Thursday, December 16, 2010

My dear friend, clear your mind of cant. You may talk as other people do: you may say to a man, "Sir, I am your most humble servant." You are not his must humble servant. You may say, "These are bad times; it is a melancholy thing to be reserved at such times." You don't mind the times. You tell a man, "I am sorry you had such bad weather the last day of your journey, and were so much wet." You don't care six-pence whether he is wet or dry. You may talk in this manner; it is a mode of talking in Society: but don't think foolishly.


I sometimes say more than I mean, in jest; and people are apt to believe me serious: however, I am more candid than I was when I was younger. As I know more of mankind, I expect less of them, and am ready now to call a man a good man, upon easier terms than I was formerly.

Samuel Johnson (1783) in Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Why do you weep and grieve so sorely when you hear
the fate of the Argives, hear the fall of Troy?
That is the gods' work, spinning threads of death
through the lives of mortal men,
and all to make a song for those to come...

Homer, The Odyssey (Book 8, line 645, as translated by Robert Fagles)

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Talking of conversation.... There must, in the first place, be knowledge, there must be materials;--in the second place, there must be a command of words;--in the third place, there must be imagination, to place things in such views as they are not commonly seen in;--and in the fourth place, there must be presence of mind, and a resolution that is not to be overcome by failures...

Samuel Johnson (1783) in Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson

Friday, November 19, 2010

Whatever befalls us, though it is wise to be serious, it is useless and foolish, and perhaps sinful, to be gloomy.

Samuel Johnson (1782) in Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sir, it is driving on the system of life.

Samuel Johnson commenting (1781) on why we continue to try, as quoted in Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Be bold, nothing to fear.
In every venture the bold man comes off best.

Homer, The Odyssey (Book 7, line 59, as translated by Robert Fagles)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sir, a man does not love to go to a place from whence he comes out exactly as he went in.... Every body loves to have good things furnished to them without any trouble.

Samuel Johnson commenting (1781) on the pleasure of mixing ready food and drink with conversation, as quoted in Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Zeus is to blame. He deals to each and every laborer on this earth whatever doom he pleases.

Homer, The Odyssey (Book 1, line 401, as translated by Robert Fagles)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A great mind disdains to hold any thing by courtesy, and therefore never usurps what a lawful claimant may take away. He that encroaches on another's dignity, puts himself in his power; he is either repelled with helpless indignation, or endured by clemency and condescension.

Samuel Johnson, from his Lives of the Poets as quoted in Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Depend upon it...if a man talks of his misfortunes, there is something in them that is not disagreeable to him; for where there is nothing but pure misery, there never is any recourse to the mention of it.

Samuel Johnson (1780) in Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I have sat at home in Bolt-court, all summer, thinking to write the Lives, and a great part of the time only thinking. Several of them, however, are done, and I still think to do the rest....I would have gone to Lichfield if I could have had time, and I might have had the time if I had been active; but I have missed much, and done little.

Samuel Johnson to James Boswell, August 21, 1780 is Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson

Monday, October 11, 2010

Even a fool learns something once it hits him.

Homer, The Illiad

Sunday, October 10, 2010

There is nothing alive more agonized than man
of all that breathe and crawl across the earth.

Zeus, The Illiad (Book 17, line 514, Robert Fagles' translation)

Monday, September 27, 2010

He had no more learning than what he could not help.

Johnson on a member of the Literati on April 16, 1779 as quoted in Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson

Saturday, September 25, 2010

In all pleasure hope is a considerable part.

Johnson on April 7, 1779 as quoted in Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson

Thursday, September 16, 2010

…the dream departed, leaving him there, his heart racing with hopes that would not come to pass.

Agamemnon's dream, The Illiad (Book Two, line 40, Robert Fagles' translation)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Force is that X that turns anybody who is subjected to it into a thing. Exercised to the limit, it turns man into a thing in the most literal sense: it makes a corpse out of him. Somebody was here, and the next minute there is nobody here at all.

Simone Weil, The Illiad, Or The Poem of Force

Monday, September 06, 2010

Hope of salvation must be founded on the terms on which it is promised that the mediation of our Saviour shall be applied to us,--namely obedience; and where obedience has failed, then, as suppletory to it, repentance. But what man can say that his obedience has been such, as he would approve of in another, or even in himself upon close examination, or that his repentance has not been such as to require being repented of?

… mere existence is so much better than nothing, that one would rather exist even in pain…

… it is in the apprehension of it that the horror of annihilation consists.

Johnson on April 15, 1778 as quoted in Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Buddha sought "a wholly different way of living as a human being."

In the Chain of Dependent Causation, karma (actions) determine consciousness. Consciousness - "the last idea or impulse of a dying human being" - determines rebirth.

From Karen Armstrong's Buddha

Saturday, August 14, 2010

For every downhill,
the deeper the easier,
there is an uphill,
the steeper the harder.

A Lesson From Biking

Sunday, August 08, 2010

I dreamed a lot when I was younger
I'm older now and still I hunger
For some understanding,
There's no understanding, now
Was there ever?

Ambrosia, Harvey

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A good man knows when to sacrifice himself.... A bad man survives but loses his soul.

John LeCarre, The Mission Song

Friday, May 28, 2010

God in the most deeply hidden of His called 'He.' God in the complete unfolding of his Being, Grace and Love, in which He becomes capable of being perceived by the 'reason of the heart' called 'You.' But God in His supreme manifestation, where the fullness of His Being finds its final expression in the last and all-embracing of His attributes, is called 'I.'

The Zohar

Friday, May 14, 2010

You don't ever have to say anything....Always remember that. Many's the man lost much just because he missed a perfect opportunity to say nothing.

Claire Keegan, Foster, The New Yorker (February 15 & 22, 2010)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A mule will labor ten years willingly and patiently for you, for the privilege of kicking you once.

William Faulkner

A mule knows its limits. It is characteristic of the breed to have an inviolable commitment to self-preservation, which is often misinterpreted as stubbornness.

Susan Orlean, Riding High: Mules in the military, The New Yorker (February 15 & 22, 2010)

Sunday, May 09, 2010

The truly successful anything but a risk-taker. He is a predator, and predators seek to incur the least possible risk while hunting....Entrepreneurial spirit could not have less in common with that of the daring risk-taker of popular imagination.

Malcom Gladwell, The Sure Thing: How entrepreneurs really succeed, The New Yorker (January 18, 2010)

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Tests have shown that greater diversity in systems from grassland plants to rock-hugging marine invertebrates increases the basic productivity of an ecosystem.

Losing life’s variety, Science News of March 13, 2010

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Marine Corps Rules:

01. Be courteous to everyone, friendly to no one.
02. Decide to be aggressive enough, quickly enough.
03. Have a plan.
04. Have a back-up plan, because the first one probably won't work.
05. Be polite. Be professional. But, have a plan to kill everyone you meet.
06. Do not attend a gunfight with a handgun whose caliber does not start with a '4.'
07. Anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice. Ammo is cheap. Life is expensive.
08. Move away from your attacker. Distance is your friend (Lateral & diagonal preferred.)
09. Use cover or concealment as much as possible.
10. Flank your adversary when possible. Protect yours.
11. Always cheat; always win. The only unfair fight is the one you lose.
12. In ten years nobody will remember the details of caliber, stance, or tactics. They will only remember who lived.
13. If you are not shooting, you should be communicating your intention to shoot.

There are various versions of these on the web. But a friend sent me these and they can be easily altered to fit the bureaucratic environment.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Some speeches are highly analytical, well argued, thought provoking and unproductive, all at the same time.

From a good friend and mentor.
To exist is to have identity; to have identity means one is what one is and one is not what one is not; which means, to have causes and consequences, pain and pleasure, experience and cessation. To exist means to exist within a context. To be defined. To be finite….

Life was matter imbued with meaning; matter aware of itself, and, because of that awareness, aware that it was more than mere matter…aware of the universe…of its identity, its finitude.

John C. Wright, The Golden Transcendence

Monday, April 05, 2010

Chaos has killed me....But the victory of unpredictability is hallow. Men imagine, in their pride, that they can predict life's each event, and govern nature and govern each other with rules of unyielding iron. Not so. There will always be men...who will do the things no one else predicts or can control....For men to be civilized, they must be unlike each other, so that when chaos comes to claim them, no two will use what strategy the other does, and thus, even in the middle of blind chaos, some men, by sheer blind chance, if nothing else, will conquer. The way to conquer the chaos which underlies all the illusionary stable things in life, is to be so free, and tolerant, and so much in love with liberty, that chaos itself becomes our ally; we shall become what no one can foresee; and courage and inventiveness will be the names we call our fearless unpredictability.

John C. Wright, The Golden Transcendence

Sunday, February 21, 2010

This is not the sound of a new man or crispy realization
It's the sound of the unlocking and the lift away
Your love will be
Safe with me

Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), Stacks.

Friday, February 19, 2010

If someone with a sharp axe
hacks off the boughs of a great oak tree,
and spoils its handsome shape;
although its fruit has failed, yet it can give an account of itself
if it come later to a winter fire
or if it rests on the pillars of some palace
and does a sad task among foreign walls
when there is nothing left in the place it comes from.

Pindar's Fourth Pythian Ode as translated by Bernard Williams
and quoted in Charles Freeman's magisterial Egypt, Greece and Rome

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

How great the barriers can be between a person and his happiness,
How little it can take to make them seem small.

Marisa Silver (paraphrased)

Monday, January 18, 2010

After years of waiting nothing came
As your life flashed before your eyes
You realize

I'm a reasonable man
Get off my case

Radiohead, Packt Like Sardines

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tell us what we did wrong and you can blame us for it.

Andrew Bird, Heretics.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"This shit would be really interesting if we weren't in the middle of it."

Barack Obama, September 2008 (as quoted in Game Change).