than to destroy them.

Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.

Sun Tzu (4th Century BC)
The Art of War
Chapter III "Attack By Stratagem"
Translated by Lionel Giles, 1910

Nervos belli, pecuniam infinitam.
(Endless money forms the sinews of war.)

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC)
Philippics, Oration 5, Section 5

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.
(It is sweet and honorable to die for one's country.)

Horace (65-8 BC)
Odes, Book III, 23 BC
Ode 2, line 13

...war is just to those for whom it is necessary, and arms are clear of impiety for those who have no hope left but in arms.

Titus Livius (59 BC-AD 17)
The History of Rome
Book IX

We are mad, not only individually, but nationally. We check manslaughter and isolated murders; but what of war and the much vaunted crime of slaughtering whole peoples?

Seneca (4 BC - AD 65)
Epistles, 95, 30

Let him who desires peace prepare for war.

Vegetius (fl.c.375)
De Rei Militari
III, prologue

Dulce bellum inexpertis.
(War is delightful to those who have had no experience of it.)

Desiderius Erasmus (1465-1536)
Adagiorum Chiliades, 1508

It should be noted that when he seizes a state the new ruler ought to determine all the injuries that he will need to inflict. He should inflict them once and for all, and not have to renew them every day. Whoever acts otherwise, either through timidity or bad advice, is always forced to have the knife ready in his hand.... Violence should be inflicted once and for all; people will then forget what it tastes like and so be less resentful.

Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527)
The Prince, 1514
Chapter 8

Although deceit is detestable in all other things, yet in the conduct of war it is laudable and honorable; and a commander who vanquishes an enemy by stratagem is equally praised with one who gains victory by force.

Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527)
Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livius, 1531
Book III, Chapter XL
Translated by Christian E. Detmold, 1882

War begun without good provision of money beforehand for going through with it is but as a breathing of strength and blast that will quickly pass away. Coin is the sinews of war.

Francois Rabelais (c.1492-1553)
Gargantua and Pantagruel
Book I, 1534, Chapter 46

It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished who kill not in large companies, all to the sound of trumpets; it is the rule.

Voltaire (1694-1778)
Philosophical Dictionary, 1856
Volume V, Rights, Section I
The Works of Voltaire, A Contemporary Version, 1901
Translated by William F. Fleming

There never was a good war or a bad peace.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
Letters to Josiah Quincy and Sir Joseph Banks
27 July 1783

War is then not a relationship between one man and another, but a relationship between one State and another, in which individuals are enemies only by accident, not as men, nor even as citizens, but as soldiers; not as members of the fatherland, but as its defenders. Finally, any State can only have other States, and not men, as enemies, inasmuch as it is impossible to fix a true relation between things of different natures.

Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778)
"Of the Social Contract", Book I, 1762
'The Social Contract' and Other Later Political Writings, 1997
Edited by Victor Gourevitch

One murder made a villain,
Millions, a hero.

Beilby Porteus (1731-1808)
Death, 1759
Line 154

To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.

George Washington (1732-1799)
Speech to both Houses of Congress
08 January 1790

As long as mankind shall continue to bestow more liberal applause on their destroyers than on their benefactors, the thirst of military glory will ever be the vice of the most exalted characters.

Edward Gibbon (1737-1794)
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 1776-1788
Volume I, Chapter 1

It is the object only of war that makes it honorable.

Thomas Paine (1737-1809)
The American Crisis, Number 5
21 March 1778

Preparation for war is a constant stimulus to suspicion and ill will.

James Monroe (1758-1831)
Misattribution; confused with John Quincy Adams quotation, below

On this occasion the undersigned begs leave to remind Lord Castlereagh of the proposition which, by instruction from the American Government, he had the honor of making to his lordship on the 25th of January last, relative to naval armaments upon the North American lakes. It is the sincere wish and, so far as depends upon them, the determined intention of the American Government, that the peace so happily restored between the two countries should be cemented by every suitable measure of conciliation and by that mutual reliance upon good faith far better adapted to the maintenance of national harmony than the jealous and exasperating defiance of complete armor. The undersigned mentioned to his lordship the incident of an American merchant vessel having been fired upon by a British armed vessel upon Lake Erie. The increase of naval armaments on one side upon the lakes, during peace, will necessitate the like increase on the other, and besides causing an aggravation of useless expense to both parties must operate as a continual stimulus of suspicion and of ill will upon the inhabitants and local authorities of the borders against those of their neighbors. The moral and political tendency of such a system must be to war and not to peace. The American Government proposes mutually to reduce, to the same extent, all naval armaments upon those lakes. The degree to which they shall be reduced is left at the option of Great Britain. The greater the reduction, the more acceptable it will be to the President of the United States; and most acceptable of all, should it be agreed to maintain, on either side, during the peace, no other force than such as may be necessary for the collection of the revenue.

John Quincy Adams (1767-1848)
Letter to Viscount Castlereagh
21 March 1816
"Limitation of Armament on the Great Lakes"
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Pamphlet No. 2, 1914

The least pain in our little finger gives us more concern and uneasiness than the destruction of millions of our fellow-beings.

William Hazlitt (1778-1830)
"American Literature - Dr. Channing"
Edinburgh Review, October 1829
Reprinted in The Collected Works
Volume 16, Edited by P.P. Howe, 1932

Der Krieg ist nichts als eine Fortsetzung des politischen Verkehrs mit Einmischung anderer Mittel. (War is nothing but a continuation of politics with the admixture of other means.)

Karl von Clausewitz (1780-1831)
Vom Kriege, 1832-1834
Book 8, Chapter 6, section B

Where is it written in the Constitution, in what article or section is it contained, that you may take children from their parents, and parents from their children, and compel them to fight the battles of any war in which the folly or the wickedness of government may engage it?

Daniel Webster (1782-1852)
Remarks in the House of Representatives
09 December 1814
The Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster, Volume 14, 1903
Edited by J.W. McIntyre

War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)
"The Contest in America"
Dissertations and Discussions, 1859

It is well that this is so terrible! we should grow too fond of it!

Robert E. Lee (1807-1870)
On seeing a Federal charge repulsed at Fredericksburg
13 December 1862
A Life of Gen. Robert E. Lee, 1871
by John Esten Cook

It is well that war is so terrible -- we should grow too fond of it!

Robert E. Lee (1807-1870)
Robert E. Lee, 1934
Volume II, Chapter XXXI "It Is Well That War Is So Terrible..."
by Douglas Southall Freeman
Rewritten for dramatic effect? See Cook version
See caveat

A nation which lives a pastoral and innocent life never decorates the shepherd's staff or the plough-handle; but races who live by depredation and slaughter nearly always bestow exquisite ornaments on the quiver, the helmet, and the spear.

John Ruskin (1819-1900)
"The Two Paths"
Lecture I "The Deteriorative Power of Conventional Art Over Nations"
Number 7
Delivered at the Kensington Museum, January 1858
The Works of John Ruskin, Volume 10, 1878

There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all hell. You can bear this warning voice to generations yet to come. I look upon war with horror.

William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-1891)
Speech, Grand Army of the Republic
convention, Columbus, Ohio
11 August 1880

My factories may make an end of war sooner than your congresses. The day when two army corps can annihilate each other in one second, all civilized nations, it is to be hoped, will recoil from war and discharge their troops.

Alfred Nobel (1833-1896)
From Bertha von Suttner, Memoiren
Stuttgart, 1909
Alfred Nobel: The Man and His Prizes, 1972
Edited by Wilhelm Odelberg

There has never been a just one, never an honorable one -- on the part of the instigator of the war. I can see a million years ahead, and this rule will never change in so many as half a dozen instances. The loud little handful -- as usual -- will shout for the war. The pulpit will -- warily and cautiously -- object -- at first; the great, big, dull bulk of the nation will rub its sleepy eyes and try to make out why there should be a war, and will say, earnestly and indignantly, "It is unjust and dishonorable, and there is no necessity for it." Then the handful will shout louder. A few fair men on the other side will argue and reason against the war with speech and pen, and at first will have a hearing and be applauded; but it will no last long; those others will outshout them, and presently the antiwar audiences will thin out and lose popularity. Before long you will see this curious thing: the speakers stoned from the platform, and free speech strangled by hoards of furious men who in their secret hearts are still at one with those stoned speakers -- as earlier -- but do not dare to say so. And now the whole nation -- pulpit and all -- will take up the war cry, and shout itself hoarse, and mob any honest man who ventures to open his mouth; and presently such mouths will cease to open. Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception.

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

Next we had Egyptian wars, Greek wars, Roman wars, hideous drenchings of the earth with blood; and we saw the treacheries of the Romans toward the Carthaginians, and the sickening spectacle of the massacre of those brave people. Also we saw Caesar invade Britain -- "not that those barbarians had done him any harm, but because he wanted their land, and desired to confer the blessings of civilization upon their widows and orphans," as Satan explained.

Next, Christianity was born. Then ages of Europe passed in review before us, and we saw Christianity and Civilization march hand in hand through those ages, "leaving famine and death and desolation in their wake, and other signs of the progress of the human race," as Satan observed.

And always we had wars, and more wars, and still other wars -- all over Europe, all over the world. "Sometimes in the private interest of royal families," Satan said, "sometimes to crush a weak nation; but never a war started by the aggressor for any clean purpose -- there is no such war in the history of the race."

"Now," said Satan, "you have seen your progress down to the present, and you must confess that it is wonderful -- in its way. We must now exhibit the future."

He showed us slaughters more terrible in their destruction of life, more devastating in their engines of war, than any we had seen.

"You perceive," he said, "that you have made continual progress. Cain did his murder with a club; the Hebrews did their murders with javelins and swords; the Greeks and Romans added protective armor and the fine arts of military organization and generalship; the Christian has added guns and gunpowder; a few centuries from now he will have so greatly improved the deadly effectiveness of his weapons of slaughter that all men will confess that without Christian civilization war must have remained a poor and trifling thing to the end of time."

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

War, n. A by-product of t. arts of peace. The most menacing political condition is a period of international amity. The student of history who has not been taught to expect the unexpected may justly boast himself inaccessible to the light. "In time of peace prepare for war" has a deeper meaning than is commonly discerned; it means, not merely that all things earthly have an end -- that change is the one immutable and eternal law -- but that the soil of peace is thickly sown with the seeds of war and singularly suited to their germination and growth. It was when Kubla Khan had decreed his "stately pleasure dome" -- when, that is to say, there were peace and fat feasting in Xanadu -- that he heard from afar Ancestral voices prophesying war.

One of the greatest of poets, Coleridge was one of the wisest of men, and it was not for nothing that he read us this parable. Let us have a little less of "hands across the sea," and a little more of that elemental distrust that is the security of nations. War loves to come like a thief in the night; professions of eternal amity provide the night.

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

War is the great scavenger of thought. It is the sovereign disinfectant, and its red stream of blood is the Condy's Fluid that cleans out the stagnant pools and clotted channels of the intellect.... We have awakened from an opium-dream of comfort, of ease, of that miserable poltroonery of "the sheltered life." Our wish for indulgence of every sort, our laxity of manners, our wretched sensitiveness to personal inconvenience, these are suddenly lifted before us in their true guise as the spectres of national decay; and we have risen from the lethargy of our dilettantism to lay them, before it is too late, by the flashing of the unsheathed sword.

Sir Edmund Gosse (1849-1928)
"War and Literature"
Inter Arma, 1916

As long as war is regarded as wicked, it will always have its fascination. When it is looked upon as vulgar, it will cease to be popular.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
The Critic as Artist, Part II
Published in Intentions, 1891

The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose - especially their lives.

Eugene Victor Debs (1855-1926)
Canton Ohio, 16 June 1918
Debs, 1971
Edited by Ronald Radosh

In the arts of life man invents nothing; but in the arts of death he outdoes Nature herself, and produces by chemistry and machinery all the slaughter of plague, pestilence, and famine.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
Man and Superman, 1903
Act 3

The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty. We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. We shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations can make them.

Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924)
Address to 65th Congress, first session
Asking for a declaration of war
02 April 1917
Senate document number 5, serial number 7264, 1917

To call war the soil of courage and virtue is like calling debauchery the soil of love.

George Santayana (1863-1952)
The Life of Reason, 1905
Part II "Reason in Society"

To delight in war is a merit in the soldier, a dangerous quality in the captain, and a positive crime in the statesman.

George Santayana (1863-1952)
The Life of Reason, 1905
Chapter III "Industry, Government, and War"

The first casualty when war comes is truth.

Hiram Warren Johnson (1866-1945)
Speech, U.S. Senate, 1917
The Macmillan Book of Proverbs, Maxims, and Famous Phrases, 1948
Edited by Burton Stevenson

The capitalist can only make a whole people go to war -- want war, clamor for war as, again and again, we have seen whole peoples doing -- by capturing the popular will. The only prophylactic against that situation is to make the public aware of the way in which it is being misled.

Norman Angell (1872-1967)
The Great Illusion, 1933

In Lisbon when heretics were publicly burnt, it sometimes happened that one of them, by a particularly edifying recantation, would be granted the boon of being strangled before being put into the flames. This would make the spectators so furious that the authorities had great difficulty in preventing them from lynching the penitent and burning him on their own account. The spectacle of the writhing torments of the victims was, in fact, one of the principal pleasures to which the populace looked forward to enliven a somewhat drab existence. I cannot doubt that this pleasure greatly contributed to the general belief that the burning of heretics was a righteous act. The same sort of thing applies to war. People who are vigorous and brutal often find war enjoyable, provided that it is a victorious war and there is not too much interference with rape and plunder. This is a great help in persuading people that wars are righteous.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1967)
Unpopular Essays, 1950
Chapter 10 "Ideas That Have Harmed Mankind"

This subject brings me to that vilest offspring of the herd mind -— the odious militia. The man who enjoys marching in line and file to the strains of music falls below my contempt; he received his great brain by mistake —- the spinal cord would have been amply sufficient. This heroism at command, this senseless violence, this accursed bombast of patriotism -— how intensely I despise them! War is low and despicable, and I had rather be smitten to shreds than participate in such doings.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Living Philosophies, 1931
Edited by Dr. Henry Goddard Leach

I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Various versions attributed to Einstein as early as June 1948
See QuoteInvestigator

War is the health of the state. It automatically sets in motion throughout society those irresistible forces for uniformity, for passionate cooperation with the Government in coercing into obedience the minority groups and individuals which lack the larger herd sense.

Randolph Silliman Bourne (1886-1918)
"The State", 1918
Randolph Bourne: Selected Writings, 1911-1918
Edited by Olaf Hansen

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969)
Speech, Washington DC
16 April 1953

Before a war military science seems a real science, like astronomy, after a war it seems more like astrology.

Rebecca West (1892-1983)
Quoted in Europe in Arms, 1937
Chapter 15 "The Last War and the Next"
By Basil Henry Liddell Hart

The poetry of heroism appeals irresistibly to those who don't go to a war, and even more so to those whom the war is making enormously wealthy. It's alway so.

Louise-Ferdinand Celine (1894-1961)
Journey to the End of the Night, 1932
Translated 1934

A democracy which makes or even effectively prepares for modern, scientific war must necessarily cease to be democratic. No country can be really well prepared for modern war unless it is governed by a tyrant, at the head of a highly trained and perfectly obedient bureaucracy.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
Ends and Means, 1937
Chapter 7

The first panacea for a mismanaged nation is inflation of the currency; the second is war. Both bring a temporary prosperity; both bring a permanent ruin. But both are the refuge of political and economic opportunists.

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)
"Notes on the Next War: A Serious Topical Letter"
Esquire, September 1935

All living beings have received their weapons through the same process of evolution that moulded their impulses and inhibitions; for the structural plan of the body and the system of behaviour of a species are parts of the same whole.... Wordsworth is right: there is only one being in possession of weapons which do not grow on his body and of whose working plan, therefore, the instincts of his species know nothing and in the usage of which he has no correspondingly adequate inhibition.

Konrad Lorenz (1903-1989)
King Solomon's Ring: New Light on Animal Ways, 1952
Chapter 12 "Morals and Weapons"

[A] nation may believe that the only way to secure peace and dignity is through strong armaments. This makes neighboring nations anxious, so that they increase their armaments too. There is a war. The lesson of the war, the first nation declares when it is all over, is that we were not strongly enough armed to preserve peace; we must double our armaments. This naturally makes the neighboring nations twice as anxious, so that they double their armaments too. There is another war, bigger and bloodier. When this is over, the first nation declares: "We have learned our lesson. Never again shall we make the mistake of underestimating our defense needs. This time we must be sure to be sufficiently armed to preserve peace. We must triple our armaments...."

Samuel Ichiyé Hayakawa (1906-1992)
Language in Thought and Action, 1949
Chapter 16 "Rats and Men: 'Insoluble' Problems"

The genius of you Americans is that you never made clear-cut stupid moves, only complicated stupid moves which make us wonder at the possibility that there may be something to them we are missing.

Gamel Abdel Nasser (1918-1970)
Game of Nations, 1970
by Miles Copeland

[John] Dalton's records, carefully preserved for a century, were destroyed during the World War II bombing of Manchester. It is not only the living who are killed in war.

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992)
Asimov's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, 1972
"John Dalton"

"It became necessary to destroy the town to save it", a United States major said today. He was talking about the decision by allied commanders to bomb and shell the town regardless of civilian casualties, to rout the Vietcong.

Peter Arnett (b.1934)
Anonymous quotation regarding B?n Tre city, Vietnam
"Major Describes Move"
New York Times, 08 February 1968

Wars have never made peace or preserved it or fostered its ideals. To have peace you must make peace with your enemy. To make peace only with your friends is to avoid the issue, and to permit a great principle to become absurd. Far from making peace, wars invariably serve as classrooms and laboratories where men and techniques and states of mind are prepared for the next war. World War II, for instance, in which we can say with some justice that we fought on the right side and for good reasons, made us a more warlike nation than we were before. Before it was over we had committed, and made ourselves able to commit, acts of atrocity unimagined before. The unthinkable became thinkable because we became willing to think of it.

If I solve my dispute with my neighbor by killing him, I have certainly solved the immediate dispute. If my neighbor was a scoundrel, then the world is no doubt better for his absence. But in killing my neighbor, though he may have been a terrible man who did not deserve to live, I have made myself a killer -- and the life of my next neighbor is in greater peril than the life of the last. In making myself a killer I have destroyed the possibility of neighborhood.

It is a mistake to believe that we only invest the wealth and the lives of our citizens in war. We invest their minds, too. We assume, dangerously, that minds invested in war, and trained to be warlike, can, at the signing of a treaty, be simply withdrawn from warfare and made peaceable. But the training needed for peace cannot be the same as that which is necessary for war. Men cannot be taught and encouraged to kill by fostering those impulses of compassion and justice and reasonableness that make it possible to hope for peace. The mentality of war, no matter how just the cause, is the mentality of bloodthirst, anger, arrogance, hatred, cunning, and passionate oversimplification. In fighting a war, therefore, we are not preparing for peace, but preparing, inevitably, for the next war.

Wendell Berry (b.1934)
"A Statement Against the War in Vietnam"
Speech delivered to the Kentucky Conference on the War and the Draft
University of Kentucky, 10 February 1968
The Long-Legged House, 1969

Supporters of the war are constantly asking those who oppose it: Why don't you deplore the wrongs and atrocities committed by the other side? The answer, so far as I am concerned, is that I do deplore the wrongs and atrocities committed by the other side. But I am responsible for the wrongs and atrocities committed by our side. And I am no longer able to participate in the assumption that atrocities committed by remote control are less objectionable than those committed at arm's length. I am most concerned with American obstacles to peace because I am an American.

Wendell Berry (b.1934)
"A Statement Against the War in Vietnam"
Speech delivered to the Kentucky Conference on the War and the Draft
University of Kentucky, 10 February 1968
The Long-Legged House, 1969

I believe in compulsory cannibalism. If people were forced to eat what they killed, there would be no more wars.

Abbie Hoffman (1936-1989)
Revolution for the Hell Of It, 1968
Chapter 6 "Free Is the Revolution"

A "just war" is hospitable to every self-deception on the part of those waging it, none more than the certainty of virtue, under whose shelter every abomination can be committed with a clear conscience.

Alexander Cockburn (b.1941)
New Statesman and Society
London, 08 February 1991

In this new war, our enemy's platoons infiltrate our borders, quietly blending in with visiting tourists, students, and workers. They move unnoticed through our cities, neighborhoods, and public spaces. They wear no uniforms. Their camouflage is not forest green, but rather it is the color of common street clothing. Their tactics rely on evading recognition at the border and escaping detection within the United States. Their terrorist mission is to defeat America, destroy our values, and kill innocent people.

John Ashcroft (b.1942)
"Attorney General Prepared Remarks on the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System"
06 June 2002

Nuclear weapons can wipe out life on the earth, if used properly.

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

If we let people see that kind of thing there would never again be any war.

Senior Pentagon official, explaining why they refused to release
video footage of fleeing Iraqi soldiers being cut in half by
helicopter cannon fire, February 1991
Quoted by Paul Fussell in "The Culture of War",
The Costs of War: America's Pyrrhic Victories, 1998
Edited by John V, Denzin

Bush has it backwards -- abortion is surgical; bombing is murder.

Sign at anti-war march


Many very intelligent agreeable persons have warts on the forehead, not brown, nor very large, between the eyebrows, which have nothing in them offensive or disgusting. -- But a large brown wart on the upper lip, especially when it is bristly, will be found in no person who is not defective in something essential, or at least remarkable for some conspicuous failing.

Johann Kaspar Lavater (1741-1801)
Essays on Physiognomy, 1804
Volume III, Part II, Chapter LXXVIII "Warts"
Translated by Thomas Holcroft


Perhaps it is to prepare to hear some day the music of the spheres that I am always turning my ears to the music of streams. There is indeed a music in streams, but it is not for the hurried. It has to be loitered by and imagined. Or imagined toward, for it is hardly for men at all. Nature has a patient ear. To her the slowest funeral march sounds like a jig. She is satisfied to have the notes drawn out to the lengths of days or weeks or months. Small variations are acceptable to her, modulations as leisurely as the opening of a flower.

Wendell Berry (b.1934)
"A Native Hill", Part II
The Long-Legged House, 1969

Many of the wars in this century were about oil, but wars of the next century will be over water.

Ismail Serageldin (b.1944)
World Bank vice president for Environmentally Sustainable Development
"Severe Water Crisis Ahead for Poorest Nations in Next 2 Decades"
by Barbara Crossette
New York Times, 10 August 1995


[see also: MONEY]

The wise man does not lay up treasure;
his riches are within.
The more he gives to others,
the more he has of his own.

Lao-tzu (c.604-c.531 BC)
Tao Te Ching, Book 2, Chapter 81

...the makers of fortunes have a second love of money as a creation of their own, resembling the affection of authors for their own poems, or of parents for their children, besides that natural love of it for the sake of use and profit which is common to them and all men. And hence they are very bad company, for they can talk about nothing but the praises of wealth.

Plato (c.428-348 BC)

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and riches.

Bible, Matthew 6:24

[O]pulence is always the result of theft, if not committed by the actual possessor, then by his predecessors.

St. Jerome (340?-420)
Catholic Socialism, 1895
Chapter III "Economic Origins of Christianity and the Social
Traditions of the Catholic Church"
By Francesco Saverio Nitti
Translated by Mary MacKintosh

For all riches come from iniquity, and unless one were to lose another could not gain. Hence the common adage seems to me to be very true: The rich man is unjust or the heir of an unjust one.

St. Jerome (340?-420)
Epistle to Hebidia, Question 1
Why we fail as Christians, 1919
By Robert Hunter

[The rich] are indeed rather possessed by their money than possessors.

Robert Burton (1577-1640)
The Anatomy of Melancholy, 1621-1651
Part I, section 2, member 3, subsec.12

'Tis strange, the miser should his cares employ
To gain those riches he can ne'er enjoy.

Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
The Rape of the Lock and Other Poems, 1970
"To Richard Boyle, Earl of Burlington:
Of the Use of Riches", 1731

...there is fast forming in this country an aristocracy of wealth - the worst form of aristocracy, that can curse the prosperity of a nation.

Peter Cooper (1791-1883)
Peter Cooper: Citizen of New York, 1949
by Edward C. Mack, p.375

A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
"Where I Lived, and What I Lived For"
Walden, 1854

That man is the richest whose pleasures are cheapest

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
Journal, 1906
11 March 1856

There are those who argue that everything breaks even in this dump of a world of ours. I suppose these ginks who argue that way hold that because the rich man gets ice in the summer and the poor man gets it in the winter things are breaking even for both. Maybe so, but I'll swear I can't see it that way....

Bat Masterson (1853-1921)
25 October 1921
Last words
Gunfighters of the Western Frontier, 1968
Preface by Mark W. Seymour

To suppose, as we all suppose, that we could be rich and not behave as the rich behave, is like supposing that we could drink all day and keep absolutely sober.

Logan Pearsall Smith (1865-1946)
"In the World"
Afterthoughts, 1931


No man, I suspect, ever lived long in the country without being bitten by these meteorological ambitions. He likes to be hotter and colder, to have been more deeply snowed up, to have more trees and larger blown down than his neighbors.

James Russell Lowell (1819-1891)
My Garden Acquaintence, 1871

No land with an unvarying climate can be very beautiful. The tropics are not, for all the sentiment that is wasted on them. They seem beautiful at first, but sameness impairs the charm by and by. Change is the handmaiden Nature requires to do her miracles with. The land that has four well-defined seasons cannot lack beauty, or pall with monotony. Each season brings a world of enjoyment and interest in the watching of its unfolding, its gradual, harmonious development, its culminating graces - and just as one begins to tire of it, it passes away and a radical change comes, with new witcheries and new glories in its train. And I think that to one in sympathy with nature, each season, in its turn, seems the loveliest.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Roughing It, 1872
Volume II, Chapter XV "Glorious Climate of California"

Weather, n. The climate of the hour. A permanent topic of conversation among persons whom it does not interest, but who have inherited the tendency to chatter about it from naked arboreal ancestors whom it keenly concerned. The setting up official weather bureaus and their maintenance in mendacity prove that even governments are accessible to suasion by the rude forefathers of the jungle.

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


[see also: ALCOHOL, BEER]

We hear of the conversion of water into wine at the marriage in Cana, as of a miracle. But this conversion is, through the goodness of God, made every day before our eyes. Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, and which incorporates itself with the grapes to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy! The miracle in question was only performed to hasten the operation under circumstances of present necessity, which required it.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
Letter to Andre Morellet
circa July 1779

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


[see also: FOOLS]

It takes a wise man to recognize a wise man.

Xenophanes (c.570 - c.475 BC)
from Lives of Eminent Philosophers
"Xenophanes", Book IX
by Diogenes Laertius (fl. 2nd century)

To flee vice is the beginning of virtue, and to have got rid of folly is the beginning of wisdom.

Horace (65-8 BC)
Book I, epistle i, line 41

Probabilia...sapientis vita regeretur.
(Probabilities direct the conduct of the wise man.)

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC)
De Natura Deorum, 55 BC
Book I, Chapter 5, Sec.12

Ex vitio alterius, sapiens emendat suum.
(From the errors of others a wise man corrects his own.)

Publilius Syrus (1st century BC)

[Wisdom] is a tree of life to those laying hold of her, making happy each one holding her fast.

Bible, Proverbs 3:18

Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.

Bible, 1 Corinthians 3:18-19

In seeking wisdom thou art wise; in imagining that thou has attained it thou art a fool.

Simon Ben Azzai
Second century AD Jewish scholar

This type of man who is devoted to the study of wisdom is always most unlucky in everything, and particularly when it comes to procreating children; I imagine this is because Nature wants to ensure that the evils of wisdom shall not spread further throughout mankind.

Desiderius Erasmus (c.1466-1536)
Praise of Folly, 1509
Chapter 24

Wisdom hath her excesses, and no less need of moderation than folly.

Montaigne (1533-1592)
"Upon some Verses of Virgil"
Essays, Book 3, Chapter 5
Translated by John Florio, 1588

The plague of man is the opinion of knowledge. That is why ignorance is so recommended by our religion as a quality suitable to belief and obedience.

Montaigne (1533-1592)
"Apology for Raymond Sebond"
The Complete Essays of Montaigne, 1958
Translated by Donald M. Frame

A wise man sees as much as he ought, not as much as he can.

Montaigne (1533-1592)
Misquotation? See entry in LIFE

...there is no great concurrence between learning and wisdom.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
The Advancement of Learning, 1605
Book II, Chapter XXIII, Section 4

A prudent question is one half of wisdom.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
Proverbs, Maxims and Phrases of All Ages, 1887
Volume II, "Questions"
Compiled by Robert Christy

Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
Romeo and Juliet, 1595-1596
Act II, scene iii, line 94

Be wiser than other people, if you can; but do not tell them so.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773)
Letter, 19 November 1745
Reprinted in The Letters of the Earl of Chesterfield to His Son
Volume 1, Number 104
Edited by Charles Strachey, 1901

But the desire of knowledge, like the thirst of riches, increases ever with the acquisition of it.

Laurence Sterne (1713-1768)
Tristram Shandy, Book II, 1760
Chapter 3

Old age takes from the man of sense only those qualities that are useless to wisdom.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824)
Some of the "Thoughts" of Joseph Joubert, 1867
Chapter VII "Of the Different Ages, Of Life, Disease, and Death"
Translated by George H. Calvert

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

If the fool would persist in his folly, he would become wise.

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

A man who knows the world, will not only make the most of every thing he does know, but of many things he does not know, and will gain more credit by his adroit mode of hiding his ignorance, than the pedant by his awkward attempt to exhibit his erudition.

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

Life is a festival only to the wise.

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

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. How easy that seems! Has any one ever done so? Never. Has any man ever attained to inner harmony by pondering the experiences of others? Not since the world began! He must pass through the fire.

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

The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)
Prejudices, Third Series, 1922
Chapter 3

Wisdom ceases to be wisdom when it becomes too proud to weep, too grave to laugh, and too self-ful to seek other than itself.

Khalil Gibran (1883-1931)
Sand and Foam, 1926

The extreme limit of wisdom -- that's what the public calls madness.

Jean Cocteau (1889-1963)
"Le Coq et l'Arlequin", 1926
Collected Works, 1950
Volume 9

God, give us the grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things which should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)
The Serenity Prayer, 1934

Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it and wiser than the one that comes after it.

George Orwell (1903-1950)
The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, 1968

History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives.

Abba Eban (1915-2002)
Speech, London
16 December 1970

For every proverb that confidently asserts its little bit of wisdom, there is usually an equal and opposite proverb that contradicts it.

Richard Boston (b.1938)

From the conscious mind comes intellect; from the unconscious, wisdom.

Exploring Inner Space: Personal Experiences Under LSD-25, 1961
Chapter 5 "The Golden Light"
by Jane Dunlap (1904-1974)


[see also: HUMOR]

Wit is educated insolence.

Aristotle (384-322 BC)
The Art of Rhetoric
Book 2, section 12, subsection 16

Melancholy men of all others are most witty, which causeth many times a divine ravishment, and a kinde of Enthusiasmus, which stirreth them up to bee excellent Philosophers, Poets, Prophets, etc.

Aristotle (384-322 BC)
Paraphrased by Robert Burton in
The Anatomy of Melancholy, 1621-1651
Part I, Section 3, Member 1, Subsection 3

Wit is the salt of conversation, not the food.

William Hazlitt (1778-1830)
"On Wit and Humor"
Lectures on the English Comic Writers, 1819

Wit, n. The salt with which the American humorist spoils his intellectual cookery by leaving it out.

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

Wit is the epitaph of an emotion.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
Menschliches-Allzumenschliches, 1878-1880

But pure wit is akin to Puritanism; to the perfect and painful consciousness of the final fact in the universe. Very briefly, the man who sees the consistency in things is a wit -- and a Calvinist. The man who sees the inconsistency in things is a humorist -- and a Catholic.

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
George Bernard Shaw, 1909
"The Puritan"

...impropriety is the soul of wit.....

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965)
The Moon and Sixpence, 1919
Chapter IV

There's a helluva distance between wisecracking and wit. Wit has truth in it; wisecracking is simply calisthenics with words.

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)
Interview, Writers at Work
Edited by Malcolm Cowley, 1958


Wonder is the feeling of a philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder.

Plato (c.428-348 BC)

...that is ever the difference between the wise and the unwise: the latter wonders at what is unusual, the wise man wonders at the usual.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
"New England Reformers: A Lecture read before the Society in Amory Hall"
Sunday, 03 March 1844
Essays, Second Series, 1844

Faced with the immensity of the universe, Job realized that there are limits to man's rationalizing, that we cannot find where the cloud of sorrow starts, that all our boasted knowledge is but an island in the vast ocean of mystery, and as the island of knowledge grows larger, the shore line of mystery becomes longer. At the end of his wits, he surrendered in trust to a Higher Wisdom.

Ralph Washington Sockman (1889-1970)
The Highway of God, 1942
Chapter V "The Least In The Kingdom"
Section 5 "The Force We Forget"

All our science and philosophy form only an island of knowledge surrounded by an ocean of mystery. The larger the island grows, the longer the shoreline where the known meets the unknown.

Ralph Washington Sockman (1889-1970)
Man's First Love: The Great Commandment, 1958
Section 4 "With All Your Mind"
"Is Goodness Not a Greater Mystery?"

The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder.

Ralph Washington Sockman (1889-1970)
Paraphrase of previous quotation?

He who wonders discovers that this is in itself a wonder.

M.C. Escher (1898-1970)
M.C. Escher, 1959

As known unknowns become known; unknown unknowns proliferate; the larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder.

Huston Smith (b.1919)
The Religions of Man, 1958
Chapter X "A Final Examination"



Hinc quam sic calamus saevior ense, patet.
(The pen worse than the sword.)

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

Dictionaries are like watches; the worst is better than none, and the best cannot be expected to go quite true.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
Anecdotes of Samuel Johnson, 1786
by Hester Lynch Piozzi (1741-1821)

Bare lists of words are found suggestive, to an imaginative and excited mind....

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

A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanging; it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in color and content according to the circumstances and the time in which it is used.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1841-1935)
Towne vs. Eisner, 245 U.S. 418, 425
07 January 1918

Words, as is well known, are the great foes of reality.

Joseph Conrad (1857-1924)
Under Western Eyes, 1911
Prologue, Part I

It seems important at this point of our considerations to emphasize the fact that the groups of ideas expressed by specific phonetic groups show very material differences in different languages, and do not conform by any means to the same principles of classification. To take again the example of English, we find that the idea of Water is expressed in a great variety of forms: one term serves to express water as a Liquid; another one, water in the form of a large expanse (lake); others, water as running in a large body or in a small body (river and Brook); still other terms express water in the form of Rain, Dew, Wave, and Foam. It is perfectly conceivable that this variety of ideas, each of which is expressed by a single independent term in English, might be expressed in other languages by derivations from the same term.

Another example of the same kind, the words for SNOW in Eskimo, may be given. Here we find one word, aput, expressing SNOW ON THE GROUND; another one, qana, FALLING SNOW; a third one, piqsirpoq, DRIFTING SNOW; and a fourth one, qimuqsuq, A SNOWDRIFT.

Franz Boas (1858-1942)
Introduction to the Handbook of American Indian languages, 1911
Part II The Characteristics of Language

Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)
Speech, 14 February 1923
Times, London, 15 February 1923

For the individual, as I can testify, a brief grounding in semantics, besides making philosophy unreadable, makes unreadable most political speeches, classical economic theory, after-dinner oratory, diplomatic notes, newspaper editorials, treatises on pedagogics and education, expert financial comment, dissertations on money and credit, accounts of debates, and Great Thoughts from Great Thinkers in general. You would be surprised at the amount of time this saves.

Stuart Chase (1888-1985)
The Tyranny of Words, 1938
Chapter 1 "A Writer in Search of His Words"

Many excellent words are ruined by too definite a knowledge of their meaning.

Aline Kilmer (1888-1941)
Hunting a Hair Shirt, and Other Spiritual Adventures, 1923
Chapter 11 "Works of Reference"

In fact, words are well adapted for description and the arousing of emotion, but for many kinds of precise thought other symbols are much better.

J.B.S. Haldane (1892-1964)
The Inequality of Man, 1932

Nauseous. Nauseated. The first means "sickening to contemplate"; the second means "sick at the stomach." Do not, therefore, say "I feel nauseous," unless you are sure you have that effect on others.

E.B. White (1899-1985)
The Elements of Style, 1979
By William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
Chapter IV "Words and Expressions Commonly Misused"

...there is the vague sense we all have that foreign languages are inherently absurd: foreigners have such funny names for things, and why can't they call things by their right names? This feeling exhibits itself most strongly in those English and American tourists who seem to believe that they can make the natives of any country understand English if they shout loud enough. Like the little boy who was reported to have said, "Pigs are called pigs because they are such dirty animals," they feel that the symbol is inherently connected in some way with the things symbolized. Then there are the people who feel that since snakes are "nasty, slimy creatures" (incidentally, snakes are not slimy), the word "snake" is a nasty, slimy word.

Samuel Ichiyé Hayakawa (1906-1992)
Language in Thought and Action, 1949
Chapter 2 "Symbols: Language as Symbolism"

My general theory since 1971 has been that the word is literally a virus, and that it has not been recognised as such because it has achieved a state of relatively stable symbiosis with its human host; that is to say, the word virus (the Other Half) has established itself so firmly as an accepted part of the human organism that it can now sneer at gangster viruses like smallpox and turn them in to the Pasteur Institute.

William S. Burroughs (1914-1997)
"Ten Years and a Billion Dollars"
The Adding Machine, 1985

The purpose of a fish trap is to catch fish,
and when the fish are caught, the trap is forgotten.

The purpose of a rabbit snare is to catch rabbits.
When the rabbits are caught, the snare is forgotten.

The purpose of words is to convey ideas.
When the ideas are grasped, the words are forgotten.

Where can I find a man who has forgotten words?
He is the one I would like to talk to.

Thomas Merton (1915-1968)
The Way of Chuang Tzu, 1965
"Means and Ends"

That phrase "hocus-pocus" started out as "hocus-pocus dominocus", and was, in the beginning, a mocking imitation of the holy incantations of the Catholic Church's Latin liturgy. So say the lexicologists.

L.M. Boyd (1927-2007)
"The Informed Source"
The Orlando [Florida] Sentinel
11 August 1991

The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words.

Philip K. Dick (1928-1982)
"How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later"
I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon, 1986

Tonight's the night I shall be talking about of flu the subject of word association football. This is a technique out a living much used in the practice makes perfect of psychoanalysister and brother and one that has occupied piper the majority rule of my attention squad by the right number one two three four the last five years to the memory. It is quite remarkable baker charlie how much the miller's son this so-called while you were out word association immigrants' problems influences the manner from heaven in which we sleekit cowering timrous beasties all-American Speke, the famous explorer. And the really well that is surprising partner in crime is that a lot and his wife of the lions' feeding time we may be c d e effectively quite unaware of the fact or fiction section of the Watford Public Library that we are even doing it is a far, far better thing that I do now then, now then, what's going onward christian Barnard the famous hearty part of the lettuce now praise famous mental homes for loonies like me. So on the button, my contention causing all the headaches, is that unless we take into account of Monte Cristo in our thinking George the Fifth this phenomenon the other hand we shall not be able satisFact or Fiction section of the Watford Public Library againily to understand to attention when I'm talking to you and stop laughing, about human nature, man's psychological make-up some story the wife'll believe and hence the very meaning of life itselfish bastard, I'll kick him in the Ball's Pond Road.

Monty Python
"Word Association Football"
The Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief
(Charisma CAS 1080, 1973)



The life of money-making is a constrained kind of life, and clearly wealth is not the good we are in search of, for it is only good as being useful, a means to something else.

Aristotle (384-322 BC)
The Nicomachean Ethics
Book I

Now in regard to trades and other means of livelihood, which ones are to be considered becoming to a gentleman and which ones are vulgar, we have been taught, in general, as follows. First, those means of livelihood are rejected as undesirable which incur people's ill-will, as those of tax-gatherers and usurers. Unbecoming to a gentleman, too, and vulgar are the means of livelihood of all hired workmen whom we pay for mere manual labour, not for artistic skill; for in their case the very wage they receive is a pledge of their slavery.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC)
De Officiis, Book I, Section 42
Translated by Walter Miller, 1913

A man may, if he knows not how to save as he gets, keep his nose to the grindstone.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
Poor Richard's Almanac, 1757

...the understandings of the greater part of men are necessarily formed by their ordinary employments. The man whose whole life is spent in performing a few simple operations, of which the effects are perhaps always the same, or very nearly the same, has no occasion to exert his understanding or to exercise his invention in finding out expedients for removing difficulties which never occur.

He naturally loses, therefore, the habit of such exertion, and generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become. The torpor of his mind renders him not only incapable of relishing or bearing a part in any rational conversation, but of conceiving any generous, noble, or tender sentiment, and consequently of forming any just judgment.

Adam Smith (1723-1790)
An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 1776
Book V Of the Revenue of the Sovereign or Commonwealth

L'ennui est une maladie dont le travail est le remède; le plaisir n'est qu'un palliatif.
(Boredom is a disease whose work is the remedy, the pleasure is only a palliative.)

Pierre-Marc-Gaston de Levis (1764-1830)
"Maximes et Préceptes", Number XXVI
Maximes et Réflections sur Différents Sujets de Morale et de Politique, 1810

I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
Walden, 1854
Chapter 1 "Economy"

...the realm of freedom does not commence until the point is passed where labor under the compulsion of necessity and of external utility is required.

Karl Marx (1818-1883)
Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, 1909
Part VII "The Revenues and Their Sources"
Chapter XLVIII "The Trinitarian Formula
Section III
Translated by Ernest Untermann"

Intellectual "work" is misnamed; it is a pleasure, a dissipation, and is its own highest reward. The poorest paid architect, engineer, general, author, sculptor, painter, lecturer, advocate, legislator, actor, preacher, singer is constructively in heaven when he is at work; and as for the musician with the fiddlebow in his hand who sits in the midst of a great orchestra with the ebbing and flowing tides of divine sound washing over him - why, certainly, he is at work, if you wish to call it that, but lord, it's a sarcasm just the same. The law of work does seem utterly unfair - but there it is, and nothing can change it: the higher the pay in enjoyment the worker gets out of it, the higher shall be his pay in cash, also.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, 1889
Chapter 28 "Drilling the King"

...I do not like work even when another person does it.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
"The Lost Napoleon", 1901

Labor, n. One of the processes by which A acquires property for B.

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

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.

Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931)

I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours. I love to keep it by me: the idea of getting rid of it nearly breaks my heart.

Jerome Klapka Jerome (1859-1927)
Three Men and a Boat, 1889
Chapter 15

The return from your work must be the satisfaction which that work brings you and the world's need of that work. With this, life is heaven, or as near heaven as you can get. Without this - with work which you despise, which bores you, and which the world does not need - this life is hell.

W.E.B. DuBois (1868-1963)
To his newborn great-grandson;
address on his 90th birthday, 1958

One of the symptoms of approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell
Volume 2, 1968

By working faithfully eight hours a day, you may eventually get to be a boss and work 12 hours a day.

Robert Frost (1874-1963)
Authenticity doubtful is a dull thing; you cannot get away from that. The only agreeable existence is one of idleness, and that is not, unfortunately, always compatible with continuing to exist at all. So work we must; the only question is, what at?

Rose Macaulay (1881-1958)
"A Preliminary Word"
A Casual Commentary, 1925

A life spent in constant labor is a life wasted, save a man be such a fool as to regard a fulsome obituary notice as ample reward.

George Jean Nathan (1882-1958)
"Confessional: Self-Revelation"
The World of George Jean Nathan, 1952

Anyone can do any amount of work provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing.

Robert Benchley (1889-1945)
Quoted in The Algonquin Wits
Edited by Robert E. Drennan, 1968

There's a lot of rot talked about the sufferings of the working class. I'm not so sorry for the proles myself.... The prole suffers physically, but he's a free man when he isn't working. But in every one of those little stucco boxes there's some poor bastard who's never free except when he's fast asleep and dreaming that he's got the boss down the bottom of a well and is bunging lumps of coal at him.

George Orwell (1903-1950)
Coming up for Air, 1939
Part 1, Chapter 2

...there's nothing of any importance in life -- except how well you do your work. Nothing. Only that. Whatever else you are, will come from that. It's the only measure of human value. All the codes of ethics they'll try to ram down your throat are just so much paper money put out by swindlers to fleece people of their virtues. The code of competence is the only system of morality that's on a gold standard.

Ayn Rand (1905-1982)
Atlas Shrugged, 1957
Part One "Non-Contradiction"
Chapter V "The Climax of the D'Anconias"

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. General recognition of this fact is shown in the proverbial phrase "It is the busiest man who has time to spare."

C. Northcote Parkinson (1909-1993)
"Parkinson's Law", Opening words
Parkinson's Law, or the Pursuit of Progress, 1958
Chapter 1

In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence.

Laurence Johnston Peter (1919-1990)
"The Peter Principle"
The Peter Principle, 1969
Chapter 1 "The Peter Principle"

Work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence.

Laurence Johnston Peter (1919-1990)
The Peter Principle, 1969
Chapter 1 "The Peter Principle"

...the price one pays for pursuing any profession, or calling, is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side.

James Baldwin (1924-1987)
"Tha Black Boy Looks at the White Boy"
Esquire, May 1961

Work to survive, survive by consuming, survive to consume; the hellish cycle is complete.

Raoul Vaneigem (b.1934)
The Revolution of Everyday Life, 1967
Chapter 7 "The Age of Happiness", section 2
Translated by John Fullerton and Paul Sieveking

The world of the commodity is a world upside-down, which bases itself not upon life but upon the transformation of life into work.

Raoul Vaneigem (b.1934)
The Book Of Pleasures, 1979
Chapter 1 "Intense Pleasure Implies the End of
All Forms of Work and of All Restraint", Section 1
Translated by John Fullerton, 1983

The work that the kids saw around them was so odious, so boring, so worthless that they came to regard WORK as the only dirty four-letter word in the English language.

Abbie Hoffman (1936-1989)
"Thorns of the Flower Children"
Woodstock Nation, 1969

Work is the source of nearly all the misery in the world.

Bob Black (b.1951)
The Abolition of Work, 1985

You are what you do. If you do boring, stupid, monotonous work, chances are you'll end up boring, stupid, and monotonous. Work is a much better explanation for the creeping cretinization all around us than even such significant moronizing mechanisms as television and education. People who are regimented all their lives, handed to work from school and bracketed by the family in the beginning and the nursing home at the end, are habituated to hierarchy and psychologically enslaved. Their aptitude for autonomy is so atrophied that their fear of freedom is among their few rationally grounded phobias. Their obedience training at work carries over into the families they start, thus reproducing the system in more ways than one, and into politics, culture, and everything else. Once you drain the vitality from people at work, they'll likely submit to hierarchy and expertise in everything. They're used to it.

Bob Black (b.1951)
The Abolition of Work, 1985

The secret to making downsizing work is for managers to recognize the psychological impact. Experiments on laboratory animals show that if you apply continuous electrical shocks to a captive dog, eventually your electric bills will be so high that you'll feel angry at the dog. Companies apply this same medical theory to downsizing. The first rounds of downsizing usually get the people that nobody likes anyway. Those are easy. By the later rounds, managers begin to genuinely hate the remaining employees. They'll become cold-hearted enough to fire family members while humming show tunes. That's when the real savings start.

Scott Adams (b.1957)
The Dilbert Principle, 1996
Chapter 21, "Downsizing"

It's only work if somebody makes you do it.

Bill Watterson (b.1958)
The Revenge of the Baby-Sat, 1991
A Calvin and Hobbes Collection

Work faithfully for eight hours a day and don't worry; then in time you may become a boss and work twelve hours a day and have all the worry.

Friends' Intelligencer: Volume 85, 1928


A man's interest in the world is only the overflow from his interest in himself. When you are a child your vessel is not yet full; so you care for nothing but your own affairs. When you grow up, your vessel overflows; and you are a politician, a philosopher, or an explorer and adventurer. In old age the vessel dries up: there is no overflow: you are a child again.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
Heartbreak House, 1919, Act 2

The Sage of Toronto [Marshall McLuhan]...spent several decades marveling at the numerous freedoms created by a "global village" instantly and effortlessly accessible to all. Villages, unlike towns, have always been ruled by conformism, isolation, petty surveillance, boredom and repetitive malicious gossip about the same families. Which is a precise enough description of the global spectacle's present vulgarity.

Guy Debord (b.1931)
Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, 1988
Chapter 12


[see also: LITERATURE]

I hold that gentleman to be the best dressed whose dress no one observes. I am not sure but that the same may be said of an author's written language.

Anthony Trollope (1815-1882)
Thackeray, 1879
Chapter 9

The writer who loses his self-doubt, who gives way as he grows old to a sudden euphoria, to prolixity, should stop writing immediately: the time has come for him to lay aside his pen.

Colette (1873-1954)
Speech on being elected to the Belgian Academy
Published in Earthly Paradise
Part 4, "Lady of Letters"
Edited by Robert Phelps, 1966

All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives lies a mystery. Writing a book is a long, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.

George Orwell (1903-1950)
"Why I Write", 1947
Collected Essays, 1961

If you describe things as better than they are, you are considered to be a romantic; if you describe things as worse than they are, you will be called a realist; and if you describe things exactly as they are, you will be thought of as a satirist.

Quentin Crisp (1908-1999)
The Naked Civil Servant, 1968
Chapter 24

One reason writers write is out of revenge. Life hurts; certain ideas and experiences hurt; one wants to clarify, to set out illuminations, to replay the old bad scenes and get the Treppenworte said -- the words one didn't have the strength or ripeness to say when those words were necessary for one's dignity or survival.

Cynthia Ozick (b.1928)
Writers at Work
Eighth Series, 1988

Writing and rewriting are a constant search for what one is saying.

John Updike (b.1932)
Writing With Style: Conversations on the Art of Writing, 1975
by John Trimble

Seeking the right shape for a sentence or a paragraph, one may labor for an hour, a day, or off and on for a year. And still the result may not satisfy one's ear or one's desire for congruence between language and experience. No matter how painstaking the writing, the reality one seeks to convey is always larger, subtler, more highly charged than what one has managed to set down.

Scott Russell Sanders (b.1945)
"Buffalo Eddy"
Orion magazine, March/April 2012

When you had to carve things in stone, you got the Ten Commandments. When things had to be written with a goose quill and you had to boil blood or whatever to make ink, you got Shakespeare. When you went over to the steel pen and manufactured inks, you got Henry James. You get to the typewriter, you get Jack Kerouac. When you get down to the wordprocessor - you get me. So improvement in the technology of writing hasn't improved writing itself, as far as I can tell.

P.J. O'Rourke (b.1947)
Wired, January 1998

Use foreign phrases. French is good, but Latin is the lingua franca of flaming. You should use the words "ad hominem" at least three times per article. Other favorite Latin phrases are "ad nauseum", "veni, vidi, vici", and "fettuccini alfredo".

alt.flame post by Joe Talmadge
02 December 1987

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