Food For Thought

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

author index




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

...moderate giftedness has been made worthless by the printing press and radio and television and satellites and all that. A moderately gifted person who would have been a community treasure a thousand years ago has to give up, has to go into some other line of work, since modern communications put him or her into daily competition with nothing but world's champions.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1922-2007)
Bluebeard, 1987
Chapter 9


He who knows the Tao does not speak; he who is ever ready to speak about it, does not know it.

Lao-tzu (c.604-c.531 BC)
Tao Te Ching, Part 2, Number 56

When the highest type of men hear Tao,
They diligently practice it.
When the average type of men hear Tao,
They half believe in it.
When the lowest type of men hear Tao,
They laugh heartily at it.

Lao-tzu (c.604-c.531 BC)
The Way of Lao-tzu, 41


One of the surest evidences of an elevated taste is the power of enjoying works of impassioned terrorism, in poetry, and painting. The man who can look at impassioned subjects of terror with a feeling of exultation may be certain he has an elevated taste.

Benjamin Haydon (1786-1846)
"Table Talk"
Correspondence and Table-Talk
Volume 2, 1876
Edited by Frederic Wordsworth Haydon

It is for want of education and discipline that a man so often insists petulantly on his random tastes, instead of cultivating those which might find some satisfaction in the world and might produce in him some pertinent culture. Untutored self-assertion may even lead him to deny some fact that should have been patent, and plunge him into needless calamity. His Utopias cheat him in the end, if indeed the barbarous taste he has indulged in clinging to them does not itself lapse before the dream is half formed. So men have feverishly conceived a heaven only to find it insipid, and a hell to find it ridiculous. Theodicies that were to demonstrate an absolute cosmic harmony have turned the universe into a tyrannous nightmare, from which we are glad to awake again in this unintentional and somewhat tractable world. Thus the fancies of effeminate poets in violating science are false to the highest art, and the products of sheer confusion, instigated by the love of beauty, turn out to be hideous. A rational severity in respect to art simply weeds the garden; it expresses a mature æsthetic choice and opens the way to supreme artistic achievements. To keep beauty in its place is to make all things beautiful.

George Santayana (1863-1952)
The Life of Reason; or the Phases of Human Progress, 1905
Volume Four "Reason in Art"
Chapter IX "Justification of Art"

Lovers of painting and lovers of music are people who openly display their preference like a delectable ailment that isolates them and makes them proud.

Maurice Blanchot (1907-2003)
The Space of Literature, 1955
Part VI, "Reading"

The discovery of the good taste of bad taste can be very liberating. The man who insists on high and serious pleasures is depriving himself of pleasure; he continuously restricts what he can enjoy; in the constant exercise of his good taste he will eventually price himself out of the market, so to speak. Here Camp taste supervenes upon good taste as a daring and witty hedonism. It makes the man of good taste cheerful, where before he ran the risk of being chronically frustrated. It is good for the digestion.

Susan Sontag (1933-2004)
"Notes on 'Camp'", Note 54
Against Interpretation, 1966

"Taste" is a term which first acquired prominence in England in the later 17th century. As goods multiplied, it became a central concept of aesthetic theory and an important form of cultural differentiation. As a contemporary noted in 1633, "great folks" always had a tendency to "think nothing of that which is common and ordinary people may easily come by". Taste involved transcending mere financial criteria when assessing the value of goods, introducing instead a subtler and more elusive yardstick.

It implied a capacity for discrimination of the kind shown in 1606 by the wine connoisseur Captain Dawtrey, who, "taking the glass in his hand, held it up awhile betwixt him and the window, as to consider the colour; and then putting it to his nose he seemed to take comfort in the odour of the same". It required the ability to choose the best out of a wide range of functionally indistinguishable options, like the 50 different patterns of wallpaper that on one occasion in 1752 confronted the poet William Shenstone. The essayist Joseph Addison compared a person who had true taste in literary matters with the man who could identify each of ten different kinds of tea or any combination of them.

Keith Vivian Thomas (b.1933)
"To Buy or Not to Buy"
History Today, Volume 59 Issue 2, February 2009


A good prince will tax as lightly as possible those commodities which are used even by the poorest members of society; e.g., grain, bread, beer, wine, clothing, and all the other staples without which human life could not exist. But it so happens that these very things bear the heaviest tax in several ways; in the first place, by the excessive extortion of the tax farmers, commonly called assisiae, then by import duties which call for their own set of extortionists, and finally by the monopolies by which the poor are sadly drained of their funds in order that the prince may gain a mere trifling interest.

Desiderius Erasmus (c.1466-1536)
"Education of a Christian Priest", 1516
Main Currents of Western Thought, 1978
Edited by Franklin Le Van Baumer

Still one more thing, fellow citizens: a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Conciliatory Address
04 March 1801

If we run into such debts, as that we must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our amusements, for our callings and our creeds, as the people of England are, our people, like them, must come to labor sixteen hours in the twenty-four, give the earnings of fifteen of these to the government for their debts and daily expenses; and the sixteenth being insufficient to afford us bread, we must live, as they do now, on oatmeal and potatoes; have no time to think, no means of calling the mismanagers to account; but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow sufferers. Our landholders, too, like theirs, retaining indeed the title and stewardship of estates called theirs, but held really in trust for the treasury, must wander, like theirs, in foreign countries, and be contented with penury, obscurity, exile, and the glory of the nation. This example reads to us the salutary lesson, that private fortunes are destroyed by public as well as by private extravagance. And this is the tendency of all human governments. A departure from principle in one instance becomes a precedent for a second; that second for a third; and so on, till the bulk of the society is reduced to be mere automatons of misery, and to have no sensibilities left but for sinning and suffering. Then begins, indeed, the bellum omnium in omnia, which some philosophers observing to be so general in this world, have mistaken it for the natural, instead of the abusive state of man. And the fore horse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Letter to Samuel Kercheval
12 July 1816

Nothing is so well calculated to produce a death-like torpor in the country as an extended system of taxation and a great national debt.

William Cobbett (1763-1835)
Letter, 10 February 1804

To force a man to pay for the violation of his own liberty is indeed an addition of insult to injury. But that is exactly what the State is doing.

Benjamin R. Tucker (1854-1939)
"The Relation of the State to the Individual", 1890

The marvel of all history is the patience with which men and women submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by their governments. We see this patience manifested today in the matter of armaments. Never since recorded history have governments demanded of people such exorbitant sums for armaments as in these days. If taxes would remain where they are laid, conditions would be less cruel. But they are passed on to those least able to pay and are represented in everything the poor must buy, for clothes, food and shelter. Taxes with vicious persistence always seek the low man -- "on his back is the burden of the world."

William Edgar Borah (1865-1940)
"Bigger Guns or Better Homes?"
Reader's Digest, January 1930
Condensed from Collier's, 07 December 1929

You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.

William Boetcker (1873-1962)
"Ten Cannots", 1916
Published in leaflet entitled "Lincoln on private property"

A citizen can hardly distinguish between a tax and a fine, except that the fine is generally much lighter.

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
Illustrated London News
25 May 1931

The government has no source of revenue, except the taxes paid by the producers. To free itself - for a while - from the limits set by reality, the government initiates a credit con game on a scale which the private manipulator could not dream of. It borrows money from you today, which is to be repaid with money it will borrow from you tomorrow, which is to be repaid with money it will borrow from you day after tomorrow, and so on. This is known as "deficit financing." It is made possible by the fact that the government cuts the connection between goods and money. It issues paper money, which is used as a claim check on actually existing goods - but that money is not backed by any goods, it is not backed by gold, it is backed by nothing. It is a promissory note issued to you in exchange for your goods, to be paid by you (in the form of taxes) out of your future production.

Ayn Rand (1905-1982)
"Egalitarianism and Inflation"
Philosophy: Who Needs It, 1982

Taxes are not levied for the benefit of the taxed.

Robert Anson Heinlein (1907-1988)
Time Enough For Love, 1973
Intermission "Excerpts from the Notebooks of Lazarus Long"

Those who clamour the loudest for public economy are those for whom public services do the least. Tax reduction that curtails or limits public services has a double effect in comforting the comfortable and afflicting the poor.

This is something which liberals should not forget. I venture to think there is an even stronger lesson for the man of goodwill and good income who, regardless of political disposition, counts himself a good and compassionate citizen. When he is tempted by a crusade against public expenditure, he should remember that the sacrifice is not his. This is all the more true for the crusaders almost invariable exclude defense penditures, the one large outlay that even the most affluent corporation finds a convenient source of revenue.

John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006)
"Let Us Begin: An Invitation to Action on Poverty"
Harper's Magazine, March 1964
Reprinted in American Fiscal Policy: Experiment for Prosperity, 1867
Edited by Lester C. Thurow


[see also: SCIENCE]

On two occasions I have been asked [by members of Parliament], -- "Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?" In one case a member of the Upper, and in the other a member of the Lower, House put this question. I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.

Charles Babbage (1792-1871)
Passages from the Life of a Philosopher, 1864
Chapter V "Difference Engine No. 1"

But lo! men have become the tools of their tools.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
Walden, 1854

Machines were, it may be said, the weapon employed by the capitalists to quell the revolt of specialized labor.

Karl Marx (1818-1883)
The Poverty of Philosophy, 1847
Chapter 5, Part 5

When we learn how to store electricity, we will cease being apes ourselves; until then we are tailless orangoutans. You see, we should utilize natural forces and thus get all of our power. Sunshine is a form of energy, and the winds and the tides are manifestations of energy. Do we use them?

Oh, no! We burn up wood and coal, as renters burn up the front fence for fuel. We live like squatters, not as if we owned the property. There must surely come a time when heat and power will be stored in unlimited quantities in every community, all gathered by natural forces. Electricity ought to be as cheap as oxygen, for it can not be destroyed.

Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931)
Quoted in Little Journeys to the Homes of the Great, Book 2, 1910
By Elbert Hubbard

The world is dying of machinery; that is the great disease, that is the plague that will sweep away and destroy civilization, man will have to rise against it sooner or later.... I say the great and the reasonable revolution will be when mankind rises in revolt, and smashes the machinery and restores the handicrafts.

George Moore (1852-1933)
Confessions of a Young Man, 1888
Chapter VII

One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.

Elbert Green Hubbard (1856-1915)
Philistine: A Periodical of Protest
Volume 18, Number 1, December 1903

There is nothing in machinery, there is nothing in embankments and railways and iron bridges and engineering devices to oblige them to be ugly. Ugliness is the measure of imperfection.

H.G. Wells (1866-1946)
A Modern Utopia, 1905
Chapter 3, Section 8

The Church welcomes technological progress and receives it with love, for it is an indubitable fact that technological progress comes from God and, therefore, can and must lead to Him.

Pius XII (1876-1958)
Christmas message, 1953

We have too many men of science, too few men of God. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount.... The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living.

Omar Nelson Bradley (1893-1981)
Armistice Day, Boston
10 November 1948

The future offers very little hope for those who expect that our new mechanical slaves will offer us a world in which we may rest from thinking. Help us they may, but at the cost of supreme demands upon our honesty and intelligence. The world of the future will be an ever more demanding struggle against the limitations of our intelligence, not a comfortable hammock in which we can lay down to be waited upon by our robot slaves.

Norbert Wiener (1894-1964)
God and Golem, Inc., 1964

By his very success in inventing labor-saving devices, modern man has manufactured an abyss of boredom that only the privileged classes in earlier civilizations have ever fathomed.

Lewis Mumford (1895-1990)
"The Challenge of Renewal"
The Conduct of Life, 1951

Technology [is] the knack of so arranging the world that we don't have to experience it.

Max Frisch (1911-1991)
"Second Stop"
Homo Faber, 1957

There are three roads to ruin; women, gambling and technicians. The most pleasant is with women, the quickest is with gambling, but the surest is with technicians.

Georges Pompidou (1911-1974)
Sunday Telegraph, London
26 May 1968

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008)
"Profiles of the Future", 1962

If there is technological advance without social advance, there is, almost automatically, an increase in human misery, in impoverishment.

Michael Harrington (1928-1989)
The Other America, 1962
Appendix, Section 1

...technical advance could actually be an impediment to utopia: unlike in previous centuries, technology in the twentieth century has made necessity increase rather than diminish.

Cristovam Buarque (b.1944)

My continuing professional work is on improving the reliability of software. Software is a tool, and as a tool builder I must struggle with the uses to which the tools I make are put. I have always believed that making software more reliable, given its many uses, will make the world a safer and better place; if I were to come to believe the opposite, then I would be morally obligated to stop this work. I can now imagine such a day will come.

Bill Joy (b.1954)
"Why the Future Doesn't Need Us"
Wired, April 2000


[see also: MEDIA]

Television: chewing gum for the eyes.

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959)

I find television very educational. Every time someone switches it on I go into another room and read a good book.

Groucho Marx (1890-1977)
Halliwell's Filmgoer's Companion, 1984
by Leslie Halliwell

Television has done much for psychiatry by spreading information about it, as well as contributing to the need for it.

Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980)

98% of American homes have TV sets, which means the people in the other 2% have to generate their own sex and violence.

Franklin P. Jones (1908-1980)

The defining characteristic of today's intellectual and media elite is that it swims merrily in a sea of fantasy. The world of television is essentially a fantasy world, and television is today's common denominator of communication, today's unifying American experience. This has frightening implications for the future.

Ideas that fit on bumper stickers are not ideas at all, they simply are attitudes. And attitudinizing is no substitute for analysis. Unfortunately, too often television is to news as bumper stickers are to philosophy, and this has a corrosive effect on public understanding of those issues on which national survival may depend.

Richard Milhous Nixon (1913-1994)
The Real War, 1990
Chapter 9 "Will Power"

Watching television, you'd think we lived at bay, in total jeopardy, surrounded on all sides by human-seeking germs, shielded against infection and death only by a chemical technology that enables us to keep killing them off. We are instructed to spray disinfectants everywhere, into the air of our bedrooms and kitchens and with special energy into bathrooms, since it is our very own germs that seem the worst kind. We explode clouds of aerosol, mixed for good luck with deodorants, into our noses, mouths, underarms, priviledged crannies -- even into the intimate insides of our telephones. We apply potent antibiotics to minor scratches and seal them with plastic. Plastic is the new protector; we wrap the already plastic tumblers of hotels in more plastic, and seal the toilet seats like state secrets after after irradiating them with ultraviolet light. We live in a world where the microbes are always trying to get at us, to tear us cell from cell, and we only stay alive and whole through diligence and fear.


In real life, however, even in our worst circumstances we have always been a relatively minor interest of the vast microbial world. Pathogenicity is not the rule. Indeed, it occurs so infrequently and involves such a relatively small number of species, considering the huge population bacteria on the earth, that it has a freakish aspect.

Lewis Thomas (1913-1993)
The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher, 1974

If you can write a nation's stories, you needn't worry about who makes its laws.

George Gerbner (1919-2005)
Bill Moyers' Journal
"TV or Not TV"
23 April 1979

Television is democracy at its ugliest.

Paddy Chayefsky (1923-1982)
"Paddy Chayefsky: 'TV Will Do Anything for A Rating. Anything!'"
New York Times, 14 November 1976

When television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air...and keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that you will observe a vast wasteland.

Newton Norman Minow (b.1926)
Speech as chairman of the FCC to National Association of Broadcasters
Washington, DC
09 May 1961

Television is the first truly democratic culture -- the first culture available to everybody and entirely governed by what the people want. The most terrifying thing is what the people do want.

Clive Barnes (b.1927)
Quoted in "Arts in the 60's: Coming to Terms Society and Its Woes"
New York Times, 30 December 1969

The problem is not that television presents us with entertaining subject matter but that all subject matter is presented as entertaining, which is another issue altogether.

Neil Postman (1931-2003)
Amusing Ourselves to Death:
Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business
, 1985
Part II, Chapter 6, "The Age of Show Business"

Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn't have in your home.

David Frost (b.1939)
"David Frost Revue"
CBS TV, 19 September 1971

The worst thing about this modern world is that people think you get killed on television with zero pain and zero blood. It must enter into kids' heads that it's not very messy to kill somebody, and it doesn't hurt that much. That's a real sickness to me. That's a real sick thing.

David Lynch (b.1946)
"A Dark Lens On America"
By Richard B. Woodward
The New York Times Magazine, 14 January 1990

Writing for television is a debilitating exercise. How can you inspire an audience to their best when every fourteen minutes someone interrupts to tell them that they're unfit to live with? The ultimate purpose of commercial television is to convince the viewer that he smells bad.

Solomon Short

Cable is not a luxury, since many areas have poor TV reception.

(Tucson Arizona mayor, 1989)

When will I learn? The answers to life's problems aren't at the bottom of a bottle, they're on TV!

Homer Simpson
"There's No Disgrace Like Home"
Episode 7G04, 28 January 1990
The Simpsons, FOX-TV


Temptations come, as a general rule, when they are sought.

Margaret Oliphant (1828-1897)
Miss Marjoribanks, 1866
Chapter 47

I can resist anything except temptation.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
Lady Windermere's Fan, 1892
Act I

D'you remember how Jesus was led into the wilderness and fasted forty days? Then, when he was a-hungered, the devil came to him and said: If thou be the son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But Jesus resisted the temptation. Then the devil set him on a pinnacle of the temple and said to him: If thou be the son of God, cast thyself down. For angels had charge of him and would bear him up. But again Jesus resisted. Then the devil took him into a high mountain and showed him the kingdoms of the world and said that he would give them to him if he would fall down and worship him. But Jesus said: Get thee hence, Satan. That's the end of the story according to the good simple Matthew. But it wasn't. The devil was sly and he came to Jesus once more and said: If thou will accept shame and disgrace, scourging, a crown of thorns and death on the cross thou shalt save the human race, for greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Jesus fell. The devil laughed till his sides ached, for he knew the evil men would commit in the name of their redeemer.

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965)
The Razor's Edge, 1944
Chapter 5, iv

When choosing between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before.

Mae West (1893-1980)
Klondike Annie, 1936

What makes resisting temptation difficult, for many people, is that they don't want to discourage it completely.

Franklin P. Jones (1908-1980)


And God spoke all these words:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

You shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Honor your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Bible, Exodus 20:1-17


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


[see also: RELIGION]

The study of theology, as it stands in Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authorities; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing; and it admits of no conclusion. Not any thing can be studied as a science, without our being in possession of the principles upon which it is founded; and as this is not the case with Christian theology, it is therefore the study of nothing.

Thomas Paine (1737-1809)
Age of Reason, 1794
Part II

To judge from the notions expounded by theologians, one must conclude that God created most men simply with a view to crowding hell.

Marquis de Sade (1740-1814)
L'Histoire de Juliette, ou les Prosperites du Vice, 1797
Part 2

Theology is an attempt to explain a subject by men who do not understand it. The intent is not to tell the truth but to satisfy the questioner.

Elbert Green Hubbard (1856-1915)
Philistine: A Periodical of Protest
Volume 20, Number 3, February 1905

The truth is that Christian theology, like every other theology, is not only opposed to the scientific spirit; it is also opposed to all other attempts at rational thinking. Not by accident does Genesis iii make the father of knowledge a serpent -- slimy, sneaking and abominable. Since the earliest days the church as an organization has thrown itself violently against every effort to liberate the body and mind of man. It has been, at all times and everywhere, the habitual and incorrigible defender of bad governments, bad laws, bad social theories, bad institutions. It was, for centuries, an apologist for slavery, as it was the apologist for the divine right of kings.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)
Treatise on the Gods, 1930
Chapter 5 "Its State Today"

A philosopher is a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat which isn't there.... A theologian is the one who finds it.




Thoughts are never not clothed in language - or, rather, that's not the relation between thoughts and words: the relation between a body and a suit of clothes. Thought is part of language. But everything we perceive, either through our senses, or through our bodily feelings, or through sitting in the dark with our eyes closed, remembering or thinking or figuring, is the linguistic signified. The whole range of human perceptions, of subject and object, is the "meaning" part of language. So a thought doesn't come "without words." It comes first as simple language - simple meanings, if you will. Then, what we call "thinking about it" is just the arrival of more complex language that elaborates on it - that's all. Once the elaborated language has come, we remember the simpler language as somehow prelinguistic. But it isn't. ...It would be very useful for a poet to remember that simpler language in which a thought or feeling first arrived. But to look for a thought before language is to look for something that isn't there.

Samuel R. Delany (b.1942)
The Mad Man, 1994
Part III "Masters of the Day"


[see also: ETERNITY]

Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.

Theophrastus (c.372-c.287 BC)
from Lives of Eminent Philosophers
Book V, section 40
by Diogenes Laertius (fl. 2nd century)

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

Bible, Psalms 90:10

Time is the image of eternity.

Diogenes Laertius (fl. 2nd century)
Plato, 41

Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121-180)
Meditations, IV, 43

The flow of the river is ceaseless and its water is never the same. The bubbles that float in the pools, now vanishing, now forming, are not of long duration; so in the world are man and his dwellings. ..[People] die in the morning, they are born in the evening, like foam on the water.

Kamo no Chomei (1153-1216)
Hojoki (An Account of My Hut), 1212

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

Thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
Twelfth Night, 1601-1602
Act V, scene i, line 388

Eternity is not an everlasting flux of time, but time is as a short parenthesis in a long period.

John Donne (1572-1631)
Devotions, Meditation 14 (1624)

Remember that TIME is Money.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
"Advice to a Young Tradesman, Written by an Old One", 1748
The Writings of Benjamin Franklin
Volume II "Philadelphia, 1726-1757"

Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.

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

Thou canst not delay for a single moment the flight of Time, and thou complainest that Time is a continual over-dropping of moments, which fall down one upon the other, and evaporate. Above hangs, unchanged, the future, and underneath grows the past, and becomes always larger the farther it flies back. And thou askest, "What remains with me?" "The present," I answer; however much time may fly away from you, the present is your eternity, and never abandons you. Time is the chrysalis of eternity.

Jean Paul Richter (1763-1825)
Many Thoughts of Many Minds, 1862
Edited by Henry Southgate

There is one kind of robber whom the law does not strike at, and who steals what is most precious to men: time.

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821)
Maxims, 1815

Alcohol, hashish, prussic acid, strychnine are weak dilutions. The surest poison is time.

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

Men can do nothing without the make-believe of a beginning. Even Science, the strict measurer, is obliged to start with a make-believe unit, and must fix on a point in the stars' unceasing journey when his sidereal clock shall pretend that time is Nought. His less accurate grandmother Poetry has always been understood to start in the middle; but on reflection it appears that her proceeding is not very different from his; since Science, too, reckons backwards as well as forwards, divides his unit into billions, and with his clock-finger at Nought really sets off in medias res. No retrospect will take us to the true beginning; and whether our prologue be in heaven or on earth, it is but a fraction of that all-presupposing fact with which our story sets out.

George Eliot (1819-1880)
Daniel Deronda, 1876
Book I, Chapter 1 "The Spoiled Child"

Men talk of killing time, while time quietly kills them.

Dion Boucicault (1820/2-1890)
London Assurance, 1841
Act 2, scene 1

Time: That which man is always trying to kill, but which ends in killing him.

Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)

Time, because it is so fleeting, time, because it is beyond recall, is the most precious of human goods and to squander it is the most delicate form of dissipation in which man can indulge.

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965)
"The Bum"
Cosmopolitans: Very Short Stories, 1936

Time has no divisions to mark its passage, there is never a thunderstorm or blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year. Even when a new century begins it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols.

Thomas Mann (1875-1955)
The Magic Mountain, 1924
Chapter 5

For us believing physicists the distinction between past, present, and future is only an illusion, even if a stubborn one.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Letter to family of Michael Besso
21 March 1955
Albert Einstein: Creator and Rebel, 1972
by Banesh Hoffmann with Helen Dukas

"What do you live on?" [the ant asked.]

"On air, light and sun," said the may-fly.

"That's frivolity," said the ant. "You could live on that one day, no longer."

"I do only live one day," said the may-fly, "a morning, a noon, and a night. It's endless, inconceivable, isn't it?"

"A decent person lives for years," said the ant. "Spring, summer, autumn and winter."

"I don't know what that is," said the may-fly; "perhaps you only use different expressions. All life is only a morning, noon and night. I can't imagine anything different."

Manfred Kyber (1880-1933)
"The One-Day Fly"
Among Animals, 1967
Translated by Olive Fishwick

In space-time, everything which for each of us constitutes the past, the present, and the future is given in block, and the entire collection of events, successive for us, which form the existence of a material particle is represented by a line, the world-line of the particle. Moreover, this new conception defers to the principle of causality and in no way prejudices the determinism of phenomena. Each observer, as his time passes, discovers, so to speak, new slices of space-time which appear to him as successive aspects of the material world, though in reality the ensemble of events constituting space-time exist prior to his knowledge of them.

Louis Victor Broglie (1892-1987)
"A General Survey of the Scientific Work of Albert Einstein"
Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist, Volume 1, 1949
Edited by Paul Schilpp

Do fish complain of the sea for being wet? Or if they did, would that fact itself not strongly suggest that they had not always, or [would] not always be, purely aquatic creatures? Notice how we are perpetually surprised at Time. ("How time flies! Fancy John being grown-up and married! I can hardly believe it!") In heaven's name, why? Unless, indeed, there is something about us that is not temporal.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)
Letter to Sheldon Vanauken
23 December 1950

Pity that we won't survive until the day it is proved that our way of reckoning time was incorrect. And that we were not really getting older.

Stanislaw Jerzy Lec (1909-1966)
Unkempt Thoughts, 1962
Translated by Jacek Galazka
page 118

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

Time rushes toward us with its hospital tray of infinitely varied narcotics, even while it is preparing us for its inevitably fatal operation.

Tennessee Williams (1911-1983)
"The Timeless World of a Play"
The Rose Tattoo, 1950

I have realized that the past and future are real illusions, that they exist only in the present, which is what there is and all that there is.

Alan Watts (1915-1973)
In My Own Way: An Autobiography, 1972

It is said that each day recapitulates the history of the world, coming up out of darkness and cold into confused light and beginning warmth, consciousness blinking its eyes somewhere in midmorning, awakening thoughts a jumble of illogic and unattached emotion, and all speeding together toward the order of noontide, the slow, poignant decline of dusk, the mystical vision of twilight, the end of entropy that is night once more.

Roger Zelazny (1937-1995)
Lord of Light, 1967

This year I want to stick a net into time and say 'now,' as men plant flags on the ice and snow and say 'here.'

Annie Dillard (b.1945)
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, 1974
Chapter 5 "Untying the Knot"


[see also: DRUGS]

There is growing evidence that smoking has pharamacological...effects that are of real value to smokers.

Joseph F. Cullman III
President of Phillip Morris
Annual Report to Stockholders, 1962


[see also: PREJUDICE]

Persecution was at least a sign of personal interest. Tolerance is composed of nine parts of apathy to one of brotherly love.

Frank Moore Colby (1865-1925)
"Trials of an Encyclopedist"
The Colby Essays, Volume 1, 1926

Tolerance is only another name for indifference.

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965)
A Writer's Notebook, 1949
1896 entry


Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death.

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
Orthodoxy, 1909
Chapter 4 "The Ethics of Elfland"


There is no such thing as perpetual tranquillity of mind while we live here; because life itself is but motion, and can never be without desire, nor without fear, no more than without sense.

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)
Leviathan, 1651
Part I, Chapter 6



And we, with our unveiled faces reflecting like mirrors the glory of the Lord, all grow brighter and brighter as we are turned into the image that we reflect.

Bible, 1 Corinthians 3:18

In order to escape from the horrors of insulated selfhood most men and women choose, most of the time, to go neither up nor down, but sideways. They identify themselves with some cause wider than their own immediate interests, but not degradingly lower and, if higher, higher only within the range of current social values. This horizontal, or nearly horizontal, self-transcendence may be into something as trivial as a hobby, or as precious as married love. It can be brought about through self-identification with any human activity, from running a business to research in nuclear physics, from composing music to collecting stamps, from campaigning for political office to educating children or studying the mating habits of birds. Horizontal self-transcendence is of the utmost importance. Without it, there would be no art, no science, no law, no philosophy, indeed no civilization. And there would also be no war, no odium theologicum or ideologicum, no systematic intolerance, no persecution. These great goods and these enormous evils are the fruits of man's capacity for total and continuous self-identification with an idea, a feeling, a cause. How can we have the good without the evil, a high civilization without saturation bombing or the extermination of religious and political heretics? The answer is that we cannot have it so long as our self-transcendence remains merely horizontal. When we identify ourselves with an idea or a cause we are in fact worshipping something homemade, something partial and parochial, something that, however noble, is yet all too human. "Patriotism," as a great patriot concluded on the eve of her execution by her country's enemies, "is not enough." Neither is socialism, nor communism, nor capitalism; neither is art, nor science, nor public order, nor any given religion or church. All these are indispensable, but none of them is enough. Civilization demands from the individual devoted self-identification with the highest of human causes. But if this self-identification with what is human is not accompanied by a conscious and consistent effort to achieve upward self-transcendence into the universal life of the Spirit, the goods achieved will always be mingled with counterbalancing evils. "We make," wrote Pascal, "an idol of truth itself; for truth without charity is not God, but His image and idol, which we must neither love or worship." And it is not merely wrong to worship an idol; it is also exceedingly inexpedient. The worship of truth apart from charity -- self-identification with science unaccompanied by self-identification with the Ground of all being -- results in the kind of situation which now confronts us. Every idol, however exalted, turns out, in the long run, to be a Moloch, hungry for human sacrifice.

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

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

Most men and women lead lives at the worst so painful, at the best so monotonous, poor and limited that the urge to escape, the longing to transcend themselves if only for a few moments, is and has always been one of the principal appetites of the soul.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
The Doors of Perception, 1954

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

There is no question that psychedelic substances are remarkable graces. The farther one can reach in to the vastness to be explored, the more one realizes how powerful these materials are. There seems to be no end to the levels of awareness that can be realized by those who use them to explore their psyches with integrity and courage.

The great value in these chemicals is that, in some way still not scientifically explained, they dissolve the boundaries to the unconscious mind. They give us access to our repressed and forgotten material, to the Shadow that C.G. Jung so effectively dealt with, to the archetypes of humanity, to an enormous range of levels of thought, and to the wellspring of creativity and mystical experience that Jung called the collective unconscious.

At the heart of the unconscious is what many experience as the source of life itself, and which some call God. Those who have experienced this describe it as a wondrous, ineffable source of light and energy that infuses all of creation, embracing all wisdom and radiating a vast, unending, and ever-constant love. Immersion in this is the essence of the mystical experience and produces what the great mystics have described as the state of unity or oneness. Such union is the culmination of all seeking, all desire; it is the most cherished of all experiences of which man is capable.

Myron J. Stolaroff (b.1920)
"Using Psychedelics Wisely"
Gnosis Magazine, No. 26, Winter 1993, p.26

The concept that consciousness is separate from physical existence is deeply worn into the crevices of the European mind. This dividedness provides the metaphor through which an elevation over earthly process can be imagined. Only by considering itself independent of the earth can consciousness believe in its own transcendence.

Susan Griffin (b.1943)
The Eros of Everyday Life, 1995
Chapter 4 "Place"

In whatever country we may be, I believe that we are for ever immersed in the spiritual world; but most of us cannot perceive it on account of the unrefined nature of our physical bodies. Through meditation and physical training one can come to see the spiritual world and its beings. We pass into the spirit realm at death and come back into the human world at birth; and we continue to reincarnate until we have overcome all earthly desires and mortal appetites. Then the higher life is open to our consciousness and we cease to be human; we become divine beings.

"Testimony from a County Kerry Seer"
Recorded in Oxford, England, 12 August 1911
The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries, 1911
Section 1 "The Living Fairy-Faith"
Chapter II "The Taking of Evidence"
By Walter Evans-Wentz (1878-1965)


A woman must not wear men's clothing, nor a man wear women's clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this.

Bible, Deuteronomy 22:5


The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.

Lao-tzu (c.604-c.531 BC)
The Way of Lao-tzu, 64

The longest part of the journey is said to be the passing of the gate.

Marcus Terentius Varro (116-27 BC)
On Agriculture [De Re Rustica]
Book I, ii, 2

Cum fueris Romae, Romano vivito more; cum fueris alibi, vivito sicut ibi. (When you are in Rome, live in the Roman style; when you are elsewhere, live as they live there.)

Saint Ambrose (339-397)
Advice to Saint Augustine
Quoted by Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667)
in Ductor Dubitantium, 1660
Part I, Book 1, Chapter 5
Usually quoted "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."

It is good to know something of the customs of different peoples in order to judge more sanely of our own, and not to think that everything of a fashion not ours is absurd and contrary to reason, as do those who have seen nothing.

Rene Descartes (1596-1650)
Discourse on the Method, 1637, Part 1
Translated by E.S. Haldane and G.R.T. Ross,
Philosophical Works of Descartes, 1967

Si fueris Romae, Romano vivito more; si fueris alibi, vivito sicut ibi.
(If you are at Rome, live in the Roman style; if you are elsewhere, live as they live elsewhere.)

Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667)
Ductor Dubitantium, 1660
Usually quoted "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."

The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.

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

A man should know something of his own country, too, before he goes abroad.

Laurence Sterne (1713-1768)
Tristram Shandy, Book VII, 1765
Chapter 2

So abundant and novel are the objects of interest in a pure wilderness that unless you are pursuing special studies it matters little where you go, or how often to the same place. Wherever you chance to be always seems at the moment of all places the best; and you feel that there can be no happiness in this world or in any other for those who may not be happy here.

John Muir (1838-1914)
Travels in Alaska, 1915
Chapter 5 "A Cruise in the Cassiar"

To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.

Robert Lewis Stevenson (1850-1894)
"El Dorado"
Virginibus Puerisque, 1881

A man travels the world in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.

George Moore (1852-1933)
The Brook Kerith, 1916
Chapter 11

The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one's own country as a foreign land.

G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
"The Riddle of the Ivy"
Tremendous Trifles, 1909

Whenever I prepare for a journey I prepare as though for death. Should I never return, all is in order.

Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923)
Journal, 1927
29 January 1922

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"

In Spanish there is a word for which I can't find a counterword in English. It is the verb vacilar, present participle vacilando. It does not mean vacillating at all. If one is vacilando, he is going somewhere but doesn't greatly care whether or not he gets there, although he has direction. My friend Jack Wagner has often, in Mexico, assumed this state of being. Let us say we wanted to walk in the streets of Mexico City, but not at random. We would choose some article almost certain not to exist there and then diligently try to find it.

John Steinbeck (1902-1968)
Travels With Charley: In Search of America, 1962
Part Two

She knows, now, absolutely, hearing the white noise that is London, that Damien's theory of jet lag is correct: that her mortal soul is leagues behind her, being reeled in on some ghostly umbilical down the vanished wake of the plane that brought her here, hundreds of thousands of feet above the Atlantic. Souls can't move that quickly, and are left behind, and must be awaited, upon arrival, like lost luggage.

William Gibson (b. 1948)
Pattern Recognition, 2003
Chapter 1 "The Website of Dreadful Night"


[see also: ECOLOGY, NATURE]

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

He who plants a tree
Plants a hope.

Lucy Larcom (1826-1893)
Plant a Tree, Stanza 1

We all travel the milky way together, trees and men; but it never occurred to me until this storm-day, while swinging in the wind, that trees are travelers, in the ordinary sense. They make many journeys, not extensive ones, it is true; but our own little journeys, away and back again, are only little more than tree-wavings -- many of them not so much.

John Muir (1838-1914)
The Mountains of California, 1894
Chapter X "A Wind-Storm in the Forests"

A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease.

John Muir (1838-1914)
My First Summer in the Sierra, 1911
24 July 1869

It has been said that trees are imperfect men, and seem to bemoan their imprisonment rooted in the ground. But they never seem so to me. I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do. They go wandering forth in all directions with every wind, going and coming like ourselves, traveling with us around the sun two million miles a day, and through space heaven knows how fast and far!

John Muir (1838-1914)
The Story of My Boyhood and Youth, 1913

The love of nature, perhaps itself borrowed from a higher-class code of taste, sometimes expresses itself in unexpected ways under the guidance of this canon of pecuniary beauty, and leads to results that may seem incongruous to an unreflecting beholder. The well-accepted practice of planting trees in the treeless areas of this country, for instance, has been carried over as an item of honorific expenditure into the heavily wooded areas; so that it is by no means unusual for a village or a farmer in the wooded country to clear the land of its native trees and immediately replant saplings of certain introduced varieties about the farmyard or along the streets. In this way a forest growth of oak, elm, beech, butternut, hemlock, basswood, and birch is cleared off to give room for saplings of soft maple, cottonwood, and brittle willow. It is felt that the inexpensiveness of leaving the forest trees standing would derogate from the dignity that should invest an article which is intended to serve a decorative and honorific end.

Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929)
The Theory of the Leisure Class, 1899
Chapter 6 "Pecuniary Canons of Taste"

A tree's a tree. How many more do you need to look at?

Ronald Reagan (1911-2004)
Speech opposing expansion of Redwood National Park
12 September 1965
Sacramento Bee, 12 March 1966

And why should men delay to plant and cultivate all sorts of good trees because they may not live to see them fully grown? When can a man do better on the face of the earth than to cultivate and beautify it? While ever ready to depart, the lover of beautiful trees should act as if he expected to live a thousand years....

Ethan A. Greenwood
Writing to The New England Farmer
31 March 1832
(in The Maple Sugar Book
Part II, Chapter 4, page 76
by Helen and Scott Nearing, 1950)


To give no trust
is to get no trust.

Lao-tzu (c.604-c.531 BC)
Tao Te Ching, Book I, Number 23
New English version by Ursula K. Le Guin, 1997

Consider the little mouse, how sagacious an animal it is which never entrusts its life to one hole only.

Titus Maccius Plautus (254?-184 BC)
Truculentus, Act IV, scene 4


It was proof of a base and low mind for one to wish to think with the masses or majority, merely because the majority were the majority. Truth does not change because it is or is not believed by a majority of people.

Giordano Bruno (1548-1600)
Paraphrase in Life and Teachings of Giordano Bruno, 1913
by Coulson Turnbull
See caveat

Truth...never comes into the world but like a bastard, to the ignominy of him that brought her forth.

John Milton (1608-1674)
The Doctine and Discipline of Divorce, 1643

We make an idol of truth itself, for truth apart from charity is not God, but his image and an idol that we must not love nor worship.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
Pensees, 1670, number 926

I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

Isaac Newton (1642-1727)
Memoirs of the Life, Writings, and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton
Volume II, Chapter 27
Edited by David Brewster, 1855

There are truths which are not for all men, nor for all times.

Voltaire (1694-1778)
Letter to Cardinal de Bernis
23 April 1761

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

John Adams (1735-1826)
Argument in Defense of the [British] Soldiers in
the Boston Massacre Trials, December 1770

When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty," -- that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

John Keats (1795-1821)
"Ode on a Grecian Urn", 1819
Poems, 1820

God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose. Take which you please; you can never have both.

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

A moment's insight is sometimes worth a life's experience.

Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894)
The Professor at the Breakfast Table, 1860
Chapter 10, "The Book of the Three Maiden Sisters"

Truth always rests with the minority, and the minority is always stronger than the majority, because the minority is generally formed by those who really have an opinion, while the strength of a majority is illusory, formed by the gangs who have no opinion -- and who, therefore, in the next instant (when it is evident that the minority is the stronger) assume its opinion...while Truth again reverts to a new minority.

Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)
The Diary of Soren Kierkegaard
1850 entry
Part 5, Section 3, Number 128
Edited by Peter Rohde, 1960

In order to swim one takes off all one's clothes -- in order to aspire to the truth one must undress in a far more inward sense, divest oneself of all one's inward clothes, of thoughts, conceptions, selfishness etc. before one is sufficiently naked.

Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)
The Journals of Soren Kierkegaard: A Selection
Number 1395, 1854 entry
Edited and Translated by Alexander Dru, 1838

Subjectivity is the only truth.

Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)

Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth. I sat at a table where were rich food and wine in abundance, and obsequious attendance, but sincerity and truth were not; and I went away hungry from the inhospitable board.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
Walden, 1854
Chapter 18 "Conclusion"

An error is the more dangerous the more truth it contains.

Henri Frederic Amiel (1821-1881)
Journal Intime, 1882
12 November 1852 entry

History warns us...that it is the customary fate of new truths to begin as heresies and to end as superstitions.

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

...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

When great changes occur in history, when great principles are involved, as a rule the majority are wrong. The minority are usually right. In every age there have been a few heroic souls who have been in advance of their time, who have been misunderstood, maligned, persecuted, sometimes put to death. Long after their martyrdom monuments were erected to them and garlands woven from their graves.

Eugene Victor Debs (1855-1926)
01 September 1918
During trial for violating the Espionage and Sedition Acts
In Our Own Words: Extraordinary Speeches of the American Century, 1999
Edited by Andrew Carroll

All great truths begin as blasphemies.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
Annajanska: The Bolshevik Empress, 1919

Between truth and the search for truth, I opt for the second.

Bernard Berenson (1865-1959)
Essays in Appreciation, 1958

Believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those who find it; doubt everything, but don't doubt yourself.

Andre Gide (1869-1951)
From "Ainsi Soit-Il, Ou Les Jeux Sont Faits"
("So Be It, or The Chips Are Down"), 1949-1951
Translated by Justin O'Brien, 1959
The André Gide Reader, 1971
Edited by David Littlejohn

The truth is often a terrible weapon of aggression. It is possible to lie, and even to murder, with the truth.

Alfred Adler (1870-1937)
Problems of Neurosis: A Book of Case Histories, 1929
Chapter II seems to be the fate of idealists to obtain what they have struggled for in a form which destroys their ideals.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
Marriage and Morals, 1929
Chapter VII "The Liberation of Women"

Qui ne gueule pas la verite, quand il sait la verite, se fait le complice des menteurs et des faussaires.
(He who does not bellow the truth when he knows the truth makes himself the accomplice of liars and forgers.)

Charles Peguy (1873-1914)
"Lettre du Provincial", 21 December 1899
Basic Verities, 1943

Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.

Winston Churchill (1874-1965)
Attributed and unverified

It is treason to sacrifice love of truth, intellectual honesty, loyalty to the laws and methods of the mind, to any other interests, including those of one's country. Whenever propaganda and conflict of interests threatens to devalue, distort, and do violence to the is our duty to resist and save the truth, since that is the supreme article of our creed. The scholar who knowingly speaks, writes, or teaches falsehood, who knowingly supports lies and deceptions, not only violates organic principles. He also, no matter how things may seem at the given moment, does his people a grave disservice.

Hermann Hesse (1877-1962)
Magister Ludi, 1943
Chapter 11 "The Circular Letter"

There is truth, my boy. But the doctrine you desire, absolute, perfect dogma that alone provides wisdom, does not exist. Nor should you long for a perfect doctrine, my friend. Rather, you should long for the perfection of yourself. The deity is within you, not in ideas and books. Truth is lived, not taught.

Hermann Hesse (1877-1962)
Magister Ludi, 1943
Chapter 1 "The Call"

The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.

Niels Bohr (1885-1962)
Quoted by Werner Heisenberg
Physics and Beyond: Encounters and Conversations, 1971
Translated by Arnold J. Pomerans

Thou shalt know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad.

Raymond Melbourne Weaver (1888-1948)
Herman Melville, Mariner and Mystic, 1921
Chapter I "Devil's Advocate"

When one is frightened of the truth...then it is never the whole truth that one has an inkling of.

Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951)
Notebooks, 1914-1916
Entry for 15 October 1914
Edited by Anscombe, 1961

Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)

There's more beauty in the truth even if it is dreadful beauty. The storytellers at the city gate twist life so that it looks sweet to the lazy and the stupid and the weak, and this only strengthens their infirmities and teaches nothing, cures nothing, nor does it let the heart soar.

John Steinbeck (1902-1968)
East of Eden, 1952
Part Three, Chapter 28, 2

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

Like all dreamers, I confused disenchantment with truth.

Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980)
The Words, 1964

Perhaps our only sickness is to desire a truth which we cannot bear than to rest content with the fictions we manufacture out of each other.

Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990)
Cleo, 1960
Chapter 1, Section 3

...I judge the notion of the absurd to be essential and consider that it can stand as the first of my truths.

Albert Camus (1913-1960)
The Myth of Sisyphus, 1942
"An Absurd Reasoning: Philosophical Suicide"

We lie about the truth, and that's what ruins us here. And do you know why we lie about the truth? Not because we like to, but because we are scared to death of it. If we looked the truth in the eye nine out of ten of us would run to the graveyard and demand to be buried at once.

Robert Crichton (1925-1993)
The Secret of Santa Vittoria, 1966
Part 3, "Von Prum"

The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. Puzzling.

Robert Maynard Pirsig (b.1928)
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, 1974
Chapter 1

There are more truths in twenty-four hours of a man's life than in all the philosophies.

Raoul Vaneigem (b.1934)
The Revolution of Everyday Life
Chapter 1, section 1
1967; translated 1983

Learning is most intense and effective when it has an emotional, not just an intellectual, component, when there are no explicit rules and the organism is thrown upon its basic resources for survival. These need not be negative emotions; Plato saw the erotic as an essential component of any real education. Our emotional life lies outside the framework of reason (although it can be examined by reason), and at its most intense we realize that there are no rules or regularities to guide us into new territory. This is an opportunity for creativity, and we often emerge from an emotional crisis with newly learned rules and values."

Heinz Rudolph Pagels (1939-1988)
The Dreams of Reason, page 327

Information is not knowledge,
Knowledge is not wisdom,
Wisdom is not truth,
Truth is not beauty,
Beauty is not love...

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)
"Packard Goose"
Joe's Garage, Act III, 1979


[see also: GOVERNMENT]

Those who voluntarily put power into the hand of a tyrant or an enemy, must not wonder if it be at last turned against themselves.

Phaedrus (c.15 BC-AD c.50)
"The Kite and the Pigeons"
Fables, Volume I, Number 31
Translated by Thomas James (1809-1863)

In every tyrant's heart there springs in the end This poison, that he cannot trust a friend.

Aeschylus (525-456 BC)
Prometheus Bound
Translated by Gilbert Murray

The people always have some champion whom they set over them and nurse into greatness.... This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears, he is a protector.

Plato (c.428-348 BC)
Republic, Book VIII, Section 565

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

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

Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst: Every other species of tyranny is limited to the world we live in, but this attempts a stride beyond the grave, and seeks to pursue us into eternity.

Thomas Paine (1737-1809)
A Letter to the Hon. Thomas Erskine, on the Persecution of
Thomas Williams for publishing the Age of Reason

Pamphlet, September 1797

Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it; and this I know, my lords, that where laws end, tyranny begins.

William Pitt (1759-1806)
Speech to the House of Lords
Opposing the expulsion of John Wilkes from the House of Commons
09 January 1770

Man is more disposed to domination than freedom; and a structure of domination not only gladdens the eye of the master who rears and protects it, but even its servants are uplifted by the thought that they are members of a whole, which rises high above the life and strength of single generations.

Karl Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767-1835)
The Limit of State Action, 1792
Chapter 16

There are three kinds of despots. There is the despot who tyrannizes over the body. There is the despot who tyrannizes over the soul. There is the despot who tyrannizes over the soul and body alike. The first is called the Prince. The second is called the Pope. The third is called the People.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
"The Soul of Man Under Socialism"
Fortnightly Review
London, February 1891

Anarchism says, Make no laws whatever concerning speech, and speech will be free; so soon as you make a declaration on paper that speech shall be free, you will have a hundred lawyers proving that "freedom does not mean abuse, nor liberty license"; and they will define and define freedom out of existence. Let the guarantee of free speech be in every man's determination to use it, and we shall have no need of paper declarations. On the other hand, so long as the people do not care to exercise their freedom, those who wish to tyrannize will do so; for tyrants are active and ardent, and will devote themselves in the name of any number of gods, religious and otherwise, to put shackles upon sleeping men.

Voltarine de Cleyre (1866-1912)
"Anarchism and American Traditions", 1908

The only tyrant I accept in this world is the "still small voice" within me. And even though I have to face the prospect of being a minority of one, I humbly believe I have the courage to be in such a hopeless minority.

Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)
Young India, 02 March 1922

Throughout the history of mankind there have been murderers and tyrants; and while it may seem momentarily that they have the upper hand, they have always fallen. Always.

Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)

In our time the military mentality is still more dangerous than formerly because the offensive weapons have become much more powerful than the defensive ones. Therefore it leads, by necessity, to preventive war. The general insecurity that goes hand in hand with this results in the sacrifice of the citizen's civil rights to the supposed welfare of the state. Political witch-hunting, controls of all sorts (e.g., control of teaching and research, of the press, and so forth) appear inevitable, and for this reason do not encounter that popular resistance, which, were it not for the military mentality, would provide a protection. A reappraisal of all values gradually takes place in so far as everything that does not clearly serve the utopian ends is regarded and treated as inferior.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
The Military Mentality, 1947

Whenever you have an efficient government, you have a dictatorship.

Harry S Truman (1884-1972)
Lecture at Columbia University
28 April 1959

Your America is doing many things in the economic field which we found out caused us so much trouble. You are trying to control people's lives. And no country can do that part way. I tried it and failed. Nor can any country do it all the way either. I tried that, too, and it failed.

Hermann Goering (1893-1946)

The best of constitutions and preventive laws will be powerless against the steadily increasing pressures of overpopulation and of the overorganization imposed by growing numbers and advancing technology. The constitutions will not be abrogated and the good laws will remain on the statute book; but these liberal forms will merely serve to mask and adorn a profoundly illiberal substance. Given unchecked overpopulation and over-organization, we may expect to see in the democratic countries a reversal of the process which transformed England into a democracy, while retaining all the outward forms of a monarchy. Under the relentless thrust of accelerating overpopulation and increasing overorganization, and by means of ever more effective methods of mind-manipulation, the democracies will change their nature; the quaint old forms -- elections, parliaments, Supreme Courts and all the rest -- will remain. The underlying substance will be a new kind of non-violent totalitarianism. All the traditional names, all the hallowed slogans will remain exactly what they were in the good old days. Democracy and freedom will be the theme of every broadcast and editorial -- but democracy and freedom in a strictly Pickwickian sense. Meanwhile the ruling oligarchy and its highly trained elite of soldiers, policemen, thought-manufacturers and mind-manipulators will quietly run the show as they see fit.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
Brave New World Revisited, 1958

When democracy granted democratic methods to us in times of opposition, this was bound to happen in a democratic system. However, we National Socialists never asserted that we represented a democratic point of view, but we have declared openly that we used the democratic methods only to gain power and that, after assuming the power, we would deny to our adversaries without any consideration the means which were granted to us in times of our opposition.

Joseph Paul Goebbels (1897-1945)
pamphlet, 1935
"Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression", GPO, 1946
202, Document 2412-PS

One of the curious paradoxes of this mirthful and mournful century is that the very process of struggling through the cold war against communist expansion tends to make us lose our grip on our own democratic techniques. We grow tyrannical fighting tyranny. This is bad. I think the most alarming spectacle today is not the spectacle of the atomic bomb in an unfederated world, it is the spectacle of Americans beginning to accept the device of loyalty oaths and witchhunts, beginning to call anybody they don't like a communist.

E.B. White (1899-1985)
Letter to Janice White, 27 April 1952
Letters of E.B. White, 1978
Section X "Charlotte's Web, 1952-1954"
Edited by Dorothy Lobrano Guth
Revised and updated by Martha White, 2006
page 328

The very nature of our country and our government fundamentally transforms step by step, with little opposition. We all were inculcated with the notion that what distinguished our free country from those horrendous authoritarian tyrannies, both right and left, of the Soviet bloc, Latin America and the Middle East were things like executive detentions, torture, secret prisons, spying on their own citizens, unprovoked invasions of sovereign countries, and exemptions from the law for the most powerful -- precisely the abuses which increasingly characterize our government and shape our political values....

This doesn't mean there is a complete erosion of freedom equal to all of those societies. Free speech still basically thrives; we elect our leaders; and individuals retain a fair amount of autonomy in their personal choices. But it is simply undeniable that many of the political attributes that were always used to define the oppressive societies against which we were supposedly fighting are now explicitly vested in our own government. By itself, the scope and breadth of domestic spying is just staggering, and much of it is illegal.

Glenn Greenwald (b.1967)
"The Lawless Surveillance State"
16 December 2007

As a form of government, imperialism does not seek or require the consent of the governed. It is a pure form of tyranny. The American attempt to combine domestic democracy with such tyrannical control over foreigners is hopelessly contradictory and hypocritical. A country can be democratic or it can be imperialistic, but it cannot be both.

Chalmers Ashby Johnson (b.1931)
"Empire v. Democracy: Why Nemesis Is at Our Door", 23:28 Tuesday, 30 January 2007

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