It seems it’s that part of a cycle that seems to swing my way every six or seven years which, after at least ten such occurrences, I’ve come to call the Big Sad. The phrase “sadder, but wiser” describes the accumulation of experience for one dedicated to understanding the condition of the civilized human that seems to rob individuals of their genetic potential. In such a funk, I cannot seem to articulate my thoughts with the intention of “selling yeast” when I feel like a rolling pin flattening the most pneumatic of wishful thinking, so I here construct a conversation across the history of western thought with a dash of eastern insight for flavor to describe my thoughts in the words of others who have influenced me:
“Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.”
“A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against its government.”
“The man who strikes first admits that his ideas have given out,” replied the proverbial zen master.
“If moral behavior were simply following rules, we could program a computer to be moral.” Samual P. Ginder, Capt. USN
“As the State is a soulless machine, it can never be weaned from violence to which God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.”
“Man has, as it were, become a kind of prosthetic God. When he puts on all his auxiliary organs, he is truly magnificent; but those organs have not grown on him and they still give him much trouble at times.“
“If you torture data sufficiently, it will confess to almost anything.”
“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities."
“It is lamentable, that to be a good patriot one must become the enemy of the rest of mankind.”
“Whoever imagines himself a favorite with God holds others in contempt.”
“Permit me to issue and control the money of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws.”
“One has to be a lowbrow, a bit of a murderer, to be a politician, ready and willing to see people sacrificed, slaughtered, for the sake of an idea, whether a good one or a bad one.”
“It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defense, we would sanction the subversion of one of those liberties which make the defense of our nation worthwhile.”
‘Secrecy, being an instrument of conspiracy, ought never to be the system of a regular government.”
“Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.”
“If government knew how, I should like to see it check, not multiply, the population. When it reaches its true law of action, every man that is born will be hailed as essential.”
“What constitutes a real, live human being is more of a mystery than ever these days, and men — each one of whom is a valuable, unique experiment on the part of nature — are shot down wholesale.”
“None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”
“A city that outdistances man's walking powers is a trap for man.”
“For men tied fast to the absolute, bled of their differences, drained of their dreams by authoritarian leeches until nothing but pulp is left, become a massive, sick Thing whose sheer weight is used ruthlessly by ambitious men. Here is the real enemy of the people: our own selves dehumanized into "the masses." And where is the David who can slay this giant?”
“Once you hear the details of victory, it is hard to distinguish it from a defeat.”
“When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?“
“Nothing produces such odd results as trying to get even.”
“If you devote your life to seeking revenge, first dig two graves.”
“The dissenter is every human being at those moments of his life
when he resigns momentarily from the herd and thinks for himself.”
“I am now quite cured of seeking pleasure in society, be it country or town.
A sensible man ought to find sufficient company in himself.”
“Too many people spend money they haven't earned, to buy things they don't want, to impress people they don't like.“
“Future generations may regard the people of the First World nations as bona fide idiots—blithely driving SUVs and watering golf courses—and regard the people of Third World nations as aspiring idiots. I doubt future generations would understand. It is not that we are idiots; we understand. However, in the end we seem to have as much control over the current social trends as lemmings do over their fate.”
“Follow the money.”
“Imagine a world in which generations of human beings come to believe that certain films were made by God or that specific software was coded by him. Imagine a future in which millions of our descendants murder each other over rival interpretations of Star Wars or Windows 98. Could anything -- anything -- be more ridiculous? And yet, this would be no more ridiculous than the world we are living in.”
"If a path to the better there be, it begins with a full look at the worst."
“Life cannot be classified in terms of a simple neurological ladder, with human beings at the top; it is more accurate to talk of different forms of intelligence, each with its strengths and weaknesses. This point was well demonstrated in the minutes before last December's tsunami, when tourists grabbed their digital cameras and ran after the ebbing surf, and all the 'dumb' animals made for the hills.”
“Television's perfect. You turn a few knobs, a few of those mechanical adjustments at which the higher apes are so proficient, and lean back and drain your mind of all thought. And there you are watching the bubbles in the primeval ooze. You don't have to concentrate. You don't have to react. You don't have to remember. You don't miss your brain because you don't need it. Your heart and liver and lungs continue to function normally. Apart from that, all is peace and quiet. You are in the man's nirvana. And if some poor nasty minded person comes along and says you look like a fly on a can of garbage, pay him no mind. He probably hasn't got the price of a television set.”
“…the television, that insidious beast, that Medusa which freezes a billion people to stone every night, staring fixedly, that Siren which called and sang and promised so much and gave, after all, so little.”
“I am so convinced of the advantages of looking at mankind instead of reading about them, and of the bitter effects of staying at home with all the narrow prejudices of an Islander, that I think there should be a law amongst us to set our young men abroad for a term among the few allies our wars have left us.”
“War is God’s way of teaching American’s geography.”
“I believe in God, only I spell it Nature.”
“It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.”
“Nature's laws affirm instead of prohibit. If you violate her laws, you are your own prosecuting attorney, judge, jury, and hangman.”
“How strange that nature does not knock, and yet does not intrude!
“The plastic virtues: purity, unity, and truth, keep nature in subjection.”
“Nature can provide for the needs of people; [she] can't provide for the greed of people.
“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity... and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.”
“Humans -- who enslave, castrate, experiment on, and fillet other animals -- have had an understandable penchant for pretending animals do not feel pain. A sharp distinction between humans and "animals" is essential if we are to bend them to our will, wear them, eat them -- without any disquieting tinges of guilt or regret.”
“Anyone who has accustomed himself to regard the life of any living creature as worthless is in danger of arriving also at the idea of worthless human lives.”
“A human being is part of the whole, called by us "universe," limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest - a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a prison, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons close to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from our prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all humanity and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
“An idea is not responsible for the people who believe in it.”
“The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.”
“It is not human nature we should accuse but the despicable conventions that pervert it.”
“The mass never comes up to the standard of its best member,
but on the contrary degrades itself to a level with the lowest.
“Great bodies of people are never responsible for what they do.”
“What's done to children, they will do to society.”
“Children enter school as question marks and leave as periods.”
“The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule”
“Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?"
“To see ourselves as others see us is a most salutary gift. Hardly less
important is the capacity to see others as they see themselves.”
“It might be a good idea if the various countries of the world would
occasionally swap history books, just to see what other people are doing with the same set of facts.”
“You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image
when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”
“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”
“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success.”
“In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”
“By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he's wrong.”
“If you don't find God in the next person you meet,
it is a waste of time looking for him further.”
“My aim is to agitate and disturb people. I'm not selling bread, I'm selling yeast.”
“The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him.”
When I can look Life in the eyes,
Grown calm and very coldly wise,
Life will have given me the Truth,
And taken in exchange---my youth.
-Sara Teasdale, poet (1884-1933
The first several quotes are linked to their authors through the terminal punctuation. I will be linking the rest as the will permits but that's it for the month of February. I invite your comments as always and will reply to those I get. See you in March?