BENSOZIA/

COMMONPLACE BOOK

Thoughts, Ideas, Observations


I was born not knowing, and have had only a little time to change that, here and there.

--Richard Feynman

***

Criticism as I understand it differs entirely from attack or complaint. Its difference from complaint is especially important here, for I am persuaded that complaints against the machinations of culture today have become as poisonous as the things complained of. This is not surprising. Resentment and indignation are feelings dangerous to the possesor and to be sparingly used. They give comfort too cheaply; they rot judgment, and by encouraging passivity they come to require that evil continue for the the sake of the grievance to be enjoyed.

--Jacques Barzun

***

There is surely nothing other than the single purpose of the present moment. A man's whole life is a succession of moment after moment. If one fully understands the present moment, there will be nothing else to do, and nothing else to pursue. Live being true to the purpose of the moment.

--Hagakure

***

They went each to his own house, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.  Early in the morning he came again to the temple; all the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them.  The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been taken in adultery, and, placing her in the midst, they said to him, "Teacher, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.  Now in the law Moses commanded us that such should be stoned:  What do you say?"  This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him.  But Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.  And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, "Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone at her."  And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.  And when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.  Jesus looked up and said to her, "Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?"  She said, "No one, Lord."  And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more."

John 8

***

We will take heart for the future, 
Remembering the past.

--T.S. Eliot, The Rock

***

One must ultimately ask the most ingenuous and the most important question:  Are the Vedic connections true?  In studying them, we gradually reconstruct their marvelously intricate web, which spreads over everything.  And from the moment we enter the world, we are forced to look at them as at an immense cathedral of matchsticks, perfect and superfluous.  We know that life reproduces itself anyway, even without their help.  Yet we are also irresistibly attracted to that all-enveloping layer of resonances.  And whatever we think, at a certain point we realize that we are unwittingly using a corner of that submerged cloak.  The only form of life that succeeds in totally rejecting the Vedic connections is that of Bentham, our pharaoh, today a mummy in London.  An unknowing life.  The Vedic connections are grandly superfluous, and Bentham is grandly inadequate.  We are in the middle, wavering.

--Roberto Calosso

***

Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.

--Oliver Wendell Holmes

***

We have loved the stars too fondly, to be frightened of the night.

--Sarah Williams

***

In battle, in forest, at the precipice in the mountains,
On the dark green sea, in the midst of javelins and arrows,
In sleep, in confusion, in the depth of shame,
The good deeds a man has done before defend him.

--Bhagavad Gita

***

I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.

 --Albert Einstein, "Why Socialism?"

***

Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude.  There is some good in the worst of us and much evil in the worst of us.  When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.

--Martin Luther King

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This isn't nowhere.  This is your home.

--Robert James Waller

***

The best thing for being sad is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder in your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then – to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust and never dream of regretting. 

--T.H. White, The Book of Merlin

***

My imagination makes me human and makes me a fool; it gives me all the world and exiles me from it.

--Ursula LeGuin

***

I am an experiment on the part of nature, a gamble within the unknown, perhaps for a new purpose, perhaps for nothing, and my only task is to allow this game on the part of the primeval depths to take its course, to feel its will within me and make it wholly mine. 

--Hermann Hesse

***

Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope. ... Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore, we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore, we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.

--Reinhold Niebuhr

***

These are the tears of things
and the stuff of our mortality cuts us to the heart.

--Virgil

***

It is a denial of the experience of our century to suppose that men will sacrifice their passions for their interests.

--Raymond Aron

***

Of late years it has been the fashion to talk about Gandhi as though he were not only sympathetic to the western left-wing movement, but were even integrally part of it.  Anarchists and pacifists, in particular, have claimed him for their own, noticing only that he was opposed to centralism and state violence and ignoring the other-worldly, anti-humanist tendency of his doctrines.  But one should, I think, realise that Gandhi's teachings cannot be squared with the belief that Man is the measure of all things and that our job is to make life worth living on this earth, which is the only earth we have.  They make sense only on the assumption that God exists and that the world of solid objects is an illusion to be escaped from.  It is worth considering the disciplines which Gandhi imposed on himself and which--though he might not insist on every one of his followers observing every detail--he considered indispensable if one wanted to serve either God or humanity.  First of all, no meat eating, no alcohol or tobacco, and no spices or condiments, even of a vegetable kind, since food should not be taken for its own sake, but solely in order to preserve one's strength.  Secondly, if possible, no sexual intercourse.  And finally--this is the cardinal point--for the seeker after goodness there must be no close friendships and no exclusive loves whatever.

Close friendships, Gandhi says, are dangerous, because "friends react on one another" and through loyalty to a friend one can be led into wrong-doing.  This is unquestionable true.  Moreover, if one is to love God, or to love humanity as a whole, one cannot give one's preference to any individual person.  This again is true, and it marks the point at which the humanistic and religious attitudes cease to be reconcilable.  To an ordinary human being, love means nothing if it does not mean loving some people more than others.  The autobiography leaves it uncertain whether Gandhi behaved in an inconsiderate way to his wife and children, but at any rate it makes clear that on three occasions he was willing to let his wife or a child die rather than administer the animal food prescribed by a doctor.  There must, he says, be some limit to what we will do in order to remain alive, and the limit is well on this side of chicken broth.  This attitude is perhaps a noble one, but, in the sense which--I think--most people would give to the word, it is inhuman.  The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection, that one is  sometimes willing to commit sins for the sake of loyalty, that one does not push asceticism to the point where it makes friendly intercourse impossible, and that one is prepared to be defeated and broken up by life, which is the inevitable price of fastening one's love upon other human individuals.  No doubt alcohol, tobacco, and so forth are things that a saint must avoid, but sainthood is also a thing that human beings must avoid.

--George Orwell, "Reflections on Gandhi"
 
***

First intention, then enlightenment.

--Buddhist saying




From the
Commonplace Book


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

--Confucius

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