Food For Thought

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

author index

New Quotations



Dependence syndrome

A cluster of physiological, behavioural, and cognitive phenomena in which the use of a substance or a class of substances takes on a much higher priority for a given individual than other behaviours that once had greater value. A central descriptive characteristic of the dependence syndrome is the desire (often strong, sometimes overpowering) to take psychoactive drugs (which may or may not have been medically prescribed), alcohol, or tobacco. There may be evidence that return to substance use after a period of abstinence leads to a more rapid reappearance of other features of the syndrome than occurs with nondependent individuals.

Diagnostic guidelines

A definite diagnosis of dependence should usually be made only if three or more of the following have been present together at some time during the previous year:

(a) a strong desire or sense of compulsion to take the substance;

(b) difficulties in controlling substance-taking behaviour in terms of its onset, termination, or levels of use;

(c) a physiological withdrawal state when substance use has ceased or been reduced, as evidenced by the characteristic withdrawal syndrome for the substance; or use of the same (or a closely related) substance with the intention of relieving or avoiding withdrawal symptoms;

(d) evidence of tolerance, such that increased doses of the psychoactive substances are required in order to achieve effects originally produced by lower doses (clear examples of this are found in alcohol- and opiate-dependent individuals who may take daily doses sufficient to incapacitate or kill nontolerant users);

(e) progressive neglect of alternative pleasures or interests because of psychoactive substance use, increased amount of time necessary to obtain or take the substance or to recover from its effects;

(f) persisting with substance use despite clear evidence of overtly harmful consequences, such as harm to the liver through excessive drinking, depressive mood states consequent to periods of heavy substance use, or drug-related impairment of cognitive functioning; efforts should be made to determine that the user was actually, or could be expected to be, aware of the nature and extent of the harm.

Narrowing of the personal repertoire of patterns of psychoactive substance use has also been described as a characteristic feature (e.g., a tendency to drink alcoholic drinks in the same way on weekdays and weekends, regardless of social constraints that determine appropriate drinking behaviour).

"The ICD-10 classification of mental and behavioural
disorders: clinical descriptions and diagnostic guidelines"
Geneva, World Health Organization, 1992
[ICD-10 == Tenth Revision of the International Statistical
Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems]

Dependence syndrome

Three or more of the following manifestations should have occurred together for at least 1 month or, if persisting for periods of less than 1 month, should have occurred together repeatedly within a 12-month period:

(1) a strong desire or sense of compulsion to take the substance;

(2) impaired capacity to control substance-taking behaviour in terms of its onset, termination, or levels of use, as evidenced by the substance being often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended; or by a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to reduce or control substance use;

(3) a physiological withdrawal state when substance use is reduced or ceased, as evidenced by the characteristic withdrawal syndrome for the substance, or by use of the same (or closely related) substance with the intention of relieving or avoiding withdrawal symptoms;

(4) evidence of tolerance to the effects of the substance, such that there is a need for significantly increased amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or the desired effect, or a markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of the substance;

(5) preoccupation with substance use, as manifested by important alternative pleasures or interests being given up or reduced because of substance use; or a great deal of time being spent in activities necessary to obtain, take, or recover from the effects of the substance;

(6) persistent substance use despite clear evidence of harmful consequences, as evidenced by continued use when the individual is actually aware, or may be expected to be aware, of the nature and extent of harm.

"The ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioural
Disorders: Diagnostic criteria for research"
Geneva, World Health Organization, 1992
[ICD-10 == Tenth Revision of the International Statistical
Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems]


The obvious lesson of all of which is that the first step to the knowledge of the highest divine symbol of the wonder and mystery of life is in the recognition of the monstrous nature of life and its glory in that character: the realization that this is just how it is and that it cannot and will not be changed. Those who think -- and their name is legion -- that they know how the universe could have been better than it is, how it would have been had they created it, without pain, without sorrow, without time, without life, are unfit for illumination. Or those who think -- as do many -- "Let me first correct society, then get around to myself" are barred from even the outer gate of the mansion of God's peace. All societies are evil, sorrowful, inequitable; and so they will always be. So if you really want to help this world, what you will have to teach is how to live in it. And that no one can do who has not himself learned how to live in it in the joyful sorrow and sorrowful joy of the knowledge of life as it is.

Joseph Campbell (1904-1987)
Myths to Live By, 1972
Chapter V "The Confrontation of East and West in Religion", 1970


There is a Japanese saying I recall once having heard, of the five stages of man's growth. "At ten, an animal; at twenty, a lunatic; at thirty, a failure; at forty, a fraud; at fifty, a criminal." And at sixty, I would add (since by that time one will have gone through all this), one begins advising one's friends; and at seventy (realizing that everything said has been misunderstood) one keeps quiet and is taken for a sage. "At eighty," then said Confucius, "I knew my ground and stood firm."

Joseph Campbell (1904-1987)
Myths to Live By, 1993
Chapter X "Schizophrenia -- the Inward Journey", 1970


The primary function of Eastern agriculture is to supply the cultivators and their cattle with food. This automatically follows because of the pressure of the population on the land: the main hunger the soil has to appease is that of the stomach. A subsidiary hunger is that of the machine which needs raw materials for manufacture. This extra hunger is new but has developed considerably since the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 (by which the small fields of the cultivator have been brought into effective contact with the markets of the West) and the establishment of local industries like cotton and jute. To both these hungers soil fertility has to respond. We know from long experience that the fields of India can respond to the hunger of the stomach. Whether they can fulfil the added demands of the machine remains to be seen.

Albert Howard (1873-1947)
An Agricultural Testament, 1943
Chapter 1 "Introduction: The Practices of the Orient"


Give strong drink to one who is perishing,
and wine to those in bitter distress;
let them drink and forget their poverty,
and remember their misery no more.

Bible, Proverbs 31:6-7

Why, if 'tis dancing you would be,
There's brisker pipes than poetry.
Say, for what were hop-yards meant,
Or why was Burton built on Trent?
Oh many a peer of England brews
Livelier liquor than the Muse,
And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God's ways to man.
Ale, man, ale's the stuff to drink
For fellows whom it hurts to think:
Look into the pewter pot
To see the world as the world's not.

A.E. Housman (1859-1936)
"Hughley Steeple", LXII
A Shropshire Lad, 1896


I suspect that what makes hedonists so angry when they think about overachievers is that the overachievers, without drugs or orgies, have more fun.

Wallace Earle Stegner (1909-1993)
Crossing to Safety, 1987
Part I, Chapter 7


The day may come, when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny. The French have already discovered that the blackness of the skin is no reason why a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor. It may come one day to be recognised, that the number of the legs, the villosity of the skin, or the termination of the os sacrum, are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate? What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason, or, perhaps, the faculty of discourse? But a full-grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day, or a week, or even a month old. But suppose the case were otherwise, what would it avail? the question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?

Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832)
Introduction to Principles of Morals and Legislation, 1780
Chapter XIX "Of the Limits of the Penal Branch of Jurisprudence"
1. "Limits Between Private Ethics and the Art of Legislation"
Part IV, footnote

I believe I am not interested to know whether Vivisection produces results that are profitable to the human race or doesn't. To know that the results are profitable to the race would not remove my hostility to it. The pains which it inflicts upon unconsenting animals is the basis of my enmity towards it, and it is to me sufficient justification of the enmity without looking further. It is so distinctly a matter of feeling with me, and is so strong and so deeply-rooted in my make and constitution, that I am sure I could not even see a vivisector vivisected with anything more than a sort of qualified satisfaction. I do not say I should not go and look on; I only mean that I should almost surely fail to get out of it the degree of contentment which it ought, of course, to be expected to furnish.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Letter to Mr. Sidney G. Trist, editor
Animals' Friend, April 1900

Once, when camped on a rocky point along the Canadian border with the moon at full and my tent pitched in the light of it, I was laying in my bag, tent flaps open, studying the effect of pine needles etched against the sky. Suddenly I was aware of a slight rustle, as though some small animal was trying to climb the silken roof of the tent. Then I saw that it was a mouse scrambling desperately up the edge of the side wall. For a moment it hesitated, then slipped backward, and I thought it surely must fall. Another wild scramble and it was on the ridge rope itself, tottering uncertainly back and forth. Then, to my amazement, the mouse launched itself out into space and slid down the smooth and shining surface of the tent to the ground below.

The action was repeated many times until the little animal became expert and reckless and lost no time between the climb back and the sheer abandon of its slide. Faster and faster it ran, intoxicated now by its new and thrilling experience; up along the edge, straight toward the center of the ridge rope, a swift leap, belly down, legs spread wide to get the full effect of the exhilarating toboggan it had found, a slide of balloon silk straight to the needle-strewn ground below.

I watched the game for a long time. Eventually I stopped trying to count the slides and wondered at last how the mouse could possibly keep up its pace. As I lay there, I became convinced that it was enjoying itself hugely, that I was witnessing an activity which had no purpose but pleasure. I had seen many animals play in the moonlight -- had watched a family of otters enjoying a slide into a deep pool, beaver playing a game of tag in a pond, squirrels chasing one another wildly through the silver-splashed tops of the pines. Under the magic spell of the moon, the mouse had acted no differently than the rest.

Sigurd F. Olson (1899-1982)
Wilderness Days, 1972
"Autumn: Hunter's Moon"


If there were a verb meaning "to believe falsely", it would not have any significant first person present indicative.

Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951)
Philosophical Investigations, 2009
Fragment X, Number 92
Translated by G.E.M. Anscombe, P.M.S. Hacker, Joachim Schulte


"For that which is born, death is certain," he is told; "and for that which is dead, birth is certain. You should not grieve over the unavoidable... The Supreme Self, which dwells in all bodies, can never be slain." "Weapons cut it not; fire burns it not; water wets it not; the wind does not wither it. Eternal, universal, unchanging, immovable, the Self is the same forever... Dwelling in all bodies, the Self can never be slain. Therefore you should not grieve for any creature.

Bhagavad-Gita (250 BC - AD 250)
Chapter 2, verses 27, 30, 23
Translated by Joseph Campbell (1904-1987)
Myths to Live By, 1993
Chapter IX "Mythologies of War and Peace", 1967


I believe I saw a woodcock. He had a long bill like putting a fire hydrant into a pencil sharpener, then pasting it onto a bird and letting the bird fly away in front of me with this thing on its face for no other purpose than to amaze me.

Richard Brautigan (1933-1984)
Trout Fishing in America, 1967
"On Paradise"


Some day I hope to write a book where the royalties will pay for the copies I give away.

Clarence Darrow (1857-1938)
Quoted in Democracy Works, 1939
Chapter 3 "What Hath Man Wrought!"
Footnote, page 108
By Arthur Garfield Hays (1881-1954)


We are always bored by the very people by whom it is vital not to be bored.

La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680)
Maxims, 1959
Reflections or Aphorisms and Moral Maxims
Maxim 352
Translated by Leonard Tancock


Judges and lawyers furthermore have granted to a legal abstraction the rights, privileges, and protection vouchsafed to a living, breathing human being. It is thus that corporations, as well as you or I, are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It would surely be a rollicking sight to see the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey in pursuit of happiness at a dance hall. It would be a sight to see United States Smelting and Refining being brought back to consciousness by a squad of coastguardmen armed with a respirator, to see the Atlas Corporation enjoying its constitutional freedom at a nudsit camp.

Stuart Chase (1888-1985)
The Tyranny of Words, 1938
Chapter 2 "A Look Around the Modern World"


Some time later King Ben-hadad of Aram mustered his entire army; he marched against Samaria and laid siege to it. As the siege continued, famine in Samaria became so great that a donkey’s head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and one-fourth of a kab of dove’s dung for five shekels of silver.

Now as the king of Israel was walking on the city wall, a woman cried out to him, "Help, my lord king!"

He said, "No! Let the Lord help you. How can I help you? From the threshing-floor or from the wine press?" But then the king asked her, "What is your complaint?"

She answered, "This woman said to me, 'Give up your son; we will eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.' So we cooked my son and ate him. The next day I said to her, 'Give up your son and we will eat him.' But she has hidden her son."

Bible, 2 Kings 6:24-29


One of the complicating factors in the Occupy movement is that so many of the thrown-away people of our society -- the homeless, the marginal, the mentally ill, the addicted -- have come to Occupy encampments for safe sleeping space, food, and medical care. And these economic refugees were generously taken in by the new civil society, having been thrown out by the old uncivil one.

Complicating everything further was the fact that the politicians and the mainstream media were more than happy to blame the occupiers for taking in what society as a whole created, and for the complications that then ensued. (No mayor, no paper now complains about the unsanitariness of throwing the homeless and others back onto the streets of our cities as winter approaches.)

Rebecca Solnit (b.1961)
"Civil Society at Ground Zero" blog, 22 November 2011


Yet she increased her whorings, remembering the days of her youth, when she played the whore in the land of Egypt and lusted after her paramours there, whose members were like those of donkeys, and whose emission was like that of stallions. Thus you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when the Egyptians fondled your bosom and caressed your young breasts.

Bible, Ezekiel 23:19-21


Et ait dominus servo: Exi in vias et sepes et compelle intrare, ut impleatur domus mea.
(And the lord said to the servant, "Go out into the roads and hedges and compel [them] to come in, so that my house may be filled".)

Bible, Luke 14:23

From what has been said, it seems that one can infer that the [Christian] faith is in the Indians very imperfectly and that, since preaching has not sufficed, rigorous punishment is needed, because, being -- as they are -- children of terror, it may be that punishment may accomplish what reason has not been sufficient to, since the Apostle said, compellite eos intrare.

Hernando Ruiz de Alarcon (16th century)
Treatise on the Heathen Superstitions that Today Live Among the
Indians Native to This New Spain
, 1629
First Treatise, Chapter 6 "About the Superstition Concerning Ololiuhqui"
Translated and edited by James Richard Andrews (b.1924) and
Ross Hassig (b.1945), 1984
Latin should read "compelle intrare" (compel them to come in), Luke 14:23

The words compelle intrare, compel them to come in, have been so abused by wicked men that we shudder at them; but, properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy. The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)
Surprised by Joy, 1955
Chapter 14 "Checkmate"


[T]hough I liked clergymen as I liked bears, I had as little wish to be in the Church as in the zoo.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)
Surprised by Joy, 1955
Chapter 15 "The Beginning"


"I think there is a desire to establish a religion in America known as secularism."
- Mitt Romney, 02 April 2012; Milwaukee WI

Once again: the opposite of secularism is sectarianism.

Those are the choices. Pick one.

Romney chooses sectarianism.

Next question for everyone who, like Romney, rejects secularism: Which sect do you think should be established as the official one?

Because if you don't want a secular government, then you're going to have to tell us which sect should be in charge.

Fred Clark (b.1968)
"Secular or sectarian: Pick one or the other"
20 April 2012


In a world of fugitives,
The person taking the opposite direction
Will appear to run away.

T.S. Eliot (1888-1965)
"The Family Reunion"
Part I, Scene II


All extremes, except extreme devotion to the Enemy, are to be encouraged. Not always, of course, but at this period. Some ages are lukewarm and complacent, and then it is our business to soothe them yet faster asleep. Other ages, of which the present is one, are unbalanced and prone to faction, and it is our business to inflame them. Any small coterie, bound together by some interest which other men dislike or ignore, tends to develop inside itself a hothouse mutual admiration, and towards the outer world, a great deal of pride and hatred which is entertained without shame because the "Cause" is its sponsor and it is thought to be impersonal.

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


When Satan finds a rebel in his realm,
He laces round the head of the poor fool
A frightful mask, a sort of visored helm
That has a lining soaked in vitriol.
The renegade begins to scream with pain.
(The mask is not designed to gag the sound,
Which propagates the terror of his reign.)
The screams come through the visor, but are drowned
By the great shouting of the overlord,
Who, in relaying them, distorts their sense
So that the cringing listeners record
Mere cries of villainy or penitence...
Yet Satan has a stronger hold: the fear
That, if his rule is threatened, he will tear
The mask from that pain-crazed automaton
And show his vassals just what he has done.

Norman Cameron (1905-1953)
"A Modern Nightmare"
The Collected Poems of Norman Cameron, 1905-1953, 1957

As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.

Wendell Berry (b.1934)
"Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front"
The Country of Marriage, 1973


She has two kinds of urination, Necessity and Social. Different stances are usually, though not invariably, adopted for each. In necessity she squats squarely and abruptly, right down on her shins, her hind legs forming a kind of dam against the stream that gushes out from behind; her tail curves up like a scimitar; her expression is complacent. For social urination, which is mostly preceded by the act of smelling, she seldom squats, but balances herself on one hind leg, the other being withdrawn or cocked up in the air. The reason for this seems obvious; she is watering some special thing and wishes to avoid touching it. It may also be that in this attitude she can more accurately bestow her drops. Often they are merely drops, a single token drop will do, for the social flow is less copious. The expression on her face is business-like, as though she were signing a cheque.

Joe Randolph Ackerley (1896-1967)
My Dog Tulip, 1956
Chapter 2 "Liquids and Solids"

There is no doubt that a dog is loyal. But does that mean we should emulate him? After all, he is loyal to people, not to other dogs.

Karl Kraus (1874-1936)
Half-Truths & One-and-a-Half Truths, 1976
Translated by Harry Zohn
"Lord, forgive them"

Each morning for the next few weeks we tracked the coyotes in this manner. Lola would leave her sign and I'd leave mine. It must have been tremendously rewarding for the dog. For years we'd walked the woods each day, always on my terms, while Lola sniffed deliriously at every pert scent (deer,coyote, raccoon, mink). She knew exactly who'd passed in the night (turkey, squirrel, possum, weasel, vole); she'd shoot off by herself and return with the exhilarating news (porcupine, chipmunk, fisher, bobcat, bear!). But I hadn't been listening to what she had to say, and now I paid attention as she led. That first morning when she found the coyote scat and I praised her wildly she looked at me, tongue out, as if to say: Finally, you get it. This is the real news. This is the shit!

Brad Kessler (b.1963)
Goat Song, 2009
Part III "Maturation", "Scatology"


The Marxian formula, "Religion is the opium of the people," is reversible, and one can say, with even more truth, that "Opium is the religion of the people."

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
"Brave New World Revisited"
Esquire, July 1956

Turn On meant go within to activate your neural and genetic equipment. Become sensitive to the many and various levels of consciousness and the specific triggers that engage them. Drugs were one way to accomplish this end.

Tune In meant interact harmoniously with the world around you -- externalize, materialize, express your new internal perspectives.

Drop Out suggested an active, selective, graceful process of detachment from involuntary or unconscious commitments. Drop Out meant self-reliance, a discovery of one's singularity, a commitment to mobility, choice, and change.

In public statements I stressed that the Turn On-Tune In-Drop Out process must be continually repeated if one wished to live a life of growth. Unhappily my explanations of this sequence of personal development were often misinterpreted to mean "get stoned and abandon all constructive activity."

Tim Leary (1920-1996)
Flashbacks: An Autobiography, 1983
Part 2 "Paedomorphis -- Juvenilization"
Chapter 30 "Altered States"


Men and women feel such an urgent need to take occasional holidays from reality that they will do almost anything to procure the means of escape. The only justification for prohibition would be success; but it is not, and in the nature of things, cannot be successful. The way to prevent people from drinking too much alcohol, or becoming addicts to morphine or cocaine, is to give them an efficient but wholesome substitute for these delicious and (in the present imperfect world) necessary poisons. The man who invents such a substance will be counted among the greatest benefactors of suffering humanity.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
"A Treatise on Drugs"
The Chicago Herald and Examiner
10 October 1931

I believe that with the advent of acid, we discovered a new way to think, and it has to do with piecing together new thoughts in your mind. Why is it that people think it's so evil? What is it about it that scares people so deeply, even the guy that invented it, what is it? Because they're afraid that there's more to reality than they have confronted. That there are doors that they're afraid to go in, and they don't want us to go in there either, because if we go in we might learn something that they don't know. And that makes us a little out of their control.

Ken Kesey (1935-2001)
"The Beyond Within: The Rise and Fall of LSD," 1987
BBC documentary


One might wonder where there was room for so many people, and how there was enough food for them to eat. Indeed. We might call it the Hydrocarbon Culture, or the Oil Culture. Unimaginable quantities of coal and oil and gas were mined and burned. It was as if they were burning all of the forests in the entire country every four or five years, and doing this decade after decade. The hydrocarbon fires fueled giant machines, and these had to be tended by armies of workers. The Oil People created huge farms, covering whole counties and states, and forced food out of the ground by mixing explosives into the soil.

In effect, the whole earth exploded. In just three or four generations they brought the earth's savings of three hundred million years up out of the ground and into the air where it oxidized. The great conflagration affected every part of the globe, and everything that lived on it.

Dale Pendell (b.1947)
The Great Bay: Chronicles of the Collapse, 2010
"The White Death"

After two and a half centuries of living with machines run on fossil fuels, most of us are committed to the notion of ever more powerful technologies. The thought that the high-energy age of fossil fuels may turn out to be a historical parenthesis is generally dismissed as ridiculous. Yet we should be open to that possibility. The age of fossil fuels has not just been a period in time, but a condition situated in sociopolitical space. It has provided a minority of the world's population with an unprecedented source of power -- in both a thermodynamic and a political sense. But we are now beginning to realize that the combustion of fossil fuels has represented an illusory emancipation from land. This illusory emancipation has two aspects. First, it has seemed to enable us to transcend the constraints of limited land area and soil fertility that so preoccupied the Physiocrats and other economic schools of thought prior to the Industrial Revolution. Second, it has until quite recently kept us largely ignorant about the negative consequences of burning fossil fuels for the long-term productivity of the biosphere as a source of human livelihood.

For two and a half centuries, the more affluent parts of the world's population have been building a technology based on solar energy accumulated on the surface of the Earth a very long time ago. Each year, we have been dissipating energy representing millions of years of ecological production over significant parts of the Earth's surface. In other words, we have relied on acreages of the past. What the contemporary scramble for so-called biofuels or agrofuels - such as ethanol - really represents is our determination to try to sustain that same technology on the capacity of presently available land to accumulated solar energy. There seems to be a general confidence that it can be done. It is just a matter of getting the technology right. But what if it can't?

Alf Hornborg (b.1954)
"Zero-Sum World: Challenges in Conceptualizing Environmental Load
Displacement and Ecologically Unequal Exchange in the World-System"
International Journal of Comparative Sociology
Volume 50, Numbers 3-4, June/August 2009


Although I have become, among other things, a teacher, I am skeptical of education. It seems to me a most doubtful process, and I think the good of it is taken too much for granted. It is a matter that is overtheorized and overvalued and always approached with too much confidence. It is, as we skeptics are always discovering to our delight, no substitute for experience or life or virtue or devotion. As it is handed out by the schools, it is only theoretically useful, like a randomly mixed handful of seeds carried in one's pocket. When one carries them back to one's own place in the world and plants them, some will prove unfit for the climate or the ground, some are sterile, some are not seeds at all but little clods and bits of gravel. Surprisingly few of them come to anything. There is an incredible waste and clumsiness in most efforts to prepare the young. For me, as a student and as a teacher, there has always been a pressing anxiety between the classroom and the world: how can you get from one to the other except by a blind jump? School is not so pleasant or valuable an experience as it is made out to be in the theorizing and reminiscing of elders. In a sense, it is not an experience at all, but a hiatus in experience.

Wendell Berry (b.1934)
"The Long-Legged House", Part I
The Long-Legged House, 1969

Sometimes it feels as if the world is divided into two classes: one very large class spurns difficulty, while the other very much smaller delights in it. There are readers who, when encountering an unfamiliar word, instead of reaching for a dictionary, choose to regard it as a sign of the author’s contempt or pretension, a deliberate refusal to speak in a language ordinary people can understand. Others, encountering the same word, happily seize on it as a chance to learn something new, to broaden their horizons. They eagerly seek a literature that upends assumptions, challenges prejudices, turns them inside out and forces them to see the world through new eyes.

Steve Wasserman
"In Defense of Difficulty"
The American Conservative, March/April 2015


And if ever the suspicion of their manifold being dawns upon men of unusual powers and of unusually delicate perceptions, so that, as all genius must, they break through the illusion of the unity of the personality and perceive that the self is made up of a bundle of selves, they have only to say so and at once the majority puts them under lock and key, calls science to aid, establishes schizomania and protects humanity from the necessity of hearing the cry of truth from the lips of these unfortunate persons.

Hermann Hesse (1877-1962)
Steppenwolf, 1927
"For Madmen Only"; "Treatise on the Steppenwolf"
Translated by Basil Creighton, 1929


Watching coal-miners at work, you realize momentarily what different universes people inhabit. Down there where coal is dug is a sort of world apart which one can quite easily go through life without ever hearing about. Probably majority of people would even prefer not to hear about it. Yet it is the absolutely necessary counterpart of our world above. Practically everything we do, from eating an ice to crossing the Atlantic, and from baking a loaf to writing a novel, involves the use of coal, directly or indirectly. For all the arts of peace coal is needed; if war breaks out it is needed all the more. In time of revolution the miner must go on working or the revolution must stop, for revolution as much as reaction needs coal. Whatever may be happening on the surface, the hacking and shovelling have got to continue without a pause, or at any rate without pausing for more than a few weeks at the most. In order that Hitler may march the goose-step, that the Pope may denounce Bolshevism, that the cricket crowds may assemble at Lords, that the poets may scratch one another's backs, coal has got to be forthcoming. But on the whole we are not aware of it; we all know that we 'must have coal', but we seldom or never remember what coal-getting involves. Here am I sitting writing in front of my comfortable coal fire. It is April but I still need a fire. Once a fortnight the coal cart drives up to the door and men in leather jerkins carry the coal indoors in stout sacks smelling of tar and shoot it clanking into the coal-hole under the stairs. It is only very rarely, when I make a definite mental-effort, that I connect this coal with that far-off labour in the mines. It is just 'coal' -- something that I have got to have; black stuff that arrives mysteriously from nowhere in particular, like manna except that you have to pay for it. You could quite easily drive a car right across the north of England and never once remember that hundreds of feet below the road you are on the miners are hacking at the coal. Yet in a sense it is the miners who are driving your car forward. Their lamp-lit world down there is as necessary to the daylight world above as the root is to the flower.

It is not long since conditions in the mines were worse than they are now. There are still living a few very old women who in their youth have worked underground, with the harness round their waists, and a chain that passed between their legs, crawling on all fours and dragging tubs of coal. They used to go on doing this even when they were pregnant. And even now, if coal could not be produced without pregnant women dragging it to and fro, I fancy we should let them do it rather than deprive ourselves of coal. But most of the time, of course, we should prefer to forget that they were doing it. It is so with all types of manual work; it keeps us alive, and we are oblivious of its existence. More than anyone else, perhaps, the miner can stand as the type of the manual worker, not only because his work is so exaggeratedly awful, but also because it is so vitally necessary and yet so remote from our experience, so invisible, as it were, that we are capable of forgetting it as we forget the blood in our veins. In a way it is even humiliating to watch coal-miners working. It raises in you a momentary doubt about your own status as an 'intellectual' and a superior person generally. For it is brought home to you, at least while you are watching, that it is only because miners sweat their guts out that superior persons can remain superior. You and I and the editor of the Times Lit. Supp., and the poets and the Archbishop of Canterbury and Comrade X, author of Marxism for Infants -- all of us really owe the comparative decency of our lives to poor drudges underground, blackened to the eyes, with their throats full of coal dust, driving their shovels forward with arms and belly muscles of steel.

George Orwell
The Road to Wigan Pier, 1937


Students, even if you gain enlightenment, do not stop practicing, thinking that you have attained the ultimate. The Buddha Way is endless. Once enlightened you must practice all the more.

Dogen (1200-1253)
A Primer of Soto Zen: A Translation of Dogen's Shobogenzo Zuimonki
By Reiho Masunaga, 1971
Chapter VI


We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world if, instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. Three generations of imbeciles are enough.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1841-1935)
Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200
Opinion, Decided 02 May 1927


But in reality we have no experience of anyone liking badness just because it is bad. The nearest we can get to it is in cruelty. But in real life people are cruel for one of two reasons -- either because they are sadists, that is, because they have a sexual perversion which makes cruelty a cause of sensual pleasure to them, or else for the sake of something they are going to get out of it -- money, or power, or safety. But pleasure, money, power, and safety are all, as far as they go, good things. The badness consists in pursuing them by the wrong method, or in the wrong way, or too much. I do not mean, of course, that the people who do this are not desperately wicked. I do mean that wickedness, when you examine it, turns out to be the pursuit of some good in the wrong way. You can be good for the mere sake of goodness: you cannot be bad for the mere sake of badness. You can do a kind action when you are not feeling kind and when it gives you no pleasure, simply because kindness is right; but no one ever did a cruel action simply because cruelty is wrong -- only because cruelty was pleasant or useful to him.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)
Mere Christianity, 1952
Book II "What Christians Believe"
Chapter 2 "The Invasion"

If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008)
The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: an experiment in literary investigation, 1973
Part I "The Prison Industry"
Chapter 4 "The Bluecaps"

Nobody can come to grips with the drama of history unless he recognizes that most of the evil in this world is done by people who do it for good purposes. Evil is not that popular. If one gathered together a lot of people and said, "Let us be evil together," it would not go over very well. Thanks be to God!....

Thus the question is not to balance judgment and mercy. Whenever one reads the Bible or theology, what I would call the "who-is-who" question always arises. Who speaks to whom and for whom? The mighty message of God was often heard in a wrong way because one listened in on the wrong message. There are many examples of this. Jesus did say, "Man does not live by bread alone," but he never said that to a hungry person. When he was faced with hungry persons he fed them -- 4000 or 5000. And he mass produced wine in Cana just to prevent the wedding feast from turning into a fiasco. It was to Satan that he said "Man does not live by bread alone," speaking for and to himself. The church, however, often quoted Jesus in the wrong direction -- to the hungry, in defense of the well-fed.

Who speaks to whom? For whom is judgment mercy? That is the question, and unless one understands it, even the most glorious dialectical understanding of theology becomes not only counterproductive but evil.

Krister Stendahl
Paul Among Jews and Gentiles, 1976
[Philadelphia: Fortress Press 1976]


Glory is like a circle in the water,
Which never ceaseth to enlarge itself,
Till by broad spreading it disperse to nought.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
King Henry VI: The First Part, c.1591
Act I, scene vi


Farts are -- I just refuse to be snobbish about certain shit with comedy. You know, farts come out of your ass and they make a fucking trumpet sound. That shit smelling gas comes out of your ass and it makes a toot sound. What the fuck is not funny about that? It's perfect, it's a perfect joke. It has all the elements. [Time, 2011]

Louis C.K. (b.1967)
Louis CK Interview, Part 2: Money and Mortality
By James Poniewozik
23 June 2011

Letting rip a fart --
It doesn't make you laugh
When you live alone.

The Penguin Book of Japanese Verse, 1964
Senryu, page 130
Translated by Geoffrey Bownas and Anthony Thwaite


I believe I have omitted mentioning, that in my first voyage from Boston to Philadelphia, being becalmed off Block Island, our crew employed themselves in catching cod, and hauled up a great number. Till then I had stuck to my resolution to eat nothing that had had life; and on this occasion I considered, according to my master Tryon, the taking every fish as a kind of unprovoked murder, since none of them had nor could do us any injury that might justify this massacre. All this seemed very reasonable. But I had been formerly a great lover of fish, and when it came out of the frying-pan it smelt admirably well. I balanced some time between principle and inclination, till recollecting that when fish were opened I saw smaller fish taken out of their stomachs; then thought I, "If you eat one another, I don't see why we may not eat you." So I dined upon cod very heartily, and have since continued to eat as other people; returning only now and then occasionally to a vegetable diet. So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for every thing one has a mind to do.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
Memoirs of the life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin, 1818

...economics has done a much greater disservice to agriculture than the collection of useless data. Farming has come to be looked at as if it were a factory. Agriculture is regarded as a commercial enterprise; far too much emphasis has been laid on profit. But the purpose of agriculture is quite different from that of a factory. It has to provide food in order that the race may flourish and persist. The best results are obtained if the food is fresh and the soil is fertile. Quality is more important than weight of produce. Farming is therefore a vital matter for the population and ranks with the supply of drinking water, fresh air, and protection from the weather. Our water supplies do not always pay their way; the provision of green belts and open spaces does not yield a profit; our housing schemes are frequently uneconomic. Why, then, should the quality of the food on which still more depends than water, oxygen, or warmth be looked at in a different way? The people must be fed whatever happens. Why not, then, make a supreme effort to see that they are properly fed? Why neglect the very foundation-stone of our efficiency as a nation? The nation's food in the nature of things must always take the first place. The financial system, after all, is but a secondary matter. Economics therefore, in failing to insist on these elementary truths, has been guilty of a grave error of judgement.

Albert Howard (1873-1947)
An Agricultural Testament, 1943
Chapter 13 "A Criticism of Present-day Agricultural Research"

Don't eat anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.

Avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable, c) more than five in number, or that include d) high-fructose corn syrup.

Avoid food products that make health claims.

Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle.

Get out of the supermarket whenever possible.

Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.

You are what what you eat eats too.

If you have the space, buy a freezer.

Eat like an omnivore.

Eat well-grown food from healthy soils.

Eat wild foods when you can.

Be the kind of person who takes supplements.

Eat more like the French. Or the Italians. Or the Japanese. Or the Indians. Or the Greeks.

Regard nontraditional foods with skepticism.

Don't look for the magic bullet in the traditional diet.

Have a glass of wine with dinner.

Pay more, eat less.

Eat meals.

Do all your eating at a table.

Don't get your fuel from the same place your car does.

Try not to eat alone.

Consult your gut.

Eat slowly.

Cook and, if you can, plant a garden.

Michael Pollan (b.1955)
In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, 2008
Part III "Getting Over Nutritionism"
Chapter Two "Eat Food: Food Defined", and
Chapter Three "Mostly Plants: What to Eat", and
Chapter Four "Not too Much: How to Eat"


In a free country, the suffering is small and the outcry great, while, on the contrary, under a tyrannical government, the sufferings are great and the complaints are slender.

Lazare Nicolas Marguerite Carnot (1753-1823)
Reply of L.N.M. Carnot, 1799
Page 179


My mother remembers summer evenings in her girlhood when they would drive his old car five or six miles out in the country to a railroad section pond, where as it grew dark they would sit and listen for a certain bullfrog to croak -- and when the frog croaked at last they would drive back to Port Royal. He did that, of course, partly for the entertainment of his young niece; but partly, too, he was entertaining himself. Given the same niece and the same need for entertainment, another man would not have thought of that. It must have been meaningful to him -- a sort of ritual observance. Hard as it may be to know the needs and feelings of a man who said little about himself, dead now more than twenty years, that jaunting to hear the bullfrog does suggest how far his life escaped the categories. It was a life a man could hardly have carried in his wallet, or joined comfortably to the usual organizations.

Wendell Berry (b.1934)
"The Long-Legged House", Part I
The Long-Legged House, 1969


Teachers dread nothing so much as unusual characteristics in precocious boys during the initial stages of their adolescence. A certain streak of genius makes an ominous impression on them, for there exists a deep gulf between genius and the teaching profession. Anyone with a touch of genius seems to his teachers a freak from the very first. As far as teachers are concerned, they define young geniuses as those who are bad, disrespectful, smoke at fourteen, fall in love at fifteen, can be found at sixteen hanging out in bars, read forbidden books, write scandalous essays, occasionally stare down a teacher in class, are marked in the attendance book as rebels, and are budding candidates for room-arrest. A schoolmaster will prefer to have a couple of dumbheads in his class than a single genius, and if you regard it objectively, he is of course right. His task is not to produce extravagant intellects but good Latinists, arithmeticians and sober decent folk. The question of who suffers more acutely at the other's hands -- the teacher at the boy's, or vice versa -- who is more of a tyrant, more of a tormentor, and who profanes parts of the other's soul, student or teacher, is something you cannot examine without remembering your own youth in anger and shame. Yet that is not what concerns us here. We have the consolation that among true geniuses the wounds almost always heal. As their personalities develop, they create their art in spite of school. Once dead, and enveloped by the comfortable nimbus of remoteness, they are paraded by the schoolmasters before other generations of students as showpieces and noble examples. Thus the struggle between rule and spirit repeats itself year after year from school to school. The authorities go to infinite pains to nip the few profound or more valuable intellects in the bud. And time and again the ones who are detested by their teachers are frequently punished, the runaways and those expelled, are the ones who afterwards add to society's treasure. But some -- and who knows how many? -- waste away quiet obstinacy and finally go under.

Hermann Hesse (1877-1962)
Beneath the Wheel, 1906
Chapter 4
Translated by Michael Roloff, 1968


Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.

Buddha (c.563-c.483 BC)
Udanavarga, 5.18

Tsze-kung asked, saying, "Is there one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one's life?" The Master said, "Is not Reciprocity such a word? What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others."

Confucius (551-479 BC)
Analects, 15.23
From The Life and Teachings of Confucius, 1867
By James Legge (1815-1897)

One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one's own self.

Mahabharata, c.4th century CE
Section CXIII, Verse 8
Translated by Kisari Mohan Ganguli (1842–1895), 1883-1896

Lay not on any soul a load that you would not wish to be laid upon you, and desire not for any one the things you would not desire for yourself.

Baha'u'llah (1817-1892)
Gleanings From the Writings of Baha'u'llah, 1994
Translated by Shoghi Effendi


How do human beings usually announce an altered identity? By changing the way they wear their hair. Men who wanted to be ruthlessly modern shaved their skulls, like the Russian revolutionary poet Vladimir Mayakovsky or Johannes Itten, an instructor at the Bauhaus in Weimar. In the hirsute nineteenth century, sages -- aspiring to the shagginess of Old Testament prophets -- grew beards. For the glowering, bullet-headed Mayakovsky, the cranium was a projectile, made more aerodynamic by being rid of hair. For Itten, shaving announced his priestly dedication to the new world which the designers at the Bauhaus intended to build....

Peter Conrad (b.1948)
Modern Times, Modern Places: Life and Art in the Twentieth Century, 1999

I remember the day I saw my hair was thinning. I don't remember caring much. I don't care. It's just hair. It never bothered me much. I was pretty young, too. And it happened and is happening veeery slowly. I have a feeling dead people get really mad when we complain about losing hair.

Louis C.K. (b.1967)
16:07:28 UTC Monday, 14 May 2012


When we are lost in the woods the sight of a [hashmark] is a great matter. He who first sees it cries, "On On!" The whole [pack] gathers round and stares. But when we have found the [trail] and are passing [hashmarks] every few miles, we shall not stop and stare. They will encourage us and we shall be grateful to the [hare who] set them up. But we shall not stop and stare, or not much; not on this road, though their pillars are silver and their lettering of gold. We would be at [on apres].

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)
Surprised by Joy, 1955
Chapter 15 "The Beginning"


There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames." But Abraham said, "Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us." He said, "Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father's house - for I have five brothers - that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment." Abraham replied, "They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them." He said, "No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent." He said to him, "If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead."

Bible, Luke 16:19-31

Then he will say to those at his left hand, "You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me." Then they also will answer, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?" Then he will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me." And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

Bible, Matthew 25:41-46

Then I saw a great white throne and the one who sat on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books. And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and all were judged according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire; and anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

Bible, Revelation 20:11-15


As of a certain age it would be nice to grow smaller again from year to year and go backwards over the same steps that we once so proudly climbed. The ranks and honors of old age would still have to be the same as today; so that very small people, the size of six- or eight-year-old boys, would be considered the wisest and most experienced. The oldest kings would be the shortest; there would only be very tiny popes; the bishops would look down on cardinals, the cardinals on the pope. No child could wish to become something great. History, because of its age, would lose significance; we would feel as if the events of three hundred years ago had taken place among insect-like creatures, and the past would have the good fortune to be overlooked.

Elias Canetti (1905-1994)
The Human Province, 1978
Translated by Joachim Neugroschel


But I have to say this in defense of humankind: In no matter what era in history, including the Garden of Eden, everybody just got here. And, except for the Garden of Eden, there were already all these games going on that could make you act crazy, even if you weren't crazy to begin with. Some of the crazymaking games going on today are love and hate, liberalism and conservatism, automobiles and credit cards, golf, and girls' basketball.

Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007)
A Man Without a Country, 2005
Chapter 2 "Do you know what a twerp is?"

I cannot claim that I speak for any organization, nor do I wish to. I do not "belong" to any organization, and I have put no institution in charge of my opinions. However, I do belong in the fullest sense of the word to a large group that is having a vast and ever-increasing effect on the world. It is known as the human race. I am aware that as a member of that group I am in the worst possible company: communists, fascists and totalitarians of all sorts, militarists and tyrants, exploiters, vandals, gluttons, ignoramuses, murderers, thieves, and liars, men for whose birth the creation is worse off and for whose lives other men will still be suffering a hundred years from now. The price of admission to this group is great, and until death not fully known. The cost of getting out is extreme. I find, therefore, no reasonable alternative to membership. But since I am a member on such exacting terms, I will not allow my involvement with this group to remain accidental, but will give my whole allegiance to it and work for its betterment.

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


They laughed when I said I was going to be a comedian. They're not laughing now.

Bob Monkhouse (1928-2003)
"Star profile: Bob Monkhouse"
[Glasgow] Evening Times
17 September 2001

When I said I was going to become a comedian, they all laughed. Well, they're not laughing now, are they?

Bob Monkhouse (1928-2003)
"Obituary: Bob Monkhouse"
BBC News
29 December 2003


...when I awoke at midnight, not knowing where I was, I could not be sure at first who I was; I had only the most rudimentary sense of existence, such as may lurk and flicker in the depths of an animal's consciousness; I was more destitute of human qualities than the cave-dweller; but then the memory, not yet of the place in which I was, but of various other places where I had lived, and might now very possibly be, would come like a rope let down from heaven to draw me up out of the abyss of not-being, from which I could never have escaped by myself: in a flash I would traverse and surmount centuries of civilisation, and out of a half-visualised succession of oil-lamps, followed by shirts with turned-down collars, would put together by degrees the component parts of my ego.

Marcel Proust (1871-1922)
Swann's Way, 1913
Translated by Charles Kenneth Scott Moncrieff (1889-1930), 1922


Whoever interrupts the conversation of others, to make a display of his fund of knowledge, makes notorious his own stock of ignorance.

Sadi (1184-1291)
Gulistan, or Rose Garden of Beauties, 1258
Chapter VIII "On the Duties of Society"
Apophthegm 96
Translated by James Ross, 1823

Good Heavens, from the wisest Thought of a man to the actual truth of a Thing as it lies in Nature, there is, one would suppose, a sufficient interval! Consider it, -- and what other intervals we introduce! The faithfulest, most glowing word of a man is but an imperfect image of the thought, such as it is, that dwells within him; his best word will never but with error convey his thought to other minds: and then between his poor thought and Nature's Fact, which is the Thought of the Eternal, there may be supposed to lie some discrepancies, some shortcomings! Speak your sincerest, think your wisest, there is still a great gulf between you and the fact. And now, do not speak your sincerest, and, what will inevitably follow out of that, do not think your wisest, but think only your plausiblest, your showiest for parliamentary purposes, where will you land with that guidance? -- I invite the British Parliament, and all the Parliamentary and other Electors of Great Britain, to reflect on this till they have well understood it; and then to ask, each of himself, What probably the horoscopes of the British Parliament, at this epoch of World-History, may be?

Fail, by any sin or any misfortune, to discover what the truth of the fact is, you are lost so far as that fact goes! If your thought do not image truly but do image falsely the fact, you will vainly try to work upon the fact. The fact will not obey you, the fact will silently resist you; and ever, with silent invincibility, will go on resisting you, till you do get to image it truly instead of falsely. No help for you whatever, except in attaining to a true image of the fact. Needless to vote a false image true; vote it, revote it by overwhelming majorities, by jubilant unanimities and universalities; read it thrice or three hundred times, pass acts of parliament upon it till the Statute-book can hold no more, -- it helps not a whit: the thing is not so, the thing is otherwise than so; and Adam's whole Posterity, voting daily on it till the world finish, will not alter it a jot. Can the sublimest sanhedrim, constitutional parliament, or other Collective Wisdom of the world, persuade fire not to burn, sulphuric acid to be sweet milk, or the Moon to become green cheese? The fact is much the reverse: -- and even the Constitutional British Parliament abstains from such arduous attempts as these latter in the voting line; and leaves the multiplication-table, the chemical, mechanical and other qualities of material substances to take their own course: being aware that voting and perorating, and reporting in Hansard, will not in the least alter any of these. Which is indisputably wise of the British Parliament.

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)
Works, Volume V "Latter-Day Pamphlets", 1893
Number V "Stump-orator", 01 May 1850

I do not believe in the collective wisdom of individual ignorances.

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)
Synopsis of above?
Paraphrase from John Nichol (1833-1894)?

He had as profound a disbelief as Carlyle had in our own age in the collective wisdom of individual ignorances....

John Nichol (1833-1894)
Francis Bacon: His Life and Philosophy, 1888
Chapter V "Attorney Generalship (1613-1617)"


Crucifixus est dei filius; non pudet, quia pudendum est.
Et mortuus est dei filius; credibile prorsus est, quia ineptum est.
Et sepultus resurrexit; certum est, quia impossibile.
(The Son of God was crucified: I am not ashamed -- because it is shameful.
The Son of God died: it is immediately credible -- because it is silly.
He was buried, and rose again: it is certain -- because it is impossible.)

Tertullian (c.160-c.240)
De Carne Christi
Chapter 5
Translated by Canon Ernest Evans, 1956

If Jesus were alive today, we would kill him with letal injection. I call that progress. We would have to kill him for the same reason he was killed the first time. His ideas are just too liberal.

Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007)
Armageddon in Retrospect, 2008
"At Clowes Hall, Indianapolis", 27 April 2007


Even in peacetime I think those are very wrong who say that schoolboys should be encouraged to read the newspapers. Nearly all that a boy reads there in his teens will be known before he is twenty to have been false in emphasis and interpretation, if not in fact as well, and most of it will have lost all importance. Most of what he remembers he will therefore have to unlearn; and he will probably have acquired an incurable taste for vulgarity and sensationalism and the fatal habit of fluttering from paragraph to paragraph to learn how an actress has been divorced in California, a train derailed in France, and quadruplets born in New Zealand.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)
Surprised by Joy, 1955
Chapter 10 "Fortune's Smile"


It is well, when one is judging a friend, to remember that he is judging you with the same godlike and superior impartiality.

Arnold Bennett (1867-1931)
The Reasonable Life: Being Hints for Men and Women, 1907
Chapter II "Expressing One's Individuality"


I was trying to be helpful. In tracking the derivation of "straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel," I pointed to the King James Version of the Bible, Matthew 23:24, and wrote: 'The original spokesperson, lest we forget, was Jesus of Nazareth."

"That would have been appreciated by 'Ma' Ferguson, the Texas Governor," writes the Reverend J. Carter Swaim, pastor emeritus of the Church of Covenant near the United Nations in New York, "who, when Spanish was proposed as a second language for schools in the Lone Star State, replied: 'Not while I am Governor! If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it is good enough for Texas children.'"

William Safire (1929-2009)
"On Language: Red-Hot Freeze"
The [Lexington NC] Dispatch
29 May 1982


For as regards nature, experience presents us with rules and is the source of truth, but in relation to ethical laws experience is the parent of illusion, and it is in the highest degree reprehensible to limit or to deduce the laws which dictate what I ought to do, from what is done.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)
Critique of Pure Reason, 1781
Translated by John Miller Dow Meiklejohn (1830-1902), 1855
I "Transcendental Doctrine of Elements"
2.2.1 "Of the Conceptions of Pure Reason"
Section 1 "Of Ideas in General"

After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp, and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting: such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859)
Democracy in America, Volume II, 1840
Book Four, Chapter VI
Translated by Henry Reeve

No one, I think, welcomes the intervention of federal power in the affairs of a state, except as a last resort. That seems the crudest of solutions. It is not a moral solution at all. In being forced to do what is right, men lose the dignity of being right. The right itself is debased as an aim and incentive.

Wendell Berry (b.1934)
"The Landscaping of Hell: Strip-Mine Morality in East Kentucky", 1965
The Long-Legged House, 1969


For the first time in recorded history, man -- an entire nation, has lived beyond the edge of hunger and privation. This he achieved in a work week that has shrunk in half a century from 52 to 40 hours. These 12 hours are not required for the necessities of life, but they are active and waking discretionary hours. Leisure, recreation, vacuity, or mischief can fill them. We will have to learn how to fill them -- the time we have literally manufactured in our factories. The record to date is not particularly comforting, and the future will present an even greater problem, for our work week will unquestionably shorten -- that is, the work week required for the necessities.

Devereux Colt Josephs (1893-1977)
Future of Man, 1959
Symposium, New York City
29 September 1959


Malo Periculosam Libertatem Quam Quietum Servitium.
(I prefer liberty with danger to peace with slavery.)

Raphael Leszczynski (1650-1703)
Quoted by Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778)
The Social Contract: or, The Principles of Political Rights, 1762
Book III, Chapter IV "Democracy"
Translated by Rose M. Harrington, 1893

When people say, “I have nothing to hide,” what they’re saying is, “My rights don’t matter.” Because you don’t need to justify your rights as a citizen – that inverts the model of responsibility. The government must justify its intrusion into your rights. If you stop defending your rights by saying, “I don’t need them in this context” or “I can’t understand this,” they are no longer rights. You have ceded the concept of your own rights. You’ve converted them into something you get as a revocable privilege from the government, something that can be abrogated at its convenience. And that has diminished the measure of liberty within a society.

Edward Snowden (b.1983)
"Edward Snowden: A ‘Nation’ Interview"
The Nation, 27 October 2014


Dah dah dah dah dah dah dah dah,
Dah dah dah dah dah dah dah dah dah!
Dah dah dah dah dah,
Dah dah dah dah dah!
Dah dah dah dah fucking cunt.

Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007)
Fates Worse Than Death, 1991
Chapter XVIII
The wittiest limerick in the world,
bowdlerized for a family audience


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"


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"


[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


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


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

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

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


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"

[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


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

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

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


Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage -- torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians -- which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by "our" side.

George Orwell (1903-1950)
"Notes on Nationalism"
Polemic magazine, May 1945

The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.

George Orwell (1903-1950)
"Notes on Nationalism"
Polemic magazine, May 1945


...going to the mountains is like going home. We always find that the strangest objects in these fountain wilds are in some degree familiar, and we look upon them with a vague sense of having seen them before.

John Muir (1838-1914)
"In the Heart of the California Alps"
Scribner's Magazine, July 1880

In relation to nature, early man was so weak and nature so strong as to make man almost her slave. It was natural, therefore, that he should have dreamed of a future in which their relative positions would be reversed, a time when he would be the master and nature the slave.

We have already reached the point where there is almost nothing we cannot compel nature to do, but we are finding to our cost that nature cannot be enslaved without enslaving ourselves. If nobody or nothing in the universe is responsible for man, then we must conclude that man is responsible, to God, for the universe, just as Adam was made responsible for the Garden of Eden. This means that it is our task to discover what everything in the universe, from electrons upwards, could, to its betterment, become, but cannot become without our help. This means reintroducing into science the notion of teleology, long a dirty word. For our proper relation to nonliving things, the right analogy might be that of the sculptor. Every sculptor thinks of himself, not as someone who forcibly imposes a form on stone, but as someone who reveals a form already latent in it. For our relation to living creatures, the analogy might be that of the good trainer of animals. A well-trained, well-treated sheep dog is more of a dog than a wild one, just as a stray, terrified by ill-usage, or a spoilt lap dog has its "dogginess" debased. We have to realize that every time we make an ugly lampstand, we are torturing helpless metal, every time we make a nuclear bomb we are corrupting the morals of a host of innocent neutrons below the age of consent.

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

Finally, the more experience you gain in gardening a Two Acre Eden, the more you will realize that, in the final analysis, nature is not a mother or a friend. Adapting yourself to the ways of nature is a truce, a compromise, a necessary condition of survival. You do not commune with nature, you outfox her. All she really wants is our decaying bones to make compost for the forested jungle that she could turn America into in 100 years, if no one stopped her.

Gene Logsdon (b.1932)
Two Acre Eden, 1980
Chapter 4 "Some of My Best Friends re Night Crawlers:
Heretical Horticulture, Part II"
Rule 9


Whether, as some psychologists believe, some women suffer from penis envy, I am not sure. I am quite certain, however, that all males without exception, whatever their age, suffer from penis rivalry, and that this trait has now become a threat to the future existence of the human race.

Behind every quarrel between men, whether individually or collectively, one can hear the taunt of a little urchin: "My prick (or my father's) is bigger than yours (or your father's), and can pee further."

Nearly all weapons, from the early spear and sword down to the modern revolver and rocket, are phallic symbols. Men, to be sure, also fashion traps, most forms of which are vaginal symbols, but they never take pride in them as they do in their weapons. The epic poets frequently give a loving and detailed description of some weapon, and, when heroes exchange gifts in earnest of friendship, weapons figure predominantly. But where in literature can one find a loving description of a trap, or hear of one as a precious gift?

Today the phallic toys have become too dangerous to be tolerated. I see little hope for a peaceful world until men are excluded from the realm of foreign policy altogether and all decisions concerning international relations are rserved for women, preferably married ones.

I would go further and say that, while men should still as in the past be permitted to construct machines, it should be for women to decide what kinds of machines shall be constructed.

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


Various writers...have observed that enuresis seems to be unduly common among soldiers. Discounting the not inconsiderable number of cases of malingering, where bed-wetting is deliberately resorted to in an attempt to obtain a disability discharge or at least to escape active service, veritable epidemics of real enuresis occur from time to time. If these outbreaks were reported only among men who are actively engaged in combat or who are in training for imminent service, the logical assumption would be that anxiety is here the prime etiological factor. The fact that enuresis may also be either recurrent or more or less chronic in barracks during times of prolonged peace suggests a different explanation, namely, that the discipline and arbitrary treatment which forms so large a part of military training may reinstate in young men attitudes of hostility and resentment which they felt as children toward parental authority but which they may have been able to express only in such a round-about way as being seemingly unable to acquire or retain the dry-bed habit.

Orval Hobart Mowrer (1907-1982)
"Enuresis -- A Method for Its Study and Treatment"
IV Enuresis and Frustration Theory
American Journal Orthopsychiatry
Volume 8, Issue 3, July 1938


We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry.

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
"Anima Hominis", Part V
Per Amica Silentia Lunae, 1918

Words make love on the page like flies in the summer heat and the poet is merely the bemused spectator. The poem is as much the result of chance as of intention. Probably more so.

Charles Simic (b.1938)
The Best American Poetry, 1992
Edited by Charles Simic


There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses.

Bible, Ezekiel 23:20 in the NIV

My buddy Dwight always wanted to get end zone tickets to a Monday Night Football game some day and wave a sign in the end zone that read, “Ezek. 23:20.”

Fred Clark
Slacktivist blog
07 November 2014


A political party which wins elections but does not capitalize on its successes by mobilizing the whole power of the government is a monstrosity reflecting the stupidity of professional politicians who are more interested in the petty spoils of office than they are in the control of the richest and most powerful government in the world -- like an army of barbarians who, having overrun the city of Baltimore, content themselves with plundering a dime store.

E.E. Schattschneider (1892-1971)
The Struggle for Party Government, 1948
Chapter III "Party Reconstruction"


Some prejudices are to the mind, what the atmosphere is to the body; we cannot feel without the one, nor breathe without the other.

Fulke Greville (1554-1628)
Maxims, Characters, and Reflections, Critical, Satyrical, and Moral, 1757
Number CLXIX

Which leads me to add one Remark: That the Number of purely white People in the World is proportionably very small. All Africa is black or tawny. Asia chiefly tawny. America (exclusive of the new Comers) wholly so. And in Europe, the Spaniards, Italians, French, Russians and Swedes, are generally of what we call a swarthy Complexion; as are the Germans also, the Saxons only excepted, who with the English, make the principal Body of White People on the Face of the Earth. I could wish their Numbers were increased. And while we are, as I may call it, Scouring our Planet, by clearing America of Woods, and so making this Side of our Globe reflect a brighter Light to the Eyes of Inhabitants in Mars or Venus, why should we in the Sight of Superior Beings, darken its People? why increase the Sons of Africa, by Planting them in America, where we have so fair an Opportunity, by excluding all Blacks and Tawneys, of increasing the lovely White and Red? But perhaps I am partial to the Complexion of my Country, for such Kind of Partiality is natural to Mankind.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
"Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind and
the Peopling of Countries"
Written in Pennsylvania, 1751

What white Americans have never fully understood but what the Negro can never forget -- is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.

David Ginsburg (1912-2010), et alia
"Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders"
29 February 1968
Summary of Report: Introduction


"Come here, Steve," he said. "Come here and kill him. I'm so chilled through I can't get a bead on him."

"Sam," said Steve, "don't shoot him. Just swear at him. You can easily kill him at that range with your profanity."

Steve Gillis declares that Mark Twain then let go such a scorching, singeing blast that the brute's owner sold him next day for a Mexican hairless dog.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Mark Twain, A Biography, 1912
by Albert Bigelow Paine (1861-1937)
Chapter XLVI "Getting Settled in San Francisco"


The more important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered, and these are now so firmly established that the possibility of their ever being supplanted in consequence of new discoveries is exceedingly remote. Nevertheless, it has been found that there are apparent exceptions to most of these laws, and this is particularly true when the observations are pushed to a limit, i.e., whenever the circumstances of experiment are such that extreme cases can be examined. Such examination almost surely leads, not to the overthrow of the law, but to the discovery of other facts and laws whose action produces the apparent exceptions.

Albert Abraham Michelson (1852-1931)
Light Waves and Their Uses, 1902
Lecture II "Comparison of the Microscope and Telescope With the Interferometer"

The day will come when, after harnessing the ether, the winds, the tides, gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And, on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955)
"The Evolution of Chastity"
Peking, February 1934
Toward the Future, 1974
Translated by Rene Hague


The most distressing thing that can happen to a prophet is to be proved wrong; the next most distressing thing that is to be proved right.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
"Brave New World Revisited"
Esquire, July 1956


To make public protests against an evil, and yet live in dependence on and in support of the way of life that is the source of the evil, is an obvious contradiction and a dangerous one. If one disagrees with the nomadism and violence of our society, then one is under an obligation to take up some permanent dwelling place and cultivate the possibility of peace and harmlessness in it. If one deplores the destructiveness and wastefulness of the economy, then one is under an obligation to live as far out on the margin of the economy as one is able: to be economically independent of exploitive industries, to learn to need less, to waste less, to make things last, to give up meaningless luxuries, to understand and resist the language of salesmen and public relations experts, to see through attractive packages, to refuse to purchase fashion or glamour or prestige. If one feels endangered by meaninglessness, then one is under an obligation to refuse meaningless pleasure and to resist meaningless work, and to give up the moral comfort and the excuses of the mentality of specialization.

Wendell Berry (b.1934)
"Some Thoughts on Citizenship and Conscience in Honor of Don Pratt"
Part V
The Long-Legged House, 1969


The problem with Internet quotations is that many are not genuine.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
"A Profound Thought"
Posted on "Clayton Cramer's Blog",
20:14 Thursday, 06 January 2011


Racism is an insidious cultural disease. It is so insidious that it doesn’t care if you are a white person who likes black people; it’s still going to find a way to infect how you deal with people who don’t look like you. Yes, racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another. And so on. So while I agree with people who say no one is born racist, it remains a powerful system that we’re immediately born into. It’s like being born into air: you take it in as soon as you breathe. It’s not a cold that you can get over. There is no anti-racist certification class. It’s a set of socioeconomic traps and cultural values that are fired up every time we interact with the world. It is a thing you have to keep scooping out of the boat of your life to keep from drowning in it. I know it’s hard work, but it’s the price you pay for owning everything.

Scott Woods (b.1971)
“5 Things No One Is Actually Saying About Ani DiFranco or Plantations”, 03 January 2014

White people don’t realize how important race is to their self-definition because they don’t have to think about it. The world all around them reinforces their being and self-worth at all times. They don’t see how it does that based on race because it’s normal to them. And it’s a short jump from “normal” to “right” or “the way things are supposed to be.” This one also touches on the issue of white privilege that drives white people nuts. They don’t understand how, if they’re poor or unemployed, they can also be privileged. There are a ton of great articles that deconstruct this and if you’re here you probably had to pass through a couple of them to get here. The most common example people like to throw up is that if you take a homeless white guy and clean him up, he’s more likely to get a job than, say, a moderately qualified black guy. It’s not a bad case for privilege, but when you define privilege as “money” you dismiss a whole list of benefits that white people receive from racism no matter how much money they have, like not being pulled over for having a nice car or not having to explain why you can use big words. Those types of interactions are mad stressful, son.

Scott Woods (b.1971)
“5 Ways We Handle Racism All Wrong”, 14 January 2014


The destructiveness of [some recreational] boatmen is of a peculiarly modern kind. It is essentially the same as the destructiveness of certain industries, and it has the same causes: the use of powerful machines, and the discarding of more or less imperishable refuse. The destructiveness of the boatmen differs from that of industry mainly in the sad paradox that the boatmen destroy what they supposedly want to keep. They do not intend to exploit or damage anything. They have come to enjoy the river -- and their enjoyment of it damages it. They do not use it as a fisherman uses it, leaving it as it was; they use it as clothing is used, leaving it always a little worse for the wear. They are the consumers of the river.

Wendell Berry (b.1934)
Part I
"The Nature Consumers"
The Long-Legged House, 1969

Propelled at twenty or thirty miles an hour by a roaring [boat] engine, one can experience the country only as "scenery" -- a painted landscape without life or sound. "Scenery," as we speak the word, involves an oversimplification and falsification of nature. It is landscape with all the vital details excerpted. It is the notion that permits the indulgence of our wish to prettify nature -- to pretend that nature is represented by butterflies but not mosquitoes, sunrises and sunsets but not hot noons, moonlight but not darkness, life but not death. But to know the mountain, as John Marin said, it is necessary to know what is on the mountain's back. One must go close and be still. And that cannot be done with a motor, or with a motorized intelligence. At twenty or thirty miles an hour the countryside can be no more than the pretty package a vacation comes in -- to be used like other packages, disposed of as soon as the contents are used up. It is hardly to be kept in mind after it has been used, which means that it is likely to be used carelessly, or even contemptuously.

Wendell Berry (b.1934)
Part I
"The Nature Consumers"
The Long-Legged House, 1969


Catholicism baptized polytheism by substituting for the old pagan cults the cults of local and patron saints. Such cults can and have led to abuses, but they are infinitely more healthy than the cult of the fashionable film star or pop singer, which is all that Prostestantism has to offer in their stead.

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


Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the housetops.

Bible, Luke 12:2-3


The chilling effect of Watergate is the possibility that agencies created to guarantee the national security could be used to subvert it. That would be nothing new in history. Power always has to be kept in check; power exercised in secret, especially under the magic cloak of national security, is doubly dangerous.

William Proxmire (1915-2005)
"The FBI and CIA: Need for Review"
Los Angeles Times, 10 June 1973

The commonly held notion that it is correct to surround children with love, security, and affection suffers a serious decline in credibility when it becomes apparent that kids reared thus are entirely unequipped for a world that is cruel, dangerous, and insecure. Enlightened parents begin experimenting with new forms of toys: teddies with sharp teeth, building bricks with abrasive surfaces, mildly toxic crayons, unsafe play areas.

Brian Eno (b.1948)
"Unthinkable Futures"
"Conceptual Trends/Current Topics" blog []
02:34 Wednesday, 18 June 2008


I am convinced that the religous right’s obsession with homosexuality is driven by their fierce joy at being able to condemn something by which most of us aren’t tempted. They can’t preach against pride, envy, gluttony, wrath, greed, sloth or lust for the opposite sex -- they’re neck-deep in all of those. But love for people of the same-sex seems like a safer target. So not only do they condemn it as a sin, they blame it for all the ills afflicting our society.

Fred Clark (b.1968)
"Burt Gummer speaks"
"Slacktivist" blog
30 September 2004


From the analyses of mixed human excreta made by Wolff in Europe and by Kellner in Japan it appears that, as an average, these carry in every 2000 pounds 12.7 pounds of nitrogen, 4 pounds of potassium, and 1.7 pounds of phosphorus. On this basis and that of Carpenter, who estimates the average amount of excreta per day for the adult at 40 ounces, the average annual production per million of adult population is 5,794,300 pounds of nitrogen; 1,825,000 pounds of potassium, and 775,600 pounds of phosphorus carried in 456,250 tons of excreta.

Franklin Hiram King (1848-1911)
Farmers of Forty Centuries; or, Permanent Agriculture in China, Korea, and Japan, 1911
Chapter IX "The Utilization of Waste"


This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty, and did abominable things before me; therefore I removed them when I saw it.

Bible, Ezekiel 16:49-50


Man is not by any means of fixed and enduring form (this, in spite of suspicions to the contrary on the part of their wise men, was the ideal of the ancients). He is much more an experiment and a transition. He is nothing else than the narrow and perilous bridge between nature and spirit. His innermost destiny drives him on to the spirit and to God. His innermost longing draws him back to nature, the mother. Between the two forces his life hangs tremulous and irresolute.

Hermann Hesse (1877-1962)
Steppenwolf, 1927
"For Madmen Only"; "Treatise on the Steppenwolf"
Translated by Basil Creighton, 1929


The Stoics, in the few fragments of their philosophy which have come down to us, sometimes talk of leaving life with a gaiety, and even with a levity, which, were we to consider those passages by themselves, might induce us to believe that they imagined we could with propriety leave it whenever we had a mind, wantonly and capriciously, upon the slightest disgust ,or uneasiness. "When you sup with such a person," says Epictetus, "you complain of of the long stories which he tells you about his Mysian wars. 'Now, my friend,' says he, 'having told you how I took possession of an eminence at such a place, I will tell you how 1 was besieged in such another place.' But if you have a mind not to be troubled with his long stories, do not accept of his supper. If you accept of his supper, you have not the least pretence to complain of his long stories. It is the same case with what you call the evils of human life. Never complain of that of which it is at all times in your power to rid yourself." Notwithstanding this gaiety and even levity of expression, however, the alternative of leaving life, or of remaining in it, was, according to the Stoics, a matter of the most serious and important deliberation. We ought never to leave it till we were distinctly called upon to do so by that superintending Power which had originally placed us in it. But we were to consider ourselves as called upon to do so, not merely at the appointed and unavoidable term of human life. Whenever the providence of that superintending Power had rendered our condition in life upon the whole the proper object rather of rejection than of choice; the great rule which he had given us for the direction of our conduct, then required us to leave it. We might then be said to hear the awful and benevolent voice of that divine Being distinctly calling upon us to do so.

Adam Smith (1723-1790)
The Theory of Moral Sentiments, 1759
Volume II, Part VII "Of Systems of Moral Philosophy",
Section II, Chapter I


I believe that most people have some degree of talent for something -- forms, colors, words, sounds. Talent lies around in us like kindling waiting for a match, but some people, just as gifted as others, are less lucky. Fate never drops a match on them. The times are wrong, or their health is poor, or their energy low, or their obligations too many. Something.

Wallace Earle Stegner (1909-1993)
Crossing to Safety, 1987
Part I, Chapter 5


I am a democrat because I believe that no man or group of men is good enough to be trusted with uncontrolled power over others. And the higher the pretensions of such power, the more dangerous I think it both to the rulers and to the subjects. Hence Theocracy is the worst of all governments. If we must have a tyrant a robber baron is far better than an inquisitor. The baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity at some point be sated; and since he dimly knows he is doing wrong he may possibly repent. But the inquisitor who mistakes his own cruelty and lust of power and fear for the voice of Heaven will torment us infinitely because he torments us with the approval of his own conscience and his better impulses appear to him as temptations. And since Theocracy is the worst, the nearer any government approaches to Theocracy the worse it will be. A metaphysic, held by the rulers with the force of a religion, is a bad sign. It forbids them, like the inquisitor, to admit any grain of truth or good in their opponents, it abrogates the ordinary rules of morality, and it gives a seemingly high, super-personal sanction to all the very ordinary human passions by which, like other men, the rulers will frequently be actuated. In a word, it forbids wholesome doubt. A political programme can never in reality be more than probably right. We never know all the facts about the present and we can only guess the future. To attach to a party programme -- whose highest real claim is to reasonable prudence -- the sort of assent which we should reserve for demonstrable theorems, is a kind of intoxication.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)
"A Reply to Professor Haldane"
Of Other Worlds, 1966
Edited by Walter Hooper


Men are in error when they lament the flight of time, accusing it of being too swift, and not perceiving that it is sufficient as it passes; but good memory, with which nature has endowed us, causes things long past to seem present.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci
Number 1170
Translated by Jean Paul Richter (1763-1825), 1888

In fact, if you could forget mortality, and that used to be easier here than in most places, you could really believe that time is circular, and not linear and progressive as our culture is bent on proving. Seen in geological perspective, we are fossils in the making, to be buried and eventually exposed again for the puzzlement of creatures of later eras. Seen in either geological or biological terms, we don't warrant attention as individuals. One of us doesn't differ that much from another, each generation repeats its parents, the works we build to outlast us are not much more enduring than anthills, and much less so than coral reefs. Here everything returns upon itself, repeats and renews itself, and present can hardly be told from past.

Wallace Earle Stegner (1909-1993)
Crossing to Safety, 1987
Part I, Chapter 1


What matters is the awareness, if only for an hour or two, if only for a few minutes, of being someone or, more often, something other than the insulated self. "I live, yet not I, but wine or opium or peyotl or hashish liveth in me." To go beyond the limits of the insulated ego is such a liberation that, even when self-transcendence is through nausea into frenzy, through cramps into hallucinations and coma, the drug-induced experience has been regarded by primitives and even by the highly civilized as intrinsically divine.

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

I have taken mescalin about six times now and have been taken beyond the realm of vision to the realm of what the mystics call "obscure knowledge" -- insight into the nature of things accompanied by the realization that, in spite of pain and tragedy, the universe is all right, in other words that God is Love. The words are embarrassingly silly and, on the level of average consciousness, untrue. But when we are on the higher level, they are seen to stand for the primordial Fact, of which the consciousness is now a part.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
Letter to Victorio Ocampo
19 July 1956
Letters of Aldous Huxley, 1969
Edited by Grover Cleveland Smith


The truest and most horrible claim made for modern transport is that it "annihilates space". It does. It annihilates one of the most glorious gifts we have been given. It is a vile inflation which lowers the value of distance, so that a modern boy travels a hundred miles with less sense of liberation and pilgrimage and adventure than his grandfather got from travelling ten. Of course if a man hates space and wants it to be annihilated, that is another matter. Why not creep into his coffin at once? There is little enough space there.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)
Surprised by Joy, 1955
Chapter 10 "Fortune's Smile"


If you besiege a town for a long time, making war against it in order to take it, you must not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them. Although you may take food from them, you must not cut them down. Are trees in the field human beings that they should come under siege from you? You may destroy only the trees that you know do not produce food.

Bible, Deuteronomy 20:19-20

Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?
(I think they hang there winter and summer on those trees and always drop fruit as I pass)

Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
"Song of the Open Road" part 7
Leaves of Grass, 1855


There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination. Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic.

Anais Nin (1903-1977)
The Journals of Anaïs Nin: 1939-1944, 1970
Fall 1943
Edited by Gunther Stuhlmann


The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.

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


Because impudence is a vice, it does not follow that modesty is a virtue; it is built upon shame, a passion in our nature, and may be either good or bad according to the actions performed from that motive.

Bernard Mandeville (1670-1733)
The Fable of the Bees, 1714
Remarks, Line 101

The most dangerous thing you can do is to take any one impulse of your own nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs. There is not one of them which will not make us into devils if we set it up as an absolute guide. You might think love of humanity in general was safe, but it is not. If you leave out justice you will find yourself breaking agreements and faking evidence in trials "for the sake of humanity", and become in the end a cruel and treacherous man.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)
Mere Christianity, 1952
Book I "Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe"
Chapter 2 "Some Objections"


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

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"

"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

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


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


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


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

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"


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

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