Food For Thought

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

author index



There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.

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

Beauty's but skin deep.

John Davies of Hereford (c.1565-1618)
A Select Second Husband for Sir Thomas Overburie's Wife, 1616
Stanza 13

Beauty in things exists in the mind which contemplates them.

David Hume (1711-1776)
"Of Tragedy"
Essays, 1741-1742

Familiarity is a magician that is cruel to beauty, but kind to ugliness.

Ouida (1839-1908)
Princess Napraxine, 1906
Chapter II

Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angelic
orders? And even if one of them pressed me
suddenly to his heart; I'd be consumed
in his stronger existence. For beauty is nothing
but the beginning of terror, which we can just barely endure
and we stand in awe of it as it cooly disdains
to destroy us. Each angel is terrifying.

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)
"The First Elegy"
Duino Elegies, 1922

For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we still are just able to endure, and we are so awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)
"The First Elegy"
Duino Elegies, 2009
Translated by Stephen Mitchell

I'm tired of all this nonsense about beauty being only skin-deep. That's deep enough. What do you want - an adorable pancreas?

Jean Kerr (b.1923)
"Mirror, Mirror on the Wall"
The Snake Has All the Lines, 1958

The beauty myth moves for men as a mirage; its power lies in its ever-receding nature. When the gap is closed, the lover embraces only his own disillusion.

Naomi Wolf (b.1962)
"Sex", The Beauty Myth, 1990



The mouth of a perfectly happy man is filled with beer.

Egyptian saying (2200 BC)

I have fed purely upon ale; I have eat my ale, drank my ale, and I always sleep upon ale.

George Farquhar (1678-1707)
The Beaux' Stratagem, 1707
Act 1, scene 1

Beer makes you feel as you ought to feel without beer.

Henry Lawson (1867-1922)
Selected Works, 1957
Edited and Introduced by Lyle Blair

Between 2001 and 2004, staff and volunteers for the nonprofit Sky Island Alliance counted and identified beer cans and bottles found on wild lands in the Sky Island region of Arizona and New Mexico, in conjunction with their work mapping roads and roadless areas. Cans and bottles were only counted if spotted within ten meters of an assigned transect. Items were removed to avoid double counting them on future transects. During approximately 65 two-day volunteer field weekends, roughly 240 people documented a total of 7,563 containers, of which 7,426 (98 percent) were cans and 137 (2 percent) were bottles. Analysis of brands shows that of the 7,563 total containers found, 7,298 (96.5 percent) were Bud Light, 151 (2 percent) were Natural Light, 76 (1 percent) were Coors Light, and 30 (less than 0.5 percent) were Budweiser containers. One Fat Tire Amber Ale bottle was found in the Chiricahua Mountains, and seven Tecate cans were found in a camp in the Huachuca Mountains.

Trevor Hare (b.c.1963)
"Abbey's Revenge"
Orion, May/June 2004

The brewery is the best drugstore.

Teutonic adage

Many an old-timer laments the disappearance of this ale or that lager, and becomes nostalgic about the glories of some fondly-remembered brew, when he is really mourning the passing of his youth.

Brewing in Canada, 1965
Chapter V "Consumer's Taste"

Our lager,
which art in barrels,
Hallowed be thy drink.
Thy will be drunk,
(I will be drunk),
At home as in the tavern.
Give us this day our foamy head,
and forgive us our spillages,
As we forgive those who spill against us.
And lead us not to incarceration,
But deliver us from hangovers.
For thine is the beer, the ale and the lager,
Forever and ever,

Beer Prayer



Nothing is so firmly believed as what is least known.

Montaigne (1533-1592)
Essays, Book I, 1580, Chapter 32

For what a man would like to to be true, that he more readily believes.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
Novum Organum, 1620
Book I, Aphorism 49

Earthly minds, like mud walls, resist the strongest batteries: and though, perhaps, sometimes the force of a clear argument may make some impression, yet they nevertheless stand firm, and keep out the enemy, truth, that would captivate or disturb them. Tell a man passionately in love that he is jilted; bring a score of witnesses of the falsehood of his mistress, it is ten to one but three kind words of hers shall invalidate all their testimonies.

John Locke (1632-1704)
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, 1690
Book 4: Chapter 20 "Of Wrong Assent, or Error"

...the man scarce lives who is not more credulous than he ought to be, and who does not, upon many occasions, give credit to tales, which not only turn out to be perfectly false, but which a very moderate degree of reflection and attention might have taught him could not well be true. The natural disposition is always to believe. It is acquired wisdom and experience only that teach incredulity, and they very seldom teach it enough. The wisest and most cautious of us all frequently gives credit to stories which he himself is afterwards both ashamed and astonished that he could possibly think of believing.

Adam Smith (1723-1790)
The Theory of Moral Sentiments, 1759
Part VII "On Systems of moral philosophy"
Section IV "Of the manner in which different authors
have treated of the practical rules of morality", Number 23

One is never deceived; one deceives oneself.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
Wilhelm Meister's Journeyman Years, 1829
Book Three, "From Makarie's Archives"

The struggle between faith and knowledge had not yet become the order of the day, but the two words and the ideas connected with them were brought forward from time to time, and true cynics maintained that one was as little to be relied on as the other. So I took delight in declaring in favor of both, yet even then failed to win my friends' assent. In matters of Faith, I said, everything depends on believing; the nature of the belief is perfectly indifferent. Faith is a profound sense of security for the present and the future, and this assurance springs from confidence in a limitless, all-powerful, and inscutable Being. The firmness of this confidence is the one great point; but our conception of this Being depends on our othe faculties, or even on circumstances, and is a question of perfect indifference. Faith is a sacred vessel into which everyone is ready to pour his feelings, his understanding, his imagination, making the sacrifice as entire as he can. With Knowledge the exact opposite is the case. There the point is not whether we know, but what we know, how much we know, and how well we know it. Hence, Knowledge is open to dispute because it can be corrected, widened, and restricted. Knowledge begins with the particular, it is endless and irreducible in forms of sense, can never be apprehended in its entirety, or at least only as in a dream, and thus remains the exact opposite of faith.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
Poetry and Truth From My Own Life, 1908
Volume II, Part III, Book XIV
Translated by Minna Steele Smith

Belief is not the beginning, but the end of all knowledge.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
The Doctrine of Descent and Darwinism, 1876
Chapter V
by Eduard Oscar Schmidt (1823-1886)
Paraphrase of above?
See caveat

Credulity is the man's weakness, but the child's strength.

Charles Lamb (1775-1834)
"Witches and Other Night Fears"
Essays of Elia, 1823

If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Chapter I "Nature"
Nature; Addresses and Lectures, 1849

We are born believing. A man bears beliefs, as a tree bears beauty.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
The Conduct of Life, 1860

The practical effect of a belief is the real test of its soundness. Where we find a heroic life appearing as the uniform fruit of a particular mode of opinion, it is childish to argue in the face of fact that the result ought to have been different.

James Anthony Froude (1818-1894)
"Calvinism: An Address Delivered at St. Andrews"
17 March 1871

Irrationally held truths may be more harmful than reasoned errors.

Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895)
The Coming of Age of The Origin of Species, 1880

I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives.

Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910)
"What Is Art?", 1898
What Is Art?, 1930
Chapter XIV

"There's no use trying," she said: "one can't believe impossible things."

"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

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

Today the intelligence of the world denies the miraculous. Ignorance is the soil of the supernatural. The foundation of Christianity has crumbled, has disappeared, and the entire fabric must fall. The natural is true. The miraculous is false.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899)
"Why Am I Agnostic?", Part II
North American Review
March 1890

Cursed is he that does not know when to shut his mind. An open mind is all very well in its way, but it ought not to be so open that there is no keeping anything in or out of it. It should be capable of shutting its doors sometimes, or may be found a little draughty.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902)
The Note Books of Samuel Butler, 1912
"Falsehood", number vi

We all live in the protection of certain cowardices which we call our principles.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
More Maxims of Mark, 1927
by Merle Johnson (d.1935)

It is always easier to believe than to deny. Our minds are naturally affirmative.

John Burroughs (1837-1921)
"The Modern Skeptic"
The Light of Day, 1900

Il y a quelque impertinence à se faire brûler pour une opinion. (There is a certain impertinence in allowing oneself to be burned for an opinion.)

Anatole France (1844-1924)
"Portrait de Rabelais"
La vie littéraire, 1891

To die for an idea is to place a pretty high price upon conjectures.

Anatole France (1844-1924)
The Revolt of the Angels, 1914
Translated by Mrs. Wilfrid Jackson, 1933

Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
Human, All Too Human, 1878, 1

A very popular error: having the courage of one's convictions; rather it is a matter of having the courage for an attack on one's convictions!!!

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
Works, 1920-1929, Volume XVI, page 318

In science the credit goes to the man who convinces the world, not to the man to whom the idea first occurs.

Francis Darwin (1848-1925)
"Francis Galton"
Eugenics Review, April 1914

To doubt everything or to believe everything are two equally convenient solutions; both dispense with the necessity of reflection.

Jules-Henri Poincare (1854-1912)
Science and Hypothesis, 1905
Author's Preface

A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
"The Portrait of Mr. W.H."
1889, Chapter 1

People talk so much to me about the beauty of confidence. They seem to entirely ignore the much more subtle beauty of doubt. To believe is very dull. To doubt is intensely engrossing. The Apostle Thomas was artistic up to a certain point. He appreciated the value of shadows in a picture. To be on the alert is to live. To be lulled into security is to die.

Robert Smythe Hichens (1864-1950)
The Green Carnation, 1894
Chapter VIII
Oscar Wilde satire

Idealism is just a byproduct of geography - it's the haze that lies in the middle distance. The farther you are from bed-rock, the less quick you need be to see it. We're twenty sea-miles more idealistic about the European situation than the French are. And you're three thousand sea-miles more idealistic than we are. But when it's a matter of niggers, we're three thousand sea-miles more idealistic than you....

John Galsworthy (1867-1933)
The Silver Spoon, 1926
Part 1, Chapter 5 "Side-Slips"

Idealism increases in direct proportion to one's distance from the problem.

John Galsworthy (1867-1933)
Paraphrase of previous quotation?

It is always easier to fight for one's principles than to live up to them.

Alfred Adler (1870-1937)
Alfred Adler: Apostle of Freedom, 1939
Chapter 5
by Phyllis Bottome (1884-1963)

What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out, which is the exact opposite.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
Sceptical Essays, 1928
Chapter 12 Free Thought and Official Propaganda

The word "belief" is a difficult thing for me. I don't believe. I must have a reason for a certain hypothesis. Either I know a thing, and then I know it -- I don't need to believe it.

Carl Gustave Jung (1875-1961)
Interview, 1959
Face to Face, 1964, page 51
by Hugh Burnett

[E]ven though the realms of religion and science in themselves are clearly marked off from each other, nevertheless there exist between the two strong reciprocal relationships and dependencies. Though religion may be that which determines the goal, it has, nevertheless, learned from science, in the broadest sense, what means will contribute to the attainment of the goals it has set up. But science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Science, Philosophy, and Religion: A Symposium
Jewish Theological Institute, New York, September 1940
Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion in Their
Relation to the Democratic Way of Life
, 1941

Conceptions without experience are void; experience without conceptions is blind.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Paraphrase or mistranslation of previous quotation?

We have only to believe. And the more threatening and irreducible reality appears, the more firmly and desperately must we believe. Then, little by little, we shall see the universal horror unbend, and then smile upon us, and then take us in its more than human arms.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955)
The Divine Milieu, 1957
Part III, Chapter 3, section B

Martyrdom has always been a proof of the intensity, never of the correctness of a belief.

Arthur Schnitzler (1882-1931)
Buch der Spruche und Bedenken, 1927

For having expressed an opinion, however far-fetched, we straightway become its slave, ready to die defending it, and even ready to believe it. And many continue to be martyrs to causes which have ceased to exist, their crowns rusting upon their heads as tin wreaths rust upon forgotten tombs.

Paul Eldridge (1888-1982)
Seven Against the Night, 1960
Chapter 2 "Niccolo Machiavelli"

At the foundation of well-founded belief lies belief that is not founded.

Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951)
"On Certainty", Number 253

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

At eighteen our convictions are hills from which we look; at forty-five they are caves in which we hide.

F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940)
Bernice Bobs Her Hair, 1920
Section 2

La dernière illusion est de croire qu'on les a toutes perdues. (The final illusion is the belief that one has lost all illusions."

Maurice Chapelan (1906-1992)

You can always pick up your needle and move to another groove.

Timothy Leary (1920-1996)

...And no philosophy, sadly, has all the answers. No matter how assured we may be about certain aspects of our belief, there are always painful inconsistencies, exceptions, and contradictions. This is true in religion as it is in politics, and is self-evident to all except fanatics and the naive. As for the fanatics, whose number is legion in our own time, we might be advised to leave them to heaven. They will not, unfortunately, do us the same courtesy. They attack us and each other, and whatever their protestations to peaceful intent, the bloody record of history makes clear that they are easily disposed to restore to the sword. My own belief in God, then, is just that -- a matter of belief, not knowledge. My respect for Jesus Christ arises from the fact that He seems to have been the most virtuous inhabitant of Planet Earth. But even well-educated Christians are frustrated in their thirst for certainty about the beloved figure of Jesus because of the undeniable ambiguity of the scriptural record. Such ambiguity is not apparent to children or fanatics, but every recognized Bible scholar is perfectly aware of it. Some Christians, alas, resort to formal lying to obscure such reality.

Steve Allen (1921-2000)
The Courage of Conviction, 1985
edited by Phillip L. Berman

Belief in the supernatural reflects a failure of the imagination.

Edward Abbey (1927-1989)
A Voice Crying in the Wilderness (Vox Clamantis in Deserto), 1989
Chapter 1 "Philosophy, Religion, and so Forth"

Men love their ideas more than their lives. And the more preposterous the idea, the more eager they are to die for it. And to kill for it.

Edward Abbey (1927-1989)
A Voice Crying in the Wilderness (Vox Clamantis in Deserto), 1989
Chapter 3, "Government and Politics"

I say to you, this morning, that if you have never found something so dear and so precious to you that you will die for it, then you aren't fit to live. You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be, and one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls upon you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid. You refuse to do it because you want to live longer. You're afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you're afraid that somebody will stab you or shoot at you or bomb your house. So you refuse to take a stand. Well, you may go on and live until you are ninety, but you are just as dead at thirty-eight as you would be at ninety. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit. You died when you refused to stand up for right. You died when you refused to stand up for truth. You died when you refused to stand up for justice.

Don't ever think that you're by yourself. Go on to jail if necessary, but you never go alone. Take a stand for that which is right, and the world may misunderstand you, and criticize you. But you never go alone, for somewhere I read that one with God is a majority. And God has a way of transforming a minority into a majority. Walk with him this morning and believe in Him and do what is right, and He'll be with you even until the consummation of the ages. Yes, I've seen the lightning flash. I've heard the thunder roll. I've felt sin breakers dashing, trying to conquer my soul, but I heard the voice of Jesus saying still to fight on. He promised never to leave me alone, never to leave me alone. No, never alone. No, never alone.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)
Speech, Ebenezer Baptist Church
Atlanta, Georgia
05 November 1967
From The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., 2001
Chapter 33 "Beyond Vietnam"
By Clayborne Carson

One of my favorite philosophical tenets is that people will agree with you only if they already agree with you. You do not change people's minds.

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

Fact of the matter is, there is no hip world, there is no straight world. There's a world, you see, which has people in it who believe in a variety of different things. Everybody believes in something and everybody, by virtue of the fact that they believe in something, use that something to support their own existence.

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

The believer is happy; the doubter is wise.

Hungarian Proverb

If you resist reading what you disagree with, how will you ever acquire deeper insights into what you believe? The things most worth reading are precisely those that challenge our convictions.


Theory: when you have ideas. Ideology: when ideas have you.



[see also: DEATH]

Let me intreat you to moderate your Grief, and weep no more; it may hurt, but cannot help you. Remember what Socrates was wont to do and say; follow his Practice and his Precepts. Your excessive Sorrow does but wrong yourself, and prejudice your Children: Consider, they are the Children of Socrates; and that we are obliged not only to maintain them, but to preserve ourselves too for their Sakes; lest, if you, or I, or any other, who, now Socrates is no more, ought to look to his Children, should do otherwise than well, they might want a Guardian to support and protect them. I make it my Study to live for them, which you will not do long, unless you abate your unavailing Sorrow, and cherish yourself. Grief is one of the Things that are most opposite, most averse to Life; it most prejudices the Living, and shortens their Days.

Xenophon (c.431-c.352 BC)
"The Life of Xenophon: Xenophon to Xantippe"
The Memorable Things of Socrates, 1747

Excess of grief for the deceased is madness, for it is an injury to the living, and the dead know it not.

Xenophon (c.431-c.352 BC)
Mental Recreation; or, Select Maxims, Sayings, and Observations, 1831
Paraphrase of previous quotation?

For certain is death for the born
And certain is birth for the dead;
Therefore over the inevitable
Thou shouldst not grieve.

Bhagavad-Gita (250 BC - AD 250)
Chapter 2, verse 27

"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

Peace, peace! he is not dead, he doth not sleep --
He hath awakened from the dream of life --
'Tis we, who lost in stormy visions, keep
With phantoms an unprofitable strife.

Percy Bysshe Shelly (1792-1822)
"Adonis", 1821, stanza 39

The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and for deeds left undone.

Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896)
Little Foxes, 1865
Chapter 3

Why is it that we rejoice at a birth and grieve at a funeral? Is it because we are not the person involved?

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
"Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar", August 1894

What we call mourning for our dead is perhaps not so much grief at not being able to call them back as it is grief at not being able to want to do so.

Thomas Mann (1875-1955)
The Magic Mountain, 1924
Chapter 7

Tears are sometimes an inappropriate response to death. When a life has been lived completely honestly, completely successfully, or just completely, the correct response to death's perfect punctuation mark is a smile.

Julie Burchill (b.1960)
Independent, London
05 December 1989


Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon than the Word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind.

Thomas Paine (1737-1809)
"Examination of the Old Testament"
Age of Reason, 1794, Part I

"Never forget, gentlemen," he said, to his astonished hearers, as he held up a copy of the "Authorized Version" of the Bible, "never forget that this is not the Bible," then, after a moment's pause, he continued, "This, gentlemen, is only a translation of the Bible."

Richard Whately (1787-1863)
To a meeting of his diocesan clergy
These Eighty Years, 1893
Volume II, Chapter 2, page 81
by Henry Solly (1813-1903)

The Bible is not my book, and Christianity is not my religion. I could never give assent to the long, complicated statements of Christian dogma.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
Probable fabrication - possibly taken from
Abe Lincoln in Illinois, 1937
by Robert Emmet Sherwood
See caveat

It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Attributed, but not found in his works

Most people are bothered by those passages in Scripture which they cannot understand; but as for me, I always noticed that the passages in Scripture which trouble me most are those I do understand.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Attributed, but not found in his works

"[The Bible of nature] is the best damn Bible in the world. Its laws are perfect and grand, and all the prayers in the world can't change them. There is intelligence and law in this world, and there may be supreme intelligence and law, but so far as the religion of the day is concerned, it is all a damned fake.

Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931)
Free Thought Magazine
Volume XVII, Number 11
November 1899

All Bibles are man-made.

Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931)
Probable fabrication

The total absence of humour from the Bible is one of the most singular things in all literature.

Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947)
quoted in Dialogues of Alfred North Whitehead, 1954
edited by Lucien Price

The Good Book -- one of the most remarkable euphemisms ever coined.

Ashley Montagu (1905-1999)
quoted in 2000 Years of Disbelief, 1996
by James A. Haught

And it came to pass that in the hands of the ignorant, the words of the Bible were used to beat plowshares into swords.

Alan Watts (1915-1973)

It says in the Book:
Burn 'n destroy...
'N repent, 'n redeem
'N revenge, 'n deploy
'N rumble thee forth
To the land of the unbelieving scum on the other side
'Cause they don't go for what's in the book
'N that makes 'em BAD
So verily we must choppeth them up
And stompeth them down
Or rent a nice French bomb
To poof them out of existence
While leaving their real estate just where we need it
To use again
For temples in which to praise
("'Cause he can really take care of business")

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)
"Dumb All Over"
You Are What You Is
September 1981


[see also: ANIMALS]

Sparrows are a nuisance; they bother other birds and are too cocksure for my taste. They should be equipped with leather jackets and bicycle chains, and not try to pose as respectable citizens.

Robert David Symons (1898-1973)
Silton Seasons, 1975
Chapter III "June - The Moon of Roses"

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"


The best of all things for earthly men is not to be born and not to see the beams of the bright sun; but if born, then as quickly as possible to pass the gates of Hades, and to lie deep buried.

Theognis (fl. c.545 BC)
Elegies, line 425

Not to be born surpasses thought and speech.
The second best is to have seen the light
And then to go back quickly whence we came.

Sophocles (c.495-406 BC)
Oedipus at Colonus, 406 BC
Line 184

I should like to abolish funerals; the time to mourn a person is at his birth, not his death.

Montesquieu (1689-1755)
Persian Letters, 1721
Number 40

"Yes, certainly," cried the mother stork. "I have thought upon the best way to be revenged. I know the pond in which all the little children lie, waiting till the storks come to take them to their parents. The prettiest little babies lie there dreaming more sweetly than they will ever dream in the time to come. All parents are glad to have a little child, and children are so pleased with a little brother or sister. Now we will fly to the pond and fetch a little baby for each of the children who did not sing that naughty song to make game of the storks."

"But the naughty boy, who began the song first, what shall we do to him?" cried the young storks.

"There lies in the pond a little dead baby who has dreamed itself to death," said the mother. "We will take it to the naughty boy, and he will cry because we have brought him a little dead brother. But you have not forgotten the good boy who said it was a shame to laugh at animals: we will take him a little brother and sister too, because he was good.

Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875)
"The Storks", 1838

SERPENT: I can talk of many things. I am very wise. It was I who whispered the word to you that you did not know. Dead. Death. Die.

EVE: [shuddering] Why do you remind me of it? I forgot it when I saw your beautiful hood. You must not remind me of unhappy things.

SERPENT: Death is not an unhappy thing when you have learnt how to conquer it.

EVE: How can I conquer it?

SERPENT: By another thing, called birth.

EVE: [Trying to pronounce it] B-birth?

SERPENT: Yes, birth.

EVE: What is birth?

SERPENT: The serpent never dies. Some day you shall see me come out of this beautiful skin, a new snake with a new and lovelier skin. This is birth.

EVE: I have seen that. It is wonderful.

SERPENT: If I can do that, what can I not do? I tell you I am very subtle. When you and Adam talk, I hear you say 'Why?' Always 'Why?' You see things; and you say 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say 'Why not?' I made the word dead to describe my old skin that I cast off when I am renewed. I call that renewal being born.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
Back to Methuselah, 1921
Part I, Act I, "In the Beginning"

It is as painful perhaps to be awakened from a vision as to be born.

James Joyce (1882-1941)
Ulysses, 1934

Every new baby is a blind desperate vote for survival: people who find themselves unable to register an effective political protest against extermination do so by a biological act.

Lewis Mumford (1895-1990)
The City in History, 1961
Chapter 18


I will not give to a woman a pessary to cause abortion.

Hippocrates (c.460-c.377 BC)
The Physician's Oath

Prevention of birth is premature murder, and it makes no difference whether it is a life already born that one snatches away or a life that is coming to birth.

Tertullian (c.160-c.240)
The Christian's Defence, c.215

However we may pity the mother whose health and even life is imperiled by the performance of her natural duty, there yet remains no sufficient reason for condoning the direct murder of the innocent.

Pius XI (1857-1939)
Casti Connubii
31 December 1930

It is now quite lawful for a Catholic woman to avoid pregnancy by a resort to mathematics, though she is still forbidden to resort to physics or chemistry.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)
"Minority Report"
Notebooks, 1956

I'll put an end to the idea that a woman's body belongs to her...the practice of abortion shall be exterminated with a strong hand.

Adolf Hitler (1889-1945)
Mein Kampf, 1925

If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.

Florynce Kennedy (1916-2000)
Quoted in The Verbal Karate of Florynce R. Kennedy, Esq.
by Gloria Steinem (b.1934)
Ms., New York, March 1973

You can't stop abortion without fighting contraception: it is the gateway to abortion. Not one of the 81 countries I've worked in has 'clean' contraception without abortion -- not one. Once there's contraception -- separating sexual activity from procreation and teaching people to use each other's bodies for selfish pleasure -- abortion is always used as a backup.

Fr. Paul Marx (b.1920)
President, Human Life International,
"Pro Life/Family Catalog", 1991
(quoted in "The Far Right, Speaking For Themselves,"
a Planned Parenthood pamphlet)

What masquerades as sex education is not education at all. It is selective propaganda which artificially encourages children to participate in adult sex, while it censors out the facts of life about the unhappy consequences. It is robbing children of their childhood.

Phillis Schlafly (b.1924)
"What's Wrong With Sex Education"
The Phyllis Schlafly Report, February 1981
Volume 14, Number 7

It's very healthy for a young girl to be deterred from promiscuity by fear of contracting a painful, incurable disease, or cervical cancer, or sterility, or the likelihood of giving birth to a dead, blind, or brain-damage [sic] baby even ten years later when she may be happily married.

Phillis Schlafly (b.1924)
Quoted in "The Far Right, Speaking For Themselves,"
a Planned Parenthood pamphlet, 1990

Sex education classes are like in-home sales parties for abortions.

Phillis Schlafly (b.1924)

Abolition of a woman's right to abortion, when and if she wants it, amounts to compulsory maternity: form of rape by the State.

Edward Abbey (1927-1989)
A Voice Crying in the Wilderness (Vox Clamantis in Deserto), 1989
Chapter 8 "On Women, Love, Sex, Et Cetera"

For instance, several years ago we tracked down a twelve-year-old girl who was going to have an abortion so that we could talk her out of it. Talking a woman out of having an abortion is not news. But tracking her down using a private detective is.

Joseph M. Scheidler (b.1927)
Executive Director, Pro Life Action League
"Closed: 99 Ways to Stop Abortion", 1985
(from "The Far Right, Speaking For Themselves,"
a Planned Parenthood pamphlet)

...the Pro-Life Action League opposes all forms of contraception....

Joseph M. Scheidler (b.1927)
Executive Director, Pro-Life Action League
from The Wanderer, 10 August 1989
(quoted in "The Far Right, Speaking For Themselves,"
a Planned Parenthood pamphlet)

I think contraception is disgusting -- people using each other for pleasure.

Joseph M. Scheidler (b.1927)
Director, Pro-Life Action League
Chicago Tribune, 11 August 1985

Griswold v. Connecticut first established and guaranteed the `right of privacy' in the conjugal act. Sexual love, however, in a most profound way is anything but `private.' Its very purpose is to break the bonds of privacy by physical consummation of an unreserved gift of self. The contraceptive, however, denies the meaning of marital love by falsifying its bodily expression. Love is no longer unreserved; something is held back. `I cannot love all of you,' the contraceptive says, `because I cannot love all that might be created by you.'

Edmund Miller (b.1943)
Anti-Abortion Commentator
Fidelity magazine, October 1989
(quoted in "The Far Right, Speaking For Themselves,"
a Planned Parenthood pamphlet)

I would never give artificial birth control to an unmarried person...

Judie Brown (b.1944)
President, American Life League
"Nightline", 21 July 1989
(quoted in "The Far Right, Speaking For Themselves,"
a Planned Parenthood pamphlet)

Oh yes, the sentimentality for "unborn babies," but apparent lack of concern for "born babies." What are you once you are born? Pre-dead?

Arne Adolphson (b.1955)
soc.motss post
07 July 1992

I don't think Christians should use birth control. You consummate your marriage as often as you like and if you have babies, you have babies.

Randall Terry (b.1959)
Executive Director, Operation Rescue

To be against abortion and not against contraception -- it makes no sense because both of them are the same mentality.

Nancy O'Brien
Anti-Choice Activist
introducing Joan Andrews, 11 March 1989,
(quoted in "The Far Right, Speaking For Themselves,"
a Planned Parenthood pamphlet)

Once contraception is accepted and the purposes of sex are separated from procreation and marriage, sterilization and abortion become acceptable, and then infanticide, the precursor of outright euthanasia. Furthermore, homosexuality and unnatural sexual activities become `natural and normal,' the venereal diseases get out of control, divorce and illegitimacy rates mount, and the family swiftly disintegrates.

Valerie Riches
Family Planning Educator
in her brochure, Contraception's Legacy,
(quoted in "The Far Right, Speaking For Themselves,"
a Planned Parenthood pamphlet)

I don't think we should punish the criminal [a rapist] by killing his child.

Dr. John Wilke
President, National Right to Life Committee
"Search for Common Ground",
Taped for television, April 1989,
(quoted in "The Far Right, Speaking For Themselves,"
a Planned Parenthood pamphlet)


Men blaspheme what they do not know.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
Pensees, 1670, number 556


We are bound to our bodies like an oyster is to its shell.

Plato (c.428-348 BC)
Phaedrus, c.360 BC

The brain may be regarded as a kind of parasite of the organism, a pensioner, as it were, who dwells with the body.

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)
"Aphorisms on the Wisdom of Life"
Parerga and Paralipomena, 1851

Addiction, obesity, starvation (anorexia nervosa) are political problems, not psychiatric: each condenses and expresses a contest between the individual and some other person or persons in his environment over the control of the individual's body.

Thomas Szasz (b.1920)
"Control and Self-Control"
The Second Sin, 1973


[see also: LITERATURE]

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention. Some books may also be read by deputy, and extracts made of them by others.

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

To read without reflecting, is like eating without digesting.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
Apocryphal; may be paraphrase of Whately's annotation in
Bacon's Essays: With Annotations by Richard Whately, 1856
Essay XXV "Of Dispatch", 1612
Whately quotes his own title,
Elements of Rhetoric, 1869
See caveat

Books and marriage go ill together.

Moliere (1622-1673)
Les Femmes Savantes, 1672
Act V, scene iii

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.

Joseph Addison (1672-1719)
Tatler, 1709-1711, number 147

But beware you be not swallowed up in books! An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge.

John Wesley (1703-1791)
Letter to brother Joseph Benson
07 November 1768
The Works of the Rev. John Wesley, 1813
Volume XVI

A man ought to read just as inclination leads him; for what he reads as a task will do him little good.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
14 July 1763
Life of Johnson, 1791
by James Boswell (1740-1795)

There are a hundred faults in this Thing, and a hundred things might be said to prove them beauties: but it is needless. A book may be amusing with numerous errors, or it may be very dull without a single absurdity.

Oliver Goldsmith (1730-1774)
The Vicar of Wakefield, 1792

I cannot live without books.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Letter to John Adams
10 June 1815

Readers may be divided into four classes: 1. Sponges, who absorb all that they read and return it in nearly the same state, only a little dirtied. 2. Sand-glasses, who retain nothing and are content to get through a book for the sake of getting through the time. 3. Strain-bags, who retain merely the dregs of what they read. 4. Mogul diamonds, equally rare and valuable, who profit by what they read, and enable others to profit by it also.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)
Lectures and Notes, 1811

If we steal thoughts from the moderns, it will be cried down as plagarism; if from the ancients, it will be cried up as erudition. But, in this respect, every author is a Spartan, being more ashamed of the discovery, than of the depredation. Yes, the offence itself may not be so heinous as the manner of committing it; for some, as Voltaire, not only steal, but, like the harpies, befoul and bespatter those whom they have plundered. Others, again, give us the mere carcass of another man's thoughts, but deprived of all their life and spirit, and this is to add murder to robbery. I have somewhere seen it observed, that we should make the same use of a book, that the bee does of a flower; she steals sweets from it, but does not injure it; and those sweets she herself improves and concocts into honey. But most plagarists, like the drone, have neither taste to select, nor industry to acquire, nor skill to improve, but impudently pilfer the honey ready prepared from the hive.

C.C. Colton (1780-1832)
Lacon Or Many Things in Few Words:
Addressed to Those Who Think
, 1820
Article DXLVI

It is remarked by anatomists that the nutritive quality is not the only requisite in food, -- that a certain degree of distension of the stomach is required to enable it to act with its full powers, -- and that it is for this reason hay or straw must be given to horses as well as corn, in order to supply the necessary bulk. Something analogous to this takes place with respect to the generality of minds, -- which are incapable of thoroughly digesting and assimilating what is presented to them in a very small compass. Many a one is capable of deriving that instruction from a moderate-sized volume, which he could not receive from a very small pamphlet, even more perspicuously written, and containing every thing that is to the purpose. It is necessary that the attention should be detained for a certain time on the subject; and persons of unphilosophical mind, though they can attend to what they read or hear, are unapt to dwell upon it in the way of subsequent meditation.

Richard Whately (1787-1863)
Elements of Rhetoric, 1869
Part III, "Of Style"
Chapter I "Of Perspicuity",
Section 2

Buying books would be a good thing if one could also buy the time to read them in: but as a rule the purchase of books is mistaken for the appropriation of their contents.

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)
Parerga and Paralipomena, 1851
Volume II, Chapter 33, section 296a

What havoc has been made of books through every century of the Christian era? Where are fifty gospels, condemned as spurious by the bull of Pope Gelasius? Where are the forty wagon-loads of Hebrew manuscripts burned in France, by order of another pope, because suspected of heresy? Remember the index expurgatorius, the inquisition, the stake, the axe, the halter, and the guillotine; and, oh! horrible, the rack!

John Adams (1797-1801)
Letter to John Taylor of Caroline
15 April 1851

Dort, wo man Bucher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen. (Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings.)

Heinrich Heine (1797-1856)
Almansor: A Tragedy, 1821
Line 245

'Tis the good reader that makes the good book; a good head cannot read amiss: in every book he finds passages which seem confidences or asides hidden from all else and unmistakeably meant for his ear.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Society and Solitude, 1870

Some books leave us free and some books make us free.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Journals, 22 December 1839

Many readers judge of the power of a book by the shock it gives their feelings -- as some savage tribes determine the power of muskets by their recoil; that being considered best which fairly prostrates the purchaser.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
Kavanagh, 1849
Book 1, Chapter 13

Books, not which afford us a cowering enjoyment, but in which each thought is of unusual daring; such as an idle man cannot read, and a timid one would not be entertained by, which even make us dangerous to existing institution -- such I call good books.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
"Sunday", A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, 1849

Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them all.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
"Sunday", A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, 1849

Reading is a great pleasure; but it is solitary. Byron says:

They who true joy would win \
Must share it; happiness is born twin.

True as this generally is, it is doubly true of literary enjoyment. The fullest instruction and the fullest enjoyment are never derived from books, till we have ventilated the ideas thus obtained in free and easy chat with others.

The mental faculties demand exercise as truly as the bodily, and enjoy it as keenly. The mind that is healthy delights in the glow of movement and contest. It loves to meet with a congenial spirit, -- one that has sucked the sweetness of the same authors, and enjoyed them with the same gust, -- which has brought away the quintessence, and treats it to the juice of the grape without thrusting upon it the stalks and husks. Talking is a digestive process which is absolutely essential to the mental constitution of the man who devours many books. A full mind must have talk, or it will grow dyspeptic.

William Mathews (1818-1909)
The Great Conversers: And Other Essays, 1874
Essay II "Literary Clubs"
[Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature, University of Chicago]

Life being very short, and the quiet hours of it few, we ought to waste none of them in reading valueless books.

John Ruskin (1819-1900)
Sesame and Lilies, 1865, preface

...I'm no longer prepared to accept what people say and what's written in books. I must think things out for myself, and try to find my own answer.

Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906)
"A Doll House", 1879

There are some books which cannot be adequately reviewed for twenty or thirty years after they come out.

John Morley (1838-1923)
Recollections, 1917
Volume I, Book 2, Chapter 8

Books are good enough in their own way, but they are a mighty bloodless substitute for life.

Robert Lewis Stevenson (1850-1894)
"An Apology for Idlers"
Virginibus Puerisque, 1881

There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.

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

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)

St. Columba had borrowed from the monk a fine manuscript of the Gospels, and Columba had made a copy of the borrowed book, before returning it. The monk claimed the copy also as his; the saint disputed this. His argument in defence reads not unlike the defence made by modern infringers of copyright: "I confess that the book in question was copied from the manuscript of Finnen. But it was with my own industry and toil and burning of the midnight oil. And it was copied with such care that Finnen's manuscript is in no way injured by the act of copying. Moreover, my object was to preserve more surely the best parts of the book and employ them for the greater glory of God. Hence I do not admit that I have done any injury to Finnen; nor am liable for restitution, nor am at fault in any way." But Dermot, the judge, as manuscripts were then new in Ireland, had no exact precedent, and he cast about for the nearest analogy. He found the Brehon maxim, "With every cow goes its calf", "Le cach boin a boinin"; and so his judgment was in favor of the monk, because "Le cach lebar a lebran", "With every book goes the young of the book". (But the saint, it is recorded, was very angry at this judgment, invoked the power of a rival chieftain against Dermot, and thrashed him well in battle.)

John Henry Wigmore (1863-1943)
A Panorama of the World's Legal Systems, 1936
page 677

They buried him, but all through the night of mourning, in the lighted windows, his books arranged three by three kept watch like angels with outspread wings and seemed, for him who was no more, the symbol of his resurrection.

Marcel Proust (1871-1922)
La Prisonniere, 1923
Volume I, Chapter 1

I suggest that the only books that influence us are those for which we are ready, and which have gone a little farther down our particular path than we have yet got ourselves.

E.M. Forster (1879-1970)
"A Book That Influenced Me"
Two Cheers For Democracy, 1951

The lowbrow is a person who often believes that a bad book is good; the highbrow is a person who as often believes that a good book is bad.

Robert Lynd (1879-1949)
The Orange Tree: A Volume of Essays, 1926

We all know that books burn -- yet we have the greater knowledge that books cannot be killed by fire. People die, but books never die. No man and no force can abolish memory. No man and no force can put thought in a concentration camp forever. No man and no force can take from the world the books that embody man's eternal fight against tyranny of every kind. In this war, we know, books are weapons. And it is part of your dedication always to make them weapons for man's freedom.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945)
"Message to the Booksellers of America"
06 May 1942

If the book we are reading does not wake us, as with a fist hammering on our skull, why then do we read it? So that it shall make us happy? Good God, we would also be happy if we had no books, and such books as make us happy we could, if need be, write ourselves. But what we must have are those books which come upon us like ill-fortune, and distress us deeply, like the death of one we love better than ourselves, like suicide. A book must be an ice-axe to break the sea frozen inside us.

Franz Kafka (1883-1924)
Letter to Oskar Pollak, 24 January 1904
Franz Kafka: Letters to Friends, Family, and Editors, 1977
Translated by Richard Winston and Clara Winston

Outside a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside a dog, it's too dark to read.

Groucho Marx (1890-1977)

There are books so alive that you're always afraid that while you weren't reading, the book has gone and changed, has shifted like a river; while you went on living, it went on living too, and like a river moved on and moved away. No one has stepped twice into the same river. But did anyone ever step twice into the same book?

Marina Tsvetaeva (1892-1941)
Puskin and Pugachev, 1937

This novel is not to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)
In a book review quoted in The Algonquin Wits, 1968
Edited by Robert E. Drennan

To be well informed, one must read quickly a great number of merely instructive books. To be cultivated, one must read slowly and with a lingering appreciation the comparatively few books that have been written by men who lived, thought, and felt with style.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
Texts and Pretexts: An Anthology with Commentaries, 1933

I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library.

Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986)
Seven Nights, 1984
Translated by Eliot Weinberger

...Samuel rode lightly on top of a book and he balanced happily among ideas the way a man rides white rapids in a canoe. But Tom got into a book, crawled and groveled between the covers, tunneled like a mole among the thoughts, and came up with the book all over his face and hands.

John Steinbeck (1902-1968)
East of Eden, 1952
Part Three, Chapter 23, 1

A truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon and by moonlight.

Robertson Davies (1913-1995)
"Too Much, Too Fast"
Peterborough Examiner, Canada
16 June 1962

Book lovers are thought by unbookish people to be gentle and unworldly, and perhaps a few of them are so. But there are others who will lie and scheme and steal to get books as wildly and unconscionably as the dope-taker in pursuit of his drug. They may not want the books to read immediately, or at all; they want them to possess, to range on their shelves, to have at command. They want books as a Turk is thought to want concubines -- not to be hastily deflowered, but to be kept at their master's call, and enjoyed more often in thought than in reality.

Robertson Davies (1913-1995)
Tempest-Tost, 1951
Chapter 6

Americans will listen, but they do not care to read. War and Peace must wait for the leisure of retirement, which never really comes: meanwhile it helps to furnish the living room. Blockbusting fiction is bought as furniture. Unread, it maintains its value. Read, it looks like money wasted. Cunningly, Americans know that books contain a person, and they want the person, not the book.

Anthony Burgess (1917-1993)
You've Had Your Time, 1990
Chapter 2

The present era grabs everything that was ever written in order to transform it into films, TV programs, or cartoons. What is essential in a novel is precisely what can only be expressed in a novel, and so every adaptation contains nothing but the nonessential. If a person is still crazy enough to write novels nowadays and wants to protect them, he has to write them in such a way that they cannot be adapted, in other words, in such a way that they cannot be retold.

Milan Kundera (b.1929)
Immortality, 1990
Part 5, Chapter 9

A book no more contains reality than a clock contains time. A book may measure so-called reality as a clock measures so-called time; a book may create an illusion of reality as a clock creates an illusion of time; a book may be real, just as a clock is real (both more real, perhaps, than those ideas to which they allude); but let's not kid ourselves -- all a clock contains is wheels and springs and all a book contains is sentences.

Tom Robbins (b.1936)
Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, 1976
Part III, Chapter 34

We should use a book as the bee does a flower.

The Biographical Treasury: A Dictionary of Universal Biography, 1842
By Samuel Maunder
page 606

Handle a book as a bee does a flower, extract its sweetness but do not injure it.

Often attributed to John Muir (1838-1914), but this sentiment
found as early as 1842, as seen in previous quotation


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


[see also: MIND]

If little else, the brain is an educational toy. While it may be a frustrating plaything -- one whose finer points recede just when you think you are mastering them -- it is nonetheless perpetually fascinating, frequently surprising, occasionally rewarding, and it comes already assembled; you don't have to put it together on Christmas morning.

The problem with possessing such an engaging toy is that other people want to play with it, too. Sometimes they'd rather play with yours than theirs. Or they object if you play with yours in a different manner than they play with theirs. The result is, a few games out of a toy department of possibilities are universally and endlessly repeated. If you don't play some people's game, they say that you have "lost your marbles," not recognizing that, while Chinese checkers is indeed a fine pastime, a person may also play dominoes, chess, strip poker, tiddlywinks, drop-the-soap or Russian roulette with his brain.

Tom Robbins (b.1936)
Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, 1976
Part III, Chapter 38


[see also: CRAP, SHIT]

Bullshit is a rare and valuable commodity. The great masters have all been bullshitters. Horseshit, on the other hand, in the common parlance, refers to downright crap. The free, playful entertaining flight of ideas is bullshit; and more often than not will be found afterwards to accord perfectly with universal truth. Horseshit is contrived; derivative, superstitious, ignorant.

Art Kleps (d.1999)
Millbrook, 1975
Chapter 33
"Sixth-Century Political Economy"

Someone who lies and someone who tells the truth are playing on opposite sides, so to speak, in the same game. Each responds to the facts as he understands them, although the response of the one is guided by the authority of the truth, while the response of the other defies that authority and refuses to meet its demands. The bullshitter ignores these demands altogether. He does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.

Harry G. Frankfurt (b.1929)
On Bullshit, 2005


There is no passion like that of a functionary for his function.

Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929)

...the best definition that I heard of that is that a bureaucrat is a Democrat who has a job that a Republican wants.

Alben W. Barkley (1877-1956)
U.S Vice President (1949-1953)
Community Recreation Services Act
U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor, 1949

It is not easy nowadays to remember anything so contrary to all appearances as that officials are the servants of the public; and the official must try not to foster the illusion that it is the other way round.

Ernest Gowers (1880-1966)
Plain Words, 1948
Chapter 3 "The Elements"

It is the invariable habit of bureaucracies, at all times and everywhere, to assume...that every citizen is a criminal. Their one apparent purpose, pursued with a relentless and furious diligence, is to convert the assumption into a fact. They hunt endlessly for proofs, and, when proofs are lacking, for mere suspicions. The moment they become aware of a definite citizen, John Doe, seeking what is his right under the law, they begin searching feverishly for an excuse for withholding it from him.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)
"Life under Bureaucracy", pp.241-2
Prejudices: Sixth Series, 1927

No tyranny is so irksome as petty tyranny: the officious demands of policemen, government clerks, and electromechanical gadgets.

Edward Abbey (1927-1989)
A Voice Crying in the Wilderness (Vox Clamantis in Deserto), 1989
Chapter 3, "Government and Politics"


[see also: WORK]

Corporations have neither bodies to be punished, nor souls to be condemned, they therefore do as they like.

Edward Thurlow (1731-1806)
Quoted in Literary Extracts, 1844
Volume 1
by John Poynder (1779-1849)

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"

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Last update: 03-July-2015
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