Thoughts, Ideas, Observations

There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, although you still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to all things.



Beauty is the battlefield where God and the devil war for the soul of man.



To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a little better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is the meaning of success.

--Ralph Waldo Emerson


With respect to the theological view of the question:  This is always painful to me.  I am bewildered.  I had no intention to write atheistically, but I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us.  There seems to me too much misery in the world.  I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars or that a cat should play with mice....  On the other hand, I cannot anyhow be contented to view this wonderful universe, and especially the nature of man, and to conclude that everything is the result of brute force.  I am inclined to look at everything as resulting from designed laws, with the details, whether good or bad, left to the working out of what we may call chance.

--Charles Darwin, letter to Asa Gray, 1860


We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers.

--Carl Sagan, The Demon Haunted World


I would be lying if I said I did not want revenge.  Anyone who has suffered that humiliation, at some level, wants revenge.  I know all the lies.  I saw people being killed.  But I also know that revanchism is never ending, and my obsession has been that we should have a revolution that not resemble the French or Russian, but rather the American, in the sense that it be for something, not against something.  A revolution for a constitution, not a paradise.  An anti-utopian revolution, because utopias lead to the guillotine and the gulag.

--Adam Michnik


Life, like a dome of many-colored glass, 
Stains the white radiance of eternity.



When we are sick in fortune, often the surfeit of our own behavior, we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars; as if we were villains of necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves and traitors by spherical predomination; drunkards, liars and adulterers by an enforced obedience of planetary influence.

--King Lear I, ii


If one experiment fail, try a second, a third, and many.

--John Norden, The Surveyor's Dialogue, 1607


Most do not fully see this truth that life is difficult.  Instead they moan more or less incessantly, noisily or subtly, about the enormity of their problems, and their difficulties, as if life were generally easy, as if life should be easy.  They voice their belief, noisily or subtly, that their difficulties represent a unique kind of affliction that should not be and that has somehow been especially visited upon them, or else upon their families, their tribe, their class, their nation, their race or even their species, and not upon others.

--M. Scott Peck


We're trying to have a civilization here!

Jerry to George, Seinfeld


Doing an injury puts you below your enemy; Revenging one makes you but even with him; Forgiving it sets you above him.

--Benjamin Franklin


Without monsters and gods, art cannot enact our drama. When they were abandoned as untenable superstitions, art sank into melancholy.

--Mark Rothko


There is nothing else in magic but the wild thought of the bird as it casts itself into the void. There is no creature upon the earth with such potential for magic. Even the least of them may fly straight out of this world and come by chance to the Other Lands. Where does the wind come from that blows upon your face, that fans the pages of your book? Where the harum scarum magic of wild creatures meets the magic of Man, where the language of the wind and the rain and the trees can be understood, there we will find the Raven King....

--Susanna Clarke


From the fact that good may come from evil, and from disaster relative happiness, it does not follow that evil and disaster are not what they are.

--Jakob Burckhardt


This is what distinguishes us from the Tuscans, masters in the observations of lightning.  We think that lightning arises because clouds bump against each other; they on the other hand believe that the clouds bump only in order that lightning may be caused.  For as they connect everything with God they have the notion that lightning is not significant in itself, but only appears at all to communicate divine signs.



If one is to do good, it must be done in minute particulars.

--William Blake


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

--Alexander Solzhenistyn


Justice being taken away, what are kingdoms but great robberies?  for what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms?

--St. Augustine


That which you have will save you if you bring it forth from yourselves.

--The Gospel of Thomas


This points to one of the most important if rarely discussed effects of the war. Whatever the destruction and the dangers, constructive individuals with a combination of insight and enterprise were entirely capable of coping with them. The enormous damage left behind by the years of conflict looked at first beyond the capacity of humans to repair, but in the years after 1945, the European continent, most affected by the damage, emerged into the most prosperous era in its history. The new weapons suggested the possibility of eliminating life from the planet, but the decades after the war became the longest period of European peace since the introduction of the modern state system half a millennium earlier. The massive migration of wretched refugees, "displaced persons" as they were officially known, came to contribute their energies and their talents toward the flowering of those countries in which they found refuge; as so often before in history--if rarely on such a huge scale--it turned out that the most important possession of human beings was what they carried between their ears, and that could not be taken from them as long as they remained alive.

--Gerhard Weinberg, A World at Arms

From the 
Commonplace Book

"He who by reanimating the old can gain knowledge of the new is fit to be a teacher."



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